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Posts Tagged ‘son’

The Wages of Immortality

Posted by Dirck on 1 May, 2017

I don’t believe I’m being original when I say that we are effectively immortal in the eyes of our pets, so long as we stick to relatively pedestrian companions.  A household Galapagos tortoise or even an African Grey parrot will have a different perspective.  As immortals, we change only slowly while the pet passes from one end of life to the other.  They experience continuity, barring horrible accidents.  We experience grief.

This is Cleopatra Harris, named because we are silly about connecting ancient Egypt and cats, and because her hair was reminiscent of Ron Glass’s in Firefly but Cleopatra Book didn’t have the right flow.  This morning she ceased to be, having passed from a kittenhood of nicotine addiction (not her choice, and not ours; she joined her litter mates at our house after a brief stay with someone else who had a SERIOUSLY rough patch in their life which eventually developed to “I can’t look after this poor cat, please take her”) to a seniority of incontinence and eventual diabetes.

Actually, the incontinence was a long-term thing.  This is the cat who, if you read back through the years when interesting things happened on this blog, I frequently swore at.  Part of the expense of owning her for the past couple of years has been buying puppy training pads in job lots, because she decided litter boxes should occupy half the floor-space of the house, and we had to very nearly carpet the place and largely upholster all our furniture with disposable absorbents… which she mostly didn’t miss.  She is the cat who, if I may be frank, was making a very good case for “let’s not have any more cats in the house” in the head of a guy who has loved cats since age 5.

Over the weekend, it became clear that her life had at last become even more a burden to her than it was to me.  This estimation was made by my wife, who was not as oppressed by the cat-based squalor as I, finding in her heart an adamantine core of affection which the misbehavior could not damage or even discolour (it’s not like the cat was actively trying to kill our son, after all), and her decision was based on that affection.  We thus prepared son for the impending loss as well as we could, gave Cleo one last taste of the great outdoors during which the above picture was taken, and committed the act of medically-assisted euthanasia this morning.  She may not look ill in the picture, but she was essentially nothing but a lot of hair around a collection of extremely sore joints.

And yes, I wept throughout the time in the vet’s office.  She was a filthy destroyer of the fabric of our house, a vast and constant drain on our scant finances, and occasionally bite-y.  But she was also beautiful, extremely willing to let son practice the humane treatment of animals upon her, and (when not actively ruining a carpet) a cuddly, loving beast who sought the affection her infirmities did so much to alienate.  I will not miss the messes, but I will miss the cat, because we all contain multitudes and there was good in her even I can appreciate, and what was bad was bad without intent.

We are, once a thorough cleaning has been undertaken, likely get yet another young cat that we can outlive and mourn.  If classical mythology teaches us anything, it’s that immortals are gluttons for self-inflicted punishment.  It’s the patches of delight between the bouts of grief that keep us going.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s ink: Quink washable blue (vintage)

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Posted by Dirck on 29 July, 2016

That’s what it’s called when a dummy speaks, right?

I thought, in lieu of the usual Friday Film Feature, I’d recount a tale by way of making up some of the entertainment-of-visitors deficit I’ve run up on this blog.  A tale of a lost pen.

A humorous tale of a lost pen, I should say; let the smelling salts stand where they are.

I had intended to use today’s pen on Tuesday, but it was not where I expected to find it.  This was slightly distressing, because one of the few habits I have that is reliable is returning a pen to the in-battery facility; a small correspondence box with a drawer for a half-dozen pens in its base, which itself rests in a profoundly rustic Welsh dresser which came to me through my parents’ protracted move.  Since this pen doesn’t sit comfortably in the drawer, it gets to sit on top of the inks which take up the space one is meant to stick letters in the box.

I didn’t even have to open the glass doors on the top of the dresser to establish that the pen wasn’t where it should have been.  But of course, one does, and roots around.  Did it get in behind? No.  Down the side?  Nope.  And that was it for the easy possibilities.  We then start the unhappy game of I put it down somewhere foolish.

