What’s Going On

A Friend Died in December

Not somebody I’d ever actually met, but someone with whom I’d corresponded frequently over the years, Rodford Simon Barratt.  We’d both contributed to the online forum at www.foldingkayaks.org – Rodford had an Alpaca Pack Raft and, if I remember this right, another folding kayak.  We and another forum member had collaborated on a ridiculous thread about trains, Chattanooga, dancing, The Great Powers, espionage, and so forth that got about 250,000 views before the forum’s owner made its sub-forum viewable only by registered users.  Rodford was a professional dancer on stage and in film; he went online with Men Who Danced, and for some reason included me in the mailing list.  Oddly enough, since childhood and like the Rex Harrison character in The Honey Pot, I’ve wished I was graceful enough to dance well and acrobatically.  Rodford additionally started other online groups – Paddler’s Liberation Front which morphed from a blog to a Facebook group, and another for inline skaters.  Rodford and I exchanged emails about fatherhood, athleticism through the lifespan, numerology (about which I think he published two or three small volumes), waterways of England, dance, bicycling, and other subjects of interest to us both.  I wish I’d had the chance to meet the man in person.  He died in late December 2015 and I learned of his passing in January 2016.  One of Rodford’s friends reported that he died at home of heart failure while exercising – not a bad way to go.  I’ve felt a little depressed since learning of my unmet friend’s death.  He was somebody I liked.

In April of last year, another friend died, but I haven’t wanted to write about it.

I Haven’t Felt Much Like Writing

Probably related to my depressed feelings about Rodford’s death, my annoying holiday illnesses and injury, and sometimes trying workplace, I haven’t felt much like writing so far this year.  I’ve been spending most of my energies in the workplace and with family.

I Haven’t Been Spending Much Time Using Facebook

Controversies and conversations I could join, memes to mock, statuses to comment, and I’ve mostly abstained; don’t recall the last time I updated my own Facebook status.  I do recall changing my profile picture to the Alternative Universe Good-At-Being-Evil Dr. Doofenshmertz.  I have a school-aged son and a Netflix subscription – we watch a lot of Phineas and Ferb together.  It’s probably the best kid’s TV show you can watch with a First Grader.  I like the Alternative Universe Doofenshmertz because he’s a competent evil professional.  In the event I ever go badly off the rails, I’d continue to shoot for competence even though the empire I envision ruling would be a lot more interesting than Doofenshmertz’s.

Since writing this post, I have updated my Facebook status.

WWJD

While driving to work on a Tuesday or Wednesday, a couple of weeks ago, I saw a bumpersticker on the back of a truck and noted the word, Jesus, on it.  I thought it would say something about Real Men loving Jesus or something similar.  For some reason, though, I looked at the sticker and read it.  It’s vulgar and irreligious message cracked me up; in fact, I laughed out loud intermittently over the next couple of minutes.  On audio CD in the car, however, I’d been listening to Matthew’s gospel and it had got to the second chapter – the part about Herod having the male children, age two and under, in Bethlehem slaughtered to ensure that he who had been called by the Magi “The King of the Jews” would never arise to threaten his reign.  The juxtaposition in my mind of vulgar humor over against the seriousness of the incarnation of deity gave me pause.  Instead of making a long blog post about all of this, I talked about it with friends at our congregation’s Wednesday evening meeting.  I’m finding that I’ve been interacting more this year with people face to face than electronically; it seems fitting to me.

Done with Iphone

I ditched my wireless telephony carrier data-plan to save some money – turns out I’ll save over $300 per year switching back to the provider’s 99-cent flip phone.  I’m wasting a lot less time now that I’m not carrying around a tiny, Internet-connected computer with me.  The change has resulted in decreased photographic effort, although the new cell-phone does have a camera.  Things I miss about the Iphone?  Alvio Cyclemeter, camera function (Iphone takes better pictures than the flip-phone and files are easier to transfer), ability to waste time with Facebook and email, weather reports when the power’s out at home, easy to manage reminders, calendar, contacts from any computer.

I bought another Pentax Optio W30 to replace the one I gave my son when he was four years-old and has since that time knocked about enough that shutter speed and a couple of other features are no longer what they once were when I bought it as NOS.  The factory refurb I got for about $44 will now accompany me on my adventures in the real world.  My Jamis bike came with a Planet Bike cycling computer, but I hate it.  I’m planning to get a Magellan Cyclo 315 to keep track of my mileage and to keep me from getting bad lost in Tennessee hills and Midwestern farmland.  Because  I don’t care about all that heart-rate-and-cadence-monitor hokum, I’ll get the base-model.  It should be compatible with some of the Magellan topo maps that came with the Explorist 710 I got (used) to try out as an all-in-one cycling computer, GPS, and camera.  I found the 710 unsuitable for my purposes and, because the unit I bought was defective, I sent it back.

The one-time expense approach to cycling and photography appeals more to me than the data-plan subscription approach necessitated by the Iphone.  My Iphone 4 now sits in a desk drawer sans recharge.  I think it’ll stay there for a long time.

