Hey, everyone. Just wanted to let you all know what’s the what, now that I have subscribers and everything.
January was a difficult month. One year ago I got a call from an unidentified number: it was a slightly anxious nurse explaining that not only did my mom have a stroke but drove herself to the clinic to get herself checked out. It wasn’t the kind of stroke you’re thinking about, where the face slumps and words are slurred, no. Hers was in the vision-center of her brain, and she was lucky in that she’s in the 30% that survives such an incident. If you ask her, though, she was unlucky in that her post-retirement life was taken away from her: she has a left-field vision cut, which means in both eyes she can’t see anything on her left. Worse, her brain tries to fill in the pieces of what she can’t see based on what she can, which means if there’s no pillar on her right, she can’t see the pillar on her left she’s about to walk into. The cut is so sharp that when she eats a meal, she thinks she’s finished even though she’s still hungry, until I reach over and rotate her plate to show her all the food that was on the left. To her credit, she can laugh about this, most of the time.
It took away her ability to drive, and that’s pretty much the end of one’s life if one hasn’t prepared for an alternative to capitalism. She couldn’t drive to church, the senior center, the convenience store, the grocery store, or anything. In a lucid moment she signed her car over to me, so she wouldn’t be tempted to sneak out and drive “very carefully” to the Kwik-Trip for a discount on bananas and cereal; the rest of the time she bitterly accuses me of stealing her car, boasting how she’s driven safely for longer than I’ve been alive.
When she came home from rehab, I moved in with her to take care of her. Mind you, I don’t have a great relationship with her, and I wasn’t looking forward to this, but no one else in my family could or would do it. And the world was still in the throes of Covid paranoia, so moving in with Mom meant not seeing my wife for two months (or anyone else). I had been working on an intensive self-improvement regimen where I decided what I needed to do on a daily or weekly basis, and I checked these things off, and I started to feel like shit when I missed them, so in that sense it was a relief to abandon this and move into a townhome in the second-tier suburbs. It was an abandonment of everything familiar, a period of silence where nothing was expected of me. I brought my computer down and played World of Warcraft, and I looked up recipes to cook for lunch and dinner, and I could do my job remotely.
I lived with her for two months, and mostly it was fine, but toward the end I became the symbol of everything she’d lost, and she did not have the maturity to filter her thoughts and words. I always held back, because she’s old, because she’s disabled, because she’s locked in grief over this life-changing event against which there was no appeal. When it got too much to tolerate, I took stock of her environment and capabilities, packed up, took a drive-thru Covid nasal swab test, and drove back home. I would drive back twice a week to refill her medications and help with chores around the house, but she was on her own and it was up to her to remember her training and therapy and personal experiences to stop walking into things when all she had to do was swing her head to the left.
That’s how it maintained for a while: Mom learned how to live on her own, with the help of her friends in the neighborhood and my semiweekly visits. Mostly we got along, though sometimes she still accused me of stealing her car, or she threatened to sue the neurologist who gave her the report from her examination that said she was unfit to drive, worsened by our discovery that the hospital shared that report with the DMV. I’ve learned a lot about our civic infrastructure through this experience.
Then she announced that if her life was going to be taken away from her, she should live in a facility where everything was provided, despite her doctors’ warnings not to make any important decisions for a full year. She visited three senior living facilities and picked one within a month, despite my wife’s vehement admonition against rushing into a half-baked plan. I tried to get her to promise to stay in the house for one more winter, a lovely little home decorated just how she liked, with a pond, a fringe of trees, and a park in the back. The geese fed and flew out each autumn and returned, honking and exhausted, each spring. Sometimes she would agree to wait, because she loved her little home, but then her arguments became manipulative and insulting, complaining she was no longer in charge of her own life, how I was taking all control away from her, and it was her money to burn if she wanted. My well-intentioned brother told her how the housing market was great for the time being but was due to burst any minute, so she sold her house (at five times what she paid for it) and moved into the new facility.
She’d visited the apartments before, through her seniors singing group. The marketing manager was a friend of hers and made a lot of attractive promises to ease the transition. Mom didn’t want to move up to the city, closer to me; she wanted to stay near enough for her friends to visit. Well, that manager didn’t have the authorization to make those promises, and her friends for one reason or another were unable to visit (or she was ashamed to ask them to). My brother with the housing advice didn’t help with the move: that was all me and my wife, though occasionally Mom would complain on Facebook that she was doing everything herself, and her friends would show up to pack a few boxes.
Within a month of having moved in, she decided she missed her friends too badly and started looking for homes in her old neighborhood. I reminded her that her doctors warned her about cognitive and impulsivity issues; she didn’t remember any of that. My wife was livid that Mom was being frivolous with moving from place to place, which required all our physical labor and free time. “You just want to trap me here,” she cried. We fought about this for a few months (while I stopped in to refill her meds and perform chores and take Mom on errands), and then we started hearing really worrisome things about the apartments. The shuttle driver resigned; the head chef was promoted and his responsibilities were divided between seven locations, so meal quality had gone down to buffet-style… until several residents and staff tested positive for Covid and everyone was locked in their rooms. No social activities, no movies, no dining facility, and then a storm knocked out the phones. My mom related how she walked around the building, wondering where her dinner was (and the meal plan was not cheap!), and she ran into four other people wondering the same thing. Management’s response: “There is no need for residents to confer among themselves. Remain in your rooms.”
