Within a month I have lost both of my grandfathers. Three weeks ago my dad's dad ("granddad") gave up a difficult struggle against a chest infection. We buried him and grieved and everything was getting back to normal. On Sunday morning my mum's dad ("grandpa") died. It was, unlike granddad's death, with which everyone had a few weeks of varying degrees of critical hospitalised illness to get used to the idea, shockingly sudden and unexpected.

My parents had tried to reach me on Sunday to let me know but we were out all day and, even on Monday morning, had not got round to checking our phone messages or emails. Dad phoned me at work on Monday morning at maybe around 10am. "Bad news mate. You won't believe this but grandpa's died".

Grandma and grandpa had moved from London to Dorset when he retired at 50. Their house gradually went from being a lovely new-built home for a newly retired couple to being, 25 years later, a very unsuitable place with a staircase they couldn't really climb and in a town with a hill they couldn't really face. In 1998 (soon after I had left home) my parents bought a house with a garden big enough to support an amazing idea. Between them they designed and built a purpose built bungalow where there had once been a double garage. The two houses had their own entrances (and even their own separate utility bills), so everyone had their own space, yet they were so close that my grandparents had the security of the family being literally on the doorstep. As they became increasingly frail and old, and occasional illness meant they needed extra care and attention, the benefits of this arrangement were demonstrated many times over. The other rather obvious effect was that my parents and my brother and I remained incredibly close to my maternal grandparents.

Terrible news tends to sink in slowly. The worst news seems to make me laugh when talking about it. Not a funny, enjoyable laugh but an irrepressible nervous grin that is made even more worse by the idea that the other person might think I'm finding this funny. As I took in what my dad had told me, and retold it to friends passing in the office, things gradually dawned on me. The first (which I had known while still on the phone but had not acted on at the time) was that I wanted to be there with my family. A few emails and phone calls later and this was sorted out. By 2pm I would be on my way back to Dorset.

It was an emotional afternoon for everyone. When we got to my parents' house my mum's brother R was already there and my own brother was on his way. Grandma looked vacant and numb. It was not until she and mum started recounting how he had died that I realised how traumatic it had been.
(Please do skip the next couple of paragraphs if you don't want to know.)

Through Saturday night and Sunday morning he had had migraines and diarrhoea and had needed help from grandma in getting to the bathroom. Eventually, she became so worried by his odd symptoms (including seeming to find walking very difficult) that she went across the drive to get help from her daughter. She, in turn, went to call a doctor, and by the time she returned to the bungalow grandpa had pitched forward and crashed into the side of the bath. He proceeded to bleed heavily and slowly gasp while dad (and later an ambulance crew) tried to resuscitate him. If it sounds disturbing, imagine hearing it from a helpless old woman who is telling you how she saw this brutal thing happen to her husband of 60 years and it was so horrible, so horrible, and that she'll never forget it. Well I didn't see it but I'll never forget being told about it. Talking about it, even for me writing about it now, is hard but I think it helps, so I'm glad to have been there to help comfort her.

His death certificate says "cerebrovascular accident", which seems to mean a stroke. Everyone holds on to the idea that the end would have been quick - probably even before he hit the floor.

On Monday afternoon I helped move grandpa's bed up to my parent's loft and rearrange grandma's bedroom. I'm very proud of her; after just one night in with mum and dad she returned to her own place to sleep. She is still a little way off being able to clear out his clothes. She keeps seeing his teeth in the bathroom and wants to throw them away, but can't because it feels like he'll be back soon and will need them. She did start to talk about charity shops and people who might need pillows though, so she seems to be doing amazingly well.

On Tuesday I took the day off work and showed grandma how to use the TV and VCR. It was something that grandpa had always done so now she'll be in charge of it. She has also turned the thermostat down to the level she'd always wanted. This makes everyone smile.

In the afternoon the minister who will lead the funeral came over to discuss the arrangements for Friday. I sat with mum and grandma as they discussed flowers and donations and hymns for the short service. They decided what the minister should say about grandpa. That was hard, but only because he was such a good man and he is missed so badly. When grandma was talking about their old flat in London, I kept expecting to hear his gentle interjections, adding some interesting historical point or other. I think everyone felt the same thing.

The grieving process seems to demand lots of tea and tears.

Since you won't be there on Friday, you'll want to know a bit more about him. It's not exactly a eulogy but it's a few of the important points with my own memories thrown in.

