Death, Tents, and Redemption

by Brad Nelson4/19/19
This is one of those times where I’m going to ignore the common of advice of “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” But so much goes left unsaid in our insane culture. And so much that should never be said is amplified by media megaphone. So I’m going to chance it.

I’ve been taking the ferry to Seattle lately to visit my dying older (and only) sister. This isn’t a story about that, per se. If I want your sympathy I’ll ask for it. I do not say that dismissively. I say that matter-of-factly. I’ll let you know when I’m fishing for support. This is not one of those times. I know that all of you out there have problems you are struggling with. Often the tank runs dry and there isn’t much left to offer true sympathy for others. Been there, done that.

There isn’t much to say other than that modern science, despite its boasting, is still pretty primitive in what it can do. And although you cut the dying all the slack in the world, I can’t helping thinking that this whole experience isn’t made the worse by a total lack of religious faith (or at least any mention of it). Doubting Thomas that I am, I still pray for my sister. But the secular-Progressive world is a cold one even if populated by some great people.

Coming off the Washington State Ferry into Seattle, the traffic crawls for at least a couple of miles. And you therefore have plenty of time to glimpse in detail the ragged tent detritus of the “homeless” scattered upon the sidewalks and in between the giant concrete four-lane freeways and ramps. A patch of green amongst the gray monsters is a beacon for the “homeless.” Most of them are packed with tents and a penumbra of garbage.

Modern skyscrapers directly at the edge of these wastelands look down on this mix of high civilization and the Left’s manufactured third world. These are all people who need to be in lock-down facilities where their drug, alcohol, and mental problems can be properly treated. Instead, they are treated as puppets for the Progressives. They are a supposed sign of their great compassion. And they are also a useful knock on capitalism. I think they function in both regards. But how any supposedly civilized human being can endorse this situation, for whatever reason, is appalling.

So to enter Seattle is to enter this bizarre world. I noted on the skyline while standing at the front of the ferry on the way in that there are no less than seven skyscrapers under construction. The town is booming. And yet there is a cold barbarity to it all. In some places you have the height of inventive architecture, such as The Amazon Spheres. Pioneer Square (just off the ferry and to the right a bit) is an exquisite enclave of shops and pedestrian-friendly spaces and architecture. But this is also where you will find an entire block marred by people claiming the sidewalk with tents and cardboard boxes.

Schizophrenic comes to mind. With the burning of Notre Dame in recent memory, one knows that these modern progressive structures and ideas are meant to uplift in their own way. But it all seems so superficial. There is no object beyond them that they point to. With Notre Dame, one can criticize the ornateness and expense, but the structure itself was never meant to be the end object of veneration. It was instead a signpost to the Object which is to be venerated.

There is talk of “death with dignity.” And, as I understand it, it has always been a behind-the-scenes option between patient and doctor in mortal cases to take care of what needs to be taken care of. I have no beef with that. But these euphemisms are monstrously deceptive. I see no dignity in raising these euphemisms to secular idols.

Facing death, if not yet one’s own, is always a reminder that our time on this earth is not infinite. What bothers me about all this is not the sad ending of a once productive life. My sister was going to get married and to a very nice guy. That’s a shame. My sister is not easy to live with but this guy seems to have meshed well and seems to be a truly good soul. I think what bothers me is the incongruity of a mostly secular death. There’s no context to it. There’s nothing to say about it.

At one point my sister a few days ago noted that she didn’t want to be visited by so-and-so because she was “too religious.” One of her daughters can be a bit psychotic at times. The other is cold and controlling. By the bedside, I did and said what I could, or what I thought I should. But there is to be no Touched By An Angel moment. It’s just a somewhat cold, impersonal going.

In a cold, impersonal city that imagines that it is otherwise as garbage piles up in and around its ad hoc tent cities. It’s not quite as feces-filled as San Francisco yet. But it’s getting there. I honestly don’t know why there is a building boom in Seattle. Who would want to live there when there are so many other better options? Taxes are high. Traffic is a nightmare (arguably the worst in the Western World). But the tech companies are so flush right now, money talks and garbage-strewn streets aren’t apparently making anyone walk.

Through all this, I realized how important having good relationships with a few select people is. To banish the noise and allow in the good, the sacred, the true, and the beautiful. Most people are crazy. The world is alight in nuttiness. What pretends at warmth is often cool to the touch. Take care of your own. Re-evaluate what you think is important. Enjoy what the world has to offer, but beware of the cold hand behind so many things. I’ve said too much, I know.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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102 Responses to Death, Tents, and Redemption

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    In The Hunt for Red October, Captain Ramius discusses with his officers (who are in on his defection plan) the death of his wife due to some sort of failure or error at a (government) hospital. There was nothing he could do about it, of course — and because of official atheism (which a ranking officer wouldn’t dare challenge) he didn’t even have the consolation religion can bring.

    A good example of that consolation is the headstone epitaph in a cemetery in a Dean Koontz novel for a child who died at birth: “God loved him s much that he called him home at birth.”

    There was an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode about a paroled criminal (Gene Barry) who is very angry at a woman who didn’t prevent his brother from getting involved in a crime that led to his death. He finds her upset at the event and apathetic about life. For whatever reason, he decides to use his money (probably the hidden proceeds of his crime) to stake her in a shop or something. Her life gets better, and eventually she’s on the verge of getting married. And then we find out why he decided to help her out: Killing someone who doesn’t care about dying (or event wants to die) is no revenge. Killing someone who really wants to live, on the other hand . . .

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      In The Hunt for Red October, Captain Ramius discusses with his officers (who are in on his defection plan) the death of his wife due to some sort of failure or error at a (government) hospital. There was nothing he could do about it,

      The death of his wife, Natalia, is the last-straw moment for Captain Ramius. His wife apparently had appendicitis. She was brought to an upper-tier hospital (and the book mentioned that the upper-tier is often the worst tier). The doctor was drunk. The surgery was botched. The needed antibiotics to repair the botched surgery were likely just vials of plain water.

      I’m 41% into this book. And although there are no major events (thus far) in the book that you don’t see in the movie, it’s still fairly interesting, The opening 40 pages are rather good where it describes the Soviet mindset — the mindset that Marko Ramius had to ape in order to get along in that society.

      The parallels with what is happening today in America are stunning. There is a Communist mentality that has infected our land. You read this, and you realize that we now have very little righteous ammunition to condemn either China or Russia because we are becoming just like them. Even worse in some ways. Evil men such as Obama can now almost rightly crow that there is scant difference between “Russian exceptionalism” and “American exceptionalism.”

      The movie *might* have composited both the Tyler and Ryan character into the Jack Ryan character. Nope. I just checked at IMDB and Skip Tyler was played by the principal in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I don’t remember him being in the movie. I do remember Scott Glenn who is excellent as the Captain of the Dallas. And I remember that Richard Jordan (Logan’s Run) is excellent as Jeffrey Pelt. It’s really an excellent movie with an excellent cast. “Excellent” is certainly a word that fits this entire project.

      I think you or Mr. Kung had noted that this book initially had problems finding a publisher. Perhaps, just as with the situation of the Catholic Church, there was (and still is) a process by which non-subversive elements (whether books critical of the Soviet Union or straight priests) were filtered out. Here’s one section in the beginning that is very good:

      The Good of the People was a laudable enough goal, but in denying a man’s soul, an enduring part of his being, Marxism stripped away the foundation of human dignity and individual value. It also cast aside the objective measure of justice and ethics which, he decided, was the principal legacy of religion to civilized life. From earliest adulthood on, Marko had his own idea about right and wrong, an idea he did not share with the State. It gave him a means of gauging his actions and those of others It was something he was careful to conceal. It served as an anchor for his soul and, like an anchor, it was hidden far below the visible surface.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Now you know why the Maryland GOP wanted Tom Clancy to run for Congress (probably the Senate). It’s a pity he didn’t in some ways — it would have been nice having them there, especially when the only alternative was a Demagogue. But he was too sensible to give up on his writing to become a top leftist target. Today, of course, he would be anyway. The goodthinkful well-doers brook no heresy anywhere. As Captain Ramius well knew from personal experience.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Modern skyscrapers directly at the edge of these wastelands look down on this mix of high civilization and the Left’s manufactured third world.

    As I have said before, our “civilization” is regressing. We are going back to the days that aristocrats and lords of the manor looked down, from their high perches, on the hoi polloi, i.e. the rest of us. Better buy you tent while the price is right.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      As I have said before, our “civilization” is regressing.

      One of the things it’s made me realize, Mr. Kung, is that you can’t have AC without DC. You can’t have water without wet. You can’t have peanut butter without the chance of it sticking to the roof of your mouth.

