Dec. 1st, 2010 10:32 am
prog: (Default)
I appreciate the kind words and sympathy regarding my mother. Thank you.

I don't know what will happen but I am confident that it will be as OK as it can, because I don't stand alone.
prog: (Default)
Dinner with the parents, overnighting in Boston on their way north from a Florida trip. Surprised and dismayed to learn that my mother, who turns 80 next year, is crossing over from battiness to dementia. This came out not in explanation but in demonstration, apparent to everyone else in the room -- including my father, who looked on, saying nothing.

What was there to say, though? I have always enjoyed telling stories about the random stuff my mom does, even when it's frustrating to experience. But there's not much of a fun story in how she handed me the same piece of paper no fewer than four times, each time starting to tell the story of where she got it and what I should do with it, as if she'd only then remembered to tell me. Or how she repeated a story from my childhood for Amy's amusement three times. Or, indeed, how I'd never heard that story before, and (since the story ends with "me" delivering a smartassed punchline) suspect it's actually something she saw a child actor do on TV, and is confusing with a real memory.

This is not okay, and suddenly not funny anymore, and that makes me confused, upset and gloomy.

On returning home I felt compelled to drink wine and play an escapist videogame for two hours. As the sanest and least-disabled person in the family, managing this is all going to fall to me, and I'm not ready to think about it yet. I suppose it's good in a way to make this discovery now, rather than later. I will be ready later.

It breaks my heart to think about how my father must feel.

Dad's OK

May. 21st, 2010 12:23 pm
prog: (Default)
Just spoke with my dad on the phone. He busted his tailbone all right, and is in a physical therapy program in Waterville. By all accounts he's bouncing back quite readily, and he sounded just fine.

He fell down different stairs than the ones I thought he did, which seems like a silly thing to be relieved about, but the stairs I was thinking of were the ridiculously steep flight that leads to my parents' basement via a hole they cut in their apartment floor, some time ago. I told him this. "Ugh, those would have finished me," he agreed. (I hate those stupid stairs, which freshly alarm me every time I visit, and am frustrated that my elderly parents would have them installed. But that's my parents for you.)

His doctors have scheduled a meeting to discuss his therapy next Tuesday morning, and family is invited; I'm planning on attending that.

Thanks to all who lent advice and other good wishes here and elsewhere... I sincerely appreciate it (and passed them along, as appropriate).
prog: (Default)
Hello friends

My dad's in poor shape again. He's been in the hospital for a week or so since falling down a flight of stairs at home. The problem from my end of things is that I am not sure what is going on, or what if anything I should do; I've heard a mix of news, none from very reliable sources. Dad is the most lucid person I'm immediately related to, but is prevented from telling me about it himself.

The most recent news from mom made it sound like dad had broken something pelvic, and that his prognosis for walking again in his lifetime -- he turns 80 this year -- was "fifty-fifty", a term mom applies to any chance lower than absolute certainty. She is mistrustful of the doctors at the hospital, who according to her are all "Pakistani or something", and all very stupid as well. She called to ask if I could look up a certain heart medicine of dad's online, because she'd heard rumors that it was in the midst of a recall or class-action lawsuit for making people fall down. (Nothing in Google News, and Wikipedia listed diarrhea as its worst side effect. I told her this.)

But god bless her, she's keeping it together, and I can't blame her very much for looking for a way to find some control over this misfortune -- or, failing that, something to be angry at.

As for me, I emerge from an unusually intense period of work, and now it dawns on me that I ought to consider getting involved somehow, even if only to get some first-hand information about the situation. This isn't like the fall of 2004, when dad went in for hip surgery. While difficult and painful, that was a highly controlled excursion, undertaken after months of preparation from both professionals and patient. This isn't that at all, the medical personnel involved are all strangers, and my poor family is so confused.

