Turning that inner voice into an outer one…

Since about June of 2017, I’ve been helping my brother-in-law to record his memoirs into a web site. Working with him has inspired me to look at my own memoir project with fresh eyes.

Although he doesn’t focus on it to any significant degree, a big underlying aspect to his life story is the fact that since he was born, he’s had Cerebral Palsy and very limited mobility. However, in spite of negative prognoses from doctors when he was born, and various societal barriers in front of him as he grew up in public school and took his post-secondary education, he has managed to beat the odds.

With the support of his family and friends, today, at the age of sixty, he continues to beat the odds and make his own life. He gets himself to wherever he needs to go to run his life relatively independently, and remains able to communicate, socialize, and express himself.

His memoirs project…

In the last few years, he’d been slowly developing his memoir as a book with a local publisher. This process gave him an outlet for his many stories, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that one day, others could read his story and appreciate his life journey.

But his print publishing process was limited by his lack of funds, and had to be postponed when he became deathly ill in December of 2015. Throughout 2016, he healed, got stronger, and explored his options. He prepared for transition out of his father’s house and Pearson Hospital, and into an assisted living situation. Rather than dampen his spirits, facing his own mortality and adapting to a new lifestyle only seemed to harden his resolve to tell his story.

For him, typing seemed arduous and editing a long document by himself using a mouse and keyboard in something like Microsoft Word struck me like a distant goal at the end of a lengthy and frustrating learning curve.

So throughout 2016, we discussed his project and the ways he could benefit personally from surfing the web. I found a low-cost internet service so he could enjoy wireless at home, and bought him an inexpensive tablet. As I indoctrinated him to the web, and sites like Facebook and YouTube in particular, he took to it like a duck to water, motivated by instant access and immediate gratification. Information, entertainment, news, sports, and even people now became available to him.

I encouraged him to go digital and online, instead of relying on (for him) costly paper-based publishing. I created a free blog for him, and as we worked together to write his story, it became apparent that text was really holding us back – the written word was not a good solution for someone with his unique challenges. Even Google voice typing was not really effective: we struggled to get his narrative translated into text, and finally had to give that up.

Nonetheless, he was an effective oral storyteller, and a passionate speaker where his life stories were concerned. So it occurred to me that we should abandon text altogether and just post his stories as audio recordings, accompanied by pictures and some brief summary text.

This was the right choice for him: he loves to talk, and loves to listen to his stories. With production now aimed more at his strengths rather than weaknesses, he’s able to drive his project forward on his own terms: he hand-writes ideas for stories and records the audio himself whenever the mood strikes him. Then, we review it together, and he suggests which images might accompany it. I edit and post the completed audio files to his blog.

What this means to me…

What I take away from this are a few lessons:

  • Adaptability is crucial. Usability (and philosophies like UDL) promote technology that adapts to the needs of the user. Terms like accessibility, affordance, interface, and ergonomics relate to this, in my mind. Touch-screen mobile devices have levelled the usability playing field in a massive way.
    Lesson: Adapting a process and medium to fit someone’s strengths has changed the game entirely.
  • Digital is liberating. Paper and printing are not dead by a long shot, but the major drivers of online traffic (in our case, Google) have created enough free online services to allow people on a fixed or low income to create their own content.
    Lesson: Digital self-publishing is empowering.

For me, it feels like I should begin adding audio recordings to my own stories, here in my True Life project. It will open the stories up in a new way, allowing me to use music, sound effects and the emotion in my vocal performance to add a new dimensional depth to my stories.

Confessions of a Pack Rat

My memories are captured in thousands of files, folders, emails, and websites – and somehow, my pack rat nature has allowed me to preserve most of the digital evidence of my life since about 1998.

The Digital Studio Space

My desktop is a collection of hardly-used capturing tools: a flatbed scanner (that also does slides), a graphics tablet I used for one illustration job seven years ago, a digital camera that has been supplanted by my smartphone, and various bargain audio and video analog-to-digital conversion devices. I still have VHS tapes and audio cassettes that testify to past projects.

It must be something in the blood: my grandfather (and namesake), Ernest Clarke, was a prolific photographer, and I have his prints, negatives, slides, and 8mm film to prove it. His mission seemed to be to immortalize his wife and especially, his daughter Angela. He was somewhat compulsive about it, from the scores of evidence he left us, ranging from photos of native elders probably taken in the 20s, to colour home movies he shot in the 1970s. He’d have gone crazy with digital.

