What if this really is as good as it gets?

There is a point at which you have to ask yourself if your circumstances are a product of happenstance or design. Is this how life is because of bad luck, or is this how life is because I am incapable of manufacturing anything better?

I'm waiting for my father's words to come true - "Hang in there, sister. Things are bound to get better."

Maybe that was his experience. As a child, he was thrust into a life with a father he barely knew, but things got better. During the war he struggled to survive and maintain his sanity, but things got better. He was fired, but he found a job that brought him extraordinary satisfaction, wealth and prosperity, and things got better. He thought if I just rode out the storm there would come a day when the skies would clear. It turns out he couldn't have been more wrong. I actually believed what my dad told me. In fairness to him, he believed it too.

There will be no happy ending here. It is what it is.

And it is a bitter disappointment.


Happy Father's Day

Thank you for teaching me how to put a minnow on a hook and a fish on a stringer.
Thank you for teaching me how to throw a ball and swing a bat.
Thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike and drive a car.
Thank you for teaching me how to carve a pumpkin and shoot a shotgun.
Thank you for teaching me how to use a lawnmower and a stick shift.
Thank you for teaching me how to backwash the filter and rescue a salamander.
Thank you for teaching me how to shuck oysters and make ice cream.
Thank you for teaching me how to play pool and gin rummy.
Thank you for teaching me how to dive off the diving board and go down the slide.
Thank you for teaching me the difference between a merganser and a canvasback.
Thank you for teaching me to love Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.
Thank you for teaching me to "shake it off, sister."
Thank you for teaching me how to laugh and not to cry.

Thank you for showing me Mylie's Place and Mauna Lani.
Thank you for showing me Bequia and Grassy Butte.
Thank you for showing me Dead Moose Bay and Tigertail Beach.
Thank you for showing me whales and prairie dogs.
Thank you for showing me badlands and volcanoes.
Thank you for showing me manatees and those weird sheepshead fish with human teeth.
Thank you for showing me there are people who never yell or belittle.
Thank you for showing me there are people who are faithful and trustworthy.

Thank you for the swimming, ballet, piano, viola, voice, skiing and skating lessons. (Well, maybe not the skating lessons.)
Thank you for going to endless recitals and concerts.
Thank you for taking me to your office on Saturdays so I could play ping pong and drink Cokes while you worked.
Thank you for summer camp and canoe trips.
Thank you for letting me tag along to Divine's, Shinders, Parker Hanley, Sargent's, Gokey's, Burger Brothers, Baker Pool, Morey's, Alice Peterson's, Surdyk's, Dayton's, Bringgold's, Gabbert's, Kennys, Red's, Hudson's and anywhere else you happened to be going (and would have undoubtedly preferred to go alone because it would have been much faster).
Thank you for taking me to Vikings and Twins games.
Thank you for getting a puppy.
Thank you for fighting for our country.
Thank you for driving me to school when it was below zero.
Thank you for taking me to Olson Brothers for an ice cream cone after church.
Thank you for raucous 4th of July parties.
Thank you for helping me with math and accounting. (Well, maybe not the accounting.)
Thank you for my braces.
Thank you for bringing lefse and pickled pigs feet to Sunday School.
Thank you for taking me to the symphony.
Thank you for the Summit House and the houseboat.
Thank you for going to my son's baseball games.
Thank you for wearing lime green jackets and pink sport coats.
Thank you for being the epitōme of suāveness.
Thank you for taking care of me and my son.
Thank you for the only time in my life when I wasn't worried or afraid.
Thank you for loving me no matter what.
Thank you for always being happy to see me.

Thank you for putting your life on hold for Mom.
Thank you for never complaining.
Thank you for showing me what love and loyalty look like.
Thank you for dealing with your illness with dignity and humor.
Thank you for trying to hide your fear and sadness.
Thank you for wanting me by your side.
Thank you for giving me a purpose and making me feel important.
Thank you for being the father everyone wished they had.
Thank you for the best days of my life.

You will forever be greatly loved and missed.


Just the Facts

The unemployment rate in the United States was calculated at 9.1% as of May 2011. Unemployment is currently under-reported; even government officials admit their "adjustments" to unemployment figures are inaccurate during recessions. Economist John Williams puts the unemployment rate at 22.3%.

