Day before yesterday, around the kitchen table, we were discussing how different the Spartans were from what 300 showed, and how 300 softened things considerably.  (One of the advantages of having the boys home for the holidays is that it elevates the cultural tone of the house. Being rather devoted to our work, Dan and I usually just discuss “things we’re stuck on.”)

One of the things we discussed was “father decision.”  I.e. when you presented the newborn to the father, yeah, he could reject him (or her) for gross deformity, for weakness (my dad who loved me dearly used to joke with me that if I’d been in Sparta, having been born very premature and at 11 inches long, I’d have been toast.), or simply because he wasn’t feeling it.

This brought to mind a discussion I had with my friend Eric Scheie, who says that the problem (one of them) with the current abortion system is that for all intents and purposes it makes humanity conditional on the mother’s say so.

This is not a post about abortion: it is a post about being disposable, and about conditional humanity, and fleeting “I won’t kill you” status.  But it is impossible not to touch on abortion.

Now whenever I bring this up, I’m met with a barrage of very strange argument, something like “Well, if the babies aren’t wanted they’re not going to be happy, so this is the right way to do it.”

Um… okay.  I don’t know about you guys out there, but I was not a wanted baby.  At least not by my mother.  (Dad wanted a large family.)  I wasn’t even wanted after she was pregnant with me.

Though I’ll say that after I was born she fought tooth and nail to keep me alive, a dicey proposition my first three years of life, and sacrificed time, health and treasure to the endeavor.

How much of this was that she now wanted me and how much was basic human decency, I don’t know and don’t care to probe.  I’m fairly sure she loved me by the time I was 16 due to an incident that proved it.  And we get along now.  (Btw. if you’re a doctor, telling the ten year old who just came in with a massive autoimmune attack that the asthma/arthritis/eczema complex is the “mark of the unwanted child” is not a kindness.  While it is possible, because epigenetics does amazing things, you’re still doing no one a favor when you say that.)

Yeah, mom and I had our rocky patches — anyone here didn’t have a rocky patch or two with their parents, particularly in adolescence? — partly because we’re different and alike in all the ways calculated to drive the other insane, but if you asked her, with as much of a pain as I was, I’m convinced she’d tell you I was worth it, now.

Leaving that aside, I might not be living amidst rose beds, but I’d say I’m one of the happiest people I know and certainly the most blessed.

A perusal of craigslist pet adds (I sometimes found myself there, and no, I don’t know why) tells you how fleeting and unreliable the “If you’re wanted you’ll be spared” status is.)  All those pets there were, presumably, once upon a time wanted.  And let me say right now that hell reserves a particular place for people who give away elderly dogs.  You keep the animal all his life, and convince him he’s loved and wanted, but when the going gets rough you expel him from the pack to live among strangers?  I’m sure killing the animal is kinder.

I don’t know which came first, abortion for convenience of the enshrinement of “being wanted brings happiness.” Back in the eighties I noticed Americans in general were more likely to euthanize their pets because “he’s senile.”

Now, we have euthanized two pets, and two others died while we were considering it.  In both cases there was no doubt death was imminent and there was nothing but pain on the way.  One’s kidneys had failed, and he couldn’t move and was just crying.  And the other, cancer fused her jaw.

However in the eighties I saw people euthanize pets literally because “he’s not as pretty as he was.”

I come from a farm culture, where animals meant not much.  (Even though I always had a tendency to get attached to birds who had fallen from nests, and bunnies missing a foot, and other things I dragged home.  Not right in the head is the real problem.  Too soft by half.) But treating a pet like a child or a family member and then killing it for not being pretty shocked me.

So the element of disposable was already there, in the eighties.

But there is more to it.  There is a justification or at least a strong excuse for this callousness.  Our lives are massively more complex in terms of changing circumstances than our relatives.  My dad had two jobs, and retired at 80.  Dan has had … 5?  (I think.  I haven’t counted.)  And he’s not near retirement age, yet.  My parents moved once.  They lived with my grandparents for years after marriage, then moved when I was seven to their own house, where they still live.  This house we just sold was the house we lived longest in: 13 years.  The next house we buy will be our fifth.  Our kids were born in different states. And we’re a very stable, never-divorced family and celebrated our 30th anniversary yesterday.

In all this change, children or pets that were very much wanted and even needed, suddenly are encumbrances.  Because I’m soft in the head, we kept the cats all through these moves, even when doing so cost us having to rent while selling.  But we did give up a (young) dog once, simply  because I was afraid she was going to get killed.  Our life had entered one of those periods when everything went crazy, I was (unexpectedly though very much welcomed) pregnant, and she got bored and kept tearing up the boards of the fence and getting out.  We lived on a four lane road, with continuous traffic.  She had several narrow escapes and then we decided we had to give her away.

Strangely and very much to my chagrin, 6 months later we were living in a semi-rural area with a dog-proof fence and our lives had changed to where I’d have cherished the dog as a walk companion.  I still miss my loup garou.

Which again goes to show that “wanted” or “inconvenient” is a fleeting state that should not be the only mark of “you’re human.”

There are already — spits — bio ethicists proposing euthanasia for kids who … don’t meet specs, I guess.  Or that the mother stops wanting.  I’d very much hope this never catches on but with all the arguments of “if you’re not happy you aren’t human” who knows?  I know in Europe, in certain countries (Holland, I’m looking at you) “I’m not happy” is a valid reason for assisted suicide.

It’s not our fault.  Our lives are complex and ever changing.  What was convenient and even a source of pleasure — a cat, a dog, a baby — becomes an unbearable burden when the job change or the house move, or the financial disaster strikes.

But perhaps that is the very reason that getting rid of living things or making them precious only at the whim of one of the members of the family or one of the partners in a marriage is a strange way to go about it.

At least the Spartans, once they’d accepted the kid, assumed he was human.  … well, at least unless he failed his manhood tests.

I don’t regret keeping the cats with us even when it was hellish during moves/changes.  I do regret giving loup garou away.

Maybe it’s because I’m soft in the head.  Maybe normal humans don’t feel that way.

And maybe I’m the one who is crazy thinking “mother’s approval” is a weird way to distinguish the babies we’ll chop to pieces in the womb from the ones we will go through extraordinary measures to save at 26 weeks.


This is not a post about abortion, because dying might not be the worst thing that can happen to you.

I’m wondering more about the babies who were born and who are if not discarded treated like they’re not human because a new marriage, a move, or the child’s own lack of perfection made them “unwanted” and therefore less than human.

Like a lot of other people, I was “born owing money.”  From my earliest years I had the idea that there was something I must make up for.  BUT at least it never occurred to me that I wasn’t human.  Or that by not being wanted my life was worse than death.  Which is what we’re telling unwanted kids now.

I wonder what effect that has on adults.  It probably doesn’t stop them finding happiness, but does it make them feel more like they’re adrift in a world that doesn’t want/love them?

Maybe that’s why the “We all must belong to something.  I belong to the state” respondent at DNC said what she did.

And maybe that is the problem with trying to have a republic of free humans right now.

I don’t know.  I don’t care.  For all of you reading this: If no one else wants you here, I do.  And I will fight for you if needed.  It’s all I can do.




249 thoughts on “Wanted

      1. Patience and understanding, but most of all a sense of humor. Yes, the cross cultural thing gets difficult at times, but if you can make each other laugh, nothing bad will happen.
        Oh. And ignore both families. They’re not you. be respectful and loving, but don’t let them stick their nose in.

      2. The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other.

        ― G.K. Chesterton

    1. Thirty years? (snort) Pups!

      Of course, twenty years ago Beloved Spouse & I had twice as many years together as did you two — now you’re up to seventy-five percent of us! You’re closing the gap.

    2. Catching up on your blog four days late, I will stick to belated congratulations and wishing you the best possible year.

  1. In my philosophy, what you effin’ want has little to do with anything. You create a life, you have a duty toward it. A society that discards eternal duties in favor of ephemeral wants is not a healthy culture. How long did Sparta last?

    Michael Medved has identified two disparate themes in Hollywood’s quiver: Do your duty vs Follow your heart. But the heart is a fickle and betraying thing, a will o’ the wisp the following of which will leave you stranded with no better choice than throwing yourself under the train’s wheels.

    1. And the quickest way to know your heart is a traitor is when it urges you to abandon your duty. I have always had trouble seeing the happy ending in stories where the protagonist throws away their family/life/duty to follow their heart.

      1. This, this so hard it hurts. I’ve reached the point where I get physically ill when a character gives up everything good and rational to ‘follow their heart’.

        1. The only times I have seen it work is when the character gives it all up, and realizes that the only way to REALLY solve their problems is to go back. Back to home and family and duty and make right, deal with the problems rather than run from them.

            1. “The one thing you can’t sacrifice for your heart’s desire is your heart. “Miles Vorkosigan.

              It’s hard to find, but Zenna Henderson hazcthe best SF story ever on that one: The Anything Box.

              How is it that almost all of my fave SF authors, who got young me into fandom, were members of the XX squad, and I’ve got 5 decades under my belt? It’s almost as if the SJW ASPs were lying liars happy to zioence the voices of inconvenient women.


        2. I keep finding, over and over, that when I put a theme in my stories of “putting your duty ahead of your heart” that it resonates. Makes a much deeper and more meaningful tale.