And so am I, but with the murk of distance, rather than addlement -- all this is unfolding up in central Maine. (Another difference from 2004: I don't own a car any more.) It's not entirely clear what I ought to do. I can get the name and number of the facility dad is in from mom, and then I guess I'll call them and explain myself, asking about my dad's condition? And maybe ask to talk to him himself? Or arrange a visit? I guess I'll figure it out.
prog: (Default)
One of the reasons I wasn't accepted into grad school in 2002 (if I might make an educated (ho ho) guess) is that I had literally no clue about what I was getting into, and made many mistakes, surely enough to make my application look quite unattractive. Half of the reason for that is because I was too young and stupid to realize that I had built up a pretty good network of friends to ask relevant questions of, but the other half, it only just now occurred to me, is that I grew up in a household that only barely grasps the concept of higher education.

My mom went to college, but did so as woman circa 1950, so I assume that only went so far. And my dad nominally went to college as well, but did so on some kind of military ticket (he labored stateside as an enlisted Air Force cadet though the Korean War), and he didn't enjoy it and got out as soon as he could. As I prepared for my freshman year at UMaine - the same campus he'd attended - he broke it to me that that college would be a cold, hard, and boring time that I had to endure out of necessity. We were both surprised when I took to it much better than that. (And that there were no communal showers in the dorms any more. That was a real shocker to both of us. You don't know how long I spent that summer coming to terms with the idea of communal showers.)

Ricky went to a military college, so whatever; that's in a different plane of reality. Peter, then, may have been the first person in our particular lineage to attend a four-year program of the sort I'd recognize, though at a college I wouldn't otherwise have ever heard of, and with no particular post-graduate ambition. And finally, after my own graduation, there was full assumption from my own family that I was done with school forever, because what else was there? As I didn't have any college-based friendships close enough to survive the trauma of graduation, I had no reason not to assume that as well. And so it went.

Anyway, all this comes to mind now as I reflect on a conversation I had with Peter earlier this week. Amy and I spent Monday day-tripping through Maine, visiting members of my family where they each lived, since I wasn't going to see them on Christmas this year. For our third stop, we took middle-brother Peter and sister-in-law Janice out to dinner. While chatting, Peter asked about what Amy was up to academically, knowing only that she was "in college" in one way or another: "What's your major?" After Amy gave him a cogent summary of how she's working towards her master's degree in library science at a graduate program at Simmons, Peter paused to process this, and then said "So, that makes you a... junior, right?"

He nodded and made appropriate ah-yes-of-course noises when gracefully corrected, but I still think he has no concept of education past undergraduate school. And neither did I, up until I moved to Boston, years after my own graduation. So, yeah.
prog: (tiles)
My parents have been in a most unfortunate legal battle over the last year or two with a gentleman to whom they sold their Fairfield, Maine apartment building earlier this decade. He did this as part of a property-buying spree, using money which he didn't actually have, and a few years later the inevitable occurred, just like you've been hearing all over.

They don't want the building back - they would much rather retire from the property-management business - but they also don't want to have the house, which they still live in, default over to whichever entity would end up with it upon foreclosure. So they're fighting for it anyway.

Talking with me on the phone today, my mom said she'd heard that if you do an internet search for the guy's name, you see the message "landlord from hell", or something, and maybe I could look, and print it out and mail it to them? (My parents don't cotton to computers.) I quickly confirmed that, yes, the number-one Google hit on the guy is this horrified essay, which we can call the There's poop in the tub! document - sadly, the story is about my parents' building. Mom's mentioned the flea incident before. (Thankfully, they didn't get outside of that one filthy apartment, but jeez.)

Also in the top ten hits for the guy's name are this story about a different building, and this jawdropping forum thread where, halfway through, sockpuppets defending the guy and his partner start piling on. First, they pretend to be an earlier poster who has changed her mind, declaring the subjects to be paragons of humanity. When that proved ineffective (since the original poster was still following the thread and able to say wtf at this), they settled on anonymous sniping, blaming the victims for being so stupid and careless. There is an entertaining interlude before it wraps up where someone suggests calling a local TV news desk about it, and then a puppet says, "O hai! I'm from the TV! Plz stop calling me kthx"

So, yeah, dealing with these two folks is my parents' full-time occupation right now.
prog: (Default)
When I get a call from my parents' house at an unusual hour, I worry that this will finally be the call when I learn that one of them has died.

