Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Without You, Again

Wedding Photo

We were denied our 26th anniversary two years ago when cancer took you a week before. Now I’ve had to endure what should have been our 27th and 28th without you. If our vows said “until death do us part,” why does it feel as though part of me died when cancer took you? Happy anniversary, Lisa. I’m doing the best I can without you. Thank goodness for the kids. And fuck cancer.

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25

Trump Twitter

The President of the United States yesterday showed the world who he really is. However, instead of revealing a wizard behind the curtain, this reveal was no reveal at all. Many believed the mantle of the presidency would temper Trump’s showmanship, believing there was a measured, intelligent individual behind the bluster; that he used television and social media to gain the position but that he would eventually perform some hairpin pivot. Yesterday proved once again that his use of social media simply displayed the real man in plain sight. To appropriate his apologists’ favorite phrase, “there is no there, there.”

Yesterday’s rambling press conference essentially threw a grenade on the measured clarification (read: hostage tape video) he issued Monday to the outrageous, equivocating statement he made on Saturday. The statement on Saturday was, as written, not offensive. It did not call out the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, or KKK by name, but it was not unseemly. How low a bar we have set for this president! Instead, he went off script and injected his actual position by asserting blame be placed “on many sides, many sides.”

While Robert Mueller continues his investigation, whispers have once again been heard of invoking the 25th Amendment. For that to work, for America to cast off a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, pathological liar, three individuals and the majority of the Cabinet would have to summon true courage (and face withering condemnation from Trump). Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and Senate President pro tempore Orrin Hatch (numbers two, three, and four in the line of presidential succession) would need to invoke Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It reads:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

However, if today’s Republican reaction to yesterday’s press conference is any indication, nothing will happen. Republicans, on congressional recess, are harder to uncover today than white truffles in an Italian forest. That silence is in itself a statement. Perhaps it is fear of being the “victim” of a Trump Twitter tirade, maybe it is the fear of being out front on such an issue, or perhaps it is because they do not want to anger their base, which includes some pleased with Trump’s comments yesterday. Nevertheless, it is just these people, emboldened by Trump’s comments, who need to be brought to task and this is just the time to be out front. All politicians fancy themselves historical figures who changed the world. Has there ever been an easier softball for them to hit? So, where are they?

Just as politicians envision themselves historical figures, the average citizen must have wondered what they would have done during historical events. What would you have done during the Revolutionary War? How would I have acted during the civil rights movement? It is against that backdrop that we must ask ourselves, what do we do now? Moreover, looking toward the future, when this week’s events are indeed history, how do we respond to our children and grandchildren when they ask what we did when President Trump defended bigotry? History and our descendants will ask.

Publius ad absurdum

 

“Bill rejected coverage for my new knee,” bemoaned Karen as she read the form letter with the very personalized facsimile of Bill’s signature.

“You’re kidding!” exclaimed Harry. “And after I sent him that Bundt cake and paid for his lawn to be thatched!”

“I know!” continued Karen. “What is this country coming to if the head of the homeowner’s association can’t see his way clear to providing coverage for necessary medical procedures. And just because I told his wife, Claire, that I liked their old flowerbed better than that mulch monstrosity they now have!”

“I liked it better when the cities and towns used to control healthcare,” said Harry, wistfully.

“Me, too,” Karen said softly. “The Henderson’s moved from Cypress Heaven to Wimbledon Estates and Ken lost coverage for his cancer treatment. A “pre-existing condition” they said. Remember when the city used to cover healthcare?”

“Remember? I can remember when the state used to provide coverage! And my parents remember when the federal government used to cover it! Something called Obamacare, after that old guy, Brock Obama. Used to be president.”

“My parents remember that too! They said it provided coverage for the majority of those who didn’t have coverage, but then something called the Tea Party obstructed Obama on everything he tried to do, just so they could prevent him from succeeding. That was standing up for your principles! Of course, then Supreme Leader Trump was elected, isn’t that quaint! They used to elect leaders! And in order to make the federal government smaller, he transitioned most essential services to the states, who in turn, transitioned it to the cities and towns, who, ultimately, transitioned it to the homeowner’s associations.”

