I almost died?

It’s been an interesting week. As part of it, I almost died. Well, maybe I did. It’s actually not clear as I was unconscious at the time…

As I didn’t know at the time that I “almost died” or “could have died”, does it count?

I had this conversation once. We were talking about a fear of dying and I mentioned that I had “almost died” a half-dozen times and it didn’t worry me. I didn’t like the idea of being in pain, but wasn’t scared of dying.

Which led onto: Does “almost died” count if you don’t get hurt?

Example #1, from when I was about 12. My brother and I were riding our bicycles to the shopping center. It required us to go across both sides of a big and busy intersection. I was ahead of my younger brother. The light turned green for cars going the same direction as me, as did the pedestrian light. I stopped for a moment to let my brother catch up. A big truck ran the red light and ran across the path I would have been on if I hadn’t stopped, wiping out a car that started with the green. If I hadn’t waited, it would have wiped me out too. But nothing happened to me. Does it count?

Example #2, from when I was about 20. My best friend (let’s call him Sam for today) chose to undertake, not overtake a truck that was turning. A crazy move from the start. There were 3 of us in the car with him. We all yelled “No!” but he was sure he could make it because the truck was turning wide. Duh, it was a truck and needed the space to make the rear wheels get around too. So the truck cut across and smashed the back of the car as Sam tried to zoom by. The car spun around and slammed into a power pole. The rear was ripped open by the truck and a crate in the trunk (boot, if you’re not in the USA) flew out and broke the leg of a pedestrian. The power pole embedded itself into the car between the front passenger side (me) and the rear passenger side (I don’t remember who…someone who is no longer a good friend of Sam, that’s for sure). A foot further to the front and I’d have been dead for sure. Two feet back and the other guy would’ve died for sure. But nothing happened to me (bumps and bruising, but no hospital injuries). Does it count?

I have a half-dozen other examples. Interestingly, a few of them involve cars (and not me driving them).

Example #3, from when I was about 40. I was driving my dad to the airport in the Washington DC region. It was night and there was this guy going too slow in the fast lane (for my USA friends, don’t worry, the whole “fast lane” concept will just confuse you!). I didn’t want to sit behind him all the way to the airport, so undertook him (slowly because the Airport police love to ticket anyone on this road). I had no need to go back into the fast lane and tootled along. A moment later, I realized there was a car coming straight at me. A second after that, I realized it was in the fast lane not my lane, and it zipped by me, slamming head-on into the car that had refused to move out of the fast lane for any of the other drivers. I called 911 right away. But nothing happened to me. Does it count? In this case, I vote NO because although the wrong-way driver was a (quickly proven) danger to others, I wasn’t necessarily at risk of more than damp underwear..

My example from this past weekend is simpler. I had some minor surgery and near the end of the procedure I threw up. (I had followed the rules about when to stop eating but it happened anyway.) I was under and knew nothing of it. I only knew that my throat hurt a lot when I woke up, and got the first bit of the story from a nurse in the recovery room. Later in the day, I found out that it was apparently quite serious at the time, they had to clear out my lungs, that it carried significant risks , etc. I didn’t feel any different because my only knowledge of it is a very sore throat, plus a conviction that there is a ‘loose flap’ back there somewhere beyond just being scraped up. I don’t know if there was a way to quantify what risk there was to me though. I certainly wasn’t able to prevent it or fear it or respond to it. Does it count? Maybe NO on this one too?

I’ll throw in one last example (#4) where, again, nothing at all happened to me, although the risk was high. Here is a YouTube video of a rock formation known as “The Nerve Test” in the Grampians in north Victoria, Australia:

Unlike the guy in the video, when I was about 19, I looked around at the nice views, then decided to leap from the end of the Nerve Test to the rocks on the right-hand side. I was a fit guy and made it. My friends were horrified. I was young and immortal so it didn’t bother me. Had I not made it, there were no cell phones then, and it was miles from anywhere. People would have hiked back to cars, driven to a phone box (yes, little ones, they existed then), then waited for a crew to arrive who would then have to had to figure out how to get down the cliff face to the dummy saying some variation of “Ouch!” at the bottom. Good times…

I know a dear friend who has me beat for scary injuries (she is still on the road to recovery): https://poorcowinfrance.wordpress.com/2018/09/23/er-part-1/

I wonder how many of us have these stories.

Stay well!

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Dad, screw you

(Note: I drafted this about four or five years ago. It still seems relevant and interesting, although you get to be the judge of that…)

Really, screw you.

Let me explain. This isn’t the normal me.

In August 2011, I took two weeks off work because I was exhausted. I was a newly-minted single dad, and life was very busy.

