Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pray

God will not be impressed with the morals of this nation when accounting for the lives it has chosen to abort.
Pray - pray fervently and long.
Why?
Because abortion is wrong


G.

This bit of bullshit needs some refutation. The person who wrote those words calls himself religious (I'll call him G.), but the morality of his life is in doubt no more or less than those he seeks to condemn.

And have no doubt. These are the words of condemnation. These are the sort of words that have given religion the bad name it deserves. G.'s appeal to pray is not an attempt to reconcile with those who might have doubts about their actions and are thus seeking spiritual and religious advice. No, in this case the call to prayer is a threat. The subtext says quite clearly that the consequences will be unfavorable, and, lest you have any doubt, the writer reinforces his point by being blunt and speaking for God directly.

I can only imagine what God will do to all those fools who have chosen to speak on His behalf while here on earth. If it turns out that He is the all-knowing guiding hand behind all of our actions and inactions, well, He is likely to be upset with the many conflicting interpretations of His Word. After all, I don't think He is going to take kindly to all those people who got it wrong.

I mean, let's say it turns out that God actually had a plan for aborting all those babies, what will He have to say to all those righteous zealots who tried to subvert His Plan? Why is it that God's Plan includes only those things deemed right and proper by the supposedly righteous religious interpreters of His Word and seeks to exclude all that is wrong and bad in the world? Why is it impossible that God's plan includes abortion? And why would a person, any person, be asked to step in for God and condemn his fellow creatures for their missteps in God's name? How arrogant.

Isn't it simple arrogance to assume that one can know God and/or His will? Many say that they can divine His intent through the Bible. Yet we know that the Bible is fraught with contradictions that are dismissed as anachronistic when they don't suit our needs (like the righteousness of stoning a woman who has committed adultery, for example) or are dismissed as ambiguous when they support the ideas of others (such as tolerance for others, like homosexuals, who somehow deviate from the 'norm').

Well, I've decided that if G. can talk with God and know what He will and will not 'be impressed with', I can too. So, I called Him up and asked Him if what G. said was true. Now, I can't quote Him here because He asked me not to, and, out of respect for His Word, I won't. I have to tell you though, given what He can do to me if I don't obey, I decided to honor His request. In our brief conversation (He was pretty busy this morning, what with the continuing U.S. financial crisis--apparently G.W. needs some personal guidance today), He was pretty clear about His intent though.

If you ask me, then, I believe that God will not be very impressed with those who have lived off the hard work of others, especially those who have not toiled in the service of Man but who have wasted their time on this earth by judging and condemning their fellow humans in the name of God. Collecting money to travel to the South Pacific to proselytize the 'natives' is a brazen example of how God's name is exploited by the pseudo-religious for personal gain.

Hell, I'd love to go to Tahiti on God's dime, wouldn't you? Lest you think I am inventing this, recall that last year, G. sent letters soliciting money to members of his extended family without regard for how they might feel about such blatant begging in the name of God. Whether or not he raised enough money to take his family on vacation is unknown to me. Likely he raised enough to get only halfway, then said, "The heck with it, let's just go to Canada".

Curiously, I agree with G. when urged to pray, for this may be the only way to get God to discipline arrogant idiots like G. who claim to speak for Him. So I will pray.

I fervently pray that those who have corrupted the mind of Man with empty promises of salvation shall find themselves at the mercy of their own creation.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thirteen Things for My Daughter

I don't know exactly when I came up with these bits of advice for Maddie, but I wrote them before she left for Portland. I found them in a journal today and felt that they were worth posting.

1. Tell the truth. Always and especially to yourself.

2. Don't wait to be told. Pay attention and do what needs to be done.

3. Be your best friend. No one else can be.

4. Be your toughest critic. No one else will bother.

5. Laugh at yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously.

6. Cry when you have to. There's no shame in tears.

7. Don't gossip. Unless you want to hear about yourself.

8. Be proud of your body. It's the only one you'll get.

9. Say "Yes"! You'll figure it out.

10. Ask. The worst anyone can say is, "No".

11. When things don't look like they are going to work out, change direction. Your life has a rudder; it's called your mind.

