Black and White 2006

Why I haven't been writing much...

Since my father died, I haven't been writing. It's just been a hard few months. I don't like writing about being depressed and irritated any more than I have to. Right now I just need to purge. Having my father's wake on my birthday was difficult, but I fought through and still pretended it was my birthday that Saturday.

Right after that I went to Las Vegas for my marathon. My start was messed up because they started the clock at the wrong time and got the corrals messed up. 14 miles in the Las Vegas police stopped me and turned me around (making it mile 19, because it was a giant loop at that point), so I didn't get my marathon, but instead got to experience a really expensive fun run.

Then Thanksgiving was alright, but my youngest sister complained that we didn't do anything to remember my dad there. Of course his death was an elephant in every room, but that wasn't good enough for her. So we got to hear about that. A lot.

After that, I had signed up for the Dallas Marathon. It got iced out. So I still didn't get to run the race that I've been training for for almost 2 years. The same storm that iced out the race also took down my power for 2 days. So that was miserable.

And when the power came back up, the heating unit quit working downstairs. So it gets colder than it used to now inside. If I don't fix it soon, it will get too hot inside this summer. Yay.

Christmas was as good as it could be, but I really have no interest anymore in stuff and that didn't go over well with my family, who really wanted me to be given presents. I do appreciate the thought, and I'm reading the book I was given with interest, but I felt so tired by that whole season.

Then 2 days after Christmas, my favorite grandmother died. My mom lost her husband and mother in the space of 2 months. I feel so awful for her...

I spent New Years Eve on stage, essentially working. All through the holidays, I was working long days to make a payroll system work for my main client.

Amid all of this, the city of Dallas has had my street all torn up for a year fixing the water main. It's still not done, and they store their equipment right across the street from me. So it makes entertaining people difficult, often means that I am stuck in my driveway when I leave in the morning until they get done with taking their own sweet time, and has caused tire damage on my car.

I got a new set of tires last October. I already need to replace 2 of them. Thanks City of Dallas. I wasn't strapped enough.

I can't even tie my shoes without stress right now. I was getting ready for work last week and had a shoelace break. I, seriously, can't even tie my shoes without having a new problem to deal with.

So I am sorry. I do understand that many of you have other things you want me to do, or other demands on my time and money that you are sure are important. I'm sure I will agree at some point in the future. Right now, I'm stressed and stretched a little thin.

Things should get better at some point. The last 4 months is really a continuation of the last 4 years, but surely there has to be a reprieve in sight, right?
  • Current Music
    Symphony No. 46 in B Major, II - Joseph Haydn
Cartoon Pat

Rest In Peace

My mom asked me to write this. I've been telling the story for a few days, but it's still a bit raw... still I think that's the right time to write.

This was the last time that I saw my father's eyes.

Mom wanted us to make sure that he would never be left alone after his stroke. It was a massive stroke and we learned on Tuesday that he would never again be able to speak, read, write, or understand language. However, he would still recognize faces (even though he wouldn't know who you were, he would feel the emotions he associated with that person) and music that he loved. So on Wednesday I bought a CD player and a 3 cd collection of the "Old 100" most well known traditional hymns. I had been looking for a collection of classical music, as he loved classical piano, but the Walmart outside of Little Rock that was the only place I could get to on the way to the hospital didn't have anything. That ended up being a good thing.

So we were told that the brain swelling would normally take until Friday or Saturday to put the pressure on his brain stem that would eventually kill him. There were all kinds of things wrong with him, but that was the one that would get to him first. He was still on a machine to help his breathing and he still had food and fluids going to his body through a stint. Mom was the person who would have to decide when the machines would be turned off and when we would go to "full palliative care" instead of having anything left keeping him alive artificially. She needed to sleep. She needed a shower. She really needed to go to the apartment we had rented. I told her that I would stay with him that night so she could have a clear head in the morning.

So she agreed to let me stay with him, and at first it was easy. I had a chair that would lay almost flat and I could sleep near him. When the nurses came in, if they didn't have to do much, I would sleep through it, as would he. At 3:30 that morning though, he needed a sponge bath so they were there to do that. When they started to turn him and clean him, he woke up. His right arm was useless but his left was not, and I woke up when I heard one of the nurses say to the other one "Can you hold his hand down? He's localizing."