A few weeks later, my dad had a massive heart attack and died.

I flew to Australia for his funeral. It was a disorienting affair because door-to-door travel time between Washington DC and my family near Melbourne is about 36 hours, and I stayed only three days. I wrote about the sequence of events in a numbers of posts. Here are a selection:

Sitting in business class and first class made the travel itself more comfortable. The time zone changes were still brutal. With less than three days in Australia, and many events to attend and people to meet, I was dizzy by the time I got on the first of three planes back to the USA, and spaced out by the time I returned home.

Good, so you’re all caught up. But there’s more.

Some time after my return to the USA I realized my dad had lied to me over a period of years. Maybe, *gasp*, he disliked me.

Wow.

Some of you might say, “Duh, why would he like you? My dad hates/hated me.” I get that, but he never projected that, so this is NOT the time to found out.

This is a guy who was not dissimilar to me…except for a key difference that I have human emotions and he didn’t. (If he’s an alien from Men In Black, then his disguise is pretty good).

His mother died shortly after he was born. His dad fought in World War II, then abandoned him and his brother and sisters for a new family. He was denied the chance to ‘feel’ as other people do. Still, we got on very well. We never argued and I thought we had a good if geographically distant relationship.

Apparently not?

The curious and defining hiccup that includes a revealing background: He cut me out of his will completely.

This isn’t money he decided to give to charity. He didn’t cut my brother out of the Will. It was a share of hundreds of thousands of dollars and I mention the amount because if it were a small amount, it wouldn’t be indicative of anything. And it’s not me being money-hungry; it’s about the why he did it, not the money that I never had anyway.

If this was simply because my brother needed the money more than me, that would be quite understandable. My brother is not healthy and not wealthy. But the Last Will and Testament was made years before my brother’s health went downhill, years before he became disabled and poor.

Dad had a 50% share in a house with his long-term partner, someone he was with from a few years after he divorced my mother. After he had this house built, he told me on the phone a few years ago that he planned to leave the 50% share to my brother and I, with a stipulation that his partner would have the right to live in the house until she died. At that time he made that statement, his Will said something completely different. It’s odd that he would lie to me about that.

His Will left everything except for the house to my brother. Except there wasn’t any “everything”. My brother got a $200 payout, then a bill for the funeral for more than $7000 from Dad’s wife. At the funeral, I asked if she needed help covering the costs and told me that she would personally pay for the funeral, so I surprised to hear that she later sent the bill to my brother. This is where the Theft tag is derived from — his ‘other family’ decided his money was theirs and moved it out sight after he died.

(I was also surprised to find out that she was his wife. He hadn’t mentioned that they had married.)

None of this explains why he cut me out of his Will. With him gone, no one can now know for sure. Did I upset him? Did he just not like me?

One theory: My dad visited me in North Virginia in 2003 and was staggered at the size of the houses and the wealth in the area I lived. It’s not that I’m wealthy compared with most neighbors, but that I got lucky with the house I bought in 2001. Maybe he left for Australia with the idea that I must be wealthy if I live here? Has he forgotten that people take out mortgages and the banks are quite keen on getting their money back? He rewrote his Will in 2006, and it was the first version to exclude me. My brother and I were given the old versions of the Will, where everything was split 50/50 between us, with an allowance for his partner. Something caused him to change his Will in 2006, and not update it again.

Another theory: Dad was humiliated when he visited me in 2003. He broke up his trip by going on to England to visit his home town of Liverpool and our family in the Derbyshire Peak District. One day he was driving round and got lost. He stopped at a bus stop and left his keys in the car while asking for directions from a helpful bystander. In the meantime, someone else climbed into the car behind him and drove it off, taking all his possessions. He was shocked and embarrassed that something like that could happen to him. He was proud of being über-clever and in control of his life, and the fact he did something like this ‘broke’ him. He came back to the USA a week early without any explanation, and wanted to leave for Australia right away. After I winkled the story out of him, I argued that his grand-daughters, who he was seeing for the first time in their lives, shouldn’t be ‘punished’ because of his misadventure in England. It wasn’t the end of the world to have to buy some new clothes and have my spare suitcase. He stayed a week more instead of three, changed his flight one day, and just left. Maybe he was mad that I ‘made’ him stay longer and didn’t just let him run home immediately with his tail between his legs?

Before I continue, remember that my theories are just that. There’s no evidence of anything. This is partly because his new family cleared out most of his things before inviting my brother and I to inspect his room. (He didn’t share a room with his partner, but he married her??). If the ‘other family’ are to be believed, he died with no cash, no wallet, no driver license, and no bank accounts. A rather unlikely scenario. As a party with no standing, I pressured my brother to discuss this with the police. After all, he stood to gain a half-million based on some good luck my dad had with buying/selling properties in a rising housing market.