        3. Of course, there are situations where they give up everything bad and irrational. Many dystopian works, for instance.

      2. You have to realize that the majority of the moral pygmies telling these stories are not exactly people you’d want in your life, in the first place.

        What’s the salient feature of the “creative people” who wind up doing things in Hollywood, and elsewhere in the entertainment industry? They are, to be blunt, f**ked in the head, borrowing a common military expression. Whether it is the narcisstic actress leaving everything behind to go to Hollywood and be “found”, or the creepy weird guy down at the video store who becomes a well-known “auteur”, they’re all “not right in the head” in some way or another. That they’ve become so influential in our culture as a whole is something I think explains the why of how we got to where we are. These people who control and create most of our entertainment are, in a phrase, mentally ill.

        Disagree? Dear God, the examples I can throw at you… Roman Polanski? G.R.R. Martin, the man who made rape and incest a centerpiece of a work that’s been hugely influential in breaking down barriers against portraying perversion in the media? Can you imagine him becoming this well-known, this popular, at any other point in our history?

        The Romans had their games, and we rightly scorn their entertainment as being debasing. Are we any better, when we have people like Martin making millions, and people are buying his books in job lots? How about the success of people like the bunch of pedophiles that used to run with the SF fandom crowd? Why the hell did that get excused, and earn averted eyes instead of pitchforks and pyres?

        1. Beg to differ.

          I can name a number of writers whom you would probably find tolerable or even sound, and who are arguably mentally ill.

          Being born with or developing a mental illness isn’t what fucks you over. What fucks you over is being unwilling to work a hundred times harder than healthy people if that is what you need to be a competent adult. What fucks you over is, as you say, moral failing. What fucks you over is not having, as shown by your actions, any regard for being functional.

          1. Y’know… You’re right. I’m using the shorthand for evil that we’ve all grown used to, that someone who does things that are evil, is “ill” in some way. And, that is not accurate–There are plenty of mentally ill people who still possess an acute moral sense, and strive not to harm others. Likewise, there are plenty of “well” people who commit abhorrent acts of evil…

            Sloppy thinking, on my part.

            1. It is true that the half merit half fad nature of the entertainment industry pulls from a pool with a few more issues, often selects the extremely driven yet mostly functional, and does not provide the best environment for maintaining mental health.

              It is true that humans can be ill enough that they are no more evil when endangering others than a rabid dog, because they essentially are the same as a rabid dog. These people need to be confined and supervised, driven off, or killed, not as punishment but for the sake of protecting others.

              All evil is treatable is a falsehood, sometimes a deliberate one. Some advocates want to peddle quackery in place of proven methods. Some simply are overconfident, thinking medicine is easier and more powerful than the record shows.

            2. I don’t really know if we truly want to go here at all, actually. Look at this:

              And according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a real thing:

              Note that creatives in general have essentially been labeled mentally ill, simply as a result of their creativity and the creative process.

              1. Ye gads. They are making the world as gray as the ice-fog outside my window, but at least the ice-fog makes the plants pretty and will go away in another hour or so.

              2. ODD is a different level of “nonconformity” than the normal run of adolescent and teen hardheadedness. My younger son has it (though it is mellowing out slowly). ODD is an absolute refusal to perform even the most reasonable requests, if it is not something they already want to do, to the point where gigantic blowups happen over the most trivial of things. The only options I had were arguing with him until he was in tears, simply to get a 50% success rate, or else giving up and doing it myself.

            3. There are also plenty of people who preach evil who have absolutely nothing wrong with them except they are *wrong*.

          2. My experience with mental illness is that you can never stop fighting it. I’ve seen happens when you stop fighting it and it’s awful. I can pity the people who stopping fighting it but I can’t respect them.

            1. That’s because “mental illness” is a rather silly term for what it describes. You don’t generally “get better,” as in, you don’t go back to the way you were as if nothing happened. Similarly, it’s not generally contagious- weasel words because there are those cases that defy the odds, and some things labeled “mental illness” may just be streaks of color in the human psyche. Sometimes a mental illness in polite society might be a holdover positive survival trait from a more barbaric time.

              It’s more like an amputation, or being born without a foot. You have to learn to adapt to the loss of that part. You aren’t balanced in a mental sense like the rest of humanity, for all its foibles, is born to be.

              It’s not like an amputation in that other people can’t see it. But once you’re aware of it, you can run your mental fingers over the stump, but that doesn’t bring things back that you don’t have anymore. Or put things in that you were never born with.

              Those mental prosthetics may be drugs. They may be some mental exercises you do to calm down. They can be regular therapy sessions to put your mind back in tune, as it were. They don’t make you normal. They don’t regrow lost bits. But they do provide the crutches people need to adapt to normal society. If that makes any sense.

          3. Amen to that.

            The worst thing anyone can do to you here are suffering from a cognitive disability, or a mental illness, or some form of general social institutional oppression, is to convince you that these characteristics are what explains all your faults and failures.

            God help you if you listen to them. Doesn’t matter if they’re partly right.

        2. There is part of Hollywood that is solidly blue collar and white collar, among both crew and actors. They are the actors who only get in the news for getting married and doing charity events, and the directors and writers and producers and crew who do their jobs and keep the drama on the page. But you have to be very grounded and professional to do it.

          The trouble is that the normal Hollywood people often have to find a modus operandi that lets them do their work, while other people do not. That is why some producers just do not hire troubled actors, some try to mentor them, while others prey on them.

        3. And how about Piers Anthony, who wrote a novel about how little girls lust to be taken sexually by older men. And it was all _her_ fault for seducing him!
          (“Firefly”, IIRC)

      3. RES and Kate —
        Yes!! So much this!! Thank you for putting so clearly and simply.

        Congrats and Happy Anniversary!
        And thank you for this forum.

  2. “if you’re not happy you aren’t human”????

    Oy! That explains such hatred of the Jews, a more depressive ethnicity there never has been. We aren’t happy so we aren’t human so we don’t deserve to live? And here I though it was on account we kept our own set of books, keeping the verkackte Historians semi-honest. Who nu?

    1. Not sure why you call Jews a depressive ethnicity. There’s a lot of happiness in Jewish life. Though perhaps you’re buying into historical propaganda…and being everyone’s scapegoat isn’t a particularly fun role. Surviving in spite of it, thank G-d, now that’s different. As we joke on many Jewish holidays (when celebrating them as proper holy days)… they tried to kills us, they failed – they’re gone, we’re still here…let’s eat! (big festive meal)

      1. Not sure? Look at the long line of morose philosophers who have populated Jewish discourse just since 1900: Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Groucho Marx (and his brothers), Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, George Burns, Joan Rivers, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Billy Crystal, Alan King, Lenny Bruce, Gilda Radner, Fanny Brice, Mort Sahl, Danny Kaye, Gene Wilder, Shemp, Moe & Curly Howard (along with fellow Stooge Larry Feinstein) Victor Borge, Robert Klein, Howie Mandel, Jerry Stiller, Joey Bishop, Marty Feldman …

        The only notable comedian produced by the Jews was 18th Century prankster Sig Freud.

        So, yeah, a very depressive ethnicity.

        1. The snark is strong with you.
          Yes, that long list of purveyors of gloom and doom, many of them starting out in the days of live vaudeville, honing their tales of woe at secret locations in the Catskills, reaching vast audiences with the birth of first radio then television.
          Wait, they were what? Funny, most of those names don’t sound all that Jewish.

          1. You kidding? You ever have to put up a marquee, especially when a third of the letters have broken or been blown away? Believe you me, boychick, Danny Kaye is much easier to do than Danny Kaminsky, just as Jack Benny is easier to fit up there than Benjamin Kubelsky.

            Okay, Lenny Bruce isn’t all that much easier than Lenny Schneider, but you gotta love the man who said “Communism is like one big phone company.” (Although to get that you have to remember when there was just the one phone company — the rest of you need to Netflix The President’s Analyst.)

            1. That and:

              Take away the right to say “fuck” and you take away the right to say “fuck the government.”

              1. I’d add that my use of that word this thread may make up a substantial fraction of my lifetime uses. I wouldn’t use it so rarely if I didn’t prefer not to. That doesn’t mean there are never appropriate uses. In this case, I had strong sentiment, and it also seemed to be the right word.

  3. This year my dog had an acute attack of pancreatitis. I spent the money even though I didn’t really have it (savings to keep living btw) because without this doggy I would have not done well. She saved me literally from death after the death of my late-hubby. So I know that there is a contract between us in our pets (other than love)… They sacrifice much to be our pets. We are obligated to do our part in making their lives good too. (I understand about the young dog– sometimes the obligation is to find a good home.)

    But I didn’t kill her even though the money would be needed in the coming year. Even if she had died while I was trying to save her, I would have considered the money well-spent… because I love her and I owe her.

    1. Yep. Pixel-the-never-sufficiently-lamented cost us 12k or so over his lifetime of adventures (falling off a roof, getting run over — when he got outside — auto immune issues, and finally his organs failing.) All of it worth it.

    2. <>

      Remind me to show a photo of Kaylar some day. She kept me half way sane when I was living alone in Ohio. She gave me a reason to keep going when humans turned away. I lost Kaykay, after a year old battle, to ITP almost ten years ago. I still miss that neurotic schitz-kitty.

    3. There spoke a Spirit out of the press,
      ‘Said:–“Have you any here
      That saved a fool from drunkenness,
      And a coward from his fear?

      “That turned a soul from dark to day
      When other help was vain;
      That snatched it from Wanhope and made
      A cur a man again?”

