Helpless

I have not published a blog in quite a while. I have been writing blogs, yet, to put a long-blog-story-short (and I did write an unpublished blog about the reason for not publishing, though it will be published at some point in the near future) the last thing we have needed this past year is someone else’s opinion. It seems everyone is emboldened with a dogmatic opinion these days -I suppose it is a mix of outrage, frustration and the availability of social media.

But this blog is not really an opinion.

Hence, I write.

Hence, I plan to publish.

My dad has been in hospice care, in a very nice area of Northridge, CA for over 3 years. The man is 87 years-old and has been defying death his entire life. He was born premature and needed to be placed in the family farm oven as a makeshift incubator. He has survived car accidents, gas leaks, heart attacks and, most recently, Covid 19, of which he did not experience as much as a single sniffle.

He is losing his faculties slowly and most currently his hearing has failed him.

So I went over to bring him a whiteboard so we could establish communication via dry erase markers.

When I arrived the caretaker was changing his adult diaper and sheets, and requested that I leave and come back in about 15 minutes. So I left for a short walk around a rather nice and upscale neighborhood.

What I saw next was one of the most bizarre things I have seen in my life.

As walked in the sidewalk-less street, I noticed a small creature “limp running” its way toward me. My eyes are not the greatest so I waited until we got closer to each other and put on my glasses.

I had no idea what I was looking at. And why was a defenseless creature racing TOWARD me?

It was too big for a mouse, too small to be a decent size rat, while its head was much larger than its skimpering body. The poor thing had an incredible limp and seemed absolutely bewildered by what was happening. I was perplexed until….

I continued walking and noticed a dead animal in the street. As I made my way towards the dead creature, I slowly began piecing together what transpired. Apparently a pregnant possum was struck by a car, spilling out her babies from within into the street. As I hovered over the carcass, I noticed some of the premature possums lay dead on their momma, some were trying to snuggle up to her while others, much like the one I first encountered, decided to run for some kind of cover.

This was a very bizarre experience as it was both heart wrenching and tragic, regardless of one’s thoughts on the current state of the possum community.

Why did I encounter this very strange accident on the same day I had to face my dying father’s loss of hearing? As our elderly parent’s age, it seems there are certain milestones that are a reality check for a new downward turn in a seemingly constant descending state.

This was that.

I immediately knew I had to write about this small but memorable event in order to make any sense of it whatsoever. Please do not misunderstand, I am definitely NOT a “everything happens for a reason” guy at all. In fact, the only meaning any event has in our life is the meaning we assign to it.

Did the gods place a dead possum in my path in order to provide a symbolic message in my life? Maybe, though I would question the gods ethics if they felt they had to either kill or orphan a bunch of possums just so Jimmy can write a blog and learn a little something about life.

No, it just happened. And if there was a reason I could never know it with any degree of certainty, so what’s the point in trying?

Why not? It’s not like the future of my life will depend on my interpretation of a strange event, though to attempt to have this event fit snug like a jigsaw piece into the puzzle of my life narrative is, at best, an exercise in creative thinking that may help shape the understanding of my father’s condition (as conjured and cockamamie as it may be) or, at worst, I have wasted an hour or so writing about a random, weird happenstance.

Later that day I was able to share this story with my sisters. My oldest sister, Marybeth, believed this injured, baby possum represented my ailing and dying father. He too was introduced to the world in a tragic way and has been running ever since. Since he longer has anyone else on earth, he is running toward his children for safety.

And there is not a damn thing we can do for him.

I looked at those possums and felt so damn helpless. Does animal control even care about possums? Are they not considered a rodent? Could I scoop them up and save them one by one? These little animals did nothing to warrant such a shocking and repulsive means by which to enter this world, but is that not true with many people as well? We have no choice in so many things and, in the end, we are all running for what we think we need to keep living. Breathing. Thriving. To stay sane in an insane world.

The reality is I do not know. I just don’t know.

I do know that possum faced certain death as do we all, with some closer to the finish line than others.

Maybe I am just more in tune with all things life and death at this time in my life. Doesn’t matter. Love you dad. And, like the possums, appear to be as helpless and alone as anyone.