A third theory: When my father left my mother, he did so with a mean flourish. I was about 21 at the time. He had an argument with her shortly after their 25th wedding anniversary, packed his bags, quit his job, and vanished. I didn’t hear from him for almost two years. He had traveled around Australia for nine months and returned to Melbourne. My cousin was in contact with him for months before my father bothered to call me to say hello on my birthday. This didn’t impress me at all. The subsequent divorce negotiations didn’t go well. He wanted half of all the martial assets, ignoring the obvious reality that his ex-wife, my mum, earned a tiny fraction of his income. She was a low-level clerical assistant and he was an engineer with General Motors. I got involved on my mum’s behalf and convinced him to avoid paying attorney fees for a trial by giving her a larger than 50% share from the sale of their house. (For some reason, alimony wasn’t an option, but I don’t recall why.) In his memoirs, he made explicit mention of being annoyed at my intervention. Maybe he held a grudge? If so, it’s an odd one. He and I worked on the memoirs on behalf of my kids for a few years, off and on. He put a lot of effort into them. That doesn’t feel like someone with a deeply-held grudge; he could have written them without my input and reviews.

Whatever the background, it was a deliberate act on his part to cut me out of his Will in 2006. Why did he keep talking to me openly? It’s a mystery.

He told me about his desire not to have a funeral after he died. I pointed out the funeral wasn’t for him, it was for those left behind, and he relented.

He told me about his desire to leave his body to science. He checked. Science said, “No thanks.” Oops. That has to be a little embarrassing, right?

I discussed my plans for a Living Will. He asked me to do the same for him. He asked me to make decisions on his behalf if he was on life support. I had to sign official forms, and it was me that authorized the hospital to shut off the machines after his final heart attack. He had my paperwork and would have done the same for me. It seems like a fairly intimate transaction.

There’s no room for obvious medical loopholes that make sense to me. He was alert and capable until he died. There was no secret Will; his solicitor and executor had copies of all versions of the Will. If there’s an easy explanation I’d like to hear it.

Did he secretly dislike me for some reason? Why lie to me? Why be so friendly and jovial on the phone and initiate contact? Why work with me on his own memoirs?

If your own dad can’t like you, it’s not much of an inspiration for relationships.

For my girls, There is a folder on my PC called “Death” and it includes letters I’ve written to each of them. Every couple of years, I spend a depressing night writing additions to be read from beyond the grave, taking into account new things that have happened. Nothing will be enough if I depart before my time, but it’s better than nothing from me at all. Maybe I will step up my game one day and sit down to be interviewed by them about my life.

For my dad, he decided to tell me nothing, actively present himself to me to chat, and leave me with a mystery I can’t solve. He left me with lies that he volunteered. For this, and not because I didn’t get money that was yours to give to whomever you wanted, fuck you, Dad.

Posted in Family Life | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Time to write, time to catch up

I miss writing. I miss blogging. I resent that other kinds of social media detract from a style that gives you time to think before putting fingers to (virtual or physical) keyboard, or even a frustrated voice to my Apple devices (no Siri, “as soon as”, not “asses at noon-ish”).

Obviously, there’s no good reason for that in the sense that I can theoretically sit down and blog anytime. I could even blog standing up. Maybe not while walking, on account of the whole getting-hit-by-a-car thing. Or the walking-into-a-cactus thing.

It’s three years since I wrote a post, and that one was hardly clear on where Life was taking me. Correction, it’s three years since I *published* a post. I write lots of things, but don’t publish.

So many of us have moved on, moved into a different phase of life, or moved on and back again. I’m not sure how many followers from the past will receive this. New email addresses, automated software dumping me in the Spam folder (how dare they!), new lives and people in those lives.

I sometimes blogged in ‘real time’ in the past. Occasionally it would be right up there and current. Often, though, if it was something interesting or amusing, I took the time to craft my story a little. More for me than an obligation to present a particular standard. But that doesn’t really justify a multi-year gap that maybe I feel obliged to present in some kind of sequence. Let the exposition roll!

For a sneak preview of what I plan to post about in the near future, see the Tags on this post. Separation and Moving On — always big topics in our lives. The reference to Vacation and the locales — Australia, Europe, Canada — hint at trips I’ve taken. Extra hint: one trip was more than two months long. A game-changer in so many ways. Government refers to my new job. Pets refers to transitions, appearances, and losses. Acceptance and Joy are in different positions of the continuum that represent the upper and lower limits of our relationship happiness. Theft is a tag that refers to an event that is written up here a few years ago but moved into very unexpected territory.