Recently, I upgraded my windows PC to windows 10, and bought myself a 3 terabyte external drive for backups. My desktop PC and all its peripherals and programs constituted my modern digital studio space – my personal workplace for explorations, communications, study, and networking. my grandfather Ernest had a little painting easel tucked in a corner of his basement for working in oil. The tools are different, but I suppose the drive is similar.

With the advent of mobile touchscreen devices, something happened that I didn’t expect: my tablet and laptop took me away from my desk, and kept me either on the couch or in a Cafe (and often digging through Facebook).

Soon enough, I found I was using my smartphone and tablet for almost everything, and rarely ever using my PC for anything (except for banking). That shift in behaviour seemed to change me from a creator into more of a consumer. For quite a few years now, I’ve spent more time surfing and consuming other people’s bytes than I have creating and promoting my own. I think. So, with the spiffed-up desktop environment, I’m probably now in a better position to focus on building my own content again.

So, that covers tools, but what about content? Who and what am I writing and imaging about?

Preserving People, Real and Imagined

I have worked, side-by-side or remotely, with hundreds and hundreds of colleagues since 1992, when my full-time career really kicked into gear. Each person I have met has taught me something about them, and about myself. Some of them were characters, and some of them are bound to become them one day.

Sometimes it’s true that “Hell is other people” . In some social groups, there are always manipulators and cajolers, liars and criers, who use your niceness against you, or use sympathy to gain your confidence and trust. If you don’t let these folks, damage you too badly, they can provide valuable learning regarding human nature. I’ve found that once I recognize the evils and virtues in somebody else’s character, I begin to see them in myself.

Thus, the memories of people you’ve known can be great inspiration for personal memoirs, or raw material for fictional characters.

Space, the Final Frontier

In my profession, I have treasured my semi-private offices or cubicle spaces. Having a little bit of solitude and at least some form of blinders provides an emotional and mental buffer zone, and helps one to concentrate.

However, too much isolation tends to raise stress levels in me, most likely my mind needs a break and a little interaction with someone every few hours. I often forget to do that. it’s important to listen to your heart and mind, to recognize when you need to be alone, or when you need to socialize.

The Real Undiscovered Country is Inside

(Well, I’m on some kind of Star Trek riff, now.)

The value of forming bonds with friends and family is obvious: we need to belong with and to someone, and want to feel part of something bigger and more secure (perhaps) than ourselves.

The hard lessons for me were learning to listen to the voice of my internal judge, to know how much sharing, emotional intimacy is enough with each person, to say enough, but try not to say too much.

Generally, I have a hard time discarding people and objects once I have assigned some sentimental attachment to them. So, I tend to collect people and things.

Interpersonally, I can’t always judge my emotional boundaries and moments quite right, but I tend to keep my doors wide open for anyone to walk in.

What would Angela have done…?

What would Angela have done with a day like this? What would she have felt here, now?

I feel her beauty when I taste the colours in the autumn leaves shimmering in the breeze above my street.

I wonder if she’d enjoy watching people pass by outside this cafe window. Was she a people watcher like me?

Would she like strong coffee? Would she prefer tea? Would she feel groggy and grumpy in the morning too?

I never knew her that well, but always wanted to. In my questioning kid mind, I’d guess blindly at her thoughts. She always kept them to herself. No clues, but she remains an archetype for me – a mold, a template – a model I can contemplate.

Would Angela have enjoyed this world today, so different from the one she knew? She would have been eighty six by now. If she’d been physically and mentally able, stronger, or had more help in her life, maybe this world could have been a happier place for her.

I can picture her in an alternate reality, a different world, maybe in her mid-sixties. Her grey hair would be short and curled, held aloft by some stylist’s magic. Angela would have her own sense of style, and clothes that fit, that she’d bought with her own money.

She walk with her nose tipped up just a little bit, looking back on some sort of career involving music. Maybe she would be going out to meet a lady friend for coffee or to shop.

Maybe she’d be unmarried, child-free, and okay with it. Over the years, she would have had many suitors and maybe one serious engagement, but she’d have remained her own person and now be happy on her own.