      Defining compassion is a very tricky thing. Most people don’t do a good job of it because they can’t look past the human propensity to define “good” their own attitudes, practices, and beliefs. And, frankly, there’s a reason that saints are rare. Most people are not moral giants.

      But what we can say about compassion for sure is that it can’t be all one thing or another. It can’t be all carrot and it can’t be all stick. All-carrot (never saying no to anything) is what leaves vast areas of Seattle looking like a third-world country. And that is likely doing an injustice to most third-world countries who may be poor, but know enough not to defecate in the streets.

      These are not compassionate decisions being made about allowing vagrants, drug addicts, and the mentally ill to trespass where they will. They are political ones. Or they stem from a personal narcissism….the need to be thought of as a particular exemplar of moral virtues.

      A compassionate decision would never leave people — particularly mentally or physically disabled ones (if even because of their own practices) — to stew in their worst proclivities.

      Little monsters, all around us. Pretending to be good.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        In earlier times, people knew actions resulted in consequences. They knew something could not be black and white at the same moment. So they started off ahead of many of today’s idiots who have no firm point of departure. These delicate dunces can’t muster up the gumption to call chicken shit what it is, they call it chicken salad.

        People knew that life was complicated and there were certainly a lot of greys out there, but one of the main obligations of adulthood was to use one’s God-given sense to find reasonable solutions to difficult problems. This is one reason today’s zero-tolerance Torquemadas are so disgusting. They abdicate all responsibility and jettison the use of their brains. They are one-note know-nothings who are as irritating as a child tapping the same key on a piano, but that child is basically harmless. These fools are a threat to civilization. (I am also thinking of Deana’s piece “Leftlandia.”)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          In earlier times, people knew actions resulted in consequences.

          The Libertarian heresy is all about denying consequences.

          Regarding the tents aspect of this fine article, some of the tents I saw looked like they had been stolen recently from a good sporting goods store. But most were ragged. And the only place I saw an actual cardboard box shelter was in Pioneer Square (a section of downtown Seattle) on the sidewalk. There was a huge one, perhaps 6 feet x 6 feet x 6 feet. It would collapse in a moment via rain and/or wind. But it was functional and standing when I saw it.

          And there was an indigent lady in a “booth” right next to this box who didn’t have anything over her head. Her station seemed to be a small collection of garbage laying around on the sidewalk. At one point I saw her angrily push back on the side of the big 6 by 6 cardboard box of her neighbor. Maybe hating rich people even has a pecking order on the sidewalk.

          As for the death aspect of this, you know that my testimony is reliable and not subject to fits of fantasy or exaggeration. But I found it interesting that the night before I got the call from my once future brother-in-law about my sister’s dire condition, I had a dream about an imminent death in the family. This dream was so unusual, powerful, and vivid that it would have stood out just for that. And I won’t describe it any further because it’s just too personal and it wouldn’t seem right. But it makes you think.

          As for the redemption aspect, I admit to feeling better after writing this. I was conflicted in many ways (and still am). Part of it is trying to find an affection that perhaps wasn’t really much there, even though I wanted it to be. But Nelson women can be cold. That’s just the way it is. But I have myself to blame as well. Still, that’s just not a world that I fit into. And that’s probably at the core of my consternation about these third-world slums arising in areas that are liberal utopias (especially in Seattle, a buzzing hive of the big tech companies and of the latest fads and ideas).

          How does one truly reconcile this? Tent cities, especially during the depression, were not rare occurrences. But on one hand you have these deluded socialists chanting “Affordable housing” even while exacting a measurable human toll created by their extremist environmental policies that monstrously raise the cost of housing. And the same dummies who say they lament the condition of “the homeless” (99% of whom have mental or drug problems) continue to vote in the legalization of drugs, such as the quite devastating drug, marijuana.

          They have their “death with dignity” laws but, with abortion and tent cities, seem to care little about dignity in life. But you can buy $5.00 cups of coffee nearly everywhere. I guess that’s something.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I gather that the deinstitutionalization of the 80s was a matter of government finances. The inmates of the loony bin were financed by state government, whereas if let out they would be welfare recipients and their care partially paid out of federal funds. The states made the decisions, and so they kicked them out to save money. And what it meant for the crazies, and for that matter those they encountered in the outside world, were unimportant.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          I don’t buy the budget aspect of this, but you never know. These same people are willing to go billions or trillions into debt for other things.

          I think this human detritus was ushered onto the sidewalk because of other motivations. These are the same people who want felons to vote and would (like Saddam Hussein) empty the prisons on decent, law-abiding folk just out of spite.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Which will gain a politician more votes, money spent on the booby hatch or money spent on roads, welfare, etc.? Remember, states generally have to balance budgets, though they have a few tricks to evade this to some extent.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Umm….well….maybe the entire Progressive project is a budget issue. But I do believe ideology is almost 100% behind the decisions to empty the institutions.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              Which will gain a politician more votes, money spent on the booby hatch or money spent on roads, welfare, etc.?

              And people in mental institutions generally don’t vote and can’t afford lobbyists.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                And people in mental institutions generally don’t vote and can’t afford lobbyists.

                Whatever the motivation for dumping the drug-addicted and mentally ill onto the street, I would think it would be difficult for Progressives to do anything but turn a blind eye to victimhood and parasitism given that their ideology (socialism) is based on that.

                To get a feeling for what yutes are thinking, this bizarre (and ultimately dishonest) article is useful:
                For some millennials, climate change clock ticks louder than biological one

                “Procreating both contributes to climate change and creates a new victim of climate change,” said Rieder, a research professor and father of one. “I don’t know whether people should have kids, or whether they should have a big family, but I do believe that climate change should be part of their deliberation, because the consequences of bringing a new person into a changing world are really morally serious.”

                There actually might be one or two yutes who believe in “climate change” enough to not have children. But I think blaming “climate change” is just a dodge. The real reason is that kids interfere with their pursuit of happiness. Children, by their very nature, are required to be the center of attention. The Snowflake universe most yutes inhabit today forbid even the possibility of this.

                The amount of programming it takes to make a person believe this is stunning. I suspect that yutes gain little or no scientific education in school. The earth has a history of quite violent shifts in climate that have nothing to do with human beings. Change is the norm. And yet these dolts hear of a drought somewhere in the world and think the world is coming to an end.

                It’s difficult to understand that, although much of this baloney is a mere affectation, there are many who deeply believe this stuff. But it’s also convenient to do so. The redemptive aspect of both believing in “climate change” and allowing the “homeless” to shit on the sidewalk is central to this ideology. These are their stations of the cross. Christians have “He is risen,” Progressives have cardboard boxes, feces on the sidewalk, and Chicken Little hysteria. But it’s what they have.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Those are very good points. We should never forget how eager leftists are to use ideology to justify their own selfishness.

  3. David Ray says:

    A few interesting observations . . .

    When I was in Jersey, all the bums were black guys. When I was in Denver, all the bums were white hippie types. (If you’re bald on top, do yourself and others a favor and loose the ponytail!)

    When I was in San Francisco, all the bums were gone. The mayor had briefly cleaned ’em out so as to accommodate a coming convention or some such. Don’t worry; they soon returned and turned the place into a crap-storm.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The Tent: It’s difficult to understand the liberal point of view about it being a good thing that bums shit on the sidewalk, pitch tents where they want, and heap mounds of garbage everywhere. I realize that they are de facto pawns (“mascots,” Thomas Sowell calls them) in a game of virtue signalling. But certainly you’d think someone would put down the signaling pistol at some point and do something to help not only these people but the honest, hard-working victims of these people. That these honest (if gullible), hard-working people keep voting for the politicians who allow this makes the game sort of rigged in a queer way,

      The Death: I visited my sister yesterday along with my older brother. My sister is now receiving no treatment other than pain killers. My older brother has been in constant contact with her boyfriend and the boyfriend said she didn’t want to be alone now. So we came over and, God willing, will do do again this weekend. She’s calm, can talk a little, and can eat and drink a little. I just held her hand, talked a little, and made a few jokes that even got her to smile.

      If only we treated each other like we all had only days to live. But we don’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

      The Redemption: I’m not sure any of us are truly redeemable. At least it seems sure we can’t do so via our own actions. We are all too petty, selfish, confused, and corrupt. But in the midst of this, you see the kind acts, such as my would-be brother-in-law who is taking care of my sister. He is a saint.

      This is why people can and do respond to acts of kindness: Such things are relatively rare in the wild. There’s a lot of virtue signaling, for sure. But it’s a fake sweet like saccharine. And acts of kindness are like throwing a boat anchor into the water. It may or may not touch ground. It may just hang there and even be a dead weight. True acts of kindness come from a different place than tit-for-tat.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I’m not sure any of us are truly redeemable.

        I think some of the great stories of literature are stories about a person seeking, and gaining, redemption.

