The Final At Bat – Chucking His Things

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It took my brother 3 years after my mother passed away before he had the courage to go through her things, laugh a little, cry a lot and much like a funeral service, put articles of meaning to her in boxes and stowed them in a place surely to be forgotten in some hard-to-reach corner of the attic or dark corner of the basement.

After that one day when we finally removed the evidence of my mother, we have not, not even once, discussed those boxes or rummaged around to discover them.  It was as if, like herself, her belongings were put to rest.  But I know for certain that that Sunday afternoon was the most painful day of my brother’s life.

And now it’s my turn, with the exception that there’s nothing I want to keep.  I don’t want to remember him by furniture or china oraa-nothing artwork or clothes. Nothing, not trophies or photographs or clothes or christmas ornaments could possibly compare to the degree of intimacy and occupation I put into motion as part of a strategic plan to keep my brother solvent, without jeopardizing my life in Chicago.

I invaded the privacy of every nook and cranny of his life; I strong-armed him to go to an attorney to draw up the correct documents. I took over his finances. I questioned every single charge on physician statements. I carried a valise with copies of every important event that produced documentation at the ready, attorney drawn HIPPA forms which provided, without question, unfettered access to every health insurance plan and their schedule of benefits, physician bills, EOB, ridiculously high deductibles in lieu of capping monthly premiums, and finally negotiating Medicare physician costs (if they take Medicare), (non)compliance with orders to manage his chronic maladies gain access to all of his medical records back to 1985. There aa-occupationwasn’t a single part of his life that I legally did not have access to or was managing or that I would be denied access. In essence I represented my brother, except those requiring an actual body. And frankly, I think he harbored significant anger and to a large extent resentment. But if I and my partner were to first pull him out of his morass, I needed to take extreme measures and I needed the legal system as my wing man. And what evidence do I have to draw this conclusion?

The Best Friend relationship which I had so cherished before I commandeered his life was, at once, extinguished. The day that Social Security deposited his first monthly benefit he furtively initiated a quitclaim of my occupation and immediately liberated his Self from my subjugation like a dog freed from its leash and running, really running, the odors and aromas of independence challenging his speed, agility, and actions of being, in the simplest of terms, a dog.

And I think that’s precisely what occurred when his income was deposited into his account and he didn’t wait for permission or evaluation or reconciliations. It takes a desperate man to abdicate the course of his life and a man aching with humiliation to admit he doesn’t possess the forbearance and seasoning required to navigate the craggy cliffs of reinventing oneself at fifty-eight.

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The moment we cleared danger however, he was resurrected in action not in speech and said, “Let go of the wheel boy, I’ll take her from here.”

Time To Unbutton the Years

For my very dear cousin who recently shared an activity she pursued from habit for 2.5 years of her life, and of which struck a deep chord within me which continues to resonate.  Bless you, M.D.

In over 150 posts to this blog, I feel as though I’ve failed to pull aside the curtain and let you see what I’ve been hiding.

Just put the lid on the stockpot to simmer and much of the household has gone to bed except Jenni who, like a good night watchdog, checks on me periodically (usually amidst a stretch and a yawn). And while the hour is late, I must finish this post. It’s time to unbutton the years and feel the spring of irresponsibility.

I take the practice and restraint of writing very seriously. Not to seem austere, but, as one callous director yelled at my turned back, “Writing is a very lonely way to express yourself!” Prick.   

But what remains true to type is that writing is painful and exhilarating and disliked and poorly reviewed and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and moving and lucky and dangerous and a coup de grace terminus dissolution seductive lustful adoring and painful. My temperament since eighteen was writer; not a decorated writer but a prime writer. And Blogging?  The Practice (writing) and Restraint (never “what,” but always “when”) to lose the fear that my voice is gone.

