Archive for August, 2015

conversations below the astral plane

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Those are the words of Louise Gluck, Poet, from the poem “telescope.” Garrison read them this morning on the writers almanac. Its funny how words stick with you sometimes, maybe I was just ready to hear them. We’re in the anniversary of Dad’s coma period which followed his fall from the roof back in 2006. He would pass in a few weeks in the hands of hospice. During those weeks our family had a campsite set up in the icu waiting room, taking turns sitting with dad, each having our own conversations, holding his hand, talking about memories, what the cubs were up to, who had sent cards, telling him how important it was that he come back, each of us making our own pleadings, saying rosaries, being stern with him, all the while hoping for his fingers to curl around our hand, or his eyes to open, or the EEG to make a little spike, some indication that the conversation wasn’t just one way. We did that for weeks, hoping.

The hospital had sent their ethicist to talk to us and mom when there were no more options neurologically, we were told we’d have to move dad, and given an impossibly short time to find a suitable care facility, or the hospice unit of the hospital. I had been driving back and forth from Virginia, sometimes alone, sometimes with my thenwife who seemed pretty put out by it all. She had insisted on being driven back for a meeting of her writers group the day before he passed, and i made the mistake of listening to why she shouldn’t fly (too expensive?) and we were about an two hours away when the call came in. I wanted to be there with dad and my family and i wasn’t. You can’t do much about the past but i wish i had been there when he went into whatever is after this life.

I had not packed well when I went on one of those visitations and had to buy a warm raincoat. The local sporting goods store had one with a fleece liner and rain shell. I wear that fleece regularly to stay warm in the overly cooled a/c environment at work, and had it with me on the beaches at normandy this summer in the cold windy rain. I think of that time sitting with dad in the icu when i wear it. Its not always sad thoughts, it helps me remember working with him in the rain, fishing with him in the mosquitos, driving with him through the wisconsin countryside. I used to talk with him on saturdays and I remember him telling me how he planned to go up on the roof on his homemade scaffold and work on the chimney. I had said it sounded like a bad idea and that the chimney would go through the winter just fine without his putting the thinbricks back on it. He was sure he could do it, 79 years old and he was sure that his plywood platform with a ladder on it would work fine. Something happened up there, we’ll never know, bees? dizziness? a wiggly platform? reaching too far off the ladder? we’ll never know, all we know is he fell, hit the roof edge, pitched over and hit his temple on the round rock border he put along the sidewalk, the rocks he hauled home from the chimney we took down in minnesota, from the cabin he and mom had honeymooned in some fifty years earlier…

Fall is coming to Aggieland and to most of North America, summers heat will break, the trees will begin to turn, leaves will be raked, furnaces prepped for the winter, snowblowers tuned up, but if you have any inkling to go up and fix something on your roof…don’t. Get a professional who ties themselves off against falls.

And if you have a chance, tell your parents hello, thank them for what they’ve done for you, on the phone, in person, or speak it to the stars.

Be good to each other, we’re all we’ve got.


Friday, August 7th, 2015

Its a quiet morning here in Aggieland, soon the town will refill with parents and children, students arriving from around the country and around the world, but today it was quiet. We need a little quiet to help reflect on life from time to time. I wonder about the things I do, are they important things to be doing with life? I wonder about the people I meet every day, can I forget our last interaction with them and start anew? I think about these things, and wonder. Some things we know, the sun will come up, the one who holds my heart will love me, my children will too, but do i do enough to return it?

I get academically lost every now and then, wondering if the minute things i pick up and spend days, weeks, months tinkering with are important, if the study will mean something to someone. Of course the first step is get it written, then get it published but its hard to keep up the effort when there are other responsibilities that are a bit more tangible, maybe a bit more rewarding. I’m doing that with a tiny question now, what happens when architectural ornament leaves its surrounding frame? Where does it begin then? Where does it end? Silly probably but i wonder. The frame is the rule that had been in place for thousands of years, and then little by little, the ornament crept over the frames edge, and then the frame couldn’t be seen, but was it still there? Underneath, out of sight? What happens when things you have depended on for years erode? Maybe its just change, leadership change, space change, our department is facing that now, and its unsettling.

Jon Stewart retired from his show yesterday, a change that maybe will give a few people less to worry about, and maybe more of us will have more to do now, trying to figure out truth from spin in the rhetoric of the upcoming election. Its always uncomfortable to have to read the viewpoints you don’t like but i think its important to read both sides because the truth is probably somewhere between the left and the right. I think the first debate happened yesterday too but I’m not sure it was a real debate, it was the usual “how do i take this question and turn it to my usual campaign talk kind of debate, kind of a waste of everyones time i think. It would be refreshing if they just told the truth and let us know its just about the money, and the billionaires behind it all are propping up the candidates just to get more money…how much greed does a person need? Just a rant of mine, sorry but its frightening to think that less than two dozen rich guys have bought the media, the candidates, and the elected officials just to make sure they can get a few billion more from the rest of us. Very weird and scary.

Its probably a sign that I’m getting old, idealism is harder to hold on to.

One of those little caption sheets online, a meme?, had a few lines that read something to the effect of “if you like a flower, you cut it and put it in a vase, if you love it, you water it every day.”

Water it every day, life, the people you meet, the people you love, the work you do, and yourself.

Be good to each other