Imperfect Information for an Imperfect World

Pop-up blockers, Virtual Private Networks, a second or third email account so that businesses aren’t able to use my personal info for the marketing practices.  I post three things a year to Facebook, all written in Japanese and they always have something to do with some event connected to my daughter.  [This makes it less of an issue because most people are lazy and aren’t going to Google the translation for me writing “Happy Birthday Bug, Daddy misses you”.]  I’ve even removed my info from databases that can backtrace phone numbers or email simply because I don’t need someone prying into things they don’t understand.

My ex’s mother was a big fan of only looking at the first line of a posting.  There’s a court decision from 20 years ago where someone had stolen my identity and used it to make a series of purchases.  The info provided was incomplete, the social security number not mine.  And had she looked I was no longer a resident of Florida when it occurred!  But it didn’t stop her from accusing me a being a deadbeat.  Funny thing was, the court recognized the issue, had someone read the damn body of the text, they would have known that!  Hell, I hold a government sponsored security clearance, do you think financial issues aren’t one of the biggest red flags out there?  Believe me, it’s easier telling them about anti-depression medication than about financial disclosure forms.  The 157 page clearance form I fill out every few years is not fun!

Information is so much more available, but it’s only snippets of the entire situation.  Companies trying to profit from offering it up in some form for you to purchase.  I know at times even the stupid mis-entered info from someone fat-finger typing causes a database to show your middle initial being M when it most definitely is W!

I agree with celebrities that want their children kept out of the news.  Unless they have opened themselves up to doing something dumb, like a drug arrest or hit a car, why should I care about how they were dressed when they went to kindergarten?  I don’t care what any of you are wearing right now, I hope you feel the same way about how I’m dressed.

Economists, like myself, would tell you that there is no such thing as “perfect information”.  You can tell someone you have nothing to hide, until they find something you might be embarrassed about.  Some college photo of you riding a dolphin at a bar?  That t-shirt that sounded funny, but really wasn’t?  Ever made a comment about religion?  I’ve had to turn people down for jobs, people who were so qualified you would have offered them the job before they left the interview because you were afraid someone else would get them first.  Why?  They wrote something stupid last week, or last month that forces me to question their judgement.  Company policy at it’s finest!

In the past you could have been a member of the KKK and been elected to political office.  Okay in some parts of this country you might still be able to, sadly.

A friend posted a picture of her dog and later found it being used as an advertisement.  The company crawled the web and laces like Facebook or Pintrest own your photo unless you clearly place a watermark of your own on the image.  Google is just a giant marketing company, a very successful one at that.  Apple doesn’t sell your info, but half the apps require some location data or access to your phonebook.  Why does Candy Crush care when my mother last called me?

I’ll leave you with this horrifying thought.  The I.R.S. recently had yet another data breach and 100,000 individuals are now scrambling to ensure they aren’t the future victims of identity thief.  All because the government doesn’t spend what your average local bank spends on protecting data.  I won’t bore you with the exact numbers, but when was the last time someone walked into a bank and requested at gunpoint personal info?  Doesn’t happen.  Yet, the government which does tag every individual with a serial number [insert Nazi Germany jokes for the paranoid out there].  This single number can kill you for the next 7 years if in the hands of the wrong person, longer if you don’t know it happened.

Sure I write about what area I live in, big deal.  Someone would have to read every single posting and start a very serious Venn Diagram to locate me within reason.  You want to come over for tea, just send me a note.  Faster than stalking!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Do Not Disturb.”

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Variation on a Theme.

Not doing today’s prompt in the manner they hope.  I need a theme change, so much ugly was in my head this week, let’s talk about something child related, but much more positive!

Graduation is tonight for the Eighth Grade class for my new found neice(?).  Yes, look at the calendar again, but the school tries to do something special for these kids who will be taking that next step towards adulthood.  Leaving this building and once again being the low person on the totem pole.  So rather than lump them in with the kids heading off to their college/ work/ family considerations, we’re going to party like it 1986?

