April the 14th

April 14th is my mother’s birthday. Today, she would have celebrated her 62nd year on this earth. I would have called her by now and probably would have made plans to drive up to visit this weekend. For the past eight birthdays that have come and gone since her passing, today was usually a hard day. Today is the ninth birthday I have commemorated without her, but I am no longer filled with sadness or anger. For the last few years of her life, she suffered greatly: she was in pain, both physically and emotionally, the only time I ever saw her truly happy were those brief moments she was able to meet her (step) grandson. Christine and I occasionally talk about how those moments were what kept her alive, and once she saw me truly happy, she no longer fought. The one thing she wanted more than anything on this earth was grandchildren, it did not matter if they were blood or not. Well, she got one, and she loved the hell out of him for the few moments she was able to be around him.

I carry cartloads of anger around with me every day, and it can get to be burdensome. When my mother passed away, it changed me. Literally. I have become more serious now than I ever was before, and pessimistic to boot. I no longer tend to look for the good in people but instead, I prepare to be disappointed. In a way, that has helped me. Afterall, stoic philosophy teaches this aspect of life. Prepare to be disappointed, and when you are not, what a wonderful surprise! It is not to be confused with pessimism, although it is very easy to do so; I admit there is a fine line.

There is one other thing that stoicism has taught me, and it is the most important gift of all. Nothing and no one ever belong to you. Everything and everyone truly belong to the earth. We are here for a brief moment and then we are not. It is as simple as that. Therefore, we never “lose” anything or anyone, they are simply returned (yes, this even applies to possessions, but that’s another story for another day.) Why grieve over the death of my mother when her time on earth was not pleasant for her? Why grieve over the death of my father when his time on earth was not pleasant for him? Even if they had each led amazing, pain-free lives, I think I would rather celebrate the time I was able to spend with them then mourn over the time that was taken away from me. Time does not belong to anyone.

Water will eventually find its way around the stone.

Mental Blockage

I am not really sure how to get back into the swing of things as far as writing goes. My output over the past year has been horrendous, and I don’t really see that changing anytime soon. It is not as if I don’t have quite a bit to share because I do; the words get trapped inside and only a few of them ever see the light of day. I suppose I could write about my father’s death but I don’t think I am ready to delve that deep. There’s also the death of not one, but two grandmothers to talk about. I will save all of that for another day.

This post will be short but that is OK. I needed to write something down if only to prove to myself that I could. Perhaps more is coming. Perhaps it is not.

Beware of Darkness

My father is dying.

There, I finally wrote it down. My father currently lies in a hospice bed 90 minutes away from me, rapidly deteriorating from advanced cancer. After being sent home from the hospital numerous times with the doctors throwing their hands up in the air and claiming ignorance as to why he was sick, they finally diagnosed him with cancer, and then said “sorry, it’s too late to do anything now. If only we had known…” There are so many things that can be written regarding the piss-poor care my father received through the Veterans Administration, but that is for another day. What’s done is done.

What I will write about is how my father, who is schizophrenic along with other issues, always did what he could for me, never turning his back on me when I needed help. Was he the best father? No. But was I the best son? Absolutely not; however, when my mother and stepfather kicked me out of their house for a crime I did not commit (long story) at the age of 17, he unequivocally took me in without restrictions. I learned some independence from my father, along with some valuable lessons.

When I came home from school one day shortly after I moved in with him to find a box on the porch filled with the rest of my things, all smashed up and ruined, my father taught me to not let anger consume me and to remember that one should never be surprised by a person’s actions towards them. When my computer was returned to me with the cord slashed and the monitor smashed, he just let me use his anytime I wanted to with no complaints, and that was back when my life was consumed by Earl Weaver baseball and AOL chatrooms, so I wanted that computer incessantly. Of course, I still struggle with these issues even today but he was really the first person in my life who truly led by example, wordlessly. Was he upset that I was treated that way by my mother? Yes, but he never spoke a word against her in my presence, not even then. I gleaned a lot from that man through his actions more so than his words.

I learned that music is to be listened to by your whole being. You sit your ass down and you take it all in and you really think about what it is saying to you. He taught me how to let the music take you to a different world. All those days and nights of watching him sit in his chair and listen to his records either out loud or with headphones on and seeing his far-off look told me all I needed to know. Perhaps this does not make sense to anyone but me, but that does not matter, really.

This is the first time I have really put my thoughts of this man into words, either spoken or written. I should have spoken these things to him sooner when he was more lucid, but how was I to know that our time would be cut short? Now I have learned another lesson.

