Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Goodbye, Texas

We moved to Texas seeking medical treatment for my wife. I found the people friendly and honest, the streets clean and free from potholes, and the weather devoid of snow. We were renting our home in Spring, about 30 minutes north of downtown Houston. We arrived in town just in time for Hurricane Ike to hit; fortunately, we didn’t suffer any damage. Treatment at M. D. Anderson was going well and my wife was responding to the chemotherapy. Her surgery had been a success and she was enduring the radiation as best she could. The kids were freshmen in high school and adapting well to the new “normal” in our lives. Their grades remained high and they immersed themselves in extracurricular activities such as theater and debate.

Following Lisa’s successful treatment and a declaration that the doctors could find no further trace of cancer, we packed up our belongings and made the long ride back to Rhode Island, our home, and the friends and neighbors we had known forever. Nine months passed and we were readjusting to our life in Rhode Island when the news came, following her third follow-up appointment, that the cancer had returned. We determined that we were too far from the hospital and all of the medical expertise and technology that M. D. Anderson could bring to bear so we put our beloved house on the market and moved to Texas permanently. We bought a house, again in Spring, and re-enrolled the kids in the same high school. However, this time, the glossy varnish of southern hospitality wore thin to show an ugly side of Texas. Say what you will about northerners, but we have a thick skin and a good sense of humor when it comes to handling adversity. The same cannot be said about Southerners, or perhaps some Texans in particular.

The ugliness appeared after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012. Driven to action, I began reading and reaching out. What I found was a gun culture enmeshed with religious self-righteousness that defied understanding or explanation. Rather than agreeing that something needed to be done to prevent another mass shooting I found a society determined to double down on protecting the guns instead of the children and then watched as the Texas legislature passed several pro-gun laws, including open carry and campus carry. As I spoke before democratic groups, I found tepid approval of my message or blank silence. I felt as though I had been transported back to the Wild West of the 1850’s. Fortunately, I met the most wonderful mothers from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. They began speaking at the same meetings I was being asked to speak at, and they were kindred spirits in gun-crazy Texas. Together, we made the rounds speaking out and protesting easy access to guns, including protesting outside the NRA Annual Paranoia Jamboree held in Houston several years ago.

Now, perhaps my initial illusion of southern hospitality was misplaced. Perhaps I saw what I wanted to see, perhaps I had bought into the travel brochure’s salesmanship and had assigned characteristics to all of the people here before they had earned them. However, the fact remained that I was seeing people all over who flared with road rage at the slightest infraction (even though they were usually at fault!) and the initial kindness I saw displayed was revealed to be a thin veneer beyond which an angry populace lived. Again, perhaps it was my fault that I expected kindness to go along with their initial genteel hello. However, the initial hello was shallow and provided no shelter to the storm of their real feelings, especially to someone from “up north.” The least informed tend to have the firmest convictions, and here the stupid were downright rigid in their unexamined beliefs.

As Lisa continued to fight against the ravenous cancer, we came to an understanding of the culture in which we found ourselves and tried to make the best of it. I attempted to let go of the mixed up anger I had at both the people and our situation, especially as it became evident that the cancer was killing my wife. When she died, part of my world became frozen in time. I cannot convey in words what telling my kids was like. The pain is too real.

And yet, as we close in on our moving date to move back to Rhode Island, less my wife and my dog who cancer finally took over the past nine months, I have a soft spot in my heart for Texas and the medical center here that brought us seven years together we would otherwise not have enjoyed. Granted, it’s not a big soft spot. Along the way, I have met good friends at work. My job has been fantastic to me, and their kindness, compassion, and comfort have made this situation a little more bearable. Nothing can break the pain I have associated with Texas as the place where Lisa drew her last, labored breaths and where we had to put our beloved dog down because of his cancer pain. Nothing can change the past nine months and the grief we have endured. My heart is shattered, but we are going home where we belong. We will be going to a new town for us, but back to a culture we understand.

The last chapter of our Texas odyssey is being written, and the kids and I are in a mad packing frenzy right now as the truck is soon to be on its way to pack all of our belongings and take them to our new home. The kids have graduated from college (with honors), a true testament to their work ethic and determination and are scheduled to apply to graduate school in the fall. Samantha has been challenged to apply the design lessons she learned from Lisa and school to the new house. God knows I don’t have a clue! We will make the most of our home while the kids research the grad schools and work on their portfolios. I’ll be working out of the house and trying to balance a new social life. A new chapter is beginning, and we will do our best to live up to the expectations Lisa set for us. Texas will soon be behind us, home to immeasurable pain. The pain will travel with us to Rhode Island, but a new beginning carries with it the hope of better days ahead. Goodbye, Texas.