“Yeah, I’ve read about that. Back when Supreme Leader Trump was just the president he said the federal government should only be responsible for dealing with things like North Korea. Of course, that was back before we had a coalition with North Korea, Russia, and China against the aggressors from South Korea, Australia, and Canada.”

“Strange, though, the federal budget still runs a deficit. I wonder what might cause that?”

“In fact, I looked it up on EuroGoogle, the illegal search engine not associated with the officially mandated WikiLeaks search engine, and the federal budget in 2016 was half the budget of 2020. It seems that when essential services were transitioned to the states, the budget for the military doubled. I guess that’s why they make us drive half-tracks and tanks now instead of sedans and SUVs.”

“I guess. But back then you didn’t get free upgrades on handguns, rifles, and silencers. Talk about pre-existing conditions! Can you imagine living in a country where it wasn’t mandated that everyone openly carry his or her firearm? How barbaric! What were people supposed to do? Talk to one another? Trust people? Come on!”

“Anyway, I guess I’ll have to continue using this wheelchair. We can’t afford the surgery and maybe Ken’s cancer will just go away.”

“Let’s pray it does.”

“Did you hear about Madge?”

“No! Is she okay?”

“She’s fine, but was raped.”

“I don’t understand. Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”

“I’m afraid so. She’s now got a pre-existing condition and will lose her health coverage.”

“That doesn’t seem fair! I mean, I could understand it when Claire lost her coverage after she left David because of the domestic violence. After all, she used to wear those jeans that showed almost all of her ankle, but Madge? She didn’t do anything wrong!”

“Well, to paraphrase that great statesman, Mo Brooks, why should all of the good people, who’ve led good lives pay for those who haven’t.”

“Will she be okay?”

“Oh, sure. She’s still got her job. Although teaching over at Glen Estates Heaven Cypresswood isn’t what it used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I mean, that subdivision lost quite a few residents after the deportation squads cleaned the Others out.”

“Oh, right. They had non-Christians over there. Yikes!”

“Well, at least if she loses her coverage and her job she’ll be among those like her.”

“Hey, like the Supreme Leader had inscribed on Trump Patriot Lady after he had that silly Statue of Liberty renovated, “Made America Great Again.”

“Thank God for Trump!”

Hard Drive

My heart, like a hard drive, is permanently partitioned. Part of it comprises my 26-year marriage, the raising of my children, the hopes and dreams I had, and the sickness and death of my wife. The other part is unwritten upon, ready for a future I can’t even begin to understand. The problem is that at any given point it can switch between partitioned sections rendering my personal operating system glitchy and subject to crashes.

Such was the case this past week. While performing within normal parameters, my system suddenly switched to the hidden partition, and it has left me grief stricken and paralyzed. There was no warning. I understand that this switch was not the result of bugs or a virus. It is the result of a significant loss and the fact that I know I will never be whole again.

The hard part of all of this is that while attempting to begin a relationship with a woman, my first since I was 22, this wave of grief has me questioning whether I am being unfair to this woman; if I am incapable of giving myself wholly to another given my permanently partitioned heart. The grief tsunami that hit me this week, like all others before it, came without warning. There needn’t be a trigger. More likely, it was a thousand paper cuts, memories rising up during the past few weeks, poking me in the heart, not causing any immediate damage but collectively, over time, shattering my heart again. Now I am emotionally frozen, inextricably operating in a painful past, and incapable of addressing the present or the future.

I like to write because, while I assume that no one will ever read what I write, it usually helps me to understand my position on a topic or my underlying feelings if I put them down on paper (or up on a computer screen). However, while this usually is the case, dealing with grief is a topic no reasoning or processing can vanquish. I was incredibly sad for several days over the past week. It seems that every small event over the past few weeks correlated to something either my wife did, we did together, involved our kids, or it was something we planned to do together. Today I find myself bridging the realms of sadness and anger, perhaps on the path toward processing this wave and getting on with life, perhaps not. Perhaps these steps lead nowhere. Perhaps I will transition back to sadness, or onto negotiation, maybe even onto acceptance. I don’t know how to end this note. All I know is that I am stuck where I am, and no good wishes or caring hugs can hope to dislodge me.