The average unemployed person has been looking for work for 39.7 weeks (9.5 months).  To add insult to injury, many of the unemployed who went back to school to be retrained for a new career have racked up student loan debt and are still unable to find a job.

Middle-aged workers (between the ages of 45-54) are the hardest hit.  While they should be in their prime earning years and at peak levels of expertise, they are the last to benefit from job recovery; losing out to cheaper employees who are either younger or older.

Most job openings in a company are filled without ever being posted.  Of the jobs that are posted, most will be filled internally and the resulting vacancies will be covered by distributing the workoad among current employees.  According to Forbes, as many as 90% of  jobs are obtained through casual connections; not via advertisement.  It is possible to apply for thousands of positions online and never receive a single response.

4.2 million mortgage borrowers are either seriously delinquent or have had their cases referred to lawyers to pursue foreclosure auctions, according to LPS Applied Analytics.  Of those, 2/3 have made no payments at all for at least a year, and 1/3 have gone more than two years.  Nationwide, it takes an average of 565 days to foreclose on borrowers in default from their first missed payment to the final auction.

Okay, admittedly these facts are depressing, yet I was so glad to find them!  They legitimize my experience - it isn't ME.  I realize that's of small comfort, but it's oddly comforting nonetheless.  (Misery loves company.)

Dad always said not to worry, things were bound to get better, just hang in there, everything's going to be alright.  I think he really believed it.  Hell, even I believed it!  He was so seldom wrong.  I wonder what he would say if he were here now. Probably the same thing - and I would want so desperately to believe him that I actually might.


The Hard Part

Okay, I think we've established becoming a career alcoholic doesn't appear to be a viable option for me.  What a pity; I think it's something I would have excelled at right up until the day I died of liver failure. (Living in a perpetual fog does have a certain appeal though, doesn't it?)

Now what? 

I have applied for jobs for which I'm overqualified.  I have applied for jobs for which I'm under-qualified.  I have applied for jobs for which I am eminently qualified. I have applied for permanent, temporary, full time and part time jobs.  I've applied for jobs near and far.  I've applied for jobs so far away that by the time I deduct the cost of gas I'd be working for $5.00/hour.

I've committed the potential employer's automated email response to memory.  It's always a variation of:
Thank you for your interest in the ABC position with XYZ Company.  Because we receive hundreds of applications for each position posted, we are unable to respond to every applicant personally.  If we determine your qualifications best meet our needs, you will be contacted by our Human Resources department. Good luck to you in your job search. 

Suffice to say I have never met their needs.  

Do they even read all the applications?  Would it help if I had a Facebook account so they know what I look like?  Should I include a photo on my resume?  Should I leave my son behind and move to North Dakota where there are hundreds of jobs begging to be filled?

I saw a news story about a woman who lost her home and is living in a van down by the river.  It immediately conjured up images of Chris Farley in a Saturday Night Live skit - the unemployed ne'er-do-well idiot living in the van down by the river. Suddenly it doesn't seem so funny.

That incredibly sad news story was followed by an incredibly ill-placed commercial where a man said life is meant to be enjoyed; not endured. What a lovely sentiment. What a bunch of crap.  

Sitting at the computer all day pulling up employment websites, filling out applications and tailoring resumes may seem like the proper thing to do under the circumstances, but I'm telling you, it sucks the life right out of you. Every job you don't get further destroys your confidence. EVERY JOB YOU DON'T GET, SOMEONE ELSE DOES.  Why???  What's wrong with me?  

You know what I need? I need a vacation.  Maybe I'll never have the kind of vacation where I see the ocean again or walk on a beach, but a vacation from failure would be nice.

The hard part is trying not to think about what's going to happen down the road. The hard part is maintaining a positive attitude; or at least faking one.  The hard part is pretending everything's going to be alright when I know it isn't.  The hard part is the realization that even if I get a job tomorrow it won't be enough to change the outcome.  The hard part is trying to figure out what I should do in preparation for the inevitable.  Sell everything?  Put the house on the market even though it's worth half the purchase price?  Walk away?  Squat?

