The Dark Macabre Month of February, Trying Not to Discuss Theology or Politics, and More Ephemera

dead chick

Time and age have done me no favors.  I feel this ancient and just about this dead. Of course it’s February, and February is the suckiest month of the year.

Yes, central Ohio is usually colder in January than in February.  Even so, it is still cold in February, and always dark in February, and that is worse than the cold.

February always reminds me of the quote from Dante’s Inferno: All hope abandon, ye who enter here. I don’t necessarily agree with Dante’s categorizations of hell (the Divine Comedy borrows heavily on Roman Catholic theology and their belief in purgatory- Dante was very much a loyalist and Papist- ) but I have to admire the imagery he evokes.  Especially in Canto 32 (the Ninth Circle of Hell) where he encounters “the bottom of the universe”- in which is housed the very worst of traitors, those who have betrayed family and country.  This is pretty much hell frozen over- a frozen lake in which the heads of the damned are sticking out of the ice.

stepping on sinner's heads

 

This does not look to be a fun time. Then again, in my mind, betrayal is the most cruel pain that one can inflict on another. That’s why I try not to invest much emotional currency in relationships.  My circle is very small for a reason.

Here is an entertaining thought: if Dante’s portrayals of the circles of hell were to be correct, this is where Obama would end up, along with 99% of Hollywood and 99% of the Democratic Party, but I digress.

I have promised not to get stuck on theological or political themes today.  That’s difficult for me to do, but I can troll about for some ephemera.  There are some good ones I found from Marion County in the late 19th to mid 20th century that are fascinating.

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The Sawyer Sanitorium is not in the greatest shape, but it is still there today.

sawyer sanitorium today

Most of the really cool architecture that survives in Marion County is not in the greatest of repair.  The weather does it no favors, and the general poverty of the property owners doesn’t help either.  It’s hard to maintain Victorian architecture even if you have plenty of cash.  Poor folk usually have to resort to redneck ingenuity, which is somewhat functional, but usually not aesthetically pleasing.

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The cigar store- I can still smell the heady, thick, sweet smell of a hundred years’ worth of tobacco products emanating from this place and everything that was purchased there. I can still see the vintage ads for Newports and Marlboros and the tins of pipe tobacco.  The wooden plank floors were uneven and well worn and stained with the dirt and wear of thousands of pairs of boots and shoes.  The windows were perennially stained with a film of dirt, condensation and the yellow smoker’s haze that clings to glass in places where people smoke. In 1982 it was still socially permissible to smoke in public places, even in restaurants and stores.

Every time I went in there I felt like Orwell’s character Winston (from the book 1984) in the curio store.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there, but unlike the store keep Winston encountered, nobody there would have remembered or cared that I was there (even though admission and patronage was supposed to be restricted to those 18 and older) or that I was buying contraband.  Otherwise they wouldn’t have been selling this stuff to a 13 year old kid.

The incarnation of the cigar store in the first pic was many years before I went there to buy risqué literature less the outer covers for $1.35 each. This second pic (below) is more what it looked like when I did my business there.

united cigars

It is still there, however, it is in the process of being renovated and turned into a corner market. I don’t have a current pic of that renovation, and what it will be transformed into remains to be seen.  Even so, feeding my clandestine dirty book habit was probably a better use of my lunch money than buying school food.  The Freshman Building was notorious for not only having cockroaches everywhere, but also for the cafeteria food being burnt on the outside, frozen on the inside. The cook stoves and ovens were probably from 1915 just like the rest of the building.  I don’t think thermostats or temperature controls were a thing pre WWI.

freshman building

Sadly the Freshman Building was torn down in the mid 1980s- 1985 I think.  It was sad.  Especially because I loved the library.  The entire third floor of the east wing. It was a magical place. I can still see the huge oak tables and chairs- nice, heavy, turn of the 20th century, real hand-crafted wooden furniture, well worn hard wood floors and expansive windows facing the east, and rows and rows of well-worn books.  I spent many study halls there, blessedly left alone in my own universe that was condensed to music played through a cheap and somewhat contraband (though the teachers never bothered me about it) battery powered cassette player and headphones, and whatever literature I was currently perusing. That library was a portal to serenity that I have failed to find again anywhere or at any time in my adult life.