12. There is no such thing as failure. It is only a change in direction.

13. There is no such thing as success. It is only a pause on the way.

Prufrock

One great pleasure that has come my way recently has been to help a young friend of Maddie study poetry.

As a college freshman, she is taking a basic literature class, Intro to American Literature Since 1865. This includes the poetry of Whitman, Frost, Stevens, Eliot and Cummings. I took the same class in 1976, read the same poems and, just like Tenisha, didn't understand them at all. It was as if they were writing in a foreign language. Dr. Pelen, my professor, got it, but I did not.

But somehow those poems stuck with me. Reading Stevens' Sunday Morning made me choke up as I discovered that it was about me, 30 years later. And, at this point in my life, I even have some sympathy for Prufrock, whom I never thought I'd resemble. Yet now, the metaphors Eliot called upon appear to be not mere empty warnings to a facile youth, but serve as markers for what turns out to be a questionable life.

It is comforting, I suppose, to know that I have been a part of a long tradition, but because it is a history of failed ambitions and empty promises, it's a bittersweet flavor that lingers. I remind myself that it's just another poem and I am just another man.

Of course, at this bit of humility too, I fail, for I am still convinced that I am a poet, and that these great works that I ignored in my youth are but signs to guide me; passions on the path to inspiration.

I am not absent self-doubt, but I will press on as if I had no choice, which is, of course, the way it is.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fifty for Dinner, Please

It was Tuesday night. Ordinarily I am not in the restaurant on a Tuesday, but this night I was preparing for our first wine dinner of the season, so I was in one of the dining rooms near the front door, setting tables, folding napkins when I heard the exchange.

"Hi folks" said Sara, in her best and brightest hostess voice to the well dressed grey haired man who just walked in. "Have you got a reservation?"

I couldn't see his face, but I could hear his voice. "Oh yes," he said, putting away his Blackberry to talk with Sara face-to-face. "It's under Johnson" he said confidently, "Or possibly St. Ignatius Health Care". [Note, names have been changed]

I could hear Sara's silence as she searched for the name on the computer. The next question, I knew, came because in fact she had not fund either name in her book, "And how many people are in your party?"

We ask this because often people will arrive without knowing the name of their actual host. Doctors, for example, frequently attend functions held by drug companies and though they know the restaurant that they are supposed to go to, they have no idea what the name of the drug company rep--usually a twenty-something whom they've never actually met--nor the name of the 'sponsoring' doctor for the event.

"Um, well," he said slowly, as is figuring in his head, "I guess there's about fifty of us. You'll have to ask Brenda for the exact count, since she arranged all of this. In fact, she'll be here, along with the rest of them, in just a minute."

His optimism was premature. In fact, we had no idea that this group was coming. Now, to be fair, Sara cannot conceal this obvious fact from the customer, but neither can she appear rattled or unprepared to serve the horde about to descend upon us. To her credit as a tried and true professional, she did neither. She quickly discovers that this group has actually been scheduled for the next night, a Wednesday.

This had some good consequences, for it meant that we were not totally unprepared, just not ready on this night. The chef already had the food and most of it was already prepped. Considering that the menu involved passed hors d'oeurves and four courses, he had a lot to do in a very short time, but to his credit, he pulled it off beautifully.

As Robert marshaled his troops in the kitchen to prepare for the approaching wave of work, out front, we completely re-organized and re-set the entire restaurant in about ten minutes. This is a situation well know to those of us in the business, so to speak. We call it 'all hands on deck' and it means that everyone has to work on the problem at hand, now.

We had several long tables set up in the back dining rooms that would have accommodated them, but on her arrival, not only did the coordinator deny responsibility for the mix-up by claiming she had a 'string of emails' to show that this was in fact the day, but she also insisted, indignantly, that they had been promised the two front rooms.

A confrontation at this point would serve no one, so Sara judiciously said that we wouldn't worry about the 'blame game' for now, but just do what we had to do to pull it off. "Give us ten minutes" she said, and that's all we needed.

In ten minutes, like ants rebuilding their kicked over mound, we completely reset the two front rooms, moving, in the process, two couples that had already been seated in those rooms at our expense (meaning, we bought their meals). We also broke down the large tables in the back into a lot of smaller tables so we could seat the rest of the scheduled guests that evening.