 

jimmysintension

19 Comments

  1. This was actually a very interesting read.
    You wrote about a rather inconspicuous event, yet you remember it so vividly and considered it important enough to write about.
    It’s strange how things seem to happen and as humans we can connect meaning to these rather random events.
    I do hope your dad will be ok, and comfortable until his time comes. Wishing you the best!

    • Thanks Toy Story! If you read Sandy’s feedback, perhaps this will explain why this “inconspicuous event” had far more salience for me at that time than it would normally.You good? Fighting fires yet?

      • Not fighting fires yet, but hopefully will be one day!
        As for sandy’s post: it does make sense what she said, perhaps the reality of facing the fact that you will loose your father is making you start to connect more things in a subconscious way of coping perhaps?
        I’m also not any sort of therapist or brain doctor so I could be wrong, but that’s my take on it at least.

    • Hello Jimmy, thank you for your post. It was rather interesting to see the concept of how the tragic death scene of the possum family happened at such a moment that it coincided with your father’s loss of hearing. My mother, who is actually quite young around 35 has lost most of the hearing ability in her left ear- and there are some bone conduction headphones that allow her to hear music on the side with hearing loss, if you are interested in checking them out they are called Aftershokz bone conduction headphones.

  2. Thanks for the memories Jimmy. When I was in the 2nd 3rd and 4th grades we lived in Northeast Oklahoma and for some reason I can’t remember my dad brought home a possum. Between our house and the garage with it’s adjoining mother-in-law quarters was a breezeway, enclosed porch of sorts. The reason there was a breezeway was that there was a big elm tree my dad and mom refused to cut down in order to build the house. So, we had a tree growing through the roof of the breezeway. My brother and I waited patiently for some days or weeks for the possum to climb the tree and hang by its tail. I never did and for some reason I never understood Dad put it in a burlap sack and hooked up a garden hose to the exhaust of his car and gassed the poor thing to death. I never did asked then or later why he did that instead of just turning it loose in the adjacent woods. One of those unexplained mysteries similar to yours I think.

    • I had no idea where you were going with this Georgia. I have been thinking about this event with my father and my “privileged” and very “city boy-centric” interpretation of this event. For those such as yourself, who have been exposed your entire life to more rural/farm/ranch outlooks, seeing life and death on the daily is probably far more normal. This city boy rarely gets a glimpse into this earthy and raw experience, which is as real (or more real) than any experience on earth. I would guess that what your dad did was far more accepted in both that time period as well as location, where animals getting killed/slaughtered is somewhat normative. But, yes, that would be a great question for your father. Perhaps by letting it go free they would proliferate and become a nuisance?? See you in a couple weeks Georgia!

  3. Jimmy: You look like an adult! I wasn’t sure it was even you, at first. I’ve missed reading your blog. My take on Helpless: Connect6ing the dead opossum to your dying father makes a lot of sense. I believe everything does happen for a reason. When you set off for your walk, I would imagine memories–good & bad–of life with your father would be on your mind. The drama of the death & births of this small animal, encountered at a different time, on different walk, might have gone unnoticed –making no impact on your life. But on this walk at this time, it is natural to expect a “message.” Resolving the emotions surrounding the coming death of a parent is never easy. Memories, both pleasant & painful, appear at unexpected times. Unlike the helpless opossum, you are using your body, soul, & spirit in the project of staying helpful to your father. Others, faced with a parent’s deafness, might never come up with the whiteboard solution. There is hope for a continued dialogue with him. Besides the “circle of life” lesson, I think you will help your father ‘go gentle into that good night.’

    • Sandy!! So great to hear from you. I must confess to being deeply touched by what you have written. Damn I am reminded what an unbelievable
      and insightful thinker and writer you are.Thank you for sharing this with me. Yes, I completely agree that outside of the context that I found myself staring at the helpless possums I likely would never felt what I felt…it had to be connected to my dad. I am genuinely very appreciativ as your writing truly contributes to my thought process and gives me much more insight into the reaction of my psyche. Oh, and thank you for the euphemism of “adult” when you could have said “old.” I have changed a bit yet again since that pic…I am rocking the long mane (as long as it will grow at 58) but, rest assured, it is I! Please take good care Sandy and please do not be a stranger to the blog. I have about 6 blogs lined up in my queue and will publish when appropriate.