The worst part is knowing my son will be a victim of my demise and see what a loser I am.

The best part is knowing my father won't.


The Morning After

I have a splitting headache and I feel like I'm going to puke.

This is a terrible disappointment. I'd intended to go to the liquor store this morning to buy a bottle of vodka so I could begin my regimen of excessive daily drinking. Now that's all shot to hell.  How ironic.  Instead of spending the day avoiding my dismal reality in the comfort of drug-induced euphoria, I find myself spending the day wallowing in my dismal reality in the discomfort of drug-induced emesis.

The best laid plans...


Slow Cooker

I was looking for my slow cooker.  I haven't used it in years, but I received a request for cocktail wieners wrapped in bacon covered with brown sugar.  (I know, I know...   But try to think of it as protein and carbohydrates as opposed to heart disease and diabetes.)

Anyway, I needed to find my slow cooker so I pulled a chair over to the cupboard, climbed up on the seat and peered into the dark recesses of the top shelf. Christmas napkins, birthday paper plates, a plethora of  old cups collected from various sporting events over the years (do we really need to keep a plastic Minnesota Wild cup from 2001 with all the writing completely rubbed off except for the L?  Well, I checked with my son and apparently we do), an assortment of vases for flowers I received decades ago (and yes, I know they're from decades ago because that's the last time I got flowers; and yes, I know it's pathetic that I bothered to keep them and move them with me every time I changed residences now that I think about it), and a bottle of wine.

What??? A bottle of wine? A BOTTLE OF WINE!  Eureka!!!  But wait. This is a bottle from two Christmases ago - could it possibly still be good?  (If you bought cheap wine, this is a question you'd have to ask yourself.)   Yes.  Yes, it's still good - the initial glass confirms it. The second glass immediately makes me more glib, clever, and entertaining than the first. (Granted, I don't actually have confirmation of this; it's simply a personal observation.)

My son comes home at 6:00pm and  asks incredulously, "Are you drinking wine?"   I instinctively go on the defensive: "Yes. Yes, it's wine. So what?" I don't drink by myself.  At least, I didn't until today. Now I understand why people do it. You feel happy - artificially, of course, but happy, nonetheless.  Is it any wonder people get drunk every night?  No, it's not.  (At this point we could delve into the reasons some sorry individuals are so miserable they find it necessary to self-medicate on a regular basis, but let's not. It would really harsh my buzz.)  Alcohol makes us feel good. Troubles melt away and we instantly become scintillating conversationalists and sages of wisdom. I have it on the finest authority.

I have a third glass. I'm on a roll.  (Hard to believe when I first opened the bottle I was fretting over how many days it would keep without being refrigerated; there's nothing worse than refrigerated red wine.  Fortunately now that wasn't going to be a problem.)

I have a fourth and fifth glass and finish off the bottle.

This is a brilliant new discovery.  I make a silent pact with myself to start drinking every night.  Hell, I'm unemployed; let's make it every day - all day!

Hold on.  I have the hiccups and my stomach doesn't feel so great. This is no good.

I want a new drug.
One that won't make me sick
One that won't make me crash my car
Or make me feel three feet thick

I want a new drug
One that won't hurt my head
One that won't make my mouth too dry
Or make my eyes too red.

I want a new drug
One that won't spill
One that don't cost too much
Or come in a pill

I want a new drug
One that won't go away
One that won't keep me up all night
One that won't make me sleep all day

I want a new drug 
One that does what it should 
One that won't make me feel too bad 
One that won't make me feel too good 

I want a new drug 

One with no doubt 

One that won't make me talk too much 

Or make my face break out 


Clearly, after having consumed a bottle of wine, I have become a Grammy-winning lyricist. The words came to me as effortlessly as if I'd heard them a thousand times before.