I did not love the HVAC in that building though.  It was steam heat, which encouraged the proliferation of the roaches.  Some of the registers would spout off and spray any nearby occupants with boiling water.  Others did not work at all, so one could go from a room 100 degrees or more into another room where one could see one’s breath.  There was no air conditioning to be had, (refrigeration technology being rather non-existent in 1915)  and to make that sad fact even more fun, certain windows would fall out when opened, so opening windows was not always an option.

Even so, there was something about the soul of the place that was comforting but disturbing at the same time.  It was larger than life with its high ceilings and massive windows, (the rooms were designed to take advantage of natural light) and ornate fine craftsmanship that shined through, even though by 1982-3 the building was dirty, poorly maintained and never upgraded.  I am sure the writers of today’s OSHA and building inspection codes would have been appalled by the sheets of ancient lead paint that continually peeled and fell off the ceilings and fixtures.

scioto river bridge

It seems that I’ve gotten old enough that all the places I’d really like to visit again no longer exist, or at least they don’t exist in their previous form.  The library, the cigar store, the old railroad trestle bridge over the Scioto River where I once spent a sunny, warm Good Friday afternoon sitting on the bridge watching the dirty river water flow under the bridge and simply savoring the sun and the breeze and wishing that time would stop forever, are all long gone.

The phrase “mid-life crisis” is not expansive enough to describe the cognitive dissonance that comes about when the things that once were accepted as being permanent and central are revealed to be temporary and transient. Barring some miraculous medical intervention that comes to pass in the very near future, I’ll be fortunate to have maybe another 25 years on this planet.  My life is two thirds of the way over if statistics prove correct- in 1969 the average life expectancy for a white female in the United States was 75.5 years. Considering I was born in a rural, poor part of the country and have a number of medical issues, in practical application, 75.5 years is probably pushing the envelope.

“Midlife” for me- if I take the gracious prognostication of the actuarial chart from 1969- would have been 15 years ago. Sobering shit.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone, I get that, but just knowing that time remaining is a lot less than time elapsed is a little disturbing.

marion night 1958

This was  downtown Marion in 1958- 11 years before I was born.

Marion_Ohio 2018

Sixty years later it’s not as bad as it once was (the 70s through the early 2000s, it was almost completely abandoned and left to crumble) but there is room for improvement. Some of the old late 19th century buildings have been converted into apartment lofts and such.

The lofts are kind of cool in that I love the vintage architecture, the huge windows, and the high ceilings.  I would be concerned about the HVAC challenges involved, and the logistical challenge of living on an upper floor without elevators, with dogs, would not be pleasant.  The view and the ambience could be worth it though.

February will be over eventually.  Until then, memories of a stolen sunny April afternoon sitting on a long gone railroad trestle watching the river go by, or of study halls reading old books and listening to 80s music on cheap cassette tapes in a long ago library will have to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Uh, Hell No. Truth is Still Truth. Just Ask the Prophets of B’aal.

Imagine my surprise upon receiving this e-mail:

Pakistan

In a perverse way it is pleasantly refreshing to discover that someone was paying attention to what someone from fly-over country BFE has to say about the abomination that is Islam.  That my obscure, though pithy, observations would arouse the scrutiny and the ire of the Islamic Internet patrol is sort of flattering in a way.  Truth-telling has a way of pissing people off.  I get it.  But it’s still the truth, and still my right and obligation to point it out.

So let’s just pick this attempt at censorship apart with facts.

