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Sitting in the dark

Empty LakeA month or so ago, I posted a picture to Facebook with the caption: “in over my head.” I think it sounded like I was lost, or any number of things other than what I intended, without the context of the pictures I posted before (which I suspect slipped past many folks). We were on a camping trip, visiting a place that goes much of the way back to me and Cheryl’s childhood. The first time we visited this large state park, out in the middle of North Florida Nowhere, we were students at UF. It was one of the few places I could go with Cheryl and just sit, relaxing.

She’s not one for sitting around, that one.

This recent trip was nostalgic – and incredibly sad. What made the park a wonder was the interaction between the land and water, the contradictions that make Florida ecology a delicious, but acquired taste.

In spots, relatively high land can look dry and tortured – both by the semi-arid conditions and the periodic fires which sweep through. But hike a quarter mile down and you might find yourself stepping carefully down into a ravine, the temperature just slightly cooler… the air just slightly more humid… and the land MUCH more green and lush. Coming to an abrupt end, clear water trickles from spots in a steep, shaded hillside, which has eroded backwards over the years, and accumulates into a clear stream at the bottom. As simple and unassuming a place it is, few places on Earth look (or make me feel) more alive. Follow this stream a couple miles into the park and you find the lake in the picture below.

Well, there was a time you could.

So here’s what I was trying to say with this picture: I was standing in what was once a lake bed, and (almost) twenty years ago I would have been in water over my head.

Pretty deep, I know.

Sorry.

As is my way, there were a bunch of things I was saying silently to myself. No amount of context would have dipped you into that stream of consciousness. I’ll get to my inner dialog in a second, but if you would first indulge a little cathartic swearing… fuck me. Take a look at this picture, taken in roughly the same direction, from what was then (in 1998) the lake shore:

Full Lake

Yep, there’s a lot less water flowing over the surface of northern Florida. The morning was filled with scenes like this (the first picture, not the one with all of the water), and I was in mourning. As the sun rose over a much drier Florida than I remembered, my mood felt darker – though not just because of that morning. I think it’s something that’s grown steadily worse for about the last seven years – though it got MUCH worse this last year… and Jesu Fucking Cristo, God help me worse in the last couple of months.

Go back and ask the November 2008 Edition of Me about the state of things, and I would have been really worried about the economic rubble strewn around me, but I couldn’t have been much more optimistic about the state of society as a whole. Heck, I was thinking about going back to church – and did, for a little while. A black man had been elected President and I thought human kindness had turned a corner.

The November 2016 Edition of Me felt like human kindness had been tortured, humiliated, and tossed into a dumpster fire.


I’d hoped to write more than this, but that’s about all I can take right now. I’m gonna go hide for the rest of the evening/night, and see how I feel tomorrow – JK

Thinking thoughts while tired

Where do I begin?

Life is a kick in the ass. Sometimes it’s a kick you need or in hindsight, maybe even wanted. Other times it’s just a fucking kick.

Above all, life is exactly what your parents tell you it is: not fair. Some of us are kicked down, hard and often. Some of us get the kick we need, over and over, and never get the message. Some are fortunate not to need a kick of any kind. Others… well, it’s all we can do not to give them a kick ourselves.

You might want to give me one now, to see if it would shake some sense out of me or into this little post.

There are moments in life I desperately wish I could describe, something I think is a product of all that kicking – or being kicked. The best my feeble mind can come up with is emotional overload, though that’s not quite it either. It makes it sound bad, yet in many ways it’s the opposite. There’s the moment when you’ve spent 36 hours in the hospital with a loved one, watching them suffer, knowing there’s nothing you can really do – then your child is born. Once in a great while, there’s a moment towards the end of a special story when an author brings you to this place through the experience of his or her characters.

At these times I’m moved to tears which flow freely. For a brief moment I think I may understand the range and complexity of human emotion, in ways I thought I had before, but really only scratched the surface.

It passes but it leaves something behind. I feel raw but richer.

Adam saw me this evening after such a moment and I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried to reassure him nothing was wrong. I tried to explain some of what I’m telling you now. Two things occurred to me. One, that I’m not doing a very good job of describing anything; and two, that he may not be ready. He may not be ready for many years.

He needs to be kicked around more… live more life, wander the experience of others, and exercise those emotional muscles, hopefully building a strong sense of empathy.

Then, some years down the road, maybe I’ll be able to look back and know I have done my job as a parent right.

Maybe I’ll have another one of those tearful moments for myself.

The Facebook reply that wasn’t

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the mostly absent author of this site. The name’s John, but my friends call me John.

I have not said much about the looming election, mostly for mental health reasons. That’s not meant to be a joke. I’ve started a few dozen posts – I think. I’ve lost track. I’ve always given up less than a few sentences in, already emotionally spent.