Now, while Robert had all his food in house, I was actually short on the red wine. This was because the CEO had only just selected the wines the day before in a personal phone call to me, and having been ordered so late, it wasn't supposed to come in till the next day. Now, of course, I have some good wines in quantity in reserve, but it wasn't the wine he'd chosen. When he saw this after being seated, he called me over.

"I see you are not pouring the wine we agreed on," he said sternly.

"Um yes sir," I acknowledged reluctantly. I hate it when this happens, because all I can do is apologize and hope they'll understand because of the mix-up. I was clearly hoping for this when I said, "The wine you ordered didn't come in today. You understand, considering the mix-up"

"No," he said, "What mix-up?"

Now at this point I realized that no one had told him about the fact that they were in the restaurant on what, from our perspective was the wrong day. And, why should he be bothered? It was in fact a tribute to the way we were pulling it off that he didn't realize that it was the wrong day. It was, of course, the right day for him, and there was no way I could explain this in the few seconds I was being alloted.

"Oh," I said, "There was a delay in getting the wines out of Houston. This is a very good wine, however," I said, hoping to divert his attention to the wine itself. "I think it's even better than the wine we had hoped to serve."

"So it's what we were drinking outside?"

"Yes" I lied.

"Then it's great!" he said, and turned away.

Whew. Boy was I lucky. Brenda's ass was covered at my expense.

The rest of the party went off without a problem. The waiters all had to take extra tables, and even I had to wait on two tables in addition to the wine dinner. Some of the busboys, who have never seem me with an apron on, didn't know that I knew how, or that I was as good as I am, so it was fun to see their faces as I moved in and around my tables, serving and clearing as if it were second nature to me. Oh wait, it is.

Now, the punchline to this story comes the next day. Brenda sent our catering coordinator an apology email...of sorts. "I guess I screwed up," were her exact words, but nowhere in the subsequent text did the words "I'm sorry" appear. While she did give us credit for pulling it off, this woman had--still has--absolutely no appreciation for what a disruption her lack of planning had put upon us that evening.

Ok, Brenda did in fact send Sara a bouquet of flowers, but this is simply another gross misinterpretation of how the restaurant actually works. Sara did a great job, no doubt. But in fact, it was the kitchen that pulled off the miracle that Brenda could not even begin to comprehend.

This is not unexpected, really. After all, she has no way to compare it with her own working life. I doubt seriously if she could manage to accommodate such a serious disruption in her daily work flow, but that isn't even the point. It's about taking responsibility for one's actions. Oh and by the way, the 'string of emails' to which she referred as proof of her innocence did actually exist, but in fact, they proved her guilt. In one particularly detailed email sent by her just the day before, she acknowledged that we would see her "on Wednesday night".

I have promised not to whine here, and I hope this doesn't come off that way. After all, in this business, we are here to serve and work hard, so it isn't the unnecessary humility or the extra work that prompts these words. I am proud of what we were able to do. It's moments like these, honestly, that make the job more interesting. What brings me to comment, I suppose, is the complete absence of appreciation for the professional lives of others, especially, may I say carefully, in the 'healthcare' field.

I think that it doesn't take much to value adequately the work that others do for you, even it it's a simply thank you for services rendered, or an apology when it is due. The fact that Brenda probably never told her boss about her little 'screw-up' has double consequences in that he was pleased with the dinner yet he has no idea what we had to go through to make it happen. That, however, is the nature of the business, I guess.

If you do your job well, it looks effortless.

Michigan Summer 2008 - Remix

Alex pointed out that the last version of this vid, Michigan Summer 2008, needed music, and she was right. It also needed to be shorter, so I had the brilliant idea to use some music by Alexandra to pull it all together.

I think you'll like the result, especially because the tune--'Lift me Up'--is so catchy! Granted, I've listened to it a lot lately, but I just can't get that 'hook' out of my head!

Erm, Alex, I used the song without permission, but I gave you props at the end! ;-)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Double Down

It has been my practice, until now, to avoid writing about politics because the subject is so volatile and the effect of writing about it so negligible that it made no sense to waste even a moment or a keystroke on it.