  1. I am an American, which means the First Amendment applies to me. Pakistani law does NOT apply to me.  I still have the freedom to speak the truth, especially the truth that is Christianity, because that is the one truth that really matters.  If the three Internet subscribers from a third world hole who are sadly deceived into believing in a false god want to attempt to block my free speech, frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass.  I am sad for those in Pakistan who need to hear the truth about Islam that their nanny state sees fit to cut them off from the One True God in favor of their idol that cannot save and their governmental system that brings death and destruction to everything it touches. History proves the utter failure and moral bankruptcy of Islamic governance as well as the failure of other fascist states.
  2. My only question regarding that excessive defensiveness, is that if your false god is really true, then why are you so butt-hurt?  I am reminded of when Elijah confronted the false prophets of B’aal. This account is found in 1 Kings 18:20-40, which can be found in the Bible, which is the inerrant word of God.  If your god is real, then he should be able to defend himself against “blasphemy” by “infidels.” Hint: The fate of the prophets of B’aal should stand as a warning.
  3. Everything I said in my post from March 2016 about the false religion of Islam, and how it is really fascism hiding behind an idol, is still 100% true, whether or not someone in Pakistan doesn’t like it. Truth doesn’t change just because it may be unpopular.
  4. Truth is not relative.  Obfuscating, legislating against, or actively opposing the truth does not make it any less true.  Case in point: Even if I would choose to “identify” as Shaquille O’Neal does not make me Shaquille O’Neal, nor does it equip me to substitute for Shaquille O’Neal.  The reality (which is factual and not relative) is, I am 5’4″, female, horribly nearsighted, deathly clumsy, a breathing definition of a WASP (as in White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), and I have absolutely no aptitude or ability to play basketball.

AP SHAQ RETIRES S BKN FILE USA PA

No, I am clearly NOT Shaq.  I like his Icy-Hot commercials though.

It would be nice if verifying truth claims were as simple as observing the clear fact that I am not Shaq, and could not be Shaq even if I claimed to “identify” as Shaq.

I find it most interesting that the “prophet” of Islam advocated spreading that abomination at the end of a sword.  By contrast, the real God-Man, Jesus, taught:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”- Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV)

What are the fruits of Islam?  Death, destruction, slavery and oppression.

I am not saying that the history of Christianity has been spotless.  We have had our share of apostasy, exploitation and abuses committed by those claiming the name of Christ.  Yet true Christianity does not teach conversion at the end of a sword.  True Christianity does teach that faith in the One True God comes by hearing (Romans 10:17)- ironically the very thing that the Islamofascists are trying to prevent- and not by force.

If Islam is so great and true, then why is the sword necessary?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dismality of February, and This Will All Thaw Someday

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Oh, the dismality of February yet again.  There is a reason why February only has 28 days (at least for three out of four years,) and that’s to put a lid on the number of people who die in February.  If February were 30 or 31 days, half the damn population would die in February, and that would just be weird.  We have to spread the death throughout the year better.  Not that everyone should die from heat stroke in July, but jeez.  I can understand losing the will to live when it is 90° and 100% humidity if there’s no air conditioning, perhaps a bit more than most, because I am not at all equipped for high temperatures.  I can abide cold a far sight better than extreme heat.

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But at least in July there is sunlight, and Ohio winters are notoriously dark and sunless. I can go all week without seeing sunlight save for maybe a ray or two on the weekend-  unless there is a damned blizzard going on.  And even if the damned blizzard is going on and it’s 4° below, Target still has nothing but bathing suits, tank tops, sandals and sleeveless dresses on display.  If I need a parka, I will have to wait until July when they put them back out.

Here in central Ohio we have been enduring a rather harsher than normal winter.  Oh, yippee skippy, because I just adore driving in ice and snow.  I’m all about those below zero temperatures too.  There is simply nothing like one’s ass freezing to the toilet seat unless I break down and turn on the space heater in the bathroom.

“Spring” will arrive someday. Probably sometime in May there will come a day when my back yard will transform from frozen tundra into Dog Shit Lake overnight.  Oh, the smell of Spring in the air.  Temperatures will go from -4° to 90° and 100% humidity within the span of about 12 hours.  There is really no Spring in Ohio. There is just arctic cold and wind, followed by stygian heat, usually accompanied by torrential rain.

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This is Brutus, the Catahoula^ (Catahoula Bed Hog Dog)

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This was Clara^ (God rest her sweet soul) the Malinois

Note to self: the 80# Catahoula shits according to his size.  For those unaccustomed to dogs, for an example, a 65# Malinois has the strength to overpower a 300# man.  The 65# Malinois consumes, and disposes of about the same number of calories as a 300# man every day. Imagine that kind of waste load deposited in your back yard every day for six months from October until the May Thaw arrives.