After I hear the voicemail, which is invariably just a request to call back about one minor family matter or another, I worry about having to talk about the Obama administration with them.

Back home

Dec. 25th, 2008 08:52 pm
prog: (Default)
I couldn't do kung-fu anymore after a full 24 hours, and didn't leave a moment too soon, or late. Now on the couch with a glass of wine that isn't from a ginormous screw-top jug and heating up a (omgwtf)bbq pizza, after which I will take a shower, after which I will procrastinate for a long time before finally returning the car (alla way up by the CVS on Broadway, bah).

Have a couple of pictures that will be going on the facebook soonish. I should start using Flickr again, too.

Happy Xmas

Dec. 25th, 2008 11:08 am
prog: (Default)
Arrived at Fairfield yesterday. Sometime after I made the Zipcar reservation I became determined to shift my mind into a more graceful posture for this visit, a loose kung-fu pose of good cheer and readiness to casually flip any bad crap over my shoulder and onto the mat behind me. And really, I've been having an okay time! And truth to tell, it helps that Ricky's in fairly balanced humors.

Tried to teach the family Ticket to Ride yesterday. Ricky took to it quickly, and as with other games I could tell he liked it because he started telling stories within the confines of the game's rules. He'd draw additional train-car cards not because he needed to build up his hand, but because his men at the switchyard were getting restless with only one car to work on. Since TtR has such a narrow set of possible actions, you can play like this and still play well. When we play Batttle Cry or Memoir '44, he makes tactically terrible moves that give his opponent an advantage, but it furthers the story he's telling so it's OK by him.

I understand now that Ricky's much more interested in rules than gameplay as a whole. This is related to how he became enamored with Catholicism a few years ago, adopting many of its practices - regular mass, the rosary, confession, all of that - and continues to stick to them diligently. So much rigorous ceremony, things he can do every day! I can see the relationship between this and the small, reality-confining space of a game's ruleset, for one with a mind like RIcky's. It's a relief for him to step into, a way to tune himself down for a while, and I can't blame him for being more interested in exploring the rules than trying to win.
prog: (doggie)
The fruit-picking mission got an extra kick by the fact that my iPhone's GPS + Google-mappiness proved quite useful in getting us there. At one point Nate-the-driver wasn't sure where we were, so I launched the phone's Maps and asked it to draw a line between our destination and wherever the heck we were. (I was able to specify our destination by launching Safari, googling the name of the orchard, then returning to Maps and hand-poking in the revealed street address.) We followed that line, and a little blue blip representing our current position obligingly poked down its length. It was accurate enough that I'd say "OK, we'll cross 495 in a second", a second before the foliage parted to reveal the overpass.

This shit still kind of astounds me. I'd say it was ST:TNG-type technology that's found its way into the real world, except that tricorders actually seem less flexible than modern smartphones do.

During their visit, my parents were very good about not mentioning politics of any sort. At one point I accidentally gave my dad a really juicy opening to pounce on, and I cringed, but he gingerly stepped around it instead. I was impressed. (Not that I said so.)

I can't tell if my mom is getting wackier or if I just notice it more for not seeing her very often. Retrospective analysis suggests that she's been a total fruitcake, god love her, for my whole life, but I'd be willing to believe that old age is simply giving her natural battiness a richer flavor. Anyway, in the few hours she visited, she confirmed that her fashion sense drifts ever further into Bozo-the-clown territory, revealed that she keeps a naked steak knife in her purse now (it's useful for going out to eat, see), and showed my girlfriend baby pictures, making sure to identify the ones where I had a load in my pants. OK, I had to laugh a little at that last one, but still.