        The problem with gaining redemption is holding on to it and not reverting to the norm. I believe that is why death comes promptly to many of those redeemed in literature.

        Much harder than seeking redemption is the daily slog to hold on to what is good and trying to be worthy of redemption.

        I believe I have said it before, my favorite saying is, “No act of kindness, however small is every wasted.”

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This is why instances such as the recent case of a fake kindness — a homeless man giving a couple his last cash for something they needed, and them setting up a GoFundMe page for him, only to have the whole thing turn out to be a scam by all 3 — are so distressing as well as so disgusting. We all appreciate “random acts of senseless kindness” (as Louisville radio host Jane Norris called them) even if we don’t do them. To have one turn out to be a scam . . .

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          RAK’s exist in another dimension outside of the this-for-that world we live in 99.99% of the time. And they are hardly “random.” They are quite premeditated. It’s like stepping off the pavement into the meadows and woods into the periphery. It’s not the fastest or most useful path. It has its own rewards. But you don’t just fall into that path. You decide to go there. Some stay there and we call them saints.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Actually, some probably are at least somewhat random – momentary inspirations from circumstances. Of course, Norris was parodying the all-too-common phrase “random acts of senseless violence”. Her version is much nicer.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Here is a story about a RAK which took place in this world.


            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              That’s a good one. The funny thing about reading these Harry Bosch/Lincoln Lawyer novels that I’ve been into lately is that everything is a deal. Everything can be traded. Everything can be negotiated. Bosch stands athwart this for the most part. But it’s also inherent to his job. And it all gets very cold-blooded. Nobody does nothin’ because it’s the right thing to do.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                Everything can be traded. Everything can be negotiated.

                This is a particularly American way of looking at things. I believe it comes, at least partially, from the idea that everything is a marketplace. This suggests that everything is economic in origin. Sounds like a Marxist/materialist view doesn’t it?

              • Timothy Lane says:

                I suspect the robber barons of the Gilded Age thought of it. Perhaps the War of the Rebellion, like the Great War a half century later, had a devastating effect on morality (and for much the same reason). Read The Scarlet Woman of Wall Street, a history of early Wall Street and especially the Erie Railroad war.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This suggests that everything is economic in origin. Sounds like a Marxist/materialist view doesn’t it?

    I agree, Mr. Kung. There are people who decry the free market as “greed” and “exploitation” of the poor. This includes evil men such as the current fake pope. I’m more with Gordon Gecko on this: Greed us good. Greed clarifies. Etc. That is, at least in a free market of voluntary transactions. The greed Hitler had for Poland, not so good.

    The economic parsing of this is easy. Very easy. Free markets within the framework of an American-style republic with protections for the individual and non-corrupt regulation of trade is good for all. Always. We can call the motivation for this wealth “greed,” and that’s partially true. But mostly it’s about being productive and useful with your talents….and being rewarded for that.

    The social aspect of the opposite — any kind of coerced economy, such as that with any kind of socialism — is based on the purer kind of greed, as well as a half dozen other deadly sins including jealousy. Behind the mask of “helping the poor” is really the dark heart of wanting to take other people’s stuff while punishing them for having the stuff in the first place. Such a system (see the streets and alleys of Seattle) lionize “the poor” and turn them into symbols of the oppressed and abused — when, in fact, this current crop of “poor” are either mentally ill (perhaps often not their fault) or strung out on drugs or alcohol. That is not the fault of anyone living a productive and fruitful life.

    That’s why I say no one of good faith or sense can ever vote for a Democrat. They are the party of darkness, of re-branding every good instinct in man as “greed” or “racism” or whatever. They lionize the unproductive, the moochers, and the miscreants. And that automatically means (and anyone with eyes with which to see can see this) they besmirch and belittle the productive and virtuous.

    That is the devil we are dealing with. That people who otherwise aren’t bad people empower these devils is the problem.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Leftists have what I call an overdog/underdog problem. They reflexively oppose those on top (other than themselves, of course) as overdogs and reflexively favor those on the bottom (except for those who vote for the GOP) as underdogs. To make it worse, their selection of which of these two large categories you fall into is based on membership in smaller groups.

      Whether deliberately or not, the result is to place criminals above their victims, illegal aliens above native-born citizens and even legal immigrants, the deranged above the sane (conveniently for leftists, I suppose), drug addicts over non-abusers, the indolent poor over hard-working successful people. This is not a good way to develop a functioning society.

  5. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Everything can be traded. Everything can be negotiated.
    This is a particularly American way of looking at things. I believe it comes, at least partially, from the idea that everything is a marketplace. This suggests that everything is economic in origin. Sounds like a Marxist/materialist view doesn’t it?

    While watching some videos of Stephen Kotkin, author of the Stalin biography I have critiqued, I came across the below video. I had never heard of Sir Roger Scruton, but after listening to the video, I can state that I did not disagree with anything he said. I have never run across any philosopher with whom I completely agreed, but it would appear I completely agree with Scruton. I particularly like the way he rebutted the libertarian idea of markets about everything.

    If you ever have 45 minutes, I suggest you have a listen.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Sister Shelley died today at about 3:00 Pacific Time after a several week battle with a recurrence of cancer.

    And you know why religion is important. It’s not necessarily to compensate for death, for who knows what the next stage my be? It’s about giving due reverence to life even in death, to finding meaning and hope in a time of dissolution.

    In our family, there is no holder of this flame (my mother being the exception, although with advanced dementia, that light is dimming). We are a “secular” family in the most hollow way. There is no way for us to talk about death in any way that isn’t trite.

    Of course, yours truly is the hidden exception. My sister, perhaps thinking practically like a woman, a few days ago when we were visiting her said something like “I’m not sure of the cost/benefit of this.” “This” being her laying in a hospital bed with terminal cancer. I said “As long as we’re together, that’s enough.”

    But now we are not. Surround yourself with thoughtful, faithful people. It matters. And hold your beliefs gently, but do hold them. Do not go gently into that goodnight, but do go with a torch to guide you and those you leave behind.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      My condolences.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thank you, Mr. Kung. I’m sure my sister would have appreciated your concise eloquence. What more is there really to say?

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I knew you would understand my intentions.

          Some things in life demand a certain restrained yet sincere formality.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My sympathies. Oddly, I don’t know if any of my family have died from cancer. Of course, in my father’s case it was exsanguination and acute lead poisoning. But I recall Andy Offutt discussing his mother’s death and observing that it was in some ways ideal — not too prolonged and painful, but enough time for the family to prepare for it. I hope it worked out that way for you.

      Another way religion is useful in death is as a form of consolation, illustrated in the epitaph of a stillborn child in a Dean Koontz book (“God loved him so much he called him back at birth”). The absence of such consolation if an officially atheist country was a sore point for Captain Ramius after his wife was killed by medical malpractice in The Hunt for Red October.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        The opposite of consolation is listening to my flakey new-atheist older brother go on about how there is nothing but the brain, the soul is an illusion, or words to that effect.

        I don’t know what came before me or what comes after. But I do know a thing or two about how to think about these things. In the end, life is as big a mystery as the end of it is. I have no problem with someone adopting and believing a more specific framework for how to understand it. They may be right. But suffice it to say, there is something to understand.

        As coincidence would have it, Shelley’s partner (no….she was not a lesbian….her “partner” is/was a very nice children’s heart doctor who is a man) and I were talking about books in her hospital room the other day. He recommended the Clancy series, starting with “The Hunt for Red October,” of course. I told him I’d definitely consider that.

        Although Shelley was being treated for several weeks (if not months) for a recurrence of cancer, she was (to the best of my knowledge) on track to beat it. She was even out skiing and snow-shooing in the midst of it. But then one day she just fell two or three times in the day and was disoriented. Then an ambulance to the hospital where her brain and heart would have shut down then and there except for extraordinary measures.

        And then that was it. They found that the cancer had spread to her brain and spinal cord. Adding to this, my mother was just put into hospice care at the memory care center she’s at. So, really, having been dealing with this for some time, you become a bit numb. Or, rather, you frankly just get used to it. I don’t feel particularly numb or overwrought.

        What *is* tiring is listening to my older brother. He’s really flaked out. He used to be the most religious guy. And now he’s not. You can get whiplash watching this. But I’m half Jew and half Catholic already, in some kind of unofficial mix, so I’m grounded in something. And thanks for your kind thoughts.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Oof. Two such losses (well, I suppose your mother is still alive, but the purpose of hospice is end-of-life care) at once.

          I often wondered how an atheist would have responded to the family of the child in the Koontz story. Would he mock their pain, or just respect their belief? (I occasionally attended events at Elizabeth’s church, and I behaved respectfully when they prayed, as did our equally skeptical friends.)