In all fairness, since a Malinois is an ultra high energy, high metabolism dog, a 65# Malinois and an 80# Catahoula are pretty much identical in strength, energy consumed, and waste put down.  My paradigms have been pretty much the same for awhile.

There’s going to be a lot of dog shit to deal with.

A Tired Theme: The End of The World for the Thousandth (or More) Time!

everythingsuckingPragmatism is my way of life.  It keeps me from having too much faith in humankind.  I may not be a Calvinist as far as my theology, but I go along with Calvin 100% regarding the Total Depravity of Man. Even though I intentionally try to avoid the news, because as far as I’m concerned mainstream news is nothing but proof that Orwell was right, I do have to go out and deal with people in places like Walmart.  Devolution has been going on ever since the Fall, and there isn’t enough chlorine to fix the human gene pool.

Let’s face it, most people suck.  If people didn’t suck, God wouldn’t have to tell us to be nice to them.  Being nice to other people takes work because they suck. I suck as well.  We all suck, which is why we are so crappy to each other. There are plenty of things in this world that completely suck too. Buck up, buttercup, and deal. I can buck the natural progression in subtle ways, but I can’t change the parameters humanity has been given.  As long as we are in these bodies, on this planet, things are going to suck.

I am wildly amused by date setters- people who think they have nailed the date and the time of the End of the World (even though Jesus tells us not to, and you don’t have to be a fantastic theologian to figure it out, just read Matthew 24:24-36 .)  Nobody knows when the world’s going to end.  I don’t particularly want to know, any more than I want to know when I will drop dead.  The surprise is part of the fun.

I am not afraid of death.  I just hope it’s a matter of going to bed and waking up dead.  Jerry was fortunate that way in that’s how he went.  He wanted to stay out of the hospital (especially after watching the hospital completely ignore his Dad’s Living Will and DNR orders) and he managed to do that.  Pain is what I am most afraid of- a long, suffering lingering death.  Pain and suffocation. I’ve always had a thing about suffocation especially because that was one of the torments my sisters loved to engage in when I was a little kid.  Just sit on your younger sibling until she turns blue and stops moving, and/or Dad thinks it’s getting too quiet, so he gets off the couch to investigate, sees that one of his offspring is losing consciousness, and makes you get up off of her.  What a fun game!

If I am given a choice I just want to go to bed and wake up dead. But that’s not for me to decide.

Our friend David Meade claims the world’s going to end tomorrow.  If that’s true then I shouldn’t have bought that pack of new underwear or bothered to stock up my fridge for next week.

I think I might just chill to the REM song End of the World as We Know It a few more times.

 

 

 

The End of the World, Not So Much, and Where to From Here?

biteme

I haven’t been here in awhile.  I have posted on my other sites that are mostly on things theological but as far as my personal life and the transitions I’m going through, I haven’t commented much.  It’s been a lot to process, and continues to be a lot to process, so I really haven’t put the words together yet.

My silence might sound strange given the rather cynical nature of my commentary here, and also a bit critical because there really is no compartment of life called a “spiritual life.” Spirituality is everywhere- from the sacred to the profane and everywhere between, so why can I write about spiritual things but not so much on others?  I am well aware that while by the grace of God I may be a saint, but I am most certainly still a sinner too.   Given that, I realize that what I write here may or may not be spiritually edifying to others even though it may be a.) funny and b.) cathartic for me.  Perhaps I have needed a bit less catharsis than usual, which is probably not a bad thing.

As far as living in my grandmother’s old house, I have never felt more at home.  Possibly it’s because I can (within budget and reason) do whatever I want with décor as well as with my time and- this is key- who I spend my time with.  I am almost afraid to even mention that someone has found me (because trust me, I was NOT looking) and suffice to say life is different.  Interesting.  Purposeful.  Alive.

prettykitty

I never bought into the princess stories as a child.  I knew I wasn’t the princess.  I was the leftover, the consolation prize, the last choice, the one who shovels the shit when the parade is over.  I still don’t buy into fairy tales.  But it is a gift and a welcome comfort to have someone in my life now who doesn’t see me as a whipping post, or as a built in maid, or as interactive furniture.  It is a welcome change to be a part of at least a symbiotic relationship, but dare I admit- it is much more than that.

