I've been sharing thoughts about my mother's death online (apologies to those not on Facebook - if you want to see my previous posts, here's the first, and here's the second; perhaps I should post them here, too, but I've been distracted). People have written some of the kindest things I've ever had said to me. Last night, all the students from one of my classes got together on a sympathy card, and one of them made me a batch of delicious gluten-free chocolate-oatmeal balls. I appreciate these things more than I can express. Tomorrow is the funeral, in Omaha.

It seems that only when people are kind like that I actually cry, when I feel the pain wash through me, heavy and drowning, dragging me out to sea like an undertow I wasn't aware existed just beyond this calm beach. This crush happens not when I'm alone and thinking about Mom's death, or writing about my feelings, or playing through sad or difficult or happy memories (yes, we had those, too), but when people are kind to me about it. We really lost Mom years ago, during the ungentle decline and destruction of her self that we call, in clean clinical terminology, Alzheimer's, but which in reality is the most brutally destructive event I can imagine, the utter desolation of a person while they're still alive, a meat-grinder of the mind, unemotional gears inexorably crushing all that is a person between the flat surfaces of the machinery, irrevocably tearing through memories and thoughts and the very framework of who we are between sharp steel teeth, hungry, mindless entropy, plaques and proteins and poisons dissolving our past and the people we love from the unique universe of mind that is all we know, that universe shrinking in vast swaths as the information is forever lost, not just like into a black hole, because there the energy still exists, it's contained and stored and available to anyone with sufficiently advanced technology willing to venture beyond the blue event horizon. But no, this is destruction, worse than entropy, utter anarchy and loss and murder, is worse than that, this enfeeblement, it's a disk-grinder polishing minds to a dull featureless gloss, and the machine's operator has no brain, it's a robot - not malevolent like SkyNet or even Saberhagen's Berserkers, but like the physics of half-life decay, the biology of cell putrefaction, apoptosis, erosion, matter-antimatter annihilation, brown-dwarf stars cooling for a billion years alone in the vastness of space, soil blowing in the wind, dry air gradually leaching away its essence and nutrients and moisture and transforming it into toxic shards that suck life when it lands instead of feeding plants as when it took flight.

The machinations of the conscious or subconscious mind are endlessly confusing and fascinating. I've always had faith in the basic laws of physics, that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and yet, and yet – look at our minds, look at the mental cosmos we construct throughout our lives, the sense we make of others' worlds, and how all that in time is lost into the emptiness, forever, unrecoverable. The human mind is a wonder, capable not only of transforming vast quantities of sensory input into models of the physical world, but then even more incredibly capable of communicating with others. New universes are born with each new mind, simple at first, but they quickly expand and grow more complex and begin almost immediately to blend with others tangential to the borders of our own.

Alzheimer's, malevolent force, destroyer of worlds, eater of universes, accelerates the entropy of the mind leading to utter desolation, first extracting all other people's universes from reality, then you from your own world, then you from everyone else's. Veni, vidi, vici. Entire universes, people, stories of who we are and were, destroyed and never to be recovered again, all traces impossibly erased from reality. How can that be? How can a disease consume all that information? But it does, and everything is lost in the belly of the universe-eater, never to be shat out. The only evidence of the crime is a pile of broken connections to the outside, all the rest of us reeling in frayed ends in an effort to remember who they once touched, where they were once moored to another's world before that person was pulled beneath the waves.

Every person we know will be destroyed in time – time, this feeble attempt to construct a sensible explanation for loss. They will be gone, there is no hope for them to be recovered. The same is true for our own bubble. This is the reality of the universe, and something we cannot answer, only seek to come to terms with.

Trying to understand what it means is a hopeless effort, yet it's all that matters. Asking questions, seeking answers, striving to explore within and then beyond the confines of our bubble-universes: This is all that really matters. This is why I got into writing in the first place, and why I am driven to continue doing so. To understand the glories of matter coming to understand itself, of the universe waking up, opening a billion tiny eyes if only for a brief moment to see other eyes also looking around, and sharing what we have learned, and asking what the others have learned, and then building a greater understanding of it all, flawed and limited as it may be, often incompatible with what the others report. Because everything else is only the void.
If ever I figure out human nature, I can write my last words, but I don't fear that'll ever happen.



Thank you to everyone who has said kind and thoughtful things; I really do appreciate it, and if it brought on the tears, then it served a useful purpose, too. To everyone suffering your own tragedies and losses, my heart goes out to you, and I understand, and I hope my sharing here is more helpful than hurtful. We are all fighting our own hard battles, and though we might succeed for a time, loss will ultimately consume us all. So be kind, and understanding, and try to build the most glorious temple to life that you can in the moments your universe intersects with those constructed by others.
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mckitterick: aboard the New Orleans trolley (just Chris)
( Sep. 1st, 2014 11:39 am)
Not really up to writing a lot about it right now, but just got back from an impromptu trip to Omaha to see my mom. We're down to her last days.