This, however, pales in comparison to the earth-shattering revelations which occurred under the influence of cannabis many years ago. I know this for a fact because I still have the matchbook to prove it.  At the time, I was standing in the center of a hazy room filled with people in various states of altered consciousness. It was completely quiet.  I held an imaginary baton in my hand and began directing with the dramatic, fluid, sweeping, graceful motions of Toscanini.  Those who were awake were absolutely mesmerized; staring at me in wonderment and awe (or perhaps in a confused stupor - it's hard to say).  You could have heard a pin drop. This spellbinding air ballet went on uninterrupted for at least ten minutes (or perhaps it was only thirty seconds - it's hard to say).  Recognizing a magical moment when I saw one (if I do say so myself) the incident was forever preserved on a matchbook cover upon which I scribbled the profound words: I was conducting the silence.

Sheer genius.

(Just out of curiosity, how is it that I can remember that night like it was yesterday, when I can't remember yesterday?)

Sadly, the pure joy of that idyllic evening was soon shattered by the unfortunate event which followed. We ordered a pizza and thirty minutes later when the sound of the doorbell suddenly pierced the tranquility of our bucolic bubble, I panicked and in a moment of utter paranoia flushed all the pot down the toilet.  "What?  It was just the pizza delivery guy?  Oh, geez.  Sorry."  It could happen to anyone.

Then of course there were the cocaine aficionados. They rarely came up with anything intelligent or life-altering or important to say (even though they talked incessantly) and they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing when, where, and how to get more cocaine.  They did, however, do everything fast. I guess there's something to be said for that.

P.S.  Totally forgot about the slow cooker.  Made spaghetti instead.


Perfectly Normal

Good news! According to the literature I keep receiving in the mail (exactly how did I get on all those lists?) I am just another run-of-the-mill, standard-issue, typical, textbook-case, grieving human being.  Which I suppose should be of some comfort, but mostly it makes me feel like a weak-minded, emotional, overwrought, spineless wimp. Ugh.  As a rule, I don't have much patience for those people  and suddenly I find myself one of them.  Very disconcerting.  Rest assured I'm working on trying to rise above it  it certainly seems feasible.  If Dad were here he'd know how to do it. Did I mention Dad?  Oh oh.  Here I go ...............................................

It's like the movie Somewhere in Time when Christopher Reeve reaches into his pocket in 1912, finds the penny from 1979 and is thrust, kicking and screaming, back into the reality he does not want.  I can only pretend to be unaffected for so long before the facade cracks and it's all right there again.  I'm up to about 30 straight minutes of successful faking at this point.  If I continue at this breakneck pace I'll be able to make it through a whole day in... let's see... approximately... crap, I have no idea.  I'm no accountant.  If Dad were here he'd know. Did I just mention Dad?  Oh oh.  Here I go again ............................................

  • Feel tightness in the throat or heaviness in the chest.
  • Feel unexpected emotional swings.
  • Feel restless and look for activity but find it difficult to concentrate.
  • Wander aimlessly forgetting to finish things you've started to do around the house.
  • Have difficulty sleeping.
  • Experience an intense preoccupation with the life of the deceased.
  • Need to tell and retell and remember things about the loved one and the experience of their death.
  • Feel mood changes over the slightest things.
  • Cry at unexpected times and in unexpected places. (My apologies to the staff at Walgreens and P.F. Chang's and Holiday.)
  • You are no longer the person you once were. Loss has changed you.
  • Grief is a long, time-consuming process; a roller coaster ride full of ups and downs, highs and lows. The ride tends to be rougher in the beginning; the lows deeper and longer. Gradually though, over time, the highs and lows become less intense.
  • It takes time to resolve grief. Be gentle with yourself. Do what you feel is necessary when you are comfortable doing it. What other people did, when they did it, does not mean you will operate on the same schedule or do the same things. Follow your instincts. It is critical not to increase the level of stress you are already experiencing. Avoid making significant changes such as moving or a new job for at least six months. (If past experience is any indication, that shouldn't be a  problem.)
  • The end of grief is not the end of memory, but the end of memory with pain.
  • You can find life beyond loss - a changed life, but life nevertheless. Slowly over time, you will find joy again.


Oh good.  I'm told I will find joy again.  Far be it from me to question the authorities on this sort of thing, but I wish they had specified precisely where one might expect to find the aforementioned joy.  Maybe that'll be in tomorrow's mail.


