grinninfoole: (strangelove)
Actually several "its". Next weekend, I'm off to DexCon in NJ. This August, I'll be driving down the east coast to visit friends while I head towards DragonCon.

I've been seeing a life coach, which sounds kind of dumb to me, but it's been helpful, because she's helping to articulate what I really care about, and thus to focus on doing what I want to do, rather than what I think I should. I find that I am more relaxed and confident lately, and I'm accomplishing more things that matter to me. (Such as getting to the trainer 4 times a week, getting solar panels on the house, driving out to Kentucky for a family wedding, and spending more time with friends.)

It's ten months since my brother died. I'm still growing my hair out, two months to go, and it's such a nuisance. I don't know how people deal with it.

I started listening to a podcast on the History of Rome on my long drive, and it feels good to be learning about stuff that I didn't want to spend a ton of time reading about, but that I'm glad to know nonetheless. And so far, my favorite historical character has been Hannibal Baraka, so I'm sad he lost.

Millari is living here at the house again for the summer before she moves to Mexico. It's lovely to have her around so much, though her stuff is creating some clutter. The kitty is very happy she's here, and is every more cuddly and purring than otherwise. (She's in the crook of my arm as I type this. I think she sends her felicitations to you, dear reader.)
grinninfoole: (Default)
I'm currently in CA, near San Francisco. My good friend Usakeh's mother has just died, so I have come out here to offer moral support. It's quite a blow for anyone, and harder when your mom is so young. [livejournal.com profile] millari is here, too, and it's been nice to spend time together. Things I like about it here: it's so sunny and mild; the gorgeous countryside of rolling hills; there aren't any mosquitos to eat me alive when I'm out exercising. What I don't like so much is that everything is more costly than back home in MA. If I were living out here, I'd really have to get a job.

Usakeh's dad is a Stanford prof, and he's been very accommodating of our presence, but I'm sure he'll be pleased to see the end of lounging on his sofas. Happily, it's a large, sunny, pleasant house so there is at least enough room. (Actually, the previous owner was apparently an AV nut, so there's a home theater room that's like a more comfortable version of the little downstairs venue at the old pleasant street theater.

We spent last weekend in Carmel, with U's grandparents (retired professors originally from Vienna), in a gorgeous villa overlooking the sea. It's probably worth millions now, but they've been there for decades and it has a pleasantly lived-in feel. It sort of reminds me of my grandmother's house, for all that it's a comfy Adobe structure on a slope with a gorgeous view of the bay, rather than a stodgy box in North Andover.

Lots of great places to go walking out there, and the most beautiful was Point Lobos state reservation. There were deer, seals, pelicans and many other birds, plus some truly gorgeous terrain and vegetation. I took a bunch of pictures, mainly thinking how Mole Underfield would love them and how he might paint them.

I'm flying back tomorrow, and then... Well, we'll see. No civil politics this week, as we're all away, which is a pity as Cruz and Kasich dropping out leave only Trump in the running for the GOP nomination is probably worth a few minutes discussion.

I have started reading the Three Musketeers, and enjoying it quite a bit. Dumas is quite the storyteller, and it's interesting to me how much I'm enjoying it despite the characters all being rather broad and archetypal. I wonder how much of that is because he created the archetypes? I have seen various movie adaptations, so I'm familiar with some of the story and general plot elements, but it's interesting to see how much of the milieu, the flavor of the story, comes from Dumas. Also, I'd forgotten that he was black. It fascinates me how much of the most popular pop culture is created by marginalized people.
grinninfoole: (Default)
Today it's been six months since my brother died. His cat has warmed up to me considerably, and is now flopped against me, purring. I have accomplished some important stuff in that time, mostly taking care of MU's estate. I have been coming back to Andover to stay with mom for a couple of days almost every week. This has started taking a toll on me. MU was the one who was good at taking care of routine business in an orderly manner. I was the one who handled the crises. Now that he's gone, and been gone awhile, things aren't in a crisis anymore. There's just the soggy, grey slog of normal life, with wealth and privilege smoothing over the worst problems that come with old age, Parkinson's, nerve damage, and a resultant confinement to a wheelchair. Or, if you're me, having a mother in that position, and wanting desperately to help her stay happy, active, and connected with friends. Since most of her friends have either died or moved away, this isn't easy.

I haven't handled this well. Mom has a script in her head, from long before I ever existed, that tells her that no one really values her, and she's reacting in ways that are really codependent. Or maybe it's better to say ways that make me codependent. Anyway, the more time I spend in Andover, the more I'm staying up all night and sleeping all day, like I did when I was a kid, and the less time I spend actually doing stuff I care about, and the worse my depression gets. I don't want to cut mom loose, but I can't keep this up. I want to spend my energy changing my home, getting fitter, dressing better, writing more, gaming with friends, starting another radio show, and maybe even going on a few dates. Plus, my cat now has hyper-thyroidism, so I need to make sure she's OK.
grinninfoole: (Default)
As of January 28, it's been 14 years since I started this journal. I'm older and fatter, yet both physically and emotionally healthier. I have gone from an apartment in Northampton to a house in Easthampton. When I started this journal, Modern Myths didn't even exist, and now I'm looking back at a career there. [livejournal.com profile] millari And I were just starting to date, now we've had a whole marriage. Feisty has gone from vibrant young little tiger to sleepy old kitty who creaks with the years.