      “Enter and look,” said Peter then,
      And set The Gate ajar.
      “If know aught of women and men
      I trow she is not far.”

      “Neither by virtue, speech nor art
      Nor hope of grace to win;
      But godless innocence of heart
      That never heard of sin:

      “Neither by beauty nor belief
      Nor white example shown.
      Something a wanton–more a thief–
      But–most of all–mine own.”

      “Enter and look,” said Peter then,
      “And send you well to speed;
      But, for all that I know of women and men
      Your riddle is hard to read.”

      Then flew Dinah from under the Chair,
      Into his arms she flew–
      And licked his face from chin to hair
      And Peter passed them through!


        1. Dust? I just yelled at the family for chopping up my Mexican onions before I got to them.

      1. Poor theology. Of course, dogs have a place in heaven even before their human arrives. [Smile]

      1. Found that out for certain when a lady-friend’s service dog came up with a torn ACL. Four large, which she’s making payments on from donations and her disability. About broke my heart to see and hear him right after surgery, but very worth it to see him now. He’s even back to playing with his favorite chew-toys. (Slow possums, in case you’re wondering.)

        1. Yep. We had a great surgeon who had us text photos of Jaspers’ wound site to her every 6 hours (Dog’s recover better at home, and you won’t have a huge hospital bill!) Those pictures were terrifying, but she kept texting back (“looking good!”) and now he’s as beautiful as ever (and still runs amazingly fast!) just with three legs.

          Worth every penny, but…. OY.

  4. When children are unwanted, inconvenient, a cramp in our lifestyles…when children are optional, “no longer needed for fulfillment”…there is no future for humankind. When Japan has a birthrate of 0.9 per couple, population collapse. It’s funny, we grew up being terrified by population growth rates which would surely lead to overpopulation, overuse of world resources and Earth being an anthill of humanity – a hell on Earth. Today Russia is giving out huge cash baby bonuses – to prevent population crash (it successfully raised birthrates from 1.3 to 1.7 per couple – 2.2 is necessary to maintain population stability / replacement level).

    There is a conflict between individual choice (or rather, a woman’s choice to reproduce or not) and society’s need for survival. Iran, birthrate 1.4 I think, recently outlawed vasectomies. Could a society outlaw or restrict birth control methods for people 20-35 with less than 2 children? I believe we’ll see it in some countries over the next 10 years.

      1. Not sure about prizes, but rewards? Yes. I think we will see provision of government child care and extended hour baby sitting provided as the mother goes on to finish high school and then goes through college … possibily housing as well.

        1. It won’t be enough. Watch for government removal of support for contraception and abortion – and reduction in options.

          1. I think more likely, we’ll start to see larger families in entertainment. How many families on TV or in movies have more than two children, now? When you start seeing families with four children regularly, that will drive it far more than government regulations.

          2. That will not be easily accomplished in the US, where there is a strong and well financed lobby for birth control and abortion firmly established. It pushed to have both included in the (not!) Affordable Care Act. They are now supporting the efforts to get the courts to very narrowly define those few exemptions in offered in the ACA so as to force its coverage upon every organization that they can, including, for example, an group of nuns.

    1. Japan still has some very old cultural attitudes about the role of married women, to the point many prefer being single. And I think we all know what the mullahs think about unsanctioned liaisons or even mild episodes of hand-holding. Sometimes it isn’t just selfishness, but cultural sclerosis.

      Romania, in the bad old days, banned all forms of contraception and abortion to build up the population. They got huge numbers of abandoned, feral children that often turned to selling their bodies to survive, and the ones who did live to adulthood could be sociopaths. Not what I would consider a good end for anybody.

      1. I have this mental image of USAians smuggling infants out of a Romanian-style “orphanage” to hide and raise on the mainland or in one of the liberated sea cities.

  5. It was “interesting” that one of the pro-doctor-assisted-suicide articles was from the point of view of an on duty doctor who got tried of dealing with the patient late at night.

    IE He wasn’t her doctor and his actions were more about “putting her out of *his* misery”. [Frown]

    1. I’m quite certain that this “putting her out of *his* misery” is the concept at work when people advocate putting disabled people out of *their* misery. I hear excuses like, they aren’t productive, contributing members of society; why should *I* pay for their care; and so on. Having a severely mentally handicapped daughter makes me pretty sensitive to this. No, she isn’t able to support herself — she can’t even be left alone in the house for more than a few minutes, because if anything happened she wouldn’t know what to do. But her life is certainly of value for a lot of reasons. For the most part she’s happy; she’s definitely self-aware; she communicates to some extent. But the main benefit of her life is what she brings out in *other* people — compassion, patience, love, understanding. She’s aggravating at times (mostly for me, since I’m the one who is with her all the time), as she’s autistic and when she’s unhappy or hurting or tired or hungry we get screaming and shrieking. There’s been a lot of improvement as I learn more about how to keep her comfortable (another benefit for me – I’ve learned a LOT about autism, auto-immune disease, and general health and nutrition as I try to find things that actually help her). But there are still times when I have to leave the house for a while. In spite of that, her life is DEFINITELY worth while, both for her sake and for my sake and for all the other people she comes in contact with.

      I also think that, since so many people have turned away from God, that people forget that someday they will have to give account to Him for how they treat people here on earth, especially those who can’t speak for themselves now (but they will be able to then).

      1. Mom had Alzheimer’s long before she passed away and I had to put her in a Nursing Home (mostly because after her heart attack, she needed more care).

        But if some asshole had said that she “deserved” to die, I would have been extremely pissed off.

        Oh, I thank God that when she started going down-hill, it was her nicer side that came out.

        I heard too many stories about people with Alzheimer’s who became more nasty. [Sad Smile]

        1. I have a theory that Alzheimer’s and other dementias often pare away everything but the core personality. The cultivated mask comes off, and the nice (or nasty) person underneath comes through. But that’s just my guess.

          1. I hope you’re wrong, because if that’s true, then if I ever go that route, I’ll need to be put down like a rabid dog.

              1. Well, I’m not going to try to convince you otherwise. Fed the Fred might decide to take a little preemptive action. 🙂

            1. Ditto.

              Just remember that it’s not what you start with, it’s what you choose to do with it, that you’re going to be judged by.

          2. While I would generally agree with your theory that Alzheimer’s and other dementias often pare away everything but the core personality, from my observations I have seen people suffering from dementia go through stages to get there.

            Anger can come out as people around the person with dementia have to limit some of the freedoms and responsibilities that the patient has taken for granted. I had heard and glimpsed this watching as friends dealt with family members that had various forms of dementia.

            I have observed it up close with The Mother-In-Law as her Alzheimer’s took effect. Before the diagnosis she was already frightened by the thought that she might be ‘loosing her mind.’ She believed that memory loss was a symptom of personal weakness.

            Then when it came to having her checkbook and car keys taken away? She felt insulted and belittled. The family was taking away those functions that reflected her role as a contributing adult. Her reaction was panic and anger. (Although, I have to admit, she didn’t complain when her husband took over the kitchen.)

            As she got to more advanced stages of forgetfulness things have changed. She has had hard life experiences from the time she was young. She was a world class worrier, discontent and plagued by anxiousness. As her ability to make and keep memories faded, for the first time since I met her she is largely free of worry, able to enjoy just being. Although Alzheimer’s is not something I would wish on anyone, it is nice to see her come to a happy state of being.

      2. Funny how rarely people making the “not productive, contributing members of society” argument apply it to the recipients of Welfare and other wealth transfers, such as EITC or even Social Security.

        Heck, the entire argument about raising the Minimum Wage is a denial of the principle of productivity in excess of living costs.

        1. There was the story of space aliens offering to solve Earth’s problems, and one government drone suggested removal of the unproductive. The aliens paid honor to him, not knowing that the drone was unaware that the category included him. However, when his turn came he had figured it out.

  6. I know about being unwanted. My father thought that I was the result of an affair, and divorced my mother over it. (I never knew this until much, much later, so I didn’t understand this weird “vibe” I always picked up in the family until it was explained.) My mother became an alcoholic, and I never once felt love from her. No hugs, no statements of “I love you.” Never. My father never reached out to me except when other family members made him do it. Then, when he died, he did not put me in his will. He never said he loved me, either.

    So growing up unloved by parents is tough, but not impossible. I did have another relative who loved me dearly, and I felt it. But yes, you do grow up feeling like you have to prove you have a right to live, and that you don’t really belong like other people do.

    But then I realized that just about everyone feels this way, to some degree or another. Maybe with me it is just a stronger version of it.

      1. Yes, you can–but it takes work, and you cannot expect anyone else to hand it to you. But no one wants to hear that…..

        1. On the other end, people don’t want to hear that they can’t expect to fix people’s problems by just handing them stuff, especially money.

        2. Heck, being happy requires work when you are loved. I grew up with loving parents, who now live nearby and are still incredibly supportive and affectionate. I’ve a wonderful wife and four amazing kids who all love me, who did not walk out on me even when I told them to (yeah, I’ve been bad off at times). It still takes work to be happy. One must maintain those happy relationships, build up reserves of energy and peace for hard times, maintain perspective as things come and go, keep the minions in food and clothing&hellips; To mangle the line from Fezzik’s parents: life is work; anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something.

          1. Maybe happiness is just overrated. It’s like we think happiness is the key to be fulfilled and satisfied in life–but it isn’t.