Our house is… cluttered.  My son builds railways on all horizontal surfaces.  We haven’t yet finished the integration of crap from the parents’ house with our pre-existing crap.  We have to use plastic containers full of Lego, roughly shoe-box size, to keep the insane diabetic cat off items of furniture we don’t want her to mistake for a litter box (if we’re not sitting on it, then it’s a litter box).  Setting down a pen without attending to where one sets it, even a relatively large pen, makes for problems.

So, when not attending The Regular Job and not otherwise engaged in cooking, washing, or cleaning up after the flippin’ cat, I was peering under things and into corners, all to no avail.  I was becoming resigned to the idea that the pen would not be found until the slow campaign of making the house a place for living in (insane diabetic cats already with 14 birthdays on the clock can’t last forever…) removed whatever it was hidden by.  This wasn’t a devastating blow by any means, as (i) I’ve got plenty of other pens to fall back on and (ii) this one cost less than burger at McKing&W.  I wasn’t happy, as I’d hardly had any use out of the thing since its recent arrival, but I could cope.

Coping only had to struggle on until this morning, as it turned out.  It turns out that it was in the pocket of a shirt worn on Sunday.  Not much worn* either, which is why it got hung up rather that chucked in the laundry… unlike the shirt from Saturday, which I had roused out of the hamper and given a pat down, because my search was wide-ranging if unscientific.  Hooray!

Some minutes of pointless self-castigation then followed.

There was something to learn from this incident.  Not that I have all too human failings in the areas of retention and looking after my stuff– that has, alas, been well-known for a long time.  It is the simple and happy discovery that the cap seap on this pen is very good indeed; almost a week standing point-up, but not a moment of hesitation when I opened it up to start writing this morning.  Not bad for a pen that costs the same as a ride on a city bus.

Today’s inexpensive, elusive pen: Jinhao 159
Today’s ink: Herbin Éclat de Saphir

*”Not much worn” meaning duration of contact with me since last washing.  It is, in all honesty, profoundly worn and is a “Weekend when I don’t expect to interact with others” item of clothing.

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How’d It Go?

Posted by Dirck on 4 July, 2016

Pretty well, for a vacation only from work.  Let’s get that checklist from the last entry:

  1. Throwing out stuff I should have thrown out when clearing out the parents’ house instead of letting Nostalgia shove me around;
  2. Throwing out stuff so my son won’t have to do item (1) in 35 years;
  3. Committing small acts of home repair as a proof of good intention to the house;
  4. Small acts of sympathetic magic in hopes of convincing wealth to shower upon my household (already begun, as you may note from the roster of “Rich Man’s Pens” that are showing up in my rotation);
  5. Getting my son as much locomotive time as possible in celebration of his birthday– there’s a steam engine and an archaic diesel within reach;
  6. Submitting more stories to more markets;
  7. Please, please, please some writing, because the boy’s at school still for almost the whole period that I’m not and I should have time even with the previous chores standing in my way.

On items (1) and (2), about a bag from each column.  This was balanced out by the importation of yet more track and rolling stock for my son’s toy train empire (his birthday, after all), which I should not complain about.  He also got books about actual locomotives, which pleased him at least as much as the toys, and that makes for a happy pappy.

(3) was… well, nothing new broke.  Status quo is a win in that department.  Item (4) has a similar result, and since I’m aware that there is indeed plenty of “how much worse can it be?” in the realm of household economy, I’ll not complain aloud.

That steam engine referred to in (5) is apparently laid up for the season, but…

OgLoco OgStation

…there was some fun had, even if things were a little overcast.

