Category Archives: Obituary

DIARY: Day 18,006

My aunt JoAnn died yesterday. She was 90.

I don’t feel much. I should. I might later, but I don’t feel much now. When my uncle Bill died a few months ago I didn’t feel anything – I never liked Bill, honestly – but then 4 or 5 days later, the horror of our last conversation hit me full in the heart, and I was haunted for a day or two by imaginings of the terror he must have been facing. And whereas I used to tell funny, insulting stories about Bill’s bizarre life, now I find I can’t really talk about him at all without feeling guilty about besmirching his memory.

Not that there’s much of a memory. He died friendless and alone.

JoAnn died alone, but not friendless. She still died badly, though.

JoAnn had the constitution of a rhinoceros. She got cervical cancer in 1957, which was a death sentence. She survived it. She’s since had kidney and bladder cancer, both of which she survived. There was another one in there in the ’60s, I think. She also had several strokes. Her resilience was nothing short of astounding. You could hit her with a truck, and she’d shake it off and go home and have a wine cooler or something, then watch the news and be fine the next day.

Ultimately this worked against her. Her one remaining kidney needed a stint in order to function, so stuff could get to her bladder. It caused her constant pain, sometimes bad. She had to have it surgically changed every 3 months for several years.

She got an infection, and had to go into the hospital, where she got very sick, and became too weak to walk. We didn’t expect she’d survive, but she recovered and went into a rehab facility so she could go home. While she was there she lost her home, effectively. She got sick again, and went back into the hospital. She recovered, and they put her in an ALF. She got sick, and they put her in the hospital, then back to another ALF. This was her life: getting a disease that should have killed her, her remarkable constitution saving her life, only to be tortured by yet another diseases, survive, disease, survive. The poor thing went through this for more than a year, and she was just tortured. Tortured by her own body which refused to give up.

Finally it did. Yesterday I was talking to her Physician’s Assistant and her POA and her ex-daughter-in-law and the nice lady who’s been taking care of her for no money or recognition, just because she’s a nice Christian lady. I was trying to get some stuff resolved. Then the call came in that she’d died.

I felt nothing, except maybe relief. I’d prayed for her to die on a couple of occasions. She was saved, so she and I believe that the afterlife is better than this life, and she was in so much pain for such a long time, and she lost everything at the end: Her home, her money. She couldn’t even float the costs of the ACLF. They kept her on as a charity case. She was a pauper.

JoAnn had a pretty horrible life. Working class family with seven kids. Her mom had a nervous breakdown when she was eight, and abandoned the family. Half a century later, JoAnn would get stuck with the job of caring for her mother. They went homeless in the Great Depression, and her and her sister moved in with relatives while the boys lived in a coal cellar.

Eventually she married Bill, though all the family told her not to. Their life was not happy. They had a son. he died about 7 years ago. They had a nice house, but lost it, and moved into a condo 30 years ago. They lost the condo as I already said. She worked hard for most of her life, until she was too old to work, and ended up with nothing to show for it: Broke and in a room all by herself in pain.

I don’t believe there’s any real reason people suffer or succeed in this life. Jesus says I’m right in the Bible. If there were any such thing as divine retribution or some hokey concept of “Karma,” then that would mean everyone who has bad stuff happen to them deserves it. Trump is rich because he deserves it? All those kids who die of cancer deserve it? How horrible would that kind of universe be? My aunt JoAnn certainly didn’t deserve it. She was a kind, and often oblivious soul who never hurt anyone. this is why I take great comfort in the inherent unfairness of the universe.

It is a disturbing thing to pray for someone to die. You do it for the most noble of reasons, but it takes a piece of your soul, I think. It goes against every instinct.

So that’s it. I don’t have a moral, or a conclusion, just that my Aunt is dead, and I’m glad for her sake, and not nearly as messed up by it as I should be.

 

RIP David Bowie 1947-2016

Just two days ago, in a list of “Things I like,” in an attempt to be less negative. One of the things I said was that though I’d never really liked all that much of David Bowie’s music, I very much liked knowing that a weirdo like him was still running around doing stuff, and apparently not retired.

And now he’s dead.

Where to start? What to say? So many anecdotes. He was my best friend’s favorite musician for like 30 years. There was the time when a clearly-irritated Miami music critic referred to him as “A Repulsive Future-World Space Queen,” in a review for one of his concerts. (Which, to be fair, is kinda what Bowie was going for, excepting perhaps the “Repulsive” part. I think he thought he was quite fetching.) As a result, I always wanted to name a band “The Repulsive Future-World Space Queens,” though I never quite had the nerve to do it. Sends wrong message. Still a funny name. Maybe I’ll do it now.

And of course my mind drifts to cheap comedy. His real name was “David Jones.” He changed it so as not to be confused with Davey Jones of the Monkees. No, really. (“I want my new name to start with a “B” like the Beatles, and I want it to be some kind of blade, like a “Jagger” is.” Could have been worse. He could have gone through life as “David Butterknife,” I guess.