During the war he was in signals, where he tapped endless morse. He was very proud of relaying a message which signalled the ceasefire and effectively ended the war. He kept a copy of it. He was fond of Guinness. While working at Shell, much of his business was conducted on a barstool. As a result, they gave him one when he retired. After retiring he kept a grey cat called 'smoky' very fat for many years. He loved the countryside - flowers and bird spotting. He wore a tie, even after retiring, until quite recently. He had three children, one of whom died before him. He always carried two handkerchiefs - a spare one in case a woman needed to cry. As a result he has given a great many away. He was a charming man with an enormous sense of fun. He tried to find something at which he could have a good laugh every day. He was enormously generous and spoilt his wife whenever he could. He was a gentle man and a gentleman.
Later we built a bonfire and burned twigs and leaves. Driving home, I wondered when I would next cry. I still feel a bit sick with shock and grief. Today and tomorrow I'll go to work but really I'm just waiting for the funeral on Friday.
I was introduced to eBay last week and right away I found a number of things I considered bidding on. In my first week on the service I've picked up a Nintendo Virtual Boy and two vintage Mario figurines to complete a collection I began in 1989. Then, just as I was ready to put away my wallet for a little while, I came across something that I knew I had to have, no matter what the cost: an autographed press kit photo of both Steve Martin and John Candy from Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. People have asked me why I'd want such a thing. After all, I can't play it, I can't sing along to it, and it won't do anything besides hang on my wall. One person I told about my purchase chided that I'd paid $83 for an 8"x10" black and white poster, but I don't see it that way. This autographed photo is a symbol of special memories of my father.

It was my father who introduced me to the film. I was already a fan of both Martin and Candy at the age of twelve, having laughed myself silly at such classics as Who's Harry Crumb and Three Amigos!, but I had no idea the two comedic geniuses had made a movie together. One summer evening in 1993 I was having a movie night party with some friends and we had rented a few videos: classic episodes of Late Night with David Letterman and some newly released video that has been lost to faded memories. Dad brought home another tape for us that night, but he didn't just toss it on the VHS pile. He pulled me aside from the party and said that he thought I'd like what he'd picked up. He didn't tell me who starred in the movie or what it was about, he just handed me the tape and asked that I watch it at the party. The movie wound up being the last film of the night and we all laughed ourselves stupid as classic characters Neil Page and Del Griffith traveled from New York City to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. The party ended afterwards, everyone left, and I passed by Dad on my way to bed. I told him how wonderful the movie was and that he'd made a good pick. "I want to watch it again before it has to go back to Blockbuster," I told him. "How about we watch it right now?" he said, and I was definitely up for it. If such a thing was possible I laughed even harder the second time through the movie. Dad laughed just as hard, and seeing as how the various aspects of his job always had him stressed and sometimes soured, it was a joy to see him laughing, to see him happy.

Seeing as how PT&A is a Thanksgiving movie it appeared on cable TV near the end of November that year. Dad and I were there for each airing the weekend it was on, and we logged three viewings in a single two-day period. It wasn't so much about the movie - after all, we'd both seen before by now - it was about doing something together. We were both always so busy (I with school and he with his job) that our paths rarely crossed for any length of time, but when that movie was on responsibilities stopped so we could see it. In the years that followed we always made sure to catch the movie whenever it was on television. We were always sure to watch for the scene deleted from the video tape, the famous airplane food scene, and eventually we would recite our favorite lines together with the film.

In September 1996 I was stricken with what was then the worst flare-up of Crohn's Disease that I'd ever endured. I was restricted to bed for months and forced on to an all-liquid diet. I was given the go-ahead to eat a little something soft and small on Thanksgiving, and my first meal in nearly nine weeks - two spoonfuls of mashed potato and a sliver of turkey - was eaten in front of our annual viewing of PT&A. When I graduated high school in 1999 and moved away to begin my new life my parents helped me to move my belongings and settle in at my new apartment. I wanted to do something nice for them for all their help, and the gift I gave my father was a nearly-out-of-print VHS tape of our favorite movie. When I visited them at their new home in Illinois that December, Dad and I watched our movie together like we always had. Even after all that time and the many changes in our lives, we could still watch that movie and put all our troubles aside for those 92 minutes. In 2000 the movie came to DVD and my parents sent me a copy for my birthday. Each time I visit I bring the disc with me for us to watch in glorious widescreen on the big screen TV.

