Unfinished Memory

A few months ago, Robbie’s 2nd grade class had added a class photo and a picture of the last Space Shuttle to his school’s time capsule. Today, as he stood near his grandfather’s grave, watching the people throwing mementos on the coffin, Robbie thought it was just the same. Except no one was going to dig it up in fifty years and ooh and ahh over all the old stuff.

Robbie thought long and hard about what to throw in for his grandfather. Mom said it should be something special that would remind Grandpa of Robbie. Just like the teacher had said, the picture of the last Space Shuttle was something that made this year special.

Grandpa liked playing cards, usually War because there was no way to cheat. He liked puzzles, the ones with millions of pieces. But throwing a deck of cards or a box of puzzle pieces didn’t seem right. They weren’t special enough.

The thing Grandpa loved most was his trains. In the basement of his old house, Grandpa had a huge oval table with a hole cut in the middle to stand in. A model town covered the table with a train track running through it. There were tiny trees and fake grass and little houses and stores and even streets with cars that could get stuck at the railroad crossings.

Every Sunday they went over to Grandpa’s house for eggs and bacon after church. As soon as he was excused, Robbie ran downstairs to see if he could find the new thing Grandpa had added to the table. Mom always warned him not to break anything but he knew it was ok because Grandpa liked fixing things.

The basement smelled funny and the lights that hung from the ceiling made a funny sound. Sometimes one of the long bulbs would start flashing on and off. Grandpa would just tap it softly with his finger to ‘calm it down,’ and it would stop. When he was little, Robbie asked Mom if Grandpa had magic in his hands, because they could fix anything. Mom just laughed and said that Grandpa was Clever and that was better than magic.

Sometimes the new thing on the train table would be easy to find. A new house or a new train car. But sometimes the new thing was really hard to find. Once it had been a tiny gray cat walking along the sidewalk. Grandpa, amazed at how fast Robbie spotted the cat, had told Mom that she should be proud to have such a Clever boy.

At the grave, it was Robbie’s turn. In his hand he held the most special thing in the world. It was a tiny model school-house, Robbie’s first addition to the train table. It wasn’t finished. Grandpa went into the hospital right after the Sunday that they started working on it. This morning, when they were all at Grandpa’s house before the funeral, Robbie sneaked downstairs to see if he could add the white paint for the windows and doors, but the paint had dried up.

Robbie uncurled his fingers and looked down at the little half-painted structure laying in the palm of his hand. This really wasn’t like the school’s time capsule, he thought, because Grandpa was the only one who would ever see the things they put in the grave. And even though the model was the most special thing in the world, it seemed wrong to throw it in like this.

He looked up at Mom and whispered, “I want to finish it.”  Mom nodded and wrapped her hand around his, closing both around the unfinished memory.

image source: BachmannTrains.com


This is just a silly rant…

SWTOR Bounty Hunter (IMG_3681)
SWTOR Bounty Hunter  (Photo credit: chaines106)

I really, really wish there was someone out there in the world who liked to play MMORPGs* the way I want to play them:

1) Quests only: no dungeons or raids, I just want to follow a character through the story-line of the game.

2) No PvP*: I don’t want to fight real people – I want to fight NPCs*.  I don’t understand the appeal of fighting other players.

3) No crafting: feels too much like work.

4) Gear:  I really don’t care what kind of gear my character has. As long as it is the right level for my character – that is good enough for me.  And as an addition to this, I don’t care about buying or selling gear in the markets – too much work.

The thing is – I really like to play with other people, But the key word there is PLAY. It is a game, it is supposed to be fun.  When your game becomes an obsession and when you get angry at people who don’t take it seriously, then it is no longer fun.

I don’t want to just randomly hook up with strangers either – I want to already know who I am going to play with and more importantly – I want them to know me and my playing style and be cool with my giggling when the monster starts attacking and I start yelling, “run away, run away!”

I have yet to meet a single person in real life or inside the games who wants to play the way I do, and so that means I don’t really play anymore.  It is boring to play by myself.