I said "Can I do that? I think I can help calm him down." They let me, and I started talking with him and telling him "Dad, it's ok. I'm here. It's Patrick. I'm here with you. We haven't left you alone. We won't leave you alone. And then I started playing the old hymns on the CD. It started with Amazing Grace, then The Old Rugged Cross, then A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. When he heard those hymns or my voice, he would relax. Also, at first when I was talking with him, he would look at me. For about 15 minutes he looked at me. Then he started looking up at the ceiling. His eyes defocused and he was looking up. He would still try and move his hand to the breathing tube or the stint when I wasn't talking with him, but when I was he quit fighting and just would look up. His arm was still strong. I remember being amazed. This battered body, yellow from jaundice, bloated from kidney problems, still bleeding internally from the infections that wouldn't heal, still had strength.

I started to cry and tell him that he didn't have to fight. We were taking care of him. He didn't have to fight anymore. Everyone would be there with him soon. Finally after about an hour, he closed his eyes. The CD stopped playing, so I started it over. The old hymns played on. Amazing Grace. The Old Rugged Cross. A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Precious Lord, Take My Hand.

I never saw him open his eyes again. After my family arrived, I left for a few hours, assuming that he would be with us for another couple of days. I was told that he opened his eyes again for my mom or my younger sister, but he didn't look at them. Once he shut his eyes for me, I thought about how I had been given a blessing. When I was a baby, I had no words, but I knew his face and voice. I didn't know who he was, but I knew I was loved. I got to have one night where I could repay that care that he gave me when I was too young to have language. It was the hardest hour of my life, but it was the most meaningful hour of my life so far.

I cannot speak how grateful I was that I got to be there for him one time. Words cannot express, but this is as close as I know how to put them together to say how that terrible, wonderful, beautiful hour went. I love you dad. May you rest in peace.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful
Cartoon Pat

Post Mortem

My father passed away at 8:35 last Thursday night. I'm still getting used to saying that but it's already getting easier. I've had to say it a lot in the last few days.

When you finish a project in my industry, you have a delivery party and then a post mortem. That's a morbid term for a project but it's appropriate for this. My father's work is done. He left 4 children and a wonderful wife. At the end of a project, you like to look back on it and see what went right, what went wrong, and what you can learn from each of those things. I'm processing my father's life. I want to figure out what he is now that he's in the past tense. After all, no life should end at the ending. Everyone touches someone, for good or for ill. Here is the post mortem, per me, on my father.

If you had one thing to say about him, you would say he was really brilliant. He was a polymath; a Renaissance man. He had a degree in aerospace engineering, a masters in Theology that led to his career as a Methodist minister. He had another degree of some kind in personal finance and a CFP which led to his second career as a financial planner. He had hobbies like rebuilding cars from a barely functional body. He could fix anything electronic or with any sort of engine. I saw him build tree houses and outdoor furniture, and refinish things for the inside. He taught me how to cook everything I make for breakfast and most of what I know how to grill. People tell me that it seems like I know something about everything, and that they eventually start to be surprised when they find things I haven't done. If they feel that way, they should have met my father. He knew something about seemingly everything, and when he found a hole in his knowledge he would find out everything he could about that. He owned thousands of books and read them endlessly.

He taught me something he never said. He would find difficult things to do and then would do them so that when he needed the ability, he wasn't stuck figuring things out then. Much of what I have done as an adult that impressed him are the things that he wanted to do but hadn't followed through to his own satisfaction. He loved my musical versatility and apparently told everyone about my bands and my songwriting. He told me many times that he wished he had decided to run a marathon, and could not wait to see me run mine. He was impressed with my trivia and wanted me to eventually go abroad with the Diplomatic Corps or the Peace Corps. One of those things may eventually happen because I have learned the lessons he taught. I too do difficult things because I can and because they are hard. If they're easy things, other people can handle it. I expect more out of me, just like he did.

