Monday, May 19, 2014

A small joke to point out a bigger issue

When Jeffrey passed away he was very overweight and out of shape. His condition was part of the cause of his death, and he was often cautioned that if he did not do  something about it, he'd be in trouble.

As someone on the hefty side of the scale, I sympathized with his having to deal with all these admonishments. I find it hard to believe that there is a heavy person out there who, listening to someone tell them how fat they are, stops and says " golly, now that you mention it, I AM obese! Thanks for pointing that out - I'll get right on it."

Jeffrey knew he had a weight problem, and thought he was doing his best to get healthy. His reaction to criticisms about his health was to affirm that he was on top of the problem. I never chided him about his weight, but at the same time I was always honest, sometimes painfully so, whenever he asked me if I thought he weighed too much. It was my belief that his asking the question opened the door to accepting an honest answer when it might do some good, and I really believe that he took my frank response to heart, if only too little and too late.

The bigger problem, and here is one that aide agencies and other help organizations that encourage independent living for handicapped individuals must start to consider, is that even with the best advice and guidance, Jeffrey could not make good decisions about his diet and health. At what point should his personal freedom been taken away? If he lived in a group house where his meals were prepared and snacking somewhat moderated, he might be alive today.

My father was living on a diet of ice cream and cereal when we had to move him into assisted living. He did not enjoy the experience, and still has issues, but his overall health has improved from the healthy diet and lack of junk food (even if we do bring him more than his fair share of snacks.) The insurmountable gap is the leap from where he was to how he got there. I know Jeffrey was very proud of his ability to live by himself, and what it would have taken to get him into a similar setup. This also overlooks the incredible cost of providing this kind of care.

Everyone had an answer for what was best for Jeffrey, including himself. I guess the sum of the parts was not sufficient to meet the total of his needs.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Agony Airlines

As anyone growing up in Pittsburgh would know, the main airline servicing the city was Allegheny Airlines, which later became absorbed into US Airways. It was a nice enough little airline, but every time someone (ourselves included) would fly into Pittsburgh, there would always be a problem of some kind. A bag would be lost, or the flight delayed, or (and this was good for a few years) the terminal would be under construction.

Once, Jeffrey's Uncle Sydney arrived at their house for a family event after a particularly long trip. The plane red lighted and they had to be assigned another aircraft, and the reshuffling of passengers and luggage proved particularly arduous. When we asked him what was wrong with the plane, he said "I guess the rubber band broke! Allegheny Airlines, hah! They should call it Agony Airlines!"

This became Jeffrey's favorite joke about flying, and anytime he could work it into a trip's narrative he would. What I found interesting was that he credited his uncle every time. Think about how often you have heard and retold a joke, and ask yourself how many times you would explain where you heard it and from whom.

I'm sure Jeffrey was just being considerate; in his mind it was something like "...this is a funny story - whoever I'm telling it to should know where I got it from!" He was so anxious about doing the right thing and so afraid of taking credit for anything he thought he didn't deserve. I've hinted that Jeffrey's life was not so happy. There were a lot of reasons for this, but if I could do anything over again, it would be to let him know it was okay to get credit for the joke now and then.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Page 100

A number of cartoonists have mentioned it to me about characters that they have created. After a certain amount of time, the characters start to take over the story line. This is what happened with Dr. Moreno.

I did not intend for her to be secretly working for Professor Larsenous. I had a completely different role for her in mind when this story started, but them Master Jeffrey started to point some things out to me. The hole digging thing, the unlikely timing of the attack at CERN, all these were, I told myself, the fault of a bad storyteller on his first attempt. Then Jeffrey turns to me and says "...why do you THINK I brought her along?"

There are some other small reveals which I might still let out, but I'm running out of time. I only have 20 pages left in this story - yes, this story will end at page 120(ish) and a new Master Jeffrey adventure will begin, assuming I make it that far. For a minute I thought I was in charge of all this - now even I can't wait to see how it all turns out!