 

 

Secret Lemonade Drinker

Many people feel that Nick Drake was severely depressed when he wrote and recorded his final album, Pink Moon. Listening to it, it’s not hard to understand why. Sparse and haunting, the album is devastating to listen to sometimes (for me, all the time.) While Nick certainly suffered from mental illness, his sister says that he was not depressed during the recording of the album because when he was truly depressed he wasn’t able to write or play. Why? Because he was depressed. Sadly for Nick and his family, his depression led him to commit suicide at the age of 27, and we are left with three beautiful but somber albums to reflect and speculate upon. Nick Drake is just one of the many examples of the casualties of depression.

Whenever someone is suffering from a bout of depression, even simple things like making a pot of coffee can feel like you are rolling a boulder uphill. What’s the point? Won’t it just roll back down to the bottom again? Just leave it where it is and take another nap.

I had big plans for this blog. I had big plans for many things. If there is one lesson I can take away from my illness it’s that I am never going to make big plans again. When you inevitably break them, the squeeze on your psyche is excruciating, which then spirals you further down the self-loathing staircase.

This is not an entry about giving up. Life may scare the hell out of me at times, but death is far more scarier to me. There are no craft beers on the other side, so why would I choose that path? No, it is an entry about trying to understand the nature of the beast within, and refraining from feeding it more fuel than it deserves. I will write when I write, and that’s that. Never make a promise you do not intend to keep.

More importantly, never give up, because eventually the sun really does rise again.

Homophobic Persons Need Not Read

Because I am lazy, and also because I am proud of this essay, I thought I would post my final writing assignment for Writing 101, minus some of the boring MLA stuff. Hopefully, some more original content will be published soon, but for now enjoy me lecturing and scolding grown-ups.

P.S. I had to take some liberties with the formatting as well so the paper looked a bit different when it was presented to the Prof. 

An Open Letter to James Kellard and Peter Sprigg

Dear Mr Kellard and Mr. Sprigg:

In 2012, you both penned articles on the topic of same-sex marriage, taking opposite sides of the discussion. Within the past decade, these discussions regarding same-sex marriage have reached a fever-pitch. As of 2015, 37 states allow same-sex marriages, with 13 states still banning the practice. With 2/3 of the states already accepting same-sex matrimony, surely we can find some common ground on this topic and resolve this civil-rights issue once and for all. However, it’s going to require us to play nice and put our personal feelings aside.

Taking a look at our U.S. Constitution, particularly Section 1, the law of the land reveals:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizen of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

What does this mean, exactly? If we are to take the Constitution at face value, it can be argued that the framework is already in place to allow same-sex marriage. If a gay person is born or naturalized in the United States, then there can be no law that would infringe upon their rights and liberties as a citizen. Would marriage not be considered a right? James Kellard writes in his piece that “Homosexuals and lesbians are tax-paying, law-abiding citizens and deserve the same rights and legal protections as every other citizen of the United States. This point would seem to line up with what our Constitution says, but yet we still seem to be at an impasse when it comes to acceptance. One of the major roadblocks is religion. Homosexuality (to use a somewhat outdated term) is considered a sin in most religions and therefore finding acceptance in those areas is hard to come by. It is viewed as an assault on “religious liberty.” What does that mean, exactly? When most people think of religion, going to church is usually front and center, but there’s much more to it according to Peter Sprigg. He states that: “religious liberty means much more than liturgical rituals. It applies not only to formal houses of worship, but to para-church ministries, religious educational and social service organizations, and individual believers trying to live their lives in accordance with their faith not only at church, but at home, in their neighborhoods, and in the workplace.”

Mr. Sprigg, what you are conveying here seems to be some misguided perception as to what gays actually want to accomplish, and you are looking at marriage as only a religious institution, which it is not. Kellard counters that notion by saying: “Marriage may be a religious issue for many, but the fact is we also have civil marriage, which has nothing to do with religion.” He furthers his point by adding that we have “absolutely no right to deny it in city hall.” Putting your emotions aside, surely on a purely logical basis, this makes sense. If they are not asking for your church to accept them, you have no right to refused based on your religious beliefs. You can think it’s wrong, you can call it a sin, but we must not stand in the way of civil rights. Marriage, as I said earlier, is a civil right!

There was a time in this country where people of color were not free; it took decades upon decades, in truth over a century until they were given the same rights as their fellow man. 1920 saw women finally given the opportunity to vote. One could argue that our country is a bit slow when it comes to progress; we do not seem to accept change so readily, and same-sex marriage is now knocking on the door and asking for a seat at the table.