Susie spent some time showing me the outfits she was considering, a thoroughly horrifying experience for any adult male.  I was always joking as I passed a Hot Topic or Forever 21 that someday I was going on have to sit in an aisle and smile as my daughter picked something that the teenage Lary would have loved, but Dad was going to cringe about.  A silent prayer that baggy flannel came back?

After giving me my torture, she finally came out in a very appropriate ivory colored dress that hit just below the knee.  In many way she reminded me of her aunt, but different.  This new “relationship” we are forging is confusing in plenty of ways.  Her dad told me to treat her like family, talk to her like an adult, and most importantly remember that if I was going to be there for her to actually be there for her.

Normally I would have called me mom for some advice, but we have been taking a break from communicating unless there is something medical she needs to know.  The last two weeks have been odd in that respect, but necessary.  Being here is something I need to do for myself and not worry so much about every little aspect of other people’s worries.  So I’m a little flustered as to what to get her.

Later I’ll pick her grandmother’s brain for the right gift.  The idea of some old book sounds appealing, something more than a gift card or electronic device that just loses it’s value.  I’m looking forward to sitting in a chair and smiling with her family, no they’re my family as well.  The gawky kids teetering across the stage, parent’s holding their phones up to capture things.  Put them down!  You’re missing the point of this all.

I grew up with parents who made plenty of sacrifices so my brother and I could have everything they thought would make us better adults.  Trips to Europe, camps, cars when we turned the right age, every advantage possible.  They made it to every sporting event, even if they ran late due to work.  My mom is the one who taught me to throw a football, which also explains why I throw a football that way!  My dad would sit and try to pitch to me until his shoulder would get sore.  I am lucky, don’t tell them I said that…

Back to my Susie story…

She’s concerned with what I can eat, so she took my suggestion for places to eat.  The No-Name down on Fish Pier here in Boston.  When I was growing up it was a hole in the wall with picnic tables and the boat was tied up next to the building.  The only fresher seafood I would have had to have caught!  It’s a little more built up now, lost some of the charm.  But still a nice choice.  Her best friend and her family are joining us, table for 12.

We’re still discussing me returning to Massachusetts on a permanent basis, but I don’t want her childhood to be a repeat of the uglier part of mine.  I honestly don’t know what the cancer means.  We could get things under control or maybe not.  And while telling her about her aunt, those fun stories and some of the not so fun stories, I don’t want her to be my age and be able to tell her own variation on that theme.  I’d prefer sharing my darkest fear than have her know that kind of pain.

But tonight we party.  Or at least we celebrate the next step in life.  My suit is hanging in the closet, a little looser than I recall.   That ever present photo of my daughter I keep with me will tug a little, but that’s a different theme.  When Susie joins us after I’ll give her a hug, or whatever it is other people are doing.  Tell her how nice she looks and even though she might not need to hear it, how proud I am of her.  That’s a lesson my mother taught me.

There are lots of things I think could have been different about my childhood, but what’s the point.  If not for an extremely painful episode, I might not have this wonderful moment to look forward to this evening.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Childhood Revisited.”

That Time I Almost Killed Myself

There are a lot of pills sitting on my bathroom counter.  There are even more sitting on the counter in the kitchen.  Some are the same, just spread around so that I don’t have to trudge around looking when the stairs are not very Lary friendly.  Anti-depressants, painkillers, drugs to help fight various infections, the list is amusing and might on some level violate my security clearance.  The amount of Schedule One Narcotics alone might make someone consider taking my car keys away!

One night I sat around and the depression had truly taken me by the balls and ripped me apart.  The voices in my head were so loud and so nasty that I kept staring at the collection in front of me and started doing the math.  Not in my head, I took the opportunity to sit with a piece of paper and look up how things could be mixed and what effect they would have.  I wasn’t looking to wake up the next day having had my stomach pumped, I was looking to kill myself.

Even while writing this I can still hear my ex’s mother blaming me for things she has no idea how much I tried to correct.  Situations where it was just easier to say it was my fault rather than wonder how to fix the problem.  The look on her face the last time I saw her, telling me I was worthless.  Sorry, didn’t know.  [I wish I still didn’t feel that way, 8 months later.  But I internalized so many things when I should have spoken up that I don’t know when I will finally be able to let them go.]