A Note To My Children Upon Their College Graduation

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First off, let me say congratulations. You have both earned this special day. I know you have worked incredibly hard over the past four years under unusually stressful circumstances. College was always in the cards for you both. There was never any indication that you wanted anything other than to pursue a degree. It was always my dream for you both to find your passion and pursue it relentlessly and you’ve both done that. I know you can’t count the number of all-nighters, papers, quizzes, tests, books, textbooks, or notes you have endured, but know that they were all worth it and combined to make your college experience whole and worthwhile. I know you’ve had your share of bad professors and unfair grades, but you’ve seen them for what they were. There was no handholding for you in college. You went to one of the biggest and best public schools in the country, and you survived. No one can take that way from you. But beyond that, you made it your own and thrived.

When you went to college, I asked that you get as much out of it as possible. That this was a rarified environment in your lives when you were branching out on your own and becoming the adults you would carry forward into your life. I know that you did get as much out of the experience as possible. You worked hard, you went to football games, and you made friends. Now that it is behind you, no one can take those experiences away from you. You earned everything for which you worked so hard.

Second, I’m very proud of you. And Mom would have been so incredibly proud of you too. The fact that she didn’t survive to see this day in no way diminishes your accomplishment or her determination to see it. She loved you with all her heart and wanted nothing but everything for you. She was so proud of how hard you both worked and always knew under how much pressure you lived. The fact that we were also in a strange state far from home and everything you knew while watching her slowly slip away only makes your accomplishment that much more amazing.

We never hid the facts from you. When we knew something about her case, we shared it with you. The fact that you were able to stay focused on your work and obtained the terrific grades you did (increasing your GPA almost every semester from an already impressive beginning) speaks to your work ethic and determination. You learned how to think, not what to think. You learned to think fast and argue a point. I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed our conversations over the past four years as you’ve learned something and applied it. You’ve both become incredible adults before my eyes.

Third, both of you have incredibly bright futures. I know this will be another year of uncertainty as we move back to Rhode Island and you both work on your portfolios in preparation for graduate school. I don’t know where that will take you or how far away, but I do know that the hard work gene is well implanted in both of you and you will make the best of our situation and do your best to get into an excellent graduate program in your respective fields. What you’ve endured over the past four years in college under this particular set of circumstances makes you incredibly strong individuals. There is nothing you can’t accomplish.

It has been my privilege to be your father and to watch you both grow into such amazing adults. I wish nothing but the best for you going forward, and while I hope that things will settle down for you, I know that you will be able to handle whatever life throws at you, kick its ass, and thrive. I love you both.

 

Mother’s Day

 

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Yesterday was the first Mother’s Day my children were motherless. They managed the day as best they could. I spoke with both of them and they spent time together to commiserate. All around them, students were absent from studying for finals because they were off with their families celebrating. I called my mother on the phone to wish her a happy day. I had sent her flowers to celebrate. I did so in a very low-key manner and I’m not quite sure why. Was I embarrassed that I still had a mother to celebrate at 51 when my children had none at 21? Was I just sad because of the day? The house is so quiet and lonely without Lisa. She loved being a mother.

Before having children, a task that was incredibly difficult for her body to carry to term, Lisa had a career in marketing. She was very good at her job. But she only wanted to be a mother. When we were finally blessed with twins, she blossomed as a woman. It was an easy decision for her to quit her job and stay at home with the kids. First of all, we figured that one of us would be turning over our salary to pay for daycare if she went back to work and for that financial burden it made sense to be with them all of the time, foregoing her career and salary. Second, it was really never much of a decision. She wanted to be at home with the kids. She loved being a mother. The financial justification was nothing more than icing.

And now the kids have grown into fine adults, on the cusp of graduating from college. Her job completed. However, I don’t think she would ever have been done being a nurturing mother to her children. Despite their being on the edge of the nest, ready to take flight, I know she would still be there making sure they got a good jump and flying alongside them to make sure they could handle everything the world would throw at them. They are now far more independent than they would have been if it had been me who had been inflicted with cancer and taken away from them far too young. I do my best, but I don’t have the nurturing gene that Lisa did. I know they must go off on their own now and I’ll be there to help them along the way. I love them and will never let them fall, but I’m not Lisa and I don’t have that overwhelmingly nurturing nature. I can only do the best I can. Again, I’m not Lisa, Super Mama.