            1. I don’t think happiness is overrated — it is more a matter of people being unwilling to pay the price of attaining and maintaining it. John Stossel has done several shows over the years examining the source of happiness and found that it seems to come from serving others. The only theology I can think of advocating direct pursuit of happiness by self-indulgence cites Lucifer as its source, so maybe there is a trap there.

              Leaving folks who pursue happiness by pleasing themselves caught in a “You can’t get there from here” cul-de-sac.

              1. A friend told me he sees three sorts of happiness.
                1. At a party, having a good time, swapping jokes. This type is the most shallow and ephemeral.
                2. Working on something fulfilling that you enjoy. Some immediate gratification… But still work. Some smiles while it is happening and the satisfaction lasts a while.
                3. Slogging through a nearly impossible but important task. By oneself or with a team. Too hot/cold, tiring, painful, stressful, maybe dangerous. You wonder if g-d hates you, but you continue. The satisfaction stays with you the rest of your life. The happiness you feel when you remember the accomplishment grows with age. You tell these stories to you grandchildren.

                Type three happiness rules.

                1. One day I was out on the highway, miles from no-where whatsoever. Walking. In the rain. Freezing rain, mind. Gas can in my hand. No phone. Late. No way to call in. Reports of snowstorm approaching. No coat. Yes, and uphill both ways, too.

                  Got to a little nowhere kind of place with gas pumps older than I was at the time, but I was in luck. They were open, sorta. Had gas, kinda. Only 87 octane, mind… Paid for gas with a pocketful of change I’d scrounged from the floorboards of my truck, cussing the dead gas gauge that never changed, the buddies that apparantly borrowed my truck the night before (it *was* three quarters full before I left…), fate, and my own self.

                  Pretty girl taking my money smiled at me, and got her dad to give me a ride back to my pickup. Nine and a half hours on the road, seven of those on boot leather. It was a good day, because a pretty girl smiled at me. That’s one kind of happiness. If you see a young man walking around doing the Snoopy dance like I was that day, it’s a good bet something similar happened. That’s one kind of happy.

                  1. Here’s one from the other side of that:

                    Wife and younger son have enough prescriptions to keep me visiting the local pharmacy on a regular basis (I don’t set up the direct-mail for them because several of them are controlled substances that they wouldn’t mail anyway, and besides, most of the people in the pharmacy are female 🙂 ). The lead pharmacist was a woman who appeared to be under 30. Last year, she got married, and just a few months later, pregnant. After her maternity leave, presumably because she wanted fewer hours, they transferred her to another store. I would not have known this, except that she actually sent me a card, where she put in a personal note telling me how, because I gave her a smile every time I came in, there had been several days when she had been having a very frustrating and stressful day, and giving her a smile, no matter what else may have been going on, had boosted her spirits and made it easier to get through the rest of the day.

                    As you may figure, the room got pretty dusty right about then. That’s the second time that I have been told that simply being willing to smile at someone, for no particular reason at all, has made a huge difference. Let me tell you – being told that once was amazing. Being told a second time made my head nearly too big to fit through the door.

                    1. I, too, had weekly visits to the CVS for my parents’ prescriptions and was apparently deeply appreciated by the pharmacists there for no more reason than being polite and genial. It is a shame that so low a standard is required for being appreciated these days.

                      There have been a (small) number of times cashiers have expressed concern when Beloved Spouse & I were a little low energy and not bothering with our usual “Nick & Nora Routine” at the checkout. Apparently our refusal to be grumpy and insistence on amusing ourselves while paying for groceries is welcome change from their dreary routine. Like Lina Lamont, we can only say: “If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain’t been in vain for nothin’. Bless you all.”

            2. I don’t think happiness is something we have all the time. Can we really know happiness without sadness and hardships? From my own experience I’d argue that the greatest happinesses are felt on the other side of those hardships.

            3. Some people do overrate it. I have read a philosopher who argued for euthanasia for disabled infants on the grounds of maximizing happiness: for the parents to go on and have a healthy baby who would increase happiness more by being happier.

              got that? It’s not that happiness is good for you, it’s whether you are good for happiness. Truly, there is nothing so moronic that some philosopher has not said it.

            4. I think part of it is people’s fundamental misunderstanding of happiness–ie, too many folks think it’s something that happens to you because of external events. It isn’t, it’s a choice you make. Barring something like clinical depression (which is a disease that, alas, cannot be defeated by willpower alone), a person must choose to be happy. And they can’t do it just once, it’s something you have to choose again and again and again, and it takes hard work a lot of the time.

              1. I tend to think of happiness as external and joy as internal. You can be sad and mourning a loss, but still carry a spark of joy inside.

      2. I’ve always thought happiness was being grateful for what you have, not what you want or wish for. Knowing _someone_ loves you is terrific. Loving yourself is even better, if it isn’t based on arrogance or narcissism, but acceptance that you have value that isn’t dependent upon what others think. (Don’t use The Won as a good example for that 😉
        Holding to duty and being willing to be there for others when you can are important for that necessary love of self. Giving (to those deserving of/truly needing help) really _is_ better than receiving.

  7. (Tried to post this once; not sure if it took. Apologies for any double posting.)

    I know about being unwanted. My father thought that I was the result of an affair, and divorced my mother over it. (I never knew this until much, much later, so I didn’t understand this weird “vibe” I always picked up in the family until it was explained.) My mother became an alcoholic, and I never once felt love from her. No hugs, no statements of “I love you.” Never. My father never reached out to me except when other family members made him do it. Then, when he died, he did not put me in his will. He never said he loved me, either. But I was not abandoned, or given up. So there was certainly the duty to make sure I lived.

    Growing up unloved by parents is tough, but not impossible. I did have another relative who loved me dearly, and I felt it. But yes, you do grow up feeling like you have to prove you have a right to live, and that you don’t really belong like other people do.

    But then I realized that just about everyone feels this way, to some degree or another. Maybe with me it is just a stronger version of it.

  8. It seems like much of this is from an infantile mindset–the universe is only what is directly perceived, needs are paramount and immediate, and if other individuals exist, they don’t have personal and different motivations. Everything *should be* perfect and *can be* perfect and if it isn’t, deliberate malevolence is afoot and should be thwarted by any means possible.

    The perfect child turns out to have Downs or a missing toe when born? They did it on purpose, and deserve to die! Don’t they realize how *selfish* it is to need more than their parents had planned to give, and can’t give the parents what they expected? Marriages, too. If they aren’t perfect all the time, reason enough to divorce, right?

    Now I and Jane Austen enjoy people’s foibles, love them even when they are flawed, and deep down I understand even my cat has her own plans for the day that might not mesh with mine. She’s still my beloved moggy 😉

    I don’t know how people get stuck in infancy like that, but I suspect a long chain of detached parenting. If a child is ignored, treated like a decoration, tolerated instead of enjoyed–of course they are going to be self-centered. Nobody else will care about them, so they have to do it. People shouldn’t be forced (by law or custom) to have children. They shouldn’t be forced NOT to have children. Governments paying bounties for children, like they are sacks of potatoes, also not a good idea. You need wanted kids in mentally healthy families. Not sure how to do that, though.

    1. Paying bounties for babies (other than NOT taxing married couples at a higher rate than unmarried couples or single people) and legally “discouraging” contraception for people under 30 sounds like the second-best way to end up with institutions like the Romanian orphanages under Communism. “But that can’t happen here!” Un huh, overworked government employees, lax supervision, adoptions restricted by rules that conflate genetics and culture . . .

      1. A couple decades ago I did a rough calculation and concluded that, had the “Dependent Exemption” held steady with inflation it would have been worth about $10K per dependent instead of the then legislated $2K — probably about $30K in current dollars.

        It makes it a great deal easier to afford children if the tax code reflects realities.

        Of course, the evils of the tax code, such as forcing people in low or no income tax states to subsidize the taxes of high tax states, are a cornucopia of denunciations.

        1. I’m shaking my head, here, at your naivete.

          You think they want to help people who can take care of themselves? You think the tax code was meant to help them? You think they’re not trying to make themselves more clients, by eating out the substance of those citizens who aren’t dependent on them?

          Whether or not they are conscious of what they are doing, that is precisely what is happening–Evolution in action. They want people to be dependent on the state, so they attack those who aren’t. The fact that the victims of this are blind to the effect of what is happening is meaningless.

          And, then we have the problem of faceless altruism, because a lot of those self-supporting people who are being driven into extinction are some of the same idiots voting for this crap, without thinking about the implications of what they are doing. Self-destruction, in the name of “feeling good”.

          We look back on the Roman self-destruction, as the Boni dispossessed the rural yeomen to build latifundia and drove the rural populace to the cities, and think “How could they be so stupid? How could they not see what they were doing…?”. Meanwhile, we’re doing the same damn thing, while subsidizing urban dysfunction at the expense of taxing the hell out of productive citizens to support that dysfunction. Think about this, the next time one of your productive citizen acquaintances mentions that they are curtailing their family at two kids, because of taxes, and meanwhile, the government is paying some dirtbag in an inner city to have 8 kids that aren’t going to do anything with their lives except go on welfare and produce more dysfunctional clients for the state.

          1. Kirk, if you interpret my observations as imagining that the authors of our tax code have our liberty at heart you are reading comprehension challenged. If you are just deploying insult to set up your own denunciation you are rhetorically impaired.