But $700 Billion dollars?

Common sense tells you that the treasury secretary's generous offer to bail out a few bloated investment firms is low, so the final total is going to be well over a trillion dollars. So, to paraphrase Sen. Dirsken's famous quote, 'we are talking about real money' and it's got me good and mad.

I am mad because I have worked two jobs for my entire working life. I've paid my bills. My mortgage isn't in jeapordy because I paid it this month. And I paid it last month. Oh, and I have enough to pay it next month, too. How, you ask? How is it even possible, in these troubled times, that I have not managed to sign a mortgage I can't pay?

It's this damn double negative, the Bush double-speak that has it all backward.

Bankruptcy is not prosperity. Five millions dollars is not middle class.

War is not peace.

Let's get it straight. The reason I am not worried about losing my house today is because I signed a mortgage that I knew I could pay. It just took a bit of planning.

Lack of planning. This is, quite simply, what has happened to all these people who are unable or simply unwilling to pay their mortgage payments today. They made no plans that included a downturn in their income or the economy at large. In their lifetimes, thanks in part to Bill Clinton, they have only known prosperity. People were being paid large sums of money for invisible, and, it turns out, untappable 'human resources'.

For example, just a couple of years ago, fresh out of an Ivy League college with a B.S. in engineering, a young graduate could expect to start as a Vice-President of an investment firm for no less than a six-figure salary. The fact that the investment firm might have overvalued their talent never occurred to them. No, it seems that the financial folly of such an arrangement was not obvious to anyone who was not already perplexed about this situation.

Why? The backwardness of the logic was only confounded by double-think. What seemed the investment bankers to be evidence of good fortune and a rising economy was in reality proof of poor judgment and a harbinger of failure based on hubris and greed

Right now, though, I have no sympathy for the many overvalued portfolio managers, investment bankers and brokers and fee-charging middlemen who took all that cheap cash and thought they could somehow launder it in the form of expensive lifestyles based on sheer consumerism. Why should I pay for their lack of common sense, for their failure to plan?

A colleague of mine once had on her desk a small sign that read: 'A failure to plan on your part does not constitute a crisis on my part.'

Even if it doesn't cost me anything directly--which I know not to be true--it is the violation of the principle of moderation that I have held as central to my character my entire adult life that makes me so angry about this today. I say: Let 'em fall, let 'em fail. I'm ready for tough times. My house is in order.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Austin Farmer's Market

Valery and I went to the Farmer's Market this morning.

It's like the one in Holland, only hotter. Not so many flowers and not so much produce, but there are lots of booths with fresh made baked goods, teas, sauces and even pizzas.



Being in Austin, there is, of course, live music, and lots of dogs! Valery goes every week, but this was my first trip. I took my camera and made a little slideshow video out of a few of them. This is also a test of an embedded video from my Picassa Web Albums, so there is no option to play it in the blog. Clicking takes you to my web albums, and the playback is less than optimal. O well. More testing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cojones

Well, I guess there was some doubt as to the, shall we say 'manliness' of the UT Tower, so the powers that be (and that may include the actual Powers, as in Bill) have decided to adorn it with an proportionally sized set of, well, balls.

This is actually a sculpture, on loan to UT from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, as part of a campus-wide public art project. The thought is, apparently, that the Met has so much stuff that they cannot display, they've turned to partnerships with public universities like UT to provide a venue for it.

On paper, this sounds like a good idea, but in practice, I have to ask, "What were you thinking?" Perhaps, in this era of post-modern deconstructionism, the panel choosing the sculptures and their locations have overlooked some basic observational tools like iconographic interpretation.

Of course, it's a joke. It's not an expression of ignorance, but a deliberate statement about the role of art--specifically sculpture--on our campus. While it certainly is a funny visual gag, and while the sculpture in this context has some amusing subtexts (like the pennies glued to the balls), it is also an overwhelmingly obvious symbol of the elitist 'old southern' mentality that the University has become infamous for.

Seriously, in an era when it takes ten years to erect a statue of a national hero like Martin Luther King or Cesar Chavez, and the statues of great Civil War heroes cannot seem to be moved to less prominent places on campus, it seems fittingly ironic to place a sculpture like this in such an appropriate position.

