In some of my earliest memories of him, I remember my uncle Steve as The Guy Who Helped Built My Swingset. Every kid needs a swingset, but I was always especially attached to mine. I don’t think there was a day in the 16 years we lived in that house that I didn’t spend at least a little time out there, rain or shine. It was my favourite playground. When things got a little too crowded inside the house, it was my quiet haven.the swingset

 Every Sunday, Steve came over after church to eat lunch with me and my mother and my grandparents. Afterwards, I would sometimes ask him to stay and play a game of checkers with me. Sometimes he would, but most often he went on home instead. I was never upset by that; I always knew that Steve, like me, was a shy person who got tired out easily by people. I knew that for him, going him on a Sunday afternoon to his apartment and his cats was a lot like me retreating to the backyard swingset he had built for me.


But even though he was quiet and valued his solitude, Steve’s haven always seemed to have a place for me. Whenever I visited his apartment, he would gladly relinquish his computer for a while, or watch me play with the cats, or go with me down to the swimming pool. Once, we collaborated on making dinner – hamburgers and salad – for ourselves and my mom. I was going to slice little bits of ham for the salad, but there wasn’t a cutting board available, so Steve layered some wax paper on the kitchen counter for me. I had quite a little pile of ham all ready to go in the salad, but when I picked it up to dump it all in, I discovered that the knife had not only sliced through the ham, but also the two layers of wax paper – all the ham quickly ended up on the floor. We stared at each other for a minute, shocked, and then laughed. I think we put tomatoes in the salad instead.


Sometime in middle school, I decided that I wanted to learn French, so I got myself some language-learning software and loaded it onto Steve’s computer. If my command of the language is a little less than fluent today, it’s probably because I spent more time watching Star Wars and playing computer games with Steve than I did actually learning French.


A love of science fiction is something that my uncle and I always shared – he was a very early and lasting influence on my taste in literature and television, and I think he was happy to have someone with whom to share the things he loved. He never made me feel like it was a chore to spend time with me; we could be in the same room, each reading our own separate book, just being quiet together. He took me to the library and to movies in the summer. Once, when I forgot my library card at home and he didn’t have one, Steve signed up to get a library card that very day just so I could check out a book I’d already read three times.


There was one interest that my uncle and I never got the chance to share. I remember him telling me about a British sci-fi show called Doctor Who, but I never sat down to watch it with him. When my mom and I were cleaning out Steve’s apartment after the stroke, I found his VHS tapes full of Doctor Who episodes and decided to watch them – mostly as a way to feel close to him at first, but after a while I developed a genuine liking for the show. Four years ago, a friend of mine, also a fan of the show, hosted a Doctor Who viewing party and get-together at her house – that’s where I met my husband.


There are things I will never know about my uncle, moments we will never share, and questions I will never get to ask. But I do know this: he will never stop adding to my life. It – and I – will always be better because of him. He will never see me finish my PhD, or spend an afternoon doing engineering projects that I will never understand with my husband; he will never hold my children and distract them from their French lessons. But in the things that he taught me, the way that he shaped me, my uncle will be there for all of that and more.Steve

Medically Speaking

Ah, violent wind storms. Driving home through the neighbourhood tonight was like driving through the remains of an Epic Battle fought by large, plastic trash containers.

In other news, after 4 days of sharp, stabby uncomfortableness in my left shoulder (and eight years of general shoulder joint pain, shut up), I finally took myself to the doctor. An hour later, I left with an rx for an anti-inflammatory, an order for some x-rays, and the knowledge that I have “surprisingly good reflexes.” The doctor will likely send me to an orthopedic specialist, but she wants to see the x-rays first.

It took a little over half an hour to get my prescription filled, so I chatted with my mom for a while. She is well, Grandmother is well, Steve is…only slightly less well than his usual.

Grad school applications, GRE scores, and one letter of recommendation are in! Two more letters, and then they can send me my acceptance letter. Aaaany day now. 🙂

I made a pair of pants last week. Actual, wearable pants. Yes, the one article of clothing that has thwarted me for years and made previously readable sewing instructions morph into incomprehensible Greek has finally submitted to my will. Mostly because of my grandmother’s tutorial. 🙂 But still! I have committed pantsery Huzzah!!

Thought I’d make friends with time…

Had an Episode of Annoyance yesterday, trying to get things done…got stuck in traffic for a while and I couldn’t find anything at all I’d set out to find on my errands, which made them feel like a waste of time, and it was 7 pm by the time I finally made it home with only a bowl of pimiento cheese (ok, so I did find one thing I sought) and frustrated thoughts to show for it: I only get so many hours a day to do things that I want or need to do that aren’t work related, it’s impossible to do everything I want to do when I get home in the evenings. It’s like a Chinese buffet: craft projects, running errands, reading, exercising/going for a nice, long walk, playing my way through Kingdom Hearts II, writing, taking notes from my tarot book – I can pick two or three and get a side of rice if I’m lucky, but I certainly can’t fit them all in.

John reminded me that I probably feel the time constraint more right now because our weekends have been so full this month. (Mollie’s graduation, driving to Knoxville to sell the car, TenRen this weekend, Rogersville ren faire and AdventureCon both next weekend…and we’ve been out to look at this one house at least once every weekend for the last month-and-a-half only to find out we can’t possibly buy it, due to standing water/drainage problems.)He let me rant and gesticulate and get all teary-eyed on his shoulder for a little bit and then set about making me feel better. And laugh. He’s very good at both of those. 

Woke up today in a vastly better mood and decided to conquer time by walking to Borders on my lunch break – errand-running and exercise. (And heat exhaustion. Oy.) I even got to see keenmixer. 🙂

Second ALS clinic next Friday! Estelle is out, back in class at MTSU, so it’s just me for the singing this month; music books stand at the ready. Patients have follow ups every three months, so I’ll be meeting new people until August; looking forward to that.

New person came in through the ever-revolving door of our home health and it seems we might actually get to keep her for a while – not to mention might want to. I haven’t gotten to meet her yet, but everything seems to be going smoothly so far. Probably most importantly, Steve seems to like and cooperate with her. Not a moment too soon, since my grandmother is having a lot of back problems. She’s supposed to find out this week if the chiropractor, after looking at her x-rays, can help her at all; I keep suggesting accupuncture, but I think she’d have to be in a lot more pain to try that. 🙂

One of those days…


Yesterday my uncle got choked on some water. After several hours of intermittently coughing and sneezing up water, mom took him to the emergency room. Prognosis? Two-thirds of his esophagus was filled with hardened food and the doctor thinks it’s been building for longer than just yesterday, or this week. So unless he finds otherwise, no more food by mouth. Ever. We’re back to the feeding tube.

Also there’s fluid in his lungs. Mild pneumonia. He’s in the hospital till at least Monday, when they will do another chest x-ray and some blood cultures to determine if he can come home.