Sep. 11th, 2008 12:11 pm
prog: (The Rev. Sir Dr. George King)
"So whaddaya think of your buddy Obama now?" asks dad.

He's clearly implying that Obama has recently done something horrible, but since I don't hate myself enough to keep up on, I don't have any guesses what the new hotness is in that arena. So I say, "I don't know, what do I think of my buddy Obama now?"

"Heh heh heh", says dad, but mom says, "Hey, let's not talk about politics on vacation." And this is interesting because usually I'm the one to make that suggestion.

They're visiting on Sunday for a time period somewhat longer than the three-hour maximum exposure that [ profile] classicaljunkie has identified, through repeated observation, as my personal limit. Whee. We'll see how it goes.


Sep. 1st, 2008 02:44 pm
prog: (tiles)
Oh gross. ugghhhhhrr the news is making me want to shed my own skin or something


Oh snap my parents are going to be visiting this weekend. I'm starting to wish I was less jokey in my half-jokey mutterings to put off further contact with them until after the election. Damn.

Family nooz

Sep. 4th, 2007 02:03 pm
prog: (Default)
Mom called to tell me that Peter (the middle brother I write less about) just quit his job of many years - certainly at least a decade - working in a home for autistic adults. He just burned out, after the management was getting worse and worse, apparently. This leaves him and his wife in a no-income situation (she can't work) and mom was understandably concerned.

I advised that he go get a job in a kitchen, since he worked in a hotel kitchen for several years in the 1980s and has kept up his skills as a better-than-average home cook since then. We remembered together how his workplace nickname then was "Lightning" because we was (at least at first) such a slowpoke. He once brought home a Happy Birthday Lightning cake that his coworkers got (or perhaps made) for him.

Before his current job he had a lengthy stint as a Wackenhut security guard. He's already looked a little bit into that, and got the impression that most such jobs now require one to pack heat, where in the past he just holstered a club. All agree that this would not be a wise career move.


Aug. 8th, 2007 03:52 pm
prog: (Default)
My parents (now visiting) say that they plan on registering as Democrat in the primaries because there's no way any Republican can take the White House, so they might as well put theirs in for their favorite of the other team. (Mom likes Edwards, right now.)
prog: ("The Sixth Finger" guy)
My Star Wars memory:

I was too little to be aware of the first Star Wars film when it was released, but I nonetheless had contemporary exposure to it when my mom brought some a couple of Kenner dolls, a Sand Person and some other guy. My guess is she went to the toy store to get me a treat, and the clerk showed her these as the new hotness.

Anyway, I had never owned "action figures" before, so my mom demonstrated how I might play with them. She took them out of their blister packs, left their tiny plastic weapons aside, raised their arms and had them embrace. "See? You can make them hug."

The first movie in the series that I actually saw was Empire, but I knew all about Star Wars by cultural osmosis by then, just from one or two years of grade school. When the movie was over, I didn't want it to end, and I cried and cried. I asked my brother Peter how many more they would make. "I don't know. Six?" he said. I cried more.


May. 14th, 2007 11:31 am
prog: (Default)
Had a great weekend. Saturday [ profile] classicaljunkie and I drove to the south shore to meet my mom for her birthday. We drove around the area together and looked at the houses I grew up in, which still look quite the same, though Cliff Top is smaller than I remember! It still has a nice "Cliff Top" sign; I'm glad that its name has survived whatever sequence of owners it's had over the last two decades.

We walked around Nantasket Beach a little. It looks a lot different without that roller coaster, man. The two arcades I so fondly remember both still seem to be there, though. I want to return soon, after the summer season starts, to see what they're like now. Honestly, I'm surprised that the Penny Arcade is still there; in the 1980s that's where you'd find all the low-rent arcade games, while the nicer and newer stuff was in Dream Machine. I'm assuming they're not actually boarded-up vacant properties with the signs still on!