Some other moments worth noting:

This past weekend, I had a lovely supper at a tapas place near Union Square with Redacted. I haven't seen him/her since last spring, so it was good to catch up.

I tidied up in my bedroom and found a number of old cards from [livejournal.com profile] usakeh. They follow a consistent pattern of apologizing for not staying in touch more, and then thanking me for sending a gift, calling when she was in the hospital, or otherwise reaching out. It's actually rather pleasant to read so many affirmations piled up together. I hope she keeps sending them.

I also found a program from when [livejournal.com profile] mole_underfieldAnd I went to see Book Of Mormon last March 15th. We very much enjoyed the show. We stayed at my godmother's flat near Lincoln Center, and didn't go out that much. I had wanted to gad about the city more, but MU, as was his wont, preferred to stay in and chill. We tried to get into the Nightly Show, but couldn't. (We went to see American Sniper instead, which was OK.) I spent a fair amount of time reading a book which I quite enjoyed, but now I can't recall what it was.
[edit: China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. Just the kind of immersive fantasy I can't stop eating with a spoon.]

That was, in retrospect, about the peak of MU's respite from the cancer. He went off the chemo for a couple of months after that, and the cancer bore down on him until he smothered.

The weekend of October 4th, I flew to Cleveland to catch the final game of the season between the Red Sox and the Indians. I'd floated the idea to MU last winter, and he said he'd like to go if he felt up to it. I stayed with B, whom I hadn't seen much of for many years, as we'd had a falling out after my doomed romance with Grounded. I had a great visit. We reminisced, and carried on as we had done years ago when we in our 20s. I even dug up an old 2nd edition character, just in case it had worked out that I could join his D&D group for a session.

The weather was perfect, and Cleveland was lovely and friendly. The Red Sox capped a losing season by getting beaten 3-1.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
I never posted the obituary I wrote for my brother. This appeared in the Boston Globe, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, and the Andover Townsman.

David S. Dow, RIP )
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
At my brother's memorial service, I lined up five other people (my uncle, an old flame of MU's, Hannah-Belle Goulet, a long-time family friend who used to be our neighbor, and [livejournal.com profile] millari) to share their memories of him before I got up to speak. I wanted to keep things moving because Mom gets tired easily, and I wanted to allow everyone else to say their piece, so I kept things simple. (Also, I wasn't sure quite what to say. It's tough for people who have lived in the valley their whole lives to properly describe the mountain to outsiders.)

...and thanks for all the fish. )

At the reception, following my brother's request, we sang Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. About 100 people turned up, some of them quite unexpected, like the Battler, whom I hadn't seen in 20 years; or Suave and Sydneycat, who both made the drive from the valley; millari's parents; many of the people who have been providing home health care; people from MU's school days, both old & recent. Thanks especially to Millari for returning from Germany for a week.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
My saga of brother's battle with cancer approaches its tragic denouement. He was diagnosed last May with adenocarcinoma in his stomach, and after several surgeries, all the radiation he could stand, and six months of chemo, his doctor at Dana Farber Cancer Institute has thrown in the towel. He's lost so much weight, his liver is failing, and he's got hardly any appetite. I don't know how much longer I'll have a big brother.

I'm starting to think about what comes next–writing an obituary, delivering a eulogy, helping my mother carry on. I shall soon be an only child–how long til I'm an orphan? My life is in flux, as well, because I recently quit my job, so I could spend more time with the family, and finally got around to filing the divorce papers with Millari. I don't miss the actual duties of my job, and I'm still quite satisfied with how my marriage played out, but I do need to re-answer the fundamental question of mortal existence: what now?

I don't know what MU is thinking or feeling right now. I hope he's not plagued with regrets. I hope he isn't full of dread. Those are natural responses, and I'm sure every person who's ever lived felt them in some measure (I do), but I hope my brother feels loved and contented. He deserves to.

It occurs to me that, as an atheist, I should perhaps share my thinking about what it means to be dead, as distinct from the process of dying. Dying is a transitive, not to say transitional, physical experience. I sometimes find myself thinking about what it will be like for me, where and when it will happen, and what my last sight will be.

The actual source of existential dread, however, is the boundless unconscious unbeing that follows. After a life of consciousness, and especially a life of linear narratives, I really can't grasp what formless, endless, nothingness will be like. The classic answer for we unbelievers is that it will precisely nothing. "I" will no longer exist in any way, so, for me, everything will simply stop forever.

That may be the whole truth.

