Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Tribute

I have a good excuse for not writing this time around.

Right now, I am sitting on my parent's  couch with my feet up, enjoying their company.  I hadn't planned to come home until Christmas so the trip was definitely a surprise.

Last Thursday morning, my mother called me to inform me that my dad's father was in the hospital.  By the time I made it home Thursday night, I was too late to say goodbye.

It's been a really long couple of days to say the least.

I'm home until next Saturday to spend some time with the family.  I had to leave my baby at home, which was the hardest part of leaving for this long, but work has been flexible and it's nice to have some time to see my grandma and parents.  I can take comfort in the fact that I have seen my grandpa every time I have been home in the last couple of years, but seeing that I live across the country from him, that's not saying much. 

He was an incredible little man, even if he came across as cranky most of the time.  He was independent and stubborn to a fault and it's been difficult to watch him failing in the last couple of years.  My grandfather never outgrew the childish twinkle in his eyes - his sense of humor was still quick and witty even if it took him much longer to shuffle his way across the house than when I was a child.  He insisted the day he went into the hospital that he get a haircut.  I will always think he knew something was coming.  Grandpa was gruff sometimes but we always knew that he loved us and that he was proud of all that we accomplish.  He could do crossword puzzles better than anyone I've ever met.  When I was a child, he smoked a pipe filled with cherry-flavored tobacco and though he quit years ago, I will always walk into my grandparents' dining room expecting to see him sitting at his place at the dining room table, doing his puzzles, sorting through papers, and smoking his pipe.  Over the last couple of days, I have remembered so many tiny moments with him - the time as a child that I saved sticks from our backyard and gave him kindling for Christmas, the hundreds of fish fries that I have enjoyed with him and grandma at the bar, the hours spent at their home just spending time with them.

Needless to say, the loss will be felt by my entire family for years to come.  Even though he was aging... even though his last memories where of dinner at this favorite bar, with a steak in his mouth and a drink in front of him... even though it was clearly his time... this really isn't easy for anyone.  Death never is.  But he lived a long and fruitful life and saw so many things that many people only dream of.

We love you, Grandpa.  You will be missed.  You already are.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm Over Simplifying the Horror Tonight...

I read a book a few weeks ago that I just realized last night I never wrote about.  Since it's stuck with me this long and I'm still thinking about it, it's worth writing about.

While not a light read by any means, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood certainly makes you think.  It was published in 1985 but takes place in the "near future" - although while reading the book there are times when one thinks the book is set either in the past or in a third-world country.  The basic premise is that an extremist group overthrows the US government and forces women to take a lesser place in society - well, those in power claim they are protecting the woman and all that jazz, but being taken away from your husband and child and forced to serve as a concubine in hopes that a man in power can bring more off-spring into this world doesn't sound like "protection" to me.

It freaked me out a little bit.  Not that a modern day society could look at women in such a backward light, because that's happening all over the world as we speak.  But that such an extreme viewpoint could so easily take over!  There's a passage in the book that describes times during the woman's "past life" and she talks about how everyone purchased goods using an electronic banking system that was controlled by the government.  When the extremists got some power, they basically turned off female's ability to use their electronic accounts, thereby rendering them powerless in a capitalist driven society.  I'm over simplifying it but it's disturbing - and I write that I as think about how many times I'm casually swiped my debit card this month.  I don't have a man who could control my finances.  I would be swooped up as a concubine, or some equally ridiculous position, immediately for sure.  I pity the man that tried to tell me that I was only good for bearing children.

I don't know that I really have a point here.  I just think it's worth a read if you want to think about where society is heading and how fragile our lives as we know it are.  Again, there are people all over the world that understand this already.  But for some reason, most Americans are remarkably resilient.  What if something so catastrophic happened that as a culture we were not able to bounce back?  I think it'll stick with me the way that the movie Children of Men has.  I mean, that wasn't even that good of a movie but it gets stuck in my brain on a regular basis and I start thinking "what if life were really like that?"  That would really suck.