And that is the end of this silly rant.

Where I am:
SWTOR –  Shadowlands – main: Jilanna – Sith Assassin, alt: Vaunna, – Smuggler Gunslinger
WoW –  I’m sort of all over the place – been playing since 08′, never got a char past level 60 – I just get bored and start new ones

*Glossary for the non-gamer:

MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game – basically Dungeons and Dragons on the computer with strangers from all over the planet.

PvP – Player vs. Player (real people)

NPC – Non-Player Characters (not real people)

SWTOR – an MMORPG called Star Wars, The Old Republic

WoW – an MMORPG called World of Warcraft 

Why is Suicide so Sad?

Portrait of Virginia Woolf by George Charles B...
Virginia Woolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To look life in the face, always, to look life in the face, and to know it for what it is…at last, to love it for what it is, and then to put it away.  – Virginia Woolf

Much of the “civilized” world puts a lot a talk into the idea of human rights. As if there is some sort of list of things every one of the eight billion individuals out there is born deserving. In fact the UN has written one : The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(If you haven’t, you should read it. It is short and clearly-worded.)

Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Article 4. No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
Article 5. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

All of that says to me: Your BODY belongs only to you, and to no one else. If we all agree this is true, then why is it a crime to commit suicide? I believe that suicide is the right of every human.

Terry Pratchett is a prolific author and, more recently, a sufferer of Alzheimer’s. He has become one of the leading spokespersons for the right-to-die movement.
From a recent interview in the Telegraph:

He is dismayed that Tony Nicklinson, the severely disabled man who fought and last month lost an impassioned campaign to end his life, effectively had to starve himself to death. “I put his picture on the little lectern by my desk because I don’t want this guy forgotten. He was very clear about what he wanted and you cannot tell me that two doctors helping him to go to sleep [as in a Dignitas clinic in Switzerland], would constitute murder. It cannot be murder. The law says it’s murder so the law is most definitely wrong and needs to be changed. This poor guy was a prisoner of technology.”

It may be a stretch, but if it is a crime to ‘hurt’ yourself to the point of death, shouldn’t it also be a crime to  participate in any sports where fatal injuries can occur? To drive in a car, or fly in a plane? To give your self piercings or tattoos? Yes, I am being silly, but don’t all of these things have the potential for self-inflicted harm?

Suicide, like anything else a person chooses to do to their body, is none of anyone’s business.

Unfortunately, none of these logical, rational thoughts changes anything. The reason suicide a crime is because the rest of us, the ones left behind, are so horrified by it.

Why? What is so awful about it? Why does it make us so sad?

I will risk a bit of TMI now and tell you that I attempted suicide while I was in college. But, to quote Meneken,

The impulse to self-destruction is a natural accompaniment of the educational process. Every intelligent student, at some time or other during his college career, decides gloomily that it would be more sensible to die than to go on living.

I don’t mean to lessen the impact of my act, quite the contrary. The second time I ever saw my father cry was during the conversation we had about my desire to die. (The first time was when I was ten and he took us to see E.T. in the theater.) My father was sad because my suicide attempt forced him to imagine a future with out his daughter in it. It had nothing to do with the pain that led to that attempt. He dismissed that pain as fleeting and imagined, because from his point of view, it was

Suicide was not altogether unfamiliar territory for my father: his grandfather successfully took his own life in 1930. My grandmother, who was eighteen at the time of his death and had just graduated from nursing school, was often heard saying, “My father always told me that if I became a nurse it would be over his dead body.” (His suicide probably had nothing to do with her: he managed a bank in their hometown and lost a great deal of other people’s money in the crash of 1929.) But her sadness from his death affected her entire life. (Ironically she committed suicide herself. In her 90th year, in excruciating pain from the cancer that had spread across her entire body, she overdosed on morphine. This act, however, made no one sad.)