I spent yesterday packing up the house as we plan to move back to Rhode Island. Leaving this house will be bittersweet because it will forever be known as the last dwelling Lisa made into a wonderful home. It is also the place she breathed her last. Moving back to Rhode Island is a move toward starting over, a position we have been put in without our consideration. But a position we have to embrace. We will survive this adventure. Rhode Island is home and we belong there in the northeast. Texas has been home for us for the better part of seven years and while Lisa made it our home, it was never really ours. We lived there and died there, but it was never really home. We always felt like strangers. Much of it has to do with the great cultural differences we experienced and our own definitions of “normal.” However, most of it had to do with the fact that we knew we had moved to Texas as a means of beating cancer and we knew that at some point the battle would turn against us and we would lose. We gained seven years because of that decision and I will be forever grateful to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. But now it is time to go home. I don’t know what the future holds, but I guess no one really does. I trust that I will continue to make good decisions overall and that the kids will find their niche in the world, wherever that takes them. Next up for them is graduate school and I don’t know where they will settle on that yet. There is still much research to be done. But wherever they end up, I will try to be there to catch them if they fall too far, to call them when they are down, and to make sure that next Mother’s Day is less painful than this one.

I know that we are not in a unique position. There are motherless children all over the world and mothers who have lost children. My involvement in the gun violence prevention movement has brought me face to face with wonderful people on both sides of this situation. They are incredibly strong in all outward appearances, however, I know they are suffering. So I don’t write this to solicit sympathy or comments. We must walk on toward this new future without Lisa. However, she is never farther away from me than a memory or a dream and for that, I am most grateful. I try to adhere to Dr. Seuss’s maxim that we should be grateful that it happened versus sad that it is over. It is not an easy position to hold at all times and I occasionally drop it or throw it away, but I know I was put on this earth to do more and I hope to carry Lisa’s spirit with me while I learn what that is. So, to all the mothers out there, all the mothers who have lost children, and all of the children who have lost their mother, please try to find peace this Mother’s Day.

Inside Baseball

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I have been a baseball fan my entire life. Although there was a time when I was far too busy to follow the game or attend any of my brother’s games. I do not feel any regret for dropping any of the professional game’s doings, but I do have unending guilt for having missed my brother’s games. I was in the midst of starting a family and cultivating a career. There was no extra time in my life to allot to following the careers of those being paid millions to play the game I would have played freely only a few years before. Nor did I have any time to follow my favorite team. With 162 games to follow and 30 teams, there was no room in my simple brain to shoehorn in anything more than my job, keeping up the house, nurturing my young marriage and learning to be a father to twins. However, I should have made the time to see my brother play or at least to have inquired as to his success more often than I did.

Now the kids are all but off on their own and my wife has died. My career is a priority again after seven years as I focus once again on my job instead of my wife’s disease. I have just purchased a condo, so most of the upkeep that previously occupied my mind has been alleviated. And so, now I return to the game I love. I still only have so much room in my aging mind to keep track of statistics, so I find it easier to follow the local team instead of my boyhood team. To be sure, I still keep tabs on the Cincinnati Reds, but I also enjoy watching the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. I am one of the few people that can be a fan of both the Yankees and the Red Sox. In fact, I will usually root for the team behind in the standings whenever they play one another.

I spent the majority of my life hating the Red Sox. I was raised deep in Red Sox Nation and found that their fans were not baseball fans but Red Sox fans, a crime profoundly egregious to me. I found that those who followed only the Red Sox could not name many other players on any other team, nor tell me much about any other team. I was raised that this was an affront to true baseball fans. Now that I have reached middle age and have interests and obligations beyond baseball fandom, I understand why some limit their exposure to the local team. I try to keep track of other teams and succeed for brief periods of time; however, it is infinitely easier to keep abreast of the goings on of your local team when the news and newspapers are flush with necessary information. Unfortunately, due to my wife’s passing, I have an exceedingly large amount of free time now. I find that watching baseball on television not only fills the house with necessary sound to drown out the din of my ringing ears, but it wards off the loneliness being alone causes.