            Did you not wonder what the source of that exemption eroding inflation might have been? Did you fail to work out the mechanism of how the Federal tax codes subsidizes high state income taxes? Must everything be explained to you in words of three syllables or fewer? Are you so full of yourself there is no capacity to ingest concepts from others?

            Of course we’re repeating the same mistakes as destroyed Rome. What, you think human nature has changed since then? There has yet to be found an idea so bad that humanity abandoned it other than temporarily (as unfashionable.)

            1. I’m sorry. I missed the implications you say you meant to be making, and read your first paragraphs straight, which seemingly expresses puzzlement as to how such an injustice could be taking place…

              Snark and sarcasm sometimes needs a hammer to drive it home, I’m afraid.

              1. You get farther reading RES if you figure the ‘S’ in his name stands for sarcasm or sarcastic, not serious. I haven’t figured out the other letters yet, but I’m sure I’ll get them eventually.

                1. Being a natural straight man, I all too often take things at face value. Comes of an inability to easily read others quickly and in real-time. I usually “get” things only on the stairs, as I’m leaving a room, or years later… It’s exponentially worse on communication mediums like this, where you can’t even pick up on body language or tone of voice.

                  Yeah, I’m that guy who sits bolt upright in bed, three years after the fact, and goes “Damn! She was flirting with me! Why the hell didn’t I see that?”.

                  1. I tend to do better communicating by text. Among the many things I appeared to miss growing up were the “body language” and “facial expression” cues. And apparently whatever cues I’m unwittingly sending confuse people.

              2. If you read *anything* by Res straight the first time through you haven’t been paying attention.

        2. The $3,000 personal exemption in place when the income tax was introduced in the US in 1913 is the equivalent of $71,920 as of 2015 if it had simply been inflation indexed, per the BLS inflation calculator.

          1. And the reason why the income tax was successfully-sold to the people as “it will only affect the very rich.” Inflation could not have been easily predicted in 1913, but this is where the superior predictive value of a moral code comes in. By what right did the voters of the early 20th century want to dispossess “the very rich,” anyway? Theft is still theft when dressed up in color of law.

            Joke was on them, wasn’t it? Some of the people old enough to vote in 1913 (born in 1889) lived to see inflation coupled with high taxes hurt them, and more importantly, their families. There are even some children now of men born in 1889 who are suffering their effects, and plenty of grandchildren (at 25 years a generation, people born in 1939 are the grandchildren of people born in 1889, and they’re in their 70’s).

          2. I was referring to the Dependent Deduction, which (as I recall) was $2,100 prior to the 1986 revision of the code, when the government indexed exemptions, deductions and brackets. A little poking about on the internet suggests I may be mistaken (either in the rate recalled or in the sources I used) but the point you made is significant. A man trying to support a wife and two kids in 1980 got to keep the first $4K (approx.) instead of the first $95K* which he would have kept had the effects of inflation been obstructed.


            1. Good link – I was looking around for the dependent exemption when the income tax was introduced and couldn’t find it.

              Per your link the married exemption plus dependent exemption were added in 1921, so the nominal married-with-two-kids taxpayer in 1921 would get a net exemption of $2,500+$200+$200=$2,900 in 1921 dollars, which in 2015 dollars is $33,147.49+$2,651.80+$2,651.80=$38,451.09.

              Note that in just the eight years between the introduction of the income tax in 1913 and this revision of 1921 the “deal” has been revised significantly, with the 1921 exemption of $38K (2015 dollars) vs. an inflation adjusted 1913 married couple exemption of $95,893.33 (2015 dollars).

      2. Well, there was the further lunacy, if I remember it correctly, that many or most babies were given transfusions and many of the doses had AIDS..

      3. A really good way to reduce the number of “unwanted” children is to stop schools from lying to kids about how contraceptives work.

        Basically, we got hours of “contraception keeps you from becoming pregnant.”
        Those of us who bothered to read the fine print and weren’t only hearing what we wanted knew it was actually “contraception lowers the chance of becoming pregnant.” (Or carrying to term, depending.)

        It’s kind of scary how similar it is to the drug classes that resulted in spikes in steroid use, because– hello, you’re telling teen boys that if they take steroids, they’ll look awesome. Of course they’re not going to think about the side effects, even if you DID say them right after you said “This iwll make you look awesome.”

    2. You need wanted kids in mentally healthy families.

      While I agree with this I am not sure how we go about it.

      I know so many children who were wanted, who grew up in families that suffered from some form or another of brokenness. It is not a happy place to start, and it all too often produces ongoing generations of brokenness. There is reason for the saying, ‘as the twig is bent, so grows the tree.’

      Fortunately, as our esteemed hostess observed, your start does not have to dictate where you are now. It takes hard work. Right now society seems to be doing very little to support individual becoming mentally healthy adults, no less developing mentally healthy families.

      1. You are NOT grown up if you use the excuse “That’s how I was raised!” Part of growing up is becoming the person you choose to be. My late brother in law used to say “How do you expect me to be normal? Dad was an unreconstructed NAZI!” We all had problems growing up. Successful people learn to deal with life.

        1. Once, to paraphrase, I asked my father why he was so surprised at how anti recreational drug use I was. Then I explained to him his influence on my life in that regard. (He would no more use stuff recreationally than I would.)

        2. There comes a point when the excuse of childhood trauma and “bad upbringing” is no longer valid, and your dysfunction/misconduct becomes your personally owned problem instead of your parents or abuser. I’d say that that point should be around the time you hit the age of majority at 21, and no later. You live that long, you’re who you are because you chose to be that way at some point, even if you have the self-awareness of a gnat.

          And, to be honest, I’m one of limited patience with those who excuse the BS other people pull, because of “their childhood…”. My mom, God love her, is like that about my dad. Entirely non-judgmental, always excusing the bastard’s poor manners and sociopathic behavior, even after she divorced his sorry ass. I love her, but the woman is the worst sort of enabler and excuser in that regard, and if she’d stood up for what she knew was right for herself and her kids, her life and ours would have been a lot better. I also suspect that had someone stood up to my dad, early on, and knocked some metaphorical sense into his head in a clear and forthright manner, he wouldn’t have turned into the quasi-monster he did, later in life. She essentially recreated the same situation in her second marriage, as well. I love her dearly, but… Gaaah…

          Given my personal history, I’m not a fan of either side of the equation: Screwed up people, or their enablers. I don’t know which is worse, to be honest. There’s a co-dependency thing going on, or a willful blindness on the part of many of the abused. The one thing I learned from observation during my time in the services is that the old truism about it taking “two to tango” is unfortunately true. You can’t be abused without first giving the abuser permission to do so, either by action, word, or acquiescence. Worst-case scenario, you can always leave or kill the bastard, and all too many people don’t take that step out of cowardice or some kind of perverted self-abnegation. It’s a mentality I can’t understand, to be honest.

          1. The excuse of childhood trauma only applies to children — if you rely on that you are declining to be an adult. Age has little to do with it; acceptance of responsibility is the sine qua non of the status of adulthood.

            1. One of the points I was making, and which maybe needs reinforcing, is that to excuse others for their failings due to “childhood” is just as much a moral “wrong” and act of evil as the original failing.

              “Knew a guy…”, quite literally. He and I were stationed together early in my career, and I couldn’t stand the SOB. Mostly, because his narcissism and other personality traits really reminded me of my dad, and I rapidly reached the conclusion with him that “This is what dad must have been like, when he was in his teens and twenties…”.

              Ran into the asshole, again, about ten years later. Only thing was, he wasn’t the man he’d been shaping up to be. At all. Now, this puzzled the hell out of me, and I did my best to figure out what had happened to change him. Or, had I mistaken him for what he was?

              What I concluded was that the difference was the woman who loved him, and more-or-less coerced him into marriage. She’d spent the intervening ten years calling him on his bullshit, each and every time, and eventually managed to turn a budding sociopath into a reasonable facsimile of a decent human being–By holding him accountable, pointing out what he was doing that was wrong, and refusing to accept anything but positive behavior from him. Quite literally, she turned this human sow’s ear into a silk purse, and she’s about the only woman I can think of that I know personally who has succeeded at her “project” in that regard. Of course, it remains to be seen what he’ll turn into when she’s inevitably gone, but we can hope he passes first, before his living moral conscience does so. Or, by then, maybe he’ll have been a decent human being for so long that he’s forgotten how to be an asshole sociopath.

              That’s the kind of woman my dad needed, not the tolerant doormat that my mom is. She’s a lovely person, a great human being, but just not the Petruchio to his Kate that she needed to be, in order for that relationship to work in any meaningful sense. Instead, she enabled and tolerated his bullshit until she couldn’t, and then divorced his lying ass when it became intolerable. She was really about 11 years late, which was the lifespan of her marriage to him.

              Virtue becomes a vice, and a positive evil, in the right wrong circumstance.

        3. I did not suggest that anyone get a pass on growing up because of his past. Please re-read the final paragraph.

          1. I was not intending to say that you had said that, merely observing that all too many do just that–And, that to excuse such behavior as being acceptable because “bad childhood” is as much a moral failure as the bad behavior. Not to mention, you’re not doing the assholes of the world any favors by ignoring their conduct.

            Some people are evil assholes because they’re evil assholes. A lot more are assholes because nobody has ever had the fortitude to call them on their bullshit or hold them accountable. Silence and “Oh, mustn’t make waves…” is, in its own way, just as bad. It’s just a moral failing of another sort, to be honest.

