I’m a mess . . .

Once upon a time, I was so in tune with my body that I could continue to function while I had injuries that required stitches. One example of this was something that happened when I was about 10 years old, when I was asked to deliver something from my aunt and uncle’s home to my grandpa’s home, a distance of a few hundred yards at most. During the travel, I accidentally encountered the edge of a rusty shovel, and needed a dozen stitches to repair the injury, despite the fact that until my relatives pointed it out I had not been aware of the damage. I still have a scar on my left calf to remind me of the incident.

That is no longer true.

I just realized that I missed posting my usual “Saturday Posts” blog for this past week. I’ve been dropping a lot of “balls” lately, and that is only the most recent one. I’ve been having trouble keeping track of what day of the month it is, or even what day of the week it is. The closest thing I have to a schedule is by following a regimen of starting a laundry cycle each week based on when my wife’s last workday of the week is. That is the day I start my cycle by doing the white’s of our laundry, usually followed by her work slacks the next day, then the light weight colored clothes the next day, and concluding with the heavy colored clothes the next night (if there are enough of them to need it – in the Summer that isn’t always needed).

I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. It’s likely more due to what I’m doing for pain management than whatever else is going on, but it is still a concern to me. Admittedly, some of the pain I’m trying to cope with is emotional – I am still reeling from the pain of my dad’s betrayal when I asked for his support to end the religious feud between me and the rest of my family. It doesn’t help that my dad’s birthday is only a few days away.

Family Drama . . .

Is there anything that can throw you off of your game as much as conflict within your own family? That is hard to say.

Still, I’ve realized that I missed the last 2 “Saturday Posts” – and the only reason I did was because of familial drama.

A few months ago I wrote a blog about a letter I sent to my father, hoping to find a path to a neutral resolution to the strain between me and my family. I sent it to my father because he is the person (aside from the fictional character Mr. Spock from Star Trek) who taught me the most about logic and fairness. He is also the oldest living member of my family, so if I could persuade him, it seemed to me that the rest of the family would accept his judgement.

In that letter, I told my dad that I had not supported the Church of Scientology since about a year before my wife and I moved to this area – now 16 years ago. We have no interest in converting anyone to what we believe – yes, my wife believes as I do, and with good reason.

All we wanted from my family was a simple acknowledgement of one thing – that our beliefs were just as valid as theirs. Please stop treating us as pariahs for following a different path. It was based on a comparison of the definitions of 2 words – faith, and opinion. The only realistic difference between the words is that one carries a definite religious overtone.

Well, after I sent the letter to my dad, I waited a month before calling him. He said “I’m still processing it,” about my inquiry of the letter. I told him I felt that it was fair to allow him more time. Three weeks ago I called him again for his response.

He actually begged me not to force a decision. I begged him to realize that, as the family patriarch, he was the only person who could make the decision. He refused to take a stand for neutrality, and by the end of our phone call, I’d been disinherited AND disowned.

I’m a man with no family other than my wife and our cats.

I’m still not sure what this means for my future, but I’m slowly starting to come to grips with my current situation. One thing I’m wondering is if – because of all of this – I need to do a legal name change. Part of me feels that if I’m not part of that family any more, it isn’t ethical to continue to use that family name.

I feel so emotionally screwed up. I can’t sleep the way I should. My stomach is acting like I have an ulcer – which I’ve never had before. I can’t fall asleep without getting drunk on whiskey first, and even when I do sleep, it isn’t restful.

My wife is my anchor, and as much as I lean on her, she’s not big enough to stabilize a passenger cruise ship during a hurricane. I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

My wonderful wife . . .

is a librarian. She spends all day, every work day, helping the university she works for to provide the best training she can, from her area of specialty. And she is VERY good at her job.

One of the factors of her job is a well-known situation called “publish or perish” – where if you are working for a non-private university and are faculty, you are required to publish to help the university improve it’s standing among all the universities. She has worked within that environment for the last 15 years, and has steadily improved her standing to reach the highest faculty standing she could hold without ever having to re-apply for it. Several times she has achieved an annual review rating of her performance as “Excellent” – which brought her the highest pay raise available to any faculty member that was available in that year.

This morning she told me that she’d had an idea for a presentation on the local campus for assisting new and experienced faculty to improve their applications for tenure or promotion, based on a new approach to gathering statistics to support the application. Not only was the presentation well received, but a former co-worker suggested she submit the concept to a national conference. The challenge, from her point of view, is that presentations to that conference have an INTERNATIONAL audience. She was, mildly, freaking out – because she’d just found out that her proposal to that conference had been accepted.

So, I walked up to her, put my arms around her, and while hugging her I reminded her of one of the teachings I learned from L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings. “The right person to assign the job of fixing a problem is the first one to realize that there is a problem.” She identified the problem, worked out the solution, and had already successfully presented it on the local level. She owns this. And if it happens to lead to international recognition, so be it. She earned it.

