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Howard Joseph Sicore 1940-2014
My father’s father was always a painful subject, but he brings him up as we enter a room of brown chairs filled with despair.
‘My dad never taught me anything.’
He describes how alcohol ruined his family. That Roger, his brother three years younger, was his father’s favorite.
‘Always gave him things like cars.’
A woman interrupts to ask something, but before she can finish he blurts, ‘Howard Sicore. Seven. Twenty-one. Forty.’
He’s receiving drips in a repulsive brown chair like those found in a delivery room for the husband to sleep, a recliner, with a side table for coffee.
‘These are all good people here.’
Everyone laughs. A man is wheeling over his tri-mix of drips to grab a couple of bags of free potato chips. Howard interrupts him.
‘Having fun yet?’
‘It is what it is.’ Says the stranger.
My father smiles and returns to his normal state of introspection.
‘I’ve a log cabin in mind, and someday it will be real. And a 1937 Ford two-door sedan. A kind of red. Tinted rear windows. In my three-car garage. Two stories. Bedroom, bathroom upstairs. If I can get this floor covering project going. I’ll keep investing more and more from the sales.’ He pauses, characteristically rubs his chest, sighs and looks down. ‘Just dreams that I have. You just don’t know if it will work or not, you know?’
He acts immortal. I’m just listening.
‘It’s nice to have dreams. It’s fun to think about things.’
He talks of his hair and concedes it’s time to get a haircut. Later in the day he will walk into a beauty school, where the young women there will treat him with dignity as they trim off all that remains, a few half-grey finger-sized strands of hair, and his sparse beard, down to stubble. When he stands to walk out of the salon, he looks just like his father. I do not tell him this.
‘I met your mom in a pool hall. The Blue Boar. I was friends with this heavy set guy, but he got mad at me because I talked to her first.’
He describes their circle of friends during their dating years. There was Pat Rogers in Fort Worth. And Jim and Carolyn. His brief descriptions of them leave more questions than answers.
‘I don’t know why she said this, but Carolyn said his penis was too small. Can you believe that?’
He is enjoying this.
‘I met your mom, and we’d gone over to my apartment. It was the first time that I kissed her. I just turned around, and I held her, and I asked her, ”May I kiss you?” And she let me. Ask her about that.’
This is one of his most valued memories. He is genuinely happy.
The subject returns to his brother.
‘Roger turned gay. When we were kids. I found them alone by the Santa Anna river. Well, I won’t say any more. George Herman. That’s who he was with.’
He says he never told anyone this happened. He protected his brother.
Happy birthday, Dad. I miss you.
Eight months old today, he has had various forms of seizures, up to hundreds per day, since myoclonic jerks sent him to the hospital in March of this year. But the infantile spasms that began later—small crunch-like postures that happen in clusters throughout the day—erased his ability to smile, to hold his head up, and to roll over. He’s now a huge tank of a seven month-old boy. Handsome. Gorgeous rolls of baby fat. Smells divine. But he has a life-threatening and limiting condition that will never go away.
In April, after months of tests, the neurologists agreed that Clyde was environmentally insulted by either a virus (like CMV) or a random ischemic event as a fetus in the second trimester that affected the formation of his brain. In patches, generalized and widespread across both hemispheres, and in every area except for the occipital lobes, neurons failed to migrate to the cortex. They call this polymicrogyria: many small folds. There is a spectrum to this disorder, and Clyde has the most severe type.
We try to ignore the prognosis. Yet, we must write it here, because we are thinking it to ourselves every day: He may never walk, talk, or be able to care for himself independently. There’s a ten percent chance he could die in his sleep, and a greater chance that he will ultimately be taken early by cumulative bouts of aspiration pneumonia. He already shows signs of spastic quadriparesis, global motor delay, severe cognitive impairment and refractory seizures. He can’t use his hands. Just now trying to hold his head up–an ability that disappeared when he was two months old, at that same time his smile disappeared–he simply cannot smile. He appears content. As his parents we’ve learned to recognize this, or so we hope.