And all of this brings me to the reason for my focus on this subject: the story of the nurse who, supposedly, killed herself due to the humiliation of falling for a prank. I say supposedly because we don’t know, and we will never know, if that was the reason.
The objective observers see her act as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But the problem, whatever it is, is not temporary to the subject. It was not temporary to me. It was not temporary to my great-grandfather or my grandmother. To the person experiencing mental or physical pain, the present is the only reality.

Suicide is sad because we miss or feel sorry for the person who is gone. But it is not a crime, and no one, not even two idiot prank callers, is to blame. I would ask that we all show some respect to the deceased and stop reducing her life to one bad decision. Instead, we should recognize that she did what she could with her life, and when it became time to do so, she put it away.

Just a Trim

leaf on hardwood floor
(Photo credit: Steve A Johnson)

Jen marches into the seemingly empty kitchen and eyes the house plant. It hangs neglected, yellowed, wilted, from a hook in the ceiling. Jen crosses the room, snatches the shears from the knife block then turns to attack the plant.
“A house full of people, and no one takes care of the plants.” She says to herself.
She starts cutting, removing dead leaves and stiff vines.
“Ten people in this house,” she says, her voice rising with every snip of the shears. “Six adults and four children, and not a single person remembers to water the damn plants.”
Brown and yellow leaves flutter to the floor.
“OK, you can’t expect the shit-storm to handle watering duties, but there is no excuse for anyone else.”
“Shit-storm” she says again, enjoying the sound of her new nickname for her sister’s baby.
“Shit-storm,” snip.
“Shit-storm,” snip.
“Shit-storm!” She yells.
The denuded houseplant hangs quietly. The cuttings form a pile at her feet.
She steps back, away from her work, slapping the shears onto the kitchen table.
She hears a gasp.
Bending down, she sees her nephew, her brother’s middle child, crouching under the table, a toy car clutched in his little hand. He looks up at her through wide eyes under a tangle of too-long hair.
“You need a hair cut, kid.” She tells him.
He scoots away from her, eyes growing even wider.
She laughs, “No, no, not now, not by me. Don’t worry, kiddo.”
Smiling, she puts the shears away, gathers up the cuttings and takes them out the back door.

Watching the Clock

watching the clock
(Photo credit: klynslis)

I see her. She sits at the kitchen table, the laptop is open and her hand is on the mouse, but she is looking out the window. She looks bored. Her eyes follow the movements of her four-year-old daughter. She looks back at the laptop. She clicks to refresh the screen. No new emails. She turns back to the window.

I know what is going through her mind, she is wondering what her son is doing right at this moment. She knows he is fine, but she can’t stop wondering. He’s been her constant companion for six years. But now, three weeks into kindergarten and it’s like he’s been going to school all his life.

This morning she walked him into the school as usual, but instead of holding her hand, he ran ahead, into the surging mob of children. She could only watch as he found his own way to his classmates, as he started a conversation with his teacher. She waited for him to remember that he hadn’t given her a kiss goodbye. She waited and waited, her younger child’s hand forgotten in her fist. He never turned around. The teacher marched the children in a sloppy line into the classroom. She watched her son. He smiled and laughed and talked and completely forgot to look, to turn, to see her standing there. Waiting.

I watch her wander around the house while he is gone. She takes good care of her other child. She straightens and washes, she picks up and puts away.

She watches the clock and I can hear her say, “he is having snack time now. Now he’s at lunch. Today is Wednesday, so now he is at the library.”

She watches her daughter playing by herself.

I see a little girl, a second child, just like her mother. She will grow up content within her own thoughts. She won’t seek validation from others, she will grow up confident and strong. She will never be dependent on anyone. Until she has a child. A child so completely a part of her that she will depend on his moods to know her own.

Until the day he forgets to turn back: on that day he will release her. She will return to her own thoughts, recognize her own moods. She will take a breath and look around, and say, “Now what?”

