Go Gators!

September 22nd, 2013 @ 5:13 am
Sixty-Five

Kathie GagneToday would have been mom’s 65th birthday. My little sister took this photo of me hugging her just before Mother’s Day last year. I miss her so much that it hurts, a phrase that people use frequently but not literally. But I very literally feel an ache in my heart.

The last time I saw her was just a few days after this photo was taken. She was sitting alone in the cafeteria of an assisted living facility in DeLand, Florida. She was awake but catatonic and it was awful.

I had gotten her a can of Diet Coke and tried to get her to drink it through a straw, which she seemed to do by reflex. I also got her a few Hershey’s Kisses which I found in a gift basket that was left in her room. I unwrapped one and put it in her mouth, but she had no reaction to what was once her favorite food.

She just stared ahead, stoned out of her mind on a disgusting cocktail of anti-psychotic drugs that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t convince the doctors to stop feeding her. I told her I loved her and begged her to hear me, to see me, to blink, to do anything at all.

I walked away from her crying and haven’t been able to stop very much since.

She died on August 12th, 2012, about three months after that visit, ten days before my son’s second birthday, and about six weeks before her 64th birthday.

September 20th, 2013 @ 5:16 am
Friday Five: Disney Parks

DisneyMy five favorite Disney theme parks:

  1. Walt Disney World
  2. E.P.C.O.T.
  3. Disneyland
  4. California Adventure
  5. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios)
September 13th, 2013 @ 6:12 am
Friday Five: Awesome iPhone Apps

TweetbotThese are the iPhone apps which I use most frequently:

* I’m excluding games and Facebook.

September 6th, 2013 @ 9:22 am
Friday Five: Favorite Harrison Ford Characters

What are you trying to do, scare me? You sound like my mother. We’ve known each other for a long time. I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus. I’m going after a find of incredible historical significance, you’re talking about the boogie man. Besides, you know what a cautious fellow I am.”

Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones

  1. Indiana Jones
    Raiders of the Lost Ark
  2. Han Solo
    Star Wars
  3. Jack Ryan
    Patriot Games
  4. Tommy
    The Frisco Kid
  5. John Book
    Witness
August 30th, 2013 @ 7:52 am
Friday Five: Favorite Legal Dramas

Damages

  1. Damages
  2. Law & Order
  3. The Good Wife
  4. Boston Legal
  5. L.A. Law
August 23rd, 2013 @ 8:23 am
Friday Five: Things I Thought I’d Be When I Grew Up

Battlestar GalacticaIn no particular order:

  • Space Fighter Pilot
  • Cowboy
  • Lawyer
  • Author
  • Archaeologist

3!
August 16th, 2013 @ 7:49 am
Friday Five: Memories

Kathleen A. GagneMonday was the first anniversary of the death of my mom. Here are five things I really miss about her:

  • the sound of her saying my name
  • desperate fear of every hurricane, tropical storm, earthquake, forest fire, volcano, etc.
  • singing together
  • the ticklebug
  • always — always — having someone to call who was guaranteed to be excited to hear my voice
August 12th, 2013 @ 8:10 am
Kathleen A. Gagne

Kathie GagneMy mom died one year ago today. It simultaneously feels like it was only yesterday and like it was a thousand years ago. I miss her so much that there is an actual ache in my heart.

She died much too young. It was undeserved and unfair and unjust and I still rage inside that my son does not get to have her as a grandmother. She wanted to be Nana more than anything, and she loved her two children — me and my sister — more than anyone could ever comprehend.

I love you, mom. I love you and I miss you and I wish you were here.

August 10th, 2013 @ 10:23 pm
A Sunny Day

Kathleen A. Gagne

I spent a half-dozen painful hours on the phone exactly one year ago tonight. My mom had been rushed to the emergency room and I was desperate for answers. The hospital had told me she was fine; she had a urinary tract infection which was causing acute temporary dementia, but they’d given her some antibiotics and sent her back to the assisted living facility and told me not to worry. When I asked the nurse for a list of her medications, she told me mom was being administered a drug called Risperdal.