Tough Phone Call . . .

I’ve been considering this for over a year. I weighed the idea of respecting whatever needs my family may have against what may be best for them. All of them. I felt that I was on a marry-go-round with no viable resolution. I had to make a decision.

So, this morning, I called my dad. Apparently I woke him up, which I apologized for. Then, I spelled out the situation – as I saw it.

I know full well that my dad has a Last Will and Testament. I even know what some of the considerations of that document are – and have no objection to them. But, I also know that in most cases, if an executor is not specifically named by the Last Will and Testament, the job will default to the oldest living descendant, which in my dad’s case will be me.

Here’s the problem. I’m the literal BLACK SHEEP of my birth family. I’m never called for family holiday gatherings; I’m never asked for life advice; I would never be asked for life advice even if I was the oldest family member left alive.

So, today I made a phone call that may well have been the most difficult call of my life. I told my dad that I knew he had a Will, but didn’t know who the designated Executor of his estate was. Then, before he could tell me who it was, I said that I hoped it isn’t me. Why? Because I honestly believe that if he appoints me to be his Executor, there are no members of our family who would respect that decision and let me do the job without conflict. Not even if I followed every part of his Will to the absolute letter.

I asked my dad to appoint someone else, and told him that he needed to call his lawyer and make the appointment official. I will fully support anyone he appoints, as long as it isn’t ME.

There was a long, very painful pause (at least from my perspective). Then dad said, in a very small voice, that he believed that I was right. He told me he was considering a dual-executor arrangement, and who one of the people was. I repeated that I would fully support anyone he appointed, but that he needed to call the lawyer and actually declare his wishes. I am hopeful that he’s still among us another 25 years, but at this stage of life it is best to be prepared. Especially with his health history, and our family situation.

Updates . . .

First and foremost, I want to express my feelings about the death of Sir Sean Connery. My father was a huge fan of his performances in the James Bond films that Connery made, and I grew up watching them. Nobody ever embodied a suave, cool, sophisticated secret agent the way he did.

That said, I realize that his portrail of attitudes towards women was somewhat neanderthal, but it was consistent with the time in which those movies were made. Sir Sean Connery was a consummate professional actor. I think it is fair to say that, using the IMDB.COm database, I’ve seen every movie he ever had a leading role in, and with the exception of Zardoz, I liked them all. One of my favorites wasn’t something he lead in, but rather took a supporting role in: HIGHLANDER.

I find it rather fitting that a man who spent his entire adult life wearing costumes for movie parts departed this world on Halloween. The symmetry is mesmerizing.

However, I also feel an obligation to wish a happy birthday to our two pet cats, who (as of Halloween) have been sharing our home for 13 years. We love them, and (based on the amount of time they want to spend on our laps) they seem to love us.

Your final moments . . .

I know, I have written before about the importance of writing a living will or an advanced directive.

However, my wife and I recently visited a lawyer to take the official step of setting such ideas in stone.  And I much need to say that I feel the minor expense was very worth the time and hassel.

No baby, even those conceived by rape, has a choice in whether or not they are born.  No person of any age has any choice as to whether or not they are victims of murder. But every person alive has a choice about what conditions they will agree to  about the end of their life.

This is why I am a staunch advocate of Living Wills and Advance Directives.  These are the legally binding ways in which you have the power to tell health care professionalls – esessially those who may try to overrulle your preferred choices, exactly what you want them to do when you have lost the power to make those decisions for yourself.  You get the power to appoint ONLY ONE person, who already knows your preferences, as your  health care decision maker if you are unable to voice your own preferences.  You also get to make legally binding demands that certain types of care are not to be used, especially if they are beyond the financial reach of your immediate family to pay for.  In short, you get to decide, in a legally binding way, how far you are willing to allow a hospital to go in trying to save your life before they are required by law to pull the plug.  This is all about how much fincancial burden I’m willing to force upon my wife before offering her relief and protecting her from bankruptcy over the cost of my care.

I have taken the step of authenticating both a Living Will and an Advanced Directive, for the specific purpose of trying to make certain that my wife will NOT, under any circumstances, be bankrupted by the medical care required if I might meet a less than desired end-of-life situation.  I was very specific about several situations that might realistically happen in which I wanted NO life-saving measures to be used.  I also gave my wife, and as an alternate a very close friend, the power to make end-of-life choices regardging my health care.  They both know and respect my feelings on this matter.

Also, as a co-home-owner and husband, I agreed with my wife that we needed to go to a lawyer and transact a Last Will and Testament.  This is not because I feel that I may die at any near time, but rather because I believe it is better to be prepared in advance than to be caught off guard. It’s a relic of when I was in the Boy Scouts – more than 40 years ago.