            My dad was a bully and a coward. He delighted in making people in menial service jobs cry, like the girl at the checkout stand who put cans on top of bread, by mistake. I saw him do that, dozens of times, growing up. Never once saw him standing up to one of his social equals, though–Them, he kissed ass with.

            Instead of kicking him in the nuts, everybody just silently acquiesced to his behavior, and went on tip-toes around him. With enough of that sort of non-resistance, he eventually turned into a monster. What he needed, in the final analysis, was a good swift kick in the ass from the world over his behavior. What he got instead, was reinforcement.

            Having become a monster, through his own misguided will and the lack of any corrective feedback from the universe, the man is now in his mid-seventies, and alone. He’s driven everyone away from him, and none of his immediate family will even accept his phone calls. I think my sister may have a restraining order against him. I haven’t spoken to him since around the end of 1999, and probably never will again. And, I’m at peace with that. When I get word he’s died, I’m probably going to feel worse about not feeling anything at all about his passing than I am about his actual passing, to be quite honest.

            At this point in my life, I’m more concerned about other people he may hurt on his way out than I am about him. I’ll be grateful if he manages to avoid that, to be honest. He’s got restraining orders from multiple parties where he’s living right now. Having given them good reason for taking them out, too…

            It’s mostly his own doing, but I suspect that a large part of the reason he arrived at this destination was that he never encountered someone who was capable of, or willing to spend the time applying correctives to his negative behaviors. The universe eventually has, but the lesson is being delivered entirely too late in his life to really have any value or meaning. He’s an entirely self-created toxic waste dump of a human being, who’s managed to drive off anyone who ever cared about him, or loved him.

            And, the sad thing is, I think there’s a sick kind of codependency about it–Had someone had the strength of will, and the clarity of vision to have locked his heels and demanded better of him, I like to think he was capable of being a much better person. Unfortunately, the man never sought out equals or betters, in his relationships–Only people he could bully and dominate. His choice, his fate…

            The saddest thing about the situation is reaching that realization, while simultaneously being grateful to have cut the cancer he now represents out of my life. Some people make you a better person, just by knowing them and having them in your life. He, on the other hand? Somehow, the exact and diametric opposite. And, I still can’t quite put my finger on exactly what it is, either–I just know its a fact of my life. God knows, we all tried, over the years, but the end state has become what it is, despite the best will in the world.

            If you’ve got an asshole in your life, and you care about them enough that you don’t want to eventually be forced to cut them out of it, my advice is to apply some correctives before they become such massive assholes that you have no other choice. In my specific case, that wasn’t something I or my sister could ever accomplish, but my dad’s peers and family members damn sure could have, and should have. The problem with people like him is that nobody ever stands up to them, and demands better. They keep on taking just more and more tiny little steps towards becoming monstrosities, and eventually they become such that you can’t tolerate their mere presence. I don’t mourn the loss of the man that is, but I damn sure mourn the loss of the man he could potentially have been, had he tried harder and someone kicked him in the ass appropriately. Sadly, nobody ever did, and we are where we are.

            This is why I react badly to people excusing sociopathy because “bad childhood”. It’s a cop-out, and it is precisely the wrong thing to do, especially for the perpetrator. Don’t like what you’re seeing in someone’s behavior? By God, have the fortitude to stand up and be counted–For their sake, and the sake of your conscience, later on. There were dozens of people who failed that test, with my dad. Of course, it is his final responsibility for what he made of himself, but I think he was capable of walking another path. Nobody ever put him on it, sadly enough, or even took the time to guide him to it.

            I’ll be damned if I’m going to feel guilty for not reforming an adult who should have been my mentor, my guide in life, my father, but I do feel a sense of loss for what might have been. Not what was, but what might have been.

            Saddest things in the world, those words: What might have been…

        4. Nah. My parents are made of unreconstructed awesome. And I’m still the family screw up…

          Besides, normal is over rated. I vote for being a reasonably competent human being, who does useful work and manages to secure a loving (not necessarily biological) family.

              1. You have promising young men you’re turning out into the world. Are you kidding me? Some of your work is not merely useful, it’s rock-bottom essential. Not to mention the encouragement and mentoring your work allows you to do for other writers.

                And that’s without the writing, which is refreshment to the spirit.

            1. But your LIFE is useful, and you contribute to the “Cosmic All” (:-) in all that you do, and in all of those whom you affect, be it directly through your writing, through those you help to express their own muses, through providing a space for others to discuss stuff like this, or just through the acts of doing no conscious evil to yourself or others.

              When as a young man I moved from a Liberal home (NEA/Cal Teachers) in California to a small town in Southern Louisiana to work in the oil fields, and first faced the reality that the police would not be there if called, and that I needed to provide for my own defense, that I had to decide whether I could ethically kill someone else in defense of my life.

              After more time and thought than I had anticipated, I decided that if in future I did nothing with my life but support myself and harm no others, that my life had more value to society as a whole than would the life of someone who would kill me or someone under my protection, for something that I, we, or they had.

              In my life I think that I have contributed more than just a little to society as a whole, and while I have not yet had to take a life, I am still comfortable with the ethics of my initial analysis.

              Thanks for maintaining a space where I feel comfortable enough to open up and say this.


        1. Hear! Hear!

          The world around us does not seemed designed to encourage and promote stable healthy lives.

          On reading history, I get the impression that the world seems to have a very hard time with balance. We tend to place an emphasis on one or two ideals and similarly condemn above all others one or two particular faults. Right now I’d say, for example, that personal freedom has become licence and the dislike for intolerance has itself become intolerance.

          Amazingly some people manage in spite of it to find personal balance. You might say it was a miracle — and I would agree.

      2. We are all broken to some extent, and when we join to form families our personal brokenness results in families that are to some extent broken. Children born to us will inherit some of that along with their own unique brokenness. Such is the state of the world and it ain’t gonna change now.

        For a long time I did not consider myself human and hovered on the brink of suicide for many years. I will say that interventions both human and Divine woke me up to what I did not know I was. Those years of misery are largely behind me now. Now when the self loathing wells up I can recognize it for what it is and banish it, albeit not without struggle.

        I can trace a good deal of that back to Mom and Dad, and was very bitter towards them for a long time. But they did, not the best they could have, but good enough, or nearly so. Certainly they bequeathed to us less of their own brokenness than they received from their parents. For this I am grateful.

        In my view this is what “building the Kingdom of God” is about, consciously making this fallen world not perfect, but, that part of it I can touch, better. And that within the limits of my fractured vision and broken strength and faltering courage. “Strength is perfected in weakness,” says the Good Book. Good news! Weakness I got.

        So I am of irrationally good cheer despite my failings and the madness of a world determined to plunge into falsehood and darkness. For even the servants of darkness are fallible, broken men, and plant the seeds of failure in their own wicked enterprise. There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

        Happy New Year to all Huns, Hoydens and Others.

        1. Read elsewhere – we are cracked pots. And it is those cracks that allow God’s light in our lives to shine out, and help others to learn about Him.

      3. > > You need wanted kids in mentally healthy families.
        > While I agree with this I am not sure how we go about it.

        Become Catholic.

        I was at a wedding rehersal last night for a cousin and his bride. Both are catholic.

        There were almost as many children there (at the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner) as there were adults.

        More seriously though we need to move to a culture that celebrates material gain for what it does for our lives, not just for itself.

        1. Catholic blogs could get some pretty comment threads whenever Catholic stereotypes come up. Because of course Catholics have large families — and are hung up about sex.

          The larger the Catholic’s family, the sillier he found it.

          1. I find it easier to be copacetic about the “hung up” thing when I remember that the sense they’re using it in is something like “doesn’t agree with me about where the restrictions, freedoms and balance of responsibilities lie.”

            I don’t get nearly as much hung-up junk from folks observing the Catholic sex ethic (punny, there– it’s part of a whole, rather than a widget, get it?) as I do from the “sexual freedom” folks.

  9. “I’m not happy” is what my daughter-in-law said when she ended her marriage with my son. She moved out, taking their little girl with her 2 Christmases ago. My granddaughter is now living with her other grandparents (mom’s dad and step-mom). Luckily for my son, they like him and bring my granddaughter to stay with him every weekend. I don’t know where her mother is right now, but I doubt that she’s any happier than she was when living with my son.

    My daughter rolled her eyes when she heard about that excuse for ending a marriage. She and her husband have had rough patches, but they worked through them instead of quitting.

    Happiness comes from within. You decide to be happy. Other people may be able to make you unhappy (for a time) but you make your own happiness,or not, as the case may be.

    1. Back in the ’60s the usual explanation was “I have to go find myself.”

      That was half a century ago…

      1. I remember the Sixties … odd how many people attempted to find themselves by inserting their heads up their butts.

      2. When a first cousin by marriage gave that excuse to leave my cousin, my answer was “Have you looked behind the sofa cushions? A really good house cleaning usually helps me find myself.” She stopped talking to me. Turns out she wanted to find herself in clubs and dating services. She’s still looking.

        1. When I want to find myself, I go look in a mirror, scowl, and go back to avoiding myself again.

          1. I am rather familiar with that one. And there are or were many that wanted to ‘find themselves’ that I figured would be better off if they lost themselves. Or maybe it was that the rest of us would be better off.