She’d go browse an art gallery on Granville Street, or go down to A&B Sound and buy some new vinyl. The Sound of Music, or something sweet by Burt Bacharach.

The good things don’t go out of style easily.

Memories are subjective, elusive, permanent, and recurring…

Memories are like dear friends, and bitter enemies. Both burrow down under your skin. They find your emotional nooks and crannies, remind you of your strengths, and expose you to your weaknesses.

Memories can seem as immutable as stone, as unchanging as the mountains, and as permanent as the Earth.

But I have learned that memories are more like chameleons: they take on the colour of your current outlook, and their themes and tone  reflect your own. They’re my own little constructs, my personal little fantasies, performances that I continually re-stage in my own private playhouse.

The stories that I’ve written for myself probably started in my head as soon as I could think. Like James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”, the language and models that I built have evolved with me, over the years.

Memories age and mature with you, like your reflection. You just can’t trust them- they’re as slippery and subjective as you are. For me, memories are the ghosts I live with, the echoes of old events and past ideas, reflections of my life and past visceral emotions.

Some memories used to be exceptionally strong, but have waned with experience and considerable reflection:

  • The chest-puffing pride when I was eighteen and would talk about my Dad, or hear his words come out of my mouth. I demolished his pedestal years ago, and put the pieces to better use in rebuilding a platform for myself.
  • The bitterness and mistrust that I held against richer, happier kids, and their functional families. I secretly resented every other kid I saw, certain that they were so much better off than me. Eventually, after high school, I started to get over it.
  • That feeling that I was unique in my life experiences, wiser and more resilient than my peers, and just plain special. This was mostly my own defense against self pity, isolation, and misery. It worked sometimes, but it was mostly a mask behind which I hid my fear and insecurity. I don’t worry about hiding that much anymore. After the age of 45, me and my insecurities began to feel much more secure in each other.

Each of these little treasures have waned with time, going from opaque, well-rehearsed scrolls to delicate, dried-out parchments that have degraded with age, and worn down to near transparency.

I can see right through those old narratives now. They still have occasional influence on me, but most of the time they’re not very convincing anymore.

Considering Responsible Storytelling…

I’m an amateur writer of fiction and non-fiction. I’m not a reporter or a journalist. I’m not a researcher, or an academician. I’m not scholarly.

I like telling a colourful story, and I love evocative imagery, and poetic license.

In creating my meagre attempts at fiction, there’s wiggle room: I’m not very dependent on historical accuracy or elaborate world-building, IMHO, the reader will likely allow minor inconsistencies if the characters and story are well-formed and worth caring about.

However with biography, I think it’s different. If your subject is someone else you must contend with, and pay respect to, narratives that have already been developed around your subject – especially other people’s real experiences and research.

Even if the subject is yourself, you’re not immune from certain factors: the reality of the other people you’ve known, who you are writing about, and what you can or should ethically reveal which may affect others.

In my case, I think I can almost write anything I want, with the following ideas in mind:

  1. I cannot embarrass or hurt my parents, since they have both passed on, but I could cause embarrassment or discomfort for other family members who may not agree with my stories.
  2. The things I say about other people, places or events still reflects back on me and my character. All art is a form of self portrait.
  3. Rule #2 means that if I embarrass someone else, by definition I am embarrassing myself.
  4. Save your work often kids.

(I had written two or three more really good, well-written points here, but I lost my edits somehow and had to start over. Re-doing, starting a new draft of even a small section,  is my creative Kryptonite. I almost become paralyzed with indecision about whether or not to continue at all. Technology can totally kiss my ass.)

Anyway, on the topic of responsibly biographies, here are a few articles I’m going to read and books to consider, to see if they help me to think more about  ethics and responsibility in biographical writing:

Back to a Shrine, Online…

My passion for biography waned years ago, particularly regarding this True Life project. It’s like a form of burnout, and was probably due to a number of factors:

  • In discussing the past with my sister, I was reminded of some very terrible times, and instead of seeing them objectively, like a reporter, I felt them viscerally. I had not really let myself feel them the first time around, and I became angry at my Dad all over again.
  • I was happier in my present, and found myself less interested in discussing my past. I didn’t feel as special either, because I’d learned that my past suffering was really very minimal compared to some of the things other people suffered. I didn’t feel the need to get attention by telling my story. I didn’t even want my colleagues to know much about it. I had nothing to prove, and emotionally had receded a little…
  • The novelty of writing – the excitement of calling myself a writer and of exploring the art form – had been lost. Been there, done that (or so I felt).

