Jay (brian1789) wrote,
Jay
brian1789

A year of facing mortality

A year ago, I was contemplating anniversaries, things which had changed my life profoundly in relationships and in how I interact with others . My quote was "February 7 is dear to my heart."

Later that day, I had a close brush with death, as my car was T-boned by a speeding driver running a red light under rainy conditions. My reflexes (and a fast car) saved me, as I accelerated far enough that the impact point was the left rear tire rather than the driver's door. It totaled my black Mustang, parts of which were then salvaged to combine with my current red Mustang. I was battered and bruised and still have some left knee pain. The other driver (in his 70s) hired a law firm and threatened/cajoled the eyewitnesses and claimed the light was yellow, escaping full responsibility.

A week later on Valentine's Day, my father Jack, who was on warfarin after a stroke the previous year, fell while fetching the newspaper, developed a breath-blocking hematoma and nearly died then. I spent the evening trading calls with my brother Coby back in Atlanta, outside the restaurant where patgreene and I had gone. Dad then spent a month in ICU, a month in rehab hospice, was released in late April. I was with Pat again in Mendocino celebrating her birthday and got a text from Coby, "he's lost the will to live, won't last a week, you need to come home". I went, a couple days later, and tried to help out. And again in June (with the boys, Father's Day) and September (his birthday, a surprise) and November. Dad stabilized and improved somewhat and got the feeding tube out over the summer, even went to the beach. But over the holidays, had a mild second stroke, but developed pneumonia in the hospital and didn't bounce back this time, passing on January 1. Both Pat and Geri went to Georgia with me and supported me there, and tenacious_snail offered.

My mother-in-law Eloise Greene was one of the nicest people I've ever known. She also helped Pat and I raise the boys when they were small and we had no local friends or community here... she would come and live with us for a month at a time. Twice over, when Pat's C-section (after Kevin) ripped open and required home nursing care for two months. Her banana pudding was famous, and she loved and respected me. She laid down for a nap on Mother's Day and didn't wake up. I did my best to support Pat and her siblings at the funeral and after.

In childhood and my teen years I was taunted and beaten and abused by my peers. Boys were dangerous and often hostile, not to be trusted. Girls were neutral and stayed out of the abuse. Consequently, 95% of my close friends in adulthood are female. In terms of other men around whom I could be vulnerable or express myself openly, the only ones were my father, my brother Coby, and Rob Firester, whom I met at MIT, was my best man at my wedding with patgreene and was the only male non-relative whose company I actively sought. A redhead like myself, Rob developed melanoma three years ago, had gone through a series of treatments, and died on 30 October, exactly 34 years after Rob had set up Pat and I to meet at a party at Wellesley College. anaisdjuna met me in Atlanta and supported me at the funeral.

This summer field season in the Arctic at Haughton Crater was colder than usual and very wet and muddy. There were only five of us in camp, and it was more of a challenge than usual. Exhausted, we beat low ceilings and bad weather and made it back to Resolute only a couple of days late on 4 August. Whereupon back on the grid, I got the news, relayed from a former OSO, that my LDR partner Ara Easley had died unexpectedly, in her sleep two days after having routine neck disc-replacement surgery. She was 41. And apparently my date with her in late June, while in Pasadena for drill tests, was her last with anyone. Ara and I had had a bumpy relationship, on and off over the years with some happy and some difficult times. But I had not lost a partner before. I arrived home on August 7 and left a day later for her funeral, accompanied by patgreene.

That's four loved ones lost over the past year, and a close call myself. I've spent periods of the past year depressed and seeing the world in shades of grey. It has affected my demeanor at work (cranky and brittle) and around the kids at home (likewise). There have been other challenges... David withholding disclosure of bad school performance, Kevin not getting into the colleges he wanted, the house being flooded (when we returned from Georgia on 12/31, there were several inches of water across most of the house due to a broken toilet... I spent 36 hours frantically cleaning and drying and doing remediation, fell asleep afterwards only to be woken by Kevin with news of Dad's death). Pat's month-long struggle with pneumonia in April. Even the used motorcycle I bought for $850 turned out to need $1200 of repairs, caused by botched maintenance by the prior owner and fraudulently covered up at the time of the sale.

I used to expect things would turn out all right in the end, if we kept moving forwards. Lately instead I've felt dread and expectations of disaster, "what's next?". Bracing for unspecified bad news. Ongoing low-level stress and depression. I've also gained ten pounds and my blood pressure is up 15 points, despite exercise.

There were some happy moments over the past year. But more and darker loss and grief. February 7 is no longer an unalloyed happy anniversary. It has been a tough year.
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