He loved learning, and taught me how to do research and how to learn. He never learned to listen as well as he might, but he always was willing to admit he was wrong when he found out he was. He also never held a grudge. If he had an argument with someone, he would make amends as quickly as possible and taught us all never to stay angry with someone if they honestly wanted to make amends. He also taught us how to be friends with people we didn't agree with. I'm not sure if I heard him say this or not, but I'm sure I've said it after I learned it from him. When someone was doing something he knew was wrong, he would tell them (roughly) "Well, that's your decision. I guess you don't have to be right."

The frustrating thing was that he was right a lot more than he was wrong. He would admit his mistakes, but he just didn't make that many of them. He wasn't always good at reading people, but he was good at explaining and he truly cared about people. He wanted to help everyone. It was who he was. So even when he was telling people things that they didn't want to hear, and was doing it in an overly-blunt way, you still knew he cared about them. If his criticism was focused on you, it wasn't comfortable, but you knew it was well intended.

He was an excellent cook. He was a brilliant man. He was the best father I have ever seen. There are other people who are as lucky as I was, but none luckier or more blessed.
  • Current Mood
    sad sad
Cartoon Pat

Just some stuff

It's been just over a month since I wrote here last. What a month. I finally have heard the new band (the one that doesn't have a name) with all of us playing together. It sounds pretty good. I'm so glad because everything else is haywire.

About a month ago my grandfather was told they couldn't do anything more for him and put him into Hospice care. He's been given about 6 months. That's sad, but he's in his 90s. I've been incredibly lucky and blessed so far. I still have all of my grandparents, but they can't live forever. That's sad, but it's kind of alright. I just want him to be comfortable.

My dad is a different story. His cancer is back in a big way. Apparently they can't treat it the same way they did before. It's more virulent this time. Harsher disease, and harsher treatment as well. He started treatment today, and he's been sick for a week, unable to keep food down. He's been fighting his disease for more than 10 years now. I found out about it in April of 2003. I don't remember what day, but I know where I was.

Also either yesterday or today marks my 10 year anniversary of the last breakup I had. I think it was yesterday. Dad's birthday. (Which, by the way, happy birthday - here's a load of chemo...) For all of everyone who thought I'd have found someone new and incredible in no time, 10 years doesn't count as no time at all.

I've been in training at work, and that's incredibly frustrating. It's not been a good training. It's been kind of awful actually. They're not teaching much but are giving time consuming, boring homework. It's 4 full days in and I've spent less than 2 hours learning.

I could really use a back rub right now. I'm frustrated and dealing with a lot of stress. I hope it will get better. Things tend to get better. It's less than a month to my birthday, and exactly 1 month until the marathon.

Speaking of the marathon, I need to go run. So I'll cut this little pity party short.
Cartoon Pat

1 minute, 52 seconds of fun

I've been training for a marathon now for just over a year. In that time, I've run 3 half marathons officially and now am reaching the point in my training where I am running more than 13 miles every weekend. Well, at least hypothetically. I've also had knee problems that have limited the long runs, so the last 3 weeks were all around 11 miles instead of 13+, but this coming Saturday I am scheduled to run 14.

I finally had a good run yesterday. It lasted just under 2 minutes.

The DRC is really serious about their "slow training" program, and I believe that they have research to back up that it causes fewer injuries in general and is probably a great plan for people who already like running and are wanting to be real serious runners. The guys who have a different color shoes every 6 weeks because they've already worn out their old ones. The guys who think Boston is an attainable marathon.

I'm running 3 times a week right now. I was doing 5 times a week until my body broke down last March and my doctor told me not to run the recovery runs because they were causing repetitive stress injuries. Since I quit running them, I have felt better, but still not great. Every run has been something I do because I want to say I ran a marathon.

I'm ridiculously tired of the emails on Saturday afternoon that we get saying "Great job guys! You finished another awesome run. We were going at just over 13 minutes a mile and Vishal says it was the most difficult 14 mile track he's ever come up with. It was only 90 degrees when we finished, so you should be impressed that you were able to get over those hills at the end."

One question is why anyone is allowing Vishal to create the routes if he keeps on making them harder and it's still 90 or 95 degrees and 70-100% humidity every week.