          2. During one Shuttle mission, I posted this sign on my console whenever I had to leave it:
            “I have gone to find myself. If I return before I get back, please tell me to wait…”

          3. I tried that, but some sneaking (deleted) replaced mine with crappy Chinese-made mirrors and I don’t know who the hell is looking back at me now. Some guy from Suchweird province, probably.

        2. I know exactly where to find myself, but I don’t necessarily want myself. I am deeply disappointed with myself. Laze about chasing after happiness, you will never find it, and you will never shape up.

          (I was deeply demoralized about fixing an issue I have. I’ve finally gotten some feedback and information that makes it seem solvable. I’ve also matured to the point that I can use it.)

      3. There was also that funny line about “just being myself”. Why does being yourself have to mean being a total jerk? Is that the limit of your mental horizons?

        1. “Tell it like it is” = “Telling other people what assholes they are.”

          “Letting it all hang out” = “Being a jerk”.

          Should I go on? [Very Big Evil Grin]

          1. Or – “you gotta do your own thing”. Which always turned out to be doing their thing.
            Never could see the logic in that, even as a dewy-eyed college freshman.

          2. “Tell it like it is” = “Telling other people what assholes they are to not let ME be the raging asshole that I want to be.”

    2. In last day or so I saw a cartoon of two people. One holding some object (jar?) labelled ‘HAPPINESS’:
      Person_1: Where did you find that? I’ve been looking everywhere for that!
      Person_2: Made it myself.

  10. This post brought a tumble of thoughts and feelings, not all of which can I capture.

    First though: Happy Anniversary.  My parents made 37 years before Mom passed.

    Unwanted pets … (deep sigh) I have had cats in my life since I was a month old. I cannot recall a time when there wasn’t at least one in the house. Not all were lap cats, some were almost semi-feral. It wasn’t until we started breeding Manx that any of them lived indoors 24/7/365. Today I don’t permit either of the girls to step paw outside. We’ve had them pass quietly in their sleep and had more than a few that were euthanized for health issues. But just because they were old or ailing? No.

    I have an acquaintance who has hit financial crisis. He has said a couple of times that he thinks it might be better for his aged cat if he could find her a new home. Every time he has said this I had argued against it – to the extent that I have offered to help keep her in food. He lives alone and is prone to bouts of depression – I know that combination too well. He needs Mags as much as she needs him.

    Getting along with parents … Ha. Mom and I could butt heads along with the best of them; not speak to each other for weeks at a time. (I almost feel sorry for Dad having to put up with us) And yet, when I think back to happy times it is her that I remember.

    Being wanted … … I’m 51, still single, living with my sister and her husband. Too old and too cynical to get married now. And yeah, I’ve heard the parental line “I wish I’d never had you.” -sigh- I did say we fought, right.

    I do wonder – Claudius was believed to be lame. How did he make it to adulthood? ((Okay, what little I know is from that great BBC series I Claudius.)) Anyone care to enlighten me?

    1. According to Wikipedia, he was sent away because his family didn’t want him, and so he avoided all of the “intrigue” in Rome that killed everyone else. And also, because he appeared weak, people underestimated him.

      I do have a suspicion that such rules will have applied differently to sons of Senators than to sons of commoners.

      1. The Historical Reference Document “I CLAVDIVS” had a great scene where, when drunk enough and serious enough, Claudius’ stutter vanished and he allowed his intellect to shine through. Then he wrapped it all back up and became unthreatening again.

        Derek Jacobi really did a great job.

        1. I saw an interview with Jacobi decades ago where he talked about the filming of “I Claudius”. Apparently the BBC production was the third attempt to dramatize it, there had been a previous stage play and a film. Neither was completed as they were plagued by accident after disaster after accident.

          Jacobi said that the producers had actually phoned Robert Graves at his retirement home in Majorca(?) and asked if they would be able to complete it this time. He answered “Oh yes. I’ve talked to Claudius and he knows I need the money.” The production ran unusually smoothly.

          I had just read the two books before I had my leaving certificate exams. The history section of the Latin exam had as one of the essay question options ” ‘Claudius was an idiot and a dolt.’ Discuss”. I got an A on that section.

    2. My Dad got a chihuahua from the pound. They were able to provide a complete medical history for the dog; it had been chipped. The pound read the chip, contacted the vet who had installed it, who gave them the contact information for the dog’s owners. Who had moved away a week or so before.

      The people at the pound said it was very common; people would make a move and it was inconvenient to take their dog or cat with them, and they’d put it outside and drive away.

      1. Good on your Dad. Shelter animals can make the greatest companions. 🙂

        Every time we moved (Dad was USAF officer, so we moved several times) we always took the cats, even if we had to board them until we got a new house.

        When I moved from Ohio to Virginia, I had Kaykay with me in the car. 8 hour road trip that I made in late afternoon, evening because I didn’t have AC in my old Crown Vic. It never crossed my mind to leave her behind. Too bad other “humans” think only of themselves. [To be honest, I actually came down a few days early to get her settled, then went back to close out the apartment.]

      2. Dropping (no longer cute) pets out in the country, where they form packs.
        We just love city folks.

          1. Very off (this) topic: Space pickup trucks reminds me…

            First: I do NOT claim to be psychic. And will readily file this under coincidence, but sometimes things seem a wee bit eerie in retrospect.

            In very early 1986 I had a dream that I recalled on waking. I was in or with a pickup truck, inexplicably above the planet Jupiter. Something went wrong, but I can’t recall just what. I wrote this odd dream down (I was keeping records of such at the time, but those are on 5.25 floppy for AppleWriter //e) and all but forgot about it.

            Until not much later, Challenger didn’t make it to space. And I recalled one person saying they wanted the Shuttle to be so utilitarian an ordinary that it would be like a pickup truck to space. And this delayed the Galileo probe to Jupiter.

            A bit eerie, but I will file it as coincidence. Don’t want stuff uncanninig all over the place.

    3. I have an acquaintance who has hit financial crisis. He has said a couple of times that he thinks it might be better for his aged cat if he could find her a new home.

      When I was broke, and had an aged feline, I managed to get Another to help deal with the coming loss. I knew, depressed as I was, I was going to need someone to help things along. Now, that kitten I got (Animalus, Insaneus … Annie the Insane Animal) is now the old lady, and is one of three. Of the other two, one is also getting old (A year or so younger than Annie, her name is Isabeau the Clumsy), and the other is but 1 and a Half (Allie Alvarado).
      Insane as they are, keep me sane.

      1. I lived for most of my adult life sans pets.

        When Lilly moved into our house, she was supposed to be Mom’s dog but somehow Lilly decided that she was my dog.

        After Mom had to go to the Nursing Home and I had to get an apartment, I tried to give Lilly to somebody else (wasn’t sure that the apartment complex would allow her).

        During the first winter here, I was going back and forth to Mom’s old house to make sure Lilly was fed and to take her out.

        Well, after some really deep snow falls, I decided to temporarily keep her in my apartment.

        Then the Lady in charge of the apartment complex met Lilly and my fate was sealed.

        Lilly was allowed to stay to stay with me.

        Lilly was an accidental pet and as annoying as she can be, I don’t want to “do without her”. [Very Big Grin]

      2. I feel that way about dogs. We have one but that’s plenty. Nemo the monstero is plenty. He is small enough–13 lbs– that he can travel with us. He’s small enough that he travels in the airplane main cabin. He goes under the seat ahead of us.

  11. “We all must belong to something. I belong to the state”

    The first time I saw that phrase some decades ago, the belongee had attached himself to Manchester United. He was facing charges for rioting and assault after a soccer match.

    Most people *do* seem to want to belong to some group, and feel lost without one.

    I’ve read a number of books by and about Soviet defectors who went back to the USSR *knowing* they faced criminal charges, prison, or greatly reduced circumstances. Their reason was usually some variant of, “Here, I’m nobody. Back there, I have a place.”

    “Back home, I’m nobody. Here, I’m Denn!”

  12. However in the eighties I saw people euthanize pets literally because “he’s not as pretty as he was.”

    Some of the arguments, when attempting to discern Terry Schiavo’s intent back in 2005, was that she was very concerned with her appearance, and would not want to live if she looked that bad—literally, one argument in favor of taking her body off of life support was a throwaway comment while watching television, saying something like “I wouldn’t want to live if I looked like that”.

    I found it scary that during and after the Schiavo controversy, I started getting lots of mailings from Compassion & Choices, an organization that claims to be about the right of conscious people to determine whether or not to commit suicide. What they really wanted, it appeared, was the power of the state to choose who gets to die.

          1. “Bring out your dead.”

            Wesley Smith, currently over at National Review, has a ton of examples of redefining what counts as “dead” so as to get more organs.

            I would go look, but I still have nightmares from the one where a doctor explains they give the “body” pain killers to prevent whatever the technical term for tears is when they cut the organs out.

    1. I just finished reading The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Beer and Susan Dworkin. She commented in her book on how society didn’t really realize that the disabled were disappearing, or the orphans, or even the Jews until they were forced to acknowledge it. She lived as a “U-boat”, a Jew hiding within German society, married to a Nazi. She knew her mother had been moved to the area of concentration camps, but never realized that her mother had been killed until after the war.

      The fact that Compassion & Choices exists is extremely scary. The entire Terry Schiavo situation was a national wake-up call to how the severely disabled could be treated in this country (and how some stroke victims are already treated). It’s a very utilitarian view of humanity: “if you cannot provide something for the state or provide me with love, then you are useless.” The thrown-away pets were simply the first sign of this.