I will admit failure on point (6), mainly through distraction on the other points AND some repairs done for local clients, but as far as (7) goes I will offer the threatened large and oddly formatted progress report:

Writing Attempted Amount Written Pens Used (no particular order, and not just on the writing) Inks Used (likewise)
  • First Draft of “Swimmer’s Build”
  • First Draft of “Final Girl”
  • Second Draft of Choose Your Own Hideous Fate project
  • 12 pages and done.
  • 22 pages, also done.
  • about 3,000 words

That’s actually less time spent on writing than I hoped, but an encouraging outlook as far as being able to get anything like that done at all when I’m (sort of) in command of my own schedule.  Hooray!

Speaking of writing things– there’s some pens there without links, aren’t there?  I’d best get down to business on that….

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Summer Heat and Warm Thoughts

Posted by Dirck on 17 June, 2016

I’m about to embark on my summer vacation, which takes me away from the Regular Job entirely and the internet to as great a degree as I can manage (because it turns from a welcome distraction into a vexatious distraction).  I’ll be using the time in the following ways:

  1. Throwing out stuff I should have thrown out when clearing out the parents’ house instead of letting Nostalgia shove me around;
  2. Throwing out stuff so my son won’t have to do item (1) in 35 years;
  3. Committing small acts of home repair as a proof of good intention to the house;
  4. Small acts of sympathetic magic in hopes of convincing wealth to shower upon my household (already begun, as you may note from the roster of “Rich Man’s Pens” that are showing up in my rotation);
  5. Getting my son as much locomotive time as possible in celebration of his birthday– there’s a steam engine and an archaic diesel within reach;
  6. Submitting more stories to more markets;
  7. Please, please, please some writing, because the boy’s at school still for almost the whole period that I’m not and I should have time even with the previous chores standing in my way.

I may also, if something particularly interesting lurches up in front of me, stick my head in here, but don’t count on any more than a large and oddly formatted progress report in early July.

And now, because it’s Friday, let’s have some films.  First, something sizzling hot pen action!

Seriously, folks– don’t get your old pens near an ignition source.

To balance all that horror, here’s something I’d actually like to be present for:

…and may one day, should my efforts at conjuring bear fruit.  Have a nice solstice, everyone, and I’ll see you next month.

Today’s pen: Parker 75

Today’s ink: Lamy Black (more old cartridge tidying underway, see point (2) above as well as last week’s complaint)

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Posted by Dirck on 26 May, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 23 May
  • 24 May
  • 25 May
  • 26 May
  • Second draft of the Choose Your Own DOOM project.
  • Second draft of “Late Retirement.”
  • First draft of “Inside Voice”.
  • Mundane errands (insert threatening grumble here).
  • Um… about 1,000 words.*
  • 1,120 typed words, for a total of 2,267.
  • 993 typed words (flash fiction doesn’t get the handwritten treatment).
  • Less than should have been accomplished in the time.
  • 55 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 60 min.

This week brought another rejection which encourages– it’s amazing how some kind, non-pro forma words cushion such blows.

* I’m slowly working this into shape thanks to discovery a couple of months ago of Twine as a means of formatting that sort of a story (as with most discoveries, it was there long before I found it).  It’s still a back-burner exercise, the thing I do on weekends (or Victoria Days, as in the instant case) when I have a little free time and I don’t have the current front-burner story at hand.  I also don’t keep careful track of how much gets done at a sitting  At the current pace, and with the estimated 60,000 words the whole thing runs to, I should be done it by 2019.

** 23 May was also my anniversary, so I was treating myself.  I treated my wife to a pleasant sushi restaurant excursion, where we enjoyed raw fish like the freaks we are, and we were both given a subsidiary gift of our son’s willingness to cram salmon nigiri into his head without hesitation.  He’s not not picky, but he’s kind of specific in his pickiness, and we’re quite proud to be the European-descended parents of a kid born only 500km from the geographical centre of North America who took willingly to various sorts of Asian cuisine (and peas!).