I can hear those voices telling me that as soon as I decide to head back to my own house, they are going to start playing the same tune.  “Hey Lary, you haven’t spoken to anyone in months.  What the hell does it matter?”  And I worry that they’ll find that time when I least need to hear that.  But then that is the fun of depression.  Staying 300 miles away, yet even avoiding the people here who know me, smart plan!

Writing about whatever fantasy still exists in my heart about my daughter is the only way I have left of dealing with it.  And with every word, I know that if someone were in the room when I write them they would see the pain and anguish.  No need to ask, they know where my thoughts are.

One of those days, when the pills were about to win I forced myself to get in the car and I drove over to my doctor’s office.  I just sat in the waiting area for a while until the receptionist figured out I wasn’t waiting for anyone.  She asked if I was okay, and the only thing I could do was shake my head.  I couldn’t express what my head was screaming.  She led me back to an exam room and after some time someone came in and asked “Lary, do you need to go to the hospital?”  I didn’t know the answer.  I just sat there shaking.  Fortunately someone thought to call my mother to come and get me.  [this of course was before I had changed the notification form, so my ex was their first call.]  I lost it by the time she came in the room.  I hadn’t said a word, but obviously everyone knew what the problem was.

That combination of cancer, dead child and having watched a relationship blow up all in six months had finally gotten me.  I was broken.  No, I am broken.  Hey guess what?  That also keeps me from talking to any person about this aside from the therapists.  No reason to drag them further into this.  I thought I had friends I could truly talk to, but I figure they are more of the “How’s the weather/work/price of tea in China” variety.

So I tried to kill myself not that long ago.  Those pills and my cancer would have made it real easy to do.  Sucks when your mind thinks that is the best solution to a problem.  The answer, ironically different drugs!

Lately I feel something building back up, my inability to sleep is a sign of that.  I’m scared of how it will work it’s way out of me.  But I know to keep trying to find help, to admit it is a problem.  Those questions about a few things continuing to fight their way to the forefront.  Damn it, time to get moving to the doctor for some tests.  Another issue I wish would just end!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma.”

I’ll Take the Matching Set, Thank You!

With each new day we are supposed to be able to experience a new, different set of possibilities.  Study the past or you will be doomed to repeat it!  Still carrying the ghosts of a past relationship, doing everything possible to not repeat the pitfalls that caused things to go so very wrong?  I’ve got that sitting here in my handy suitcase ready to be packed into whatever form of transport we are using today!  The only issue is that in some ways I have chosen to purchase the matching carry-on.  If I don’t come to terms with some of these things, I might even consider the toiletry bag and possibly the garment bag to round out the set.

For years I have tried to figure out a way to deal with the loss of a friend.  Someone who from time to time I try to capture in this blog, some record of the person I loved and want the world to have had a chance to know.  Even now, while I’m trying to get my cancer under control, I’m sitting in her parent’s house.  Two people who love me enough to kick me in the ass when I need it.  Not that my family hasn’t been willing, but I have always been able to run here for protection when things have been at their worst.

Patre was a lot of things to me, a lot of firsts in my life.  Her life and her death to this day have a very strange effect.  She is the reason why when someone I know is hurt or sick I try to do my best to help.  Even if I can’t do a thing, even when I do the wrong thing; it’s because in my head that 15 year old boy still lives inside of me and is scared.  That scared kid inside the body of a 43 year old man reacts differently, my coping mechanism is hampered by that 15 year old me.

When Whitney was sick, any time she got sick, it would bring me back to that place where I was sitting in the I.C.U with Patre.  It took me a few years of us being together to get the courage to talk to her about everything that went along with those fears.  [more than I am willing to go into here, only three people know everything and those conversations hurt every time to have.]  It was my job, my responsibility, and my pleasure to want to take care of her the best I could.  But those fears crept back any time she retreated to her parent’s house so mommy could take over.  The anger, frustration, all of those feelings of being helpless and marginalized meant that there were times when things got heated.