          If you haven’t read The Hunt for Red October, you have my sympathies. It’s truly amazing that Clancy had to struggle to find a publisher for it.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Would he mock their pain, or just respect their belief?

            Not having read that, I think it’s in the heart of atheists to be mean. They are atheists in the first place because they are angry and alienated. (And some religions, such as Islam, do a great job of instilling that in people even if they didn’t start out that way).

            Dealing with “Progressive” people in and around my sister, I spouted no “God bless you’s” or anything like that. I knew where I was and it was not my place to play the snark or give a lack of respect to their beliefs. No “Jesus will save” (and he might indeed), etc. I didn’t because I think it would have been slightly offensive or at least induced tolerant internal eye-rolls.

            But I really felt for her live-in boyfriend. I think he really loved her. However, my sister was a bit of a man-eater. Nelson women (and the men certainly have much blame for this) tend to be cold. Shelley was no different. My heart broke for her boyfriend when I asked (because she had mere days or weeks left) if they would move the marriage date up from October to right now. The boyfriend told me “She didn’t want to do that because she said she didn’t want a pity marriage.”

            That’s an almost verbatim quote. What does one say? But I could tell his heart was broken. God bless him.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              “She didn’t want to do that because she said she didn’t want a pity marriage.”

              One wonders, what was her original motivation to get married in October?

              In any case, perhaps she had just given up on live.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Some slack must be cut because this cancer was indeed getting into her brain. But she was fairly lucid when she said this.

                I think the guy loved her. They seemed to have a great time together. She was lucky to have found him. He was there faithfully by her bedside throughout this ordeal. I can tell you, he’s gotta be emotionally and physically drain. He did what most probably would not.

                However, it was a countdown for me regarding how long it would take before she disposed of him. I was always a little suspicious because when talking to my sister on the phone the last year or so, I’d usually end with saying “And say hi to John.” She’d never say anything like “I will” or “John says hi.” Nothing. Just dead air, as if he didn’t exist. But I kept saying that, if only to sort of test a theory.

                Well, it is what it is. John is a great guy and he did his all. We’ll miss him because it’s unlikely any connection remains strong enough to get together again. And probably that’s the way it should be although I told him on one of my visits (after he told me that all but one of his four brothers was dead) that we were adopting him as a brother.

    • Steve Lancaster says:

      My deepest sympathy for your loss. Death is the one enemy we cannot defeat, at best a holding action. May your sister be fondly remembered in history.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Thanks, Steve. She had a lot of good friends in Seattle. She worked at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance as (I believe) some sort of liaison or information consultant — basically hooking doctors up with information on the latest trials and treatments.

        You’d think working at a place like that would buy you some favors. Well, I guess it doesn’t quite work like that. Or maybe it does. We can only guess from our end how the accounts are balanced.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Sometimes you have to find the humor in all this. I was over visiting my mother yesterday in her memory care facility. If you want to be instantly depressed, go visit the elderly who are dumped into these facilities. Yes, it may be the best place for some of them, but they are very sad places indeed all the same.

    When I arrived, my mother was sitting in a lounge chair in the community room. Playing on the big screen was a David Attenborough nature documentary. Whales were being featured at the moment. Some were watching but I think many were just pointed blankly at the screen.

    Mother was in relatively good shape so I had the nurse put her in her wheelchair and I wheeled her around the facility, including out into a central unroofed courtyard area where there is about a 40’ x 40’ garden and patio. There were plenty of flowers in bloom but the area itself was rather unkempt. I will remind you again that you pay about $6000.00 a month for this mediocrity. And this facility, in all areas, has shown a lackadaisical mediocrity. Do not automatically trust the nice public areas that these places put on show for the children of these parents. It can be somewhat of a facade. Few of the residents are ever found in the plush little libraries and such areas scattered around. They are to sell the people who place their parents here.

    One must do what one can to bring a ray of light. So while I’m wheeling mother around the facility, I’m saying good morning to a few of the residents (not many) that we meet who are up and around. Most that you do run into are walking down the hallways like zombies. Only one lady responded to my “good morning.” It’s all very sad.

    So I’m coming around the last corner, having completed a circuit of the facility. And I come across a woman standing there, probably outside what is her own room. I say “Good morning” and she yells out “Crap! Crap!” I had to stifle myself from laughing, she said it in such a forceful, angry-old-lady way. That may have been the most honest reaction in the whole place. It is indeed crap.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      “Crap! Crap!”

      One wonders if this was a comment on the state of things at the end of one’s life when all hope has evaporated? What happened to all those promises that humanism and technology were going to make life better?

      There are all sorts of beliefs regarding what happens to us after death, but most give some sort of hope, thus comfort, that things might continue in a different but better manner. If there is no hope, and ending up in a rotten soulless healthcare facility is one’s final reward, “crap, crap” would not be an out-of-place sentiment.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        If there is no hope, and ending up in a rotten soulless healthcare facility is one’s final reward, “crap, crap” would not be an out-of-place sentiment.

        You hit the nursing-home nail on the head, Mr. Kung. This is why it struck me as remarkably humorous. It was truth-telling in a place that is just so abysmally depressing.

        Hey, I’m all for flushing parents down the toilet so that they don’t impinge on my own pursuit of happiness in any way. Give them a pill. Send them off to a “retirement community.” Out of sight, out of mind.

        Good god, what an unholy euphemism that is. A “retirement community” is where my mother was at while she was still in better shape. She basically got downgraded by the facility (likely rightfully so) and was demoted to the “memory care” unit as she deteriorated. There is no “care’ for the memory because there’s not a hell of a lot you can do about it. Another pleasing euphemism.

        Still, I’ll grant that I did see a certain amount of healthy socializing in these “retirement communities” (but not at all in the memory care unit). You could find groups of ladies and men in one of the recreation rooms doing a puzzle or playing cards. If you must dump your parents somewhere, and can afford it, you could do worse. And I’m betting that 75% of these people probably don’t want to be with their children who have become anything but that other sad euphemism: “The greatest generation.” The greatest degeneration, is more like it.

        From my experience, there is often at least one sibling in a family who will do the necessary work. I’ve talked to a few of them over the years. The other siblings are all to ready to dump their responsibilities on somebody else. And that’s sort of what happened to me and my younger brother. Because of geographic location alone (our office is very near where my mother’s home was), we took care of her for 13 years, unassisted, after my father died. She was mostly capable of looking after herself for most things, of course. But don’t ask me to describe the sheer hell of dealing with the stuff she demanded that we do.

        So we did that dutifully for 13 years. And then (still a sore spot of sorts), when it was time for mother to move out of her home and be put into a “retirement community,” we were told by my sister (who had power of attorney) that no expense would be spared — including selling off the very building that my brother and I had our business in and had, via rent, pretty much paid for (and that had been willed to us).

      • Timothy Lane says:

        As a permanent resident of a nursing home (and totally bedridden) I can understand that sentiment. I spend a lot of my time longing for death. In the meantime, I manage the best I can. How much use other (not bed-ridden) residents make of facilities such as the library, I don’t know. (I’ve given a few of my books to it.)

        Elizabeth is herself at an assisted-living home. It’s a pity we couldn’t end up in the same place. But it means I have nowhere to go even if I could leave. Fortunately, the care here is reasonably good. I have no idea how good it is at Elizabeth’s, though her aunt used to live there and presumably got decent care. Of course, that same aunt wanted to join her (late) husband, and eventually got to do so.

        My maternal grandmother also ended up in some such facility as she approached (and reached) 100. (They had a big party for her, with many friends and family visiting, on her 100th birthday.) I don’t know her overall level of care, but I do recall the Elizabeth and I found her sitting and twiddling her thumbs on what may have been our last visit. (Her vision was very poor by then, so she probably could no longer read.)

        My sister is a retired nurse, and she decided to take care of my mother to the end in a spare bedroom (the kids had grown up by then) rather than put her in a nursing home. She did say my own nursing home has a good reputation.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          As a permanent resident of a nursing home (and totally bedridden) I can understand that sentiment. I spend a lot of my time longing for death. In the meantime, I manage the best I can. How

          You do a very good impression of an able-bodied man who is continually walking the literary aisles and occasionally climbing the shelves of a mammoth old library. You know, like one of those old libraries with the sliding ladders that allow you to access shelves that are sometimes a good story up?

          I’ll give you full marks for staying engaged as best you can. Many just give up. And I’ll grant you that there is the vision of the sweet respite of death. Life is a long haul and by the time we’re up there in age, it’s not necessarily a thing to be feared and no one should be ashamed for saying so.

          But while life flows in us, let’s give it a go. My esoteric beliefs (not inconsistent at all with Christianity) is that we experience the eternal in the temporal. We see through a glass, darkly. We see and experiences that shadows of things far greater than ourselves.