But then, after all, "We're Texas"!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Self Indulgence

One of the things I struggle most with in my life is my tendency to self indulgence. Especially as I get older, the issue seems to have more impact on my day-to-day life than ever before.

Interestingly, one of the things I found most difficult to accept about my father was my perception of his excessive self-indulgence. As I grew up, especially under the parsimonious influence of Lynda, whose depression experiences shaped every purchase decision she ever made, I felt that Bill was not only not pulling his weight by supporting the family (ie, me), but that he was actively diminishing our resources by failing to restrict his spending. He was always buying something. Over the years, he bought cars, clothes, jewelery, cameras, film, photographic equipment and supplies. He loved new shoes and had more than a dozen pairs. Pens, too, he collected, and watches, clocks and little boxes. I take after him in this way, of course, with my own little collections of useless but pretty things.

I also take after him, it seems, in my inability to limit my acquisitive desires, and this at a time when I really seriously ought to be worried about my finances. However, now that I am older and have had a taste of the intemperance of of life itself, I am less inclined to be judgmental about Bill's spending habits and more inclined to be self-indulgent of the same. As with all thought re-alignments, I am tempted to think that this is the natural course of things, but another part of me wonders if this is, in itself another form of self-indulgence?

I do in fact realize that at this point in life, money is not the object but the means. There is much I want to do, and time will not replenish itself, so it's to be spent as wisely as possible, while money can be replaced, and no amount of self-denial will trade one for the other.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cancer College

Although I have been back in College now for more than two years, it was not until my cousin Diane gave to this experience the power of metaphor than I am even able to write about it.

But Diane is a cancer survivor, and has taken the much more advanced classes, so to speak. Her wisdom does not come from here but rather, is brought to it. As a mere witness, I have been struggling with myself to even admit that the disease is here and now and a part of my life and far too many of those I love.

But it is, most certainly. Besides Diane, my Mother-in-law, Billie is afflicted with cancer, as is my long-time friend and mentor, Francesca. Of course, Lynda died of the same, so you'd think I'd be past the denial stage by now, wouldn't you? You think that Lynda, with her legendary strength of will and determination to live life gracefully, would have made peace with it in her many advanced seminars prior to her death. It's what I used to think.

Now, what I do know is that these strong and beautiful women--who are not in denial because the have no such luxury--are showing me the way to deal with cancer with grace and dignity. They do not hesitate to talk about it, though I know that they are weary to do so. These wonderful individuals have the ability to uplift those of us who would selfishly decide to be depressed because we are unable to act. In other words, me.

Or so I thought. While I struggle with what to say to them, they have no trouble telling me what I must hear. It is not death, they say, nor even a death sentence, any more than any of us have. All life is a journey, and the length of the journey is not entirely in our hands.

So, Billie tells me that her treatments are going well, even if they make her nauseous and weak at first. Rebounding from the poison has got to feel good, and there is reason to believe that it will arrest the development of the cancer and allow her to continue to travel and create for the foreseeable future. For my part, knowing that she is being active in her self-defense yet reasonable in her expectations is evidence of her profound wisdom and spiritual strength.

Francesca has now survived an operation and a series of chemo/radiation treatments and has similarly showed how a diligent treatment plan coupled with a positive attitude can increase the odds of survival. From her I have learned how much depends on finding the calm at the center of the cyclone, remaining there till the rage and pain have passed.

Diane, too, has written with the news that her surgery was successful and that further treatments will not be required. Though I knew only the outlines of her struggle till I read her most recent note to the family, it is to her spirit, strength and recovery that I credit my release from denial and my ability to write about this at last.

Would that this realization, in addition to the love and respect I have for these women be enough to change their conditions, but that would be hubris. It is enough to know that still here and now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Thankless Job

Well, just when I was beginning to think that poetry was my calling, this comes in:

Poet Laureate bemoans "Thankless job"

Now seriously, is it possible that ego can get in the way of creativity? In all honestly I would rather toil in anonymity and have the freedom to write whatever I choose than to achieve the title and be forced to write on commission. I certainly hope that I though I will be able to remain unfettered by accolades, my work will be of some interest because it is as yet undiscovered.

