Mortality

mortality

My aunt suffered a stroke a little over a week ago, a bad one.  I didn’t get a chance to speak with her before Christmas. Strike that. I had every chance in the world, but did not make it a priority. I was busy, and rationalized (in hindsight, of course) that I’d call when things settled down after my trip to Florida. So I felt compelled to actually see her to say goodbye, tell her how much I love her, and thank her for being a wonderful Aunt.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip because my cousin warned me about her condition. I knew she would be conscious and uncommunicative, but it was worse than that. I have no idea if she knew who was there or what was being said. She looked at me, but it was more like she looked through me, staring blankly into space. I just happened to be in her line of sight.

She showed the obvious signs of a stroke, kept picking at her blankets, the institutional garment she wore, mumbled constantly and looked much older than her 90 years. A  vibrant, engaging, funny and lovely woman was sadly reduced to this. Part of me felt a voyeur, and all of me felt guilty for being there because I am sure she would not want people to see her in that condition.

Unless it is by our own hands, we never get to choose how we exit this life. Our final scene can often be so undignified, and that is was bothered me the most about seeing her that way. It would have been better if she was unconscious. She would have looked like she was resting comfortably, at peace, and more like the woman I knew and loved.

I drove away from that visit thinking about aging and our mortality. You’d have thought these musings would have occurred when my parents passed away within five months of one another in 2015, but that wasn’t the case.

Both had lived good, long and healthy lives. Dad was 96 and Mom 92. They were both mentally sharp as tacks through the end and both passed quickly. Dad had a massive stroke and was placed in hospice care. We kept a constant vigil around his bed for three full days. On the fourth day everyone who had taken turns watching over him spent the night at their houses, which is when he slipped away. I am sure it was because he never wanted people to fuss over him, so he waited until every was gone.

Mom had a cerebral hemorrhage and died within hours. She was living in an assisted living facility at the time, and K and her Mom had just spent the afternoon with her. She notified friends she was having dinner with that she felt funny and was seeing double, and they had someone escort her to the nurse when it happened. I’m told she slumped in her chair in front of the nurse, completely unconscious.

The assisted living facility called while I was out having dinner with Nidan. It didn’t sound ominous, but then a call from the ER doctor at the hospital she was taken to came, and that changed everything. We ended dinner immediately and I drove Nidan home, then rushed to the hospital, not really knowing what to expect. When I saw her in the emergency room, I instantly knew she was gone, even though she was still breathing. It was a shock and broke my heart, but after a spasm of heavy sobbing, I made some calls.

Unlike Dad,  she didn’t want to be alone when she slipped to the other side. It took a little over ninety minutes for K, Nidan, my brother and his wife, and a few others to gather in her room, and shortly after we were all there it looked like she might not be breathing. She wasn’t.

I was and still am grateful that my parents fears of a painful, lingering demise where they were an emotional and financial burden to their kids never materialized. I should be so lucky.

I grieved for the loss of my parents loss but was not devastated. After all, who wouldn’t sign up for the life they had and the way their lives ended?  But I was so busy with making funeral preparations for Dad, helping Mom move then watching after her in the interim, then handling her sudden and unexpected death, that the idea of aging and dying never occurred to me.

I think the reason it has now is because my Dad came from a large family of nine. I was really close to most of his brothers and sisters, having hung out at their houses as a kid in addition to summer vacations at the beach. Those times were so fun, carefree and innocent, and the memories are wonderful.

When my Aunt passes, which be fairly soon considering she is on morphine and was placed at a hospice level of care, only one Aunt will remain. She is the baby of the family at 88, and is not in the greatest of health either. The end of the line is very near in terms of my Dad’s siblings. Once that occurs, the book will close on a significant chapter of my life, and my childhood will officially die with it.

