Sunday, April 29, 2007

I want Ozzie and Harriett

Are you ever grown up enough to not feel like a child with your parents? I am sitting here wishing I felt strong enough, grown enough, to let my parents just be two people I know, and not two people whose actions profoundly affect me. Once again, they are in marital turmoil. My mother is borderline suicidal, completely hysterical. I haven't spoken to my father, but at the moment I am not sure I want to.

The background: my father is out of town at a jazz festival. The day after he left his girlfriend called my mother, to announce her existence. She called every day, several times a day. She was upset, because she believes my father is with another, different girlfriend. My mother did not know my father was cheating. AGAIN. My father has called to confess, now that he has been caught out. He is not particulary contrite. He initially agreed to marriage counseling, but has called back to say he doesn't know that he can do that.

My mother is 76 years old. She has no job skills. She has no income. She is in poor health. My father is 67. He is also not in great health. He has very little income, and much of it is not documented.

I am trying not to judge who is right or wrong here. Their life is a mess, their marriage problems their own. Except. Part of me is feeling 11 years old, finding out about my father's first affair. That time was a long term one, with my mother's best friend. A woman I called "aunt" and adored. I feel angry all over again, feeling that my life has been turned upside down.

I was supposed to host a joint birthday party this upcoming weekend for my father and my mother-in-law, who share the same birthday. I don't know if I can do it now. My mother wants me to have the party, but she will not attend. She doesn't want anyone to know why. I don't feel particularly like celebrating, and I can't really tell people why I am cancelling, if I cancel.

I am freaking out that I may have to support my mother, with whom I have a rather uncomfortable relationship. I have visions of future holidays, all minefields of hurt feelings. How do I explain to my son what is going on with grandma and grandpa? I know my mother is really hurting. But I also know she is a difficult woman, and I have never understood how my father has hung in all these years...I feel guilty for not being more sympathetic, and for being focused on how this all affects ME and my family.

I want Ozzie and Harriett to be my parents. I want a Norman Rockwell kind of life. I want to wake up and have this all be a bad dream.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

the Ashley Treatment

Ashley is a nine year old girl from Seattle. According to a recent Hastings Center Report, she has "a severe brain impairment that leaves her unable to walk, talk, eat, sit up, or roll over. According to her doctors, Ashley has reached, and will remain at, the developmental level of a three-month-old."

The Ashley Treatment refers to the medical treatment recently given to this girl, at the request of her parents. She has had her uterus and breast buds removed. She is given high-dose estrogen. All of this was done to improve the quality of her life. The estrogen keeps her small (currently 4 ft 9). She will never have the discomfort of menstruation. She will not be the target for sexual abuse, her parents believe, because she will never have mature breasts. It will be easier to move her around, easier to strap her in a wheelchair.

Her parents have publicized the Ashley Treatment because they believe it might benefit other parents caring for severely disabled children. I have extreme sympathy for her parents, and I agree that the treatment may have benefits for Ashley because she will be easier to care for, and that can't help but lengthen her life. And frankly,they deserve to ease their burden.

I am concerned about the medical ethics of the doctors who agreed to perform these procedures. When a patient cannot make decisions for themselves, doctors have some degree of responsibility to ensure that the best interests of the patient are being served. All of their interests, not some. Ashley is mentally a three month old. This makes her no different than a 3 month old infant, or a 90-year old with advanced Alzheimer's. Would we remove the breasts of a 90 year old woman, out of convenience to her caregivers? Would we put a 3 month old baby through elective surgery to remove her uterus so she never has the discomfort of menstruation? Ashley might be easier to care for without arms and legs, which she doesn't use anyway. But no one is arguing for amputation.

It is a slippery slope that the doctors are going down. Elective surgery for the convenience of caregivers has a whole host of implications. Does anyone remember lobotomies -- they made mental patients much easier to care for.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

school's out for the summer

No, not for our son. For ME. I finished up my ethics class last night. I turned in a fairly bad term-paper, but I am DONE. Now, here's the thing. I absolutely LOVE school. My brain feels like it is waking from a long slumber, and I feel more alive as a result. BUT. I am tired, tired, tired. Who knew one class a semester would be the tipping point for me? I think I had about 2 hours free a week before, and now I'm like 10 hours a week over my limit. I am constantly behind in my reading, doing assignments at the last minute, and not as well as I could with more time, skipping research time at the library. I am SQUEEZED.

I am not taking any classes over the summer. But I'd really like to take 2 classes a semester if I could. Otherwise I will be hard-pressed to finish the program in the allotted time (I get 5 years to complete my 9 classes and portfolio). I just don't see how, though.

for today, I am just going to enjoy the child-like sense of freedom that comes with the words "schools out"!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

free speech??

You knew I would eventually get around to this one, didn't you? Don Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy headed hos". He has been fired, after a public uproar. I am not sure how I feel about this.

I think his comments were unexcusable. The girls did nothing but excel. They did not deserve to have their achievements diminished by a very public slur. They were owed an apology, and they received one, with very good grace.

I think Imus' employers were being hypocritical in the extreme. They pay the man to be nasty, they pay him to say outrageous things, and they have profited by it. Now they fire him for what he has been doing all along.

I hate his style of radio. To me, a microphone is not a license to be a pig. "Free speech" isn't really free. People fought and died for it. I doubt they imagined the way that phrase would be used as a shield for intolerance, bigotry and general ugliness. And free speech ends where you do real harm to others. It doesn't allow you to say anything that pops into your head. The concept applies to the exchange of IDEAS. It is supposed to protect citizens from government oppression, not to protect asshole talk show hosts from being boorish to pump up ratings.

A co-worker of mine had an interesting spin on the Imus comments. Her feeling is that his comments were fine, because the comments were nothing that African-Americans are not already calling themselves. My reply was that it is equally wrong when 50 Cent does it as when Imus does. People shouldn't allow themselves to be treated that way, by anyone. And that kind of behaviour shouldn't help anyone line their pockets. Why buy records that denigrate you? Why idolize men who call you a ho? Hopefully the conversation on this will continue, and perhaps some real change will come from it.

We really could do better. Maybe try treating each other with dignity and respect, see what happens. Who knows -- we might just like it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

we're back

Tennessee was really really nice. Here we are at the base of one of the waterfalls in the park.