A visit too short

My daughter and my grandson have been visiting me for the last week. They were originally going to stay for three days, but decided to make it a full week. Since my kids all live far from me I don’t get much chance to see them, and although they stay in touch there’s nothing like sitting face to face and being able to reach out and give and get hugs.

We spent the week talking about the days of their youth, being reminded of things forgotten and reliving the remembered moments. To make each other laugh so hard we can’t breathe as we revisit events and to become somber over the memories of unhappy moments. To celebrate and re-celebrate my daughter’s and my grandson’s accomplishments. This made more rich through her recent graduation as she became a biologist.

While my girl is an avid woods-person, hiking and camping all through the Cascade Mountains, she also shares my interest in drones and looks for ways to use her skills flying to make her studies of the plantlife and animals that populate her specialties. She also lobbies other scientists to look at unmanned aerial vehicles and to have their oversight press for regulations that allow their use for research, management, and the other tasks involved in gaining understanding of the ecosphere -particularly for the Pacific Northwest.

My grandson thinks I’m a genius because of all the things he’s seen that I built, be it robots, aircraft or tools. I’ll wait and let time show him that I only know what many, many people know. He talks a mile a minute about his hobbies and projects and I listen avidly as he explains ventriloquism, magic tricks, making cartoons on the computer and complains at the volume of gas the family dog, Cletus, is able to generate and appears to expel mostly in his room.

I like that he is coming to know my wife and seeing her as grandma. The distance that separates us most of the time makes it difficult to come to know each other. An extended visit fills so many gaps and strengthens their relationship. The more people a child can have in their lives that love them, the better, and I can see the interplay between them as they develop their own relationships and develop their own little secrets as they start to develop that wordless language that closeness produces.

It’s fun to sit with my grandson and let him watch as I assemble or modify some device or other, encouraging him to participate and tell me what he thinks the next move should be. Congratulating him when he’s right and explaining the function when he’s not, invariably he gets it right the next time. Our family members all have a foot in technology, some genetic deviation that seems to drive us to understand how and why things work the way they do, and give us a leg up when it comes to technical subjects. All of my children are scientists; computer hardware and software development, physical sciences like biology and engineering, and my grandson is, it would seem, following in those footsteps. I met my wife working for a technology company and so she fits right in, and I think that helps her relate to my children better than she might otherwise.

I felt a deep sadness as my little girl and her 11 year old son pulled out of the driveway to make the five or six hour drive back to her home in the hills outside of Everett. Each time I get to spend an extended period of time with my kids I feel a piece of my happiness wrenched away from me, a replay of their reaching adulthood and setting out to create their own lives in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Lives I am incredibly proud of. Tonight I have been sitting quietly and going over the events of the last week, sometimes smiling at the recollection of a passed moment, then frowning as I remember the car’s taillights moving down the street on its way to the freeway.

A meditative death

I found this post today on the InterDependence Project‘s blog, written by Nancy Thompson, about how Lou Reed died. (The InterDependence Project is a secular Buddhist Centre in New York). I want to share it for anyone else facing their own death or the death of a loved one, which we will all encounter at some point, with or without myeloma…

Laurie Anderson was married to Lou Reed. She wrote an extraordinarily beautiful description in this week’s Rolling Stone of her husband’s death. The couple had studied Buddhist teachings on how to prepare for death and how to live when one spouse has a terminal illness.

After Reed became sick with liver cancer and then other diseases, Anderson writes, “We tried to understand and apply things our teacher said – especially hard ones like, “You need to try to master the ability to feel sad without actually being sad.”

As his death approached, he came home from the hospital:

As meditators, we had prepared for this – how to move the energy up from the belly and into the heart and out through the head. I have never seen an expression as full of wonder as Lou’s as he died. His hands were doing the water-flowing 21-form of tai chi. His eyes were wide open. I was holding in my arms the person I loved the most in the world, and talking to him as he died. His heart stopped. He wasn’t afraid.

