I’ve always been a big fan of James Thurber. His comedy is homespun americana with an absurdist bent that tickles my funny bone. When “shit happens”, I often think of one of my favorite stories of his – The Night the Bed Fell Down. (Thurber’s bed breaks in the middle of the night and everyone else in the house thinks something different has happened…)
I’m thinking about that story now.
Here’s the deal.
Two years ago this month my father died. It was a long, slow and painful death for him – despite home hospice care. This is because – and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise – home hospice is a business and run as a business. The comfort and pain-free exit they offer is secondary to their business concerns. They never staff enough, they often are not authorized to do things that need doing (and that you had no clue you needed to ask for) and woe be the home hospice care patient who needs additional (controlled) pain killers late at night on a weekend. Like my father did and never got. He died alone in his last few minutes of hellish pain because everyone in the family was out of the room, on the telephone, trying to get him some relief.*
You all settled in now? Cause I’m just getting started.
My father’s death has exacerbated my mother’s conditions which include a host of auto-immune issues and, well, I won’t say anything specific to protect her privacy, but, when you get older, sometimes you need help in a variety of different ways. We couldn’t have her rattling around in a big Florida house all by herself all day and, despite gold-plated insurance, a home nursing aide was not in the cards. (There’s other complicating factors, but – privacy.)
With her agreement and the advice and assistance of a large number of family members and friends, we moved her into a retirement facility that transitions residents from independent living, to assisted living, to nursing care.
I’m the one that handles her bills, visits at least 4 times per year for extended periods, intervenes with her doctors, hires her aides and other assistance when she needs it, talks to her two and sometimes three times a day and makes sure she is getting the care, support and attention she needs.
Two weeks ago my wife and I learned that my wife has breast cancer that has spread. As quickly as I could we arranged for her care at one of the best cancer treatment facilities in the country, got in touch with our internationally famous doctor relative for backup and support She started her treatment this week. We’re very concerned, but hopeful.
I have this dog. I love him to death. He’s as smart as the proverbial genius whip (how many dogs do you know who know “left” and “right”?). He’s a great comfort and companion but – he has no idea what’s going on. He knows something is up, but while he knows which foot the shoe goes on, explaining that my wife has cancer and we need to go out a lot more than usual for doctors visits &c, I can’t explain to him that dinner is late or I’m too tired for another walk today. And so he is seeking additional attention and comfort.
I have chores and errands like everyone else – but now the things my wife used to do (we were split pretty evenly on that stuff – I put my money where my mouth is when it comes to “partner”), are things that I have to do. Some of them – no problem except for time and energy. Others? Well, she did them because she was good at those things and I’m not.
I have these contributors – not all of whom have been previously informed of this situation (my apologies folks!). When we moved a few months ago, we also switched internet providers and, dontchya know, the company we left don’t make it easy for customers who leave to export their email address book. It only recently became apparent that mailing lists I thought were complete, aren’t.
I have this business – such as it is. With little money but tremendous support, I’ve built it from just-another-science-fiction-blog to being on the very cusp of returning the magazine that helped start it all to print. It’s taken three and a half years, and I absolutely could not have done it without the so many fine people who have helped. Later this year a special edition of the magazine, featuring ten contest winning stories and a few other tidbits (not to mention a killer cover by Duncan Long that screams SCIENCE FICTION!!!) (not literally, lol) is scheduled to be distributed at a major happening.
We’re giving it out for free (because that’s what the publishers used to do back in the day) as a way to say thank you to the SF community; as a way to announce the magazine’s return with a little bit of excitement; as a way to put it into the hands of people who we know will appreciate it and, as a way to generate the support we will need to implement our plan to return to regular publication in April of 2017.
And now I don’t know if I’ll be able to see it through. It’s almost a certainty that I’ll not be able to attend the event where this will kick off, and that’s a major hit below the waterline.
It’s also an almost certainty that I’ll not be able to maintain the website regularly.
And it’s almost certain that the money I’ve reserved for producing this event will have to be saved for medical expenses, because, you know, once FMLA is exhausted, they let you go and there goes your health insurance. (But people who need assistance are just lazy, good-for-nothing bums looking for a hand-out, right?)
No one should be overly concerned. Not the folks who contribute to Amazing, not the authors whose stories have been purchased, not anyone who is interested in seeing Amazing’s return. As things evolve, I will keep everyone informed, just as I am doing so now.
I’m hoping that once we get into the treatment routine around here, I’ll be better able to judge how best to move forward. The stories will, at the least, be published online. The website will be turned over to caretaker’s if and when that is needed. No matter what happens, something will eventually be salvaged, if that’s what needs to happen.
In the meantime:
I’ve come to realize that over the past few days my online presence has, (being nice to myself) been off. Sometimes unclear and confused, sometimes harsher or more strident (than usual). I’ve been going online to distract myself and in so doing have made some people unwitting participants in the roil that’s going on inside my head right now. While it is always my intention to get my point across strongly and convincingly, (or humorously and always endlessly…) it is never my intention to hurt people’s feelings when doing so. If my problems have brushed off on you, my sincere apologies.
I hope that anyone familiar with Thurber will now understand why I think of some of his stories at times like these. If you’ve never read him, go and do.
Right now, I’m the shlimazel that the schlemiel has just dumped hot soup all over. While wearing my very finest for an upcoming special event. And by the way, all of the dry cleaners are closed due to strike and the kitchen is now out of soup….
As Thurber has taught me, there’s only one thing to do in that kind of a situation: laugh a little at the absurdity of the whole thing and then put your head down and keep plowing forward.
*None of this was due to lack of money; my parents are gold-plated.