Goodnight Gorda

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Here’s some fun Gorda facts:

  • When I met her at the Humane Society, her name was “Bunny.” They found her in a barn and she was a mother to a single kitten, who they named “Bugs.” It was a very shitty name.
  • It took me almost two years to come up with a different name because I am both extremely uncreative and incredibly self-conscious about making decisions that are permanent.
  • The Humane Society almost prevented me from adopting her due to my living situation, but a nice lady who worked there changed her mind when they saw the way I snuggled with her and also maybe was swayed by the fact that I almost started crying when they told me I couldn’t have her.
  • The name Gorda was derived from watching “The Motorcycle Diaries,” which is a movie in Spanish about a young Che Guevara. At one point, Che calls his chubby friend “fatty.” I asked the person who I was watching the movie with to tell me what word he used, and it was “Gordo.” And so Gorda’s gender-appropriate and totally not fat-shaming name was born.
  • Back when I was in my early 20s and she was not geriatric, I was able to leave her alone in my apartment for several days at a time with a pile of dry food and a big bowl of water. I also left a window open so that she could wander in and out as she pleased. After I returned from one of those trips, a neighbor told me that he had been awakened in the middle of the night to something large and furry in his bed. As it turns out, Gorda had been so snuggle-deprived in my absence that she had crawled through one of his open windows, found his bedroom, and crawled into bed with him. She was not taking no for an answer.
  • As we all know, cat years progress much faster than human years, and I am actually able to pinpoint the exact moment that Gorda surpassed me in age. When I was living in that same apartment and still young and dumb, I came home late at night, coming down from a particularly intense mushroom trip. Immediately when I came downstairs, I could tell that Gorda was upset with me. She glowered down on me from her perch on top of the couch, judging me. It’s as if she was saying “I know what you’ve done, Stephen. How dare you take illicit drugs and then return to my home.” From that point forward, she became “Gorda the wise,” and she became my caretaker.
  • The Humane Society informed me in no uncertain terms that Gorda was not fond of other cats, and that was very true. But one day, my landlady (who lived above me) came home with a very sweet and tiny kitten, and we thought that maybe introducing her to Gorda would re-ignite some kind of motherly instinct inside of her soul. We placed them in front of each other, and Gorda sniffed the kitten twice before winding up with her right paw and smacking that adorable kitten as hard as she could three times. She fucked that kitten up.
  • Despite her hatred of cats of all sizes, Gorda had a particular affection for dogs. She never met one that she didn’t want to snuggle.
  • Over her last few years, her name became less apt as she lost more and more weight. My friend Sean came to visit from Billings a little while back and informed me that her new name should be “Emaciata.” He does not speak Spanish.
  • Whenever my nephews and niece came over, Gorda would go into hiding – either in a kitchen cupboard or in the basement. We were worried that she would do the same when we brought Simon home – but the opposite occured. Because we spent so much extra time sitting, lying down, in bed, or otherwise snuggling with Simon, she had a captive audience. And she never turned down an opportunity to join the snuggle pile, even as Simon started beating the shit out of her on a regular basis. If meeting a kitten didn’t reignite a motherly instinct, I think being around a human child did – she was always so gentle with him, even when he didn’t return the favor.
  • Gorda’s last week involved lots of ground raw chicken, extra snuggles, and plenty of tormenting from Simon, which she continued to tolerate.  Her last moments were spent in full snuggle mode, and she’s now taken up permanent residence in one of her favorite spots in the backyard under our big Dogwood tree.

I wasn’t going to write anything else – I was mostly just planning on posting pictures. But it’s worth saying that getting a cat was both one of the dumbest and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I didn’t think it through. I didn’t imagine it would be a 13 year commitment. I didn’t foresee how hard it would be to move around from place to place with a furry friend who viewed her litterbox as a more of a bullseye than a dartboard. Had I been able to see those things, I never would have taken her in. But it was so, absolutely, completely worth it that none of that stuff ended up mattering. 21 year-old me was an idiot, but that idiocy led me to one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. And now, with Gorda gone, I’m that much farther away from being that kid who would make a decision like that. A decision that was 100% based on what’s in his heart with absolutely no practical considerations involved. Thinking about that kid, I’m shocked at how careless he was but amazed at how that carelessness didn’t always lead him in the wrong direction. I kind of miss him.

