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March 03, 2008


And look at all of us that he's reached through you, too. He's shed his light widely and indelibly, whatever he thinks now.

This conversation in your head is pretty powerful. Even if you never do say it to him, it's here as a great recognition of what he means to you and everyone who knows hime. What an honour you have bestowed on your father-in-law; he is blessed.

Beth, I have tears just rolling down my face. You obviously love and respect him so much. How hard it must be to watch him struggle with the way he spent his life. I hope you get the chance to have that conversation in your head. It sounds like he needs to hear it.

I wonder what he'd think if he knew how much he is still teaching others through your blog?

Wow, Beth. Yes. Oh yes.

I don't want to be banal but what he's saying sounds like depressed ideation. I find his argument extremely familiar. So he might not be able to hear your affirmation when you make it. However that doesn't mean it shouldn't be said - for both of you.

I think you're right, rr. Being so old and frail, options constantly narrowing, must often be depressing. I guess it's important to accept that the end of life is hard and can be depressing. As I said there, Beth, what moved me most about an earlier section of this account is that you didn't rush in and try to offer facile comfort, to him or to yourself.

These posts show me what a good writer you are. I look forward to them.

Your last 3 posts have made me think a lot: about my own father, who had that "why bother" attitude but without the light you describe, and about how I would react myself if I were in J's dad's situation (I recognize the grumpiness...)

You wrote: "At that particular moment he’d wanted a witness, or a confessor, and perhaps another opinion, perhaps not -- his ultimate judgment wasn’t going to depend on what I said."

His rational judgment no, probably not.

But he knows you, he knows how you feel about these kinds of issues, and if he's presenting them to you, it could be just so that he could hear your arguments again, for the reassurance they provide (even though his nature brings him to resist it), and for the love and care he must be feeling coming from you, after you bother arguing with him one more time.

Overly rational people often think that the power is in the details of the argument. But it's often when they are busy dealing with words and ideas that the power of the emotion behind the words hits them. I should know. ;-)

I'm with Jean. After a weekend of pain and indignity, with the possibility of dying a reality rather than an abstract forecast, a man might be forgiven for saying bitter things.

I think that at one point or another, all my late kin said things about themselves or others that upset their families. It took me a while to decide that they reflected a truth, but not a whole truth, about their thinking.

I never knew the right thing to say when someone went off like that; I'm not good at extemporaneous eloquence. But hours later, I'd think just as you are thinking -- "look at all you've given us, look at what you've accomplished. Be proud, and know that we love you."

Your father-in-law is an extraordinary man, but he's lucky to have extraordinary descendants. (You know, you're becoming his Plato ...)

It's natural for intellectuals to react against intellectualism, especially here in the U.S. From the Quakers to the Zennists, it seems we've always had these super-cerebral types who wrestled with the seductive power of words and learning. Just a few minutes before I read this post of yours last night, I read the latest from Real Live Preacher, seemingly written with the Hillary Clinton's diatribes in mind: Because There is Doing and There is Talking.

Thanks a lot, Marja-Leena, Leslee. Thanks, Jean. Yes - I'm glad I didn't say all that to him, actually, but also glad I thought it out clearly.

RR: I think you're probably right. And it's unlikely that I'll pursue it unless he brings it up again and seems to be asking for input, which he was the other night, I just wasn't really ready to give it in a very helpful way, and he was too depressed to hear it. I recounted the dialogue in my head because I thought it added something to the story -- about my own needs and thought patterns, mostly. It's all rather sad, but funny too, everyone being so much themselves.

Dave: What a terrific piece from RLP - true and close to the bone for many of us. Thanks.

Thanks, Kaycie. He was still raging tonight on the phone, but admitted it was just because he's very frustrated and angry. I'm glad he's not rolling over and passively accepting his fate; it gives me hope that I can be feisty when facing adversity too.

Zuleme, that's awfully nice of you to say. Thanks.

Hi Martine - thanks so much for writing that comment. It touched me. And I think you're right about him, and in that insight about words and emotion. I suppose these experiences are there to teach us, as painful as they can be. He's pretty funny though, even if it's black humor.

Peter, thanks. If I hear him say he owes a cock to Aesclepius, I'll start really worrying.

I believe that his out loud ruminations parallel the inner dialogue which many of us have as we grow old and face death, whether we are seriously sick or not. What if old people in small groups, with family or friends were allowed to share what is really rattling around inside without fear of being patronized or labeled or pushing others away?

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.