22 June 2014

Random thoughts from 37,000 feet over Nevada

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I haven’t written a blog post in a very long time.  It’s not that I’ve nothing to write about – far from it – but I’ve very few moments where I have both the energy and inclination to write about our lives, our activities, music, politics, et.c.

Part of that may be the result of Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media.  I’ll confess to be engaged – perhaps too engaged – by them.  And while there is satisfaction from the bon mots and instant response of Facebook and other media, the deep satisfaction of writing, and editing, and posting, and going back and reading is lost. 

Part of it is my work is different.  I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to serve as the Chief Information Officer for the Administration for Community Living.  To say that it’s changed my life is an understatement.  The demands of the work are completely different that anything I’ve ever done before, both in terms of the scope of the work, and what’s expected of the team I work with, and of me.  Most of the time, it feels like I’ve put on an exquisitely tailored suit that fits me perfectly, and that I wear with pride.  Once in a while, I feel like a complete imposter. 

And while my personal blog was and is deeply satisfying as a creative outlet and personal expression, the creative impulse I’ve always had gets satisfied both from my professional work, as well as other outlets – our work in clay, our house and garden, our animal companions, and the ever deepening relationship with my partner and love of my life, Graham. 

I spent the first part of this trip from Washington, DC to Los Angeles working and sleeping.  It’s only been in the last hour that I’ve stolen a few moments and the last of my laptop’s battery to write this.  As it is, we’re descending into the LA basin.  I’m facing getting off a delightful and uneventful flight, and jumping into the rugby scrum of a work lunch, getting a hair cut and manicure, navigating a bed and breakfast check in, picking up Nancy Workman, going to a cocktail party at Michael Bruce Abelson’s house, and reuniting with Occidental College classmates, some of whom I haven’t seen in 30 year, and spending the weekend in LA.  Honestly, it’s a little terrifying and a little satisfying.  And at the end of it, I may have one or two more things to say. 

14 October 2013

Not the only one

John Boehner may be the worst Speaker of the House of Representatives ever to serve.  I'm not the only one who thinks so:  http://capitalgainsandgames.com/blog/stan-collender/2749/cliffgate-will-be-boehners-waterloo.

I've made the comment that if Boehner choose to act rationally, and allow a clean CR and debt limit bill to the floor for a vote, the measure will pass with a majority of Democratic and Republican Representatives voting for the measure.  Boehner will immediately be challenged as Speaker by one or more members of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party.  He cannot receive a majority of the votes required for him to remain speaker.  He will be replaced, although it's far from clear who will succeed him, and if it will be a Republican or a Democrat.

If Boehner brings measures to the floor with Tea Party inserted "poison pills" for votes, they will not pass the Senate nor be signed by the White House.  The United State Government will remain shut, and the country will default on all or part of its debt.  Boehner will lose the Speaker's chair, and be largely responsible for the default of the United States and all of its intended and unintended consequence. 

With the first, he maintains a tiny modicum of respect and capability; with the second, he becomes one of the most reviled figures in American history and politics.  Should be a pretty simple choice.

11 October 2013

Enough with the false equivalence!

So after listening to the "good" news all morning that the Democrats and Republicans are reaching compromise on both a budget and a debt limit increase, let me point out this: The FY 2014 Budget was proposed by President Obama in February. There were *seven months* to work out details about what should and should not have been funded. The Democratic-controlled Senate presented all the FY 2014 appropriations bills to the House in a timely manor. The chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Paul Ryan, obstructed every effort to have them considered. That, by the way, is when and where spending priorities, including defunding (and de-authorizing) programs is supposed to take place. Apparently Congressmen Boehner and Ryan never learned from "I'm a Bill."

The Republican leadership of the House of Representatives have failed at the *one thing* they are supposed to do. I'm disgusted that the media, and collectively, all of us, continue to allow them to fail. And no, the blame does not belong on "both side" of the aisle. Enough with the false equivalence.

Extortion is extortion. It's a criminal activity. So is conspiracy. Let's call out the conspirators and perpretrators, and both prosecute and work to make sure they loose their elected positions.

29 September 2013

Regular broadcasts will resume in the near future

It's been almost a year since I last wrote for the blog.  Unlike Joan Didion or Nancy Stearns Bercaw, I created no "Year of Magical Thinking" or "Brain in a Jar: A Daughter's Journey through her Father's Memory."  I did make some good bowls and bottles.  I found a new job.  We completed the first year of puppy parenthood.  And more than anything else, both Graham and I are building the new normal.  More will follow. 