 

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Young Gorda

Gorda Hannah

Gorda ashamed

Gorda majestic

Gorda reaching

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I’m gonna miss my baby. Goodnight, sweet Gorda.

Homogenization Nation

There’s only one thing you’re sure of: You’re missing out. You’re doing something wrong and it’s time to adapt. You’ve decided to dress a little nicer and cut off some of the rough edges. You swear a little less and stop talking about politics. You’ve got to find some stability. You’ve got to make more money. You’re missing something.

You turn yourself into a brand. Your circle of friends becomes larger and ever-less intimate. That’s a good thing, because you’ve been told to view them as a source of potential income. You no longer hit them up because you want to hang out – you hit them up because you’ve got an exciting business opportunity for them. You’re gathering information on them, probing them for weak points. Your interactions are transformed into transactions. You’re always on point. You never let your guard down.

Your income has gone up over the last few years. That’s a good thing, because everywhere you turn there seem to be more and more people who are trying to separate you from that income. Your rent has gone up. Your most expensive purchases need to be replaced every year. The things you used to buy to save money now cost more because saving money is trending. New gatekeepers seem to be popping up everywhere to charge you a fee for the things you used to do for free.

In the world around you, your favorite establishments are closing and being replaced with boutiques and wine bars. The ones that stay open are getting glossy remodels and adding new locations on the other side of town. They now have a variety of merchandise for you to purchase. Miniature shopping malls have been placed between you and all of the activities you enjoy. All you have to do is walk through them (but you might as well buy something while you’re at it). Visible signs of poverty seem to be disappearing from your neighborhood. You don’t ask where those signs went – it’s probably just because people are doing better. Everything is being consolidated, homogenized. It’s relentlessly predictable and you wonder if you should find comfort in that.

Everyone tells you that confidence is key. If you want a bright future, you’ve just got to believe in yourself. Things are looking up, you tell yourself – there’s a windfall right around the corner. But before you turn that corner, there are all kinds of people who want to cash in on your windfall before it happens. You’ve already parted with all of your current income, so why not part with your future income too? They told you to bet on yourself – you’re good for it if you believe you are. You sign the promissory note. The only possible trajectory is up. All you have to do is believe.

In the virtual world, you’re now connected to your 750 closest friends on every conceivable social media platform – and you wouldn’t want to say or do anything to offend them. You’re becoming increasingly aware that your every click and keystroke is being monitored. You adjust your behavior accordingly.  Every search yields the same 10 results. Information is harder to come by, but at least shopping is really easy. The places in the virtual world that you used to go to relax now serve as constant reminders of all that you’re missing out on – the new shoes you could be wearing, the trips you could be taking. And it can all be yours in one click.

In your more pessimistic moments, you wonder why there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to hide anymore. You feel suffocated by all of this. Your life seems ever more devoid of genuine interactions with people, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe being authentic is a sign of weakness. Maybe passion is a sign of youth. You push all that aside. You’ve got to be on point. You don’t want to miss out.

The economy is doing well, you hear.  This is the part of the business cycle known as a “recovery.” And in your weaker moments, you wonder: If this is a recovery, why is it so fucking bleak out there?

Collusion

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The theory goes something like this: Donald Trump’s campaign met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and asked them for help in winning the election against Hillary Clinton. In return, the Trump campaign agreed to pursue better relations with Russia in the event that Russian help ended up putting them over the top. Russia proceeded to “hack the election” by sending phishing e-mails to Clinton campaign officials and spending money to promote ads and fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook. Russia also did some other things that we have yet to uncover evidence for, such as rigging voting machines and hacking voter registries. Trump went on to win the election, and will presumably do some favors for Russia at some point as a reward for their help in winning the election.

The above narrative is both simple and compelling. But as time goes on, we appear to be getting farther and farther away from this operating theory. Instead, what you’ll hear over and over is the word “collusion.”  It’s a catch-all term that encompasses a number of possible activities, not all of which have anything to do with rigging an election. And as we get farther away from the shocking results of that election, it seems that fewer and fewer people are mentioning any vote-rigging, preferring instead to stick with the word “collusion.”