So over the past few years, the only writing I’ve done has been occasional journaling, or bits of short-form poetry online in Facebook, and a couple of brief short stories featuring my proxy, Jack Owen.

But…

A recent Google search on my own name (ego, thy name is John) led me to searching for my parent’s names, and then an old feeling started to resurface: I’m trying to keep them alive.

In fact, I want to read about their story myself! I truly believe that the Internet is my go-to global memory, even as an extension of my own memory. Maybe I want to keep them “alive” online as a way to reconnect with them. It’s like visiting a gravesite. The stone is still there and will stand the test of time. Funny how the ephemeral Internet feels permanent to me. It’s a place where I can preserve the pieces I have. One day, I will forget things – I will lose the last of it. Some of my web pages might outlive me though. Maybe.

As angry as I am at my Dad even 30 years later, I don’t want his name to disappear. He burnt bridges more than he’d ever have admitted, but he doesn’t deserve to disappear. My Mum died alone and largely forgotten in Riverview. How will she be remembered? By web-shrining their memories, how will I be remembered? Will I finally be the good son who kept the memories together, who tended the garden that they abandoned? I have no idea, but apparently the need hasn’t left me yet.

In my online personal and professional life, I use Google like a mental scrapbook, a photo album, a repository. I started putting images and stories about them online in 1998, and I told myself a web-based shrine would help me to remember their stories as time passed and experience faded in narrative.

I think I’ve just felt the fear of forgetting tap me on the shoulder. I’m still the only one who can tell my story the way it needs to be told.

I should get back to it now…

What gets passed down…?

Here are some questions and thoughts I’ll put down while they occur to me:

What gets passed down?

From father to son: is it that men don’t show weakness, or admit to making mistakes? Is it that boys don’t cry?

From mother to daughter: it is that the mother’s relationship with her own father is the only father–daughter bond worth tending to? 

From father to daughter: is it that the parent’s needs outweigh the child’s? 

From mother to son: is it that no matter how much you search for me, you won’t find me. I was never there to be found.

Souls chase each other, maybe endlessly, seeking answers to their private questions, demanding that their anguish be recognized by someone.

Proxies may play the role at different stages.

An old drama, never finished. Conversations seem to barely begin before the actor gets yanked from the stage.

The Director has a sick sense of humour.

I really want my money back.

Remembrance…

Our Remembrance Day just passed recently here, and I did spend some time thinking of my Dad and my maternal Grandfather, and some other things…

My Dad, James Evan Love, served in the Canadian Army as a young man during World War II, and later in the RCAF. I was born late in my Dad’s life, so I have no direct memory of his military service or military life, but he always spoke proudly of his military service, the friends he made, and the education and experiences he had. I think military life really suited him.

As a young man, my maternal grandfather, Ernest Huntley Clarke, tried to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (World War 1), but was released on medical grounds. So, not long after that rejection, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and served as a Mountie all over Western Canada from 1918 to 1948. My mother was born in Victoria, BC in 1931.

These two men and their past service were the reason that Remembrance Day has a personal resonance. For the past two years, I’ve gone down to the Cenotaph in Victory Square to take part in the Remembrance Day ceremony. This year, I slept in and just watched it on TV.

It used to be a passion of mine to record my family history in my blogs and  in a family tree, but in recent years, I have mostly given up that responsibility.

Not long after my Mother died in 1995, I felt a strong urge to record my family’s story. Something in me felt a burning desire to record our stories before they were forgotten. I would have been about 29 or 30 at that time. I was happily married since 1989, my career was exciting and unique, I had just started paying for my own condo, and I still felt like a creative person – almost like an artist-designer.

Well, now it’s over 20 years later, and I’ve practically lost my drive to write the family story. Originally, it must have had something to do with being young and driven, feeling like a standard-bearer, feeling like the one to whom this responsibility had been passed; feeling like I had to be the wise and responsible young man.