OK, so any more of this foreshadowing and I’ll switch from vague but intriguing to one of those U.S. reality shows (like Master Chef) where before each ad break they say what happened, what will happen, and then come back with wasting-time previews, only to discover that, no, the thing that you thought might be interesting isn’t in this part of the show, it’s right at the end. Where was I? Oh yes, note to me, shut up now and start preparing better posts.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Taking Out The Trash

For my non-American friends, I could refer to taking out the rubbish. But, let’s be honest. In the war of the English language, somehow or other, “Americans” stole the world-wide rights. Even while many Americans deploy slightly annoying English (the difference between “less” and “fewer” is not complicated, folks), and use a self-referencing term that refers to two continents for just one country. Worse for actual English people, there is no actual name for the American variation of “English”, just to color (hee-hee) the context and add to the general confusion.

I shall retire my inner wordsmith and teasing for now. In a month or so, I might explain why I referenced all this.

Ever get told to “move on”? (I tried to find out if this is an American or English expression, but it’s harder to find the etymology or derivation of a phrase versus a single word). It applies in both the physical and mental/emotional sense.

I’m doing both.

Since the middle of 2013, I have had this apartment as a base. As the owner of a house for years, I swore I would never live in an apartment again, but getting divorced tends to make one’s wallet lighter.

In my case, I decided to settle for an all-in-one settlement rather than pay varying amounts of spousal support for a long period of time. This meant that I emptied my wallet, piggy bank, stash, safe deposit box, funds, and everything else with money in. I might look like a beggar on the street when you wander by, but that’s only temporary. I have a good income and fewer financial demands now, so I will recover. But feel free to buy me a coffee until then…

As I was saying, my apartment. I’ve had it for almost two years. It’s time to move on. My lease is up in a week and I am surrounded by empty space and boxes, and my nearby storage unit is bulging. This is no longer the bustling “SD” space that it was. (Have you noticed that I am no longer Separated Dad?) This room even has an echo now.

To use what I am sure is an American term, down-sizing was a difficult thing to do when I moved out of a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house into a two-bedroom apartment. Just my garden tools would’ve been a challenge to store. As part of moving into the apartment, I left behind a lot of possessions. As well as treasured memories. I worked hard on that house. I lived and loved in there, and had to let it go. An income only stretches so far. In the real sense of it, I grieved the loss of the house and my life in it. In that respect, I had my “family life” there and I had “my life” there, and as I moved on from the first one, I still had to let go of the second one. Stress is such a strange thing — it can hit in odd ways and for unexpected reasons.

Now I have down-sized again. Maybe half of the things I brought to this apartment have been thrown out, given away, given to charity, or sold off (Side note: Craigslist might be an easy place to offer something for sale, but getting buyers to minimize the haggling is difficult).

In other words, for the second time, I have taken out the trash.

Again, it’s been both a draining and liberating experience. My girls had the chance to take what they wanted before they moved out. They left behind, for disposal, things that mean nothing to them anymore. But to me, they often represented memories of the little girl that was passionate about giraffes, or being a fireman, or music. Letting go of those things doesn’t destroy the memories, but it does remind of how they’ve grown up and moved on. We expect to teach our kids how to live and plan to herd them out the door when they’re ready, but forget that doesn’t mean we’re always ready at the same time.

Equally, I found that my visits to the County Dump (or Waste Transfer Station, as they prefer to call it, so that no one can find it in the County directory) were liberating. As I came back, brushing dirt of me and out of the minivan (yes, I still have that, as well as my normal car), I felt an odd sense of release. I’d not just dumped boxes or an old bed, but also cleared my mind a little.

I can’t speak for you, but by the time I was 20, my parents had somehow managed to throw out most of the things from my childhood. I wasn’t looking for them at the time, so I didn’t realize it then. It was only years later that I thought about the drawing that won an Art prize in first grade, or the poster of some rock star, or the certificate for doing something that deserved…a certificate. For my kids, they will one day have much the same experience. They will get to 40 and wonder if maybe they should’ve held on to more. Or, they will be glad to turn a page (is that an American or an English expression?) on a chapter in their life that has as many bad memories as good.

Speaking for me, I can’t hold on to everything. I have to move forward. I have to let go and forge my own path now. The girls will never be gone from my life, regardless of geography. They will no doubt still need Dad. Maybe they will be able to afford to buy me a coffee? 🙂

Posted in Divorce | Tagged , , | 9 Comments