A stupid update and stupid Ebola

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I realized that I haven’t been posting lately and although I’m sure no one has noticed, I have, and that right there goes against the whole point of this blog experiment. This is not to say that I haven’t tried. I went and started about half a dozen of these but then got too overwhelmed or tired to complete them. So here I am with a brief synopsis on my junk, which I may or may not go into further detail on at a later date.

When last I posted it was shortly after my cousin’s memorial service. It’s been really hard, and affecting me in strange little everyday ways – but also in big ways. Like how I celebrate Christmas sort of ways. This year has been upsetting and disruptive to my routine, traditions and things that make someone like me – someone with major anxiety and depressive issues – on edge.

My great aunt, who is really my grandmother (she was there for me like a grandmother when her sister, my actual grandmother, wouldn’t be), suffered a series of strokes that have left her barely able to think, see, hear or speak. The matriarch of my family, as well as the single wisest person I know, has now lost everything, is in a senior living facility, and her life is being dictated by this monster of a cousin-in-law whose motives in the whole situation are dubious at best. I feel so entirely helpless in this that I don’t know what to do. TheRapist has tried to help me with it, but she doesn’t understand our relationship. She doesn’t get how for the majority of my life I felt that only one person in my entire family understood me, and I’m losing her: systematically, and in most despicable ways.

A terrible run in with the cousin-in-law has also started a strange thing in my family. People by and large are on my side because this woman is particularly offensive. However, it’s making things hard in other ways.

My house is entering its fourth year of renovation. Meaning that my entire house is in disarray, half of it has little to no electricity and no lighting, many of our belongings are in storage (including stored in my studio – thereby preventing my being able to use it) and it’s just not a big enough house for this much disruption. The main reason this is happening is because my father insists on doing these renovations by himself, but he doesn’t want to do it. He’d rather play with his boat or his band. So a project that could be finished in a weekend or two has taken nearly four years. Any interference from my mother or me is met with hostility and accusations. It’s created an environment of stress and resentment that is just too much right now.

Especially considering that my mother has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. We finally got the heart failure into remission when she just made all of her stress worse and now it’s acute again. Awesome. Add to that my father quitting his fucked up (once epically awesome job) for a new one, and having to wait for the new health insurance to kick, it’s been a ball over here.

And it’s not just my mom who is sick. Our ancient greyhound is not doing too well either; and we don’t expect to spend another Christmas with him.

Personally I’ve not been in a good place. I may have to have a surgery next year that I’m not really on board with but am afraid I am without choice. My anxiety is at epic levels (obviously), I’m unemployed and unemployable. I am now, for the first time in years, officially broke. I don’t know what to do anymore.

Everything has been coming at me from all angles (even more things, things that I don’t want to even mention, lest I well up or throw up), and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, my grandmother called crying yesterday. My grandfather isn’t well, and instead of going to the doctor or the hospital, he’s refused medical treatment and aid. He won’t let us move him or let the ambulance take him. He’s announced that he wants to die and won’t get out of bed and eat.

So right now there’s this epic vigil going on at my grandparents’ house. We’re all just waiting for him to knock it off or die. And seeing as he is a stubborn old fool, and he isn’t well to begin with, he’s going to slowly die in his bed, breaking the hearts of his four children, nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren. And there is nothing we can do about it.

For the first time I really don’t think that I can handle this. It’s literally too much for me.

So there’s that. My completely bullshit life, and the reason I’m not really up for much socializing or generalizing or blogging.

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Before I go, I do have something I’d like to say about this Ebola outbreak. There’s been a lot of panic, a lot of bullshit reporting, and apparently even some ignorant and ridiculous conspiracy theories. But what it comes down to is this:

The reason why Ebola is spreading through Africa uncontrollably right now is because of poor sanitary conditions. The poor sanitary conditions are a direct result of having no access to clean water. This is a larger, much more terrible, much more difficult, underlying problem that needs to be addressed and no longer ignored.

Having no clean water is a major and horrific reality that you almost never hear about, and that most people in the western world don’t give a shit about. But the fact is, around a billion people worldwide have no access to clean water. An estimated 345 million of those people are in Africa alone. So now these diseases that are rare, that are containable – hell, some that should have been obliterated ages ago – are free to go unchecked because there is just no way to maintain sanitation when there is no sanitation to begin with.

What is happening with the Ebola outbreak in Africa is only an issue with us in the Western world because it’s starting to affect us directly. And like most things that happen around the world, they get ignored until they affect us directly. It’s sad.

Coming up with new treatments that only first-worlders can afford, or doing special new screenings at airports is ignoring the real issue and placating the few. It is the equivalent of walking into the most used room of your home, seeing a steaming pile of shit in the middle of the floor, covering it with a facial tissue and then walking away.

Without fixing the whole problem, the core problem, the ACTUAL problem, things are going to get worse and worse. For all of us.