I do have some suspicions that it isn't, though. (buckle up)

First off, consciousness is demonstrably linked to the electrochemical processes in our brains. Whatever it means to think and be self-aware, everything we know about it depends upon our physical brains. What we don't know, and maybe can't know, is whether our experience of consciousness can be wholly explained by what our brains do. (The Baconian Idol of the Tribe, though the tribe in this case may be any living organism, and not merely humanity.) Many people have written stories about being disembodied, or existing as spirits, or an afterlife, but the truth is that no one has ever experienced life without a body, so we really have no reliable testimony at all on this matter.

Second, the atoms in our bodies are no different from the atoms in anything else. If consciousness is just something that emerges from complexity, then the fact that matter is eternal means that we are eternal. We cannot be destroyed because matter cannot be destroyed, and just as matter can't be created, maybe we weren't really created, either. Maybe we were simply latent in the universe, and even after the complex processes that make us us apparently stop, we're still just as latent, just as waiting to emerge, as we were for the 14 billion years that passed by before our cue.

Third, if consciousness is a property of sufficiently organized matter, then the patterns of that organization are governed by physical laws, just like everything else. Which, I think, is another way of saying that we are specific iterations of a universal thingamabob. The wave crashes on the shore, but the ocean is still there. Everything about "us" will survive the death of our bodies, because consciousness (in this wild notion) is inherent in the physical structure of the universe.

Fourth, this starts to resemble the Platonic ideal forms, with everything physical thing merely an imperfect reflection of the metaphysical exemplar. That may well be nonsense, of course, a charming fantasy with no basis in reality. (Or maybe just a more poetical way of saying 'math, bitches'.) I get antsy when things move away from the concrete and specific towards the abstract. But, I must admit, I can't dismiss the reality, the actual not-made-upness, of abstract concepts. Two plus two equals four, even without humans to think it (I can't believe these are arbitrary things we just invented), even though "two" has no physical reality.

I'm dozing off, so I may have lost my thread, I think that, even without indulging in superstition, the old adage may be true: omnia mutantur, nihil interit.
grinninfoole: (strangelove)
In the beginning of May of this year, my brother was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in his stomach.  Scans showed a tumor near his small intestine, small enough that it still be in early in its development.  I spent almost all of that month at home in Andover with him and my mom, taking him to the hospital, setting up radiation and chemo therapy, and trying to offer moral support. I was just about to go back to work when my father died, and we had the memorial service for him, and all that.

MU finished the radiation and chemo in July, and had a follow up scan in August.  The results were, according his oncologists at Mass General, the best possible.  Plans were made for surgery on 9/9 to cut out part of his stomach, where the tumor had been, to prevent it returning and spreading.  Once the operation began, however, the doctors observed little spots of cancer spread across his stomach and into his intestines.  It was too late to perform the surgery, or to hope for a cure.

My whole family is stunned by this, and I can only imagine how terrible this must be for MU, given his tendency to assume the worst and worry about what can go wrong.  Imagine going to sleep before an operation to cure you, only to wake up and be told you're going to die?

We got a second opinion at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and we're going to have them take over MU's treatment.  He likes their facility and atmosphere better.  In a couple of weeks, he will start more chemo therapy, which we hope will hold things at bay for a while.  How long, we don't know.  If I understand that statistics correctly, the five year survival rate is 10 to 20 percent, which is pretty bad, but hardly a fait accompli.

I'm going to switch from salary to hourly at work, so I can take off whenever I need to, and they have promised to do everything they can to give us all the time and support we need.  I can't properly express how grateful I am for this, not just for my family, but for me.

I have never experienced anything like this before.  When Mom had cancer ten years ago, it was clear that they were both new and hadn't spread.  The operations to deal with them went smoothly, and she needed little follow up treatment.  I didn't truly appreciate then how ridiculously rare and lucky that was.  Now I do, because I just want to curl up and hide from this.  I'm going to be away for much of the next week, and I plan to do useful stuff at the old family home, and I really don't want to go to work.  It feels like such a burden to be there and deal with the challenges we face right now.  (It's a whole separate post, but basically Lefty and I put our faith in the wrong guy to head up the Northampton store when Lefty went to New York.  It's emotionally very draining, and by far the biggest mistake of my life, as well as the worst misjudgement of character I have ever made.)  It feels like a weight pressing on my chest.

I'll try and post about some of the other noteworthy stuff, like my fun vacation to DragonCon, my failed attempts at romance, and maybe even gaming or something.
grinninfoole: (Default)


So, had a lot on my plate this year, and I have neglected LJ, despite vastly preferring it as a place to post more openly and personal than, say, facebonkers.

This year has seen my father die of old age, my brother get cancer (and hopefully recover), a friend from college die of cancer, and me having to step suddenly to more responsible at work.

I didn't work at all in May, but it didn't really recharge me like a vacation, so I'm taking one now. At this moment, I am at the Sheraton in downtown Atlanta, having just picked up my badge for dragoncon. Unlike last time, I'm here alone, just looking to have some fun, visit some friends, and I hope to meet shiny fab in person. I know I know others here, and I hope to see
them, too.

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