Listen: It’s pretty clear that there were Russian interests who were trying to curry favor with the Trump campaign, through a variety of means both legal and not-so-legal. But foreign countries currying favor with elected officials and prospective elected officials isn’t only not unusual – it’s actually an integral feature of our politics. Why do you think that a bill which criminalizes a peaceful boycott movement against Israel makes it to the Senate floor? Why do you think that people inside Obama’s white house referred to foreign policy think tanks in Washington DC as “Arab-occupied territory?” Why do you think our foreign policy establishment so overwhelmingly favors the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia even as our actual material and strategic interests in the Middle East continue to decline?

Michael Tracey says it best on Twitter:

Insofar as the Russia “scandal” is a scandal, it’s a political corruption scandal masquerading as a global espionage scandal.  Paranoid liberals want to frame it as the latter because it makes the wrongdoing appear unique to Trump.  But the political corruption exposed – unregistered foreign lobbying, underhanded oligarchic influence, campaign hangers-on overstating their influence as a means of currying favor and attaining career advancement – reflects an indictment of the entire political system and is thoroughly bipartisan in nature.

Conspiracy theories are a constant tornado of information, innuendo, and – more than anything – certainty. Before we even heard that people in Trump’s orbit are being arrested last week, we all heard a chorus of people yelling “SEE?” simultaneously. Yet again, as the dust settled we learned that we are still waiting for that other shoe to drop – the one that proves that the conspiracy theorists were Right All Along. Throughout all this time, as the shoe continues to not drop, we are constantly being inundated with that certainty and innuendo. By the time all of this is over, the fact that the one big thing we were all waiting to learn never came to pass won’t even matter.

Here’s a corollary for you: Can anyone tell me what the Benghazi scandal was all about?  Can anyone tell me what the central thesis was that implicated Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in some kind of wrong-doing after those attacks? I can’t either! But that’s the thing with conspiracy theories – it’s all noise and no signal. You see where I’m going with this – “collusion” is nothing more then Benghazi for liberals.  There’s a smattering of wrong-doing underneath it all, a high degree of certainty that something larger lurks underneath, and a great number of people who will pointedly refuse to tell you what that something is.

The obvious response to this is, “who cares, as long as it hurts Trump.” I have a great deal of sympathy for that argument, and if I thought that this scandal would bring down the Trump administration without further reverberating throughout our cultural and political landscape, I’d say that a little exaggeration is OK. I’d call it politics. I’d say it’s for the greater good. But as I’ve explained before, that’s not how this is shaping up. This pseudo-scandal emboldens our horrible and murderous national security state, it moves the Democratic Party even further to the right (thus ensuring that they continue to lose), and it puts us at genuine risk of another Cold War with Russia. Worst of all, it’s not even going to bring down the Trump Administration. So what we’re left with is all of the negative impacts of this hysteria and none of the benefits.

You can count me out.

 