I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ve been told that some early singles were released under his real name. I have a mental image of some happy 15 year old girl going to pick up the new solo album by that guy from the Monkees, and getting Bowie by mistake.
“Oh my Gosh! Davey’s gone crazy! I knew this would happen if he didn’t have Mike there to look after him!” Then she checks the liner notes “Oh, well, here’s the problem – he’s writing his own songs, rather than relying on Neil Diamond like normal!”

I told my kid. He said, “How will we survive without such characters as Ziggie Stardust, and Cobbler Bob, and various others who’s name I don’t know?”

I am genuinely sad. My biggest regret is that he never did more acting. I always appreciated – but frequently didn’t like – his music, but I was always fascinated by his acting. His paintings were pretty good, too, and he was unbelievably funny, and unexpectedly smart.

He had a good run, though he didn’t really do much of note after 1990. He seemed to realize this, too, and took like a ten year retirement, rather than release another mediocre album. Recently he put out two new ones, plus an album’s worth of outtakes and B-sides.

A few years ago, I read an interview where he was talking about his weird life, and how it was very laid back and domestic, now, and that he was happily married and raising his kid, and generally just very happy. “My whole life I’ve tried to figure out what I am and who I’m supposed to be, and it turns out that I was supposed to be my dad all along.” [Paraphrased due to my bad memory.”

The very last interview I read with him, the subject of religion came up. He said that every rational thought in his head told him there was no God, and he knew without question that there wasn’t, but that some part of him still suspected that there was. He described himself as a “Hopeful atheist.”

“Well, hopefully in whatever afterlife he ended up in, he’s still running around being a weirdo,” my son said.
“And maybe he’ll finally find out what ‘Station to Station’ was all about,” I said
“Or if he got the bad afterlife, he’s probably annoying the crap out of the devil right now. ‘Stop singing! I have no idea what you’re talking about!'” My son said. We laughed.

So here, at the end, it seems appropriate to me to focus on the beginning. Check out the song below. I’m a man, so obviously it never makes me cry, but I’ll admit it does put a lump in my throat and make my eyes sting a little bit whenever I hear it.

My prayers go out for his soul, and for his family.

A Very Overdue Obituary For Douglas Adams

[Originally published May of 2001 on the original “Mahatma Randy” website]

Just an FYI, since this didn’t receive much notice in the news, but Douglas Adams died Friday, May 11th.  He was killed by a sudden, unexpected heart attack. He was 49 years old, and apparently had no previous history of heart problems insofar as I’ve been able to find out.

For those of you not in the know, Mr. Adams wrote the five books (And one short story) of the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ series, two of which were brilliant, two of which were merely ok, and one of which seems to have been written on a dare to see how awful he could write a book. He also wrote two books in the uniformly dreadful “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective  Agency” series, which seem to have been written along the lines of that same dare.

A devoted environmentalist, Mr. Adams wrote several books and articles in defense of endangered species, most notably, “Last Chance To See”, a book about extinction, which I have not read. [Note from 2015: I have since read the book, and it’s honestly pretty great.] He was also story editor and head writer for the long-running English SF series, Doctor Who in the late 1970s. [Note from 2015: I have no idea how to remove the picture frame from this article. Nor what the picture was. Nor how to add a new picture. Sorry.] The 3rd ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ book had it’s genesis in a Dr. Who script that Adams wrote during his tenure on that show, but was the BBC refused to buy. He also wrote the Radio Play versions of the first two ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ books, which are actually funnier than the books, and was intimately connected with the writing and producing of the ‘Hitchikers Guide’ TV series which was considerably less funny than the books.

It is somewhat less well known that Mr. Adams was an award-winning computer game designer, who wrote three award-winning games for Infocom in the mid-to-late eighties. His divergence into writing Computer Games more-or-less parallels the decline in the quality of his novels (During this period he wrote the 4th ‘Guide’ book, and both the Dirk Gently ones), one can make of that what they will.

According to interviews and the forward to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy’, Adams got the idea for the entire saga when he was eighteen (Sometime around 1970). He had stolen a friend’s copy of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe’ and was bumming around the continent. One night he was very drunk, and had run out of money, and was sleeping in a field. He later said that as he looked up at the stars, he thought to himself, ‘If there was a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, I’d be off in a shot, just like that. The destruction of the Earth in the first chapter of the first book initially began as an unrelated short story which, as he later put it, ‘was a way of working through my antipathy towards humanity.’

The 5th – and now final – ‘Guide’ book apparently ended the series with the death of all the major characters in the series. It was, however, rumored that Adams had planned a 6th book in the series, to be titled “Death, The Universe, and Everything” which would have chronicled the adventures of Arthur Dent, Trillian, and Ford Prefect in the afterlife. [Note from 2015: I have no idea where I got this from, I have never heard it since, and it’s entirely possible I made it up]

I’ve not been able to confirm any of these rumors, nor to find out if he was working on anything in particular at the time of his death.  [Note from 2015: Not a hell of a lot. That damn useless “Hitchikers” movie script (Ultimately finished up by the guy who wrote “Chicken Run”), and pissing around with a Dirk Gently book. Honestly, they guy really had no more interest in writing.]

Just thought y’all should know.