And it is not a question of latching on to a winner as the Red Sox are, I believe, destined to land in the middle of their division by season’s end, mostly due to the fact that they are both young at most positions and the fact that they do not have a starting rotation to compete throughout the year. I will keep track of other teams and certain individual players and once October rolls around, I will be wholeheartedly invested in the post season.

Baseball has been accused of being an old and dying game by some, including some big league players. However, I think it is a game which demands the best of a player on several layers, unlike most other team sports. Much of the mental game going on in a baseball game can go unnoticed by the casual fan. There are set plays in football that either work or don’t. There are very few set plays in baseball as each pitch represents a variety of opportunities. Should the pitcher throw inside and low, outside and high, off speed, a curve, slider, knuckleball, or bring the high heat with a two-seam fastball or a four-seam? Will the batter be thinking the same as the pitcher and try to take the outside pitch to the opposite field or try to pull the inside fastball? And what of the player on first base? Will he be looking to run? Will there be a hit and run, a bunt to move him along, will the batter try to hit behind the runner? And where does the defense align themselves? Are the middle infielders set to turn a double play, are the outfielders pulled in and on the lines to prevent a ball getting past them in the late innings? What signs is the manager flashing to the catcher? What signs have the catcher and first baseman worked out together? What about the signs the third base coach is flashing to the batter and man on first? Most of this invisible game is missed by the casual observer and it all resets after the next pitch.

Don’t get me wrong, baseball is not inhabited by brilliant people. Most players are no brighter than the average jock, but they are dedicated and knowledgeable of their profession. And it is incumbent upon the fan to follow along or risk having the game seem slow and boring. There is usually so much going on inside the game that there are rarely boring periods of the game. To get into a game at the deepest levels as a fan is to see a chess match played out in front of you. And it sets up the fan to participate in conjecture before each pitch. This is anything but boring. And that is not mentioning the physics involved in the game. Consider how difficult it is to hit a small sphere with a thin cylinder. Only one spot on the sphere will ever come into contact with the thin cylinder at a given time. Now try to place where you want the small sphere to go while the deliverer of the small sphere takes advantage of the effects the atmosphere has on the lacing of the small sphere by throwing it in order to have it curve inside, outside or down, seemingly in defiance of the laws of physics. Now do all of that while 50,000 people are staring at you some expecting you to hit the small sphere a long way with your thin cylinder while others are hoping the deliverer of the small sphere can get the small sphere past you and into a predetermined zone acceptable to an arbitrator standing behind you. No, baseball is not an easy game, nor is it boring.

Baseball has been very good to me even when I was not very good to it. I have gone from a rabid fan to a father/husband and now to a fan again. Play ball.

Steel Blue

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My children, twins, will graduate from the University of Texas at Austin in three weeks. This a full summer semester before campus carry takes effect. I am so thankful they will have enjoyed their time at college before the advent of guns in their classroom. In addition, we will be moving to Rhode Island in the weeks following graduation. This will exempt us from seeing Texas open carry zealots who cannot shop in a grocery store or visit a restaurant without their trusty firearm by their side, like some deranged metallic playmate.

In the aftermath of Sandy Hook, Texas has embraced the gun like never before and this in the face of a plethora of withering facts against such a position and against the wishes of the majority of the public. By all means, don’t let facts dissuade you from carrying out unwanted legislation in order to enhance the state’s swagger well beyond reason. Both open carry and campus carry were passed during the last legislative session. And don’t be lulled into believing that with such measures the gun lobby will be sated and have no other bills pending in the next session. In fact, the next session has already been tagged as the “constitutional” carry session as the gun lobby will push for both open carry and campus carry without any restrictions, training, or registration; another step in the guns-everywhere mentality where even those time travelers from the old Wild West would feel uncomfortable.

And Texas isn’t the most responsible when it comes to its guns. Last week, the TSA announced it had set a new record for the number of guns confiscated at American airports. In a study done in 2015, three of the top 6 airports listed by the number of guns confiscated were based in Texas. In fact, two of them were located in Houston. How can anyone be trusted to carry a firearm when they can’t be trusted not to bring it with them aboard an airplane?

Gun violence prevention organizations have done a good job keeping pressure on legislators and in state houses throughout the country. However, it is still considered a marathon and not a sprint to get meaningful legislation passed at the national level (and in some state houses, like Texas). And there are still too many individual organizations working toward the same goal where economies of scale could be realized if they joined forces. I’ve written about this before, and there has been some consolidation, but the resources, both physical and monetary, are still spread between too many organizations to counter the behemoth that is the NRA.