Written earlier: Wanted It On Paper (or pixels, I suppose):

My desk is a mound of memories threatening my Mac like English Ivy.  Buried are unopened envelopes addressed to my brother – heat, electricity, cable – things he felt or used or watched – things that touched him in some real way – and taken for granted . . . except to those left behind to clean up someone else’s party, but in this case they’re the pieces of someone else’s life. The pile reads like those pitiful Monopoly deeds, Water Works and Electric Company. Vacancy ignored the utility’s initial bill. Ignored utility’s send out “Reminders of bills” or “bills” or “past-due bills” or “bills posted by collection agencies,” like rounds of mortar fire.

Written recently: Must complete this night:

I’ve got to stamp Addressee Deceased; Please Return to Sender with a fake heartless blasé poker face, constantly pushing aside cemented memories like freeing a sedan adrift in a blizzard so I can muddle, disinterested, of who or what or when he felt a gap in his comfort; and yet, these envelopes represent the healthy, sound, and clean gaps in his comfort. Then deliberate vague hints appear like indiscreet, taedium vitae lovers pursuing liberty. The utilities remain, but a couple, then a few, then many of these envelopes appear from unpronounceable practices and departments and unfamiliar hospitals and ambulance companies. There’s no curiosity daring me to open the envelopes like cracking open a diary or handling an 8×10 envelope forked-over by a neo-noir gum-shoe. I’ve ransacked his apartment three times looking for impossibly to find documents. A Mid-Way entertainment like curiosity disappeared the night my partner (my partner judiciously picked and packed, while each shirt caught my attention like a bride-to-be in a Tiffany  & Co. (except the diamond’s wink promised the future and these shirts promised . . . promised . . . recollections of our past and the further removal of him from his home.  I packed  a few comforts but my partner shouldered the lion’s share (you know, kid-going-to-camp stuff sans the pair of linty Gobstoppers) for his transfer to an acute-care facility (e.g. nursing home.).  Later he referred to leaving the hospital and signing-in to the sub-acute rehab facility as his One-Way Ticket.” ˆMid-day Sunday while we were thumbing through brochures and page after page of smiles: Rented smiles; Directed smiles; “I’m going home after this,” smiles, the truth caught in my throat like a chicken bone as he asked the one question, that one impossible question that I begged the All-Knowing to prevent him from asking, he asked, “Am I going home?”  My weakened attempt at steadiness crumbled as quickly as ancient foundations beneath the burden of progress. I must remain impermeable, I reminded myself on my way to the restroom. After a very brief phone call my partner knocked, then opened the door to see me sitting on the floor.  Through three decades of sobbing, fractured words, ardent hands he understood: He asked the question! The question to which I dragged and lifted and choked-back and detoured the answer (of which he’d never hear from me. Please, I begged my partner, please go sit with him and chat and blame my expeditious run for the restroom on anything but the truth. Because I can’t stand it yet, and he’ll just die when he finally does here that he’s never . . . never returning home.

“Help Is On The Way!” – Solving the 9-1-1 Dilemma

aaeavesdropping2Frankly I find the uproar monopolizing the nation’s attention in recent weeks over the NSA‘s eavesdropping on “once thought to be private” conversations ironic.  Another example of sub rosa by law enforcement agencies is the warrantless tracking of a citizen’s whereabouts via surveillance made available by privately owned mobile devices.

Several states have issued a Call to Arms by writing legislation requiring a warrant for law enforcement to track an individual’s location based on their cellphone, social media, and/or GPS devices so as to eliminate eavesdropping by the NSA. Several states are considering legislation that would require a warrant for law enforcement to track an individual’s location based on their aasatellitecellphone, social media and/or GPS devices, but Montana has officially become the first state in the country to enact such a law.