So when she found an ideal house in her old neighborhood—in fact, a friend who lived two houses down decided to move out—we didn’t discourage it, but we assured her that she would be paying for a company to pack her property and move it. She said a lot of awful things to us, but when she realized we wouldn’t stand in her way, her mood changed. This month, one year after her stroke, she’s moved into a townhome fairly identical to her last place. The view is great, her friends are elated to have her back. I’ve been loading up the final odds-and-ends that didn’t pack easily and drove the last load over last night; today I turned in the apartment keys and closed that chapter.
Now, of course, it’s the period of adjustment where she unpacks, as much as she can before her pinched nerves send her to the couch to lie down and nap. If something’s missing, she accuses me and my wife of having thrown it away or else the movers have stolen it (yes, I’m sure old single-use surgical masks smeared in foundation are hot commodities), until it turns up in another box. She can’t do her own internet connection: there’s only one ISP in the region, and without competition they’re free to gouge and talk her into unnecessary top-tier service bundles. She lives twice as far now as she did in the apartment, so it’s less convenient to visit whenever there’s an “emergency,” not least because this is the fifth-coldest January on record in Minnesota.
But the worst of it is over. The hardest work is done. Her friends visit all the time and take her places; I’ve started filling her prescription meds into two weeks’ worth of pill cases. If she wants to move again, my wife and I will take a month-long vacation in Italy, but she won’t want to. It’s fine now, things can settle down somewhat. I tore my back during the second move but it’s fully healed now. I had a bad case of the chills after my booster shot, but I recovered in 30 hours. Without wanting to jinx anything, I hope we can return to a state of boredom.
I have to get back into my creative flow, somehow. I’ve written only one story this month, the 17,000-word jobber you saw a little bit ago. Recently I studied Tracery and created a Twitter bot that generates a new Size Writing story idea every hour. I love spotting errors in its execution and dressing it up for the next iteration, brainstorming interesting new sentences to compile. I haven’t made anything in Daz Studio for weeks. I was super-charged about that, recreating my fantasies in longest-standing, but it’s hard to muster the desire and motivation to open the program and go through the labor of creating yet another white cishet male-gaze porn image, even with a “backstory.” And I don’t even do the zeppelin-sized boobs and ass that everyone else does, just normal-sized or moderately curvy women for which there is no stated demand. Increasingly, all my creative work is strictly for my dulled amusement and for anyone who cares to peek over my shoulder.
As for writing… I was very productive last November, during NaNoWriMo. I was good about disciplining myself to write some piece of shit every single day. My wife was very good about respecting my time and resigning herself to basically not having a husband for another month (which is ridiculous, because I still worked from home in the daytime, and she still came into the office with mugs of coffee to discuss our alarmist news media and our shitty government and whatever else, so it’s not like I was living in a second-tier suburb). I used the month to try other styles of writing, started another secret blog to drop short stories into, stuff that had nothing to do with horny tiny men or horny giantesses. It got… modest recognition from complete strangers, where I wasn’t expecting it to get noticed at all. But after November, I lost my momentum and didn’t keep writing through December. And January’s almost totally empty.
I’ll try to write more in February. For a while it was genuinely fun, I was doing it for myself, my own entertainment. I just need to learn to give less of a shit, to stop expecting every story to be meaningful and significant and part of something greater. It just has to be fun for me. That’s all. I’m very grateful to you who read this, and I’m very grateful to my subscribers who are staking their support in a material way. You’re following me because you like what I do, and I have to train myself to like it again. I will. It’s just been difficult lately, and I’m trying to refill my creative reservoir, and I’m trying to be a present and attentive spouse to my wife. I have no option to be the good son, that’s just a given.
I appreciate your patience, and I don’t blame you if you’ve had enough. One way or another, in whatever condition, this train will continue rolling down the tracks, loaded or empty. I know a screed like this entry isn’t what you were looking for, but I really have no one to talk to about these things. Somehow I’ve made wrong choices and I don’t have the social support other people have, or this wasn’t my life to follow that path. I just needed to get some of this out (albeit with heavy use of the backspace key), so someone else knows how nightmarishly our society treats the elderly, how callously we lock living, intelligent, feeling people away to rot in inadequate rooms with crappy food and begrudged, insulting social activities like coloring or having a newspaper read to them. If they’re lucky, those rooms are stocked with technology far beyond their comprehension.
And so other writers can see what it’s like for one writer, in case they’re struggling down their own paths, sick with the delusion that they must be doing something wrong and everyone else has it easy. Give yourself a break, we’ve been under some exceptional shit for two years, and coronavirus is going to become a fact of life like the flu and the common cold. It just is. So, that, on top of all the shit life throws at us when we’re struggling to get by. Okay? You’re still here, tomorrow’s another day, the future is unwritten and the past doesn’t exist anymore. Enjoy a nice orange. Revisit your favorite porn. Laugh at Airforceproud95 videos. Text a friend just to say hey.
None of this advice applies to me, of course. My case is special and unique.