They say Texas is turning blue. However, it is still a deeply red state in many locations and blue in the larger metropolitan areas. Eventually, there will be a transition. I just hope Texans of common sense don’t turn blue from holding their breath until then.

Mirror, Mirror

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The country is getting further and further away from any semblance of cooperation or debate. Neighbors and family members are pitted against one another like at no time since the Civil War. The generational differences experienced in the 1960’s seem cordial compared to the intransigence we see now. The era of the computer and the Internet, where information flows freely like at no other time in human evolution has left us in cognitive dissonance and mired in epistemic closure. We only listen to those radio programs that share our positions, we only watch the news from those carriers with the same political bend as us. We only discuss difficult topics with people we know we already agree with. We never engage in debate or discussion with those with whom we do not politically agree. The congress is in a perpetual state of obstructionism.

The “other side” is terminally wrong. We cannot engage them on any level other than to disparage them, dismiss them, and call them wrong on all manner of topics. In fact, we are disposed to dismiss a person who agrees with us on one topic if they disagree with us on another. Thus epistemic closure.

No topic exhibits this disconnect more than the fractious presidential campaign we have seen this year. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz are the most polarizing candidates we have ever seen in modern politics. All three have negative ratings among likely voters higher than any candidate upon whom this measure has been taken in American political history. The “#StopTrump” movement, a branch of the established Republican Party, will do anything to deny this man from getting the nomination of their party, despite being the front-runner. Trump himself has the highest negatives of any candidate and has alienated enough demographic categories to guarantee him not winning in November should he be the nominee. Hillary Clinton has enough of a track record in the pubic’s eye to garner either very positive or very negative reactions in most of the population. There is very little middle ground left from which she can harvest votes. Ted Cruz finds himself in the unique position of being hated by all of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle and yet the man with the best shot of unseating Trump for the nomination causing those with whom he has little in common to back him in order to get to the second or third ballot of a contested convention in Cleveland later this summer.

The other two candidates, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders both suffer from a lack of recognition among the public to one degree or another. Kasich telling everyone that he is the only candidate to regularly beat Clinton in a straight up contest in November has less to do with his popularity and more to do with Clinton’s negatives. Kasich positions himself as a moderate candidate (and compared to the other two running he is), however, his record is that of anything but a moderate. Sanders does not claim to be a moderate and while his brand of Scandinavian socialism resonates with the youth of the country, there is no slice of the electorate less likely to actually vote than the young, condemning Sanders’ chances to fantasy.

There are real issues facing the country. Real issues that demand the focused attention of the wisest men and women this country has. And in another example of our cognitive dissonance, Congress continues to have an overall approval level of under 20% while most incumbents will win re-election. How can that be? It is, again, because we believe the person with whom we are most familiar and dismiss as out of touch the person with whom we are least familiar. The problem is always with the other guy. The left and the right stare at each other in distrust and disgust, not realizing that they are really looking in the mirror and the ugliness they see is their own.

We deserve better than this. The age of the Internet has given us an unending supply of data and little increase in usable information. We must do better. Listening helps. Mirrors help, too.

Trumpeter

 

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“The first sign of greatness is when a man does not attempt to look and act great. Before you can call yourself a man at all, Kipling assures us, you must “not look too good nor talk too wise.”     ― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

 

Play to your audience. Anyone who speaks publicly knows this truth. You must know your audience. Donald Trump plays a part whenever he speaks. He plays the petulant child, name calling and telling untruths in order to manipulate his audience into mindless chants and savage beatings. He is a very bright person, a narcissist no doubt, but very smart. He has motivated a portion of the Republican base disenfranchised by years of political correctness (read equality and empathy) and sinking political clout as the aging white male vote shrinks in influence nationwide. Whether he believes what he says is immaterial as his words are taken at face value by his crowds and they leave impassioned and validated.

However, one area that seems to reveal the real Trump behind the curtain is his relationship with women. Whereas his rants on Mexicans, Muslims, and any other minority he feels like denigrating is done for the benefit of his audience, his comments on women seem genuine and therefore especially troubling. Whether it is his comments about Megyn Kelly or Rosie O’Donnell or his feud with Ted Cruz regarding their respective wives, his words ring with a certain veracity that escapes his comments on other groups and reveals him beyond the part he is playing.