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) a non-profit organization that, according to their website, “is leading the fight against the NSA’s illegal mass surveillance program,” highlights when, in 2005, Mark Klein (AT&T’s whistleblower) approached EFF with documents alleging AT&T’s involvement in NSA spying, That was one of the smoking guns which finally led to this years phenomenal increase in citizen interest and senior level governmental involvement in the NSA’s Mass Spying Program.  (If you’d like more information about EFF and their interest in the NSA’s Spy Program, go to: eff.org/nsa-spying).

aaa-mobI’ve seen this rundown before: Government proposes/does/denies/admits/punished and Citizen declines/won’t/alleges/vindicated/lynch mob. Our government remains buttoned-up and stonewalled and our citizens resemble the stereo-typical Mob-After-the-Monster complete with torches, hay rakes, and wooden pitchforks!

The citizen mob’s mantra: “The government should stay out of my business . . . that is, until you’ve been in a hurricane (the Jersey shore), a crazed gunman (Newtown), or personal emergency (Atlanta SWAT rescue five firefighters). It’s during these dreadful circumstances that we, as private citizens, beseech comfort and sustenance.  And to whom do we turn when catastrophe, that is, catastrophe of immense, annihilating proportion i.e., hurricanes affecting millions living in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States; or, tornadoes one-mile wide, “grounding” for thirty-nine minutes and  17 miles affecting 34,000 lives in the Central United States; or, obstructing dozens of terrorist plans aimed at U.S. buildings or landmarks i.e., impeding plans to bomb the Federal Reserve in New York City by installing informants recruited by terrorists.  We turn to the same over-sized, immune, and budget-busting behemoth, the U.S. Federal Government.aaa-cellfone

My penning of this post was plain: The solution to the short-reach of our 9-1-1 system was to manufacture telephones with a bright red button. When the button is pressed your location is identified by Geo Tracking and your call is routed to the nearest 9-1-1 call center.

But obviously, as you can tell by the first five paragraphs, no one would use it! If the government picked up the call and rescued you, you’d turn right around and say, “Why’d you rescue me? That’s a violation of my rights as a private citizen!”

 

Heaven Might Be Anywhere

One of my greatest fears in life is that this life, this practice life, will be our only life, and, of course, one doesn’t hear the punch line. This moment of truth, this day of reckoning, this day of judgement, is the religious revelation of the existence of evil and the evil dominion of bête noir: The introduction of fear as consequence of a wayward behavior in this life.

What if the moment of truth, the day of reckoning, and the day of judgement were all about the earthly presence of beauty, of grace, and of winsomeness? What if in your minds eye you were witness to all the mystical magic of earth? What if the magic of life was overlooked because our treasured gift of life was fettered away in a foolhardy gaffe to get somewhere-anywhere, because somewhere-anywhere promises joy and laughter and intimacy and beauty which is sorely missed from right where I am.

What if the hereafter punch line was: Heaven is right under your nose?

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Just One of the Things I’ll Miss

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When you live in Chicago and drive, you live in your car. With so many people living in an urban and cosmopolitan city you’d think that public transportation would be a practical choice. And for many it is: Except they leave their parked cars at home like their two German Shepherds. A car is a car is a car. The streets are so congested that many neighborhoods allow cars with the proper permit displayed on their windshield may park there. Oh, and out-of-town guests? 1) Bone up on your parallel parking skills and a good sense of the length of your car; 2) Expect your host to hand you a temporary parking permit that you must affix to the right hand side of the windshield; if you’re a little light in the ingenuity department be sure to ask a friend your right from your left. Chicago Police are unsparing when it comes to the City‘s parking violation revenue.

aaacitySo, there are people who own cars but only drive them on the weekend. Which is precisely the same days the suburbanite wish to drive into the city for a game, a museum, or a pizza. Now we’ve got a city constipated by cars, like constipation, all want to go someplace but every street is clogged worse than my drain last week. We call it gridlock. That’s when people headed north, south, east, and west think they should go first and so we have intersections obstructed (which is worse in both metaphors) with the righteous, the immovable, obstructed, and constipated SUV brimming with 8-10 year olds from some sprawltown.

Urbanites never, ever drive on the weekend. Why? Because you’re not driving, you’re sitting, and that I could accomplish without Jenna’s car sickness, Stevie’s allergies including eggs, and guess what Jenna had for breakfast. . . .

