Wednesday, April 28, 2004

OK. More death talk.

Not that I've lost anyone else, I just felt the need to vent about it.


I'm sure almost everyone would agree with that. However, I'm scared stupid by
it. The mystery about the moment of death. What happens afterwards. Whatever
leads up to it. Everything afterwards here in the physical world. EVERYTING.

It started when I was very young and I know exactly who to blame. Garner Ted
Armstrong. If you've never heard the name before, he was a televangelist who was
popular in the 60's and 70's. I did see that his "ministry" still headlines a
television program sandwiched in some horrendous hour in the middle of the night
between infomercials. Which is actually where he belongs.

Armstrong had a radio program on my favorite station back in the early 70's. I
listened to the radio all the time. There was a stretch, during my junior high
school years, when I had been listening so much I went almost 10 days without
sleep. Each night I was listening to and participating in a talk show/trivia
game. It's a little hard to describe, but it was fun and I drove my parents to
distraction by making phone calls to be on the radio in the middle of the night
while they tried to sleep.

At this time my maternal grandmother was dying a slow and ugly death. All I knew
about it was how decrepit she had become and how I hated going to the nursing
home to visit. Not only was she very sick but I also had to deal with seeing
other elderly in all stages of illness and dementia. Not an easy thing for a
child. I persevered because she was my Nanna.

One night I happened upon Armstrong's program and he was spouting some horrible
bile of fire and brimstone. He pained a death in hell, separated from God,
suffering for eternity. It scared the hell out of me. I can recall sitting there
crying as I imagined my Nanna dying and having to go through the same things
this pinhead was describing. I was too young to be able to separate Biblical
mythology from reality. I might not have slept for another 10 days just from the
impact it had on me.

The impact of that on me emotionally lingers to this day. I have tried to take
lessons from my own mothers death and how she faced it with courage and faith
but I still tremble deep inside trying to imagine my own moment of death. All of
the worst case scenarios play out in my head. I don't like pain; so I imagine
all the painful ways to die. I wonder how that final moment feels. I read the
stories about near death experiences and hold on to the hope that those stories
are true. Then I read cynics who debunk them as a shared illusion, which our
brains sift together, all of the Judeo-Christian images for us to soften the
blow of death.

I'm hoping that, as I have seemed to have seen, a certain resignation and
acceptance will settle in long before I say that "big goodbye". That somewhere
along the line I will have the same courage my mother had. Until then I guess
I'll have to live with this dark cloud which haunts the back of my mind ready to
pounce out at me the same way Garner Ted Armstrong's viscous words attacked me
35 years ago.

I know it's not the "Christian" thing to say.....but if there is a painful part
of death, I hope Mr. Armstrong feels a little of what he gave a young boy
listening to the radio in the dark.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

It stinks that my recent posts all have to do with death. But, hey, such is life….right?

I have had two more deaths in relative proximity. Both of which, while not “close” to me, have been parts of my life for almost 30 years.

Larry Arnoff was the father of one of my oldest and best friends. I had met Karen in a junior high school science class. She sat directly across a lab table from me. Even though she started off kicking my shins on a regular basis, we have been the closest of friend ever since. I don’t know when I got to meet Larry for the first time but he certainly made an impression. I was a full-on pubescent who had a thing for his daughter. It seemed as if he used his gruff personality to try to scare me away even though he knew, with a insight I can now see at about the same age, that any “romance” at that age wasn’t going to be around very long. Karen and I went beyond that stage and are now as close as any two people can be. Some years later, Larry looked around and I was still there in his daughter’s life. I think he could see what we meant to each other and decided that it was a good thing. Either that or he just resigned himself to it.

As I grew into adulthood I began to feel a genuine warmth and affection from him. That felt good. I could talk and joke with him on an adult level and that increased the respect I had for him.

He was ALWAYS honest. There was a time, before the birth of my son, when I paid some attention to Karen’s new son. When I told Larry my wife was pregnant he replied with something like, “About time you had a damned family of your own and quit hanging around here!”. He said it with a smile but was am honest reminder that I was finally coming into adulthood. I respected him for that, too.

I will miss you, Larry.

The other loss in my life in the last week was Shirley Maiewski. Our paths crossed each other’s around the same time as Larry. She was one of the organizers of the Star Trek Welcommittee; an early form of Trek fan organization. In my early days of being a fan I read all about how fandom had started and all of these who had “blazed the trail”. I met Shirley for the first time at one of the last “original” cons in New York. I was an awe-struck youth, thankful to her for all she had done for fans and loved the fact that here was an adult reveling in the same things I was.

Years later I became a member of, and eventually president of the Boston Star Trek Association. At the time, it was the largest and oldest Trek club. One of the members was Shirley. We had meetings at her house in rural western Massachusetts every August. These trips became one of the highlights of the year. Not only was it a pilgrimage for any Trekker but it was a visit if a great place. Shirley always welcomed all of us with open arms.