What it's Like

My whole life I knew my father loved me unconditionally. I knew I mattered to him. He made me feel worthwhile and important. It wasn't something I sat around thinking about on a daily basis, "Oh boy! I am soooo loved!" It was just this intangible thing that was part of my life - and there was no better feeling in the world than being special to my dad.  That feeling was always there; so familiar and constant it often went unnoticed - like background music.

When he died, the music stopped. Now that, I noticed.

The silence is deafening.


A Sign

You know that thing people say when someone close to them dies - that they can FEEL the presence of their departed loved one all around them? That they know he/she is watching over them? Their guardian angel?

What a bunch of crap.

Maybe I should try to put that more delicately... What a bunch of wishful thinking. It ranks right up there with, "I know we'll see each other again." I can't decide if that's an incredibly pleasant and comforting way to think, or if it's just childish and pathetic.

I try to feel my dad's presence. I get nothing. Zilch. Zip. Nada. And if there's anyone's presence I should be able to feel, it's his. I even asked him to give me sign -- anything at all -- to let me know he is still with me.

The closest I came was when I was doing laundry and couldn't find a sock I'd washed. (One of Dad's old GoldToe black socks that my son needed to wear to the memorial service. Kids these days don't own black socks - at least, mine doesn't.)

I looked for that sock everywhere. Not in the dryer; it's empty. I checked twice. Not stuck to any other clothes; I checked them all twice. Not still in the washer. I checked twice. Not on the floor. I checked everywhere. Twice. So, I gave up.

I did another load of laundry and when I opened the dryer to put the clothes in, there was the sock - the heretofore mysteriously missing, nice, clean, fluffy, dry sock. Ta da!!! There you have it; clearly a sign. (Not a sign of a desperate mind... a sign from my dad, of course.) "Yes, doubting daughter. I am here watching over you and you CAN feel my presence. See??? Here's my sock. Proof!"

Either that, or the sock was snagged on the top of the dryer barrel when I'd looked for it earlier (did I mention I looked twice?) and it fell down in the interim.

Hard to say. Though I suspect if Dad were going to give me a sign he wouldn't use the age-old "missing sock" trick. It would be something much more dramatic - like maybe an apparition standing in the doorway holding a fishing rod, or a bottle of Tanqueray Gin appearing on the kitchen counter, or a lengthy conversation in a dream.

I'd like that.


I Had a Purpose

In the beginning, I could bring him back. It was only temporary, but it was possible. I could spark a memory. I could make him laugh. We talked for hours. I took him places. He still engaged. I could distract him from his dismal existence.

Eventually all I could accomplish was getting him to smile. I talked; he tried. I read to him. I fed him, washed his face, cleaned him up, and sat with him until he fell asleep in his chair.

In the end, I was just there. I'd like to think he took comfort from my presence, but that's only wishful thinking. He didn't know who the hell I was and he no longer smiled. My visits meant nothing to him; I couldn't alleviate his torment; he was anxious and angry. I went to see him less often when I undoubtedly should have gone to see him more. Maybe my visits weren't pointless. Maybe he was even worse when I wasn't there. I'm sorry, Dad.

Once upon a time I had a purpose. I eased his mind. Then I was utterly worthless. Then he died.

-The End.


So This is Grief

I'm not sure how to describe this feeling. I don't know if it's physical or mental - this unwelcome malaise. It feels like I'm coming down with something. I haven't been to a doctor in ages - maybe there's something wrong with me. Or maybe this is plain old garden-variety exhaustion from not sleeping. Or maybe, just maybe, this is how I will feel for the rest of my life.

I understand death; I knew my father would die. I just didn't expect part of me die along with him.

So this is grief.

Does the fog ever lift, or do you simply get used to it?


The End

My father died today.

I'm surprised the earth is still spinning. I'm surprised the sun is still shining. I'm surprised his death didn't cause a rip in the space-time continuum and destroy the universe.

It seems as though there should be some sort of acknowledgment by the world that my father is dead, but as far as I can tell the only thing that has changed is me. Half of me is missing. Does that ever come back? I doubt it. I think you must just grow accustomed to being empty. The problem is that the emptiness fills with sadness.

