Showing posts with label illness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label illness. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The campaign against epic a-holes

While gay and lesbian activists were busy politicizing bullying and telling America that stopping some bullying is more crucial than stopping the other 85 percent (or whatever) of bullying, this was playing itself out in Trenton, Mich.

Watch the video. Contemplate the sick, sick spectacle of the Neighbors From the Bowels of Hell ridiculing and harassing a dying 7-year-old girl, all because of a neighborhood feud. Consider going so far as to fill your yard with tombstones.

Picture hauling a fake coffin past the dying girl's house. In a pickup painted as a ghoulish hearse.

Imagine posting a picture of the dying child's dead mother in the arms of the Grim Reaper on your
Facebook page. Which also features a picture of little Kathleen Edward's head replacing the skull in a skull and crossbones.

People all across the Detroit area, and all around the world, are outraged. They've been holding candlelight rallies at the girl's house.

And the tormentors, Scott and Jennifer Petkov, now are national pariahs.

FOR SOME REASON, the Petkovs now say they're sorry. Very, very sorry.

AS FAR as I know, the swift end to those bullies' reign of terror was not the work of the National Coalition to Stop the Torment of Dying Children. It was the work of "You don't do that to children. Period. Much less dying ones."

It was the work of "How dare you treat people that way?"

It was the work of "You're a couple of cruel scumbags, and now we're going to kick your miserable asses."

IT WAS the work of common human decency.
Remember that?

If we want to stop bullying -- if we want to prevent tormented kids from killing themselves and all manner of societal awfulness -- maybe what we need is just a single campaign . . . a single advocacy group. Call it the Campaign for Common Decency.

face it, common decency needs all the help it can get these days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Death in a box, '60s style

Scientists, in conjunction with cultural historians, today announced the discovery of the likely cause of at least 85 percent of all Parkinson's disease cases in patients under age 55.

Film at 11.

Halo brace at 11:15.

Neural stimulator at 52.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Till hubby decides you're good as dead

Watch CBS News Videos Online

"What is going to happen to me, Father?" I ask before he gets away altogether.

"Oh," he says absently, appearing to be thinking of something else, "you're going to end up killing Jews."

"Okay," I say. Somehow 1 knew he was going to say this.

Somehow also he knows that we've finished with each other. He reaches for the trapdoor, turns the rung. "Give my love to Ellen and the kids."


At the very moment of his touching the rung, there is a tapping on the door from below. The door lifts against his hand.

"That's Milton," says Father Smith in his workaday ham-operator voice and lifts the door.

A head of close-cropped iron-gray hair pops up through the opening and a man springs into the room.

To my astonishment the priest pays no attention to the new arrival, even though the three of us are now as close as three men in a small elevator. He takes my arm again.

"Yes, Father?"

"Even if you were a combination of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronltite, and Charles Kuralt rolled into one—no, especially if you were those guys --"

"As a matter of fact, I happen to know Charlie Kuralt, and there is not a sweeter guy, a more tenderhearted person --"

"Right," says the priest ironically, still paying not the slightest attention to the stranger, and then, with his sly expression, asks, "Do you know where tenderness always leads?"

"No, where?" I ask, watching the stranger with curiosity.

"To the gas chamber."

"I see."

"Tenderness is the first disguise of the murderer."


-- Walker Percy,
The Thanatos Syndrome

Did you watch the CBS Sunday Morning video from Barry Petersen? Good.

At least we have a starting point -- a frame of reference. The ending point is that this story is as monstrous as it is tender.

It is all the more monstrous because I can understand his anguish . . . the thinking . . . the rationalization . . . all wrapped in heartfelt tenderness. This tenderness leads -- if not, alas, to the gas chamber for poor Jan Chorlton -- at least to whitewashing her objectification. Her dehumanization.

This is because -- you will note that she is referred to in the past tense -- everyone seems to see her humanity, all that makes her Jan, as being wrapped up in her mental function. In her memory, which Alzheimer's has stolen from her.

And it all makes sense, doesn't it? We observe that she is slipping away. We don't know her anymore, just as she doesn't know . . . anyone. Scientists can explain this.

Scientists also can explain the angry outbursts Petersen described. There's a name for them -- Sundowners Syndrome, being that the episodes generally happen toward the end of the day.

I KNOW a little about this. Alzheimer's killed my mother in law. We watched, my wife and I, as her mom began to act -- for lack of a better term than the indelicate -- stupidly. We watched as she tried to cover for her mental lapses and bizarre behavior.

My wife struggled to make heads or tails of the retired bookkeeper's now-chaotic finances, as Mom fought her every step of the way.

We did the whole take-away-the-car-keys thing.

We watched as her personality changed, as she began to slip into a second adolescence, as she began to mindlessly shoplift from the corner convenience store. As her id began to overtake her superego. Then it was time for assisted living.

It was time for spending down the last of her meager assets on her assisted-living bills. For my wife, her eldest surviving daughter -- the only child still in Omaha -- to get conservatorship, to deal with nursing-home and Medicaid caseworkers.

For trying to find humor in the increasingly bizarre behavior, because if you didn't laugh, you wouldn't stop crying.

For feeling guilty because you felt angry, because you didn't know who the hell this person in front of you was. She sure as hell wasn't Mom.