Sprigg opines that “Schools would teach that homosexual relationships are identical to heterosexual ones.” This is a fallacy because nobody can deny that two people in a same-sex marriage cannot reproduce on their own, it’s a biological impossibility. However, after that there really is no difference. Heterosexuals do not have a monopoly on monogamy and love. The real problem here is that there seems to be some fear that children will be converted, that being gay is merely a matter of choice. I don’t feel like I need to delve into all the scientific data that refutes that because it’s out there. However, if you are that concerned over your child being easily influenced by outside behaviors, Kellard suggests that: “If the goal of raising a child is to completely shelter them from anything that may contradict your own personal beliefs, would it not be better to homeschool them?” School is not the only place where a child can hear about so-called alternative lifestyles. Television, movies, and music, to name a few mediums have plenty of gay people in them already, so be prepared to shield your child from pretty much everything! There is no evidence at the moment to back up the claim of a changing curriculum because there is no reason for it. If the topic of homosexuality were to be brought up in school it would be discussed in the same way any other topic is discussed. There is no need to panic that one way would be favored over another.

Mr. Kellard, you also believe that by allowing same-sex marriage we would be opening up a precedent to allow different sorts of alternative lifestyles to marry, as well, such as polygamy and, confusingly, pedophilia. You state:

“Why should other relationships that provide love, companionship, and a lifelong commitment not also be recognized as “marriages”—including relationships between adults and children, or between blood relatives, or between three or more adults? And if it violates the equal protection of the laws to deny homosexuals their first choice of marital partner, why would it not do the same to deny pedophiles, polygamists, or the incestuous the right to marry the person (or persons) of their choice?”

This seems to be a common argument among the anti-gay marriage crowd, and it does smack a bit of paranoia. Firstly, to compare homosexuality to pedophilia is one of the most ridiculous statements and frankly, you lose credibility with that argument. Pedophilia is a horrible sexual offense committed against minors, while homosexuality is consensual sex between adults who happen to be of the same sex. There is a big difference there, not to mention that molestation of a child, a by-product of pedophilia carries with it a lengthy prison term and is considered one of the worst felonies a human could commit. Polygamy, on the other hand, has never been legal in the United States and there is no reason to believe that a man being able to marry more than one woman at one time would ever be made into a law. It’s hard to imagine that even from a civil marriage standpoint, let alone a religious one. Could you imagine the health premiums!

Surely what we all can agree on is that no human being should be denied their civil rights. As I have stated earlier, marriage is indeed a civil right. We as a nation need to sit at the table and work out our problems like adults, and stop excluding people who don’t necessarily align with our beliefs. Mr. Sprigg and Mr. Kellard: although your views appear to be on completely opposite sides of the spectrum, I firmly believe that neither one of you wants to deny the other person a happy and fulfilling life. It’s important that we do not let our emotions cloud our reason, and that we never stand in the way of progress. It wasn’t that long ago that we were having this same conversation except the discussion was of interracial marriages. Can you imagine now that we ever had reservations regarding that issue? Let us not stain the character of this nation more with another social injustice. Please.

No more ghosts for now

Yes, it’s been a long time between updates. No, this is not a continuation of my story. Truthfully, I am not sure you’re ever going to see another update on that idea. I consider it a failed experiment; it’s not really how I write, and it seems disingenuous of me to continue writing in a style that isn’t really mine. My apologies to the handful of you that were invested in what I was writing, hopefully, you will stick around for whatever comes next!

To say 2015 has been a frustrating year would be an understatement, but in actuality the past few years have all been this way so perhaps it’s the new norm. The challenge is to adapt and not let your obstacles permanently detain you, and I am not willing to just roll over and die.

So for now, the postings might be few and far between while I work on repairing my health and continuing my schooling. Thank you to those of you who have been supportive of me, I am sincerely grateful.

Seasons change but ghosts remain (Part Two)

Sitting down on the floor and looking at the bottom of the reddish-brown door frame, I see faces begin to emerge. The sensation of seeing my own visage bleeding through the grain, coming out of the door one slow inch at a time until what’s standing before me is an inverse copy of my own self is a disconcerting, surreal experience. Reaching for the frame, I embark upon popping the pin from the hinges, laying the door over me like a stiff, splintery blanket, using it as a shield to protect my real self from the doppelganger, when the light snaps off leaving me in the cold darkness.

Cold! Where are my slippers? Upstairs. Taking my own hand, I lead the way back to the bedroom, carefully removing the pins from the hinges as quietly as possible before we enter to avoid waking bundle under the covers. The heat blasts like a furnace, and I am tripping over slippers and falling onto an unoccupied bed, hands are empty; I’m alone. Wrapping the covers over me like a shroud, sleep approaches rapidly, eyelids droop, fading to black; gently stroking the cat, rest arrives.

4:17 a.m.  “Would you like some coffee?” my wife peeks her head through the door, smiling. Nodding in agreement, brushing the cobwebs from my eyes, grasping the porcelain cup with both hands being careful not to spill a single drop.

“Care for a sip?” I offer to an abandoned doorway.