Of course being one of those once bitten, twice shy people I am moving with caution.  I don’t need a man.  I certainly do not need to be a substitute mommy for anyone.  I’ve never been in this position before and I’m 48 years old- where I want to be with someone simply because it feels good and right when we’re together.  And that’s all I want to say publicly for now.

As to the macabre business of dealing with dead people’s stuff, that’s not so pleasant.  Just a couple of weeks ago I finally boxed up the rest of Jerry’s old stuff- clothes and various kitsch- and gave it to the Salvation Army.  I kept the tools and a few momento type things, but not much.

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I wanted to make the spare room nice for my granddaughter when she spends the night, so she can have her own special place. There is no sense in keeping old crap around that’s not being used and taking up space when someone in need might get some use out of it.

I am still going through the shit of getting his truck title and bank accounts released to me through the court.  Not that any of that stuff is horribly valuable, but I have been pursuing it since October.  I don’t know if it’s the lawyer’s office that is pokey as hell or the court itself.  Probably both.

I don’t know how common it is when someone who survives a person who was terminally ill actually feels more relieved than grieved when his or her spouse dies.  Maybe it’s normal in some circumstances.  He’s been dead since October and I really can’t say I’ve ever been the classic grieving widow.  Granted, our marriage was never a terribly happy one, to put it mildly. It was pretty much defined by Jerry’s alcoholism and gambling, and then the pulmonary fibrosis.  Maybe that’s why the primary emotion I’ve been feeling is relief, as if a huge weight has been lifted off of me.  That’s not to say I am completely heartless.  There are things I miss about him, but on the whole I have a better life.  I am no longer making a game out of how many times he can call me a bitch between 5 and 6 AM as I’m getting ready for work.  I certainly do not miss that. Should I feel like a total shit because I am no longer being bitched at and browbeaten every time I turn around?  At least I am being honest, and that should count for something.

I am not sure exactly what my life is going to look like moving forward.  I know my boundaries a lot better.  I know I enjoy quiet, a simple existence, a tidy home, autonomy and my dogs.

laxative action

 

 

 

Grief, a Primer, and We All Need New Frontiers

dream after dream

I haven’t been here in awhile.  Between moving (still can’t find most of my winter clothes) and tending to the dying, I am surprised I am still relatively calm and sane. Even so my absence here is ironic, because I’ve certainly had the need for catharsis and venting and a place to sort out all the conflicting emotions (there’s that dirty word – emotions– again) that have been rolling about in my head.  I’ve just been scattered so far and wide that I’ve not had the time.

Unfortunately I was right about Jerry in his illness, that he would not survive long once he couldn’t work any more.  He was deemed permanently disabled July 8th.  He died October 21st.  It was a hellish ride, and slowly suffocating to death is a cruel and shitty way to die.   Pulmonary fibrosis finally won out, and I emphasize, it is a very shitty way to die.

I am thankful that he didn’t die like his Dad did (also of pulmonary fibrosis)- after a week of poking, prodding and fruitless and painful interventions in intensive care.  Jerry was fortunate enough to die at home, I think, if only because of his determination to stay out of hospitals.  After witnessing his Dad’s horrible death in the hospital a only a week earlier, yeah, I’d want to stay the freak out of that mess too.  Especially when you have a terminal illness and death is the inevitable outcome.  Nothing that hospital could do was going to make him any better or move him toward any kind of recovery.

I am not going to pretend that our marriage was loving or happy.  Most of the time, with some brief exceptions, it wasn’t either one. Most of the time it was barely tolerable.  For me it was upholding a choice to do what I said I would, even if the decision I made was an ill-advised one.  Marry in haste, repent in leisure. Got it.

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This isn’t to say that I didn’t love him or care, but that I’ve been worn down by many years of dealing with his alcoholism and weathering the emotional and verbal abuse that is part of that.   I can’t say that I was perfect or blameless either, and hindsight being 20/20 I still wonder if it would have been more admirable or noble for me to have left him quietly long ago.  Even though it came about in a fashion I would not wish on anyone, twenty one years later, that obligation is over.