02 October 2012

Grief Roller Coaster

There's a Zen koan:  when doing hard practice, expect the weird.

And then there's this:  When you meet the Master in the road, he will hit you in the mouth with a stick.

Both of these apply to my grief.

A short chronicle of what I've experienced to date:  Rage.  Anxiety.  Fatigue.  Nausea.  Fear.  Mania. 

I thought that Virginia's death would be an end.   I thought the grieving that we'd experienced in the last three years of her life, of the constant sense of losing pieces of what made Virginia and the pain that loss caused me would dissipate.  I was wrong.

The grief has begun to manifest itself in ways I never expected.  I've known depression and anxiety before -- hell, I've been treated for them.  Grief is different.  Grief comes to you at the moments you least expect it, and slaps you in the face.  Grief hides like a cat under the bed, and springs out and sets his claws in your leg, regardless of whether you've done anything to provoke him.  Grief hijacks your birthday, and reduces you to tears when you realize the one phone call and birthday card that followed you all your life to this moment won't be coming this year. 

Intellectually and emotionally, I know that doing anything to numb the grieving process is counterproductive.  And my grief isn't absolutely debilitating: I get up, get daily activities under way, experience the joy of walking the dog and sharing coffee with Graham -- life is beginning to go on. 

But I'm stymied by other, simple things.  And complicated issues that require real thought and persistence terrify me, and drive me literally to seek distraction. 

I know this will pass.  But while it's here with me, grief is the new normal.  And friends, it sucks big time.

14 September 2012

Excitement in the neighborhood

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For the record:  No answer from PEPCO, and busy signal from District 911. 

12 September 2012

The Princess





On her way home

My name is Bootsy Collie, baby
 The cute, it burns!


28 August 2012

Last Words

My comments at VJC's funeral Mass and memorial service.  I think they're worth sharing.

Thank you all for attending Virginia’s funeral Mass, and for your love, prayers and support for us and for each other as we today commend her to God.

My mother was an extraordinary woman. She was complicated. She was compassionate. She was demanding – of herself and of all of us. She was broken. She healed and was herself healed. She taught and she learned. She gave us all many gifts of herself – for which we are deeply grateful.

I’ll share three stories from our life that for me capture Virginia’s spirit and being.

In 1977, the Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing received their first computers. No one –faculty, staff, or students – knew what to do with them. I’d been taking programming classes at OMSI for some time, so I was drafted to help set up the two computers and find ways for students to use them – which I was able to do, thanks in part to watching Virginia prepare for and teach her students. After I’d set up the computers, I asked my mother if she’d like to learn to use them. She looked at me with a certain contempt and steely resolve: “No Scott. What on earth could a machine do to help me or my nursing students take care of patients better?”

Well.

That look, and her tone said a lot, as did the words. I’m sure that some of you will agree, 35 years later, that Virginia was at least in part correct.

One thing about Virginia that many of you may not know was her love of speed. She loved moving quickly – running, swimming and skiing when she was younger, walking and driving when she was older. In 1985, she bought a new car – a maroon Saab 900 – and we were driving to San Francisco to visit her sister. Driving down Interstate 5, just past the California boarder, Mom turned to me and said, “Let’s see how fast the car will go.”

Cat, Catnip. I pushed the pedal to the floor. The car accelerated and soon we were traveling over 100 mph. The stereo was playing Ella Fitzgerald and Andre Previn performing Gershwin. Not surprisingly, we soon saw flashing lights in the rear view mirror. We pulled over, and the California Highway Patrol officer walked up to the car. I rolled down the driver’s side window, and spoke to the officer.

Officer: “Hello. Did you know how fast you were going?”

Scott: “Officer, I believe we were going about 110 miles per hour.”

Virginia – leaning across me to speak to the officer, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye: “Officer, I asked my son to see how fast the car would go.”

Officer – trying to contain his laughter: “Ma’am, I see. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

We received a $25 ticket for exceeding the 55 mile per hour speed limit. We immediately paid it at the Shasta County Courthouse, and continued to San Francisco driving no more than 60 miles per hour.

But Virginia knew how fast her car could go.

One other moment to share: My mother’s body was truly a broken vessel – she had broken her neck, she was a cancer survivor, she had osteoarthritis, and had multiple surgeries and joint replacements – but she wasn’t about to let any of that stop her. Until very late in her life, she kept up a schedule of activities that would make many younger people – including me – exhausted.