But time is running short.

Increasingly, I feel like I should – not because the masses are clamoring for me to endorse – but because I have a conscience. These are a couple of paragraphs I was going to share (lift/steal – though attributed, of course) from writer John Scalzi, in response to some random person’s ranting elsewhere in social media. I didn’t. That way leads not to good mental health. But I share them with you now, my friends. Before you ask, let me say: yes, I do agree with the things he’s writen. I’d only ask in return, out of respect for me (if I deserve it, as I hope I do) to read and consider his words – to give them some benefit of doubt, if your instinct is to doubt.

Mr Scalzi:

This should not be a close contest. That it is a close contest (right now) is a testament first to the twenty-five years that the GOP and conservatives have spent demonizing Hillary Clinton, and second to the effectiveness of the GOP and conservatives in creating an epistemic bubble inside which millions of (largely white, largely older, largely less educated) people live, trained to be suspicious of facts, trained to see political opponents as traitors, trained to be afraid first and anything else after that.

And yes! When you say those things in sequence out loud, it sounds ridiculous! But yet here we are in 2016 with Donald Trump, ignorant, hateful, horribly afraid Donald Trump, as the Republican candidate for president. He didn’t appear out of nowhere. The way was prepared for him over decades, by people who couldn’t see that they’d laid the way for an incipient demagogue who would have no loyalty to them or their political goals, such as they were. They didn’t see that the person who would be tasked to stand in his way is the person they’d spent a quarter century convincing those in bubble land is one of the gravest threats to America that had ever put on a sensible pantsuit ensemble.

… no one should be complacent about this election. Register to vote. If your state is making it difficult for you to vote, know now so that well ahead of election day you can jump through all the stupid, intentionally-placed hoops preventing you from registering.

I’d be more than happy to discuss any aspect of this post, privately or in public. It’s often said that much is at stake in national elections, but I think it’s especially true this year.

Notes from the surgi-center

Methinks the invention of the outpatient surgery center is the best thing to happen to Western Civ since artificial flavoring. I can’t substantiate this claim. I can’t explain myself. I didn’t give it any more thought than it took to move my fingers across the keyboard.

That’s right. I’m in random thoughts mode.

How is this any different than the other 23 hours of the day, John?

Do you say ah-loo-min-um or ah-loo-min-ah-min-ah-mum? I find it best to alternate randomly between the two – to keep folks on their toes, but your mileage may vary. Mayhaps you don’t find it necessary to say aluminum at all, but who asked you?

Oh yeah, that’s right.

I’m anoyed by my own phone making noises when I type. It’s the first setting I turn off on a new phone, or whenever someone lets me borrow their phone. Man, does that piss people off. So imagine how I feel in the surgi-center lobby, surrounded by folks (who otherwise had the good sense to buy an iOS device) with the clicking sound turned on. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine it sounds nothing like an old-school news room.

What?

I miss having my daughter around. That’s not meant to be funny.

Deep, yeah?

Why am I at a surgi-center on this fine Thursday morning? It’s nothing serious so don’t worry. I’m the designated driver for someone having an injection for back pain – an injection of the going deep kind.

An epidural? Why didn’t you just say “epidural,” John?

Hell if I know.

Potty mouth.

Did you know surgi-centers are the new coffee house for the 21st century? I’d swear I recognize half a dozen folks hanging out over by the window. Coincidence? I wonder how often I could pull off coming here to hang out, drinking the free coffee, before someone called security?

Is that them now

  

CRAP!

Sorry for the potty mouth, but I just realized my last few updates from yesterday somehow didn’t make it online. I didn’t mean to leave you hanging – like it seems I did – and I feel bad. I did most of this from my MacBook (trusty MarsEdit), but I switched to the WordPress app on my phone after I left the lobby/waiting room.

Everything I did on my phone somehow didn’t make it. Worse, the changes I made from my phone this morning (adding a link to a new post this morning) seems to have erased these updates. Well, here’s what I wrote… for what it’s worth (now), as best as I can recall.

I’ve also updated the post from yesterday here – so you can see the updates in their context.

 

2:06 p.m.

It’s been a long day yet it seems it’s only a little more than half finished. Cheryl’s sleeping for the moment and I’d really like to do the same.

I’m ready to call it a day. I’ll post something brief tomorrow to let you know how she’s doing.

 

1:45 p.m. (recovery)

The bandages are striking. I’d like to post pictures but Cheryl’s likely reply (if I could ask) would go something like this:

Divor… no… death… would be too good for you, and not nearly good enough for me.

If I DID post a picture without asking would likely involve something I can’t discuss on a family website.

Alas, I give in to temptation.

