Tag Archives: depression

Goodbye, Patch

Goodbye, Patch

This is mostly a stream of consciousness because I took frequent breaks during Patch’s calmer moments to pet and talk to him, so expect some rough-to-nonexistent transitions between paragraphs. I’m also doing only minimal proofreading (spelling and punctuation) of what I wrote as Patch lay dying. How I said things at the time could be as enlightening as what I said.


2018-05-16, 23ish o’clock – The Passing

As I write this I am sitting in the living room floor next to our 15-year-old Australian shepherd Patch as he gasps for air, neither of us knowing which breath will be his last. Lura and I fell asleep and failed to be there for Ginger’s final moments, and Meekay clearly wanted to be left alone to die so we honored his wishes, but at least one of us is going to be sitting right here where Patch can see us and we can pet and comfort him until the very end.

Many years ago I started a flash fiction called “A Dog’s Life”, but ran out of steam and never finished it despite going back to it several times over the years. With the imminent passing of the last of our three dogs, perhaps now is finally the time.

Patch has stopped flailing his head around while gasping for air, but his heart is stubbornly beating – but just barely.

He finally passed at about 01:15, with my hand on his head, providing what comfort I could.


2018-05-17, 13:30 – The Burial

Meekay was half the size of Patch, but when he died several months ago we were just barely up to digging a large enough grave by taking turns with the shovel. At half Patch’s weight, Meekay was also pretty close to the maximum weight I can carry. So we knew we were going to need help.

Thankfully one of our oldest and dearest Buncombe-county friends came over to take turns with the shovel, and I was able to help him carry Patch out to the grave. He even whispered a few words over Patch before we picked him up, and over the grave after we filled it in.


2018-05-18, 17:30 – The Aftermath

If you follow me on Twitter or facebook you may know that I’ve been having a great deal of trouble with this loss. Ginger’s death 7 or 8 years ago was so sudden and surprising that it never had time to sink in. Meekay was miserable for several months before he died, so his death was a mercy.

But Patch was different. He’s the only pure-bred member of our pack (we’re almost certain he escaped from or was dumped by a puppy mill), and Aussies have an average lifespan of 12 years, so we’ve been anticipating his death every day for several years. Every time we got up in the morning or arrived back home after several hours, we were prepared to find that he had died.

But he stubbornly hung on, until he seemed to suddenly give up Wednesday morning. He wouldn’t or couldn’t stand up, and refused both food and water. Late that night we realized the end was near, and decided to stay with him until it came.

During those final hours he suddenly regained his will to live, and fought for every breath. Because he was gasping for several hours we think he ultimately suffocated to death. Thankfully, in the final minutes he passed out before finally drawing his last breath.

Patch was also unique in one other way. When we adopted Meekay he rode home in Lura’s lap, and thereafter was her dog. He developed such a close emotional bond with her that he was even subject to whims of her Depression and Bipolar 2 – the poor empathic thing.

Ginger was technically Mom’s dog, but she couldn’t take care of her, so we did. Ginger was also very much no one’s dog but Ginger’s. She was highly independent and also super laid back.

Before I started a pain management routine I frequently threw out my back, forcing me to lie down wherever I was. On those occasions Meekay would be confused and just walk away. Ginger would either step on me in passing, or use me as a pillow.

Patch, on the other hand, would do his best to get Lura’s attention so she could come help me. He also tried his best to comfort me whenever my Depression or temper (which I kept a tight leash on until the Depression made it harder to control) got the best of me. Sometimes it backfired and he got yelled at for annoying me, but he still tried again the next time.

Patch was the closest to being “my dog” of any I’ve ever known, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that his passing has been so much harder on me than the first two.

He’s also the last of our three dogs. We got Meekay when we had only been married about two weeks, and Patch and then Ginger joined us about six months later. For 15 and a half years we’ve always come home to find someone happy to see us. We went out for several hours after the burial, but as we got out of the van at home my first thought was what it always is: that I needed to run wake up Patch so he could pee. That sucked.