Me Also

When I was a Freshman in high school, I had a paper route – and one of my tasks was to go around and collect payment from people who didn’t mail it in or tape it to their door when it was due. Some people regularly forgot, necessitating that I knock on their door and collect that payment in person. Some people would only pay me when things got to that point. One of those people was a particularly grotesque man who looked at me in a way that made me immediately uncomfortable. Each time I talked to him, he would ask me if I liked Coke, to which I answered yes. He would then tell me that he had a lot of Coke down in his basement, and ask me if I would I like to come downstairs with him to drink one. Each time I saw him, he was more persistent, and more excited, to the point where I knew exactly what he was getting after. And each time I managed to find an excuse to leave. But I was more and more worried that I would have more trouble saying no the next time. Upsetting people just wasn’t in my blood. Confrontation just wasn’t in my blood.  I was so concerned that I would eventually be talked into coming down to his basement that I eventually stopped collecting payment from him instead of putting myself in that situation again.  That money came straight out of my pocket, but I was willing to pay for that man’s subscription to avoid having to say no to him again.
When I was in high school, we got a new assistant track coach during my Senior year. The day before our meets, he would have everyone get in line outside of a dimly lit shed. He brought us each into that shed individually to massage our muscles to help loosen us up and clear out any lactic acid buildup in our muscles before the meet – something that was not terribly uncommon. The science was sound, he assured us. When it was my turn, his hands always – always – ventured into areas that I knew they shouldn’t go. But it was always a quick brush – enough for me to convince myself that it was an accident in the moment. By the time it happened often enough that I was sure it wasn’t an accident, I still found myself paralyzed – unable to confront an authority figure and absolutely certain that he would be able to play it off as an accident if I did. He knew exactly where the line of appropriate touching was, and he was able to jump over that line and quickly jump back, holding his hands up and pretending that he had been on the right side of the line all along. As for me and the other students, we all made jokes about it. We all knew something wasn’t quite right – but none of us did anything about it because we really didn’t have any idea what we would be confronting if we did. It was a blurry situation. And we all lined up before the next meet because that’s what we were supposed to do.
A few years ago, on a train trip down to the southwest, Laura and I were spending some downtime at Union Station in Los Angeles. I went to use the restroom, which was very crowded, and a man went to use the urinal next to me. At some point, I realized that he was staring at me, and I looked over to see that not only was he doing that – he was masturbating too. He did not break eye contact when I noticed.  He did not motion to leave – he just kept masturbating. I was paralyzed to the point of inaction – all I could do was leave the restroom and approach a security guard who subsequently told me that there was nothing he could do about it. The man continued to hang out outside the bathroom even as he witnessed me talking to the security guard. He knew that nothing would be done about it.
To state the obvious here: This is absolutely nothing compared to what pretty much every woman I’m even casually acquainted with has been through. I’ve never been physically assaulted. I’ve never had my employment held over my head by someone who was demanding sexual favors from me. I’ve never been drugged, I’ve never had unwanted advances made against me by someone I otherwise trusted. I’ve never been catcalled. I’ve never been in a position where the control of my body was given up to someone more powerful than me either physically or by virtue of their place in our society. I don’t have to steel my nerves every time I walk out the door wondering if I’m going to invite an attack on my body simply by leaving my house. And by writing this post I’m not claiming some kind of moral authority or kindred experience with the women and men who have experienced these things. I can’t look any of you in the eye and sincerely say “me, too” as if I’ve gone through anything remotely comparable to what you have. And as a white male I have the cultural capital – which I did absolutely nothing to earn – to overcome these situations without any bumps in my path to inevitable respectable white dude status. In the grand scheme of things, these events won’t alter my path. Very few people are so lucky.
But in my most testosterone-fueled fever dreams, I imagine standing up for myself in these situations. I imagine reporting creepy front porch guy to the authorities. I imagine screaming to everyone in the line to that darkened shed that something was really fucking weird about we were doing. I imagine literally punching the train station masturbator in the face. But I haven’t punched anyone in the face since I was 14, and I knew even then that I didn’t have the constitution for that sort of thing. Every time I think about these events I ask myself why I didn’t do more. I think that maybe I’m not man enough and I wonder if these guys had a sense for that – if they could look at me and tell that I was someone who feared verbal confrontation and wouldn’t be able to hold his own in a physical confrontation. I wonder if they sensed the weakness in me that I’ve always been aware of and ashamed of my whole life. It’s not a good feeling.
I wonder how many of the men and women who participate in the victim-blaming that is so central to our cultural order have internalized events like this in their lives. I wonder how important that internalization is to the continued prevalence of this culture that exists today. I wonder if we can actually fix it, or if this is simply another one of those immovable cultural certainties that will see us spending all of our time verbally affirming our commitment to change while never admitting to ourselves that the problem itself is the very grease that keeps the gears of our existing system going. I wonder if that system is reliant on things staying just the way they are.
There’s such a temptation in writing something like this to end with some kind of hopeful message or verbal affirmation towards my commitment to being part of the change I wish to see in the world. And while seeing the #metoo hashtag campaign has been genuinely inspiring and makes me hopeful for change; as is the case with so many things right now I’m having trouble seeing our way out. As my favorite writers, comedians, and burgeoning leftist political organizations are being exposed as simply an extension of this problem, I’m finding that the path to change is even less clear. This is another one of those issues where I feel like my very participation in our economic and cultural model implicates me to the point where I can’t reasonably commit to being a part of the change that needs to happen without opting out of that system entirely.  As Sam Kriss (who has himself recently been accused of harassment) recently wrote,
We all feel, vaguely, that our good intentions should matter, that we should have some power to affect the things around us for the better; political depression is the hopelessness that meets the determination to do something in a society whose systems and instruments are designed to frustrate our ability to act.
That’s the position I’m finding myself in more and more these days.