I thought I felt that way in 2015, but the truth is I felt more like an orphan when my parents passed. It was weird knowing that the people who nurtured me, taught me, loved me unconditionally and shepherded me into successful adulthood were gone. The void was unimaginable, and the loss hurt. But I didn’t think about the stuff I am thinking about now, and think that’s because when my Aunts pass, the last remaining vestiges of those carefree years will be gone. I will become the adult for the generations to come, and one day, the roles will be reversed. I will be the one saying sayonara, and my nieces and nephews will be mourning me. Perhaps some of them will feel what I am feeling now.

I’m not fearful or morose, but have become introspective. How will my end of life scenario unfold, not only in terms of the how but the when? I’m turning 60 in a couple of months, which is not ancient by any means. But I have been on the downhill side of life expectancy for a while now, and have no idea how or if MS will hasten that fateful day or prolong the process. I certainly hope not because, perhaps not so ironically, I have the same fear my parents had about becoming an emotional and financial burden on my surviving family.

Mom and Dad were blessed with longevity, independence, and good physical/mental health. Is it too much ask that this not skip a generation? And while I’m at it, can the end be quick and painless, as it was for them? Hopefully the genes I’ve inherited will help make that happen.

I hope this hasn’t been too morbid, but don’t all of us think of these things at one time or another? I certainly plan on being around a while, and would love to able to celebrate my 100th birthday. I’m looking forward to my retirement years, playing with grandchildren and spoiling them rotten. I’m looking forward to an empty nest that I can enjoy with my lovely bride of thirty one years, and hope we can both thrive during the sunsets of our lives. We’ve earned that.

For now, however, another somber funeral is probably days away. The family will close ranks and all the cousins I grew up and hung out with as a kid will assemble with their families. Afterwards, we’ll laugh and rehash good memories, lament for the umpteenth time that it’s a shame we only get together for these types of occasions, and vow to change that. Who knows? Maybe this time it will actually happen.

Then we will return to our respective lives, and time will march on. The musings I’ve shared will also fade, but perhaps not completely vanish, and I don’t think that would be a bad thing. Maybe it will help me appreciate life more than being afflicted with MS has, and help me embrace every remaining day I have without sweating the small stuff I am still prone to do on occasion.

After all, I’m not a spring chicken anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Final Hunt – Part 8

alien

Superman has tagged me for something different today, which is a good thing because I didn’t have a clue concerning a subject to write about. Instead, my mission is to  add to a story originally started by Teresa, the Haunted Wordsmith; it’s like a kind of blogging relay race apparently. This is the story so far……

Teresa’s Part:

Anne and Gladys waved as the men left for their hunt. When they were out of sight, they both laughed knowing full well that none would have the heart to really shoot anything. They liked a boy’s day out as much as they liked a girl’s day in.

“So,” Fred said as they passed the gate into his family’s hunting grounds. “What do you think the girls are up to today?”

Alec laughed. “Talking about us, what else?”

Sam nodded. “Yep.”

As they walked through the fields into the tree line, the dogs’ ears’ picked up. Boy whimpered and cowered close to Fred’s legs. Toby’s fur stood on edge as he stared into the woods and growled.

“Easy there,” Alec said, trying to calm him.

Sam kneeled and unzipped his gun as quietly as possible. Suddenly, both dogs were on alert as a …

Morpethroad wrote:

small, bespectacled man stepped through the bushes. The dogs were going berserk by now straining at their leashes. It was clear the dogs sensed a danger the men did not see.

The man walking towards them was squinting as he approached as he had the sun in his eyes.

“Good afternoon,” he said as he drew near, “your dogs won’t bite will they? I do have a fear of them.”

Sam stood with his gun in his hands unsure of what he was seeing and hearing. The place they were in was a piece of rugged bushland, no one lived there because it was the family’s hunting grounds and it was considered unsafe to even camp on the land for any reason at all.

Fred was trying his best to hold onto his dog, and Alec held firm on Toby’s collar. Once the small man came within a few feet of the hunting party, they could see…

Pensitivity101 continues:

he was holding something in a plastic bag.

Fred lost his grip and Boy lunged at the man who dropped the bag on the ground and threw his arms up to protect his face.