Mom loved Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge, and spent many hours in the lodge while I was skiing as a child. My partner Graham and I were visiting her five years ago, and had planned a trip to visit Timberline Lodge with her – knowing that it was far from the most friendly place for someone with significant limitations in mobility. After arriving there, Virginia was bound and determined to revisit most of the places that she knew and loved from long ago. And she did – ascending and descending stairs that we thought would stop her.

When we asked her how she was able to do all that she did without assistance, she said with a twinkle in her eye, a smile, and a hint of the pain she was undoubtedly experiencing: “Oh, I save up my energy for those things that are really special.”

And again: Well.

While we have lost Virginia’s physical presence, her spirit and her indomitable energy will always be with us. We owe it to her to find and express our spirit and our energy, and to teach our families and students and colleagues how to be so engaged, and so part of the world as was Virginia Jean Cory.

24 August 2012

Going Home

Home is moving with the motion of Delta Flight 1664, as Graham and I are respectively in Seats 6 and 5 D. We’re somewhere over Michigan, and Aimee Mann’s “I’m with Stupid” is entertaining me as I write this. Tick Tock bin Trouble will need to wait one more day for his human companions to get home.

Virginia died eight days ago. In the last nine days Graham and I have: organized and endured traveling across country; dealt with the disposition of Virginia’s body and remaining personal effects; planned and announced not one funeral but a funeral Mass and a memorial service; learned the difference between a funeral Mass, a funeral Mass with Rosary, a funeral Mass with Eucharist, a memorial service, and random remembrances of the dead; made endless phone calls to people I hadn’t spoken to in years, if ever; fought with the funeral home and the funeral director; ate absurdly good food at some of Portland’s finest restaurants; used Facebook to inform the world of my mother’s life and death; broken a quarantine of my mother’s community to have a punk rock memorial service lead by an 83 year old Benedictine priest; greeted and consoled more than a hundred mourners; visited Mt. Hood and Hood River; and occasionally slept.
 
I’m confident that none of the above can be described as grieving.

There’s more to do closing out the details of Virginia’s life. There’s a life of our own to resume – reboot, even – as my mother’s increasing infirmity over the last three years had by the end of her life all but consumed our lives.

I know that’s not grieving, either.

Virginia said that her death would allow her to go home. There’s still work for me to do to accept that she’s gone home, and to reorganize life so it can support our home – which is wherever we are.

15 August 2012

“She died peacefully in her sleep.”

I’ve imagined hearing those words for a long time about my mother. I’ve wanted to hear those words. Frankly, anyone who loves a friend or family member or spouse should want to hear those words.

I woke up to those words this morning. Racing against my mother’s failing strength and will, the cumulative delays of travel kept me from reaching her side before she died.

I have no remorse, guilt, or regret at not being at her side when VJC died. For the last five years, we’ve agreed that every time we said good-bye might well be the last time we would see each other. Living in where we did, with lives that we loved, meant that it would take extraordinary luck to be in the same place at the moment of her death. Having said good-bye last Thursday, and spoken on Sunday afternoon, there was no sense of anything left unsaid by either of us. We touched, we connected, we parted physically, but never emotionally or spiritually.

For every time my mother asked and cadged at moving from Oregon to Washington, DC to be closer to Graham and me (and the prompts were frequent, unrealistic, and not intended to produce any result but more frequent visits to her), fear of being alone at the moment of her death was not ever discussed or hinted at as a reason to move closer. Both Virginia and I knew that regardless of the cause, her natural death was likely to happen quietly and without us being present.

Virginia’s death happened as we both thought it would: it was quiet, peaceful, and painless.

Given her dementia and lung cancer, a quiet, peaceful, and painless death could not be guaranteed. I’m grateful to the medical and social support team from Silverton Hospital, Willamette Valley Hospice, and Mt. Angel Towers who worked with both Virginia and me – and with whom Virginia occasionally crossed swords – and who made the last six months of my mother’s life as safe, secure, and satisfying as possible. Their effort and compassion and skill allowed me to keep living as my mother was dying.

My grieving began in February, and felt strained and extended as I previously wrote. With my mother’s death, I can now grieve in earnest, knowing she is at rest and at peace. And I will grieve, but at the same time am truly grateful that my mother is at rest and peace, on her terms, surrounded by spirits of friends and family who have preceded her in death.

Rest in peace, Virginia Jean Kuehner Fusick Cory.

June 7th, 1923 – August 15th, 2012.