The biggest reason I have remained in Newton, MA rather than head back to Maryland is that the hurt little boy needed help recently and I didn’t know where to turn.  Patre’s parent’s know almost everything about me.  They know the good as well as the bad, or even the terrifying aspects of who I can be at times.  I know that’s why their granddaughter stayed here last week, to help me deal with life.  She asks lots of questions and there is no way to get angry with a 13 year old.  Only one friend in Maryland has ever seen me cry, I lock it away and pretend I’m okay.  Lying to them as much as lying to myself.

Last night I was up until 3 a.m., just laying around in bed not wanting to move around and disturb anyone.  My brain trying to fight through the depression wondering if what made me laugh yesterday, which made me sad today, is going to be the thing that makes me fearful or worse tomorrow.  I look at the picture of Patre sitting on the dresser and remember something she told me while I was nervously suiting up to tryout for baseball.  I’ve got my mask perched on top of my head, trying to measure the speed the coach was pitching at and she leans over to me and grabbed my chest protector.  “Vanity press is going to be the end of you!”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Stop worrying about trying to look good for me and go do your best!”  And with that she left the gym.  [This is December inside to deal with the cold weather!]

She got sick over that Christmas break and never saw me play.  It was just the back-up and I only saw time in the later innings.  But I went through that season always imagining her sitting somewhere clapping for me.  [like I said, she left a mark that I gladly wear on my sleeve].

I’ve told people over the years that I have some heavy bags that I drag behind me.  I’m vague enough so that they know the general ideas, just not all of the details.  No reason to burden some of them with my baggage, they have some of their own to carry.  I just hope some day the guy who stepped behind a plate and just tried comes home for a while.  I like the memory of just having someone help me unstrap and tell me they were proud of me.  That’s something missing in my world.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Baggage Check.”

My Sore Feet.

One foot in front of the other, pounding the pavement as I slowly pick up the pace going down the driveway.  I can feel my legs start to tighten up just slightly from having not stretched enough before taking off, but that just means I should turn right out of the driveway and do a quick lap of the circle to ensure I don’t cramp up.  Depending on the day, there could be a dozen cars sitting in the circle from people enjoying my neighbor’s pool.  The sounds muffled by my headphones ironically playing NPR or some news broadcast when you would think pounding rhythms would be a better choice.

That first few hundred yards are always the most difficult.  Do I really want to do the hills that come next, or would the treadmill be a better place to get covered in sweat?  I just push on, making that right turn and going down the hill and back up.  My GPS on the phone will tell me later the elevation changes, how fast I ran them if I held back any from the last time we attempted this route.  2.5 miles is about one lap of the neighborhood, so we do at least two sometimes three!  On a good day, my shorts are soaked through, my shirt like a second skin.  If it’s colder, well I look like a robbery suspect you see on the news.  Black mask over my face to protect it from the wind and cold.

For a while, when I could handle listening to music I had an album that was almost exactly 67 minutes long.  Three laps and it would finish as I was heading back up the driveway.  Sometimes I didn’t even realize the music had gotten to that point, did the phone lose it’s charge?  Nope, just my brain taking in all of the sights and sounds around me.  Kids playing in the yard, neighbors waving as they alternately drive past or were mowing their own grass.  All of those “Mayberry Moments” people hope for when they buy a home.  Not a house, but a place they call home.

I turn the cell service off when I run.  No phone calls or text messages, no email or some other weird notification to break my strides.  For that hour I am living in the stone age of communication.  Leave me a message, I’ll get back to you.  I even got to a point where I had a “I’m out running” voicemail.

The shoes are sitting in the corner, running is a bad idea right now.  So I’ve taken up writing and found I can do that for two hours without noticing time pass.  This blog is but one set of ideas, another rests in a notebook I feverishly have been writing a book of all things.  Some of the pages are just scraps of ideas and other pages entire chapters.  I don’t know if another person will ever see it, but it has been interesting writing it!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Zone.”