  4. Love the way your mind wraps around things that come your way.
    Miss your class!
    Hope all is well

  5. Hey Jimmy, firstly just thank you for being so vulnerable on the platform. I strangely found myself really connecting with this post and I guess it made me feel a little less alone in my current state of solemn despair. I think I just really resonate with the sentiment of helplessness you’re facing. In the circumstance of your father, it’s hard to watch someone you care about so deeply suffer and not be able to do anything about it. I’ve recently been going through a similar situation with my cousin who is in a deep depression and battling suicidal desires as well as numerous other mental illnesses including bulimia. I don’t have a lot of friends outside of my family. My cousin is essentially my best friend and watching her suffer through such a painful process has been nothing short of excruciating. Sometimes I wake up worried I’m gonna get the notification she finally took her own life and that honestly scares the shit out of me. Add that to the fact I’ve had another family member recently pass from Covid and it’s a rough slump I find myself in right now. I think that’s why I connected with your post so much though. Watching that possum die may have resonated with you because it spoke to a deeper feeling of helplessness you face with the situation of your father. You felt helpless in not being able to save that possum’s life just as you may feel helpless in not being able to save your fathers life… just as I feel helpless in not being able to save my cousins life. You stated that you don’t believe that everything happens for a reason and I think that’s exactly why the possum incident stuck with you. It’s not because you saw it as some divine event that revealed a deeper truth, but perhaps it’s because it was a blunt reminder of just how chaotic, random, and brutally ruthless life can be sometimes. The possum didn’t do anything wrong, it just happened to get hit and its babies suffered and died for no rhyme or reason because of it. The tragedy happened without any deeper cause and you found yourself as a helpless bystander to the random brutality of it all. I know that sounds extremely nihilistic, but I think that’s just a sentiment I find myself grappling with given my current circumstances. Something else you said really struck me though. You said that the possum and its babies were dying, but no one cared. I find that interesting because I feel like that’s something we all feel as we face occurrences of suffering. It’s like you have to endure so much pain, but you know that at the end of the day it’s your pain to endure. And that can feel incredibly taxing, no to mention lonely as fuck. It’s a feeling of isolation, a lonely burden that you’re left with at the end of the day that’s a hard place to be in.
    With that said, my greatest hopes and sympathy goes out to your father and your family. I’ve just been battling with coming to acceptance that there’s only so much I can control. I can’t control my cousin’s fate and you can’t control your father’s fate. The only things we can do is try our best to live our life and hope that it all works out it in end. I suppose that’s where faith comes in. If not faith in a God or a higher power, then just faith in the universe itself that no matter what happens, life will go on and you will find a way….

    -Daniel

  6. Hey Jimmy, its been a few years since I have taken your Public Speaking course at Crafton, so I doubt you remember me. I have enjoyed reading your blog since then even though I don’t regularly comment. This experience you relayed to us is quite strong and vivid. One thing that is interesting is our collective human desire to find meaning in the face of suffering and evil (if you believe in evil). Even though you are a skeptic and lean towards nihilism (“In fact, the only meaning any event has in our life is the meaning we assign to it.”), you still find a desire to find meaning in suffering and death. The fact that you found it worth the time and attention to post about this event shines a light on your struggle for meaning and the worthiness of its pursuit.
    I believe that you will find being free from a religion or a worldview that involves evil and good (or right and wrong) will also leave you without meaning. If I were a fellow skeptic, I would applaud you for your post that strikes so hard against theodicy. I would then also caution you to not spend so much time and energy on meaningless thoughts that distract from entertainment and pleasures.
    But since I am a Christian, I will take another stance (I believe you still enjoy a good disagreement). You are familiar with the Bible’s story of creation and the entrance of evil and sin. Many others of have stated, and I would agree, that evil and sin are the opposite of God and his righteousness. Some of the qualities that are God’s is meaning and order which flow from his righteousness. The consequences of sin in this world is evil and evil caries with it a quality that is opposite God’s. Sin produces evil which has a quality of meaninglessness. For the non-Christian, there is no redemption of this meaninglessness to him or her. However, Romans 8:28 states “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Notice that this promise only is for those who follow Christ. Because of this, the skeptic is correct for noticing that life is at best a long stretch of entertainment and amusement before death.
    However, for the Christian there is a future hope and a sense of current meaning. As a Christian, I believe that my daily work is important and is a part of bringing about the redemption of this world as a whole. Additionally, I believe that even the worst evil will be fully undone by Christ. Christ’s redemption of wrongs and evils will be so complete that Christians will not be able to tell if the evils had an original plan for good or if the redemption is just fully realized. An example of this is Josephs response to his brother’s who betrayed him due to their jealousy and sold him into slavery. Later, Joseph tells his brothers “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20). Finally, I have the hope of future Glory in a physical heaven that is described in the Bible. Revelation 21:1-5 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
    Sorry for the long reply but there is no short answer to questions of theodicy. In the end, I believe you will find that the biggest problem people have with theodicy is actually a problem of timing. What about right now for me? God is currently crushing evil as quickly as it can be crushed without crushing all of us as well. In other words, God hates evil and is getting rid of it and redeeming all things as quickly as it should be done.
    I hope you find meaning and I pray this blessing on you and your father “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