Smoke and Ruin

Oddly enough, I feel it in my stomach first. It’s the feeling that I’ve swallowed mouthfuls of ash, and those mouthfuls have collected into a giant clump of black tar in my digestive system. Eventually, my eyes burn and it hurts to breathe. Outside, the light is pale, subdued, tinted yellow. Even noises are muffled – the sound of your own footsteps might struggle to make it to your ears. Everything is dim, contained. At night, the moon turns blood red, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it feels like the end of the world.

When I was a kid, I used to hear stories about the Yellowstone Park fires of 1988. I have vague memories of being able to see the smoke in Billings, but it’s hard for me to know if those memories are real or not. What I do know is that people talked about that fire as if it was a once-in-a-lifetime event. Smoke making it all the way to Billings was rare, and in the 15 years that ensued, I never once experienced the feeling of having forest fire smoke invade the place that I live.

In 2004, things started to change. By that time, I was living in Missoula, and for much of that summer the valley was shrouded in smoke, and it hurt my lungs to run. At the time it seemed like a unique event, but every summer after that seemed to involve a similar event – at least one fire whose smoke hung over the valley for a week or so. Before I knew it summer smoke became a feature, not a bug – and during that time the same became true of my hometown of Billings.  

In late 2008, I moved to Portland, and summers went back to normal. I never experienced summertime smoke from forest fires for my first six years living here. The first time it showed up – three summers ago – it was treated as a unique event. Of course, it’s happened every summer since, to the extent that we’ve become accustomed to it. And today – as we are watching some of our most iconic landmarks get engulfed in flames – it feels even more stark. It feels unique.  Will we grow accustomed to this as well?

I’m now able to track many of the important changes in my life to the fires that were raging and the smoke that I was breathing in when they happened. After almost six years of working at the Albertson’s at Eastgate Plaza in Missoula,  I spent the majority of my final night shift in the loading area behind the store, sitting by the river. It was July 10th, 2008, and Mount Sentinel was literally burning across the river from me. Watching the fire creep up the mountain was completely mesmerizing. So it was that my shift from difficult low-wage labor to some vestige of an easier, more “educated” lifestyle was marked by fire. 

Last summer, Laura and I spent the last days of our honeymoon north of Fairbanks, and we were awakened on our last morning by the intense smell of smoke and an unsettling uncertainty as to where the fire that was causing it was coming from. So it was that our transition into married life was marked by fire.

This morning was Simon’s first day of daycare – and after we brushed all of the ash off of the car, we drove him east, towards the fire, leaving a wake of gray dust behind us.  And when we dropped him off and headed back west, I was keenly aware that we were leaving him closer to the fire than we were.  And though the fire posed no risk to structures within city limits, I couldn’t help but feel that we were putting him in harm’s way.  It was deeply irrational but unsettling nonetheless.  This will be another indelible memory that is added to the collection – a series of events in my life that have been punctuated by the destruction of the world around me. It’s shocking, disheartening, oppressive. So it was that our transition into parenthood has been marked by fire.

One of my inaugural acts as an adult in my early 20s was driving to Portland from Missoula for the first time.  When we pulled over in Cascade Locks, I was overwhelmed by how green everything was – it felt like I was in a tropical rainforest. I still feel that every time I go there. My favorite trail runs since I moved here have been on Eagle Creek trail and the trails that wind behind Multnomah Falls towards Larch Mountain. My best hiking memories with my closest friends are all in that area. It’s all burning now. Will we mourn it, or will we just get used to it?

It’s all starting to blend together. It’s all starting to become commonplace. The debate in Portland over the next couple of weeks will be over the appropriate use of fireworks by individial actors, because we are absolutely incapable of grasping the larger global event that we are witness to. You can see already that the outrage generated by this fire will be misdirected.  The actions of these individual kids will be scrutinized endlessly, the location of their parents at the time of their actions will be speculated upon by an anxious public looking for a place to direct their outrage. “Kids these days,” people will say, ignoring the objective reality that it’s the “adults these days” who have allowed this global catastrophe to take place in front of our eyes.

There’s a reason that our ire will be directed at the actions of these individual kids. Our broken political and economic system is collapsing and we have two political parties who are fundamentally committed to maintaining the status quo. And while we are in desperate need of a radical change of direction, there is absolutely no collective will to make that change happen. That’s why the only collective action that we’ll likely be able to muster out of this tragedy will be the institution of a harsher carcereal punishment for future kids who do stupid things. Our focus on them will allow us to continue to ignore the rot that exist at the very core of our system. It will allow us to continue to ignore our own complicity in allowing this broken system to continue.