EDIT: Well, I guess I just wasn't patient enough, because the very next day, along comes the opportunity of a lifetime! Can you say 'Pork Barrel' baby?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Seeker

Current research in cosmology centers on resolving these questions:

What is the nature of dark matter?
How much dark matter actually exists?
What is the exact distribution of dark matter in the universe?
What is dark energy?

Answers to these questions will improve our understanding of the origins, structure and fate of the universe.


Craig C. Freudenrich, Ph.D.
Contributing Writer to howstuffworks.com

The day is coming. This could be one of the most important dates in human history. When the CERN supercollider goes online day after tomorrow, scientists will begin to develop the the empirical evidence to prove my great and grand theories about dark matter and energy.

Of course, I'm not the only one thinking about these things, but I do feel that I have the capability of uncovering the relationship between these forces without the underlying evidence to prove I'm right.

Now, I have the arrogance to assume I can think and even from that, know about these things. Yet thinking about them too much brings me to tears because I still cannot make the leap across the dark chasm of new thought to knowledge. It lurks there, in the shadows, teasing and tormenting me in the most delicious way.

Optimism and Fatalistic Paralysis

One of the things I recall most clearly about my father Bill was his optimism. This is ironic, really, since one of the other things I recall most clearly about his was his fatalistic paralysis. Both of these statements will require some clarification, and two distinct memories will serve to illustrate the seemingly disjunctive connection that relates them in my mind.

First, the optimism. One of the very first conversations--if not the first--that I recall having with my father took place in the foyer of our house at 304 Grape Street in Abilene, Texas and the subject was impossibility.

I could not have been more than five years old then, since I'd have been at school at the time of day I recall the conversation otherwise. The heavy yellow-orange morning light was flooding the small square foyer in our two-story house.

The main door opened directly into it, and though it was closed to hold back the heat, on either side of the door were two tall windows that let in enough light to scald the eye if not buffered by a gauzy white curtain stretched floor to ceiling.

In this bright spot was kept one of our family's great treasures, the grandfather clock. This fabulously ornate timepiece stands nearly eleven feet tall with it's feet and finial both. Currently it sits without feet in my home, though this is hardly the place for it because it belongs to Stephen (Bill gave it to him before he died) and it hardly has the venue it did back in the house on Grape St.

This was an old house, built as a sort of colonial homestead. It had two stories, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, den, living and dining rooms, kitchen and big back yard complete with an old well. The place had the high ceilings needed to showcase the clock and we did. The clock was standing guard right there, the first thing you saw when you came in, all knurled brass and dark carved wood with a big brass pendulum and a rotating picture above the face that showed the phases of the moon.

The clock had to be wound, once a week. Watching Bill with his clock winding ritual was not unlike many other rituals of his (shaving, counting money) ie, mesmerizing. But the clock-winding held a particular fascination for me. Thus I was always in attendance on the morning of clock-winding day, and as usual, full of questions to ask and certainties to share that I'd come with on my own.

One of those certainties espoused, though I remember not the subject, had to do with something being 'impossible' and it was his reply that I recall so clearly.

"Nothing is impossible" he said.

Now, at this point in my life I do not suffer cliches lightly, though I do acknowledge the truth that they invariably contain. Hearing that statement now simply brings up the ever-present wry smile on my face up a notch, but then, back in 1961 or whatever year it was, to me, this was an incredible concept.

Incredible is the right word, too. I simply didn't believe him. I was thinking, naturally, about physics. Like rocks floating and water flowing up hill. But he was dead serious and kept his to his position. I don't recall the details of the conversation; it is the astonishment that I recall feeling;. I was overwhelmed with the idea that somehow, thought--my thought--itself was capable of transcending impossibility. For the first time, I had the realization that maybe, just maybe, nothing was impossible.

I was skeptical, as I am today, but I also remember thinking, 'What if he is right?'

That very thought cut my mind free from it's moorings, so to speak, and ever since I have pondered some very interesting and well-nigh 'impossible' thoughts without any credentials other than the carte blanche Bill gave me that bright clock-winding morning.