Just think, thousands and thousands of cars and SUV’s dealing with the same degree of calamity and torture that the entrepeneur or the cubicalist for a ventriloquist’s thought as they’d left their respective offices on Friday evening. “Two whole days without urgency!”

That’s one of the thing’s I’ve already begun to miss about my older brother, Rick, who died recently. Day or night, long or short trip, I could aaacellphonelaughingcall Rick and we’d gab like a couple school girls. We were the best of friends, which is rare, especially with our current pace of life. But thank God he was a homebody because the odds were in my favor that he’d answer.

But now I simply sit silently as though I’m sitting in a nondescript doctor’s office. I don’t play music as I find it irritating ever since my breakdown in 2008. The only thing I cared to listen to was his voice and old, old jokes which we both laughed at, certainly not for their humor content, but because we’d laughed at the same stale loaf of humor year after year after

Produced and released by Warner Bros.
Produced and released by Warner Bros.

year. There’s something cherished in that degree of comfort: You’re allowed to belly laugh free of reprisal. Chevy Chase‘s “Christmas Vacation” produced in 1989 is a goofball, slapstick comedy of chaos, catastrophe, dickies, and eggnog moose mugs which is cued-up upon our arrival. Maybe it’s Clark’s (Chevy Chase) millstone to produce the Griswold’s primo holiday celebration ever!  AND which ties all of us together, because we’ve all felt a similar degree of disappointment that Clark Griswold felt.

Or when I’ll never again, upon answering the phone, hear his voice say , “Hey, buddy . . .”

Rich Didrickson (1955-2013)

“Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound.” — Herman Melville

It sent me back on my heels and against the ropes.

I was so surprised that time stopped.

It’s disappointment struck like a head-on collision.

When I answered I heard the life expectancybut I expected a little empathy;  not the credibly, relative destiny. 

It was a bombshell aimed dead-center to insure the greatest damage.

It was the end of one of several episodes.

It was the start of a new episode.

It was colorless. Soundless. Sightless.

It’s coldness remained near me, like walking out of a freezer.

It underestimated its infliction of cruelty.

Rick had the courage and nerve and right to refuse pain medications, food, and finally liquids. His pledge to himself guaranteed freedom from his hellish suffering that heroic measures caused, and found his real life patiently waiting at the gates of heaven on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at precisely 1:00 p.m.

It’s impossible for me to estimate the number of people who now have holes in their hearts where Rick used to be.

Fall Has Finally Fallen

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Yesterday, upon postponement of our midday amble amidst a cathedral’s canopy due to the dowdiest of freshly fallen autumn afternoons, a cozy dinner might divert the chilly woes of premature dusks. Noting that a fresh fall ousted a sapped summer, I bought a trimmed pork loin from my butcher and fresh root veggies. Antecedently and focusing on forecasts, I foretold of a cagey fall; its entrance behind a skedaddling summer!

Hedging my premonition of summer at noon pursued by the sharp, shivery, and grim character of a wily autumn, I remained home with my aa-porkloinloin; I would prepare a French Provençal pork loin braised in red wine and entrapped by fresh, roasted autumn root vegetables.

The grievous and ghastly responsibility of restoring purity and sublimity to a kitchen struck by volley’s of mortar fire, would be nothing short of miraculous (or, if no miracles are available, allot three hours)!  Having peculiar habits when cleansing my knives and cutting boards, only I appreciate and comprehend the intricacy of the five separate operations which assures a chef that his tools are prepared for their next challenge.

But what I truly enjoy most, more than double-butterflying the roast, more than preparing the veggies, more than effortlessly carving the roast, even more than savoring my meal. What I enjoy most is soaping up the cutting boards, then watching the suds as I’m rinsing.

It resembles the foam, the final stretch of a wave on a sandy beach. It’s that image, barefoot in sand and retreating ocean which makes all else rewarding.

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