That was a big deal because just a few days before that I had gotten confirmation from the assisted living facility that under no circumstance would they give her that drug. (She’d been given it months prior and had a bad reaction to it.) I spent the night on the phone with multiple nurses and administrators at Woodland Terrace, begging them to tell me what was happening. I was in tears and asking to speak to anyone who would help me. They told me that I needed to call back on Monday morning and rudely hung up on me. I would call again and beg and again be rebuffed and again be told nobody would speak to me and again they hung up on me.

My wife called and begged for answers on my behalf. They told her that they wouldn’t give her any information because she wasn’t listed as a contact, even though I was very certainly listed as a contact and they wouldn’t give me answers either. I asked if they’d simply confirm or deny whether she was being given the drug which they had asked for my permission to give her (and I had refused) and they told me I needed to speak to an administrator. They told me the administrator I knew — a lovely woman who’d spoken to me a dozen times in the previous several weeks — was no longer employed there, and they refused to tell me even the name of the new administrator. (And their website hadn’t been updated yet; it still listed the woman I knew.)

I begged for someone to just please understand that I was a son asking for information about my mother and I was told I needed to call back on Monday and speak to an administrator. I said, “That’s not going to do me any good if she’s dead on Monday!” The nurse hung up on me.

I spent several hours on the phone with the Florida Department of Children and Families and managed to have them send an “investigator” to the facility on Saturday. But because of some absurd Florida law, he was unable to tell me anything about his visit or even to confirm that he went. (I learned later that he did, in fact, visit Woodland Terrace that Saturday; I’ve never been informed anything else.)

On Saturday, August 11, 2012 I ran 5.15 miles in fifty minutes and twenty-six seconds. I stopped at one point and got in an argument with a guy and his girlfriend. They had stopped traffic on Pico by jaywalking and then the guy was flipping birds at cars who honked at him. I told him he should be ashamed of himself and that he was the one in the wrong. At first he was a complete jerk; he even made a rude remark about my Mickey Mouse t-shirt. But after we argued for a few minutes, eventually he apologized and said he was just trying to look tough for his girlfriend. We actually shook hands and he said he’d been having a rough day and I felt bad for him.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day.

August 9th, 2013 @ 2:43 am
Friday Five: Favorite P90X Routines

P90X

  1. Kenpo X
  2. Plyometrics
  3. Core Synergistics
  4. Yoga X
  5. Chest, Shoulders, & Triceps
August 2nd, 2013 @ 7:55 am
Friday Five: Important Things to Consider When Moving

socketFive very important, but often overlooked, factors to consider when buying or renting a new house or apartment:

  • Bathroom Water Pressure
    You will sometimes be happy about the fact that your new place has a pool or a spacious living room, but you will take a shower every single day.
  • Kitchen Sink Height
    If your counters are at the wrong height relative to how tall you are, you may hate bending to do the dishes.
  • Shower Ventilation
    If there isn’t enough airflow you may find yourself constantly battling mold or mildew.
  • Bathroom Noise Insulation
    I’m not just talking about the baffling properties of the toilet bowl here: Do the drains loudly gurgle? Does the sink sound like a jet engine? Can someone on the other side of the door hear every time you pluck a nose hair?
  • Power Outlets
    How old is this place? Was it built before every single person entering the house needed to charge a cell phone? Are there enough sockets in the kitchen to power a coffee machine, coffee grinder, blender, rechargeable battery unit, at least one cell phone, a TV or radio, a toaster over, and the electric can opener?
August 1st, 2013 @ 8:05 am
I will be chasing your starlight.

I read Happy Yoga the week before my birthday, and then in July I read Bad Monkey, World War Z, and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex1. Two non-fiction and two fiction is a pretty good balance, I think.

A twenty-something David would never believe it if you told him reading only four books in a month was a big deal. But at forty — and after having not read a single book in well over a year — I’m happy about it. Right now I’m reading an anthology titled Classic Sailing Stories. (I try to knock out thirty pages each day.)

What do you think about that, Supes?

Superman

I hit the pavement this morning to kick off August with style:

The shuffle gods frowned on me for not running much in July. I was punished with a set list that made no sense at all.

