A Month in Review

It’s weird to think that my dad has been dead for a month now. It simultaneously feels like it’s been forever and then again no time at all. I miss him but at the same time I miss what he was for my mother, a caretaker.

My mother has Alzheimer’s. An aggressive bout of it, it would appear. Everyday it feels like she’s getting worse. Then again it could be because I am seeing all of it, in all of its cruel glory without filters.

I never truly understood how bad it was. My father would just tell me that it was getting worse but never elaborated to how or why he felt that way. Now I do.

For those keeping tally, I have bathed my mother 3 times and cleaned up her “accidents” just as much. She has so far accused my husband of bringing a woman home and fucking her in our bed and has also told us (on a separate occasion) that the power chords in her room were calling her ugly. However she also has accurately figured out who Josh is and what role he plays in my life. To that I say “clever girl” in the voice of Robert Muldoon from Jurassic Park, right before he’s devoured by a velociraptor.

My mother is adamant that she won’t be living with my husband and I. She wants to go home and me “live my life” and she “live hers.” I haven’t even broached the subject of assisted living by the advice of a woman who’s sole job is to place elders into care. That’s about the only thing I’ve listened to thus far.

I’m trying to please too many people in this situation when I have to think about what is ultimately the best choice of action. What that is I don’t know. Well, that’s a lie. A care facility would be best but when I look at the monthly cost, coupled with how much money she has and how little I make to supplement that it seems like a fools errand. Especially given that we don’t know how long she will live.

Getting old in America is genuinely a cruel joke. You work your whole life, scrimping and saving to leave your children something after you go, and instead it is bled dry by corporations who make money off of the infirm. All for the idea of safety, care, and security.

I am someone who couldn’t care less about what my mother could leave me. Her on the other hand is deeply concerned. She repeatedly tells me she wants me to have something upon her passing. Looking to the horizon that will be one other thing she won’t get.

But it’s for the best, considering her disease has already claimed one life and it wasn’t even hers.

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A Son’s Eulogy to His Father

My dad always wanted to be a father. He never explicitly said that, but I could just gather it from the clues of his life.

When he was 16 he and his then girlfriend, Pam, became pregnant. The two wanted to get married but because they were so young their parents were required to give consent. Neither of which gave and the two didn’t see or speak to each other again for many years. My mother told me once that, that broke his heart.

To ease that pain my father tried to rescue a woman named Diane. She was already pregnant and my father stepped into the role of expecting dad and cared for the daughter she had. He would recount that he changed her diapers, fed her when she was hungry, and calmed her when she was fussy. She may not have been his blood but she was his is by name. And that was more than enough for him.

Then came me, when both these women were in their twenties. My parents told me repeatedly, but especially my pop, that I was wanted and planned. He joked that my mom talked him into it. “Can’t we have just one, just one little baby.” And clearly, we can see who won.

But like I said, my dad wanted to be a father.

Truthfully he was made for the role. In typical father caricature, He did like a beer or two, before he was sober. He liked to fish. He was a strong silent type, who peppered in random bits of wisdom, spoken in only short, clipped sentences. He never really was one to wax poetic about any topic. It was always precise response and right to the point.

My pop did have this uncanny ability of being right. He would tell me, after I told him how silly it was to get mad at traffic lights, “just you wait, Josh. You’ll see.” And by-god he was right. And I loved telling him how annoying it is that every light turned red in this town and they need to synchronize them.

He was truthfully, the most patient and strongest man I had ever met, and I am so happy I was able to tell him that before I couldn’t. He was my role model, and I strive to carry these very qualities.

Years before, He apologized to me once that he wasn’t a good father because he didn’t know what it was to be one. He didn’t have one when he was growing up. The only examples he did receive was an aloof, absent man who liked to drink. But him claiming that fault was/is not true. He knew what it was and what it took. And even to admit that, regardless of its validity, was someone with humility.

When I told my dad that I was gay, the very first thing he said to me, after an evening of processing this information silently, was that I was his son and he loved me no matter what.

My dad showed what it was to be a true man, with his kindness, his patience, his immense capacity for love, and admitting and owning his faults.

I tried to immortalize him in his obituary but of course, in true Josh fashion, I wasn’t concerned about double checking dates. So my dad hasn’t passed yet. That’ll be at the end of this month. So this man in this coffin is an imposter who stole my hat to complete the ruse.

He would have loved that joke. And I loved making him laugh.

One final story for those who aren’t friends with me on Facebook or have hidden me because of my incessant opinionated posts.

When I was getting the things for my father to wear for his final trip, I happened upon a tape, in a box filled with casettes, titled “dad and Joshua and mom.” I knew instantly what it was because I had found similar tapes when I was younger. My parents couldn’t afford a video camera, so my dad made due with his rad stereo and recorded audio of us just doing mundane things around the house. That night, before heading to the bar, I tasked my friend to make a trip to Target to buy a walk-man. Surprisingly and luckily, they still sell them. Once we got to the car we split the headphones and listened to the tape. On it was my 3-year-old self playing in a pool and my father talking to me. He asked me questions and talked about the next weekend when we were going up to my grandparents’ house for 4th of July.

My father went to the hospital on June 27th, a week before 4th of July. My heart started to race as I did the math to decipher when this could have happened.

When we got to the end of that side of the tape, I flipped it over and it began with my father announcing that it was a warm Sunday morning June the 26th. I broke down crying because, here was a moment of a very different morning 31 years prior, where we were having breakfast as a family.

My father may be gone, on July 28th, but he will never be forgotten. He will live on in the memories and hearts of all the lives he impacted.

Shoot Me

I can’t sleep. As much as I want to quiet my mind I cannot. My thoughts are consumed with how foolish, gullible, and childish my parents have become. They never used to be this way. But as the years pass I find them becoming increasingly naieve. However, in the same breath they are also ultra suspicious of everyone and have multiple locks on their doors behind security screens. It’s insane.

Tonight I was called over to do IT work, per usual. For whatever reason they were having trouble logging into their bank account. I would walk them through it over the phone but my mother can barely speak and my dad has never used a computer. So I have to be there to do it.

After I get there I become privy to the fact that they were very nearly scammed by someone using the most recent trick in the books. The grift is someone calling up an elderly person and pretending to be a grandchild in peril and requesting money. The marks are given a place to wire the cash by a designated time before they can ask anymore questions. And my parents very nearly did if it hadn’t been for my Aunt and Uncle telling them what it really was.

The thing that annoys me the most is the telephone call was littered with red flags, but my parents are so gullible and trusting they thought NOTHING of it.

First off, after my father answered, the person on the other end said “Grandpa.” That immediately should have forced my father to respond, “Sorry, you have the wrong number.” He has no grandchildren as I am his only child and have no children. For whatever fucking reason, my dad said “Blake?” and the person replied “Yes.” Which even if that was the case they would not call my parents and say “Grandpa” he would have said “Uncle.” And if my cousin was actually in an accident and required an immediate $2K he would not have called them. Nor would he have asked them to forward the money to a place in Wisconsin where he does not live.

My parents though, saw nothing wrong with this phone call. I am glad they did have some sense to contact my aunt and uncle to question the validity.

My parents, in classic fashion, over-corrected and despite not having given them any information (however even that is in question) they went to the bank to change their account. I can only imagine what it was they told the poor clerk at the bank. Because, even I could barely understand what had actually happened.

The real culprit here is old age and the fact that my parents have barricaded themselves into their homes, only leaving to get further sustenance or cigarettes (in my father’s case.) They have no hobbies and they speak with no one, except me when I am called over for IT work or for my weekly visits.

And I am torn. One part of me is furious that I have to endure this, this is my life and I don’t want to waste it with incompetent adults. On the other-hand I want to cocoon them in bubble wrap and place them in a safe corner away from further harm. I just don’t know what to do.

Better Together

I had never been one to believe in writers’ groups. The couple times I had attempted they were too awkward and uncomfortable for me to do on a regular basis and I always ended up leaving them for one reason or another. Little did I know that it was because of passing on these opportunities that I ultimately floundered.

I completed my first real novel length work of fiction in 2009. Since then I have attempted multiple times to edit the beast, but with no success. I would get to a certain point and stop because I would listen to the inner critic telling myself “this is terrible” and “I’m a horrible writer.” When you’re working on art with an analytical approach the artist gets upset. And when you’re more of a creator than an editor it gets overwhelming.

What I have since discovered is that having someone or a community to bounce your art off of really helps with the process.

I met my buddy Matt through a former friend of ours. This previous friend used to be Matt’s writing partner but for reasons they have since parted ways. Luckily for Matt and I, we have since gotten together to talk about our projects.

Matt’s passion for the written word is contagious. The past few times we’ve met up to discuss the craft I have left our sessions feeling so energized and overwhelmed with confidence. He and I wax poetic about the other’s pieces, but also offer advice and critique when needed. He is stronger in some aspects that I still need a little polish and vice versa. Together we are helping the other through it. Plus having him (other than myself) excited about my ideas is the best high. (I’ve never done a single drug though, for any kind of comparison.)

From these get-togethers I finally understand why so many books on writing recommend participating in a writers’ group. Working alone gets exhausting, and when it’s just you and your own viewpoint on your manuscript it can get incredibly negative very fast. And I should know, it’s been that way every time I’ve worked on my book before.

When one has a supportive place to share his techniques and ideas it really keeps the fire burning. And my fire can only stay burning for so long without adding some potent fuel.

The “Shut the Hell Up” Two-Step

It’s truly astounding how much I want to see myself fail. Whenever I gather up my will to accomplish something and make even just the tiny bit of headway in regards to my novel, my inner critic pipes in and likes to remind me how “shit” I am at writing. It happens without fail. Every time.

In the past I would inevitably listen and give up. The proof is in the fact that the last time I attempted to edit my book was 5/28/2014 (28/05/2014 for those abroad). At the very least that was the last time I opened the word documents. What’s even more excruciating is that I completed this novel length work of fiction in 2009. This December the 6th will be 10 years. That’s insane. But the delay has all been due to my submission to my self-hatred.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be relatively confident in my ability. It wasn’t until I went to work for an office that treated me like I was a fucking moron that I started to cave so easily. “What’s the point?” Became my mantra. When those around you talk down to you, in the voice of your inner critic, you start to listen.

As of late, it usually gets the loudest after my initial read through of a chapter in “rough” condition. But I tell myself to ignore it and just keep reading. I start at the top and work my way down, and when I come across something that gives me pause I fix it immediately. The voice will chime in and I “talk over it” to myself “You can do this.” Even if I am mid-paragraph, that doesn’t need any real change, and he decides to tell me how horrible my writing is I restart at the beginning. It’s almost like learning a dance routine. If I miss a step, back to the top.

This time I absolutely refuse to give up or give in. Whenever the fucker pokes his head into my thoughts I knock him square across the jaw and then kick his dazed ass to the curb. In the words of Ms. Bianca Del Rio “Not today, Satan.”

#WriterProblems

I am almost certain I have come to this fork in the road once before, when I attempted to edit my novel in the past. Evidently though I chose not to do anything about it and keep it the way it was, for whatever reason. Maybe I thought, “Well I’ll just fix it after I revise the whole thing.” Which is downright ridiculous because the changes required ripple through the rest of the story. Jesus, I really hate myself sometimes. Past Josh was an idiot, to be quite frank.

Here is my dilemma, my novel takes place in the mountains northeast of Boise, Idaho on New Year’s Eve and there is absolutely no snow.  The things that occur very much show no snow and adding it would make things difficult for both me and my protagonists.

When I was editing my Chapter 9 (‘yay’ for making headway) the question that came to mind is, “Wait, could this actually happen?” In this chapter I describe a broad green valley cut in two by a stream. Green… In January… In the mountains. Naw, girl. That doesn’t sound possible. So I did a quick google search and discovered that snow covered 99.5% of the landscape. So, you’re telling me that there is chance of snow. Then that information made me wonder if there would even be a stream.

Luckily I have a buddy who moved from my hometown to a town in Idaho. So I started asking him these very questions. And that kicked me back to the beginning.

When I originally wrote this book I did not have this particular plot point about an alcoholic father and it being New Year’s Eve.  I added that AFTER the fact to answer another couple questions that arose that needed clarification. However, because of them, this has created quite the conundrum.

How do I solve this issue? Do I go back and add in the snow and change the action to handle the new dilemma OOOOR do I just move the date of the story to a spring month? My one hang up is that it would seem too forced for the alcoholic father to have a HUGE change of heart in regards to his substance abuse. With the “New year, new you” mentality it fits better, in my mind.

The other option I had was maybe move it up to May, and make it a birthday thing. Like “Now that I’m 40…” And it could work but AGAIN another plot point comes under attack in the forms of a character that HAS TO put on a jacket. (That is 100% non-negotiable.) Is she still going to ask for a jacket?

Oh, writer problems.

My husband is such a dick. He’s making fun of me by saying that I’m going to be eighty years old still working on this book. “I just need to add one more thing.”

Anyway, I’m probably just going to go back and put a winter layover. I just don’t want to do it.

The Writer’s Loop

One of the best feelings in the world, for me at least, is reading a chapter from my book and being utterly convinced it wasn’t me who wrote it. Not saying that I am THAT amazing, but more that I am astounded by its prose and tone and have zero memory of ever writing it. Additionally, it gives me an example to encourage myself whenever I start to doubt my ability to get it done. I can remind myself “hey, remember that time?”

I hope I’m not jinxing myself by writing this blog, but I haven’t written in some time and it was on my mind. Lately I have been pleasantly enveloped in the process of editing my book. The fire for such an endeavor has been sparked by 3 specific matches. The first being my overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment from passing my appraiser license exam (thank you, thank you). With that out of the way I am free to do whatever I choose!

The second is because I have found myself a writing buddy who inspires me to get busy doing the thing that brings me joy. His enthusiasm for the premise of my “finished” novel encouraged me to get back at it. Also, his own passion for the craft is incredible.

The third reason, and the one I find very strange, has been a particular song from the musical “The Greatest Showman.” Whenever I listen to “A Million Dreams” I am filled to the brim with excitement for my book and the prospect of finishing it. (The song also has this nasty habit of bringing about these overwhelming emotions that, for some reason, make me sob uncontrollably. So. There is that.)

Currently I am in the middle of Chapter 6 of 31 and I couldn’t be more energized. I still have my moments of doubt but thankfully because of my “forgotten ability” I can remind myself I in fact can.