I had gotten to walk with him to the end of the world. Life – so beautiful, painful and dazzling – does not get better than that. And death? I believe that the purpose of death is the release of love.

At the moment, I have only the greatest happiness and I am so proud of the way he lived and died, of his incredible power and grace.

I’m sure he will come to me in my dreams and will seem to be alive again. And I am suddenly standing here by myself stunned and grateful. How strange, exciting and miraculous that we can change each other so much, love each other so much through our words and music and our real lives.

I recommend reading the full article in Rolling Stone. I found it so poignant, heartwarming and very honest in the face of death. It made me want to do two hours of Tai Chi a day. Not that that’s likely to happen, but it might encourage my practice. May we all depart life so peacefully and fearlessly.

Relatively Christian

Human beings are incredibly complex. We’re capable of such tremendous intellectual leaps while simultaneously promulgating ignorance. We are capable of such awesome beauty yet perpetrate unbelievably heinous acts. We are both ends of every polarizing concept, living in color and judging by shades of gray.

 

 

I watched a mother and daughter go separate ways because one believed the world is only 5000 years old and the other believed the world is millions of years old.  The religious view belonged to the daughter, the secular view to the mother. They each were completely intolerant of the other’s perspective.  ”I want my children raised in the truth of the bible,” screamed the daughter, “I don’t need Mrs. National Geographic teaching them the lies of science!”

“I don’t want my grandchildren growing up to be ignorant.” sighed the mother.

“So, you’re saying I’m ignorant?”

“No, I’m saying you’re stupid. Ignorant means you don’t know any better, but you do. I know you do. I raised you.”

“You raised me on lies! It says so in the bible!”

I’ve learned it’s most unwise to involve yourself in a family argument and so I remained uncomfortably silent.  But I thought what a conundrum it was that religion, which advocates tolerance, respect, peace, charity, understanding and love, could be at the root of such vehement disagreement. Of course, religious fervor is responsible for more human deaths than any other cause except old age, and sits at the root of the greatest threat of our time, terrorism. Even if the fight is not one of religious belief, it’s a sure thing that both sides believe that god is with them as they go off to do battle. I also thought about the ten commandments and tried to reconcile “honor thy father and mother” with the name calling and obvious disrespect being wielded by the daughter. I wondered about the Golden Rule, which the mother claimed as her credo, and whether she’d like to be called some of the names she was slinging.

There’s no moral to the story here. I tell it solely to make the point that we humans are walking contradictions. We are living conundrums that add to the questions of the meaning of life and why it is that things happen.

 

Before you go.

We’ve all “lost” someone. I’ve never really understood why we say lost, it’s not as if we wandered off and left them in a shop or dropped them down the side of the sofa. But I digress. As we all know the only sure thing in life is that we’re all going to die.

Now we all hate the morbid subject of D.E.A.T.H. but as Terry Pratchett has told us, he’s only doing his job. The tricky thing is telling those you love that you do love them, without constantly saying “just in case I don’t see you alive again…..” So most of the time we don’t tell people how we feel. Oh it’s easy to make sure we tell our family that we see every day, but what about family and friends we see less frequently? Trickier. I could fill facebook every day with posts on all my friends’ walls, but they’d soon unfriend me for spamming them. The problem is that most of the time we just don’t know when that bus will coming crashing into us. Even when like Mike, you’ve been told there’s a bus just around the corner, there is still no accurate timetable that we can refer to.

Now most of you read Paula’s blog and her bus seems to be revving it’s engine! It’s certainly not fair that such a wonderful, caring, funny, talented and loving person should even have cancer so it’s a downright disgrace to think we might “lose” her. So before she goes I just want to say, “We love you Paula.”

Thanks for Loving Me Through It

Thanks Mom, Dad, Joe, Tyler, Dani, Trevor, Mallory and to all those who continue to love me through this mountain that I face.  You give me courage and hope as this journey continues.