Monthly Archives: December 2008

December 30, 2008

During this difficult time I am of course finding solace in knitting. Behold my first attempt at entrelac.


It’s a belated Christmas present for [Very, Very Famous Person]’s personal hairdresser.


Posted on by Joel Derfner | 7 Comments

December 28, 2008

This is the problem when one tries to be a caretaker to a dying family member: it’s not possible.

A caretaker’s job is to make the dying person as comfortable as possible while he fades. A family member’s job is to try to accept that death is on its way and prepare to welcome it as much as possible. As a caretaker you are charged with his body; as a family member you are charged with his soul.

When you try to do both, then the idea of comfort is replaced perforce by the idea of survival. When your father is dying, as E.S.’s is downstairs, it is out of human ken to remember, as you hold the bucket when he starts vomiting bile, that you’re not trying to keep him alive. Every act, every moment becomes therefore about wringing one more second of life out of the disaster in front of you. And if that’s what you’re doing then it’s categorically impossible to prepare for death. You can either fight it or accept it. You can’t do both. This is one reason people put terminally ill family members in hospice.

Adding to the impossibility of playing both roles to somebody is the fact that it becomes ever more difficult to try to compass the life fading in front of you, because when he loses control of his bladder or his bowels and you have to clean up the mess you are filled with hot, savage resentment.

Also, you suck at being a caretaker. You weren’t trained for this; you’ve never done it before. Half the time all you succeed in doing is putting him in more pain than he already felt.

And having a health-care worker stop by once a day doesn’t count as hospice.

I have known these things for a long, long time, having grown up with a mother who was dying of juvenile diabetes before she even bore me. E.S. realized these things. I think, fairly soon after his parents moved in with us..

But his mother has not. I have brought to bear every blandishment of which I can conceive, but to no avail.

I understand the impulse; really, I do. I’m just worried that Mrs. S. is robbing herself of something that would otherwise be a great comfort to her, now and hereafter.

She’s going to need all the comfort she can get.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 14 Comments

December 27, 2008

Of course, it could also be that I’m so desperate to feel hope about our country’s future that I’m looking at the present with blinders on.

We’ll find out soon enough which one it is.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 3 Comments

December 23, 2008

Okay, can everybody just shut the fuck up about Rick Warren?

The fact that the anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Proposition 8 pastor is speaking at Obama’s inauguration is not a sign that Obama is willing to throw the gay community to the lions. It is not a flip-flop. It is not a promise broken before Obama even takes office.

It is further evidence that our president-elect is a brilliant tactician.

Take a look at Obama’s policy proposals. While he’s fairly centrist on foreign policy, on domestic and economic issues he is almost brazenly liberal.

Obama is a progressive in moderate’s clothing.

He has learned–or he knows by instinct–the apparently unbeatable tactic of the Usurper-in-Chief: say you’re doing something your opponents find palatable, and then ignore them and do whatever you want to do.

Is there anything–anything at all–that Obama could do between now and his inauguration that would both make the Christian right happier and be more meaningless in practical terms? Because if there is I can’t think of it.

Of course I could be wrong, and we could all be headed for the boxcars. But Obama’s record is too consistently liberal and his political machinations too sophisticated for me to believe that.

I think we’re headed for a very, very good eight years.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 11 Comments

December 22, 2008

So the reason that E.S.’s parents moved in with us is that his father is dying of esophageal cancer and this way the family can be together during his last days.

There is much to say about this, obviously, but for the moment I’ll confine myself to remarking that I’m happy to be able to have him here.

And that the house now smells like sick person.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 12 Comments

December 3, 2008

I just got this message from a friend on my answering machine:

“Hi, Faustus, it’s C. Can you tell me, is it a bad thing when you want to carve the Serenity Prayer on your arm with a pocket knife? Please give me a call. Please.”

Also, E.S.’s parents are moving into our house on Friday.

Posted on by Joel Derfner | 13 Comments