Tony Webster, the protagonist in Julian Barnes’ excellent book The Sense of an Ending comments at one point that he “avoided being hurt and called it a capacity for survival” and “for whom ecstasy and despair soon became just words once read in novels.” He is a character who, like all of us, has a faulty memory, and has used Time to smooth out the jagged parts of an ordinary life to put meaning to his existence. I have never been one to live in the past. In fact, because of a terrible memory, I remember very little about my past. You would think that would force me to live in the present, to appreciate those around me, to smell the roses and embrace those around me. However, while I did not live in the past, I neither lived in the present. I did not appreciate those around me and assumed daily events had no significant bearing on my expectations of the future I believed would exist. No, I tended to live in the future. Everything I did was for some future date. At 15, I had figured out that in the incredibly far off year 2000, I would be 35, imagining what life would be like. I have always faithfully contributed to my 401(k) in the expectation that I would cash it out at some point and travel the world with Lisa or buy a two-room shack on a beach somewhere to live out our lives together. Now I find that I live in the past. Not the archetypical love of any lost high school glory, but of my life with Lisa. Even after eight years of caring for her as she underwent one barbaric medical treatment after another, and experiencing her withering and eventually dying while our children and I sat around her, I cannot help but to relive the life we lived together as a couple and a family and lament paradise lost and a future that will never be.

And so, awash in memories and residing in the past, my permanently fractured hard drive (my heart) is expected to give over control of the operating system to a brain that understands that life goes on. A mind that knows that while these waves of grief will never recede and will continue to destroy me forever, the troughs between them will, over time, expand, and it is in these troughs that I am expected to forge a new life and build a new future. It all seems so logical for a computer system, but my heart bleeds blood, and my eyes cry tears, not bits and bytes. Makes me wish I were a computer sometimes. I don’t know how to end this note. It just is what it is.

Sonny and Pam

When we first moved to Texas in 2008, it was for the worst possible reason, and naively, we thought, only for a short time. We rented a house thirty minutes north of Houston. It was a cute house, and it had a pool. To be honest, the only reason we rented it was because we needed a rental period of less than a year and finding a property owner willing to agree to that was becoming a problem. My wife had recently been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer and, after witnessing the confusion regarding her treatment here in Rhode Island, I had done my homework online and found that her best chance of survival was if she was treated at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. We broke the news to the kids, and within weeks found ourselves living in Texas. We rented furniture and swam in the pool. The kids were enrolled in a high school four times the size of their Rhode Island school, I was working remotely from the house, and we were constantly on I-45 between Spring and the Texas Medical Center in downtown Houston.

The house was on a busy neighborhood street. Cars were always speeding by, and it seemed the police were always pulling someone over right in front of the house. When we moved in, the people who lived directly across the street came over to introduce themselves. They were older than we were and had lived in the neighborhood for many years. They could not have been nicer to all of us. Pam, like thousands in Houston, worked for a company involved in the energy sector. Sonny was an artist. Not the paint or clay kind, but in leather. He was a master bootmaker. He only worked a few days a week, but he loved it and was helping his nephew get his cobbler business established by teaching him how to use several of the dedicated machines in the shop. Lisa and Pam hit it off immediately, laughing as much as talking. Pam and I also shared an interest. We both loved To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Sonny and I also hit it off, and soon he was inviting me to go fishing with him to a secret spot on an estate his friend had access to. I cannot overemphasize how kind they were to us and how much it put us at ease having moved our family to a new state for the worst reason.