Am I Asleep?

The sound from around the corner was quick, almost like it was just my brain playing a trick on me.  This house is approaching 30 years old, so the odd creaks and moans are something you expect.  I looked over at my late night companion and we started talking as if nothing happened.

“So what do you want to do?  The room is yours for as long as you want it, we can have some more of your things shipped so that you feel more comfortable.”

“Being here has its own set of problems.  I can see things coming because here I’m in total control, no one can hurt me.  At the same time, no one knows where to find me if they were to help.  I may not have spoken with my family for a few days, but I know you have been keeping them informed as to how I’m doing.  That’s a responsibility you shouldn’t feel the need to take on.”

The bandage on my ear sliding down slightly and I can see by the look on her face that she wants me to replace it before we continue.  Any chances that something slows the healing, the restoration of my hearing, is of great concern.  But then I start to hear that cracking sound again.  This time it can’t just be the house, someone is listening from another room.  I know if I slide around the other door to the kitchen I’ll see who it is before they can slink away.

Sitting in the floor, curled up with her eyes completely swollen from trying to hold back the tears, Susie is shaking so gently that I thought my eyes weren’t focusing.  The movement of her hands so slightly I almost needed to hold my breath in order to see them quiver.

“Lary, do you think you need to leave?  Are you going home or do you need to go back into the hospital?  Please tell me, I’m old enough to try to help!”  The words had started slowly but gained volume and speed by the time she finished.  The shaking now the result of her frustration at trying to understand.  And the best I can do is freeze where I am.

Her grandmother looks at me through the door and motions for me to sit down.  I’ve know this woman so long that I recognize her expression.  ‘Talk to her.  Be careful, but talk to her.’  Her eyes saying more than her voice ever could.

This is a conversation I knew I would have, but always thought it would be on my terms.  Who knew that Susie’s late night need for something to drink was going to blow the plan completely to hell!  The best I could do was sit down next to her and let her lean into my shoulder.  Her nose and hair look just like her aunt, making it so much harder to talk to her.  That ghost the main reason why I can be here, knowing this family will protect me from everything, including myself.  Right now it’s my turn to repay all of that by making this shared nightmare better for her.

“There’s going to come a time when I’ll need to go back to my own house.  Last week it was easy to call someone to come fix those stairs without me needing to travel.  But I can’t just let my family deal with things they really don’t need to.  That whole being an adult means that I have to face the ugly stuff as much as the easy stuff.  Ignoring it, hoping it just fixes itself, that doesn’t happen.”

“If you don’t want to leave, why don’t you just move back here?  I can help, come over after school and summer is almost here.  Gram says you left once and it was hard for people here.  I don’t know what it’s like being you.  You only tell me parts of stories, just like stories about my aunt.  There’s more to things and you only want to shield me.  You can’t.  I’m here right now.  Why can’t you let us help you?”

“Susie, when I was in college and just needed a family meal, this is where I would come.  Your father and grandparents always made me feel like I was blood.  We share something much deeper, something that grew out of pain and became what you see now.  Your grandmother’s opinion is something I listen to and take very seriously.  There’s a reason why after my daughter died your grandmother was one of the first people I talked to.  We had done this before with your aunt, she knew me better than anyone in how I was going to deal with things.”

“Gram says you still have nightmares about her and your ex.  That she’s heard you scream at night but doesn’t know what to do for you.  She warned me before I came here.  She talks about you every now and then, before I knew you.  When you were a bunch of pictures in the drawer.”

“Kathy is important to me in a way that few people are.  I know my just being here brings back some memories that hurt her.  Some of the medical things going on with me, you see the fear on her face.”

“Please tell me what’s going on, the truth!”

This is where I just don’t know what to say.  It’s not like when I was a her age, my grandmother being sick and having to walk to the library to understand what the pancreas does.  Anything I say, well her phone can tell if I’m lying or not.  Instant access has its drawbacks.