Fred was afraid they would have to shoot the dog but Boy wasn’t interested in the man at all, just the bag, which he snatched up and obediently brought back to his master.

The little man was shaking with fear as Sam reached out his hand to help him up.

“You realise you’re trespassing don’t you?” he said.

The man straightened his glasses and collected himself.

“I’m sorry about that, but we’d received a repor….”

“We? Who is we? And what are you doing here? You could have been shot!”

Fred had taken the bag out of Boy’s mouth and stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Guys? I think you need to look at this.”

Sadje’s contribution:

Sam and Alec stepped forward to take a look at what was in the bag. Fred’s hand, clutching the bag, was trembling. The bag contained a severed hand, the digits were shaped like a claw. But it was like no human hand they had ever seen. It was like it belonged to someone very big and skinny.

“Whe…, Ahm….Where did you find this?” Alec uttered the question through vocal cords which were refusing to cooperate. Sam and Fred were looking askance at the stranger. The whole situation had taken on a nightmarish quality.

The man, again made an attempt to introduce himself. “I am Bennett, from The Agency of Alien Detection, TAAD. We received the alien activity signals from this area and a party has been investigating the situation. This is part of the remains we were able to recover. Do you have any information regarding this?”

The three men stared at him with gapping mouth and glazed looks. Who in their right mind would believe this man. But the evidence was in their hands.

Sam took the bag from Fred and was going to examine it closely when…

Cheryl added:

…when the bag’s contents started moving. The claw-like severed hand was scratching at the plastic bag. Sam dropped it like a hot potato! The boys started to freak out and started to whimper. The spectacled man even stepped back. “Oh my,” Bennett stuttered, “I thought it was, uh, uh, dead!”

Sam kept his gun at the ready. There was no way this “thing” was going to hurt the boys. Bennett fumbled nervously in his pocket to retrieve what looked like a cell phone, but was actually a communicator to the rest of the landing crew. His face seemed to change shape a bit and he started to adjust his hair. Sam looked at the little man with more than just curiosity. Who was this guy, really?

This was Fandango’s contribution

“Do not touch that bag!” Bennett, who was no longer a small, bespectacled, unimposing man, shouted. He had suddenly grown taller. His skin took on a shiny, reddish tone and his hands took on the same claw-like shape of the severed hand in the bag. The three men stepped back and even the two dogs stopped barking and cowered.

“What are you?” Alec asked. “you definitely are not human.”

“No,” Bennett admitted, “I am not. My companion and I were sent here from our home planet to explore your planet. Our mission was peaceful. Our intent was merely to collect air and mineral samples. We intended no harm. But then we encountered a hostile group of creatures who jumped my companion. I’m ashamed to say that I ran for cover, while these creatures devoured my companion. All that was left of him was the hand that I put in the bag. But he is apparently beginning the regeneration process.”

“Creatures? What kind of creatures?” Sam asked.

“Similar to those,” Bennett said, pointing to the two dogs, “but larger and much more viscous.”

“Wolves,” Fred said.

Sam raised his rifle and aimed it at the alien. “Sam, what are you doing?” Alec shouted.

Suddenly…

Now over to me:

There was a noise overhead and both Alec and Sam turned sharply to try and identify it’s source; necks craning upwards they searched the sky but there was nothing other than a dense cloud bank.

“Looks like there’s a storm coming” said Alec “Perhaps it was thunder we heard”

He turned to look at Sam who had resumed his position; stock still with his gun aimed at Bennett’s head

“That wasn’t thunder, was it Mr Bennett?” Sam said quietly

“Sam! Please put down your gun, there’s no need for threats, Mr Bennett has explained that he has no beef with us, he’s just doing some research”

Alec was surprised at his friend’s behaviour especially as Boy and Toby were no longer agitated but laying peacefully at their feet. In his experience dogs were far better attuned to sense danger than any human.

“And you believe him do you?” Sam was absolutely rigid and he spoke from the corner of his mouth through clenched teeth as though in mortal terror or suppressed anger, Alec couldn’t be sure which.