There came a day in my mid-to-late forties when I realized that of all the feelings I had about my parents and my upbringing, resentment and regret were the predominant ones. I simply resented our failed family and our unhappy, chaotic upbringing. After the true depth of my Dad’s secret crimes had been discussed and processed, I grew sick of it all. Sick of feeling afraid of him, and sick of my mother’s silence, absence and mental illness. My largest feelings became that they were just broken, selfish people, and it became hard to generate love for their memory in my heart anymore.

The other night, I tried to remember the month and year that Mum almost died from alcohol poisoning. This is a major mile marker in the road of my story, and something I’ve talked or written about a lot over the years. And I couldn’t remember when it happened. That was kind of terrifying. I’d always prided myself on my memory, and my ability to tell a story. Now, as I’d originally feared, little pieces of the narrative were starting to grow weak and fall away. Was it disuse, or just age? I turned Fifty last March.

Maybe I’ve burned out on Mum and Dad. Dozens of years after their deaths, perhaps we’re finally estranged. Maybe I’m the last one practicing my own oral history, and I’m starting to lose the words to the passage of time. Maybe it’s a natural way to let go of old baggage.

All I can think to do to counteract this is to keep writing it down. But now, I’ll tell myself the truth: I’m writing for my own sake – not for anyone else’s.

Days of Wine and Regret…

Movies or music that speaks to you plucks old strings that are personal; a matter of past influences and conditioning, present circumstances, and futures you used to want.

The movie “The Days of Wine and Roses” is (IMHO) overly dramatic, a sixties romance, showing people drowning in alcoholism, and in their binges, reverting to helpless, childlike despair.
It had been recommended to me, and I ran across it tonight on TCM.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Days_of_Wine_and_Roses_(film)

But among its hollywood love-theme about a couple trying to rebuild their lost love and innocence, it did surprise me with a few paralell themes from my own life:
A drunken mother who accidentally sets fire to her home,
a father who loses his job, then loses his wife, and then struggles with sobriety.

Those kinds of things happened around me and my sister.
But real-life leaves scars on top of and under the skin that Max Factor can’t conceal. No retakes. No redemption.

Nobody talks, reconciles, or gets back together. They just stay hurt, and gradually go numb in their respective neutral corners,
and leave their loose ends for law enforcement, healthcare, and social workers to sort out.

Just days and days of Sherry and Port. No romance. No sweetness.

Seventeen, and Untethered…

It was 1983 and Christmas was coming, but Dad’s heart attack came first on December 21st. It was a terrifying wake-up call.

He fell out of bed at maybe 5:30 or 6am, all tangled up in his sheets. We were on Christmas break, just a few days before the 25th. I think most of my shopping was already done and I’d even gotten the tree up too. I was seventeen.

It was that built-up feeling, that low-level anticipation that accumulates around you in the air, in the clouds of people’s laughs dissipating as they talk about it. It builds up under car tires on the street, and in the folds of coat sleeves bringing bags home from the mall. Christmas excitement and with it, Christmas stress.

So something broke inside my Dad and he fell out of bed early that day. Instead of being woken up by his voice saying “come on son, time to get up”, I heard him call out my name, loud and shaking. He sounded desperate and I found him laying on the floor wrapped in his sheet, trying to get untangled, telling me to call an ambulance. My sister heard us, and we yelled at each other to call 911.

The ambulance arrived and two large paramedics carried Dad downstairs in his t-shirt and briefs, and one said “Oof. Big boy.” He must have been at least 240 pounds and over 6 feet tall. The Love men were all so much bigger than me. In my shock at seeing him helpless, I still remained proud of his size.

Whether agreed or discussed, I don’t know, but my sister stayed behind at the house and I went in the ambulance with Dad. His eyes were wide and he was soaked in sweat, and probably frozen stiff in the sub-zero morning air. It couldn’t have been 2 degrees outside – probably more like minus 2.

In Emergency at Burnaby General, I stayed with him for an hour or more. He looked at me with the scaredest face I’d ever seen. It was his true self, which perhaps I’d never seen before. His face said “I’m scared to hell” but his voice said “I love you son”. I tried not to cry and to not let my voice shake, but he saw and knew that I felt the same way he did. We held hands the way brothers do, with that underhanded grip that looks like the beginning of an arm wrestle. We clenched hands tight and I told him I loved him too. He said “I’ll be okay. You go home and take care of your sister”, so that’s what I did because I always did what Dad told me to do. Right then I didn’t know what else to do. I needed him to tell me.