Was this optimism? I don't know. I certainly read it as such, for many years now. I stored away the memory, but honestly this had more to do with me than him. After all, how well did this notion match up with the real Bill?

The real Bill was an intelligent man, possessed of a catalog-type mind that collected trivia and jokes. He also displayed a wonderful loving spirit and had a warm heart. He loved cats. I remember him smiling more often than not. But I also recall the fatalistic paralysis that overtook him in the second half of his short life.

One day when I was a senior in high school, after he'd been ill with heart disease for at least four or five years, he called me into his bedroom when he was in bed and asked me to sit and talk with him.

I can't recall another time when he did this, even as he grew close to death. He was not one to initiate an intimate conversation. We never discussed his death but this once. He told me that he didn't expect to live long, but he also had no intention of dying soon. At this point Lynda was getting geared up to move to Europe and the choice Bill faced was not easy. If his health failed, he wouldn't be able to go with Lynda, and he speculated that she would leave him. He was candid about it, but not rancorous. He knew he was on thin ice with Lynda, and his health was only part of the problem.

But, he said, "I have no way out."

Holding his hand, looking at him in bed that day I realized, for the first time, despite having seen him near death in an hospital bead after his heart attack, that he was actually getting old. He was right, he wasn't going to live long. But his conviction to remain with Lynda was such that he resolved to go and indeed rallied to find the strength to accompany her on her upcoming dervish drive though Europe.

I thought about this conversation a lot as I got older; obviously I still do. I could see in his eyes that resignation earned of so many failed efforts that came before, like his careers in photography and 'healing'. Lynda openly referred to him as a 'failure'.

Although I felt differently at the time we talked, now I don't think he was a failure because I realize and felt so strongly his love for me. I think that he failed to have a successful career because, in a cruel twist of fate, he could always see the failure that his inaction would inevitably lead to. He thus became paralyzed into the inaction that would cause the failure. It was the perfect little recipe for failure; self-rising, to twist the metaphor.

So he did indeed remain with Lynda, and she with him, despite long odds. The fact that she didn't leave him or that he didn't die right away is remarkable, but those are other stories.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Returning to Bill

Of late I have been thinking a lot about my father, Bill. Of course, it has a lot to do with the new camera, but it also has something to do with Lynda's passing.

As long as she was alive, we didn't often speak of Bill. Mostly, I think this was because it opened up a cache of often-bitter memories for her and I was none too eager to delve into them. Though she came to terms with him late in his life, after his death, she vowed to 'remember and speak only of the good things.' Then she never spoke of him again.

Well, that's not really true, but she certainly didn't speak of him often, nor in particularly reverential terms. I sometimes would ask about him, but her recollections were deliberately vague and I didn't press.

Since Lynda essentially lived with us, it became my concern to deal with the living. I discarded, or at least set aside, my feelings and thoughts about Bill. Save his sister Rae, I think it's safe to say that no one other than my siblings are particularly interested in him. And even with that said, in all honesty, it's fair to say that only David and I share the love that we as sons had--still have--for our Dad.

This is not to disregard the feelings that Stephen and Anne might have had for him, but he arrived late enough in their lives that the love they had for him found its origins in the love and respect they already had for Lynda. As her choice, they accepted him. They were soon gone, however. In Stephen's case it came a mere five years after Bill married Lynda, and Anne was gone three years after that.

Even David and I have different recollections because he lived with Bill for a lot longer than did I. From early childhood, David was closer to Bill and I was closer to Lynda, so we have naturally different perspectives. I know we agree that he was a most loving individual, with a ready smile and, for the most part, a positive attitude. There is an irony there, since he didn't live long enough to prove the benefits of such an attitude, but of the many things I recall about his illness and painfully slow demise, one thing that stands out was his lack of complaint.

In fact, I really do not recall a single incident when Bill lamented in the way that Lynda did, or, for that matter, I still so often do. I cannot say what demons he had inside or faced or did not face in the years and months and hours before his death, for it seems I was with him less often than not, and I was not there when he died, alas.

But I do know this. Whenever I saw him, whenever he held my hand or held me in his arms, I felt the intense love that Bill had for me. As my life regains some balance now and he re-emerges as a force in my life, I see that I carry a bit of Bill's spirit still with me today.