Thanks to my traumatic brain injury, it is really hard for me to change long-held habits or develop new ones, so I expect to have to go through that again every time we come home for several weeks at least.

For the 12 years since I’ve been on Disability and Lura has been working, the dogs have been my only companions for large chunks of time. She’s unemployed right now, but once she goes back to work I’ll be lonelier than I have ever been in my 42 years.

Normally I say that people who equate the loss of a pet with the loss of a child are fools, but losing the last of our dogs is giving me empty nest syndrome and making me think that perhaps those people weren’t so foolish after all.

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What Is a Poem?

Before the crash I wrote poetry fairly often, and even got an award for one I wrote in middle school, but after the crash I suddenly stopped. The soul exception was the free verse I wrote after Columbine. That poem is notable for two reasons: I wrote it while staying awake for more than 24 hours while watching news coverage of the event (and skipping all of my classes), and it’s the only free verse I have have ever written, and likely ever will.

Ask five people what a poem is, and you’ll get at least six different answers. My favorite poetry always has defined meter (but sometimes break from it for effect), as do all but one of the poems I’ve written, but free verse strays far from that. I won’t do more than mention “prose poetry” here because I don’t want to sidetrack myself, but that’s another case where one person’s poem is another’s paragraph with randomly-inserted line breaks.

Then Twitter and texting came onto the scene, and the English language will never be the same. Merriam-Webster has probably been busier adding new words than they have ever been since Noah Webster wrote the original nearly two centuries ago.

Over the past year I have become more active on Twitter despite my deep Depression, so it was only relatively recently that I discovered Twitter poetry, and with it came a renewed interest in poetry. In the two decades since the crash I have often written poetically (mostly to my wife Lura), but no actual poems aside from a brief one for her every once in a while (usually shared publicly via Twitter or facebook, if you’d like to read them). Last year I even signed up for an online course called “How Writer’s Write Poetry“, but only managed to stick with it through three lessons before Depression and busyness distracted me from it.

I have tried repeatedly to write poetry over the past several years, including making a roleplaying character that only spoke in haiku, but can never seem to stick with it. That’s why I was so intrigued when I learned about Twitter poems. Reading many of them over the days following my discovery is what got me thinking about what constitutes a poem.

The essence of haiku is to show just enough to let the reader’s imagination take over, making the reader an integral component of the art. As Matsuo Bashō famously said: “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent, we never tire of.” As a result I’ve seen some wonderful three-word haiku, and even wrote one I may share someday, but that got me thinking about how short a poem could be and still be a poem, leading to this:

scream
catharsis

Only two words, but to me it is quite evocative because it is something I have experienced so often. Others who have felt the blessed relief that can result from a good cry or scream may feel something in reading that, but does simply being evocative make it a poem?

I have been writing Twitter poems for Lura more and more often over the past year, even one a month for a while. The forced brevity of the format means I can’t be my usual flowery self (a bad habit English teachers spent more than a decade trying to curb), and that has helped my writing in general. The character limit also means that the resulting poems are so short that I can’t agonize over them for months or years until I think they’re perfect, as I have done with several short stories for years now. In fact, I must instead treat every tweet as if it was a haiku, making sure I get my whole message through without any extra words.

As an example of what I mean, and because it’s Valentine’s day, here is the Twitter haiku I wrote for her last year to celebrate the 17th anniversary of our first date:

Seventeen years gone
Love lies sleeping beside me
Still watching her breathe

How did you read that poem? Was it sweet, or mildly erotic? Did you imagine me lying there watching her sleep and just being happy that she was in bed beside me? Or did you think I was just ogling her boobs as they went up and down? Could I have meant both? Was I saying that I was happy that she was still in my life after 17 years and that I still find her to be the most desirable woman who ever lived? The only thing you can be certain of is that I am still very much in love with her after 17 years together – the rest is up to your imagination and how you see the world.