This all brings me back to the question of why I had to have the autographs. This picture of Martin and Candy sitting on a trunk in the snow means more to me than just memories of a hilarious movie. It means more to me than the $83 I paid for it. Whenever I look at this picture I will think of the special times Dad and I have shared watching an oft-forgotten comedy classic together. I will think of looking away from the television screen and seeing him smile and laugh at Steve Martin's legendary monologue from the hotel room scene. I will think of that after all these years my father and I can always sit together and share something special.

As I walk by, I run my fingers alound the brick wall, smooooth BUMP smooooth BUMP smooooth BUMP and the boy on the corner dances to the music on my headphones. Does the world dance to the music on my headphones? The sun glows ever fainter and fainter orange earlier and earlier in the afternoon and the rose bushes droop under the weight of so many flowers and the clouds roll by overhead tumbling over themselves as I wait for the bus and the world says, "Yes."


Something has happened. Things are falling. Barriers are coming down. Filters are not filtering. The leaves are turning and the skies are grey and mist and everything is so beautiful. I just want to walk and laugh and play, but I have things to do, bills to pay, plants to water, houses to clean, homework to do, languages to learn. I want to meander in the streets and think about big tree roots buckling sidewalks and swing on swings and smell the sweet sweet damp and maybe go to Canada (the real Canada) and just maybe...

Is there such a thing as fall fever?

It's all so much, and I am letting it in. It's all too much. Everything is beautiful and wondrous and hard and mean and terrible. I am so tired. I let the world in because it is amazing but I cannot handle it. But if I block it out so I can do what I need to do, I may as well kill myself because I am wasting my time. I'm not interested in that; there's just too much beauty to abandon or waste. What to do?

For a week I'd like to wander. I want to ride my bike. I want to trudge through the sticky leaf muck on the ground. I want to explore the streets. I want to go along the railroad tracks. I want to walk that labyrinth again. I want to walk up Balch Creek and hide in the Witch House and read Zoe Trope and listen to United Future Organization. I want to hike further through Forest Park and swing on the vines and nearly smash myself into silly little bits. I want to blow bubbles off bridges. I want to ride TriMet to all corners of its reach and further out on other busses to Salem and Salmon Creek and Tillamook and listen to *Silver Mt. Zion* and stare out the window at the trees flying by and just soak it all in.

I don't want to do homework or go to class or mail taxes or return library books pay my grandmother's bills or my bills or water the plants or mop the fucking floor. Even if just for a week.

And also I really want to go to the Canada. And soon.

Spent much of the day playing Starcraft. Entertaining, but the repeated ‘For Ardoun’s of my Zealots lacks the subtle finesse of Warcraft 2’s ’Captain on the Bridge’s.

Starcraft is nice. Warcraft 2 was better. How can you not love the little human demolition squads, ‘I love blowing things up!’ I miss Warcraft 2. I should probably try and get hold of it again. There is not much better than sitting quietly at your ‘puter with a nice cold beer, a cheap cigar and that pained ‘Oh God, how did he train so many axe-throwers so damn fast!’ expression oozing across your face.

I had a goodish sort of day. The woman was feeling mischievous today, so not much has changed on that front. She doesn’t seem to understand that men and women have several glaring physical differences. A man cannot stand up and walk away from a situation like the one she put me in without feeling morbidly self-conscious about the tree-trunk that seems to have made its way into your trouser pocket.

She thinks it’s funny. It probably is; just not when it is happening to me. I am hardly one to complain about being on the receiving end of the affections of a beautiful woman. There are not many affections as serenely pleasurable as those of such a woman. Mmmmhhh.

had fun. I hope everyone else did the same.

Imagine the shock. Master's cell phone rings just after sunrise. His mother only 45 years old is about to go in for heart surgery. She could die if they don't get her opened up soon but the operation could kill her. If she lets them open her up she has a 40% chance of survival; if she doesn't she dies. Her aorta is about to burst. she has signed the papers and they need to prep her now for the surgery. She just wants to say "goodbye" in case she doesn't make it.

We go to the hospital. My usually coldly rational Master unable to even form a complete sentence. "Why does a 45 year old woman need heart surgery?" we ask a nurse in the ER. Two words Marfan Syndrome.

Heart surgery takes hours. there's nothing to do but wait. The hospital tries to make the waiting room not so bad but it is the worst place you have ever been. When the surgery is eventually finished and the surgeon has cleaned up and put on fresh scrubs, he comes to the wating room, flanked by a resident and two interns.You have to wonder how long the doctor has been awake before he even started the six hour surgery because he looks exausted but his hands are steady and his voice is soothing. "she made it through the surgery. You can go see her for a few minutes now but she's not awake. She's on a ventalator and her body is still warming up but don't be afraid. She is alive. If all goes well we can pull out the ventalator tomorrow morning."

