Grief and Blogging

I have opened the blog many times since April, and each time I see the post about my dad at the top of the page and I close the blog again. That post keeps drying up the words inside of me in a way that I cannot explain.

I'm not taking it down. As a piece of writing, I like it. I think it captures something about the beginning of my year that is as true as it was painful, and I want it to stay. On the other hand, I need to move it down the page so I can get back into the non-weight loss blogging again. I've been decently regular at my other (secret, boring) diet blog, but when I have the words for this one, I enjoy this blog a little more than the necessary navel-gazing of the weight loss blog.

I just need to scroll it down the page a little, so I don't relive it all over again every time I think I might like to blog. 

Love and miss you, Dad. I'm trying to do what you asked, and be okay. Some days, that's a lot easier said than done.


Breaking Radio Silence--On Losing My Dad

I've been seriously absent, both from this blog and from my goals, basically since I set them back at the first of the year. I have a good reason, Life seriously interfered with me this time around.

On Christmas Eve, I found out that some persistent health problems my dad had been experiencing after he had replacement stent surgery for his heart In November were, in fact, cancer. That started a tidal wave of bad news, where every phone call was another ratcheting down of hope until there was nothing left.

Do you want to hear a dirty joke?
It was cancer, not just a bleeding hemorrhoid.

It had metastasized, but the doctor had a plan.

It was inoperable because he was in kidney failure.

He had three weeks or so to live.

Every phone call filled me with dread. Every visit, he was a little less with it. He started calling his current wife my mother. He confused me with her too, toward the end.

It turned out he made it a little over four weeks, but the last week was basically sitting a vigil with a person who didn't seem to know anyone was there. In that week, he moved to hospice, which was a blessing I cannot describe. If you have to die, and it won't be in your sleep after a long full life, find a way to do it in a hospice.

In a fairer world, my dad could have taken a handful of painkillers with a tumbler of fine Scotch and gone out on his own terms, before that last week of incoherent, pain-filled confusion and agitation. In other, more civilized countries, this would have been an obvious choice.

As I have worked to process this. To understand what it's going to mean to be a woman without a father anymore, I have realized there were a couple of things that I wanted to write down, to be sure that I would never forget.

Cargo shorts, Teva sandals, and a huge sense of the absurd.
First, my dad had named me to be his decisionmaker for his durable power of attorney. He worried that his wife couldn't do it for language reasons and for temperament reasons. She's Russian and very high strung by nature. I think he was right. I don't think she would have been able to do it. I was barely able to do it. After his stent surgery, but before the worst of the news had come down, I was talking to my dad about Christmas presents. Since I became an adult, the usual gift was cash, and he was making sure that cash would again be okay. I was telling him we had just dropped 500.00 that month on vet bills and that cash would be terrific. My cat was 17 years old, with a new thyroid medicine and a new regimen of weekly fluid treatments.

I could tell something about this was making him uneasy. He asked me if I was sure it wasn't time to let the kitty go. I think he thought I was being overly sentimental about it. I told him that her quality of life was good, and I didn't think anything we were doing was unreasonable to maintain that for her. I think he was worried that he had just declared a person who could be made irrational by the threat of loss as his health care decisionmaker.

I hope I reassured him, and I hope I fulfilled my duties to him. All he asked was to be kept as pain-free as possible, and I took that as my charge for the days he was in the hospice.

Clearly feeling mellow here. Cheers, Dad.
Second, as his time at home with a hospice service was winding down, there was a day that I had to sit down at his bedside with his hospice case manager to try to get him to accept more help in the form of a hospital bed in the house, or a move to an inpatient hospice facility. He was pretty fuzzy from the painkillers, and he didn't want to accept more help at that point. He wanted to be home as long as he could. He still thought he was fine. I thought that was up for debate, but he was able to articulate it clearly--though sleepily--so I relented. I said we'd talk about it again in a few days.

I leaned in to kiss his forehead, and he thanked me for my kiss, all drowsy and sweet.

Thanked me for loving him, basically.

I miss him terribly. I loved him so, so much. These are things that I don't think will ever change, but I don't want them to fade to the broad outlines of my life, either. I want to remember the little details. The phone calls. The sleepy 'thank you.' The cranky way he left voicemails he knew I probably wouldn't listen to before I called him back.

I have two voicemails from him saved on Google Voice. I'm not sure I will ever be able to delete them.


Review: So Much Pretty

So Much Pretty
So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really torn about this book, so let me see if I can untangle that a little.

I read this as an audiobook, and I find myself wondering if I would have liked this book more if I had actually read it instead. It has a really unusual structure that doesn't lend itself well to audiobook format. It's comprised of snippets of interviews and articles, as well as more conventional book chapters. All of that is fine, but it's also told in a non-linear fashion, jumping back and forth along the timeline of Alice's life. I found myself wondering if the book wouldn't work a lot better with a more conventional structure.

There's a good idea in here, but it's fractured by the structure of the book and flattened by the leaden, two-dimensional villains. I made myself keep going, and the book did eventually hook me, but it felt like it was crippling its own efforts to do so for most of the book.

I DID reach a point where I had to know what would happen, so I guess that's worth adding a star to what would otherwise be a solid two-star book.

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Review: Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady

Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady
Dark Aemilia: A Novel of Shakespeare's Dark Lady by Sally O'Reilly

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book should have been amazing. It's right in my sweet spot of English history and women writers, but I really found huge chunks of this book to be dull. Not to mention that the protagonist is unlikable much of the time, which meant the book as a whole left me cold.

I really wanted to like this a lot more than I did.

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Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I consumed this as an audio book. I have a very mixed set of reactions to this series. I'll keep reading, I think, but I hate myself a little.

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Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter

The Mad Scientist's Daughter
The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled with this book a little at first because the protagonist is more than a little self-absorbed. I fumed at some of her choices, and a few of the chapter breaks seemed to be designed to intensify the selfishness of our heroine.

But I liked the story, and the world building was remarkably deft, so I kept at it. To my surprise and delight, our heroine grew and changed as the story progressed, and her arc was from selfish to a much more grounded, empathetic approach to the people around her. (As many of us walk that same path from childhood to adulthood, it was nice to have a character who did wrong, but when she knew better, she did better.)

I think this fits nicely into the reading lists of science fiction lovers (though lighter fare than some of the other robot-themed classics) as well as people who just love a good story, well told, and haven't really dipped a toe into science fiction.

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Review: People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman

People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman
People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman by Richard Lloyd Parry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A meticulously researched crime novel, this book appeared on my radar several times in podcasts and articles about Western expats living in Japan. It's a grim look at how marginalized the people who try to work on a tourist visa in ANY country can become, since they feel they cannot turn to the police for help when they are victimized.

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