  7. Almost two years ago now, my husband’s grandmother had declined in health. She came to live with my mother and father in law and they took care of her until she took her last breath. Although she was often gone (not lucid), I know she struggled when we would see her in a vulnerable state. Watching someone gradually fall out of reality, losing control of their own mind and body—it’s a reminder of life’s viscous cycle and how fleeting time is. On another note, I think I would have felt inclined to try to “save” the babies… although I would not have the first idea how to do so (I tried to save a bird once…it died). I feel similarly, as far as coincidences being just that, but it is often comforting to entertain the idea of it being more than that. I empathize with you during this difficult chapter in your life, best of luck and well wishes for your family.

  8. Professor, first thing first is I must say, I’m very sorry for your father’s condition. It’s amazing that he’s gone through many troubles, but is still here with us today. Your story with the possums is very interesting and I too, am not a “things happen as symbols”, type of thing. Even though sometimes things like that happen, where it’s so ironic that other things will match the timing of other things, I think it’s silly to believe that it happened because of a reason. Under this circumstance, it’s insane. I love your sister’s interpretation of the possum sighting, and I truly believe that’s the most beautiful way that we can perceive it. I also appreciate the way you’ve pointed out that you are from the city with not much experience on the rural side and I must say that under this circumstance – I can’t say that would change this story. I think that being able to match your sister’s meaning behind the possum and your father’s condition wouldn’t have changed whether you were from the rural or not. I think that your father is in your heart and especially lately, on your mind most of the time. So, I think that anything related to a helpless condition would be related. Overall Professor, I’ve seriously enjoyed this post and although I can’t say I can relate just yet, I’m sure I will one day. This post will be remembered. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Thank you for sharing this story. I can understand the helplessness that one feels that our parents are growing older. It is more apparent when one reflects upon memories or dig through photograph and see the youth, energy and good health that they once possessed. All we can do really is cherished them and making them as happy as possible for the time that we have them. Moreover, I can understand trying to make connections to inexplicable circumstances that happen, it’s just our way to made better sense of the world be ok with it. Overall, I enjoyed reading your blog and thank you again for sharing thoughts.

  10. Jimmy,
    I am so sorry to hear about your dad.
    Whenever I hear a story that may involve a bit of personal emotion, I make it habit to not talk about myself, because frankly, listening can be the best therapy sometimes. Though, after reading this, I felt as though I must share a similar story of own.
    Back in 2010, my grandmother died alone in her hospital bed, after being in and out of the hospital for years.
    I was ten years old, and I guess I just didn’t quite know what was going on- or perhaps I do not remember.
    The death of my grandma struck my dad harder than anyone. He felt guilt for not being there, ultimate sadness, and surprisingly enough, a bit of memory loss pertaining to her. He claims he did could not recall a single memory of her for weeks.
    About a month passed, and he found a little bird while mowing the lawn. This small bird, with grey and white feathers that resembled my grandma’s hair, was clearly ill, and practically on it’s death bed. My dad picked it up with his own two hands and brought it in the garage.
    What do you do with a dying bird? Well, theres not much you can do. So he say there.
    He held it for 5-10 more minutes until it peacefully died in his hands.
    After this experience, my dad felt a sense of closure regarding my grandma’s death. Did this happen for a reason? Was it fate? Probably not. Perhaps just a coincidence of events that we form to mean something in our own minds. Or, perhaps these exchanges from the universe are sent to us for a reason. Maybe the possum experience was just a coincidence, though, maybe it was a sign.
    I wish the best for your dad during these dark times, and I will keep you and your entire family in my prayers.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