AND FINALLY, it was time to be so overwhelmed as to feel nothing, because you were just another stranger Mom knew not. Another stranger she barely would acknowledge or look at with eyes that revealed. . . .


Absolutely nothing. Nobody was home, and the lights were fading fast.

It was an ongoing wake, only without the socializing in the funeral-home coffee shop.

Her life ended in a darkened room in the locked "memory wing" of Douglas County Hospital -- the only option left when the assisted-living folks, unable to deal with Mom's increasing aggression, piled her into a taxicab on a snowy day and sent her there.

Without that bit of heaven-sent socialism, God only knows what would have happened to her. The staffers at that charity hospital are saints. They do -- and do cheerfully -- what you and I can't . . . or won't.

WE WATCHED Mom die -- my wife, my brother- and sister-in-law and me -- during the wee hours of a wintery mid-March morning in 2006. She turned gray, with her skin mottled, from the feet up. Her breaths grew shallower and farther between. And then they stopped.

Mom didn't have Alzheimer's anymore. And we could start to remember what she was like . . . before.

And we also could begin to be gripped with fear every time we have a "senior moment." Is this it? Am I next? Is my wife -- Mom's daughter? Oh dear God, how could I bear it?

One way or another, Jan Chorlton and Barry Petersen are living our worst nightmare.

Well, not exactly.

No, my worst nightmare is that I would succumb to what tormented Petersen, then put what I longed for before what my dear wife deserved. What she deserves is for me to fulfill the vows I made to her and to God almost 27 years ago.

What she deserves is for me never to abandon her -- nor for me to offend her dignity by screwing another woman with impunity, with her powerless to object, then making like we're some sort of bittersweet, loving ménage à trois (albeit one where only two of us would be having any fun). Damn it, love is not just an emotion -- it is an occasion of grace and (sometimes) an agonizing, brute act of one's fallen will.

But this story . . . it's all so tender, no? No doubt.

Tenderness that justifies betrayal. Tenderness that makes adultery seem so . . . reasonable . . . civilized . . . compassionate . . . open-minded.

Petersen's is a tenderness that I can get my head -- and my heart -- around. You want to cut the lonely, hurting guy a break. And that scares the hell out of me.

Because it all offends the human dignity of the helpless person we've all just dehumanized here -- Jan Chorlton . . . Petersen. Who is still Barry Petersen's wife. And who we
-- tenderly, of course -- regard as figuratively dead, if not technically so.

I mean, it's obvious, isn't it?

AND THAT right there is the g*ddamned lie. And the God-damned one, too.

Because if you can buy that bit of utter dehumanization and objectification in the name of compassion and tenderness, it ain't that far a trip to the gas chamber.

HAT TIP: Rod Dreher.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's not supposed to be this way

In all of my wife's and my years of helping out with youth group at our Catholic parish here in Omaha, there was one band of brothers who were absolute stalwarts in "Connections."

That would be Justin, Chris and Joel. Teen-agers aren't supposed to be that dependable . . . or universally good-natured . . . or selfless . . . or faith-filled, for that matter. It gets your attention when you run across the likes of Justin, Chris and Joel.

Mrs. Favog and I had the pleasure of watching this trio of eventual Eagle Scouts come into the high-school group as 14-year-old kids -- first Justin, then Chris a couple of years later, then Joel a couple of years after that. More than anything, you remember two things. First, that they were always there, and you could always count on them. Each of the three even worked in the church office.

Second, you remember knowing from the first time you saw them that they were going to grow up to be good men. God knows that's not nothing, not today. It's a lot.

OVER THE YEARS, amid the teen-age hustling mob, we watched Justin fall in love with Annie, then stand beside her right after graduation as she fought cancer. We always knew they'd get married, and they did -- we rushed to make it to a hurried ceremony at church, hours before Justin shipped off to Iraq.

He came back in one piece, finished his hitch, and then we watched as yesterday's high-school kids became parents of a dear little girl.

Likewise, we watched Chris grow into a fine young man and fall in love with Abby. I think "Connections," in some mystical Catholic way, must be some kind of institutional Yenta.

And this summer, after Chris' graduation from college, we all gathered for Chris and Abby's wedding. Of course, Joel -- the youngest sibling, now a newly minted paramedic -- was the life of the party.

A couple of us old farts reminded Joel that we
would blackmail him, just as soon as his future children were old enough to hear stories about their old man.

And after the honeymoon, Chris was off to optometry school in Philadelphia, where his bride would join him this winter after her graduation.

NOW CHRIS lies in grave condition in a Philly hospital, having fallen victim to something they call Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome. Today, the updates have gone from
so-so to catastrophic.

It's not supposed to be this way: Chris and Abby have their whole lives together before them.
Bright futures, successful careers, perfect children.

Grave illness is for middle-aged fat men like me. It's for those of us who have the luxury of thanking God for the grace of a life well lived, or mourning over roads not taken and opportunities squandered.

It's not fair that hopes and dreams, future years of marital love and generations to come should teeter upon some existential precipice, shakily tethered to this world by IV drips and a ventilator. There's something horribly and frighteningly wrong with this picture.

It's one of those mysteries we Catholics keep talking about. I've faced them before, real close to home. Now we face another.

And I hate it.

Please, if you have a moment, say a prayer for Chris and Abby. They need them so much, and life is so unfair.