I will never see him again. I will never hear his voice again. I will never be his daughter again. I will never matter to anyone the way I mattered to him again.

He was everything to me. I don't know who I am without him.

I suppose the sun will rise tomorrow and life will go on - same old, same old. How can that possibly be?

It can't.

Nothing will ever be the same again.


My Father is Dying

My father is dying. I think it's just a matter of days. I sit next to his bed and watch him breathe. That's it. I am of no use to him whatsoever. None.

We are hyper-alert to any grimace or moan. (More morphine, please.) We will NOT allow him to suffer. (More morphine, please.) Our father MUST NOT be permitted to experience even one second of pain. (More morphine, please.)

They bring the dose up too slowly. Apparently conventional wisdom says it's better to approach this cautiously over a period of a few days. "Yes, clearly he's experiencing pain. We'll give him a little more and wait to see if that stops it." It doesn't. They try a little more. Nope; he's still groaning and calling out for it to end: "I can't do this. Please help me."

We're trying, Dad.

I suppose the fear is if they give him too much he might die. One must never hasten a suffering man's inevitable death. Much better to drag out that death and let him languish a few days longer until we find the minimal amount of medication needed to stop any sign of pain or torment. Then let's let him lie there a few more days beyond that while his organs slowly shut down until he finally draws his last breath. Under no circumstances should he be given so much medication it might end his life before he has suffered through every last second of it.

It's too bad he's not a dog. A vet would never permit him to endure this prolonged, agonizingly slow death.

How fucked up is that?


Insane Rant

It occurs to me, after reading the writings of Jared Loughner,


that my Telephone rant is just one step away from crazy.

Make that two steps.

Okay, three - tops.



I'm not much of a telephone-talker.  I never have been.  I remember back in junior high and high school when my friends would call and could have talked all night long if I'd been receptive to the idea.  I wasn't.  Those were the days before the fine invention of call-waiting; those ancient times of rotary dials and busy signals. Depending on who I was trying to call, I knew that busy signal could potentially last for hours.  It wasn't only teenage girls who suffered this affliction, it was often their mothers, too - it's definitely a female predilection.  Frankly, I never understood it. Thankfully my mom wasn't one of those incessant, yammering yakkers; I don't think either of my sisters were, either.  I suppose there are some who might consider my phone aversion bordering on anti-social.  Maybe so.  I would counter that the diarrhea-of-the-mouth contigent are narcissistic and needy.  So there.

I know most people screen their calls these days.  I know most people don't answer when they don't feel like it.  But there's always that nagging feeling one gets when the phone rings; as if one is required to pick it up.  We had this discussion at a party the other night, and the consensus was that no one felt compelled to be held hostage to a ringing phone.  Many confessed they didn't even bother to check to see who was calling, and some revealed turning off the ringer altogether.  Wow!  What mavericks!

If someone leaves a message that requires a return call, then of course it would be rude to ignore it.  Otherwise, all bets are off.  Our informal poll indicated phone calls are now primarily placed when they serve an actual purpose - killing time doesn't count.  Well, what do you know - it turns out my family wasn't freakish after all.  (If I had been at all concerned about this, just imagine how relieved I'd be.)

While there are still some old-school phoneaholics out there who think it's perfectly normal to call several times a day and are incapable of gabbing for less than twenty minutes a pop, it now appears those mind-numbing, inane conversations about nothing-in-particular have evolved into being reserved for chatting with long lost acquaintances, seldom-heard-from relatives, and like-minded individuals who share the propensity to blather.  Thank goodness they have each other.  The problem lies with those clueless people who are completely oblivious to the cues being given by someone who is vainly trying to get off the phone.  Or maybe they aren't really oblivious at all and are so egotistical they've managed to convince themselves they're somehow entitled to our attention; that we owe it to them to listen.  Phone bullies.  Talk about being held hostage!

We all suffer from the delusion that we are infinitely more interesting than we really are, and that the world desperately wants to hear everything we have to say.  In fact, some people think they're so damn interesting they actually start their own blogs as an outlet to pontificate.  How pathetic can you get!  Oh well.  At least reading can be done at your leisure and if you find yourself bored out of your mind you can always disconnect at anyti

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