A Wistful Day

1. Sigh. Terry Pratchett died today. Lucius and I shared a room at Worldcon in 2002, and we and Terry Bisson ran into Sir Terry at the hotel bar. When the topic of my then-infant daughter came up, he shared with us a funny and apparently bogus anecdote* — given the punchline — about his own daughter. Then he bought us our drinks.

2. Eleven years ago as of this summer, my dad, our good friend Mike Prange, and I set up our second fishing-drift camp on the Grand Ronde in northeastern Oregon. The day had been hot, one in a series of drought days, and the river was low and warm with many exposed rocks, and Dad had done all the steering. He was strong, and a marathon runner, and still made light of such tough work, which would have had most guys crapped out after a couple hours. We were drinking wine, and Dad pondered his glass a moment and then stared at the sunlit river through the pines and said, “You know, I’m fifty-nine now. I figure if I make it to seventy, anything extra is gravy.” Then he shifted the glass to his other hand and shrugged uncomfortably. “Damn this shoulder, I think I strained it at the oar.”

Just over two years later he was gone. The shoulder pain was cancer.

Today, he would have turned seventy.

Everyone should have a psychiatric social worker for a dad. I didn’t know how lucky I was. He did a good deal of one-on-one psychotherapy but was obliged to pursue management to support the family, and I think the stress of the job contributed to his early demise. He taught us compassion for the chronically mentally ill and didn’t have time for the petty whining of his staff in the face of their patients’ struggles. “I’d rather fight cancer than the psychoses these people deal with.”

Neither dad nor I ever imagined that Lucius might outlive him. He did by a good stretch, but next week already marks the one-year anniversary of Lucius’ passing.

Before he died, Dad told me to reject negative emotion. That was advice I completely disregarded. I’ve spent a few years on Facebook stewing in negative emotion. Stupid, but I’m still alive. From here on out, it’s gravy.

* “When my daughter was small, we had an intercom, and often she’d stay up late after I left the room and we could hear her making noise, so I’d say to her through the intercom, ‘Good _night_, Rhianna.’

“Then one night after a long pause, she said, ‘Good night, wall.’ ” –TP

About robertpkruger

Writer, editor, and software developer. Former president of ElectricStory.com.
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