          I’ve come quite to believe that the difference between a real Christian and a statutory one is that the former is a participatory Christian (and I don’t mean just rituals). You live it you. You take up your cross and follow. You sell all that you have (even if metaphorically in terms of the things you used to always live for) and give it a go in a new direction.

          Those steps are there for us every moment. There is no grand “belief” to maintain. You live it. You become it. Understanding that man is a flawed creature, you shirk the idea that man is a self-contained thing, able to solve all this own stuff himself.

          It truly sucks to grow old. There is no sugar-coating that. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that the aged were revered as fonts of wisdom. They were the ones who had gone through life and were thus a storehouse of how not only to live it, but what it’s all about. Now we shuffle them off to nursing homes. That you don’t go gently into that goodnight is commendable.

          I’m sure all here hope the best for Elizabeth as well. As you have noted, there are some good people who do good work in these places. There are the 9 to 5ers, the technocrats, the union-like “do as little as possible” people. Then there are the people who have a calling and are just thoroughly decent people. Whether you meet them while bedridden in a nursing home or anywhere else, they are the spark of life. They put a an extra bounce in one’s step just being around them.

          Your sister sounds like an extraordinary person. What some people are doing (and much to their credit) is building little homes and additions to their own home as little grandma sheds and such. I think that’s a really good solution. It gives both parties some independence and yet you’re right there if needed. Other services can be brought in as needed for therapy and such. Higher levels of care still require the human touch, whether from a relative or a paid professional.

  8. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    She did say my own nursing home has a good reputation.

    I think you may have had a good piece of luck.

    Do you have enough books?

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’ve actually got an old Kindle reader that I’m not using. It’s not a back-lit one. But it’s already got a gazillion books on it. It’s available if Timothy wants it. But like I said, it’s not a backlit one. You need to have a lamp or light just as you would reading a normal book. I think I could de-register it at Amazon so he could re-register it under his own name (if he wanted to buy books from Amazon or download some of the free ones they offer). You can also stuff it full of public domain books, as I have.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My detachable hard drive has a section with a LARGE library of books, but many I’ve already read and many don’t necessarily interest me. But for the time being, I do have enough to read on my computer. In addition, my sister gave me a $60 gift certificate at Amazon, which I’ll use for more books. (I waited for a long time so that I could consult with Elizabeth, but it doesn’t look like that will be possible.) I also have a Kindle somewhere (probably in my closet, but maybe Elizabeth has it) with a lot of books, but I don’t know if there’s anything left I want to read.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I’ve come quite to believe that the difference between a real Christian and a statutory one is that the former is a participatory Christian (and I don’t mean just rituals). You live it you.

    Matthew 7:15 through 23-

    15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
    21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      One thing enormously difficult — and surely the root of most human baseness — is our inability to get beyond ourselves. Sometimes everything isn’t about us. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if our feelings are hurt. Sometimes someone really needs something even if this is a slight inconvenience to you. Sometimes it matters not if your puffed-up ego and pride can’t be stroked 24/7. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you can’t gain or increase your power via an act. There are more important and meaningful matters to attend to.

      And that’s obviously a powerful passage from Matthew. Jesus overturns not the Old Testament or the prophets but surely the laws of man. As does Moses. You wouldn’t need a Ten Commandments if this was stuff we were naturally doing on our own.

  10. Gibblet says:

    Brad, I’m sorry for the loss of your sister. She was fortunate to have the brothers Nelson for siblings.

  11. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    My father was an avid photographer. He shot a lot of Kodachrome color slides in his Minolta SLR camera.

    Shelley’s granddaughter will be doing a slideshow for the funeral. She’s asked me to contribute some material. I’ve dug out the slides from the archives and have begun going through them. It’s been so long since these were shown, I quite honestly don’t remember them. It’s like seeing them anew.

    Here’s one that I just scanned in at 2400 dpi from my nifty little Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner. It’s a slow process (one at a time) but it does a good job. I do a little post-scan color correction and such in Photoshop

    Before you view this shot of The Four Cheerleaders, please do note that it plays heavily to gender stereotypes, thus it might “trigger” those out there who either are hair-trigger feminazis or fussy feminized men.

    For the rest of us, this is what normal life used to look like. I can assure you, all four of those cheerleaders are girls. Real girls. Real American girls. Not a cross-dresser amongst them. I think they were all in the fifth or six grade. That is, I think they were elementary school Pee Wee Football cheerleaders. I know that my older brother was playing Pee Wee Football about then at the same school. Shelley is on the far left.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Well, that’s more than I have. My grandmother left a lot of family photos behind (one I later claimed involved Uncle Truman reviewing troops with Eisenhower), but they all got left behind in the house. (I tried to get Joseph Major to collect them, but he couldn’t find the tote bag they were in.) There was one, possibly the first photo ever made of me, of the 3 kids seeing Santa — and they thought when we reviewed them all at the wake after my mother’s funeral that it was from 1952, when I was about one year old.

      Not surprisingly, my father did a lot of photographs — and also home movies, which would usually see about once. I have no idea what happened to all of that over the years, but at any rate they’re long gone.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      That photo shows a real piece of Americana from the period of the 1950s to the late 1960s. I like it.

      The photo scanner must be very good.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes, it is indeed a nice piece of Americana, Mr. Kung.

        While searching for more photos of my sister, I found this one of my little brother (who is looking up at his big sister who is decked out in a fancy pink dress on prom night or some function).

        Little Brother

        Youth and innocence are so fleeting.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I can see him running after Alan Ladd yelling, “Shane, Shane. Come back Shane.”

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I believe most of our family photos were black and white, though the home movies were in color. It must be nice having such find photos of your earlier life.

  12. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a Norman Rockwellish shot. I counted the candles and I’m pretty sure it comes out to nineteen:

    Shelley at 19

    Left to right: Mother, me, little brother, Shelley, big brother (looking like he belongs in the band, The Doors), and a friend of Shelley’s, Sydney Rockwell. For sure that was a “pink champagne” cake which was her favorite and a speciality of the local baker.

    My hair looks sweaty. It’s a sure bet the brothers were roughhousing and were called in at the last moment to get int the shot. Little Brother is providing some of the needed wind, I guess.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      First time I’ve ever seen you. I assume you look a little different now. I counted the candles but had to guess on exactly how many were on the left and right sides. So all I can say is that I think your count is accurate.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Shelley reminds me of some actress, but I can’t recall exactly who. Maybe it will come to me later.

      Little brother looks like he might be about to pull out a frog or something like that.

      All in all, a good Germanic looking family.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I think Jerry Mathers did that in The Trouble With Harry. It was a modest plot point in Hitchcock’s black comedy. I believe this was before he started doing Leave It To Beaver, and most likely led to his getting the role.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I thought “The Trouble With Harry” was very funny. It has been years since I saw it and I will have to try and find it on some free channel of ROKU TV.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            If you really want to see a great Hitchcock comedy, I’d recommend the Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode “How to Get Rid of Your Wife”, starring Bob Newhart.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Ja. We are Germanic all the way. Sort of. Maybe a little Monty Python as well…

        The truth comes out at last. This is…

        Halloween – I hope

        I’m in the middle. As you can see, I was always way ahead of my time socially. I was cross-dressing before cross-dressing was cool.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Something tells me you were a good bit younger in that one. I don’t recall seeing any picture of me in a costume, nor can I recall any of my Halloween costumes except the (more or less) Liberty Valance costume I did for a Halloween party (which I mentioned in my review of the movie).

          A very fetching girl. What was your headgear?

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The headgear is, I think, a bathing cap. I have no idea which old lady we must have stole that stuff from.

            • Gibblet says:

              “The headgear is, I think, a bathing cap. I have no idea which old lady we must have stole that stuff from.”

              Upon further analysis, it appears that you are wearing a swim suit! Now the swim cap makes sense.

              Your brother had guitar playing fingers, even then.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I burst out laughing when I saw that photo. How should I address you, “Herr Fraulein?”

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            If you take a close look at that photo, Mr. Kung, it would appear that part of my enhancement is the product of a whiffle ball.

            I look a bit like Rocky the Flying Squirrel with that bathing cap — if that cartoon squirrel was also a gender-bender.

            But here’s the thing — and this is the first time I’ve ever brought Holmes-like analysis to this photo: I appear to be camping it up. It’s quite apparent this is not the “real me” coming out. I’m simply playing dress-up.

            But look at my brother to the right. He seems a bit too taken with his garb. I find that a bit disturbing. Perhaps comically so, but it’s a bit troubling nonetheless.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              After reading your comment, I went back and had a closer look at the photo. By golly, it is a whiffle ball peaking over that plunging neckline. I hadn’t noticed that before. But considering the fact that I was laughing out loud, this isn’t surprising.

