Saturday, December 30, 2023

Mom Died, and I Am Still Here for this Happiest of New Years

Somehow, this puts me in mind of my nephew when he was about five. Our family was together for Thanksgiving, and we were going around the table telling each other what we were thankful for. Memory-challenged Dad was thankful that everything was always new all the time. Taking up the jocular cue, my nephew wondered that since mammals all have hair, and grandpa doesn't but grandpa is human and humans are mammals, then is grandpa not human?

That was a nice Thanksgiving. 

Mom hasn't been entirely present for a long time. She can't register a thought about whatever it was that just happened. I doubt she even knows that she's not even here any more. But while alive and maybe not even thinking, she was recognizably herself and she did recognize every single person that she loved, by name, by old stories and by familiarity. This was proven when we celebrated her 95th birthday recently, and loved ones came from far away.

Thanksgiving came and went without her. Every sibling but me was away, and somehow I don't do Thanksgiving by myself. They'd dressed her up in memory care, thinking that she would be taken out. I paid her a visit and sent around her picture of vitality and actual beauty. I had dinner with my ex, at her sister's house, and it was lovely. 

Both of us somehow live out our vow of love for eternity. Maybe the vow is as present as Mom was for her birthday. She was there in spirit on Thanksgiving just because I have mastered her art of making the rolls! The exclamation point is because she always almost forgot about them as we were sitting down, and they were always almost burned. OH! The rolls! I have a post-it note now, under the alarm pad, which says "Stove Off?"

Had the dinner been at my ex's house, Mom would have been there. I never made it back to see her again that day as I'd said I would. Probably because I'd drunk some wine. Lame excuse!

As things happened, just before she had a stroke, my sister-in-law had decided that she would clean out some stuff from Mom's storage unit, which is where we stowed the stuff which might be too personal to give away, but which would no longer fit in Mom's ever-shrinking living spaces. Each of her downsized apartments and then rooms still managed to look like her. And as she lay dying, my own house had already been transformed to look like her.

I'd unboxed pictures and objects, including a Christmas crèche somehow missing the baby Jesus. It's the only sign my house had that it was Christmas. I thought my sister, the only one of us who still keeps Jesus in her heart, must have taken the baby Jesus for herself, when we all were packing up Mom's stuff some years ago. She says no, but I feel better for not having to hold in memory my suspicion. 

Now we are all preparing for Mom's funeral, where I won't speak since I can never be sure that I can hold myself together. And I don't want to fall apart in front of friends and family. Such a cop-out, but I have grown feeble that way. 

Last Christmas was cancelled because of a massive snowfall, which might have killed me as it did many others in our fair city. When my power went out, I'd opened all 9 faucets, hot and cold to a bare trickle, and layered myself with enough outer wear that I soon discovered that it would be my exhaustion and not my freezing to death which would kill me as I left the house to plow through drifts above my chest. The 40,000 BTU water heater ran the whole 80+ hours without electricity and the 1850's uninsulated brick house stayed just above freezing.

I am always so relieved when Christmas is cancelled. Once it was because of an appendicitis, when I was living over the border in Canada from my newly estranged wife and kids (one still on the way). The Christmas Eve trip to the hospital would have made for exciting film! The very nice customs officer was sure that I was faking.

The next time was a pulmonary embolism which went the way that Vladimir Harkonnen went when his heart plug was pulled by Sting in Dune from 1984. I may have been that film's only fan. I was on a walk with my icy mountain climbing sister when it was well below zero near my uninsulated apartment when I slumped on that Christmas Eve. 

Now Mom rescued me from not having bought any gifts. I show my love year 'round by my constructions, and have always been repulsed by mercantile capitalist Christmas. Except for when I knew what everyone wanted and was filled with joy at the prospect of giving it to them. Now I am the poor one. Poor me. I don't even own the pot I piss in. 

I feel rich in most ways. I am the beneficiary of love. Graced by good fortune, my social capital overfloweth. Social Security is sufficient, and I have good saving habits. I've worked hard jobs all my life. I'd be a regular guy, if I weren't so white.

And yet I persist to think and even sometimes claim that I own a wonderful secret that I would like so very much to give away, but can't. I try and try and try, but it remains meaningless to anyone else. 

Like, for just a quick example, I don't think that cars are necessary conveniences. I continue to pour money into the old Outback that was gifted me, simply because one can't buy a stick shift any more. If I must drive, I want to drive and not be driven. I've always loved the road. But I would be thrilled if there were working mass transit and high-speed rail of the sort they have in China; where I could go anywhere in sprawling Shanghai without even thinking much about it. Try that in the orbit of LA, where there might be lots of things going on, but it will take you longer to get there and back than almost any of them will be worth.

Cars to me are metaphor. They express our capitalist individuality, and as such represent our deadly fictional distance from one another. Cars are human robots, our truest selves now, and our intelligence within is all artifice, expressed with the subtlety of a tweet composed while driving. Musk and the Tesla he rode in on be damned for perpetuating the farce.

At least when I drive, I am not watching a moving picture, although truth be told I once did watch a Bills game on my mounted phone while I cruise-control traversed one of New York's vacant freeways, no self-driving required. That sure kept me awake! Go Bills!

While all the world remains fixated on the Sometime Great Notion that the brain is the mind, that the human is a wet robot, that emotion distracts from truth, that God is a delusion just as consciousness is an illusion (I am truly and eternally grateful to Daniel Dennett for these less-wrong assumptions), I remain a lonely holdout.

I no longer look to quantum physics to explain connection at a distance, and no longer need to denigrate metaphor as a parochial Western figure of speech. I just finished a speed read of God, Human, Animal, Machine by Meghan O'Gieblyn. I am familiar with all her references and sources, but her book was a revelation because she put them all in context. I can only dream of being able to write so well.

Dennett rids himself and us from the absurd Cartesian theater, only to reintroduce the mind/body split by virtue of an obsolete and newly dangerous notion that the mind is only embodied by being contained in the skull. It might as well be detached. The body composes our universal grammars, Doctor Chomsky, not some black box in or about the brain.

My Mom kept her language and her consciousness even without her short-term memory. She could even read and write. Her memory loss was a blessing, so fretful and worried had she been before. Trying to understand the strange paths her children and grandchildren took. Loving them just the same, no matter. Even the tattoos and the gender transitions.

I wonder why it is so hard to see a distributed eternal God, there at the beginning and perpetually here beyond all ends. No anthropomorphizing required, no perfect understanding allowed. Is it still the scientific mandate to remove all wonder? Must truth be expressed in mathematical equations? Do we consider love to be a merely human invention? Epiphenomena of the illusion of consciousness?

What, I ask, is wrong with love as the definer of time's direction? If evolution is progressive, then it is progressive across time whose only motive is love, apart from decay, its opposition. Yes, Virginia, the world is a better place now, and remains without end Dr. Oppenheimer, as realized by the Inception maker? What?

On balance, love wins out over hate and greed. Science introduces more wonder than it destroys. Religion now militates against the good, wanting the diktat of order where it doesn't belong. God is not a showman, please.

This all makes no nevermind, if your only goal is to make it in life. You can't take it with you, but it can be a blast right now! I really really want a motorcycle again, but now is not the season. I want for nothing, that is true. But I still want you to understand that we are not going to hell in a handbasket. 

Love prevails in the cosmos, and always will for so long as we don't replace our hearts with the artificial hearts of those we so wish to admire.

Happy Happy New Year, and many, many fine returns.

I love you Mom

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