My Oasis

(Photo credit: W.D. Vanlue)

Her oasis looks like a bar. An old English style pub, dimly lit with lots of cozy corners where a person, or two, can hide in the shadows, away from the eyes of the bartender. The bar never closes and the clock never quite makes it to midnight. There are no cell phones on her oasis, and although there is someone out there, waiting for her call, she is never late.

I say oasis and you think of sand and sun, but she is too pale, bright lights hurt her eyes. You ask, are there palm trees growing there? No, there is nowhere to grow things, because there is no outside. It is all inside, in the gloom of perpetual one-minute-before-midnight, when even 100-watt bulbs cast only shadows. But there are wedges of pineapple, pierced by tiny umbrellas, precariously balanced on the edges of frosty, cool drinks. She can see them when some slinky chick enters the bar and orders one. She is envious of the slinky ones, not for their looks, but for their youth and their freedom.

Free? No, she is not free. The outside world frightens her. It demands things of her that she is not prepared to do. If she steps beyond the edge of the oasis, then the clock will strike midnight, and it will be time for her to make that dreaded call. Outside the bar door there is a pay phone; in her pocket there is a quarter. She will lie to someone she loves. (I’m so sorry, I didn’t notice the time. I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in twenty minutes.)

You ask me if there are other people in the bar. As I mentioned earlier, there are the extras, the slinky chicks and the business casual men, the ones who flit through and have no speaking parts. They make up the moving, changing background that gives the scene depth. Their drinks are fake, just tinted water.

The bartender? Well, he can’t or won’t leave either, but I’m not sure why. The conversations she has with him are vague, confusing. He always has a clever line, but just when she thinks he is trying to seduce her, he walks away to fill someone else’s glass. He knows her name and her favorite beer and he never makes her wait. But he never crosses to her side of the bar.

I think sometimes, he looks down on her, disappointed. He knows perfectly well what she is up to and he doesn’t like it. I like to imagine some of his disapproval hides some frustrated longing though.

And who else is there, you ask, what is it really that keeps her there? Are you implying that the comfort of a familiar bar and beer that always keeps one buzzed but never drunk and time standing still isn’t enough? No, it is not, you are correct. Even with all that, she would be bored in no time.

And it is the certainty of constant boredom on the outside that keeps her in there.

If you must know, there are pockets of stimulation in that oasis bar. A pocket may not seem like the best simile, but wait, I will explain. A pocket is dark and secretive. You can not see into a pocket, you can only grope blindly with your fingers, and try to recognize what it is you are looking for with only your sense of touch.

She sits at the bar and sip her beer, making it last. The bartender has just made some flirtatious remark and walked away. She spins slowly on a red leather bar stool. Not a bright red; there is nothing bright in this bar. Well, there is one bright thing. It shines on her finger like a laser, slashing the comforting darkness to ribbons. A diamond set in a band of gold, and pull as she might, it won’t come off. She twists it so to shield the light in her palm.

The red bar stool is comfortable. It curves perfectly to her back, but doesn’t let her slouch. It spins smoothly without resistance or squeaking. In a slow spin, she scans the room, looking for… A someone, maybe me, maybe you, who can lure her with dark eyes and knowing looks into a velvet lined pocket of time. A moment within a moment. A moment of exquisite sensation that lasts as long as forever or no time at all.

What are you trying to say? Escapism? Well, yes, you are right of course. But isn’t that what the word ‘oasis’ implies? An escape from the harsh realities of the world.

It doesn’t matter that the reality is one of your own making.

What else can she do? She changed, but her reality did not change with her. You escape into music or books. I escape into my words. She escapes into a bar that never closes, that serves drinks that relax while never inebriating, where she is whomever I want to her be. And I never have to deal with the consequences of her actions.

The First Time

“you like me, you really like me!”

I heard the news and I called my mother – because that’s what you do when good things happen to you. That is, if you are lucky enough to have a mother who, a) is still alive, b) is aware of your existence, and c) cares.

This isn’t starting very well.

The point is, when you are happy you call someone who will allow you to wallow in your happiness without being jealous or saying, “that’s nice, now let me tell you about my day.”