              As to your brother’s actions. It looks like he was trying to adjust his bra. Was this for appearance purposes or comfort? Only the Shadow knows.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                It looks like he was trying to adjust his bra.

                In his defense, if men suddenly had boobs, the first thing they’d want to do is play with them. So in that respect, he’s perfectly normal. I withdraw my previous objection.

  13. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Shelley’s funeral was yesterday. By all standards, it was a good and respectful one, and well attended by her friends and family. The house was packed. But it also made me realize that I need to start planning, if only to avoid this tedious and somewhat boring process. I grieve for my sister. We all do. But I definitely will be going another route. I do think an Irish wake is a much better way to go.

    As it was, there was (surprisingly) a very traditional funeral service where they even mentioned God and Jesus. And I really didn’t expect that in liberal Edmonds. Then those who wanted to proceeded to a graveside service which was superfluous. Then a reception at her best friend’s home. Man, you wouldn’t believe the ton of good gardens in Edmonds. People really make an effort and it was a joy to see her house and those of her neighbors. There was a grand view off the raised patio from her house which is atop a small hill.

    Only two moments really stand out at the funeral. One, my man-hating niece was one of the speakers at the funeral service. She read a poem she had written to her mother a few years ago. In it was a line like “Mom, thank you for teaching me to live a life without having to depend on a man.” I poked my brother in the ribs gently when that line shot past.

    The other was my 17-year-old niece’s daughter who was wearing a dress that if it was any shorter, she would need to shave. This is what you wear to your grandmother’s funeral?

    Also, never hire caterers unless they are very good. There was some good stuff here, but my advice is to supply normal, real food. Don’t try to impress anyone. Just feed them.

    I heard all kinds of stories about my sister, many which were funny. She lived an entire life that much of us were unfamiliar with. But she had a good cadre of friends. My sisters is a chip off the old block of my father. She was an alpha female and her friends kidded her by recounting stories of her always being in the lead when walking, dancing, hiking, or whatever.

    One story mentioned was of one their mutual friends.. Apparently at one point he was a roady for Rod Stewart complete with the Stewart-style spiked hair. And a couple one of the gals there actually was invited to hang out with Rod & Company for a day, and she did.

    It’s unlikely I will ever see any of these people again, including the relatives and her fiancé. He was brave and gave a good speech at the funeral as did Shelley’s daughters who (except for the man-hating verse of the poem) performed admirable. One of the ladies that worked for Shelley at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance got up as a representative of them all. She had some fun stories, including that Shelley had long ago instituted a “Tidy Friday” policy whereby everyone would have to clean up their desks before the weekend. She was that way but it beats being a slob. But this story also felt just slightly like a complaint that could finally be aired. Hey, I know how she feels. My sister could be a hard-ass.

    But a funeral rightly smooths over all that and even her eldest daughter playfully admitted that she was a real handful as a daughter (to say the least). All in all, dying probably shouldn’t be much fun, and this wasn’t. For me, it was something that has drawn on for weeks, including her illness. One doesn’t quite know what to make of things now.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This sounds somewhat like my mother’s funeral over a decade ago, the only one I remember well enough to describe. There was a service at the funeral home, at which I spoke some scripted lines (both of my siblings already suffered from the family curse, hereditary deterioration of the cerebellum, so I was the only one who could speak very clearly). Then we went to the grave at Sweeden Missionary Baptist Church. I sat in a chair over where I will end up (my mother bought me a gravestone over 30 years ago, next to my parents’).

      Then we went to a cousin’s house for the wake with regular foods (I think she supplied most of it). We also looked over old family photos (lots and lots of them) and selected which we wanted to keep. Unfortunately, I kept mine in a tote bag that got left behind in our house. (A friend looked for it but couldn’t find it.)

      My paternal grandmother’s funeral was similar, but I didn’t go to whatever service there was at the funeral home. My sister and I waited at their home and walked to the church for the service from there, which was largely held inside the church (most of the family were members). Then we had the wake back at my grandparents’ house. There was a picture of all the family members, and a lot of food. The downer was that my grandfather’s mind had been ruined by an infection, taking away his short-term memory. He asked where his wife was even though it was her wake. I never went back there again until after he died because I couldn’t bear to see him that way.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Kudos to you for getting up and say a few words about your mother. I commend you. I could’t do it regarding my father’s funeral back in 2003.

        We also looked through photos (an audio-visual presentation) at my sisters wedding and the reception afterward. I had been asked to supply photos from my father’s vast collection of 35 mm slides. Luckily he had everything sorted so well, it was easy to do. And viewing some of those slides was terribly difficult. It left me mildly shaken for a day or two. Sort of a low-level “bummed-out” sort of feeling.

        My older brother told me today that he’s depressed. He mentioned that part of it stemmed from the funeral. We both saw a side to our sister that we never knew much about. She had a lot of friends who spoke well of her. And my brother lamented that although she was his sister, she had never been his friend.

        I have the same lament to some extent. In our younger years, my sister and I got along well, but she was five years older and when you (she) reaches the teenage years, that might as well be fifty. And then from there she was a sister but mostly in the “close relative” category.

        And she intended that. I’m still sorting through this as I eke out the ball of consternation that sits inside. But my sister was of the “progressive” type (politically as well) who had to move out of our dumpy small town (for what was it but an embarrassment) and travel onward and upward. She got on that wheel of moving up and did okay at it. As nice of a guy as her fiancé is, I wonder if the fact that he was a doctor didn’t play the largest part.

        One of her daughters is toxically female. She rants on her father (they are no longer married) at seemingly every opportunity. And I think, “What did he ever do for you but give you life and pay for your college education?”

        So, for a lot of these reasons and more, there wasn’t all the affection there that one should expect. I accept my share of the blame as well. She would frequently invite me over to come stay the weekend and I always found a reason not to. I’m a home-body to begin with. But I do lament not trying harder to reach out.

        One of the things Mr. Kung sneers most viciously at are the idiots who say “I have no regrets.” Everyone has regrets.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          There are some experiences in life which I do not feel like talking about and some which I simply will not talk about.

          Sadly, it is the nature of things that, oftentimes, by the time a person is emotionally able to bring back/address a painful memory, it is too late to do anything about it. Certain issues are simply never resolved and I have concluded it is best to let them go. Life is full of regrets, even a life which has been full and interesting.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Certain issues are simply never resolved and I have concluded it is best to let them go.

            Male brains are different from female brains. Although a female might be overwhelmed by emotion, the male might tend to over-think these things and try to problem-solve their way out of them.

            One thing I’ve partially learned is you shouldn’t do that. So I just let the sometimes vast cauldron of thoughts and emotions ferment and stew. They ripen and clarity usually comes — even if it is the clarity to see some things as a hopeless muddle. At least one can stop torturing oneself if one at least reaches this latter circumstance.

            You choose your friends but not your family. And yet family bonds will always be the deepest ones. When those bonds are frayed, or you reach the conclusion that you didn’t, in fact, live the Father-Knows-Best sort of life of affection and trust with one’s family, it can be difficult. Faults always is something that can, and should, be shared widely.

            There is no perfect. Even bad friends are better than no friends. Bad family (or just mediocre, thus therefore normal) family is better than no family. Would that life were a greeting card. And I have to admit (especially amongst many chicks), they at least try to do a good imitation of it.

            To the extent I stay grounded, I stay grounded in books, exercise, writing, and gardening. My sister was an avid exerciser before it was trendy. Again….alpha female. My sister-in-law came to the funeral. I just hugged her sincerely and said “I miss you.” Mr. Kung knows the rest of the story and I won’t share it online. But people are throwing gunk all around. I need my reading. I need my slice of sanity.

            Funerals are endings of even the best efforts. And my sister gave it a good effort. She really did.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              the male might tend to over-think these things and try to problem-solve their way out of them.

              Ain’t that the truth. I have noticed that on these types of things, I am something like a dog with a bone. I find it very difficult to let go. Sometimes the answers aren’t there.

              Funerals are endings of even the best efforts.

              Roger Scruton has some good observations on this and related thoughts in his “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Modern Culture.”

              I stay grounded in books, exercise, writing, and gardening.

              Many years ago, I was having supper with a German friend and his father when his father remarked that he could see “me sitting alone in my library, with beautiful art on the walls, listening to music, reading a book, sipping on a glass of cognac and smoking a good cigar. And I would be quite happy.”

              The man could read people.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                That’s a very intuitive German. And it would be interesting to read a few sound bytes from Mr. Scruton on how to deal with modern culture. I got a kick out of something I read on Drudge this morning. Some actor with 15 million followers on Twitter remarked how destructive social media was.

                And I think it is. But if you have 15 million followers, that’s like a busy prostitute telling you about her many virtues.