I left his ER bed and phoned Kim at home, and through her crying and my shaky words, we discussed what Dad had told me, and I said I was coming home.

When I walked out the doors from Emerg, I felt a wave of fainting, and jammed my back up against the building as my legs gave out. I slid down into a crouch as everything went grainy, snowy blue, and a bell rang hard in my ears. I gasped for breath and waited until my head cleared and the ringing stopped. It was too much. I had to get home.

I don’t remember a Christmas that year. I remember drinking with my friends in our livingroom and a lot of awkward fucking silence. The townhouse was the same space it had always been, but Dad’s absence was a huge damned elephant. That first night, my sister and I each spent the evening at different friends houses, talking and being consoled. I went to my friend Jamie’s and drank with his family. His mum cried for my sister and me, calling us babies. Her slightly drunk but sincere motherliness has always stuck with me. Kim and I had each found somewhere to be around friends.

I began listening to “Pink Floyd, The Wall” on my Walkman every night. I’d lay in bed too wound up to sleep, and would live through the scenes from The Wall, with all those sad Father and Mother images and the character of poor Pink, the lost boy, losing his identity and losing his mind. I was afraid of the future and beginning to hate the world more than ever. Other times, I just felt lifeless and depressed.

During the day I was the dutiful son, making daily or bi-daily visits to the hospital or to the grocery store. I kept shit running at home the best a responsible teen could. During the night, I felt alone, bleak, and lost. I was untethered and a big part of me was depressed and stressed. I wished for everything to just be over. I wished for someone to love me, and help me feel secure. Life sucked more than it ever had before, and I couldn’t imagine a future.

Dad gradually got better over the weeks, then months. Then he got worse (four strokes) and did eventual, continuous rehab until he was able to move and kind of control his left arm a little and speak more clearly. It was a long, slow process of not knowing what the next day would bring, but I was really proud of his progress and of how hard he’d worked to literally get back on his own two feet. His face showed that he was proud too. I will always have gratitude to the Activation Ward in BGH for the therapy and support that they gave my Dad.

A counselor at the hospital told me that I was handling events that adults twice my age could not, and this also made me feel proud. But I was also feeling depressed, dog-tired, and emotionally lost in my life.

I had Dad’s debit card and he told me his pin, so I kept the house stocked with food and wrote cheques for him to sign to pay the bills. He always trusted me. Still, my sister and I were just teens – kids really – so Dad never knew that we partied our asses off in the house, or that I sat in his recliner drinking beer and playing The Doors really loud on his stereo. The cat was away, and the mice were 15 and 17. The cops came only once and warned us to behave ourselves. After that, we settled down, but my poor gentle neighbours did hear a lot of shit through the walls, I’m sure

Dad had always smoked about a pack a day, and he drank every night. He never really did any exercise, never had friends over, and never did anything but work. I also believe he harboured a lot of guilt for the abuse he gave my mother, and her emotional collapse into depression, and the other forms of abuse he visited on us.

By the time of his heart attack in ’83, my Mum had been a patient in Riverview and a ward of the province for a couple of years already. Dad had basically stopped going in with us to visit her by that point, claiming back pain. He would just sit in the car, wait for us, and smoke. I resented him for it, and thought he was an awful coward for not going in with us. I felt like I had to compensate for him. I did not understand what he might have been struggling with emotionally. This stress was probably a major factor in Dad’s health collapse.

Looking back on him and his pride and ego,I’ll bet Dad felt like his family was a failure – maybe his failure. And in many ways, we were a failed family, but that was never solely his fault, even if it was his burden to bear. I won’t forgive him for things he did, but I will still feel compassion for his suffering and near-death collapse. I still respect his strength and stubborness.

When Dad did finally come home again from the hospital, he was walking with a cane, holding his head up, but really he was kind of broken-down and had a hard time noticing things on his left side, like a few of our well-meaning neighbours, who awkwardly tried to welcome him back.

Within a month or two, he went on a serious drinking binge and caused himself a bad stroke, and went back to hospital. He just couldn’t stop drinking. He rehabbed again, and finally quit smoking and drinking for good, but also fell down in the shower in hospital and fractured his hip (plus, had another stroke). He never walked again after that, confined to a wheelchair, and settled into a private hospital. I didn’t let him go, but visiting him became one of my weekly errands. He never came home again.