Still Saving Spoons

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Today was mostly another take-it-easy kind of day. Tomorrow absolutely won’t be, as we have to pack and make it to the airport, plus I have an appointment a couple hours before we’re due to head out for our trip, so things are going to be crazy. I’m going to be looking forward to getting into Phoenix tomorrow night and collapsing at the hotel room.

So far the only thing on tap that I know about is going to be dinner with the family Wednesday night and the service on Thursday morning. I hope it’s going to be a low-key trip the rest of the way.

I’m still waiting on an issue with one of my characters in Secret World Legends, but I’m spending quite a bit of time on my other two characters. One of them is for all intents and purposes teamed with my wife’s character of the same faction – we have decided to play them together for the duration of the game – and one I’m spending my solo free time on. It’s good to be playing with my wife. We enjoy each other’s company immensely, and we always seem to make a very good team in whatever game we’re playing.

We’ve got a social weekend planned, on top of the trip. There’s a barbecue on Saturday afternoon that we’d like to make an appearance at, and on Sunday afternoon we’re going to a couple of friends’ new-ish place (we haven’t been there yet, so it’s new to us) to visit and help her out with some work stuff. Other than that, I think we’re going to be laying pretty low to conserve what we can for next week.

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Keeping On

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Today was my wife’s last day at work until the 17th. We’ll be attending her father’s memorial service in Arizona next week, and she wants time at home both before and after the trip. I can’t say as I blame her. She’s processing things as best as she can, although today seemed like it was a little better for her. She’s even been able to crack a smile and laugh a few times today, which is more like her usual self.

It’s been business as usual for me today, although her father’s been on my mind a good deal. I hate she’s having to go through this, but eventually we all have to at some point.

I’ve taken it easy today – been dealing with a headache most of the evening, for starters – so today hasn’t been terribly productive. Not sure tomorrow is going to be productive either.

We’re skipping our show tomorrow night, because neither of us really feel up to being on the radio just now.

I’ve been tired all day. Can’t wait for bed.

The Call You Never Hope Comes

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Yesterday afternoon we got confirmation that my wife’s father had been moved to hospice care. This was expected. He’d been suffering from pancreatic cancer which has a one-year survival rate of 20% across all stages and a five-year survival rate for Stage IV, his diagnosis, of 1%. On top of that, he’d been fighting other health issues for a few months: pneumonia, severe GI problems, and most recently sepsis of the blood. Things have not been looking good for some time, and yesterday, we got word that the doctors had done all they could do for him. There would be pain management, but given that he’d signed a DNR directive, they wouldn’t be treating his illnesses anymore.

It’s a very sad thing to get to that stage of an illness. Given my fear of dying, I can’t imagine being at the point that you’re just waiting to go. But that’s where we had found ourselves with her father. It was a matter of when, not if.

My wife got a call at about 2:00 am this morning and learned that he’d passed on.

It’s still sinking in for her. She didn’t cry until she got to work today, and even then she fought the tears that would inevitably come. Part of me is expecting her to break down at some point soon and let it go, but not for the reasons that you would think.

My wife and her father had a very strained relationship. My wife’s parents adopted her in 1975, and adopted her brother two years later. Her father always wanted a boy, and when her brother came along, most of her dad’s attention went to him and stayed there from that point on. Whenever my wife’s parents divorced, her brother was devastated that their father didn’t make an attempt to gain custody of at least him (my wife’s brother), whereas my wife’s mother often referred to my wife as the “bitter ex” in the relationship. It took my wife a long time to come to grips with her relationship with her father and as long as I’ve known her, most frequently referred to him by his first name and not ever Dad unless it was to his face. (During this blog post, I’ve been careful to respect that boundary by always referring to him as “her father” and not “her dad.”)

It’s my opinion that her grief is more for the loss of the potential relationship that they might have had. Earlier this year when he started to really go downhill, they seemed to reconcile, and I was hopeful that things would start being different, but as soon as the immediate life-threatening scare was over, things were back to the way they always have been. I think that momentary lapse of estrangement between the two of them really drove home that sense of loss of potential at the end.

I can relate to what she’s going through somewhat because I’ve experienced both the loss of a parent and the loss of potential in a relationship. I lost my dad in 1995, and my half-brother – who I had only the most tenuous of relationships with – in 2008. Dad’s death hit me hard, but my brother’s death barely registered with me emotionally – until I started to realize that the ability to build a stronger relationship with him would never come, and then I started to grieve. I can’t really say that I know what she’s going through, though. Neither my brother nor I seemed to value a sibling relationship enough to want to pursue one, yet my wife spent her entire childhood and a good portion of her adult life desperately wanting her father’s approval. This has got to be extremely hard on her for the so very many emotions that she’s experiencing right now, and I don’t envy her that. I’ll help where I can, supporting her through the whole thing, but it’s her grief to have.

As for me, my own relationship with the man wasn’t very good, as you might imagine. His solution to my mental health issues was always “get a job.” He didn’t understand that it was painfully difficult for me to do so most of the time, and he was always convinced that he knew what was right for me when he barely knew me at all. Most of my experiences with him were strained at best, though always cordial. Generally I existed in his world and that was that. The only time that he ever wished me happy birthday was this year, when my wife was visiting him on the occasion and she had to tell him what day it was. That instance always felt more like a situation that wishing me happy birthday was the only course of action that he could really take given the circumstances, and not a very genuine gesture.

I’m mourning because my wife is, and not much more than that.

I feel bad about that, I really do. I wish that he’d have acknowledged me as a son-in-law rather than just the guy that married his daughter, but it always felt more like the latter to me.

Part of me is relieved for him. Pancreatic cancer is a hell of a way to go, and I know he was in a lot of pain. I’m glad that he’s not hurting anymore.