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Progress Report AND A Recurrence of Brag-Dad

Posted by Dirck on 28 April, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 25 April
  • 26 April
  • 27 April
  • 28 April
  • Second draft of “A Mistake of Timing.”
  • Second draft finished.
  • Second draft of “Poor old Michael Finnegan.”
  • So very close to finished!  Arg!
  • 1,052 words typed.
  • Total of 4,779 words.
  • 1,044 words.
  • 909 words.
  • 45 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 45 min.
  • 40 min.

While I’m here, let me tell you all about something that I’m very pleased with.

Last weekend, while I was going through a drawer in an annex of my pen storage facility (which is to say, a bedside table), my son asked me how many pens I have.  It has been quite some time since he took any interest in such things, and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t have the answer readily to hand.  If I were a petty fellow, I’d ask him to tell me the count of his wooden locomotives and when he came up blank I could have said, “There.  See?”

Since I’m not petty (too often), I made up a number based on a quick mental visualisation of the primary storage facility (the basement office), and then to avoid follow-up questions, I produced from the very drawer I was investigating a pen in a box.  A blue Pelikano Junior.  I told son that this pen had been bought specifically for him.

A moment of silence.  “Really?”

This was a true thing.  I did not remind him of the Griffix set, the pen of which he… neglected, we shall say, throughout 2013 and 2014.  It would have injured the moment.  I then asked if he wanted it brought out and inked.  This was greeted with some enthusiasm, which continued when that suggestion was put into action:


I dare you to tell me he’s not delirious with glee in this picture.

After some initial doodling with the pen, during which he attended to instruction, the pen was carefully placed in a selected location in his room, where it will be safe but accessible.  He hasn’t used it much since, and only for special purposes, but he looks in its direction frequently.

What I’m really proud of, because rendering my son gooney over a possession is a mixed triumph at best (I don’t practice Buddhism particularly well, but I do read it), is the way he holds the pen.  He has not only reached the age of reason, he has reached the age of sufficient manual dexterity:


That, folks, is a nicely relaxed grip of the correct shape, even if the pen is slightly rotated.  The buttons on my vest are under serious pressure.

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How to be Content in Marriage: An Example

Posted by Dirck on 1 March, 2016

Last night, just after supper, I took my son’s boots to the basement to apply some commercial rubbery shoe sealant to them, because they were developing cracks between sole and upper, and it’s too damn late in the season to go and buy a new pair that absolutely won’t fit next October.  This is done in the basement, because the volatile compounds of the sealant agitate my wife’s asthma.  Since I make a trip into the basement each morning to do the day’s initial examination of the internet, it would be no big deal to bring the by-then stench-free boots up with me and set them, as will a good Japanese host, ready for my son to slip into and step out the door for his school day.

Unfortunately, I had Mr. Migraine yelling in my ears (or, in truth, eyes) this morning, and forgot all about that plan until about five and a half hours after son’s school departure time.

At this point, I called to apologize to my wife.  She dismissed this as unnecessary.  She had, shortly before departure time, found a thing that needed to be taken downstairs and put right beside the place the boots sat; there was no real effect on the course of her day from my error, and she told me as much.

And there’s your happy marriage in action.  Mistakes admitted and dismissed as trivial.  I think I’ve mentioned in the past that the extent of our “fights” is generally along the lines of “No, you take the remote.  I don’t want it,” and today’s event is a branch of the same root that produces those set-tos.  We do not strive for mastery over the other.  We each treat the other as an equal partner in the household.

What I find amazing is that this strikes some people as remarkable.

Today’s pen: Parker 51
Today’s ink: Diamine Marine (which is really the wife’s ink, but she doesn’t mind it I use some)

PS– since I’m making noise now, I won’t wait until the Thursday progress report to mention that there’s a new story on the fiction front.  My wife, who is somewhat biased, says it’s her favourite thing there thus far.

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If Not Comfort, Then at Least Joy

Posted by Dirck on 24 December, 2015

Well, here we are at Scrooge Startling Day, hopefully all glowing with the anticipation of a happy tomorrow spent in the bosom of a family of however much extension one can manage.  I certainly am; for the past ten years, there have been three generations at my parent’s place, and for the past seven the same has been true at my in-laws, and we are as non-strife-seeking a pair of families as can well be imagined.