We saw "The Illusionist" on DVD, and I didn't like it very much. We watched the finale of Survivor Fiji, which made me subtly upset, becuase (a) the wrong guy won because a third contestant played kingmaker for irrationally selfish reasons (though at least the winner was one of the "good guys"), (b) half the people in the final jury acted like total assholes, and (c) I still don't have a million dollars and here this other guy does now. Though I bet he doesn't actually, coz of how these things work, but still.

Everyone played too much Puzzle Quest. Blaaargh. It is a really good game.

Starting this week, I'm rolling out out a new way to parcel my time. I had been vaguely holding onto a model from when I started at ITA, but that's been outmoded for months and it's high time I tried something that reflects my current actual lifestyle. Here's what I'm trying instead:

Mon, Tue, Wed: Make money. For now, that means contract programming work, and activities that support same.
Thu, Fri: Volity furtherance, of any kind. Can be coding, or project management, or just reading a relevant book.
Sat: Free day. Wheeee.
Sun: Video projects. Edit, write, or plan. Whatever needs doing next.

I can be social and whatever on any day; this schedule just defines where my default stance lay on any given day of the week. It also gives me some soothing mental sorting: if I'm fretting because I have three fairly heavy things to accomplish, lo! here is an arbitrary but good-as-any order to accomplish them in, based on where we happen to be in the calendar.
prog: (Default)
As I write this I'm on the train on my way to visit [ profile] doctor_atomic amid her studies at Rutgers, where her job seems to mostly involve exposing babies to visual stimuli, and then writing grant applications about it. This is just a lil vacation; I haven't traveled for pleasure in a very long time. (I can't count last year's Origins.)

My mother does not understand this trip and is sure that something sinister is afoot. She asked if [ profile] classicaljunkie is "allowing" this, and insinuated that perhaps the doctor hasn't told her bf. (In fact, he is catsitting for me.) I reminded mom that she's been a very close friend of mine for more than five years. I think this just made her more uncertain. "Maybe you should bring Amy with you."

My dad is not batty as my mom but nonetheless wanted to warn me that Rutgers has a reputation as a wild party school and I shouldn't drink too much. I told him OK.

This visit comes only a few days after the thon, which she came up for. (She comes up a lot anyway, since the bf is here.) Let us speak of the thon. I shall direct you to a post from Spatch for a nice description of the event as a whole and another from the doctor that summarizes all the things we saw in this particular festival. As she notes, the films both short and feature-length were deliciously varied this year. I hope that the tradition of mixing shorts into the annual program continues!

This leaves me to mention random things. It was a mixed start for our little group. OK, our big group; there were seven of us at once point, which is the largest thonning party I've had the pleasure of; I'm used to a rotating crew of two or three. When we arrived our chosen section was already checkerboarded with people, but some oldsters who overheard our predicament gladly rearranged themselves to clear out some contiguous seats for us. "Hooray for fandom!" said I. (Though to be quite honest I am not sure of the thon's place within SF Fandom proper. It seems to exist largely independent of the convention circuit.)