This is the hard part that my family (as well as his family and some of our mutual friends)is having a hard time understanding.  I’ve been mourning for a very long time already.  I’ve been mourning the fact that I spent 20+ years of my life in a difficult and troubled marriage.  I’ve been mourning the reality of living with an alcoholic and riding that rollercoaster ride. I’ve been mourning witnessing someone I once loved suffering and dying in a most horrible way.  Mourning has been a way of life for me for way too long.

mourning-black

Even so, I’m not dead yet. I’m not getting any younger, either.  Excuse me if I want to live. I am not prostrate in grief.  Yes, I am sad that he suffered the way he did, and I miss him in some ways, but in most ways I’m relieved.  Relieved that his suffering is over, and that I am free to pursue my own life, whatever that might mean.

By the grace of God new frontiers are right in front of me, and in ways I couldn’t have imagined a year ago.  I’m living an ending and a beginning at the same time.  As truly bizarre as it might sound, I can’t help to stand back and feel blessed and in awe.

 

 

Death, Life, Mourning and Dancing

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It’s been a month and I’ve just gotten to where I can talk about it.  Yes, Clara was a dog, but there are some dogs who are more than dogs. Even now, just remembering her big, soft ears and deep brown eyes, and the way she would lean on me so hard she almost knocked me down at times, brings me to tears.  I know that the love of dogs has a price- their lives are far too short.

Everything I had learned of the Malinois breed indicated they are noted for health and longevity. Most of the 12 years she lived in our home she was happy, healthy and robust.  In spite of Clara’s difficult start as a rescued dog with a laundry list of physical and emotional issues, she healed and blossomed with us.  She mentored our other dogs.  She visited the nursing home when my Grandma was there, and offered comfort to many of the residents. Clara was a gentle, intuitive dog, who even took care to mentor Brutus, her final protégé, who she had a month to teach, until she got ill.  He has many of the same beautiful, intuitive traits Clara had.  His gentleness reminds me of her.

Brutus

I am thankful her final illness was brief.  It took only a week from the time I noticed she was getting a bit melancholy and slow, then she stopped eating, and by then she was displaying all the classic signs of congestive heart failure.  We took her, and for the first and only time, I had to lift her in and out of the truck- to our long time family vet.  I hoped the vet would have a different answer than what I knew to be inevitable.

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Our vet knew the labored breathing and heavy plodding of a dying dog all too well though. One look at a dog who used to be vibrant and alert and active, but now was struggling just to breathe and move a few steps, was enough for the vet to conclude that given her age, and the signs of heart and probably multiple organ failure, that Clara was, indeed, dying. We agreed that letting Clara go in peace without pain would be far more humane than heroics that may or may not buy a week or two. I held her in my arms as she passed, so she would know how much she was loved. We buried her near the gate she used to guard.

Clara 14 small

Clara was 14.  I was blessed to have her for a little more than 12 of those years.

Unfortunately there is more impending death around me, and it will cut even deeper than losing Clara.  Jerry is getting more and more ill from the pulmonary fibrosis.  He keeps getting put on more meds. He tires easily and is spending more and more time on the oxygen box.  The only hope for him to improve- and hopefully not die right away- is to get him on track for a lung transplant.  He will have to go on disability to do that, which will be at most optimistic, the very least a month or two away.

To add more to the chaos in my life, we will be moving as we are buying my grandmother’s old house.  Dad is selling it to us, and I am glad to get the strangers he’s been renting it to gone. They are supposed to be out tomorrow, then I can assess what needs to be done before we can move in.  I will have a lot longer drive to work for me, but it will get him into a quiet neighborhood out of the city.  The house is small but the yard is huge and there will (soon) be a large fence so the dogs can go out safely.

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Talk about the psychological maelstrom that I am trying to navigate.  I want Jerry to stay healthy enough for a lung transplant but the reality is that I may lose him too.  Yes, he is difficult and high maintenance, and he takes out his frustration on his health issues on me, but contrary to logic and reason, I am in this regardless.  Death, life, mourning or dancing- it’s all part of the drama of life.

I am looking forward to moving if only because it feels like I’m going home.  I will finally be able to be in a home I will own, that nobody can arbitrarily throw me out of, and my grandparents’ house will stay in the family. I’ll also be closer to my parents, my son and my granddaughter.