                I certainly don’t have life figured out. But there is one clear overall guideline that is self-evident to all but the fuzzy-headed (and there are many of those): Life is about what you leave out as much as it is about what you put or let in. Filter, filter, filter.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          As I said, my remarks were scripted as part of the service, not my own. I’m sure I could have said something if I had chosen to. I certainly remember one comment I made to someone at my paternal grandmother’s funeral that she was always nice to me. Elizabeth and I attended a relative’s funeral in Chapel Hill that included a Quaker service, with lots of people getting up to comment about the deceased.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Did you have a teleprompter as well? 😀

            • Timothy Lane says:

              She gave me a sheet with the words I was to read on it. (She evidently liked my performance, and said that she’d be happy to have me do any such reading at one of her services in Bowling Green.)

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                That is a great skill to have. Perhaps not often do you get the chance to use it. But not everyone can get up in front of a group of people and speak.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Well, I was on the debate team in high school and delivered a speech on at least one other occasion. Of course, that was all a long time ago.

  14. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Tents. Well, that was a surprise. I saw no tent cities littered about in Edmonds. It’s a different and much smaller type of city than Seattle. But I had expected to see at least something, if only the overflow from nearby Seattle.

    Death. Mostly over and done with for now, although my mother is in hospice care. Many of us are getting old enough to consider writing out a will. Actually, you’re never too young for that. My suggestion regarding funerals is to stipulate something like: “Do whatever makes you feel good.” In our particularly self-centered times, no one has much use for death. It’s an inconvenience. And, frankly, I don’t want to spend my time going to funerals as I age. And that’s what tends to happen.

    So give your friends and family a break. Tell them to have a party. To donate a fund to a worthy (non left-wing) cause in your memory. To remember and honor you in whatever way they see as suitable.

    I read an article in the Reader’s-Digest-like magazine, Reminisce. A fellow told a story of clearing snow from the driveway of a neighbor who were an old couple. That was part of the chores his father would give him. One day the old woman’s husband died. The ground was somewhat frozen but four men, including this now older boy, chipped in to dig the grave. It took a while and was quite an effort. They put the body into the grave, someone said a few words, and then that was that. The lady then gave them $100.00 each. The storyteller noted that this wasn’t for services rendered but more as something in memory of her husband. That’s neighbor helping neighbor.

    The world has probably always had a coarse, ugly, and stupid current running through it, ready to muddy the boots of the unwary. To me, that is liberalism. Without getting too specific, I can see one of the main themes of Theodore Dalrymple’s books playing out. It’s the upper classes (or at least working classes) aping the destructive lives of the lower classes. Basically normalizing social dysfunction. We honor single-motherhood, for example, which presupposes that fathers are not only useless, but in the way. Sperm donors at best.

    Nelson women, in particular, live down to one of the subjects Dennis Prager has written about: Women tend to be chronically dissatisfied. When I look at all the bitching and complaining on social media, I see that as a function of drawing people to act like a bunch of dissatisfied women. Don’t let us pick up that habit. Men have their own faults they must deal with. But don’t let us get sucked into that maelstrom of chronic dissatisfaction.

    Redemption. Oh, it’s hard to quantify such a thing. It assumes first of all that one is worthy of it, which I might not be. But I’ve perhaps (in a roundabout way) gained confidence in the words famously sung by Frank Sinatra: I did it my way.

    Even that isn’t probably true. I certainly have never lived the outgoing life that my sister lived (or that my father lived). And I’ve spun my wheels in many unproductive directions in the past. (Perhaps I’m still doing that.) Doing things “your way” doesn’t necessarily mean ditching every decent custom and norm and following your every impulse like a rutting moose.

    But if you step out the proverbial door today, the cultural wind is a typhoon of idiocracy, excess, inanity, and dishonesty. You have to choose the place (or places) to set your anchor or you’ll be blown away. So just being aware of this wind and resisting it is doing it “your way.” The details will then follow, but if you value something other than popular culture, you then at least have a chance of being something other than a cloned carbon-copy of that culture. You have the chance to the path to be something other than an inane cookie cutout of this idiocracy.

    No man is an island. We can’t help judging our own circumstance via the yardstick of the wider world. And yet given how truly insane and destructive popular culture has become, we must resist. By all means “question authority” . . . something that perhaps the most inane generation of Americans (the hippie generation) has jettisoned because they never really meant it (although the leftist leaders in the upper tier surely used it as a means of destroying the status quo — they did indeed mean it…but don’t question their authority now, of course).

    You have permission to try to think for yourself. Perhaps there is at least the beginning of redemption in that.

  15. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Well, I was on the debate team in high school and delivered a speech on at least one other occasion. Of course, that was all a long time ago.

    We have that in common, Timothy. I was on the debate team as well in high school. I sort of got roped into that by a teacher who I really liked and respected. He was gently encouraging and insistent. And I did something I didn’t think I was capable of.

    And apparently did a good enough job of it. We went to a tournament in Issaquah. Yeah, it was just a small regional thing. But Diana Tyree and I (what a swell girl she was…and hopefully still is) was my partner. She was technically a level-up in grade from the class we were debating in which wasn’t a problem apparently in the preliminaries.

    But we cut a swath through our competition but couldn’t go to the finals because of this technicality. Fine by me. Debating (in this incarnation) was basically just a bunch of sound-byte spewing of pseudo-facts that you would make sound good in context. And not by the application of truth but simply by being clever and smooth.

    So you see, I sort of knew what it was about and was a bit cynical about it even then. But it gave me insight into the political mindset. I’m sure, like you, someone could throw us a topic and we could rather convincingly debate either side of it.

    Sort of like a former alcoholic, I have to resist doing so. It’s very easy to use this skill and thus fall into meaningless (if not also dishonest) intellectualism and say something that is quite plausible — and perhaps also logical — but that isn’t my heartfelt view.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Debating (in this incarnation) was basically just a bunch of sound-byte spewing of pseudo-facts that you would make sound good in context.

      I don’t know if I can make the connection clear, but I have the same feeling about much of modern schooling. If one thinks about it, modern American education is structured to produce complacent (i.e. willing to follow instructions) bureaucrats, not people who are able to get out and produce something other than paper. That takes on-the-job training for most.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        There’s a theory of language and mind, Mr. Kung, that says that language is so inherent to human beings that there is no thought outside of the words themselves.

        Although I would highly agree that the precision and shape of our tools effects what can be made or conveyed, any ding-a-ling ought to understand that, of course, there is thought outside of, and pre-existing to, words and language. How else would I know that I’m cynically using words just to score points?

        And that’s the nature of (at least high school level) debate. There was absolutely no thought as to whether a proposition was true or false. Your goal was either to defend it or refute it. And usually you’d take turns on both sides. And nearly all of the research done was in search of statistics (damn lies, and statistics, etc.) to reinforce an argument.

        But it would never have occurred to me (much) whether any of this was true or relevant. I mean, truly to be on a debating team is to be a Lincoln Lawyer like Michael Connelly’s fictional defense attorney, Michael Haller, who would do anything (other than suborn perjury) to get reasonable doubt for his client (who he figured were, odds-on, usually guilty as charged).

        I forget some of the topics. One of them was on poverty. (I’m generally against poverty, by the way.) It was probably about whether The Great Society had helped or hurt in this regard.

        We could right now have a debate about the minimum wage. You could take one side. I would take the other. And I have little doubt that both of us could come up with solid (or at least nicely bamboozling) arguments one way or the other. Perhaps we should do that one time:

        Resolved: A minimum wage is fair and just for workers and promotes, rather than retards, the free market.

        Or something like that. And there would be no room for shades of gray, for reality or reason. It would be one or the other. It’s either all bad or all good. No in between. (Thus you see the seeds of our political discourse. For experienced debaters, this is neither surprising nor unexpected.)

        Without taking the time to dredge up statistics (and statistics are generally a sink hole), we could resort to common sense, reason, philosophy, and (perhaps most of all) rhetorical jiu jitsu. Here’s my opening statement for:

        The Affirmative: Without the minimum wage, there is no protection for workers from employers who hold most of the power in the relationship. If you don’t like the employment conditions, someone else will, providing either a spiral downward or keeping a de facto slave class. Thus the minimum wage is a basic protection inside the free market system, for no system can be at its maximum productivity if the workers are little more than chattel. This is what the slave-owning South would never admit but which any Yankee at the time was well aware of. Treat people well, give them a livable wage, and they will be happy and productive — and help the boss to make more money than he could with lowest-common-denominator subjugated workers..