None of the solutions that are coming down the pike will do anything to address the central problem that caused these fires. There will be genuine outrage, but it will be funneled into the only acceptable practice that our system allows- punching down instead of up. Bashing “kids these days” instead of the political and economic system that is allowing climate change to happen. Slamming the actions of these 15-year old peons while our leaders and the 1% that they serve continue to feed their insatiable lust for wealth accumulation on the backs of the people whose labor they are stealing, at the expense of the planet they are destroying.

The fire is coming our way, and it’s moving much faster than we think. Yet here we are, dropping our children off in its path. We’re driving away from the fire and leaving them behind. No matter what anyone tells you, WE are responsible for what happens to them.  Not some dumb kids with fireworks.  Not some thoughtless parents whose location we can’t determine.  It’s us.

Dear Thomas

Dear Thomas,

The day that you took your own life, you were 17 years and 6 days old – a mere 18 days older than I was when I became your father.  For your first 48 hours, I was both your biological and legal guardian, and when that time was up, I gave up my responsibility to the one part of that equation that I had any say in.  In doing so, I relinquished the vast majority of responsibility for your well-being to a beautiful family who wanted that responsibility much more than I did.  None of us had any idea what a pernicious concoction of mental illnesses we’d passed onto you, and what the very act of adopting you would do to compound those illnesses.  For my part, I was relieved that I was not going to be the one doing the hard work of finding those things out.

I’ve actually been thinking about you a lot in the past couple of weeks.  I’ve been thinking about how difficult it must be to go through your adolescence in a virtual space, with so few social barriers to keep you from interactions that may be harmful.  In this weird virtual space, I saw you struggling – with an ex-girlfriend, with suicidal thoughts, and with a deep and horrible self-loathing.  And as I have during other times, I thought – “he’ll get through this.  He’ll come out the other side stronger.”  And maybe you would have, had you given yourself the chance.  But the weight of the pain and anguish that came with this particular breakdown – layered upon past breakdowns – proved to be too much for you.

Though I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, the truth is that there were a great many times when I’ve forgotten about you.  And now I can’t help but wonder – did I forget about you on accident or did I forget you on purpose?  You haven’t been part of my story for a long time, nor have you been a part of the story I tell others about myself.  I determined at the age of 16 that there was no place for you in my life, and I determined later in my life – either for convenience out of care for my own self-image –  that there was no place for you in the narrative of my life either.  I moved on, I carried on.

But you sought out connection with me via social media.  I kept track of you, and I wondered what you saw when you looked at my Facebook profile.  What I hoped you saw was a vision of a possible future for yourself – your biological father who made it through a difficult adolescence to find a semblance of happiness on the other side.  But now that you’re gone, I wonder:  Did you just see another family that had no place for you?  Did you see a life that you had been deliberately excised from?  Did you see someone who made the choice to move on from you after 48 hours, and was better off in your absence?

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“It’s OK to touch him, you know.”  My Dad and I were standing above you in the delivery room as you lay helpless in the newborn crib.  Nothing had prepared me for the feeling I would have when you were born.  And when you were lying there, I didn’t know what to do.  My Dad put his hand on you – how small you were! – and told me that it was OK for me to do the same.  I still needed that at that point in my life – I needed someone to tell me that  it was OK.  I know that up until your last hours, you had many people in your life doing the same for you.  They told you it was OK, that you would get through this.  They told you that leaving everyone behind was the wrong choice, that you were loved and that the pain would be too great for everyone to bear.  But how could they have possibly understood the kind of pain that makes someone end their life the way that you did?  How could they possibly be seeing the same picture as you?  How could the pain you were dealing with – over, and over, and over again – possibly be worth enduring for any longer?  They didn’t understand.  I didn’t understand.