 

1:15 p.m. (recreated from memory and post fragments I could pull from my phone)

I finally got the call. She’s in recovery and awake enough for me to see her. I’m on my way up.

Going home

Cheryl is going home. Without going into too many details, the doctor had to cut more, the surgery took longer, and there’s more pain than expected. That said, this procedure was purely cosmetic (to cover the larger than expected hole in her head), so the prognosis is excellent, and she’ll have hair over all of the spots on her head where you’re supposed to have hair.

Best of all right now, we’re going home soon. She’ll be in pain the next couple of days, but hopefully it will start to subside sooner – and mostly, she’s managing it now.

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Live-Blogging Cheryl’s Surgery

The promised update

2:06 p.m.

It’s been a long day yet it seems it’s only a little more than half finished. Cheryl’s sleeping for the moment and I’d really like to do the same.

I’m ready to call it a day. I’ll post something brief tomorrow to let you know how she’s doing.

 

1:45 p.m. (recovery)

The bandages are striking. I’d like to post pictures but Cheryl’s likely reply (if I could ask) would go something like this:

Divor… no… death… would be too good for you, and not nearly good enough for me.

If I DID post a picture without asking would likely involve something I can’t discuss on a family website.

Alas, I give in to temptation.

 

1:15 p.m. (recreated from memory and post fragments I could pull from my phone)

I finally got the call. She’s in recovery and awake enough for me to see her. I’m on my way up.

 

12:41 p.m. (…)

Here’s the patient status, according to the hospital: “Citrix receiver is unable to make a connection to the server.”

DOAH!

 

12:36 p.m. (staring at a piece of lint)

Staring or starring. That is the question.

Dad! Are we there YET?

 

12:31 p.m. (…)

Help me. I can’t take another minute of Divorce Court. The lobby staff tell me to wait another 15 minutes or so and they’ll call up for Cheryl’s status – if I haven’t heard by then.

 

12:10 p.m. (impatient)

There’s still no word on when I can go up, which is clearly NOT cool. Don’t they know this is about ME? Yeah, yeah. Cheryl had surgery. She got to sleep all this time. How ’bout a little love for the folks who had to spend all of this time listening to morning television. Come on, man!

 

11:16 a.m. (back from Starbucks)

What do you call two cups of coffee, an energy drink, and a big-ass coffee from Starbucks?

Breakfast AND lunch.

I’m on campus (something I’ve done not more than a dozen times since graduation) and I just heard from an old college friend for the first time in 25 years (mol). That right there is pretty cool, but I can top it. I got word from Cheryl’s surgeon. She’s out of surgery, awake, and doing well! It didn’t go perfect and she may have to spend the night as a precaution, but things sound pretty good.

 

10:18 a.m.

Did I just hear there’s a Starbucks? Good Lord, I need me some coffee.

 

10:15 a.m.

As luck would have it, right after I made my comment about asking permission, I got a reminder why I should. In between entries I’m researching IP blocking, while thinking about it’s ultimate futility. Good times.

 

9:59 a.m. (waiting room)

Let there be no mistake, I’d drop this little distraction like an ice cube dipped in hot lube, but the television is turned up loud enough to project to the back of the room. I wonder why everyone is sitting back there?

 

9:50 a.m. (surgical waiting room)

F@#!, what I wouldn’t give for a pair of Fox-Cancelling headphones.

 

9:32 a.m. (now I smell like a food court)

I just got word from Nurse Jeanne – the surgeon made his first cut. We’re on our way!

Question: Did I ask Cheryl before I decided to Live-Blog her surgery?

Why would I start asking now?

 

9:06 a.m. (still in the food court)

You asked for it and by golly, I’m gonna give it to you!

Long story not so long: Cheryl had a mild case of skin cancer on her scalp. Now, most folks would have the good sense to have their skin cancer on an easy to reach spot – like their forehead. But not our Cheryl – she had it above her ear, on the side of her head – under her hair.

Before you ask… no, it’s not easy to get skin cancer under your hair.

They cut it out last week but it left a bigger hole than they thought, so they did about what you’d expect a doctor to do after surgery – they left an open hole in her head. It was exactly as fun as a hole in your head.

Thank you. I’ll be here all day.

She saw a plastic surgeon Monday morning who promptly scheduled her for surgery this morning. To borrow a phrase from the movies (the military flavor), it was scheduled for 0:God it’s early.

Now that the cancer part is gone, the goal is to close the hole in a way that won’t leave a tennis-ball-sized bald spot on the side of her head. Personally, I think it would be a bold move. How often do you get the chance to be a trend setter? I’ll admit, covering a tennis-ball-sized spot in the middle of your head is the safe move, but even men with bad genes can grow hair on the side of their head.