        The Negative: The free market works precisely because good service, good ideas, and hard work are rewarded. There has never been a shortage of either millionaires or strong wage-earners prior to a minimum wage. Our is, especially now, an information economy. Employers must have skilled workers to fill increasingly technological jobs, and they’re willing to pay for them. Mostly a minimum wage is about increasing the wages of low-skill jobs (flipping hamburgers) — the kinds of jobs which have always been viewed as starters jobs for young adults to gain experience, and not as careers. The minimum wage reduces the number of these starter jobs. In fact, the higher the minimum wage, the more business simply replaces the workers with robots. So the minimum wage, in effect, is not an economic program or a fair and just add-on to the free market. At best, it’s merely more “free stuff” that the increasingly dishonest class of politicians promises the masses in return for votes. That is the real economics of the minimum wage.

        Which of the above do I really believe? I believe The Negative argument. I know, for sure, that if there was no minimum wage, the world would not collapse. In fact, it would likely help the economy and thus people. The artificial increase in wages is simply borne by some other segment of the market. Mr. Hamburger-flipper might make $9.50 an hour under a minimum wage law, but the hamburger joint itself now must raise the price of its hamburgers. The people buying the hamburgers then either have to do without or make more money themselves. They’ll need to raise their prices (if they run a business) or as the boss for a raise. The cycle comes round, and soon that $9.50 isn’t enough.

        I don’t believe we can, or should, micro-manage this stuff. But we do because give-aways are good politics.

        The same principles of debate applies to Facebook — and to what they are teaching kids in schools now. No deep understanding of any particularly subject matter is the goal. In fact, such a thing would get in the way of the real purpose, which is to indoctrinate (in the case of public schools) or spread pre-fabricated sound bytes (Facebook).

        We’ve all had the experience (and a repeated one….this is not a rare thing) of discussing something with someone online only to find out that the other guy is a mindless drone. If all you have are pre-fabricated sound bytes, that’s not thinking. That’s just ….well, whatever it is. But it’s not about understanding a subject.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          Sadly, we seem to value glibness in our leaders (political, religious, business) over most other characteristics. This is to our detriment, but we are generally too distracted or foolish to care.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          The obvious answer to the minimum wage is: How do also require that someone’s labor be worth the minimum wage?

          In my own experiences, I always supported the side I was on. No switching around for me. That attitude is straight out of The Clouds by Aristophanes, in which he sent up Socrates and the Sophists. (As a conservative, he had no use for the irreligion of the Sophists.)

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            You’ve hit upon the basic element, Timothy. The key to increasing one’s wage is to increase the value of one’s labor. Artificially increasing the compensation just means that the wage gets subsidized by somebody else — who then has to pass on the costs to another, etc. Is that fair? Is it even good for wage-earners all around?

            The other side of the argument is twofold: “Social contract” and “bread and circuses.” The first is that a prosperous society ought to make some provision for lower-skilled workers to some extent. The second is purely pragmatic. One has to keep the proletariat fat, dumb, and happy lest they riot. (The rather obvious point is that once you begin feeding this beast, his appetite grows exponentially.)

            And there is always another side to the argument, even if it is typical for that side not to be argued honestly. What is lacking in a place such as Facebook (or Congress, for that matter) isn’t social interaction but integrity. Few conservatives (or those posing as such) will admit that the other side — even to a limited degree — has a point. There are no Leftists at all who will admit the other side has a point.

            As far as high school debating clubs go, I’m pretty sure it’s not an option which side of an argument you take based on what you believe. It would be very difficult to have opposing teams if that were the case. And what does a high schooler really know, pro or con, about The Great Society?

            If you’re saying that you only ever debated on the side that you agreed with, that’s an indulgence that I don’t think most debating clubs would allow. And the point of a debating club is not sophistry, per se. Again, as high school aged kids, what did we really know about these issues? But by delving into them from all sides, and having to do some research, we did at least become more informed than we might have been otherwise.

            And if you can’t debate from the other side, it’s unlikely that one even understands the other side. Thus how can you refute the other side with anything other than ingrained prejudice and pre-packaged sound bytes? Thomas Aquinas is famous for first presenting the pro side of the argument that he was about to dismantle.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            Didn’t like Protagoras much, heh? I can’t blame him.

  16. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Few conservatives (or those posing as such) will admit that the other side — even to a limited degree — has a point.

    Both sides have points. The problem is too often that particular points are based in nothing more than wishful thinking and theory.

    The left has never given up on the belief, which goes back further than Rousseau, that humans only make mistakes because they have wrong information or that they are corrupted by a particular system. “Humans are all basically good, we just haven’t provided the proper circumstances for this universal goodness to manifest itself.”

    As long as that is the left’s foundational fiction, there is not a lot of area for discussion. We can discuss and possibly agree on policies around the edges, but beyond that one gets the type of insanity which is taking place today. The Green New Deal, Heinz 57 Varieties of Gender, Queer Marriage with marriage to ourselves and even animals on the way, etc.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      This is a crucial difference between the left and more traditional liberals. The latter genuinely believed in freedom as well as equality and fraternity, and often meant equal opportunity rather than equal outcomes. Their goals, at least here in America, were often very similar to the goals of conservatives. They differed only in means and in priorities, so they could work together with them.

      The left, by contrast, is simply out for maximum power. Ultimately, Orwell is their guide, whereas he was as much a warning to liberals as to conservatives. When someone has power as their goal, and only care about issues insofar as they can be used to justify that power, it’s hard to work with them.

      But it shouldn’t be forgotten that while this accurately describes the Inner Party, the Outer Party really believe that these are good ideas. It goes back to the original definition of the Forgotten Man. A sees a problem involving D, so he talks it over with B, and they decide what C should do to solve the problem. In this, A is the Outer Party, B is the Inner Party, D is their mascots, and C is the Forgotten Man.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        The latter genuinely believed in freedom as well as equality and fraternity

        In his “The Life of Greece,” Will Durant writes something like, “Liberty is the enemy of equality.”

        This is a basic contradiction in governance and like the problem of balancing security and liberty, it is something which is rarely discussed or admitted. I doubt the public gives these two conundrums much thought.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The left has never given up on the belief, which goes back further than Rousseau, that humans only make mistakes because they have wrong information or that they are corrupted by a particular system. “Humans are all basically good, we just haven’t provided the proper circumstances for this universal goodness to manifest itself.”

      The general point of modern Western society is to have a 24/7 Disneyland. That beats Auschwitz, for sure. It beats many alternatives. We are to be entertained, feel good, be “self-actualized,” and just overall be kept in the right kind of refrigerator so that we can remain pleasant Snowflakes where our illusions never melt.

      There’s a fuzzy (but well-meant) article at Townhall by Marvin Olasky titled Telescopes and Theodicy. It’s about the problem of evil. Where evil comes from, we can leave unresolved. But that it will always try to spoil the party is a given.

      The “self-esteem” movement has replaced the idea of “original sin” as the paradigm. We are to live by the self-comforting words of Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”

      All this positive thinking has left us unable to deal with evil, especially in ourselves. Perhaps this is why Dennis Prager notes that the Left deals with the small evils (cigarette smoking) and ignores big ones (abortion). I read an article the other day that intersected the parallel phenomenon: Parents increasingly defend Little Johnny or Naughty Jane no matter what, making public schools hell for anyone being picked on. (The end message of the article, or at least one of the commenters, was correct: Pull your kids out of the sewer of the public schools.)

      Ninety-nine percent of the positive affect of any kind of therapy is mirroring back to a person their own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. The automatic tendency of people is to blot all that out and to especially think that anything they are doing is good or at least is justified. This is why “self-esteem” creates monsters. In fact, Dennis Prager notes that those behind bars have higher self esteem than the general population.

      “Pod people” is not too strong a word for the Progressive Communists amongst us. Reality becomes the enemy to them. Anyone who upsets their utopian beliefs and goals must be eliminated or marginalized. Soon all this becomes tokenized into support for “The Party” which then takes on a religious-like orientation, and a fundamentalist one indeed.

      Dealing with the fact that “I am really a rotten person, given half the chance” is impossible for the Snowflakes. But this is a deep reality of human nature, and those who identify as conservative are not immune.

      This is why dealing with both sides — even seeing a small legitimacy of the other side — is so difficult. We are right. They are wrong. And, I’ll grant you, the Left is wrong. And as I’ve always said, they are wrong in degree. Many of their ideas are not wrong, within a framework of competing and complimentary ideas. But take their ideas out of context and turn them up to a Spinal-Tap-eleven and they become destructive.

      “Yes, but” is not in the vocabulary of the zealots.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        There is at least one element among modern leftists whose ultimate goal is more like Brave New World, although they continue to use 1984 as a tactical guidebook. However, while this may be important in terms of leftist propaganda, it seems less so in terms of likely leftist governance. (The libertinist aspects undoubtedly appeal to them.) Enviro-zealotry has no room for the consumerist society Huxley depicted. (Incidentally, Huxley died the same day C. S. Lewis did — 11/22/1963. A tragic day for modern literature.) Nor does the identity politics which increasingly dominates the left.

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