 

Road Trip!

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We got a call last night from my mother-in-law, asking what we were doing tonight. We thought this odd since she lives in Illinois. Nope, she explained, she was in San Antonio for a board meeting and wanted to know if we’d be willing to drive down to have dinner with her. We thought about it for about half a minute and said we’d see her tonight.

So today I did a few things to prep us for the trip down, which normally takes about an hour and a half one way. I drove my wife back to work after lunch so I could take the car to get gas and buy drinks for the trip. (We are usually water and coffee and milk only here at home, with the occasional soft drink and the rare cider, but for road trips it’s soft drinks all the way.) I picked her up after work and, after wrestling with her phone freezing up while trying to both run Google Maps for our GPS on the way down and Pandora for music, we switched to my phone for the trip.

Traffic started backing up about a mile from her office and it stayed backed up until we got on the other side of town. It took us over an hour to make that part of the trip, and we still had another hour and fifteen minutes to go. We were running so late, in fact, that we got calls from Mom wondering where we were.

We got to her hotel and decided to just stay there for dinner, so we went to the bar and ate, then settled in for a nice long visit before piling in the car to come back home.

There was construction on the way home, so it took us longer than expected to make that drive as well. All totaled, we were in the car for nearly four hours instead of the expected three round trip.

I usually have some sort of anxiety about trips like this, and for the longest time had anxiety whenever visiting with my wife’s family. This trip, however, I was only a little anxious in the worst of traffic on the way down, something that is understandable – no one likes bad traffic. Once traffic cleared up and we were traveling at posted speeds, the anxiety cleared right up.

I’m enjoying this new lack of anxiety in my life. I’m not really sure what to do with it, to be honest. I’m just glad it’s happening. I suppose I will become more accustomed to it as time goes on, but for now, not being anxious in situations that would normally trigger my anxiety is a novel concept and a welcome feeling.

The Island

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I’m not exactly sure when it entered the family’s possession, but I know that my paternal grandparents owned a 55-acre island full of cypress trees in the Black River in eastern North Carolina. That land was passed down to my dad, and when he died, my mother and I made the decision to donate the land to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy in the hopes that they would preserve the trees on it in perpetuity.

Now I’m hearing news from North Carolina that a bill has passed the state House and is now before the state Senate that would take some of the Nature Conservancy land in and around the Black River and turn it into the anchor for a proposed state park. The odds are fairly good that our island would be part of that new park. I haven’t seen actual plans but based on the description of the geography and the age of the trees on the island, it’s a decent bet that it’s included. The oldest tree on our former property is over 1,200 years old and one tree in the proposed park, not too far from the island, is called the Methuselah tree due to its advanced age – researchers have determined that the tree was living in 364 AD, while Emperor Valentinian I ruled the Roman Empire.

No one knew how old the trees were until the 1980s, when a university team came and took core samples from trees in the area, including trees on our property. The Nature Conservancy started to step in at that point, with land owners either selling or donating their property to help preserve the trees from developers. The land around the island and up and down that part of the river is very swampy, but the river itself is beautiful and eventually someone would have gotten the notion to clearcut and fill in the swamp around the river for some choice real estate developments. The Nature Conservancy, thankfully, stepped in to prevent that from happening.

It’s important to note that the Conservancy isn’t turning over even the majority of their land to the state for the purposes of creating the park. They’re donating some two thousand acres of land out of the over 15,000 acres they own, which means that even around the park there will be a buffer of Conservancy land continuing to stand undisturbed and undeveloped.

I’m overjoyed that the Nature Conservancy and state legislators are pursuing this path to protect the cypress trees in the area and share them with the public, and thrilled that my family might have contributed to its potential creation.

Yet Another Family Emergency

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I’ll be waking up at 4:00 am tomorrow to get my wife on a plane to Arizona to see her dad. If you could keep her and her family in your thoughts we would both appreciate it. I can’t be very forthcoming with details at this point, but things are not good.

On a related note, I will be on my own this weekend and would appreciate company from my local friends, especially on Sunday, as that’s my birthday. Let me know through the usual channels.

I’m getting tired of family emergencies. They take a lot out of people, regardless of their mental state, but they especially affect me, when I can finally unwind from the travel and stress of the event. They affect my wife the same way, so I’m especially concerned about her essentially traveling over the weekend and coming back home just in time to go to bed for work the next day. She’s not going to have long to be able to process the trip at all and I worry about her, especially since I won’t be by her side for this trip.

Just keep us all in your thoughts if you would. Thanks.

A Celebration of What Once Was

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This afternoon and evening has been spent at the 13th anniversary celebration of City of Heroes in Paragon Chat, the XMPP server that’s set in the City of Heroes universe. My wife and I broadcast for two hours during the eight-hour show, and I was present for all eight hours.

The event was a great reminder of what a fantastic community City of Heroes created. Even over four years after sunset, dozens of people are still coming together to celebrate the game that we loved. People were sharing their favorite moments from the game, people were visiting with old friends and new, people were carrying on roleplay that still told the stories of their characters. There were costume and biography contests, there were trivia contests, there were badge races and other games. It was a full slate of activities for a game universe that went silent so unexpectedly back in 2012 and it was joyous to watch. It was my pleasure and my honor to have been able to participate in the event, however small my role was.

The organizers of the event really outdid themselves and everyone was having fun.

City of Heroes was the first MMORPG that I ever played, and it will always hold a special place in my heart, not so much because of the gameplay, but because of the absolutely phenomenal community that was built up around the game. They were and are like a second family to me, and they filled that role at a time when my first second family was far, far away. I will always be grateful for the time that I spent in City of Heroes and for the many, many real-world friendships that I’ve forged there.