      1. They Thought They Were Free by Milton Mayer. The core of the book stems from his going to Germany shortly after the war and befriending ten Nazis — low-ranking ones — and at one point he observed that the ten did not know, in an absolute sense, about the deaths.

        Great book.

    2. The Schiavo case horrified me, because it seems likely that her husband murdered her — not just in terms of getting her taken off life support, but inflicting the injuries which nearly killed her in the first place — in full public view and with public acclaim, including hostility and mockery toward anyone who pointed this out. In fiction, the Detective Hero would have come up with the key evidence at the last moment to save Schiavo, or at least put her husband in prison. This didn’t happen, and I think our society as a whole passed a border into greater depravity there.

      1. Especially when her family was saying “We don’t want the money, we don’t care about your child with another woman, just let us have her and we’ll take care of her.”

      2. It’s all about choice. If you’re conscious, that is. Otherwise, you better watch your back. Babies, unfortunately, never get that far to have a chance.

        It’s sick and getting sicker out there.

        1. No, not just when conscious. You’re also safe when asleep. Mind you, when pressed, they are incoherent on why they shouldn’t be murdered in their sleep.

  13. Happy belated anniversary, Sarah (and Dan). Conga rats (cue the rodents!). May you have many joyous returns.

  14. If you’ve read my Eugenics bit, you can guess my sentiments.

    I’d ask why an uncaring monster such as myself is more concerned than our compassionate and intelligent betters about systems destroying the marginal, except I know the answer. (1. I am selfish. 2. The appearance is not the thing.)

  15. I’d say it was the pregnancy hormones that made me cry while reading this, but I’d be lying. But it’s a good kind of cry, so thank you.

    My oldest was unplanned. When I told his father I wasn’t going to abort him he threw the remote across the room and didn’t speak to me for the rest of the day (we are now divorced, but he does love his son and is the best father he is capable of being – “unwanted” did not stick). That baby had terrible timing, destroyed my marriage (which was not actually a bad thing), nearly killed me at birth, has some special needs, is a constant source of my bank account pleading for mercy, and is the best thing that could ever have happened to me. He’s 10 now, and I can’t (or don’t want to) imagine what my life would be like if I’d listened to his father when he said we could just have another one, at a better time.

    I’m currently incubating Son #3, and the surprised looks I get when people hear that yes we did plan him even though Son #2 is only 1 year old are starting to make me want to throw things. Also, yes we know what causes this, no we don’t care he’s not a girl, no we don’t care if he is at risk for Aspergers like his brother, and please stop telling me how busy I’m going to be like maybe I should rethink this and sell off a kid on eBay.

    But then maybe I’m just another one of those soft headed weirdos who won’t give up difficult pets and wants to adopt every sad eyed hungry critter that wanders in.

    I’m gonna go hug my kids now…

    1. You know how hens cluck to let the other chickens know they’re there?

      A lot of those really annoying “you are going to have your hands full!” comments are going to be that.

      They aren’t informing you, they’re just making noise for something to say.

      A good way to burn off steam is to make up things they could say instead…serious or not, depending on your day.

  16. When we take a pet, we make a pact with them, a pact that is real even if it isn’t written down or sworn. With children, it is even more so. Marriage is a sworn pact, and nowadays it is perfectly okay to push the reset button, ignoring those words said before man and God. Why is it surprising that these other pacts are increasingly ignored as well?

    1. And sometimes we don’t “chose” to take a pet, the pet “choses” us.

      As I said in another post, Lilly was Mom’s pet but decided that she was *my* dog. [Smile]

      1. So true. Family cat was a stray, took a look around and said “Right. You lot clearly need supervision. I’m moving in.” She ruled us with an iron paw, and we loved it 🙂

        She was the Simo Hayha of cats. Master hunter. Treed *two* raccoons at the same time, in different trees, and patrolled to make sure they stayed there. (They did, until she left for dinner). Caught two bats, one jump one catch for each. Tried to teach me to hunt, but … no claws. (hangs head). We never, ever had a rodent problem under her reign.

        A most superior cat.

      2. Elrond Half-Siamese, the current ruler of the Osborn castle, chose us. We’d lost our previous cat, Anna, several weeks earlier and, while we’d made noises about not getting another pet for a few years, the closer we got to the holidays, the emptier the house felt — it had never NOT had a cat living in it before. But we were grieving — Anna was 19 when she passed — and fought it pretty hard, the notion of getting another.

        Anna was part-Siamese, a foundling; apparently someone’s purebred had been bred, then got loose and found a non-pedigreed companion. The resulting litter could not be papered, and so was dumped by the side of the road. She went through a period of being diabetic, and lost sight in one eye at a ripe old age, dying in my lap finally of said old age. We were devastated. This was my baby girl. For days — weeks — I would well up and cry at the drop of a hat.

        Well, as it turned out, several of my colleagues at work volunteered for a pet rescue/fostering group. They told me that a recent feral cat had been preggers, dropped a litter, and one of them was part-Siamese also. (I have a fondness for the look.) So they talked us into coming over to the foster mom’s house and having a look. And it DID take a LOT of talking to convince us to do so. Even then, we were determined to simply go look, then go home, thus enabling us to say that we had at least tried, and thereby stop the pestering that we needed another critter.

        So we arrived, came in, were still standing in the foyer behind the couch talking to the lady, when a herd of cats entered, stage left. (Yes, I do mean a herd. At least a dozen, probably more, of all sizes and ages. Turns out that door led to the kitchen, and lunch had just been completed.) And this tiny little Siamese kitten looked up and saw us, let out a roar — so okay, it was a tiny kitten roar, but it was still readily audible — and bounded across the room as fast as those stubby little legs would carry him. He didn’t so much as slow down when he got to the couch, just started climbing as hard as he could. And didn’t stop until he was in my arms, snuggled down. The foster lady’s jaw dropped. I turned to Darrell, the widdle fuzzball purring happily away in my arms, and said, “Uh, Honey, I think we have a cat.”

        “I think we do,” was his response — along with a huge grin.

        This is Elrond, as of a few years ago. Hopefully the image will show up.

        1. He’s adorable. 🙂 I am glad you found each other.

          As a former (silent) partner in a breed program, my thoughts about his dam’s “owner” cannot be printed. -growl-

        2. He looks great.
          Ive got one, Isabeau, who is Siamese Tabby mix. Had one before, Thibodeaux, who was as well. Thib was picked up on the side of the road, near a cane field, just outside the town of the same name. Isabeau fell in a tree and required a ladder to get her out of the predicament (hence her full name of Isabeau The Clumsy).

        3. For days — weeks — I would well up and cry at the drop of a hat.

          Just this morning I read the following:

          “But…but…” he continued stuttering in confusion. “She was CRYING.”

          “Women do that from time to time, ” a bland Nichols-Woodall offered dryly.

          “Yes,” Watson agreed, bleakly amused at the direction events had taken. “Even the best and wisest of them sometimes;…”

  17. It’s hard to watch how our society treats the most innocent and vulnerable among us. I can barely stand to think about the 50 (or is it 60 by now) million babies that have been destroyed since Roe v. Wade. I always try to make it to the March for Life every year because I need to see that there really are people out there who don’t take life for granted.

  18. Happy Anniversary and best wishes.
    I Claudius and Claudius the God are two excellent novels of the time, and have been the source for a number of stage plays, one of them, Claudius The Idiot was the thesis production of a friend at the University of Washington when Glenn Hughes ran the department and supported it from the box office.

    Claudius pretty well invented a working bureaucracy that kept the Empire going for two centuries. Downy old bird. The scene where a drunken centurion finds him while sacking the palace after the murder of Caligula is not only hilarious but apparently quite historical.

    “Don’t kill me!”
    “Kill you? Sir you’re the emperor! come with me.”

  19. The same folks who urge women to abort their [innocent] babies are the same who encourage unrestrained immigration and not killing [convicted] murderers… Probably because they want us dependent on an ever-growing bureaucracy; but that might be my presuppositions shining through…

    1. I believe that is what is correctly termed a miss-state-ment.
      And almost certainly made by someone who never had to deal up close for very long with any government entity.

  20. Happy Anniversary. Michele and I just celebrated our 44th.
    We have two rules for having a successful marriage:
    Be best friends first.
    Romance isn’t something you find, it’s something you bring with you. .

    1. Rule three: Marry someone who gets your sense of humor. I don’t know how many times we were at each other’s throats and up to our knees in alligators and one of us makes a funny quip preferably at own behavior, but sometimes “if you divorce me, you have to take x” with x being the kid or cat giving the most trouble. And suddenly we’re mock-arguing about who will be forced to take x and we’re okay again.
      On a notable occasion, I informed Dan that if he divorced me he’d never know anything about my characters BUT what was in the books. No more visitation time. He said he wanted part custody of my characters. Hilarity ensued.

  21. Pratchett’s Unseen University hit on the theme of “worth” and basically earning your personhood.

    Christianity is funky, with the idea that everyone is a person/human, but it’s a major source of value for the culture as a whole; it removes the need to keep proving worth to just not be roundfiled, freeing up resources for doing things because they’re worth doing.

  22. My mom tells me that my biological mother treated babies like they were new dolls. At first we were great, then later on she’d get bored with us.

    1. A lot of mothers do. Which is why teen mothers often have another baby before they leave their teens.

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