In those first few weeks, it amazed me how quickly life finds ways to get us to go about our routine, even in the face of devastating news and life-changing decisions. Groceries still need to be purchased, dirty dishes still need to be cleaned, and the grass continued to grow. We had handled the first two eventualities in our new life, but the third one stumped me. I knew we were not going to be in Texas forever. The plan was chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and we’d move back home to Rhode Island, cancer-free and ready to resume life as we knew it. Why would I buy a lawn mower for such a short time? Lisa suggested I ask Sonny if I could borrow his mower for the brief period we expected to be there. I looked across the street and saw Sonny sitting in a lawn chair in his garage looking out over the street. I walked over and asked him if I could borrow his mower – weekly! He never hesitated in saying yes. He got up from his chair, walked me through the side yard into his back yard, and showed me where he hid the key to his shed where he kept the mower, gas can, and all manner of lawn equipment. And so it was that once a week, I would walk across the street, help myself to Sonny’s lawn mower and mow my lawn.

Having grown up on an island, I had done my share of fishing. Either from the causeway connecting Goat Island to downtown Newport, or at the piers where the Navy used to keep its ships, I caught mackerel, choggies, and basically whatever was running. Sometimes I would take a choggie, still on my line and cast it onto the pier where a seagull would swoop down and take it. I would then battle the gull with my fishing pole, reeling it in until it would release the fish and fly away. I used to take the squid I’d caught and bring them to my grandparent’s house where I would clean them for my great-grandmother to cook. I once went deep-sea fishing with my college roommate on his father’s charter fishing boat. I was allowed, between vomiting and violent seasickness, to fight and reel in a 636 pound Bluefin tuna. I share this background in fishing because the one time I was able to go fishing with Sonny, you would have thought I’d never seen a pole before, much less what to do when I caught a fish. Everything I did that day was a disaster. I jammed my reel trying to cast. I dropped fish I’d caught. I almost fell into the lake trying to put a fish onto the string we had set up in the water to hold the caught fish. But it didn’t matter. I was spending time with one of the gentlest, kindest men I had ever met, deep in the unknown parts of Texas. I had a beautiful day. One of those days that you know, while it’s happening, that you are creating a memory that will last forever.

When we returned to Texas because Lisa’s cancer had returned, this time not temporarily, but until the end, we moved back to the same town, but not the same subdivision. Such were the vagaries of real estate options available to us. And while we lived across town from Sonny and Pam, we still kept in touch and were always invited to their family Christmas Eve party. I no longer needed Sonny’s lawnmower. Having moved permanently, I bought a mower. As Lisa became sicker, we limited our time visiting and when Lisa died the kids and I knew it was time to go back home to Rhode Island.

I can’t say I liked much about Texas. But meeting Sonny and Pam was one of the great highlights from our eight years there. I heard from Pam the other day that Sonny isn’t doing too well these days. I can only hope that he continues to do as well as possible for as long as possible. This world needs people like Sonny and Pam, perhaps now more than ever before. I count them among the nicest people I have ever met. I can’t thank them enough for how well they treated Lisa and the kids during the most difficult time in their lives. There are very few people we encounter in life who show us the grace and compassion we wish we could display at all times and for which we would like to be remembered. Sonny and Pam are two of those people.

My Christmas Wish List

tree

Before some of us had taken down our Christmas trees and we were familiar enough with 2016 to write it without first having written 2015, swearing, and changing it to 2016, David Bowie (1/10), Alan Rickman (1/14), and Glen Frey (1/18) had died. 2016 has, by most accounts, been a dreadful year. And after the awful 2014 and 2015, my family and I endured, 2016 seems like a fitting ending to a trio of personally miserable years, the melancholy of which somehow leached into the world in 2016.

My children say it is difficult to buy gifts for me. I agree. My Christmas wish list keeps getting shorter every year, and the items populating it more impossible to purchase. I want more time with my wife. I want more time with those whom I love and still surround me. I want 2017 celebrated for finding a cure for cancer and an end to war and hunger. I want a return toward admiring intelligence and compassion, rather than insipid popularity and uninformed conceit.