 

8:16 a.m. (Shands Hospital food court)

This is going to be exactly the right amount of fun. I’ve got coffee, a personal hotspot, good cell service – and oh, that’s right – a wife in surgery to plug a hole in her head.

All I need now is a power outlet, someone to lend me a few power cables, and better meds. Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit taking benzos.

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Shared experience

As we were leaving the stadium last night, bouncing along with the jubilant chants of: It’s GREAT to BE a Florida GATOR, I bent over and said into Adam’s ear, “you could go to a hundred more games and not see another one like this one.”

He didn’t hear me. I couldn’t hear myself.

“WHAT?”

“I SAID,” now yelling into his ear, “YOU COULD GO TO A HUNDRED MORE GAMES AND NOT SEE ONE LIKE THIS.”

His big smile told me what I’ve known a time or two myself. So what? This is awesome right now! This almost eleven year old boy pumped his fist in the air, chanting along with the crowd in the tunnel leading out of the stadium.

It’s GREAT to BE a Florida GATOR!

I’m hours removed but the electricity of that moment still gives me chills. If the past is a guide, it will for a long time.

There are moments in life that seem hard-wired into your brain. Life’s current passes through and the moment is reborn – the sights, sounds, smells, feelings… even the monumental headache you had – it all comes rushing back. Yesterday evening might have been pretty normal for you, but I was having one of those rewiring moments.

Cheryl and I took Adam to see the Gators play Tennessee yesterday evening. For those of you who may not already know, it was a college football game.

Yes, I know. It seems a bit shallow to attribute so much meaning to a violent game. I generally accept that it is just a game, except when it’s not. When you’re there, you’re a small part of ninety thousand loosely connected souls, pooling their collective hope, fear, elation, and despair. My sense of connection to a place of unique significance in my life tangled among these shared emotions. Before the game we walked around campus, soaking in the game day atmosphere and memories. We walked down paths last walked when Cheryl and I were two kids newly in love, living on our own for the first time in our lives.

We watched the band warming up in groups by Turlington Hall and around the music building. We weaved around the tailgaters who had taken over campus. We did it as adults, all the more special because we were making new memories with our son.

The game was a classic. Down by what seemed like too many points at the end of three quarters, we thought about leaving. It had been a hot afternoon, thunderstorms looked to be heading our way, and I had that headache. But we stayed. We saw the Gators win by one as the clock expired. Hope grew from a string of unlikely plays and some good fortune. As low as the crowd was with about seven minutes left, it was electric the rest of the way. We flipped between hope, elation, disappointment, and back again (in those seven minutes) more times than I might in several months. I forgot about my headache for a little while.

When another desperation play on fourth and long turned into the go ahead score with a minute left, the crowd lost its mind like few times I can remember. Strangers yelled, high-fived technically high-tens (with two hands), and hugged. Jumping and screaming ourselves horse, Adam I and I turned to high-ten. We exchanged some skin on our palms several times until I remembered I’m twice as tall as Adam, and he might not appreciate the pile driving I was giving him sometime later. We hugged and jumped with the crowd, using free hands to keep slapping strangers around us in the mindless celebration. When UT missed the second of two long field goal tries by inches (the second only possible because UF called time out right before the first – much to the crowd’s dread), we did it all again.

It’s just a game, except when it’s not.

We were all still awake late last night. Adam and I made crowd noises at each other, stopped, and just grinned. Yep, the chills were still there. They may be for a long time. Doing it with my kid, treating him to the same (shared) experience made it a hundred times better.

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Moving Day

Today is a right of passage, as much for the parents as the child.

Beth is moving out today. I drove down from Gainesville last night and we’re moving Beth’s stuff out of the home we made at Christy and Mike’s big house in Orlando (my sister and brother-in-law), across town to her dorm on campus at UCF.

Jesus, is it THAT day already?

I have a number of colorful metaphors swirling around in my head, but this is a family web site so I’ll spare you. A number of cliches, tropes, and banal phrases accompany these metaphors, but they seem WAY more profound than they did even a day ago. I might have explored some of these feelings in this post, but I’m suddenly pressed for time. As Beth might say, “I’m, like, LITERALLY minutes away from needing to get ready to go.”

Alright, maybe just a couple, to sate appetite for schmaltz. My oldest child… for many years my only child… is striking out on her own today. She’s leaving the nest. The daily interactions with my child we can easily take for granted – morning and evening routines, etc – are at an end (for the foreseeable future). I will still have some impact/influence on her life, but in some ways my job is done. No, it will never be done. I’m not that naive. But it suddenly seems overwhelming – it seems there are so many ways in which we either did our jobs as parents or didn’t, and this is the beginning of our Final Exam. Will she be prepared or won’t she? Dear Lord, I hope we did enough.

I hope she’s ready.

I hope she’ll be happy.