Everything that happens everywhere in the world, everywhere on this Earth affects us directly. There is no us and them. There is only us. This is our problem and it is spreading. It won’t be long before it’s a rampant issue in the US. And note how I said ‘rampant’ – because it already is becoming an issue here.

So I just wanted to point that out. I also want to point out that these massive problems aren’t impossible. There are solutions. Everyone and anyone can help. You can raise awareness. You can demand it become a central political issue. Go to water.org to get further educated and see what else you can do to help bring clean water to these areas.

That’s it for now. Later.

A Memorial and a Song

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We were heading past the funeral home, down Mass. Ave searching for parking, when I saw him and recognized him immediately. No one else in the world naturally looks like a forgotten member of the Rat Pack, slightly stumbling in his dark suit, smoking a cigarette in that particular way. “There’s ____.” I told my parents. It couldn’t be, they said, he can’t be here; he has a show tonight. But I was right, it was him. He was stumbling away from his godfather’s memorial service, crying, escaping. Doing exactly what I wished I could do. I worried for him. I always worry for him. He has MS, and he is gifted, and sometimes I worry that he’ll feel too awful or too good and push himself too far and get hurt or lost or stuck or what. I can only imagine that he must feel trapped in his life these days. It’s because I feel that way too.

We found a spot across the avenue, practically beside the crosswalk that ends directly in front of the mortuary. I hate the place. I have been here, so many times that I often find myself outside the door giving directions to incoming mourners. “The viewing is in the reception room, through the lobby on the right – just follow the line. Yes, there are restrooms. Go straight, through that small anteroom there and they will be in front of you – it’s a straight line from the front doors.” I’ve memorialized so many loved ones here, that I can tell you where the phones are, where they hide notepads, pens, extra mints and tissues. I’ve even been upstairs in the residences/offices.

When Mum gets out of the car I am worried. She doesn’t handle these situations well, it’s hot out and she isn’t healthy. She has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure. I am beyond paranoid that sometime soon I’m going to be in this situation again, only this time I won’t be filing in to pay my condolences, I’ll be on the receiving end.

We get across the stairs and go inside, only to be greeted by the countless throngs that comprise my extended family. Everyone is smiling, even those who are crying. People are reminiscing and laughing. My cousin – who died this week of a sudden (mere days between diagnoses and death) and devastating re-occurrence of cancer – wanted this to be a day without tears. And being atheist and not one to stand on maudlin formality, this memorial service would be it. So we were instructed to be happy and not to cry; there should be no sad tears in the celebration of a life.

I spent most of the time in a corner talking with some of my close cousins (the deceased’s niece and nephew) comparing photos of our dogs and talking about our new grown up lives, the other part of the time I spent with another cousin, an eleven-year-old with whom I am so close I consider her a little sister. We were in a little anteroom, next to the central air vent, goofing around. When a family member asked us (bemusedly) what we thought we were doing I replied: ‘Putting the ‘fun’ back in ‘funeral’.”

All around us was this almost painless, least-stressful wake/memorial service I had ever spent in this particular building. That is until I encountered the widow, a woman whom I have loved and respected and truly admired throughout my entire life. I should say rather, that she encountered me. She appeared seemingly out of nowhere, a specter, a ghost. Pale and in obvious shock she said my name, hugged me lightly, kissed my cheek, and then disappeared.

I have never in my life seen someone so completely devastated, heartbroken and destroyed. My breath left me. I was afraid for her; I am afraid for her. I wonder if she is eating, if she is sleeping. I worry that this is all too much for her, and that she shouldn’t have had to endure this stupid event.

 

I want to tell her how much I love her and that I’m there for her. But I’m the weird, black sheep little cousin, more like her niece than anything else. But I worry. I so, so worry.

 

We left the funeral home after two hours – four hours early, therefore missing the speeches and official reminiscing. This was surprising as my Mum is usually a stickler for the formalities. We wound up at my grandparents home, the ancestral manse, conveniently within walking distance of the service. We talked to my Gran, who having learned that I recently began seeing a therapist (or The Rapist, as I call her) insisted on knowing what for. “For lunacy” I told her. She was not amused.

 

 

My cousin died this week. He was a brilliant man, gifted and giving. He piloted planes and helicopters. He taught English in inner city schools. He was a sports car aficionado and driver. He was an accomplished bluegrass musician and he was teaching me how to play Jolene, the banjo Santa left for me by the tree. What’s more he was a survivor; he wasn’t supposed to die – he had been cured.

I feel cheated, but what’s more I feel like the world was cheated. Because it was.

 

Anyway, all week I’ve had this song trapped in my head. It came on when I was told he was dying and hangs on even now. I don’t know why this song, I don’t know if he even knew of Andrew Bird, and I don’t know that the subject matter has anything to do with anything at all or what it means that it’s trapped in my brain. But here it is.