The Wikipedia description of this book is hilarious!  I'm pretty sure radical feminists wrote the whole thing.  The whole point of the book is that it's a white, rich, male-dominated society and women, children, minorities, and anyone else not fitting the norm have been stripped of all power - I think most of you got that from my rather lame-o description above.  It's rather unnecessary to describe the new government  as "founded by a racist, male chauvinist, nativist, theocratic-organized military coup as an ideologically-driven response to the pervasive ecological, physical and social degradation of the country."  I think we get the point.  I mean, that's just my opinion and maybe I'd feel differently if the only way I knew anything about this book was through the Wikipedia page.  But I like books.  I'd rather read the book and find that out for myself than read it on Wikipedia.  Seriously.  Chill out people.  This book is disturbing but it's a work of fiction.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Worlds, Friends, Memories Lost

Blah, blah, blah... I have been neglecting my blog again.  That's a trend from previous attempts to blog that I was hoping to change this time around.  No such luck.  I've also been neglecting my books - except those that are work related - and I'm feeling the void.  My flowers are hitting their end of summer slump so even my patio isn't looking so pretty these days.  My apologies to all of my friends out there who have also been neglected.  I missed so many birthdays in the last few weeks and that makes me a horrible person.  Or a distracted person but whatever.

It's Labor Day and I have (most of) the day off.  I would love to be spending today at a ball park or at the fair or something equally as full of friends, laughter, and beer.  Instead, I'm cooped up at home with the cat.  Allergy season has attacked me full force this year and I'm finally recovering.  It's about time.  I've been a sneezing, sloppy mess the last few weeks.  And grumpy from lack of sleep, to say the least.

The only work of fiction I've read lately that is of note has left me feeling extra nostalgic.  I volunteered to participate in a first-year engagement book project that Transy created for it's incoming students and the book we read was fabulous.  A World Lost, by Wendell Berry, may not be the most widely read nor the most exciting book I've ever mused over, but it is calming and charming, both things that I need in my life most days.  It is about a boy whose uncle dies while he is young.  As an adult, he looks back at his childhood and reflects on what sort of person this uncle was.  Perhaps because he doesn't want to understand the negatives, or perhaps because childhood is usually viewed through an overly innocent lens, the man grew up idolizing an uncle who by most accounts was not exactly a role model. 

The book made me think about all of the things I have lost - people, friends, past lives that I have left behind when I move on - and how I view these lost things.  I've discussed this to a point in an earlier post, but this book made me think about it all again.  Except this time, I'm missing people that are truly gone or whose relationships are beyond repair.  When we look back, we always remember the good.  It's not that we forget about the bad times, but how often do we sit home dreaming about a past life we've lived and think about all of the times we were disappointed?  Instead, we focus on what made us happy, made us laugh.

Maybe it's because today is a day for family and friends and I'm in short supply of those in this part of the country.  Maybe I'm just stuck in a funk.  But this book is stuck in my brain.  Even happy-go-lucky movies haven't knocked it out of me.  Tomorrow I have to lead a discussion about the book with six new students.  I'm excited because I love hearing others' perspectives on things that I have loved but it's a bit frightening at the same time.  What if I can't help them see the flaws in our memories or get them to realize that a rather slow moving book really can inform how we look at the world around us?  I can't get myself to remember either of these things on a regular basis, so am I really equipped to help others?

The answer, of course, is yes.  That's what this blog is all about.  Furthermore, that's what teaching is all about and we all know that I want to inspire great thinking and learning some day.  The best way to learn something is to teach it, and I'm ready to teach that small group even just a small lesson.

As for today, I need to get out of here.  My balcony has a beautiful breeze and the sun is shining.  But sitting here, hidden away from the world, enjoying some snuggles with Lady Loo isn't really going to shake me from these memories, now is it?  Maybe I'll go run some errands, get out for a walk in the park, or maybe I won't heed my own advice and I'll go cuddle on the couch some more.  For today, it might be enough to recognize that I need to shake this feeling of loss and stop looking back for what can never be again.  Many of the people and places I'm mourning simply don't exist anymore - either because they're truly gone from this earth or because I'm not the same person I was at that time.  And even for someone with a great imagination, maybe especially for someone like that, it's never good to sit and think about might-have-beens and used-to-bes.
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