He explains what was done. The heart-lung machine. The aortic repair and the aortic valve replacement. All the tests they ran. Gives us a a few warnings: she has Mitral Valve Prolapse and may need that valve replaced too in a few years. The next 48 hours are critical. Master should be checked out by a specialist as soon as possible because Marfan Syndrome can be inheirited.

I take Master home, give him a mild sedative, call a friend to stay with him, and then i came to work because I was not allowed to call off. He didn't want me to stay with him. I can't concentrate...can't make myself care that people have sinus infections. My injections are a bit rougher than they need to be...I missed two blood draws in a row without even an appology already this morning. They sent me to do billing but the numbers swim. I do what I'm told because to disobey would only add to Master's stress more than my presence might lessen it but I hurt for him.

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Back in June I finally ended a long and poisonous relationship. I'm sure we've all been there. The difference, for me, is that this wasn't any long and poisonous relationship. It was the long and poisonous relationship. The "I was a lonely loser at school and she was my first love" relationship.

Yeah, that one.

So here I am, footloose and fancy-free for the first time since I was 16. Problem is, I have no idea what to do about it. I'm 22 and now I have to learn the rules of this crazy and terrible game. Everyone else my age seems to be quite experienced at it.

Not that I'm regretting my decision to end that relationship. If anything, I wish I'd done it sooner. Nor am I intending to get involved in another serious relationship any time soon -- I'm having far too much fun doing life My Way. But that doesn't make this situation any less intimidating.

What's bothering me is, I can't see a way out. I can't tell where my options are. I don't want a relationship now, but basic social observation shows that, someday, not too far in the future, I will. And when that happens, what am I going to do about it? I've had five years to thoroughly tune myself out of the single world. Now I'm stuck out here, and I have nowhere to go, nor means to get there. I got myself out of a prison cell, only to find myself in a prison with no walls.

I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I didn't expect it to be this ... desolate.

I'm lost, unsure and afraid. Given a sufficient timespan, I'll add 'desperate' to that list. Nobody finds those traits attractive. It's confidence that draws people to you, and I'm seriously lacking in that department right now. Even given the (extremely rare) situation that I find someone who has a compatible personality with mine and is available, I'm going to be so busy frantically stuffing my own feet into my mouth that it's very unlikely to work out.

The world promised me that being a successful early-twenties bachelor was a glamourous and exciting lifestyle. I should never have listened. Maybe I lack the charisma to make my life exciting, or maybe being a bachelor is actually just damn boring. Either way, I often find my way into depressing thought cycles, asking myself stupid cliché questions and getting stupid cliché answers. "Why doesn't anybody want me?" "Where did all the single girls go?", et al.

I find myself wondering how long it'll be before I'm lame enough to use internet dating services, or "accidentally" look through the personals in the newspaper. How many months before I give up and go to a hooker? Before I become that guy at the party who clumsily cracks on to anything female?

Because, right now, it seems like I'm going to be stranded out here for a long, long time.

A crawlie walked through my station today. I think it was the same one that came by three weeks ago, sniffing the metal walls with its antennae, perhaps confused by the absence of rock.

Crawlies are the largest organic creatures found at these depths. A typical adult is slightly longer than my hand, though I have seen a few that are larger. We who labor down here have grown fond of them; like us they are armored, and like us they are hard workers. We often see them trudging diligently along the tunnels with a chunk of ore atop their shelled backs, held in place by two of their six legs. They are peaceful and trusting. Several times I have enticed a crawlie to take a nugget of ore from my hand. I do not know much else about them.

I watched this one trundle past with his burden and for an odd moment I envied him.

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I have such bizarre experiences with the opposite sex. Today, I met this girl at school. She seemed attractive enough at first, but then a friend of mine told me that she was, well, a slut. And she takes her tooth out. And smokes a cigarette through the gap.

But hey, at least we don't share the same surname...oh wait, we do.

This acorn October is tumbling past me faster than ever. I spent all year waiting for October and I just looked up to find it half gone.

Everything is changing for me. No. Stop. I am changing everything. I own these changes, I am sure of it.

Part of me wants to fast foward 6 or even 8 months to the day when all the changing will be done. But I know I should stay here and now and watch it all unfold.

I am bringing gifts. They are the best gifts of all. When will you give yourself the good gifts? Aren't you sick of wasting them on everyone else?

This acorn October is fast. Faster than I thought possible.

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