“Susie, I stayed because I couldn’t travel.  My ear might have started bleeding and it could have been slow to get me to the hospital.  But now I’m staying because I’m afraid to go home.  You know that feeling you get when you’re home alone and you get frightened for even a second.  I feel that too often sitting on my couch.  The memories come flooding back and I don’t know what to do.  Add in that I really don’t know on any given day if a doctor is going to give me bad news and you lose the ability to go right or left.  Standing still sometimes is the only choice.”

“Well, I don’t want you to go.  Can’t you forgive yourself?”

“No I can’t.  I don’t know how to!”  Now I’m shaking and she’s having to hold my hand to stop the shaking.  I didn’t want this and now it’s here.  A different panic, but one just as powerful.  Another life dragged into this mess and me not having any way to shield a teenager from it.  This isn’t just a nightmare I can wake up from, and it’s not the kind of thing that a few pills will help let me sleep through.  This life right now is a nightmare, one that is reaching further and further.  Stupid visions of tentacles whipping around grabbing hold of anyone who walks into my path.

Is it time to wake up?  Or did I ever get to sleep in the first place?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Nightmares.”

Love/Fear – Two Sides of a Shiny Coin

It’s one of my go-to movies for several reasons, but “The American President” is a great example of how one person achieves what many people believe to be the ultimate political prize.  Only he is filled with such doubt about himself that some decisions are made because love and the fear of loss compels him to question himself.  It’s not a tale of redemption, or a quest to find himself, but learning to move forward without betraying his own past and beliefs.

I like the writing simply because it doesn’t talk down to the audience.  It assumes correctly that people understand the basic of politics and doesn’t try to hold their hand in explaining some activities.  You have a political opponent who stops at nothing to try to convince the public that he is the “moral choice”.  That the current occupant of the White House, who is a widow, has started to date again, he must have something wrong with him.  His quest for a balance between being “The Most Powerful Man in the World” needing to have someone to talk to about life, love.  Even the device of a teenage daughter doesn’t have the silly notion of jealousy, she wants her father to be happy.  Even telling him to “complement her shoes, women really like that!”

You have the background of several fights with congress about weapons and environmental issues, but they play second fiddle to the human drama of friendship.  The relationship between The President and his Chief of Staff is played out wonderfully, noting that they have been best friends for decades leading up to this time frame.  At times they talk like employer/employee, but at times each needs to be reminded that their’s is a lifelong friendship open to speaking their mind.  You can see the pain, torment in trying to do the right thing and sometimes failing.  Knowing you are going to hurt someone you love simply be trying to do what you think is the right thing.  Later learning that the right thing might not really be what you thought.  And that loss sometimes is required.

“I spent so much time trying to keep my job that I forgot to do my job”.  A fragment of a speech near the end that rings in my mind all the time.  Micheal Douglas delivers it with such conviction that you wished he was the sitting President and that those words were what you actually heard during a news conference.  The result I won’t spoil, because I truly believe this is the type of movie everyone should watch.

Love is great, the flip side of that shiny coin is fear of loss.  The ugly stepsister that remains in the corner of every fairy tale told throughout the ages.  The things people will do for love is a common theme, but just as important is that they do them because they fear losing that love.  That warm feeling that helps them get through the day, when everything is hard, when life has just kicked you for the millionth time that day; the feeling of love helps sooth those doubts.  Fear is powerful, more powerful than any other emotion because it plays on those doubts.  It feels like you have fallen beneath the ice and you can’t see the spot where you fell though the cracks.

We all crave love.  When it is absent we let those lingering doubts create questions about ourselves that only the presence of love can answer.  It’s one thing to be comfortable with who you are, but life is rarely complete without experiencing the satisfaction of a hug or a smile.

This movie captures all of that in a short 120 minutes.  There is a reason why certain themes are considered to be classic, they ring true from generation to generation and from spoken word through the age of the Internet.  I still remember the first book I read that dealt with loss,  The Bridge to Terabithia.  My mother doesn’t remember giving it to me when I was about 8 or 9, but up until that point I knew nothing about true loss.  But as an adult I see that the reasons it hurt was because the friendship had brought love into the world for them both.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Worldly Encounters.”