Her home is a beautiful, old farmhouse right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. A large barn sits behind the house and the yard is sheltered by a giant elm. Each trip there was a step into another world. She had one room of the house dedicated to Trek. It was loaded from floor to ceiling with books, toys and paperwork. I’ve only seen pictures of Forey Ackerman’s house, but this room looked to be to be a miniature version.

The BSTA took pride in the fact Shirley was one of our members. She brought a sense of continuity to the “past” of fandom. She was also a great person to know. Her smile was one of the biggest I’ve seen outside of the Osmond family and her hugs were enveloping and warm. She was proof again that you meet some of the best people in Trek fandom.

I’ll miss you, too, Shirley.

Monday, April 05, 2004

My Aunt Mary died over the weekend.

I HATE being in Florida!

Like Ole’ Blue eyes said, “…regrets, I’ve had a few…” Being in Florida is one of mine. Yeah, yeah….I know; I’ve got a good job, good friends and I’m close to my son. However, that doesn’t take away the pangs in my heart for being away from what I will always consider home. Rhode Island is where my family is, for the most part. It is where I grew up and where I had always imagined myself growing old and living out my life.

When my father died I picked up the responsibility of helping out the older family members. First it was my Uncle Kav and Aunt Ruth. I took them to doctor’s visits, had dinner with them, dragged over a VCR and movies to entertain them and spent time with them. Then, as I grew older that responsibility grew. I was always visiting sick family members in the hospital and at home.

Granted, being 1300 miles away from elderly relatives is not a difficult as being 1300 miles away from my son; I know I made the best decision I could have at the time. I still can’t stop the feelings that I had let down part of my familial responsibility. I make regular phone calls and always try to visit the rare times in back home. Of course more and more those visits are solitary ones to graveyards.

I have lots of good memories of my Aunt. When I was young they had a camper parked in the yard which was always filled with my cousin Cindy’s comic books. They were always the same ones and I read them over and over again. There was something different and exciting about just being inside the camper even if it was just sitting on blocks in the back yard covered in leaves. I don’t ever remember seeing that camper actually placed on the back of a pickup to go camping.

The house my uncle built for them was always a place of wonder for me as a child. It was a showplace which my Uncle Jim had designed and built himself. There were little touches which even a young child enjoyed. A laundry chute from the bathroom down to the basement laundry room. The toilet separated in the bathroom by a half wall and my uncle’s workshop in the basement.

The biggest area of mystery to the house was my aunt and uncle’s bedroom. It was separated from the rest of the house by a long, windowless corridor. I was never allowed to go down that corridor as a child. It looked much longer than it actually was. The chair rail and lack of lighting gave it the resemblance to “the last mile” the convicts walked in all those movies I had seen. Years later, when I was in my 30’s, the house was used as a staging/dressing area for one church related appearance or another and I was sent to that bedroom to change. I stopped for a moment at the top of that hallway. For a moment I couldn’t bring myself to take the first steps. I was breaking a lifelong rule, a taboo. The bedroom turned out to be a simple a functional room. That comforted me as my heart beat returned to a more normal level and the adrenaline left my system.

Her door was always open to me. When my parents joined them on cruise vacations I stayed with my cousin. She had a quirky sense of humor but when you were able to get her to laugh or even smile she made the room light up.

She taught me one of my biggest lessons of my youth. I had borrowed some money to help pay a traffic ticket. In my young, male mind I had to have the whole amount paid all at once. So, I kept saving trying to get it all in one lump but never quite making the goal amount. It had never dawned on me, at that age, to pay what I could as I went.

It’s ironic that she would pass with me owing her again. She had helped me out two years ago. I won’t go into the particulars of it, suffice to say I might not have learned that old financial lesson completely. Chalk up another regret, I guess.

I’ll miss you, Auntie Mary.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

April Fool’s Day is my “High Holy Day”!!!! I live for this day!

I revived a 25 year old joke and wore my clothes backwards to work today. I got some very interesting responses. I also did some mischief around the office. On one person’s desk I turned every picture in a frame upside down. I rearranged the keys on another person’s PC keyboard. I sent one friend an hourly sale report which showed she had no sales and I had over 800.

The best of the day was a joke I have been waiting to pull since the day we moved into this new building. There are time clocks, water fountains and urinals which are about 6 inches lower than the rest. This is probably done due to some access law for handicapped employees but it inspired me for something different. We have an employee who is just a little shorter than average. I took his nameplate from his desk and put copies over each of the “shorter” units. I overheard him at lunch asking all over who had done this to him so, apparently, he doesn’t have a clue. I will fess up before the end of the day. It’s a refreshing change to when people usually come running to me first when things like that happen.

My dad would be so proud!!!!