austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

A photograph with a smiling face

``These represent pears,'' bunny_hugger's uncle said, as he dropped a pouch of dehydrated pears onto the table. The sentence, and its mix of truth and poetry, delighted us. I still smile thinking of it.

Over Christmas his wife died. Nobody expected it. He was devastated. He still is. They were expat Americans; while, I gather, she had a few relatives in the country, he hasn't got any relations. They have friends, certainly, but in a time like this you need a lot of support. We'd be the first people from his family who could even see him. The rest had been phone calls and Facebook messages and elliptic yet poetic e-mails that hinted at his despair.

Going in we were prepared for the case that he might have completely stopped taking care of himself, of the house, of the cat. We were ready to spend the day, or several days if need be, just tidying the house and putting it in livable order. Happily it was nothing near that bad. He might be a bit overwhelmed by the job of keeping a house in order by himself, but not hopelessly so. I admit I have a high tolerance for stuff being piled on tables or chairs, but, that's all a neat mess, if you take my meaning.

He got premade sandwiches from the supermarket down the street, for a simple and informal lunch were we might just talk. And we figured a lot of what we might do was to listen. There'd be a good bit of that. Seeing him --- we would see him nearly every day --- would be this odd mix of amiable chatter, some of it talking about our trip to that point, some of it talking about bits of family lore, interrupted by this nervous pause and then his talking about his depression.

He seems to be holding up to a brutal year. It isn't enough that she died. The barbed ends that come after life keep whipping back. There's paperwork, there's probate court, there's companies that need to slowly process the idea that a person who was alive and well twelve months ago is not now and never will be again.

And there's less formal things. He had a little while before our visit got what appeared to be an e-mail from Apple, reporting that someone had logged in to his wife's iCloud account and could someone please verify whether this was legitimate. That struck him with a particular sense of violation. So part of our visit was spent diagnosing notices like that. In this case, the notice seems to have been a phishing expedition. We explained the reasons we thought it so. He seemed to accept most that an actual e-mail notice from Apple would not have that curious not-quite-grammatical construction that phishers somehow always have. Just to be safe, though, we did help him through resetting passwords on his and his wife's e-mail accounts.

This got to be a bit of a logic puzzle, because he couldn't think of his old password, and didn't have an independent e-mail to which a reset password could be sent. There is a process for that, though, and apparently it isn't automated, or at least it doesn't claim to be.

He'd also hoped to get a replacement phone put in. The old phone was fine, but the answering machine on it still had the messages from his wife's hospitalization, and he didn't want that to be plugged in where an accident might delete them all. This I understand. (Also the new phone has larger buttons, which is probably for the best given his age.) This would wait until Sunday night for us to accomplish, and it required moving a bookshelf with books on it to do, so good thing I was there.

We had originally gone with the idea that we'd take lunch and visit as long as he felt comfortable. But he apparently felt comfortable with us around, that day, and he postponed his only appointment (taking the cat to the veterinarian) so we wouldn't be interrupted. We would spend the whole afternoon and much of the evening, talking and being present and eating and listening, looking at the birds visible from his tended garden (one seemed to be a parrot of some kind, surely a loose pet), or watching television (there was this friendly-competitive auction show that seemed several orders of magnitude better than its United States equivalents, possibly because nobody seemed punchable on it), just being there.

We would finally go back to our hotel. Playing on the news in the lobby as we got in was something about the previous week's roller coaster accident at Alton Towers. We weren't planning to go to Alton Towers, but the accident would affect our next day.

Trivia: In repudiating Mississippi's 1841 obligation to provide millions of dollars in bonds for the Union Bank of Mississippi, Governor Alexander McNutt proclaimed it offensive that the Jewish Baron Rothschild ``shall have a mortgage upon our cotton fields and make serfs of our children'', charging that Rothschild had ``mortgages upon the silver mines of Mexico and the quicksilver mines of Spain. He has advanced money to the Sublime Porte, and taken as security a mortgage upon the holy city of Jerusalem and the sepulchre of our Savior''. The state had 42 cents in its treasury in January 1841. Source: A Nation of Deadbeats: An Uncommon History of America's Financial Disasters, Scott Reynolds Nelson.

Currently Reading: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Giles MacDonogh.

PS: A Summer 2015 Mathematics A To Z: z-transform, my last A-to-Z entry! This one comes from signals processing. Two.

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