I don’t want to make America great again. I want us to want to make the world great now. And that begins by understanding the real problems facing the world and the real issues affecting its people. Not the top issues paid for by lobbyists and bought by elected officials.

We don’t seem to have found the answers to those problems and, thus, they remain on my wish list year after year. Perhaps 2017 will be the year. Anyway, that’s what I want for Christmas. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.

Newtown- Four Years On

sandyhook-heart

I must preface this post by acknowledging I am not a gun violence victim (or a family member or friend of a gun violence victim) and, therefore, have no real understanding of its impact on anyone’s life. And while I can no more comprehend the destruction such violence imparts on a family any more than I could know what it is like to be an astronaut, anyone tangentially involved in the gun violence prevention movement has a story to tell. The story of what drove them to act.

My grandparents could relate every mundane activity that occurred on the day they heard about Pearl Harbor. My parents could describe the entire day when they heard about the assassination of President Kennedy. I can relate how desperately I wanted to gather up my twin second graders and wife and cuddle with them in the hours after the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11th. And so too, I can recall the horror and sickening feelings I felt learning of the events of December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Again, my story is no more significant than anyone else’s, but, for what it’s worth, here is what I recall.

It was going to be another long day at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. After the always frenetic hour+ commute from Spring, TX, we began the day with my wife having blood drawn at 10:15. From the first-floor diagnostics lab, we proceeded to the imaging department on one of the upper floors where she would be undergoing a PET scan and a CT scan to quantify what effect (if any) her chemotherapy regimen was having on the determinedly marching cancer in her body. We settled into the waiting area for her name to be called. After a while, her name was finally called, and she was tapped with an IV for the tests and taken back to the imaging area leaving me alone. These tests take a long time to complete and were being done one after the other, so I knew I was in for long morning alone. I was able to snag one of the few desks I needed to connect my computer to work. After connecting to the internet and securing a connection with work, I pulled up CNN, as I always did, to see what was going on in the world outside the hospital.

The breaking news headline relayed reports of a school shooting in a place called Newtown, CT. Having graduated from the University of Connecticut, and knowing friends from across the state, I pulled up Google Maps to locate Newtown. I found it, a small community not far outside Danbury. The initial reports said that there were several casualties, but that not much was known, and the scene was still active. I remember pulling up the Hartford Courant’s website and the local television news websites to see if there was any better information. Reports were indicating that the shooting was at an elementary school and that there might be a child among the injured.

As we know, reports continued to be updated, first with five injured, then 10, then a report that many children may have been shot and some fatally. In the waiting area, where people tend to be friendly, if isolated, some with family or friends accompanying them to their procedure, others alone, looks began to be shared, as if we were all wondering if anyone else was aware of what was developing. Stares lingered a little longer than usual as if we were all sure that the horrible news we saw on our phones or computers was isolated to our nightmares and not actually what was really happening. We searched each other’s eyes in hopes that what we were reading was wrong. Waiting for someone to say it was all wrong. The reports continued to be updated. TV news crews had been dispatched and were on their way to the scene. A dozen killed. Then another update indicating maybe more. The scene had been secured, and the word was spread that the shooter was dead. I remember thinking that at least whatever horror he/she had unleashed was quashed and no one else would be injured. The number of wounded and killed continued to climb over the next hour into a dizzying number that I felt (hoped) must surely have been incorrect. There was no way anyone could kill the number of staff and children being reported. They were children! We all know how wildly exaggerated news reports tend to be in the midst of a situation. This couldn’t be true!

The waiting area became noticeably louder as people began to process and share what had happened. After several hours, my wife finally walked out from the back area of the imaging department, and as she walked toward me, I fought for the words to tell her what had happened. My eyes welled up with tears, and my throat was no longer capable of forming words. She was the one with cancer, undergoing all manner of torture to combat the disease, and here I was, hugging her and breaking down in tears. The ride home, as usual, regardless of the time of day took much longer than it needed to. I was quiet in the car. We did not have the radio on, listening to music as we always did. By the time we reached home, the final tallies were being calculated. Twenty-six dead, not including the perpetrator or his mother.