That simultaneous clarity and ambiguity of meaning is why before the crash I wrote poetry almost exclusively (aside from the occasional essay, which is why blogging appeals to me so much). But since the crash, and especially since our wedding, I’ve written more prose than anything else, much of it inspired by things we have done together (even today we both tend to use tabletop roleplaying games to flesh out characters and settings).

Now that I realize how much I was telling the world when I sent that Tweet back in November, I have decided that I will end this by sharing with you my three-word haiku I referenced earlier. It is the most personal thing I have ever written, but I am sharing it despite my innate extreme shyness because it succinctly tells the source of the Depression that keeps me from blogging or doing anything else for months at a time. And even though I cry every time I re-read it or revise this post, maybe making it public will prove even more cathartic, and hopefully provide some comfort to others in my situation by letting them know that they are not alone.

longing
fatherhood
despair

Hello Again

This year I turned 40, and our continued lack of children threw me into a nearly year-long depression even deeper than before I was first diagnosed with Depression. That’s actually the first time I’ve ever publicly admitted what triggered my Depression; previously only confidants and healthcare providers knew. Yes, the chronic pain, memory problems, hand spasms, and resulting inability to work gave me plenty of reason to be depressed, but it wasn’t until I hit my mid-30s childless that it all became overwhelming.

In me, Depression frequently manifests as apathy, which is why I have done so little writing this year. Despite that, I have actually done a surprising amount of game-related writing. For one thing, the spreadsheets I use to breed and train Pokémon, and keep track of my collection have reached a level of complexity and usefulness that I am cleaning them up into a shareable tool.

I’ve also written an alpha version of a tabletop skirmish game based on GURPS. Currently it only works in co-op vs a GM because so many judgement calls will be required, but my goal is to have a game that can replace Mage Knight, Battletech, etc. with a game that will let you easily create and play units of your own design.

If you follow me on facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed that I have been far more active on those in the past several months than ever before, and sometimes make rather long facebook posts that would otherwise have been blog posts. One such will be posted here right after this.

I am still in a deep depression much of the time, but the periods of complete apathy have become rarer and briefer. With the continued prayers and support of family and friends, I have hope that I will be back to my old self soon, but in the meantime I will make my longer posts here rather than on facebook. And look forward to the releases of my new games and aids, including a Gameblox and then Android version of my first game, Cribbage Dice.

Dvorak & Dragons

Two months in, I’m making great progress in mastering Dvorak, but my memory issues make it a slower process than I had hoped. Nonetheless, I am already nearly as fast as I was with QWERTY, except when I need a character I don’t use very often, or some of my old muscle memory emerges when I type something I typed frequently in the past.

Further slowing progress is the fact that for the past several weeks my Depression has completely taken over, making me highly apathetic, but I’m slowly starting to feel better. Not only am I finally getting around to posting this update, I even started writing a radio play inspired by the 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds after watching an episode of American Experience about the broadcast on PBS last night.

While Dvorak is allowing me to type for longer with less pain, dictation software is even better. Unfortunately, my favorite dictation headset broke, and the Logitech one I bought to replace it is as uncomfortable as the one that came bundled with Dragon Naturally Speaking 12, so I can’t wear either one for more than a few minutes before I get a headache from the way their strange designs squeeze my head. When I was forced to make a new Win7 user after my old one corrupted, I couldn’t use Dragon at all anymore because there was no way to transfer my license from one to the other, so it no longer mattered.

So imagine my joy when I saw a TV ad for Dragon 13 that not only had it for only $50, but mentioned that it now finally worked with both Bluetooth headsets and mics built into laptops. 12 had very spotty support for both, and didn’t work at all with my gear, so I’m really excited about it. I’ll be able to give you a report on it in the near future because my wonderful wife is getting it for me “for Christmas” (meaning she’ll order as soon as her paycheck direct deposits today).

Making things even more interesting is that I finally took the plunge and upgraded my laptop to Windows 10, but that will take up an entire post by itself, so that’s it for now.