Anyway, I said to her, “Mom, guess what, one of my stories just got Freshly Pressed! ”
Mom: “Oh, uh, congratulations! What does that mean?”

I tried to explain, “WordPress a blogging website, there are like thousands [millions] of people who write blogs there. And Freshly Pressed is a kind of central place where the editors feature certain blogs and people can see what’s going on with their fellow bloggers.”

“That’s great! Can I send it to Grandma?”

To my mother, sending something to my 94-year-old grandmother is the same as sticking something up on the fridge.   In other words, the only proof that you have accomplished something.

I told her that the story was one she and Grandma had already read, and no, being Freshly Pressed wasn’t at all like being published. And without intending to, my mother brought me back down out of the clouds to the still as-yet-unpublished-wannabe that I am.

I gave up completely when my explanation of the WordPress community started sounding like a self-help group. “No, I don’t have to pay anything. Yes, I guess you can say it is all volunteer. No I’ve never met any of them, but yes, some of them are becoming friends, in that we have a great deal of mutual affection.”

My mother’s responses became monosyllabic. We changed the subject.

Diminishment through over-explanation. Have you ever told a joke to someone only to get to the punchline and have the listener give you a half-smile and say, “I don’t get it?” You try to explain and the joke stops being funny.

Anyway, I console myself with the knowledge that all of you get it. Thank you all for my ‘blogger high.’

P.S. I’d like to take the opportunity of my brief view count blip to share a link to Company for Christmas. (see the C4C badge over to the right?) On Christmas Day a group of bloggers will be hanging out ready for a chat or a comment if you are alone that day. From the C4C about page: “It can be hard to reach out. So RoS started this Blog, to see if maybe some fellow bloggers would be there to talk to around Christmas for others who are separated from loved ones.” Please check it out.

I’m giving meaningful presents this Christmas

Rule of Stupid

Hello folks.

I’ve been advised by my medical team that my Blog changes direction so often and so quickly that I should provide neck-braces! I can’t afford them, so I can only beg: please don’t sue me for whiplash. I am very poor!

This is not love poetry, political spleen or ridiculous advice on writing, criminality or homelessness. This is my other arm (yes, I have unusual jumpers) known as Company for Christmas.

I’m trying to do something lovely for people who will find themselves alone this Christmas. It requires no money and only a fraction of your time! It may even earn you some Blog traffic.

You can help by simply reblogging this post. Job done.

If you want, you can also read this post and offer advice, thoughts or even volunteer to help out. No matter what, it can be as little as ten minutes.

You can…

View original post 406 more words

Rewatching The Hours

movie night!
(Photo credit: ginnerobot)

This isn’t a review of the movie, because I suck at reviews. It is just a list of thoughts prompted by the watching. It is really hard to write a review when everything you write is invariably about yourself.  Except for my fiction of course, none of that is about me.  I swear.  Ok, maybe the one about going back in time to observe neanderthals is a little bit biographical, but that’s the only one.

Thought #1: The movie The Hours is almost exactly ten years old.  The last time I saw it was probably 6 or 7 years ago. But the first time I saw it was as a Blockbuster movie rental probably soon after it came out on DVD.  You remember those days, don’t you, when you had to actually leave your house if you wanted to rent a movie?  I remember that night we were all at my Dad’s house for ‘Tuesday night dinner,’ a tradition he started when he and my mom divorced and which lasted for over a decade.  It only ended when he and my step-mom moved to North Carolina.  I don’t know of any parent of adult children who managed to get them to gather for a family dinner once a week – for ten years.  It amazes me that he had so much power over us, even after we’d all moved out.  I mean that in a good way. Really.  Anyway, every time I’ve seen the movie since then I get a little nostalgic for those days.  For being with my family, sharing meals and watching movies and playing games with them.  Sounds cheesy, but it is all true. And none of this has to do with the contents of the movie at all.

