Why does the Western idea of the year end (and the next begin) in the dead of winter? I mean, I know how cultural the thing is: Pope Gregory XIII decided on ours, in Islamic culture it’s in spring, Judaism places it in fall, and here again the Chinese have the edge on us, both in solid terms of years lived and really good origin stories. And of course North Korea passes recorded time in a very Kimilsungian way.
If we measured the year in terms of our own entry into life (birthday to birthday), that would be so American. Many already do this, if unofficially.
2011, the year I lost my Dad, got me thinking about the whole journey of life: not just how it begins but how it ends. Continue reading
People had waited for this one. The baby would be a boy in a family of two adults and one perfect little girl, who was so excited about her brother’s arrival she’d named him “Abby’s Boy”. She also was taking on a new role in the games she played: Big Sister. If you were lucky enough, she’d gift you with this role, and be Mommy herself. “Big Sisser, it time for bed,” the little Mommy would say, and off you’d go, to five seconds of sleep on the carpet.
As for the baby, he was enjoying his time with the real Mommy. My sister had to induce: and here’s an odd thing about life, that someone else can choose your birthday for you. Obviously, someone can also choose your date of departure, but that’s much less legal, not to mention little cause for celebration.
Very early on the morning of the summer solstice, I joined my sister, brother-in-law, and mother-in-law on the trip to the hospital. On the sunlit trip through the sleeping town of Matthews, we passed under a sign strung across the street: the community theater production of “The King And I” was about to open.
It was the best morning of the year. We were all so excited. I remember looking at that sign, thinking: Shall we dance?
Honestly, I could have. Continue reading
People had feared this one. My parents have six children, twelve grandchildren, and nieces and nephews, and all of us knew the end was coming for my Dad. On the last day of the first month of the year, he’d had a massive heart attack, which he survived. But that event had finally given us all the map to what was going on inside him: a series of small strokes (doctors traced the first to about 2009; I’d put that one at least a year before), progressive dementia, and now the thing with his heart.
Dad struggled to understand it himself. Months later, we would find handwritten notes he’d made. “Hart attack,” says one, dated February 17. “Thank them for the gifts,” it adds. “Flowers and fruit.”
As his children recognized the enormity of what had happened (was happening) with Dad, we planned the annual family gathering with more attention than usual. It was understood that no one would make the mistake of sitting this one out. No one, that is, except Dad.
He just never spoke about it. August. San Diego. My mother would talk to him about these things, but he never really responded. To Dad, it was as if they did not exist.
Of course he was right. That event simply wouldn’t happen for Dad. We didn’t want to hear anyone say this, but it was true. Continue reading
PBS is broadcasting a four-week series on classic TV characters. On Sunday the 13th we will encounter “The Misfit”, but we have already met “Independent Woman” and “The Man Of The House”. (Rarely seen in the same place, but a great team, I find.)
I discuss “The Man Of The House” here. If you like sharp analysis, loving recollections by smart people, and lingering close-ups of Jon Hamm, you should watch it.
I’m down to once-a-day viewings, myself.
How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful!–Great God!
– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Oscar Wilde said it best: when the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers. I wonder whether this nation, in its most ardent prayers, could have asked for a more perfect product of its wants and needs than Kim Kardashian.
Everyone wants to be famous, right? Kim does! She’s the kind of person who releases personal news early on a Monday morning, to make the most of the week’s news cycle (and encourage posts like this). If you can’t act, sing, dance, write, or perform any other kind of art or service, I guess it’s fair to make money being a jerk.
Everyone wants to be rich! What if you could make 18 million dollars just for having a wedding? You’d do it, right? You’d think about doing it for sure. You’re thinking about it right now, I bet.
Doesn’t everyone want to be perfect? Kim does; a pretty girl to begin with, she’s spent lots of money and time making herself look even better. And what could be wrong with wanting attention, wanting people to look at you, even more than they do? Where’s the harm in a little cosmetic procedure here and there?
I am just not sure she will recover from this one. Continue reading
For this relief much thanks; ’tis bitter cold
And I am sick at heart.
Hamlet (1.1), Francisco to Barnardo
Question: what does a good American do when she feels terrible?
I knew the answer, and that for me it was different. Let me repeat that: I knew my answer. But I wanted not to know it. On the side of not-wanting, I knew that I would meet with support. So I went there instead.
My father had a heart attack in late January of this year. He survived, but it was frightening to Mom, and to my sister and brother and me, when we saw him. The doctors said he was better. A terrible shock, they said. They released my Dad from the hospital in early February. But something was wrong. Dad was sick. He had been for a long time, we knew. This was something worse.
As my mother and he began to confront his convalescence together in March, I fell into my own deep darkness. Inexperienced, I called it depression.
Doctors, good ones, had diagnosed me with depression before. I have had several major “episodes” since my twenties. I believe these were real, and that at least one of them responded to treatment. The darkness of March felt somehow old (I think now that it’s been there for years), and familiar enough for me to seek the classic measures. In this country, those measures are drugs. Continue reading
Neil Postman — writer, cultural critic, thoughtful guy — would have been 80 years old today. In his memory, and because memory is important, I am asking you to read his son’s appeal on DayRiffer.
Neil Postman wrote that line. Accept no substitutes.
Most of what I have written in my life now belongs to corporations (the bastards!), or to all of you; I have always been either a paid consultant or a blogger. So this is in no way a selfish appeal.
Neil Postman, unlike me, had important things to say about childhood; about humanity itself. If we lose sight of these things, we risk forgetting what it is about us that is special: what is most worth remembering, if you will.
Happy birthday, Mr. Postman. And belated thanks.