This year, there is a confusion in our plans, because in an act of what should be unnecessary charity, we will be bringing an outsider into the proceedings at both grand-parental abodes.  It’s the sort of thing that ought to get Dickens’s various haunts stirring their stumps, too, because the reason we are doing this is rather scandalous.

Our friend has had what I can only call a dismal year.  The financial problems which I occasionally touch on in my own case are the proverbial copes of lead in her case.  Single, she is not eligible for any of the provincial low income supplement programs; these are limited to low income families (I’ll mention that I am technically able to apply for at least one of these, but due to the gross household income being enough the adults present to be above the poverty line, it would be about $30/month at a cost of many hours/month of dealing with bureaucracy; it’s not exactly an open-handed set of programs).  She is working several part-time jobs in keeping with the current notions of employment, the combined income of which almost covers her rent… in a good month.  Because of the increased workload at the one retail job she has, the main and most regular employment, she finds her hours cut to a maximum of two hours per week, to make room for a load of temporary minimum-wage workers– rise up, o rise, you Dickensian spectres!

We add to this litany of financial woe her mother tipping into full dementia.  This landed her in a public care home (the lickpenny provincial government has not quite unwound the socialist works of the 1950s through 1970s so far as to do away with these institutions), where she may if in a state of relative coherence receive brief visits.  Thus, the friend’s traditional Christmas of spending the day with mom becomes impossible.  Her father, long estranged from mom, and his family live about 2,500 kilometres away, a distance she cannot pay to travel even if she were disinclined to spend whatever of tomorrow as she can with mom.

The most deeply scandalous element of this: there is other family here, diverse maternal aunts and uncles and their progeny.  Many of these people have money in excess of basic need, and a couple we might even call well-off.  They have decided to get together for Christmas… elsewhere.  Only a few hours drive away.  Friend was not invited.  I don’t know, and can’t gather the heart to ask, whether this is a stems from her being born as the result of a fling and never legitimized, if it’s just because she’s from the poor wing of the family and we don’t want their kind at our quasi-posh gathering, or if it is down to her father being black and they not.  I suppose one could imagine a smorgasbord of -isms at work and allow all of the above reasons to have some influence in the affair, life being the rich tapestry that it is.  She can’t just turn up where they are and see if they stand by the exclusion, because she’s too poor to have a car; this would otherwise be what I would urge, because then they’d have to actively tell her to go away rather than just passively neglect her, and that might actually activate some consciences.

Thus, my own Christmas travels grow some curlicues, which I italicize in this roster of waypoints:

  • Take wife and son to her parents’ house;
  • After collecting friend;
  • Enjoy a morning at the in-laws (an unironic phrase);
  • Deposit friend at the care home;
  • Enjoy afternoon at my parents’ place;
  • Then collect friend from care home, unless her visit extends beyond…;
  • The devouring of the traditional Christmas Roast Beast;
  • Which would then see friend collected to be fed left-overs;
  • …and home for my merry little family to settle gifts in the house* and loll in post-prandial torpor;
  • …possibly with friend who would then need to be taken home later.

The selfish brute in me grumbles at the inconvenience of all this to-and-fro.  However, I quell that beast with a mental image of friend stuck in her over-priced apartment, casting glances alternately at the snowy terrain beyond the window, a picture of her and mom in a better time, and the cat toys she hasn’t cleared away after the death of her pet at the end of spring (a hard year indeed).  If she didn’t get suicidal from that, I would from imagining it, and my parents’ new digs offer a fifteenth floor balcony as a temptation to the despondent.