Thought #2: I can recognize a movie set in New York City before 9/11. The city is only a casual backdrop, something to set the place or mood, easily recognized and easily ignored. That nameless relative who’s in all the old family pictures. But then, tragedy. Now, its past is part of every story. Whether the story has anything to do with the event or not.

I wrote that statement above and then I looked up the facts. I am really good at this. The movie premiered in December of 2002.  Wasn’t released in theaters until Jan of ’03.  I know that the scene in New York is set in 2001, presumably in the spring of that year, it says so right on the screen, but when was it filmed?  Probably after 9/11.  But there is nothing of that ‘a tragedy occurred here‘ feeling that I sense so often in post 9/11 NYC set films.  I find that very interesting.  Watch Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and then watch The Devil Wears Prada (2006).  As a ‘character’ in both of these films, the city has a very different feel in each.

#3: There is a scene in the movie that reminded me how much I’ve changed in the years since I last watched it. It doesn’t matter which scene, it was simply a moment of truth where a character is learning something about themselves. I realized that my reaction to that scene is different now than it was back then. I don’t think I really understood that scene the first time. Or if I did it was a very different sort of understanding, a sympathy not an empathy. I love those unexpected moments of self-realization that a book or movie you’ve seen or read a hundred times before can give you.  Just a reminder that you never stop learning or changing.

#4: I always identified with the ‘middle’ woman, the character played by Julianne Moore. Even when I saw it all those years ago, I knew I was the type choose escape over self-destruction. “What does it mean to regret when you have no choice?” she asks.

Final Thoughts: I didn’t cry, although I remember crying the first time I saw it. I’m not sure why I didn’t this time. Perhaps I wasn’t in a teary mood. I’ve had a good couple of days, good writing, good conversations. The movie only added to my sense of productive introspection.  And that is all I have to say about that.  Now, stop obsessing over your view count and go watch a movie.

At what age did you feel grown up?

Growing up and liking it!
Growing up and NOT liking it! (Photo credit: amy_b)

On the occasion of my seventh birthday I told my mother that I’d had enough birthdays. Seven was a very good age, I was happy with it, and I would stay there. (Just as an amusing side note – my youngest sister thought that the age of seven was rather magical as well, but she believed that seven was the age she would turn into a boy, like her two older brothers. At thirteen she’d go back to being a girl like her sisters.)

When I turned twenty, the ubiquitous wave of teenage depression threatened to engulf me. I felt very, very old and I just wanted to die and get it over with, with all the ‘woe is me’ only a twenty year old can feel. Obviously I survived, and got on with the business of growing up.  Or so I thought.

While I won’t reveal my current age, I am old enough that the randomly generated writing prompt featured in the title struck me quite hard.

Grown up? Oh no! Shouldn’t I feel grown up by now?

The teen-aged child of my cousin, on learning that I was near in age to his mother said, “But how can you be that old? You play video games and you know about the stuff I like, you’re not like a grown up at all.”

My answer to his compliment was, “Maybe because I don’t have children – I never stopped being a child.” (Yes, I took it as a compliment, because he meant it that way. I loved and admired the adults that I thought were ‘cool’ when I was a kid, who found my interests interesting, and now I am one of them. How awesome is that?)

I know other ‘adults,’ and I use that word lightly, who are like me. We the child-less, and often spouse-less, fill our free time with various pursuits. I read. I play video games. I create stories and bad Photoshop art and post my creations all over the web. A dear friend works on her two-hundred year old house, crochets funny hats and plays ukulele. My boyfriend devours web-comics and draws. We don’t have a lot of money, or retirement plans, or stock portfolios, things that I associate with being a grown up.

I find myself saying, “Someday when I have money, I’m going to do/have [fill in the blank].” But that someday never becomes today. Maybe if I put away my toys and found a ‘career’ instead of enjoying my ‘job’ I would finally make all that money that is out there in my grown-up future.

But not now. Right now I am going to level up my gnome rogue in WoW, and then I might work on the next chapter of my serial novel experiment.

Growing up can wait a while longer.