Another question is why does Vishal think that making sure that everyone is doing things his way is a way to get people to want to keep running.

Yesterday we did speed work. They wanted us to go at 11:30 miles on a track. That translated to 2:35 per lap, roughly. The whole time the pace leader was yelling "Do not pass me! Stay behind me!" We did that for an hour. Then finally after an hour he said "Stay with me!" and took off.

We did a 400 meter dash. I finished in 1 minute and 52 seconds. That's not a good time, mind you, but it was comfortable. Also, it was fun. It was the first time in 13 months when I had fun running. I've had fun telling people that I've run the miserable races I've run, but I've had no fun running them. I've enjoyed telling people that I'm going to run in Vegas and have had a lot of fun envisioning myself cross that finish line.

But if I don't have a lot more than 1 minute and 52 seconds of fun in more than a year, either the DRC needs to reevaluate how important it is for everyone to follow their rules, or I need to reevaluate my hobbies. I do know that if I don't enjoy a lot of the long runs a lot more than I have, I will never run again after November 17.

I'm not sure who I'm writing this to. I just had to get it out.
Cartoon Pat

What a Ride

I've got a lot to write up at some point soon, but at the moment, I'm training for my new job and took a cab to go to Flip Burger for lunch today. I don't want to forget my cab rides in Atlanta so I can remember if I have other projects with crazy cab drivers. In the US, they're probably all better than they are here...

The way down there I had a lady cab driver from Ghana, and my gosh she was a mess. She was coming to pick me up but her GPS wasn't working right. So she got me and then asked if my phone had a GPS because she didn't know how to get where we were going. (For the record, I gave her the address, and it was a major exit off of 2 different highways.) I was irritated, but used my phone rather than depend on her knowledge, and then I asked how long she had been here. She said she left Ghana 30 years ago and moved to Atlanta 24 years ago. She still couldn't navigate her cab to major intersections without a GPS, and she didn't have one that worked.

Also, to complete the weirdness, she didn't have a working meter. She did a hand computation. She had reading material, but it consisted completely of Jet Magazine and Diabetes Monthly Magazine. And when she gave me the price of the fare, she didn't have a working credit card reader. She just used an old-school paper reader and said she would call me if it didn't process right.

She gave me her number so I could go back with her after I was done too. Heh.

Flip Burger Boutique is awesome. It deserves its own write up. I'll do that later.

The trip back, my driver was from the Dominican Republic. I gave him my hotel location and we started moving. He asked me if I could smell the air... it wasn't Georgia air. It was "island air. Baby making air." He wanted to go "find some asses to smack" and then get in a little trouble.

I had to find it funny. That was basically our discussion on the ride back. How this air was like home for him, and how it made him feel frisky. And how he was going to need to find some girls.

At least he could use a credit card.
  • Current Music
    Moanin' - Mingus Big Band
Cartoon Pat

Something really awesome

I have to thank my friend Sherri for calling me out of the blue on Monday. I wasn't feeling all that great, but I am SO glad I went.

It's called Open Stage and it's hard to describe accurately. It's a vaudeville, open-mic, interactive experimental dance event with some extra stuff thrown in.

OK, let me try and make some sense of it for you. The first hour is instrumental music by the house band. Then you follow that with an hour of modern vaudeville acts the group liked and invited to the stage. Last Monday that consisted of some comedy, a (really, really good) juggler, 2 singer-songwriters, 1 burlesque style stripper, 1 modern dancer who did something with "fire rings", and a trombone player.

I didn't get on stage, so no none of them were me.

There was a lot of talent on that stage.

The next hour is a "free movement" time when people do yoga or gymnastics or play with hula hoops or other movement implements for a while, and when you can talk with the performers from earlier in the evening. Also, during the evening, they let people sign up for the final 2 hours.

The last 2 hours are open-mic, anything goes. So if you have something you've always wanted to do, but don't know if there's an audience for it, here is a chance to try it out.