Interesting Workplace

This semester, I’m doing an internship in the locked psychiatric ward where I did my practicum placement last semester.  I’ve pretty much gotten over my fear of the features or manifestations of mental illness.  A large number of our patients are very old, so I am also learning about the dementing process and various types of dementia.  I’m tired by the time I get home in the early evening; my coworkers tell me this is normal.  The work is largely enjoyable, and I like both patients and coworkers.

Upper Body Strength

Since I’ve had less time for cycling than previously, I’ve been trying to improve upper body strength with pull-ups, push-ups, dumb-bells, medicine ball, and so forth.  My hope is that increasing muscle mass will help burn more fat.  When cycling, here lately, I’ve pedaled with my son so he can get out of the house, too.  We both need to be outside and if I fail to take advantage of this time we have to spend together, we’ll both regret it as we get older.  For Christmas a few years ago, I got an Iron Gym and a couple of weeks ago, I got a Power Press push-up board.  I’ve redoubled my efforts with the Iron Gym and have taken to the Power Press with some intensity.  We’ll see if I start building muscle and shedding fat.

Life and Death

Earlier this month I wrote:

Humans – that is, the “being” part of the human – may arise out of the individual patterning of his or her biology and neurology. The “being’s” task is to remain aloft above the sum of his or her own parts, and not, through physical or neurological dysfunction or deficit sink back in to the morass of autonomic functioning unaware of anything beyond the instant.

I think that our lives – that is, whether we have life or are dead – don’t have much to do with our health.  They’re related but separate categories, if categories is the word I want.  People in terrible health seem to linger for months and, short of euthanasia or suicide, it doesn’t seem to matter much how how they feel about it.

For two weeks I’ve been thinking about human mortality and how to write about it.  My wife’s grandfather is in hospital and for several weeks has been expected to live no more than a few more days.  His brother died a few months ago, picking tomatoes.  My wife’s mother has spent almost every night in his hospital room with him because she does not want him to die alone.  Certainly he will never return to the home where he and his now three or so years deceased wife have lived since the 1940s.  For the first time this year as we drove by the old white farmhouse we didn’t honk the horn in greeting because there was no one in residence to hear it.

Old-White-Farmhouse

The man who married my late maternal grandmother in 1973 (I think it was that year), now 96, has seemed to be growing weaker over the past several months to a year.  About four, five weeks ago now, he fell for the second time, and because he was living independently and apparently lost consciousness, lay there for several hours until he was able to muster the strength to get to the telephone and call somebody, probably my mother, to help him.  Not long after that he agreed to daily help at home, and shortly after that determined it was time to hang up his car-keys.  Within a week or so afterward, he made some alteration to his medical regime without medical advice that seems to have altered his consciousness to such a degree he cannot remain at home at all.  Little likelihood remains that he will ever return to the home he built all those years ago for my grandmother.

A few days ago a man of my acquaintance died.  When we last spoke, he talked about how he wanted to reconnect with his son who’d been living homeless in a southwestern state suffering from pancreatitis attributable to chronic, long-term alcohol abuse.  He himself suffered from emphysema, but thought he had two or three years left to live.  A former high wage earner, this man had been reduced to a meager and fixed income.  He continued to find meaning in writing, recording, and performing music.  He said his father used to tell him, “You’ll never amount to anything.” 

After our parents die, the only people who have any idea who we are on the basis of who we were are our siblings, if we have any.  My son has no siblings, and as I think about my elders as they make their way through their final days, I think of my little boy as he wades into the first of his.  By the time my wife and I turn our toes skyward I hope our son will be happily established raising a family of his own.  Possibly these dolorous preoccupations are entirely my own and occur to no one else.

On the other hand, all this thought and feeling, much of it probably rooted in the experience and observations of fatherhood, motivates me to greater social interest and compassion for those who do not inhabit that little circle of caring made of wife, son, and a few others who comprise the people who matter most to me.

A Surprise Ending

During a trip to the library Sunday afternoon, I learned of the death, some two years previously, of a man I would gladly have dispatched myself had I possessed a legal excuse of some sort that would have granted me a pass in the matter.  The man was a fool who could not write a readable sentence and who took pleasure in making miserable the lives of those who worked under his supervision.  I was fired from a position I planned to leave anyway, only not as precipitously, for standing up to him during a heated confrontation over a promised raise.

A woman I encountered at the library, now employed thereby, had been a coworker at the small newspaper for which I briefly wrote business features.  She said she and a few other writers had been “laid-off” within the past year.  I asked whether the loathsome fool who had served as the paper’s editor-in-chief continued to “draw breath.”

No, she said, he died a couple of years ago.

“I never liked (worthless dead guy) anyway,” I replied.

The happy thing about the death of that worthless person, however, is that when it occurred, I was so busy living my own life that I took no notice, and had functionally forgotten the matter of my grudge against him.  The continued life or death of the worthless man had no meaning for me.