Here I am again, reading and commenting on the sixth post from Rat in the Walls, the blog I wrote during the final year of my brother’s battle with ALS. The post is titled “Empathic Alchemy,” and you can read it below the video.
Long time, no posts, because June disappeared in a fog of caregiving for my Mom and Dad. Now that it’s July, it’s time for another reading from Rat in the Walls, where I blogged about my brother’s battle with ALS during the last year of his life. The actual post (from April 1, 2007), is printed below the video.
Paranoia runs deep. But it doesn’t run well.
It gimps along, lurching from side to side, like Frankenstein’s monster. Jaundiced skin. Beautiful eyes.
The grandfather clock in my parents’ entryway hasn’t worked for over forty years, pendulum unswung, deliberately silenced long ago because it was “too noisy.” 12:04, its hands read. Time is an illusion; time stands still.
Sitting here, at the kitchen table, across from my aged father, out of sight of the silent clock, I am aware that time is all too real, passing even when unmeasured.
I sit and listen to stream-of-conciousness, demented rambling that lasts for hours and mingles past and present in a word salad that includes frequent, unhappy, and often fierce repetitions of “I don’t know,” “I know but I don’t tell them I know,” “Everyone is stupid; they don’t know,” “I’m not stupid; I know,” “What, do you think I’m stupid?” and “I don’t care.”
“Oh, but you do care,” I don’t say. Nor do I say, “And I care, too.”
The only acceptable responses are “I agree”, “OK,” or “I don’t know either.” Beware engaging with the convoluted substance of the rambling; instead, focus on the emotion and acknowledge it, and maybe there will be a little less anger and frustration at all the loss and the unknowing.
Here’s the third video in Rat in the Walls, in which I read the third post that I wrote during the last year of my brother’s life. A copy of the post appears below the recording.
I recorded the video at BayCon 2017 but have delayed releasing it. Approximately 45 minutes after I got home from the con, my sister called to tell me that Mom is back in the hospital, so my sister is now watching over our 91-year-old Mom in the hospital while I take care of our 95-year-old Dad at home. More caregiving.
At my final panel yesterday, we talked about love in dystopian society (including failed romances like the one in 1984) and the importance of relationships and community in wartime.
For myself, the discussion suddenly went meta: being at BayCon, in this IDIC atmosphere, an enclave of loving and diverse relationships that contrasts so sharply with the current state of U.S. politics–right there, in the middle of the panel, I found I had made a decision. I need to work on Red Hand.
Red Hand tells the story of an older woman with the rare ability to heal individuals dying of a galactic-wide plague that’s been decimating populations for decades, causing wars, disrupting civilizations, and encouraging isolationism. The woman and others who possess the healing ability are themselves oppressed by those who see them as a source of power and wealth, or as means to stabilize chaos, or as a threat that must be properly regulated and controlled.
At the beginning of the novel, we see the woman in crisis. She has little of herself left to give, drained by decades spent healing others while on the run from the Red Hand, an apparently benign paternalistic organization sanctioned by the remnants of the galactic government to regulate healers. She longs for a permanent home, to live in a community without fear of discovery. But she can’t have that if she continues to heal.
People will die if she stops healing.
If she doesn’t stop, she will die without having lived a life of her own.
In this moment of personal crisis, forced to flee yet another impending capture on yet another planet, she takes passage on a small spaceship captained by a man with secrets of his own on a mission that poses a direct threat to her dreams.
My brother died of ALS in February 2008, after blogging almost daily about his illness following his diagnosis in December 2003. I began blogging about caregiving in a companion blog during the final year before his death. I called my blog Rat in the Walls.
After he died, I stopped posting and let the rats fall silent.
In May 2014, I finally revisited the site for the first time since his death, and I posted this:
When I first started on Blogger, my handle was Ratty, maintaining anonymity so that in my Rat in the Walls blog I could write about my brother’s fatal illness without giving away his identity. Under that pseudonym, I could voice things I couldn’t elsewhere. Rats thrive in the dark. ::: Now, five years after his death in 2008, I’m coming out of the walls and reclaiming my humanity.
I didn’t reread any of my posts in 2014. Too soon.
Now, in May 2017, I’m ready to reread them.
So, here’s the project: as I open each post and look at it for the first time since my brother died, I’m going to make a video recording in which I read the post aloud and say something about it.
I don’t remember much about the posts, except the following:
They are short.
Some of them state a brief lesson about caregiving that I learned that day.
Some of them respond implicitly to the post that my brother made in his blog that day or a preceding day.
Here’s a link to the video I made last night while looking at the first post.
The original blog post says:
Title: Knock Knock
Scurrying, nibbling, hiding. That’s the Rat in the Walls. Knocking about at night, avoiding the light, coveting the cheese.
You only see the leavings: the dry little kernels that trace Rat’s passage through your cupboards; the holes gnawed behind your stove. The fruits of your labor, tooth-marked, scattered.