That evening, I was alone in my home office, shaking with anger. My wife entered to find me on my knees almost hyperventilating with rage. It was no longer enough to write about gun violence, I told her, I needed to get involved. She hugged me and said she understood and would help me as long as it didn’t consume me and send me into a deep depression. I promised, saying that I simply needed to do something. I knew it wouldn’t be me alone who felt that way that night. I knew thousands were already involved. I simply wanted to add my voice.

I had become angered enough by gun violence in America after the theater shooting in Aurora, CO the previous July 20th to write about it. The very first entry in this blog was simply a copy/paste of a blog entry written by one of the victims of that shooting, Jessica Ghawi. She had narrowly escaped a shooting in a mall in Toronto the previous June 2nd and wrote about the event and how grateful she felt.   The second to last paragraph of her entry reads:

“I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.”

Forty-eight days later she was dead. I wish I had known Jessica. I was fortunate to meet her parents in October of 2015, six weeks after my wife’s death. They were as kind and compassionate as anyone I’ve ever met and doggedly determined to prevent gun violence. Sandy Phillips’ first question to me as she stepped out of her car was to ask how was I doing after my wife’s death. She had lost a child, and her involvement in the gun violence prevention movement was the reason I was meeting her, and yet here she was concerned about me! I had no idea she knew about my wife’s illness or death. She is an incredible individual and so is her husband, Lonnie.

So now we find ourselves four years out from the shooting in Newtown. There have been political victories and defeats in those four years and over 130,000 Americans killed by a gun over that period of time, including many in the over 200 school shootings since Newtown. The greatest shift in that time has been the involvement and organization of hundreds of thousands of people like me. People fed up with accepting gun deaths and injuries as part of “normal” American life. The gun lobby is still a juggernaut in Washington, D.C. and in state houses around the country, but it is no longer the only voice or position. Social change comes in glacially slow movements, but it comes all the same. I can never fully appreciate the scars this date has left on the family members and friends of those lost four years ago or in any of the other gun-related horrors before or since. July 20, 2012 and December 14, 2012 changed my life and forced me to add my voice to the thousands of others no longer willing to consent that gun deaths are acceptable. Four years on and the fight is not over, but we have never been so organized or vocal or determined.

Women

“That we have the vote means nothing. That we use it in the right way means everything.”  Lou Henry Hoover, First Lady of the United States 1929-1933

As we wind down to the end of a presidential campaign that feels as if it’s been going on since the early Bronze Age, the overarching story of this election can be summarized in one word – women.

It began with the nomination of a woman by one of the two major parties. It devolved into stories about the treatment of women by the nominee of the other major party. And it will be settled by the largest demographic within the voting public – women.

According to one recent poll, Hillary Clinton is leading among women by 33%. Eric Trump famously made the mistake of posting a map showing his father ahead nationally but omitting the fact that the map showed what the results would look like if only men voted. Here is that map:

if-only-men-voted

The map shows Mr. Trump winning the White House with an Electoral College tally of 350 versus 188 for Secretary Clinton. Unfortunately for Eric Trump, people noticed, and the response was savage. Here is the obverse map showing what the election results would look like if only women voted:

if only women voted.png

As you can see, Secretary Clinton would win the Electoral College with a staggering tally of 458 votes versus Mr. Trump’s meager 80 votes. And therein lies the story of this election. Women will decide the outcome. Here is Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site on the potential effect this disparity would have on the general election:

“To put those numbers in perspective, that’s saying Trump would defeat Clinton among men by a margin similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952, while Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to … actually, there’s no good comparison, since no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 26 percentage points since the popular vote became a widespread means of voting in 1824. To get to 33 points, you’d have to take the Eisenhower-Stevenson margin and add Lyndon B. Johnson’s 23-point win over Barry Goldwater in 1964 on top of it.”

And while you may not like everything (or anything) about Secretary Clinton, she has worked hard to earn women’s votes. One of her greatest surrogates has been another woman, First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been phenomenally effective on the campaign trail. On the other hand, Mr. Trump has stumbled his way toward the election by demeaning women (among many other groups) and been accused of sexual assault by eleven women. And one of his greatest surrogates has been Mayor Guiliani who has himself had a checkered past with women and who recently suggested that Mr. Trump would be better for the United States “than a woman.” Considering that women constitute the largest voting block in America, wouldn’t it be better for Republicans to embrace women than to shun them if they ever hope to win the White House again. Especially given the inevitable demographic changes altering the United States, all of which favor Democrats and which Republicans have ignored to this point at their peril. Sorry, but gerrymandering can only take you so far.

2016 will be known as the year that a woman shattered one of the greatest glass ceilings left in the world, the American presidency, but perhaps it should be better known as the year that women used their collective voices to change the course of an election and therefore history.

365 Paper Cuts

 

bleeding heart

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”     ― Thomas A. Edison

It was one year ago tonight that my best friend died. God, it hurts to write that. It seems like a lifetime ago and also as if it happened last night. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I rest my hand on her pillow every night before praying that sleep will gently take me away to her, but I never dream, about her or anything else. I have come a long way since that night in September, but in other ways, I feel I have never left that room. The kids and I have experienced the “year of firsts” without Lisa as if this is some magical milestone beyond which grief is forbidden to pass. I miss so much about her that my heart aches just thinking of the reasons.

I miss her laugh. I miss her smile. I miss her voice. I miss her nose. I miss her driving. I miss her honesty. I miss her eyes. I could go on for as long as my fingers can pass over this keyboard. Edison’s quote seem particularly applicable today because I don’t feel that I’ve survived one year without Lisa as much as I have endured 365 daily paper cuts without her that will never heal.

 

“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”     ― John Wayne

One thing I do not miss is the suffering she had to endure. I taped the above quote on the refrigerator of the house we rented in Texas during her first round of treatment. I put it on the fridge for her to see, but now I see that it was meant for me. From chemotherapy to surgery to radiation, she never questioned or hesitated. She enthusiastically embraced every option offered to her until her physician assistant (in tears) told her there were no more options. Lisa was prepared to do more, but medicine had failed her. I look back at that quote now and see that the courage I wanted her to embrace is now exactly what I must adopt to survive her death and carry on.

My brother was in the hospital recently for treatment of a minor infection. It was the first time I’d visited a hospital since Lisa’s death. I hadn’t given any thought to how visiting a hospital would affect me. It was just what you do when a family member is in the hospital. My children were both concerned how visiting the hospital would affect me. As soon as I walked through the doors, all of the emotions swarmed me. Fortunately, my brother was well enough to be discharged the next day. However, shortly after that, my mother in law was taken to the hospital because she bumped her head when she fell. It was nothing serious, she was only taken to the hospital due to a state regulated precautionary requirement, but it required me visiting another hospital in the same week. As I sat there with her, waiting for her discharge papers, I can’t tell you how much I wanted to get out of there. Nothing happens quickly in a hospital and the memories exposed while sitting there were not healthy. Everything took me back to Lisa and her seven years of treatment. After having called M.D. Anderson a second home during all of her cancer treatment, I can’t conceive of a situation where all of the hospital memories won’t come flooding back to hit me in the face. We knew every corner of that hospital and felt like unofficial ambassadors because we ended up helping newcomers so often. In the end, there was no longer anything they could do for her so we both went home where she would die. Thoughts of hospitals paralyze me now.

 

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”     ― Seneca

Lisa’s suffering is over, and we’ve had a year to establish a life, living only with her memory. We have made progress because life goes on. The kids have graduated from college. We have moved back to Rhode Island. We live in a condo in an area we’re not familiar with but which is close enough to family and familiarity to provide some comfort. However, the idea of starting a life without her is at times challenging and at other times seemingly impossible. I still feel guilty for living. I feel guilty for never dreaming about her. I feel guilty for not making the most of this time with my kids, who will be gone this time next year. If our roles were reversed, I could imagine Lisa doing much better than I am now. I feel as if I’ve aged 50 years in the past 365 days. But life goes on, and I am trying to do the best I can. I hope the next year sees me and the kids continue to develop a new “normal” where we can laugh about the good times and not dwell on the bad; where we can think of Lisa as the beautiful, energetic whirlwind she was, full of flowing blond hair and a joie de vivre rather than the pained shell we saw at the end. I’ve survived 365 daily paper cuts without her. The wound will never heal but hopefully, the nerve endings will dull a bit. This week will be particularly strenuous. In addition to today’s commemoration, the kids’ birthday is Tuesday, and Lisa and my anniversary would have been Friday. At least I have the kids to lean on. I treasure my children and am so glad to have them around for the time that I do. They have gotten me this far. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them.

I’m ending this post with a poem by Hermann Hesse titled Stages. I hope you appreciate its message and hug your loved ones tighter today.

 

As every flower fades and as all youth

Departs, so life at every stage,

So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,

Blooms in its day and may not last forever.

Since life may summon us at every age

Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,

Be ready bravely and without remorse

To find new light that old ties cannot give.

In all beginnings dwells a magic force

For guarding us and helping us to live.

Serenely let us move to distant places

And let no sentiments of home detain us.

The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us

But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.

If we accept a home of our own making,

Familiar habit makes for indolence.

We must prepare for parting and leave-taking

Or else remain the slave of permanence.

Even the hour of our death may send

Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,

And life may summon us to newer races.

So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

He Who Hesitates is Me

Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! and we,

Light half-believers of our casual creeds,

Who never deeply felt, nor clearly will’d,

Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds,

Whose vague resolves never have been fulfill’d;

For whom each year we see

Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new;

Who hesitate and falter life away,

And lose to-morrow the ground won to-day—

Ah! do not we, wanderer! await it too?

Matthew Arnold, The Scholar Gypsy, 1853

I used to love to write; not because I believe I have any more wisdom to impart than anyone else or am so confident in what I have to say that I feel it must be committed to paper. In fact, I adhere to Darwin’s belief that, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge; it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” However, I believe writing online is the practice of allowing a piece of you to fall onto the page for all to see. It is a way of exposing yourself to others and being willing to accept their criticism. There is a strong need to expel thoughts as printed words and to invite any ensuing discussion. What begins as a kernel of an idea ferments internally and eventually decants through the keyboard onto the page.

However, I feel that I have been reduced to a frozen mute since Lisa’s death. Where once ideas for discussion poured out of me, and I reveled in researching them in hopes of producing a cogent argument, now I find myself devoid of concepts. My mind utterly wanders, day after day. I have had a waterproof notepad in my shower since June (a gift from my children because so many of my ideas originated under the scalding water), and I still have nothing written on it. This paralysis is disorienting.  I want to write, but there are no strong theories upon which to expand.

I recognize the irony of writing a blog post about having nothing to write! But it is the process of thought rather than the finished product that has me worried. I hesitate now where I once forged ahead. That which I held dear has been taken from me. It is as if my confidence died with Lisa. Is this an aftershock of grief? Is this normal? Will it subside in time? I don’t know the answer to these questions, and it preys on my soul. No amount of concentration yields fertile ground upon which I can plant a question or thought in hopes of harvesting an argument. If he who hesitates is lost, then I need a map because all I do is mentally wander every day.

I understand this is not the most monumental problem to have. I have a roof over my head and a full belly. My children are safe and provided for, and we no longer cry over Lisa’s suffering, but this lack of confidence is dampening my efforts to establish a new life. Thank God for my children! They are the anchor holding this rudderless ship in port. Without them, I don’t want to think where I’d be. Where I am lost, they are home. It is simply this lack of confidence, this new hesitation which is hamstringing forward progress.

I have no conclusion to this post. I have no answers. It just feels good to put it down on paper.