“Yes I believe him Sam now put the gun down for God’s sake before some gets hurt”

Alec was becoming genuinely concerned, they were both hunters but he knew from long experience that Sam was not a violent man. He stepped forward to try to placate his friend and persuade him to drop his weapon.= but just then the sky darkened and………..

Superman’s (Billy Mac) contribution:

They were slammed to the ground by a sudden, swirling and violent thrust of downward pressure. The trees bent outwards in futile surrender as they were pelted by leaves and underbrush. The noise was deafening. The dogs, unable to stand, yelped as they crawled towards the outskirts of the clearing. Sam, having lost his tenuous grip on the shotgun, helplessly watched as it was flung beyond his sight. He found himself being tossed around on the forest floor as he tried to find something to hold onto. He cried out to Alec who was frantically hugging the base of a tree at least 20 feet away.

“Alec! What the ever loving f&*k is going on?!” He shouted. As the words left his mouth he knew that the cacophony around him had drowned him out.

Alec, instead of futilely trying to shout over the deafening noise waved his right arm, his left clinging to the tree base, caught Sam’s attention and frantically pointed upwards, jabbing at the forest ceiling.

Suddenly branches and debris began raining down upon them and both men cowered under the onslaught. Sam forced himself to look up. Squinting and covering his eyes with one hand he could see a large object slowly lowering itself into the clearing, effortlessly forcing aside the trees that dared block its descent.

The heat was overwhelming, Sam could only presume it was exhaust.

But from what?

He scrambled to escape the clearing. Alec, with a sudden burst of brevity let go of the tree and did a military crawl to join his friend. Once he reached Sam they locked arms and watched what they could only presume was Bennett’s ride home finish it’s descent.

My two cents:

Ending its descent before touching down, the craft hovered several feet above the ground. The cacophony of sound, which was deafening as the alien ship forced its way into the clearing, was gone. The woods was eerily silent, as if aware of a malignant presence that it did not want to disturb. The symphony of birds, insects, and the other creatures that inhabited the grounds had vanished. Even the sound of water cascading down the brooks and streams that crisscrossed their route could not be detected. If not for the sound of their heavy breathing, Sam and Alec might have thought they were struck deaf.

The air was calm and still, but somehow felt alive, pulsating with a vibration and energy that was palpable. Sam wiped what he thought was perspiration beading the side of his face, and was alarmed when he saw blood on his hands. Turning to his partner, his eyes widened as he witnessed blood seeping from Alec’s ears and nose. Gently elbowing his friend’s bicep to get his attention, Sam pointed to Alec’s face and then his own. As Alec rubbed the space between his nose and upper lip, Sam heard Alec moan “What the hell?”, but Alec’s lips did not move. Confused, Sam hoped this was a nightmare he would soon wake from when he heard Alec respond “This is no nightmare, Sam. Can you hear my thoughts? I sure as hell can hear yours.”

Sam nodded. He didn’t question their sudden telepathic capabilities, instinctively knowing the alien presence somehow enabled it. Perhaps it was best under the circumstances that they could communicate in this manner, and not draw attention to themselves by making noise with their voices.

“We have to get out of here,” Sam heard Alec think, pointing to Sam’s face. The drops of  blood from Sam’s ears and nose had developed into a trickle. Sam saw Alec grimace when he felt his own eyes suddenly tear, and knew it wasn’t tears emerging from his eyes.

The men resumed their military crawl to get as far away from this place as they could without being detected. Moving backwards in this fashion so they would not lose sight of what was in front of them, the air around them suddenly became heavy. Their bodies became immobile, seemingly tethered to the leaf covered terrain, as if an invisible lead blanket enveloped them.

“Christ!” Alec heard Sam think, and was about to reply when a sound that was similar to the opening of an enormous vault pierced the silence. As a sliver of blinding light emerged from the ship, Sam reflexively turned his eyes away from it, and saw leaves, wooden debris and a several mice, chipmunks and a handful of other small rodents get sucked towards the ship, as if caught in a vortex of gravity.