Don’t get me wrong, I find Ted Cruz to be far more dangerous than Donald Trump, and while I don’t believe either of them can win a general election against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, Cruz’s beliefs are calculated and cold. Every time he speaks my skin crawls as he slowly forms each sentence in an effort to cause maximum damage. He truly believes what he says. And while his honesty is refreshing, his goals and methods are beyond frightening. Even the tea party and their minimalistic government stance overwhelmingly find Cruz dangerous. His colleagues in the senate despise him and neither his Ivy League pedigree nor his debate championship skills can overcome his personality or end game. And his Morton Downey, Jr.-esqe war with Trump is now childish, unhealthy, and boring.

But it is Trumps position with women that genuinely disgusts me. “No one loves women more than I do, I can tell you that,” claims Mr. Trump. However, he’s been married three times. Does he mean that he loves all women but he’s only gotten to three so far? Nothing in his relationships with women is encouraging and to alienate such a demographic before the general election, when women make up the majority of voters is political suicide. Especially if he intends to make up for the loss of the female vote with other demographics. His approval among all minorities is woefully low. There is no mathematical formula that garners him the White House without women and I believe women are far too intelligent to be convinced of his “love” of women at this point. He objectifies women and dismisses them as things to be possessed.

Know your audience is something about which Trump knows quite a bit, but his blindness toward the females in his audience will ultimately be his undoing.

Dear Lisa

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Dear Lisa,

It’s been seven months now since you left. I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’re not suffering anymore, but from a selfish perspective, I miss you dearly.

In case you haven’t been able to keep up, let me tell you a few of the things we’ve been up to since September.

As you can imagine, none of us wanted to do the whole Christmas thing, not even putting up the tree. Instead, we took a trip. We went to NYC and saw a couple of plays. We spent some time with Sue, Phil, Bella, and Jackie. They were kind enough to invite us to spend Christmas dinner with them. From NY, we flew to Burlington, VT to spend a couple of days with Mark and Martha. It was beautiful. You would have liked it so much. Then we went to Rhode Island for a few days just to relax. It was the first time (and probably the last) that I had to get a hotel room in Rhode Island.

Since Christmas, the kids have been running flat out toward graduation. Cam has been writing feverishly on his thesis. He completed both parts and the conclusion late last week. Now he has to edit it with his professor and prepare for his defense in May. Sam has been working on her painting and installation projects. She laments the fact that she doesn’t have studio space this semester. She’s a lot like you.

I’ve been working and trying to get the house in shape, so we can move back to Rhode Island after the kids graduate. I bought a condo in East Greenwich. You would like it. I’m relying on Sam’s interior design sensibilities, a talent she got directly and completely from you! I’m sure there will be a call for milk pail paint on the walls. I’ve involved a realtor here in Texas to get our house on the market. He thinks it will go quickly thanks to the beautiful job you did designing the interior.

The kids and I have been doing the best we can with the fact that you’re gone. The hardest part for me is when I’m in that space between sleep and being awake when I begin to dream and then snap out of it. Invariably, I want to talk to you about something. Then, like someone with the beginning stages of dementia, I learn all over again that you are gone. I can’t tell you how much that hurts. No amount of rationale can remove that pain.

I’m also worried about meeting people. As you know, I’m not the most outgoing person in the world! I don’t want to go to a restaurant alone or a movie alone, much less a bar. Also, since I’ll be working from home, there is even less opportunity to interact with people. It will be good having the kids around until they go off to graduate school, but after that, I have to come to terms that I will likely be alone after that. I can’t imagine how I’ll meet people. And don’t even get me started on dating again.

As I’m sure you know, Delbow died last month. I can only hope that he is with you, and you are keeping each other company, both of you happy and healthy. He is missed, especially by me because he was my only companion at home. He wasn’t just a dog; he was my friend. The house is even more desolate without him. No amount of television or music din can replace life in the house. The kids were with me when he died. It was awful but the right thing to do. He was miserable and in so much pain.

I donated blood again this past week. I donated plasma, which took about half an hour. It was an interesting process, but I got such a headache from it, along with being lightheaded with chills and nauseated. I can’t imagine how you did it with all of the sticks you were subjected to during your seven years of treatment. And yet you never complained. Even now you continue to amaze me.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on since you left. The kids and I miss you so much. If you have the power, take away some of Sam’s and Cam’s pain. I’ll figure it out myself, but bring some peace to them. That’s all I’ll ask.