  11. The combination of mix and outrage in todays climate I believe has a huge deal with what the last year has given us not only as individuals or a nation but in a world view. From politics to the pandemic, theres no shortage of opinions constantly being thrown at us telling us which way or how to feel, and it’s just become exhausting. And in contrast I feel that as we know this, we want to vent or talk about it, which in turn just makes us feel like we’re exhausting others, so who do we talk to? It’s become so normal to see others disturbances as a burden, even if they may be shared with someone else’s opinion, purely because there is so much to take in all around us currently.
    The possum story kills me. As it was something put into your path the day you decided to go visit your father, maybe it was another symbolization for the fight for life. Your father, having fought his whole life, since he was a baby you said, and now running into a possum who’s babies are about to fight to make it as they usually stay with their parents for a long period of time. I also believe that it’s a fear and timing type deal, as crazy as it is. Maybe the fear of starting to lose your father made you think about this scenario that you came across with more magnitude and are wondering if it’s some sort of sign, and maybe it is and maybe it’s just shit luck that you walked that way..what if you walked a different way? I like what your sister said she thinks that it could have meant, except maybe instead of your dad running it will be you guys but in a sense you’ll be okay and start a different kind of life…hopefully that makes sense.
    The fear of losing people I believe becomes a heavy weight on our hearts a souls and I think regardless of the situation it’s hard to avoid questioning or wondering the reasons behind many things during a time when this is going on, as our minds are constantly looking for the why’s, the answers, or the next steps.

  12. When I see animals on the road, whether they be hit and left to die or run over without a second thought, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by emotion. On my way home a few days ago I encountered a cat on the road. I couldn’t help the tears that welled up in my eyes, I probably should have pulled off the side of the road to collect myself, but I digress. It really is heart-wrenching, and one of the reasons I waited so long to start driving myself because I’m just not sure if I can handle the eventual pain that comes along with hitting a defenseless animal when driving. Seeing it is unfortunately far too common where I live especially now that it’s summer and all the young animals that were born in spring have begun to take on the world. I, however, can’t place any meaning in my life for their death because it isn’t an uncommon sight, but I always mourn their death. To some it may sound silly, to others they may understand. I would hope that someone or something will show me the same kindness I have shown them when I eventually die, whether that be on the road I’ll never know. I hope you can treasure the time you have with your father. Mourning animals that have died on the roads is far easier than mourning someone you love.

  13. Bad things always seem to happen after other bad things, or maybe we just notice them more. After my grandpa died, my mom and I left the hospital and went to burger king. This particular burger king was very bad and horribly slow, and the one thing we ordered was onion rings. So we’re sitting waiting for these onion rings and a half an hour goes by. Bear in mind the state we’re in and sitting in a car silently waiting for a couple of fried onions was not fun. Then out of nowhere, it starts to rain- which is never does in so cal. The heat on the car didn’t work and it was getting cold from the rain, and after 40 minutes we get the onion rings. My mom was crying when the lady handed the bag to her and the lady didn’t seem to care. The dead possum in this post reminded me of that. My mom looking back on that said “well at least all the shitty things happened to us on the same day”. The onion rings weren’t even good.

  14. Wow; this was touching and beautiful. I would just like to say I personally live like Mother Willow from the Pocahontas movie is my guide. My blood is Cherokee and animals and symbolisms are powerful. When my father was passing (I.C.U. two months) and after his passing I have been blessed with many communications like this. The most dramatic was when I was accepting his death I was gifted a dead humming bird at the front door of my apartment.

    Another time I was gifted a symbolic release was after I had been praying for a way to release a miscarriage. I was given a dead bird to put to rest the week my second son would have been born.
    I feel like these are messages from spirit and I am grateful for my minds ability to ask and the universes ability to deliver. Your story is beautiful and I am thankful to be able to read and relate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *