I see a lot of sudden celebration of John McCain as a legendary hero in response to his diagnosis of brain cancer.

I don’t wish illness or death on anyone. This isn’t about withholding sympathy or empathy. You can be sad that someone is sick or mourn their passing without ignoring their flaws. But our collective willingness to suddenly cast the sick and the dead as heroes is not honest or helpful.

When it comes to the life and death of public figures, it’s a chance for society to reckon with the quality of their character. Famous people, whether they like it or not, become role models by mere virtue of their presence. They are examples of what sort of lives can be lead. How we talk about their example is one of the many ways that we define the meaning of a good life, of a life well-lived. When we speak in glowing terms of someone’s story, there is an implication to everyone listening that this person’s actions are worth mimicking.

I’m not a student of John McCain’s life. All I know is what I’ve seen for the last decade or so.

To me, he’s the guy that picked a woman he barely knew as his vice presidential candidate. He launched Sarah Palin – a dreadful harbinger of Trumpian behavior and rhetoric – into the national spotlight. He’s a guy that frequently goes on television to critique Trump, but still votes with him over 90% of the time. He’s an active participant in the political party that denies climate change, limits civil rights, that actively enacts policies that intentionally harm the poor, the needy, and the suffering.

No doubt, he appears to be a more decent human being than many of his colleagues. He shows respect for others. He has a history of voting across party lines (even if that hasn’t been the case recently). He went out of his way to call Obama a decent human being during the ’08 election. He doesn’t speak with venom or malice.

But that doesn’t make him a hero. It means he’s not a terrible person, that he does what a lot of us do every day of our lives. He looks great because he’s surrounded by such abhorrent individuals.

I think that’s what people are reacting to, more than anything else. It’s not about him specifically, but the fact that the one guy who lets out even a fart of reasonable attitudes might be out of the game. That we’re one step closer to political insanity.

Time Will Tell


One of the most consistent features of getting older has been the changing nature of my relationship with time. It’s not just, as the cliche goes, that it flies by, but the passing of days takes on a very different tone and architecture. I remember how agonizingly slow the world felt as a child. I remember staring helplessly at the clock in school, knowing that the very act of watching the hands tick was increasing my agony.

Tick. Fuck. Tick. Fuck. Tick. Fuck. Tick.

But lately, days blur seamlessly into weeks and months. Some of this is circumstantial; I now work entirely from home, and it is not uncommon that I go weeks without prolonged human interaction, even while I live in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet. I have no commute. No morning or evening routine. I have virtually no interruptions during my day. I work. I read. I might play some games for an hour or two. I watch some lectures or a movie. I sleep.

When I look at the clock, there is no anticipation, nor any dread. Time is just a number to make sure I don’t forget my appointments. Once in a while, it’s a pressure, a deadline, a countdown — but I love my work, so I have no resentment for this aspect.

Memories begin to slip through my fingers more and more as there are fewer landmarks to orient my internal narrative. For perhaps a brief moment recent experiences stay near to me, but it’s not long before they disperse into a vast ocean of thoughts, or become lost inside the dense forest of my subconscious. Though I know these experiences are still a part of me, floating somewhere in the expanse of my cognition, many are no longer retrievable as distinct events.

Continue reading Time Will Tell


I delivered a eulogy today. This is what I said.

I’ve never done this before, so I apologize ahead of time if I’m young and stray too eagerly into the unorthodox or worse, the cliché. Death is still mostly foreign to me.

I only experienced a short window in Nana’s time with us. Seventy-two years of her story do not include me, and a lifetime of practice, mistakes, and learning preceded my interactions with her. Whatever her challenges were, I was not privy to them. As such, Nana will exist eternally in my mind as the pristine vessel of the best kind of grandmotherly love. On any given day, she would fulfill with gusto the roles of guardian, tutor, correctional officer, and friend. She made possible a wealth of excellent childhood memories which I look forward to reminiscing on for the rest of my life; the ride home from school in her glorified go-kart of a car, the bacon sandwich she’d make every day while I sat down to watch afternoon cartoons (starting with Thundercats), the countless hours spent doing puzzles and playing word games. All of that was beautiful and lovely, but I think it would fail the depth of her character to limit my eulogy to youthful nostalgia.

Which presents a problem for me.

I realize, as I trawl through the annals of my biography, that my memory is not good. I have this collection of scenes from my childhood, but the details are so blurred. In these memories, her mannerisms and demeanor are perhaps the clearest of what remains; I can recall the lilting style of her voice when she would admonish me, or how her lips would purse woodenly while she read a story, or the way it seemed like every wrinkle on her face would contribute to her smiles. But ultimately, I can’t remember a lot of what she actually said to me. I forgot, kind of like loose change through a hole in your pocket. I was too young, incapable of understanding the myriad subtleties that no doubt accompanied her old-fashioned sensibilities and warm companionship. I want to say I know who she really was, but by the time I was beginning to develop an identity, she was losing hers to Alzheimer’s. I am stuck knowing her only through the murky lens of early grade school.

Continue reading eulogy

The Parabola of Life

She’s dying.

8:14 AM, February 11 (6 days ago):
…I just got off the phone with the Falls Home. Mom fell or collapsed (not sure quite how to describe it) in the dining room this morning. The staff roused her and she was talking. They called the paramedics who are taking her to the hospital. They assume it is cardiac related — her blood pressure was slightly elevated. I will go over a little later this morning to check on her and report back. Meanwhile, let’s entrust her to the Lord’s strong and wise care.”

10:44 PM, February 11(6 days ago):
…I talked with the primary hospital care physician late this afternoon. He gave me all the time I wanted on the phone to ask questions and talk through mom’s situation.

While she is stable now and a-symptomatic, and while the EKG showed little change from the EKG they had on file from last year, the cardial blood work showed evidence that she did have a heart attack this morning. The doctor will not have a clearer idea about the exact severity of the heart attack until some add’l test results come back probably tomorrow. Given the nature of what mom is facing and given a certain degree of possibility of further heart failure (because of her age and her Alzheimers), the doctors wanted guidance on what kind of measures to take to care for her. Jim and I agreed that we should sign a DNR (Do Not Ressusitate) authorization, and we directed the doctors to supportive but non-invasive measure to respond to any further developments. (sigh)

Mom was pretty upset this afternoon while I was visitng her. She didn’t know where she was, couldn’t understand that she was in the hospital, couldn’t remember she’d collapsed and been brought to the hospital in an ambulance, kept jerking the oxygen hose off her face, kept trying to shove tissues into the non-existent pockets of her hospital gown, swatted the hand of the nurse who patted her arm, and generally kept telling me how cruel I was for keeping her imprisoned in this place. So, the nurses were going to check with the doc about upping some of her sedatives to get the old girl to calm down…. which apparently had happened by the time the doctor called me late this afternoon…

…Thank you for your prayers.

8:39 PM, February 12 (5 days ago)
“It’s Sunday 8:30pm and I went over to see mom this afternoon. She was a lot calmer today. She was so wired yesterday, I’m sure they had to get out the tranquilizer gun to get her to be still.

I did not talk with the doctor today, but I did go over mom’s charts for the day. She had some more chest pains last night, but none today. It looks like she’ll be in the hospital for at least one more day unless some more symptoms flare up.

One bit of concern — she will have to be evaluated before being readmitted to the Falls Home. The evaluation is mostly related to mobility and self-awareness. My hunch it that she will be fine and show enough physical stamina and flexibility as well as mental ability for
self-maintenance (can brush her teeth, dress herself, take herself to the bathroom, etc.) to enable her to return to the Falls Home… but we’ll see.

Thanks for your continued prayers.

7:22 PM, February 13 (4 days ago)
“All was quiet today with mom. She reported no chest pains, and nothing alarming showed up on any of the heart monitors… which apparently she managed to keep attached all day. No small miracle.

The doctor will give her another evaluation tomorrow as will the Falls Home to determine whether her independent mobility is significantly changed.

It’s likely the doctor will prescribe nitroglicerin for her heart.

She slept a lot today for which the nursing staff was grateful.

And… that’s the latest. I did not journey over to see her today since all seemed quiet.

Thanks for your continued prayers.”

5:09 PM, February 14 (3 days ago)
I just got off the phone with mom’s primary care doctor and he gave me an update on mom’s condition. He confirmed again that the episode on Sat was a heart attack. However, they are continuing to run blood tests and EKG’s to determine if the continuing chest pains are an extension of that intitial episode or if they are caused by other things like acid reflux, angina, etc. They won’t be able to come to any conclusions about that for another week after they draw more blood for testing.

Mom did have more chest pains this morning, and the doc gave her nitroglycerine to counter that again. If she is free of chest pain tomorrow, he hopes she can return to the Falls Home on Thursday.

If the Falls Home is not convinced that her physical condition fits within their guidelines for residential care, mom will remain in the hospital on “swing care.” This is a 10 day – 2 week transitional evaluation period at the end of which the Falls Home can reassess her. If they reaffirm their position that she is now beyond their ability to care for her, then we will need to move her to a nursing home.

So, I guess that means that, given the possibility that she might need to move, I need to scout out some nursing home options. There is one possible location that I think is very suitable quite close to the house, and I will check there. We have one gal in the congregation who lives there as does the mother of another gal in the congregation.

I visited mom today, but she was kinda tired and dopey and not able to converse or concentrate at all, so it was a quick visit. I chatted with the nursing staff and they all seem to think she’s doing fine, as long as she’s not on a tirade…

…Thank you for your continuing prayers.

Considering that none of that is even reminiscent of my grandmother, I’m going to hope that my the grandmother I know (knew?) and love is up in heaven, and that what’s still down here is just a shell of what once was. I feel like I already mourned the loss of Nana three years ago, when her Alzheimer’s fully took over. Enough of this. I shall avoid comtemplation and reminiscing until her day is done.

It hurts.

Pro Suus, a Regina

We got her approximately a year after Calvin, the unstoppable beast felled by heartworms. She was 2, her birthday some time in October, and I was 4 or 5. Friends of ours, the Hogans, had gotten her expecting that she would be a good hunter, but when the husband released her and she ran off following the trail of anything and everything, and when the wife was unable to teach her the latest tricks beyond “sit” and “off the furniture”, we offered to take her off their hands. For a Basset, she was well trained. She knew how to stay off the carpet (not that we cared about that, to stay off furniture (again), not to drink from the toilet (hmmm), and yet despite this, did not understand the concept of a leash. This was Daisy.

Here she is at the Hogan’s, when we were picking her up. (~1994)

Daisy was so-named for the typical habits of Basset puppies. Bassets’ ears don’t grow much in their lifetime – they start out absolutely gigantic. Puppies are prone to trip on such large things quite often, prompting a saying such as “Oopsie-Daisy!”. Such was the origin of Daisy’s name. Daisy is also the name of a flower which I’ve particularly grown to like, not for its stunning beauty, but of the simplicity of the flower overall, combined with the variety of colors it comes in. That is the beauty of a Basset.


I don’t remember much about Daisy from when I lived in Mississippi. I do remember her getting out the door and chasing her all over the neighborhood, but not much more than that. I also remember her howling. We used to be able to get her to howl with us sometimes. She’d howl when we were gone. She’d howl when she thought we were gone. Her howl, to me, was not annoying. It had emotion. It had a message. She was saying “I am lonely.”. That is worth dealing with.


We tried breeding her several times, because Basset puppies can go for $500 dollars, and because Basset puppies are the cutest things alive. She, unfortunately, did not understand the concept of mating, and neither did any of her potential mates. There was no second generation.


Daisy’s personality was one of those that kind of…oozed onto your feet. In the form of drool. She was very normal. She was perfect with kids and other dogs and whatnot, and would kindly inform you with a growl and a glare of teeth if you’d gone too far. Which usually only involved yanking her tail. Indeed, she was a patient dog.


The move to New York generally did not affect her. She was not a fan of the snow, but was not opposed to the occasional romp.


The only scary incident we ever had with her was one summer morning. Outside on her leash, she lay sunbathing in the driveway. Oblivious to the car backing out of the garage, she lay in quiet until my dad heard her unmistakable yelp. Thanks to her being so fat, the car crushed the skin on the ground, and only suffered minor bleeding.


Time went on. She grew older. (~2003)

And older. (April 2004)

It was probably about this point she began to lose the spring in her step. It was no surprise, really. She was 13 years old. According to the generic conversion, she was 91 years old comparitively. We vaguely tried to limit her going up and down the stairs, fearing her joints would become too worn out. Her visits down to my room became a memory, and I grew very accustomed to clickity-clack of her sturdy nails on the floor above. I really enjoyed hearing that at night, the pattern of the click and the clack was soothing.

As time went on, she began to lose her desire to explore and wander. She began to lose her agility. I had taught her how to stand on her hind legs and catch the treats I threw her, but it was now more impressive for her just to catch the treats. She spent most of her time laying about the house, which was still a very soothing thing. Watching her lay there and wag her tail as you walked up was not much worse than her running around the house at full sprint. She got thinner.

When our family went our seperate ways this June, we left Daisy at home in the care of Sarah Barnard and the Johnson girls up the street. She was being cared for two or three times a day, we figured she would be okay. I was mildly worried about her when we left, fearing that she would not be okay. I came back after about a week of being gone to mow lawns and checked in on her, climbing through a window since I had no key. I was greeted by a dog wracked with loneliness. She had only eaten twice that week. She wagged her tail and barked and gave up as much emotion as she could. I took her for a walk (which she had just enough energy to do) letting her sniff wherever she wanted. This would be the last walk she would take.

I left back for the Carcich’s, and we all returned home a few days later. Daisy was worse still. Dad attributed it to loneliness, which was not entirely unfounded, as she does not eat or obey well while we are gone. It was something more. When we went on the family reunion, we took her with us. We could not do that to her once more.

She had to be lifted in and out of the car, a strenuous job. She coughed a lot and was not breathing well. Because pets were not allowed at the condo, we had to take her to a local kennel. When we picked her up, she was worse still.

On arriving home, we took her to the vet. Daisy had respiratory cancer, which had been developing for many months now. Her lungs were bleeding. She would suffocate to death. An infection in her throat was causing pain in breathing and eating. If this was not enough, she had several tumors applying pressure to her lungs and inhibiting movement. Even still, she had fleas from Madeline’s apartment. They gave us some antibiotics for the infection and flea medication, which would not save her. The goal was to make her as comfortable as possible. In the interests of her comfort, we would have her put down before she succombed to the disease. We were supposed to do that once we saw that she could no longer lay down to breathe. We brought her home expecting a few more weeks with her.

It was not to be. Mom and I spent 2 or 3 hours in the den with her, while watching the Tour de France. Mom and I cried for 2 or 3 hours. This was Saturday night.

We all agreed she would not last the week. It was to be done today. I wanted to be with her when she died, so I left work 30 minutes early. Once we got home, we got her in the car, I grabbed a box of tissues, and a blanket. I cried the whole way there, along with the periodic rain. As we helped her with the walk from the car to the building (we parked in front of the vet’s office), she made no noise. I think she knew what was happening. We got inside, and put her on the scale. She weighed 38.8 pounds. That’s about 10 pounds lower than what she was in January. Keeping in mind that all Bassets are big boned and heavy, she was highly underweight. She should have been about 43 pounds.

She moped towards the room we were to see her to. This is the same room we’ve always treated her in. From the time we’ve moved to Ithaca, she’s always been treated in this room. Maybe there are no other rooms for her to be in. But the fact remains. We signed the forms allowing her to be put to sleep, rejecting the ashes from her cremation. They took her in the back room to shave her legs. The last bark I heard from her was there. She could barely bark at all. It was unholy.

They brought her back in, and we stayed by her, petting her as they struggled to get the needle in. Meanwhile, she struggled harder and harder to keep herself propped up to breathe. She barely had the strength to do this, and continually slipped and slid back and forth, each effort weaker than the last. We pressed her head to the ground so the doctors could better inject her. She struggled, but slowly, began to slow down, her breathing slowed, her eyes stopped moving, her tongue stopped skipping in and out, and she lay still. The vet announced that she had passed, and my dad and I cried there, petting our goodbye to Daisy.

We walked out, and my Dad called two friends to say he couldn’t watch the movie with them tonight. He wanted to spend time at home. We all sat down and watched Gattaca together, ignoring the empty space on the floor that Daisy used to occupy.

For Her, a Queen.