My friends, Alzheimer's is a damned horrific nightmare. If I ever start looking down the barrels of that living hell, well... I wish we lived in a country where one could choose not to endure years of ever-increasing loss of self, health, and free will, knowing we cannot get better, certain that we will get worse, until one day we cannot remember our loved ones or even who we are. That, my friends, is the worst hell I can imagine. The only words Mom has formed in the past few weeks, and those were barely audible: "Have a headache."

Oof.
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Yesterday, when I got home from an all-day English Department strategic-planning meeting, I saw a dead squirrel. Someone had driven over it. This was distressing, because I've gotten attached to several neighborhood squirrels. Also, if one of these poor bastards is going to die, it should be in the talons of a hawk or something, not a senseless death beneath the mindless wheels of a car.

When I parked my scooter, I picked up the little dead thing from the road and placed it in the grass beneath a tree in front of my house. It was still warm, flexible, but very dead. I spent a few seconds examining it to see if this was one of the regulars, my "outdoor pets," but it showed no markings I recognized.

I wonder if its siblings will perform another squirrel funeral like they did last time.
*

And then, this morning, I witnessed another little urban-wildlife tragedy. A few days ago, I put a big, clear-topped, metal live-trap on my back porch. See, I've apparently been breeding mice by feeding the squirrels and birds. Baby mice are about some of the cutest things you'll ever see, darting out of cover just long enough to fetch a seed, than darting back under cover like a furry lightning-bolt. Heck, I've even made videos of the tiny things, and will share them soon. Just need to upload.

This morning, I saw that the live trap caught two little mouses since I checked yesterday. One had been dead for a while, the other had just died and was cuddling it, nose pressed on top of its dead sibling.
*

Finally, last week, my grandmother Violet McKitterick died. She had been sick for a long time, living in a nursing home, but getting frequent visits from her five children, their partners, and even grandchildren. She hasn't been fully cognizant for a few years, but she seemed to enjoy the company. I thought I'd share a few of memories of my Grandma Vi:

When I was a little boy, especially before I started school or in the summers, I would often stay with Grandma Vi during the day when my parents were at work. I always looked forward to spending time with her. She was so kind and patient, letting me play with Matchbox cars all over the floor, or take apart old clocks or other things so I could figure out how they worked – even if they never did again.

Grandma Vi taught me to paint when I was barely old enough to hold a brush. I remember once, while she was doing rosemaling on the kitchen cupboards, I sat at the table and painted scrap pieces of wood in a similar style. One of these is still around somewhere. It says, "Violet is very beautiful."

In the hot summer when I had trouble falling asleep, Grandma would sometimes gently brush her fingernails along my back, giving me goosebumps so I felt cooler. It was such a comfort.

When I discovered she had played the accordion, I was so proud! It seemed like such a magical and complex instrument that surely she had to be a musical genius to be able to make that thing work.

Most of my earliest memories of Grandma Vi and Grandpa Harvey together were of them laughing and chasing one another around the house. She would laugh and say, "Oh, Harvey!" then giggle and swat at him. This ritual often ended with them scurrying off to the bedroom. They seemed so happy together. I still think of that as a model of how two people in love behave toward one another.
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In other news, I'm still SWAMPED with new-course development. Sorry I've been away for so long! Now I've got to get back to work.

Best,
Chris
Two Drag Club is based in Omaha and rock the house! You can download their songs directly from their website. A live shot:


Click the image to see the story.

Here's what they say about themselves:

After a long trudging practice and neck replacement surgery for our fearless leader, Two Drag Club is preparing to steamroll their brand of rock onto the unassuming public. Lying in wait, ready to pounce on the crowd like Lindsey Lohan on a bottle of vodka. The fellas have fine tuned their rock to a wall of sound the likes of which this community has never heard. All are healthy, hungry, and inspired by the the way Bob practiced with no neck and spine for two weeks, still being able to the rock like people half his age who have all their body parts. Prepare yourself for the inevitable avalanche of rock that is the Two Drag Club. Come see them now so you have the right to say, "I knew them when Bob had no neck, Greg had biceps that were only 24" around, Javier had two kidneys, and you could still see skin on James' arm." Here are some on-line retailers where you can buy our CD (it's under Bob Boyce and the CD name is Two Drag Club): Amazon.com, Ruckus, BuyMusic, Inprodicon, MusicIsHere, Tradebit, Napster, AudioLunchbox, GroupieTunes, Apple iTunes, PayPlay, Verizon, Muze, rVibe, Liquid Digital Media, GreatIndieMusic, iMusica, Bitmunk....

They rock! Check 'em out and enjoy!

Best,
Chris
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