The men felt their bodies become caught in that vortex and become involuntarily drawn towards the ship. Fortunately two large oaks were in their path, and stopped their momentum. They shielded their eyes from the light that was no longer an emerging sliver, but a floodlight of sun-like intensity that enveloped the entire scene.

Bennett, who had transformed into his natural form, approached the ship and appeared to be communicating with something neither Sam or Alec could see. Their blood turned cold when Bennett raised his arm, turned his body and extended a long, bony finger from his claw-like hand and pointed in their direction.

“Oh shit!” both men thought in unison.

 

I pass the baton Susan @ Stories From The Edge of Blindness take it to from here. Susan, I know this may not be in your wheelhouse, but I’d love do see with what you can do with it.

This is what you need to do next:

1. Copy the story as you receive it.
2. Add to the story in some fashion.
3. Either tag another person to contribute to the story or finish the story yourself.
4. Please use FTS as a tag so Teresa can find it or link back to part 1.
5. Have Fun!

Revisiting My 2018 Resolutions

2018 resolutions

One of my last posts of 2017 was a declaration of resolutions for the upcoming new year. Now that 2018 is in the books, I thought it would be interesting to see what those resolutions were (there was only one that I remembered) and how I did. What I discovered was a mixed bag: some complete successes and utter failures. Here are the results:

Get my book published:  The book isn’t published, but it is in the process of being submitted to various publishers. This campaign started later in the year than I anticipated, but at least the word is out and folks are taking a look at it. Hopefully 2019 will be the year.

Break ground on a new house or be in the process of remodeling an existing one: If you follow this blog, you know that ground has been broken and the foundation is in. Unless something catastrophic occurs, we should be moved in by summer. We nailed this one!

Be ten pounds lighter: Um……not even close. I can say that I did get to that point at one time during the year, but got tired of the struggle of dieting and said the hell with it. My motivation now is to not count every single morsel I put in my mouth, and try not to exceed a certain weight. It has worked so far, but, in all honesty, I am not going to get near a scale until after Ground Hog’s Day.

My MS symptoms will remain confined to one limb: Put this one in the success column. I can’t say I had a lot to do with this. Maybe I can thank my neurologist, or chalk it up to sheer luck. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Post every week to this blog: I had reservations about this one, but I managed not only to accomplish this task, but posted more than once a week on a handful of occasions. There were a couple of times where I had writer’s block, and thought this might be the week I falter, but it never happened. Another success!

Finish the manuscript of Novel #2: Not only did I not finish it, I barely wrote anything at all. I did noodle around with it in the beginning of the year, but I was more focused on doing everything I needed to do on the social media front to help support the novel I did write, in addition to posting to this blog. Those are lame excuses, however, because if I want to do something and am motivated to do it, it gets done. I get a big, fat F on this one.

Drink less: I was never a heavy drinker, but listed this because it would help with my weight, and because I didn’t think it was good for my MS. I never consciously thought about it during the year, but did reduce my alcohol consumption. In all candor, I think part of the reason I was able to do this was because of my new MS medicine, which has suppressed the desire for alcohol. After all, why ruin a good buzz? I’m not sure if this is cheating, but I’ll call this one a success.

Use the word “fuck” less: Didn’t happen. Enough said. It’s such a versatile word, and rolls off the tongue so effortlessly. This one was probably doomed from the beginning.

Eat Better: I wasn’t eating all that badly to start. I thought I would eliminate a few fats from my diet, keeping my weight loss goal in mind, but that fell by the wayside when I said to hell with dieting. So I’m not eating “better”, but I’m not eating any worse either, so call this one is a wash.

Get more sleep: That didn’t come close to happening. Old habits are hard to break, I’m afraid. A definite failure.

So out of these ten resolutions, four were achieved in their totality, four were colossal failures, one was partial failure and one was a wash. I guess that’s par for the course.