I remember when I was your age, I went on a date with a girl and was subsequently refused a second date.  So, I did what young men do, and I showed up to her house unannounced.  Right when she opened the door, she said, “please don’t fucking cry.”  She was familiar with boys my age.  So of course I fucking cried. I ended up crying over every girl who gave me so much as a tender look without subsequently agreeing to be mine forever.  I didn’t know that shit was practice.  I didn’t know that I’d be practicing for 10 more years before I felt even remotely OK about myself.  And that’s not to say that people didn’t tell me- of course they did!  But another highlight of being that age is that the emotions we feel are so intense, so visceral – that a calm explanation of the realities of our situation doesn’t hold a candle to what’s burning inside of us.  What a mess I was – and there wasn’t a single person on earth that could tell me that those peaks and valleys would level out.  That I would find some degree of contentment, eventually.  That it was worth sticking around to find out what lay on the other side.  I had to make that decision on my own.

It’s easy to become convinced as we’re growing up that there’s certainty all around us.  Everyone just seems to know what they’re doing.  The world we live in promotes the “fake it till you make it” mentality writ large.  There’s church in everything.  People are conditioned to gather in large groups and vocalize their certainty of purpose.  We’re told that God has a purpose for us too, and that if we say it often enough, it will become true.  But what does that mean for those of us who are struggling to find our place?  What does it mean when when everyone tells us that that we are supposed to feel something at a particular moment, but find only emptiness?  It’s oppressive – and at a young age it’s impossible to convince ourselves that problems lie anywhere other than within ourselves.

One of my favorite movies of the past year was Arrival.  The movie itself centers on the loss of a child.  The central question it asks the parent is: If you had this all to do over again, would you?  Would you choose to bring this life into the world knowing that it would eventually be taken from you?  It was beautiful, poignant, and it helped me deal with losses that my family has already endured.  For those losses, the answer was clearly yes – of course we would make those choices again.  But what’s the answer with you, Thomas? Would I make that choice again, knowing that the person I brought into this world would exit it 17 years later, a tortured soul full of pain and self-loathing?  Did you experience joy often enough to make the pain worth it?

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There’s no playbook for this, Thomas.  I’m not your Dad.  But you were very much my son.  The things that you couldn’t control in yourself were the things that I couldn’t control creating within you.  The pieces that were broken inside of you were pieces that I gave to you.  Some of them were pieces that were mercifully dormant within me, and some were pieces that I broke by the very way in which you were created.  Yet I passed them onto you nonetheless.  So what’s my role in this, now?  How do I grieve a son who wasn’t really my son?  How do I say goodbye to a son I barely knew?

I just… I thought you were going to call.  I was waiting for your call.  I wanted to talk to you.  I wanted to tell you that there’s a place for you in this world.  That there’s a level of rationality in looking around and saying to yourself “this is incredibly fucked up, I can’t do this any more, these people are all fucking crazy.”  You weren’t wrong in thinking those things.  But we live in a big world, in a big country.  And I know that there was a place for you within it, somewhere.  I know that peace existed for you somewhere outside the confines of the town and the church that you were raised in.  And I wish you would have given yourself time to find it.  I wish I had done my part in helping you get there.

On Saturday, I will join your family in carrying you to your final resting place.  It wasn’t my choice nor was it my responsibility to carry you to term, like Holly did.  It wasn’t my responsibility to bear the burden of raising you, as Randy and Laura did.  Much like you, I chose the path of least resistance.  And now the only weight I will be helping to carry will be that of your casket.  The weight of the choices I have made.  The weight of the pain you endured during your short time on this earth.  It’s not enough, and it’s much too late.  And for that I’m so, so sorry.

Dadblog #1

This summer has given me the opportunity to stay home with Simon at the perfect time in his development – he’s 4 months old and really starting to develop a personality with the added bonus being that he’s incapable of deliberately being an asshole yet.

It’s been absurdly good – the things that I feared most about parenthood are the things I’m enjoying the most. I was terrified of not having general freedom of movement or the opportunity to travel, but I’ve found that shrinking the confines of my world down to this house and this neighborhood have been really good for me.  I’ve done a ton of house projects, I’ve brewed a bunch of beer (and it’s been good!), and I’ve relished the occcasional opportunity to take a break from the kiddo and walk around the neighborhood during these lovely summer nights – something I wouldn’t have appreciated as much before.

Anyways, things are good and I have the pictures to prove it.

We take walks from time to time


We go to the brew shop to look for tasty grains
We try to eat pizza and he definitely gets sauce on his head

Ok sometimes we cry

​But naps are the best

Never mind bath time is way better

But really it’s all about the snuggles.