Missing you like crazy and still deeply in love,

Me

Madness

“You say the world is full of bullshit so you kill just how you see fit. They say your fanatic with a mission.”   -The Kinks, Killer’s Eyes

There is madness in the world today. Brussels is still smoldering from the latest terrorist attack, Paris and Ankara live under the continual threat of follow-up attacks and the United States guards against a similar attack. There are pain and suffering on all sides and there is seemingly no end in sight.

And yet, it is our reaction to these horrific events that will define us. Our initial reaction is seldom based on facts but almost always based on emotion. No amount of terror can justify our lashing out. We have a responsibility to weigh our response against our humanity. To do otherwise is to lower ourselves to the level of those against whom we seek to respond. Blown out windows and screaming children will always garner our attention and foster thoughts of retribution. However, it is our clinical response that results in the best outcomes.

To blame these vituperative remarks on anything but our blood lust for revenge is to discredit our humanity and liken us to those who wish to do us harm; best to leave it to the professionals. We have the greatest military the world has ever seen and it is their job to root out terrorists and keep us safe. It is beneath us to judge our Muslim neighbors and paint with a broad brush a religion practiced by one-fifth of the earth’s population any more than it is reasonable to judge Christians by the Crusades, the Westboro Baptist Church, or the KKK.

There is always a knee-jerk reaction to want to elicit revenge. I would urge us to tamp down that reaction and allow our intelligence community to do its job before engaging our military to do its. The loss of life and terror inflicted on Brussels today is horrific and the result of the cowardice expressed by several individuals and an organization bent on the destruction of western society in favor of a world view already eclipsed by 500 years of civilization. No amount of retribution against the innocent practitioners of the same faith as those who carried out these attacks can be justified.

Pain is universal and we cannot trade in that practice if we expect to hold ourselves above the lowest common denominator of mankind. Please don’t misunderstand, I want these barbarians to be brought to justice as much as the next person, however, I don’t believe it is the job of the individual to do the heavy lifting, rather I believe it is the responsibility and duty of our government to find and prosecute terrorists.

Sharks and Cancer

quint

So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks took the rest…”  Quint, Jaws

It has been a very difficult year and a half. First, in November of 2014 my father died after a brief but excruciatingly painful fight with lung cancer which had spread to his bones. Almost one year later, last September, my wife died after a long fight with breast cancer which had spread to her lungs. And then only six months later, my dog died after a painful fight with a soft tissue cancer which had spread to his bones. One year, then only six months, part of me wonders what horror will befall us in three months. But I have to believe that the pain and suffering have ended now.  I can’t help but appropriate Quint’s quote to, “So, five of us went to Texas, three of us come home, cancer took the rest…”

Cancer has targeted my family for far too long now. I don’t want it to have any more power over us. My children have spent fully one-third of their lives living under the threat of cancer taking their mother and then their dog. Almost their entire teenage years, years difficult enough without cancer moving in to live with us, has been spent living under that dark cloud. They are 21 years old now and, in spite of these added pressures, will both graduate on-time from the University of Texas at Austin, each with over a 3.5 GPA. How they have been able to stay focused amazes me and is a testament to their strength of character.

I know people have had it harder than we have. I don’t claim to have a corner on suffering. And I am grateful for the seven years we were able to steal from cancer by moving to Texas and seeking treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I’ll never regret that decision. But if we could have a break from any additional pain for a short time, that would be great.

Each of us is dealing with these losses in our own individual manner. Certainly, grief counseling has helped, but we still face a world in which neither Lisa nor Delbow will walk with us any longer. We have had long discussions about faith, heaven, philosophy, and all of the accompanying topics. We disagree as much as we agree but the discussions are always lively and fascinating. I hope that we can each find some comfort in our positions.

Finally, there is the issue of moving forward. The house, already quiet from Lisa’s absence is now even quieter without Delbow’s rambling about. The kids are on spring break this week, so I have a respite before facing that still house alone. I now have six months of experience without Lisa and living alone. I hope this serves me well when the kids return to school. But before we know it, school will be over, graduations will have been concluded and we will be packing up for our trip back to Rhode Island. I hope it goes well and we can begin our new lives healthy. No sharks, no cancer.

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