  1. Dexter Main TitleKent, Rolfe
  2. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to CryDylan, Bob
  3. Where’d You GoFort Minor
  4. StarlightMuse
  5. Somebody That I Used to Know (featuring Kimbra)Gotye
  6. A Better Son/DaughterRilo Kiley
  7. Big Brown EyesOld 97′s
  8. End of the LineTraveling Wilburys
  9. Subterranean Homesick BluesDylan, Bob
  10. Blurred Lines (featuring T.I. & Pharrell)Thicke, Robin
  11. Back to BlackWinehouse, Amy
  12. Devil With the Blue Dress On / Good Golly Miss MollyMitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels

1 A few weeks ago I saw Ron Howard tweet something about a whaling museum in New Bedford and I thought to myself, “I bet he’s going to make a movie about the Essex.” At that point I only vaguely knew the story of the doomed ship, primarily from reading the back cover of the book my dad gave me which has been sitting on my bedside table for a half-dozen years. And I was right!

July 27th, 2013 @ 5:58 am
Baby Hemingway

Baby HemingwayThe JFK Presidential Library and Museum has just released fully digitized copies of Ernest Hemingway’s mother’s scrapbooks, which chronicle the writer’s childhood and adolescent years in five volumes.

The scrapbooks … juxtapose [her] observations and notes with photographs, drawings, and other ephemera … [She] recorded all of the bits of baby talk that she found brilliant and (as she wrote) “spontaneous and original.” She called Ernest “Mama’s little mink” and delighted in their confidential conversations.

July 26th, 2013 @ 6:56 am
Friday Five: Desktop Apps

MacBook AirHere are the five apps I use most frequently on my MacBook Air:

July 19th, 2013 @ 7:30 am
Friday Five: My Favorite Athletes

Ted Williams

  1. Ted Williams
  2. Bo Jackson
  3. Tim Tebow
  4. Carl Yastrzemski
  5. Tom Brady
July 12th, 2013 @ 10:32 pm
Runaway

One of my favorite memories of my mom — of my entire childhood, actually — is singing Runaway by Del Shannon in the car with her and my little sister while driving to St. Paul’s Catholic elementary school. I love that song. She loved that song. She loved singing that song.

Del ShannonMom loved music. And I don’t just mean, “She loved music,” in the way you would say that about someone who has a huge record collection and can sing the words to thousands of songs, or someone with really groovy eclectic taste, or anything like that. I mean she had a love affair with music. She was passionate about music in a way that transcends explanation to or comprehension by anyone that wasn’t her or me or my little sister.

My mom, even towards the end of her much-too-short life, loved music with a rage and angst and lust that would have been familiar to any teenaged boy in the late 80s (e.g. me) screaming, “F* you! You don’t even get Pink Floyd the way I do, man!” (She never would have vocalized it that way, of course!) And she felt that way about Mozart and church hymns and The Beatles and country music and calypso and the Star Wars theme.

Runaway will always make me think of my mom. I can still distinctly remember the unbridled joy and laughter and giggling, the three of us doing our best to match the pitch of the whistle solo. She could do it, of course. My mom had pipes and she used them. I can’t sing to save my life, but she raised me to do it anyway. I remember my sister laughing in her seatbelt in the back seat of our cordovan AMC Concord. It’s a lovely memory.

July 12th, 2013 @ 5:31 am
Friday Five: Favorite NFL Teams

New England PatriotsMy NFL team is the New England Patriots. It always has been and it almost certainly always will be. To have five favorite NFL teams seems irrational, because only one can win the Super Bowl each year. But you’ll notice that they are all NFC teams, with the potential exception of the team using my favorite player of all-time, which gets a spot on the list just below my team.

My mom raised me to be a Pats fan and we rooted for them through all the dark years. (We were long-suffering Red Sox fans as well. Aside from the Celtics, and until I got to college at the beginning of the Spurrier tidal wave of championships, sports to me meant futility, failure, and sadness.)

  1. New England Patriots
  2. Whatever Team Employs Tim Tebow
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. San Francisco 49ers
  5. New Orleans Saints
July 5th, 2013 @ 8:51 am
Friday Five: Springsteen Albums

Born in the U.S.A.My Five Favorite Bruce Springsteen Albums:

  1. Born in the U.S.A.
  2. Born to Run
  3. Darkness on the Edge of Town
  4. Nebraska
  5. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
June 28th, 2013 @ 8:04 am
Friday Five: Favorite Star Wars Characters

Star WarsI know it’s not exactly original, but if I had to rank my favorites, they’d be in this order:

  1. Luke Skywalker
  2. Han Solo
  3. Darth Vader
  4. C-3PO
  5. Chewbacca