Grim jesting aside, how could one avoid the torments of the Spirit of Christmas Past for all the years to come if one left someone in a lurch like that?  Whatever one’s faith, this season is about enhancing the quantum of joy and human fellowship, and happily all the families involved agree with this sentiment*.  So, as you sit down to your own Christmas dinner, be it Roast Beast or Who Hash, spare a moment of reflection about your power to enhance the lives of others.  It is, really, the whole point of being here.

Now, if that hasn’t put you in too blue a mood, and you’re interested in the old English tradition of being gently frightened at Christmas**, here’s Annie Lennox out caroling:

…and to finish with a grin– the same tune, slightly altered.

Today’s pen: Parker 75 (I indulge myself– tomorrow it’s the OMAS Arte Italiana)
Today’s ink: Quink Black (to balance the indulgence)

* My father, who as I have mentioned before spent his formative years in an only intermittently exciting zone of one of the most destructive wars in the whole of history, suggested about a month ago that money that might be spent on adult gifts be given instead to the organizations smoothing the arrival of Syrian refugees in this country.  Gifts for the kids remain, because their lives are among the ones we all mean to enhance, but we are carrying the principle of mankind as our business unusually far this year.

** In a similar vein– here’s the latest on the fiction side of things, that wee flash I mentioned a couple of progress reports back.

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Dig It.

Posted by Dirck on 7 August, 2015

My son is growing up, as is the usual and hoped-for development.  No longer is his entire world absorbed by the adventures of an ever-growing crowd of locomotives on a fictional neighbour of the Isle of Man.  No, that has faded to a mere 86.3% of his willing attention.  He now devotes a little of his mind to other pastimes, one of the more absorbing of which is Minecraft.

Yes, it’s not a great idea to let a 7-year-old apply many waking hours to a videogame.  This one at least has a creative element to it.  Heck, he’s built the entire cast of Peep and the Big Wide World out of non-existent blocks (which are rather easier to clean up than the Lego Dinosaur Train my wife was press-ganged into building last week), and that’s a step in the direction of graphic arts, a fine hobby and sometimes a rewarding career.

Minecraft also provides whimsy which the boys parents appreciate, such as this:

And if a song is going to get stuck in you head through the efforts of a child, I’m just as happy that it’s this one which spun off of the Minecraft fascination:

Oh, don’t look at me like that.  I used the phrase “stuck in your head.”  If you clicked on it after that much warning, then you’ve had a valuable lesson at less cost than might have been.

Today’s pen:Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink: Pilot black

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Forecast Calls For…

Posted by Dirck on 20 July, 2015

Well, that was a less productive vacation than hoped for.

What I mean is that I didn’t get done a tenth part of the refitting of the house done that I’d hoped.  This is primarily down to the unreasonable attitude of hardware stores, lumber yards, and chandlers in that they like being paid for the stuff you want to take away from them.  Since the vacation didn’t also bring a stack of loose treasure with it, I had to make do with an exhausting amount of moving things around in hopes of turning chattels into load-bearing walls.

We’re getting an heirloom piano soon, and it should do nicely to keep the ceiling up.

I did get a little done on the writing side of things, although the moving-of-stuff kept me from much in that line.  Thus I am champing at the bit for the Regular Job’s promise of a half-hour or so of scribbling away without telephones yammering, cats making messes, meals wanting preparation, and sons wanting “help” in Minecraft (meaning, “you do it while I see to a more thorough distribution of wooden locomotives about the floor; make sure to find lots of diamonds and iron”).  However, there were also some developments in the realm of pens that I would like to share with the dedicated and long-neglected readers here, so I’m going to carry on champing for a little while while I apply the time to writing non-fictions.

Unfortunately, with that foreword written, I now have to break off.  The return to The Regular Job finds a great deal of stuff that I usually do needing doing.  It’s at least in tidy stacks, not the mixed drifts I’ve found on past returns, but the extra week means there’s that much more of it.  The forecast, then, is for slightly interesting things… soon.

Today’s pen: Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink: Pilot Black (which I don’t have a sample of– it’s black.  Quite strongly black)

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