They have 10 rules which I can barely remember. I can remember they distill to basically this though:
Be engaged and supportive. Don't be playing with your cell phone or whatever, and don't be disparaging the performances. Be positive and accepting. Nobody is allowed to boo. Also, it's BYOB, but nobody is allowed to smoke inside and illegal substances are not tolerated in any capacity.

Be sure to let them know when you're coming in that it's your first time. They happily show you the ropes and there's a short, very funny and interactive, orientation for all of the first-timers.

I was there for their last night at their old space in Richardson, that they just outgrew. So I just barely saw the "birthplace", but they are moving to a larger venue in Plano to accommodate the growth of the crowd. Believe me, that's a good thing. The more people there, the more variety and more talent to share.

It's on Monday nights and costs $10. If you bring your own beer or wine, it makes for a cheap and entertaining night out. It's a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. If you want to go, let me know.
  • Current Music
    One More Summer - No Doubt
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Cartoon Pat

German Joke

An old German man has had a wonderful life, but is at the end of it. He calls for his family to come see him one last time as he lays on his death bed. After everyone is there, he knows the end is near. His daughters and granddaughters are helping his wife with the food preparation for the wake that everyone knows is coming, but his only son sits by his side.

As the end is near, he looks at his son and says "My son, I smell your mama making strudel. If I could only have one last piece of your mother's strudel, I could die a happy man."

His son says "Papa, I will go get you a piece of strudel", but he comes back and says "Papa, Mama would not give me any strudel."

The old man looks at him with watery eyes and says "But my son, it is such a simple request. If only I could have but one piece of your mama's strudel, it would take me back to so many happy memories. Please bring me one last piece of your mama's strudel."

So again his son leaves, only to come back empty handed 15 minutes later. "I'm sorry Papa, but Mama will not give me any strudel to bring to you."

The old man says "The end is so near. I will not live through the hour. Please bring me one last piece of strudel. This is the last request of a dying man, and the man who gave you life and who raised you."

His son goes downstairs one last time and comes back empty handed again. "Papa I tried. You heard me go down three times to ask Mama for just one piece of strudel for you. But you know how Mama is. She says the strudel is for after the funeral, and nobody can have any until then."
  • Current Music
    Paranoid Android - Sia
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Cartoon Pat

What I wanted to write about...

Last night was my last rehearsal with Jody Lindh. This coming Sunday will be his last as the music director at University Park UMC. We've spent the last couple of weeks celebrating his 45 year tenure at the church, climaxing with a pretty great performance of Haydn's Creation 2 weeks ago and culminating this coming Sunday with 2 of his own works during church with brass accompaniment. I've sung for his choirs for the last 13 years, and the experience has been wonderful.

Looking back, when I started with him, I didn't know how to sing. That's just a fact. I could hit the notes, but nobody really cared. I had a lot of music training, but no vocal training and no real choral music knowledge. I sounded like a nasal version of Billy Corgan. In 2003, musicalash got me to start taking voice lessons with maestrokevin and that slowly started to change.

However, without Jody, there would have been no reason for me to learn how to sing anything other than pop music, and I would not have been driven to study art songs. I wouldn't know how to write for choirs. I have a music degree with a focus on composition, but I had to go ask him things like "What are the real useable ranges for different vocal parts?" and "What are the practical limits on what you can ask a choir to do versus a soloist?" He would answer my questions graciously and I would go forth and write.

I also learned how a real choir rehearsed. Before UPUMC, I hadn't been in a legitimate choir ever. The closest I had been in was another church choir in junior high. UPUMC has members of the Dallas Symphony Chorus, professional opera singers, and a ton of people who have paid their bills as musicians, supplemented by a lot of people (like me) who have been paid for their music, just not as a necessity. It's a legitimate, very nearly professional choir. It's a testament to the quite amazing leadership.

I am sure that Dr. David Childs will do a great job. He seems to have the personality and the knowledge/talent/whatever "it" is to take this choir and continue to do great things. I am also certain that Dr. Damin Spritzer will continue with remarkable performances week after week. Today though, I am very grateful for the last 13 years and a bit sad that it's over.
  • Current Music
    Die Schöpfung: No. 10. Stimmt an die Saiten - Joseph Haydn
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