Monday, December 26, 2016

Fatalistic nature or just life?

I have not updated my blog for several weeks. “Life” gets in the way.


Sometimes, “life” is just a word. The text book definition of “life” is “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.”

I am so grateful for my life. This time of year should be a celebration of life. Yet, I am having trouble being merry because of a sense of loss I feel.

Today, I drove around Boise just to “feel.” It is a wonderful winter day, with bright sunshine. I have so much to be thankful for. I look at my son's happy face with his dog, and I am in my happy place.

5 years ago, I was wrapping Christmas presents when my first signs of the ominous and impending strokes that happened in January of 2012. It has been five years of struggle and wondrous joy.

Nevertheless, the fatalistic nature of my soul still gives me pause. I try not to dwell on the past, what I have lost, and terrors of my family’s future. There is always a sense of foreboding in the back of my mind.  I do not know why.

I should relish life because I am here. My struggles are nothing compared to what many people go through.

My friend, Stuart Davis, was in a plane crash years ago. He lives with debilitating aftereffects. He perseveres despite physical and emotional pain.  And then, he posts something about MY courage.  He is one of the bravest men I have ever known.
Matt Eames and Mark Dunham

Another friend of mine died December 23rd.  Cathie Eames, his wife, posted this on Facebook this morning:
“To all of our dear friends, it is with great sadness that I share with you the loss of the love of my live, Matthew Carter Eames,December 23rd at 12:27 PM. As most of you know, he fought a courageous battle with a very rare form of dementia over the past 8 years and he did it with the utmost strength and dignity to the very end. We ladies have stood by his side always caring, supporting and helping him in his journey and will be forever grateful and proud that we were able to sit by his side as he broke through the confines of this world and was freed from this terrible affliction. We love and will miss you Matthew/Daddy!”
Another friend’s mom died on Christmas Eve.
Yet another friend’s mother-in-law is expected to die any moment.
My last uncle is in rough shape.
Christmas Eve, 1993, my dad lapsed into a coma and died December 28th.  
Of course, people get sick and day everyday. But, this time of year seems especially cruel to celebrate when I cannot feel happy. 
Mom sleeping before she passed
I will have to move on. I know that. When my mom was dying of ovarian cancer, I was so distraught about my life, my strokes, my stepfather dying, and Mom’s imminent death, I just told Mom “I do not how I can handle this grief.”  
Mom held my hands. Her veins, knuckles, and hands ravaged with weight loss and a calm serenity about her welcome death, Mom said, “Mark! Your strokes happened for a reason. You cannot dwell on this. It is an opportunity to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
As usual, her advice helps me with what could be shattering anguish. I thought about Mom’s lesson today when I was driving around. I am sad yet still hopeful.
My friend Stuart is here. I alive. We will have lunch soon. We will discuss politics,blessings, and be grateful to share this holiday our loved ones. Rather than complaining that we cannot ski with our kids, we will revel with the reality that we can “be”with our kids.
For my friend Matt, I treasure our friendship. And, I am thankful that his death will not be the death of my memories of him. Where ever he might be, he is laughing with that smirking smile he has.   
I am hopeful that my uncle and the others I have mentioned – with their families-- will have some solace.

Today, I will start taking down our Christmas tree. After my strokes five years ago, I came home from the hospital January 27, 2012 with all the Christmas decorations and the tree still up.
Still a fatalist at heart I guess.          

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Community colleges

My Great Grandfather Martin Ludvig Robertson was born December 14, 1871 in Stensvig, Norway. He arrived from the USA in 1891. He moved to Kalispell, Montana, married, and started his family. In 1908, he built this house north of Kalispell.  My grandmother Agnes is the little blond girl on the right in the photo. Martin died January 8, 1937. My great grandparents farm is now the site of the Flathead Community College. It seems fitting -- or not! -- that his Great Grandson (ME) is the new chair of the College of Western Idaho. I often think about my ancestors who struggled for generations to build a better life for their descendants. We are all so lucky.