Once we settled in and Forbidden Planet started up it became clear that we had another problem: a chatty cathy sitting directly in front of us. As Spatch notes in his post, some audience participation is OK, but running commentaries not so much. This fellow, a middle-aged gent sitting by himself, felt the need to crack wise after I-kid-you-not just about every third line of dialogue, and he was extraordinarily unfunny. Also a little creepy, since he was addressing all his remarks to a couple sitting two seats to his right (who laughed politely each time) and finished each bon mot with a self-satisfied little "Hm hm hm hm!" Here's a little sampler of what I can remember:
On-screen activity Dude's chatter
A line about boarding a tram to be taken to "the residence". The residence? The Residence Inn? I'd stay there! I've stayed there before! Hm hm hm hm!
Someone asks Robby the Robot if he is a robot. No! I'm Marilyn Monroe! Reincarnated! Hm hm hm hm!
Referring to a chained prisoner, one character instructs another to "remove his bonds". Did he say "remove his bottom"? Hm hm hm hm!
A woman hands her shoes to a man for safekeeping. Sniff 'em! Hm hm hm hm!
I shushed this guy about three times over the course of the thon, and to his credit he stayed shushed until another film he found chatterworthy started up. I don't like shushin people at this event coz I'm not the quietest person in the theater myself, but this was just beyond the pale. But once we discovered the Power of Sssssh we were able to stop worrying about him and enjoy the movies so that was OK.
Back to family: my niece Colleen is in a kind of trouble. It is the kind of trouble you're in when you're, what, 22? 24? and completely clueless. She'd be a slacker if she had a family able to support that lifestyle, but instead she's just sort of a vagrant, bumming around her mom or grandma's house or sleeping in her car in between, broke and directionless. (Her family is also broke but at least they're anchored.) Who knows what to do about that?

On the train I listened to my backlog of voice mails of Ricky talking about his daughter's most recent misadventures. He suggested I email her or something just to send her some cheer, so I sent her a text message right there from the train, telling her about my trip and the rain outside and how I hoped all was well. She pinged me back a moment later to assure me that it was so. So that much is nice, at least.

At the doctor's apt now and it's almost dinner time. Cheers!

Xmas 2006

Dec. 25th, 2006 09:42 pm
prog: (Default)
Back from Fairfield. The last 36 hours were spent suboptimally; I touched the face of boredom, though I managed not to slide into its howling maw. The answer to "Gee, should I take my laptop?" is yes. Even in internetless places it's a toychest and writing desk, and these can keep me occupied for quite a while. But I chose poorly, and so had only a novel and an iPod, the latter with no ability to recharge. I made do, barely.

I think I've already complained about my whole family (parent and brothers both) being made into racist paranoid goobers by their fears being reinforced and amplified through all the Fox my parents watch and the Art Bell that Ricky listens to, and probably by their local culture as well. I keep forgetting this, and I tend to forget again it a few minutes after every reminder, because, you know, family.

But they are so scared of the Saracen Menace. I mean, honestly, it haunts them. Half of the conversations we had veered into some graveyard-humor joke pointing to the inevitable day when the skies would darken and the Muslims would come raining down, scouring the earth with their acid breath and terrible steel mandibles, unstoppable in their mithril carapaces and vulnerability only to weapons of +2 or greater enchantment. Or whatever, I don't know.

And a lesson in humility for me: Peter spoke excitedly about the Xmas bonus he got, a $50 Hannaford's supermarket certficate, and his wife's $10 cash bonus from her full-time volunteer job. $60 worth of groceries! He was honestly excited at this bounty. Meanwhile I practically blow that much on coffee in a week.

Other than that this was the first time all three McIntosh sons and both parents were gathered together in I-don't-know-how-long. More than two years. The total time of the full convergence was one hour, long enough to eat dinner. It was a fine dinner. I told my mother I'd have to teach her how to steam vegetables, though.

Mom and dad are coming coming down with the cat the day after tomorrow. They sent me home with a truly silly amount of cat stuff, but Shadow won't be wanting at least.

(Deleted the voice post that came before this post.)

Dad update

Dec. 15th, 2006 11:26 pm
prog: (Default)
My dad is gonna be OK. While waiting to see the specialist again, he'd been put on a specific diet-n-exercise regimen, and his condition has improved. They say that he's in no danger of losing the leg now, and my parents have been cleared to go on vacation in Florida next month. They haven't been down south in years so they're very pleased with this.

I'll be taking care of Shadow while they're away. There was some weirdness with Ricky spontaneously wanting to take the cat up to Bangor instead, and he phoned me and asked if he could do that. I had to tell him repeatedly that it'd be a better thing to talk about it as a family during my Christmas visit. I think mom has since rewired him, though, to hear her tell it.

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