Some things just don’t go away.
Consider Covid. It’s not going away but keeps coming up with new variants. What is going away, and pretty quickly at that, is our willingness to be diligent about public health measures to slow its spread. It’s not on the news very often anymore. But when it is, I hear people are still dying from it.
I imagine that the Covid virus is gleefully watching as we stop wearing masks and don’t get our vaccinations, relishing the new opportunities our diminishing precaution creates for its transmission and mutation. I bet Covid merrily thinks that politicians are just the greatest, the way they take care of their own popularity rather than their population. (Please forgive the anthropomorphisms gleefully, relishing and merrily—my muse said I should just go for it).
And while some things don’t go away, or at least take a really long time to do so and keep adapting along the way, other things follow a steady diminishing course. Individually and as a society we have trouble with those, trying to figure out just when they are gone.
Last month I blogged about things that gradually emerge. You might remember pondering about when life begins in the womb or when adulthood has arrived to be able to make mature decisions about killing machines, or not. But consider the other side of the life cycle. There we have issues of euthanasia and providing dignified care for the elderly.
Five years ago my mother died after ten years of decline due to dementia. It was a painful process to watch. In her late 80’s she was still driving the old people to their doctor’s appointments. In her early 90’s she was still doing her own and my niece’s income tax by hand, without a calculator.
In her last year or two of life I could only visit two or three times a year as I lived half a continent away and I was still working full time. Those visits provided snapshots of the dementia decline as one faculty after another was lost. One I remember clearly was her desire for me to play the piano for her. Between two visits the part of her mind that remembered the tunes and names of hymns departed. That was sad because those songs had meant so much.
On the last visit she remembered me, but only when I said my name. A brief look of relief and recognition came to her eyes. By then her only vocalization was a repetitive phrase “Help me. Please. Please help me.” Over and over again she said it, never able to tell us what she needed help with. I sadly suspected that it was to be released from this life to go the next that she had always believed would occur for her.
Which brings me to an even more poignant recollection. When I was a teenager she and I would visit her mother, also suffering dementia in a nursing home. It was painful for my mom when grandma couldn’t recall her name but called her by the name of mom’s long deceased sister.
And after those visits mom said to me, “if I ever get like that, shoot me.”
So she did and I didn’t.
When did I lose my mom? At a specific point in time there was sufficient organ failure for the doctor to pronounce her death. That’s when we lost her physical body. But it was a gradual diminishing of the degree of connection. At some point we no longer talked on the phone. At another my visits were no longer occasions for a trip to the eye doctor, dentist, and arthritis doctor—and to go down to the park at Hamilton Harbour, or shopping at the Bay.
At a later point she had no sense of what my life was.
There are somethings that never left—certainly the love, respect and appreciation I have for her. But even the stories that defined who we were are diminishing in their vitality within my mind.
Well, in this blog I announce the end to a portion of my website, doing so even before it goes through its eventual decline. The post of short fiction on my Fourth Comings page two weeks ago will be my last.
Over the last six months I’ve populated the Fourth Comings page with short stories featuring characters from An Incoming Tide. These vignettes have allowed me to recycle some of the backstory that I had to cut from the novel.
At the same time while doing so, I’ve been editing the sequel novel which I hope to release in the next year. Most of the characters from An Incoming Tide are there, trying to overcome what I put them through in the first novel. The sequel is a story of healing and renewal.
These writerly tasks have kept these characters alive for me. However, in the last month or so I have felt those characters start to retreat from my mind. In their place new characters and contexts have emerged. If you haven’t already, check out this month’s Fourth Comings. It’s cool.
But like Covid, this is not an ending but a mutation. Replacing Fourth Comings in September is a new page labeled Engage (not very original but I happen to be watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix). Engage invites you into a deeper relationship with me as an author.
In part this mutation is to further my writing career. If I self-publish stories on the website I’m unable to submit those stories to magazines, contests and anthologies. I hope in the coming year to get my writing out there to the public in that broader way.
For those of you who have enjoyed the Fourth Comings, on the Engage page I’ll be listing synopses of short stories seeking beta-readers, asking for pre-publication feedback to aid in honing my craft. If you’re willing to help me out this way, I’ll send the stories out to you by email.
I sure hope that many of you will say Make it so.
Check out my previous blog's by clicking below.
July 2022—The problem with what emerges.
June 2022 — So who am I doing this for anyway?
May 2022 - Wait for it ... wait ...
April 2022 — Someone called me a Nazi.
March 2022 — Shush! Don't tell anyone.
February 2022 — So does life imitate art? Well, maybe sometimes.
January 2022 — The two most powerful lines in the book.
December 2021 — About time and being human.
November 2021 — Not a tidy little murder mystery
October 2021 — Flow versus focus.
September 2021 -- It's beautiful because it tells the truth.