Again, ignoring the prognosis: He seems to change every day. Tiny eye movements during a touching moment show he’s smiling inside. A random thrust of his arm seems to mean he’s reaching out. A furrowed brow shows some intent. And that is hope. We are holding his hand through life.
We’ve been mostly quiet because we needed time to understand what was actually happening to Clyde, grieve for the passing of Damon’s father, and deal with job and healthcare loss and delays. To grieve for Clyde. Throughout, our friends and family have been our anchor and our levity. We are thankful.
‘You always lie to me.’
‘I do not. Why do you say that?’
‘Yes you do. You don’t tell me the truth when something is wrong.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘You don’t tell me everything.’
‘Do you mean I don’t tell you how bad it really is?’
The boy stared at something around his feet and kicked a t-shirt into the air from the clothing-strewn floor. He watched the boy’s face.
‘I see. I understand. And, you think that I’m not telling you everything now?’
‘Yes. I think you know it’s bad, and you aren’t telling me everything. It’s going to be on both sides. That’s what I think, and you will see that I’m right.’
‘We don’t know that yet.’
‘I know it.’
He stood up from his son’s bed. The length of his hand dropped over the boy’s shoulder, and his fingers bridged the gaps on both sides of the boy’s collar bone. He noted how fragile the structures seemed under his hand.
‘We will see. Now get some sleep.’
‘OK. Goodnight dad.’
‘Goodnight. I’m proud of you. We will make it. You will see.’
“On the concrete wall behind them, a very fresh-looking billboard depicts a dark fist upraising a bright Kalashnikov rifle over Arabic script: THERE IS NO GOD BUT ALLAH AND MOHAMMED IS HIS PROPHET.”
Johnson, Denis (2009-02-20). Seek (Kindle Locations 1128-1131). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition
My deadly notes reigns supreme
Your fort is basic compared to mine
Domino effect, arts and crafts
Paragraphs contain cyanide — Cappadonna, Wu-Tang
True pride is humility.
Sometimes I cannot use specific words. I can’t stand to read them. I do not want them to exist.
Children, he said. Without children I would not be the Father. No Fatherhood without childhood. I never wanted it, it was thrust upon me. Tribute of a sort but I could have done without, fathering then raising each one of the thousands and thousands and tens of thousands, the inflation of the little bundle to big bundle, period of years, and then making sure the big bundles if male wore their cap-and-bells, and if not observed the principle of jus primae noctis, the embarrassment of sending away those I didn’t want, the pain of sending away those I did want, out into the lifestream of the city, nevermore to warm my cold couch, and the management of the ___, maintenance of public order, keeping the zip codes straight, keeping the fug out of the gutters, would have preferred remaining in my study comparing editions of Klinger, the first state, the second state, the third state, and so on, was there parting along the fold? and so on, water stain and so on, but this was not possible, all went forth and multiplied, and multiplied, and multiplied, and I had to Father, it was the natural order, thousands, tens of thousands, but I wanted to wonder if if if I put a wood pulp mat next to a 100 percent rag print would there be foxing and whether the rumblings of the underground would shake the chalk dust from my pastels or not. I never wanted it, it was thrust upon me. I wanted to worry about the action of the sun fading what I valued most, strong browns turning to pale browns if not vacant yellows, how to protect against, that sort of thing, but no, I had to devour them, hundreds, thousands, ____, sometimes their shoes too, get a good mouthful of childleg and you find, between your teeth, the poisoned sneaker. Hair as well, millions of pounds of hair scarifying the gut over the years, why couldn’t they have just been thrown down wells, exposed on hillsides, accidentally electrocuted by model railroads? And the worst was their blue jeans, my meals course after course of improperly laundered blue jeans, T-shirts …
Believe me, the Dead Father said, I never wanted it, I wanted only the comfort of my armchair, the feel of a fine ________ paper, the cool anxiety about whether I had been cogged if if if with a restrike or not, whether some cunning fellow had steelfaced an old copperplate and run off the odd thousand extra impressions, …
if if if if—-
You may take my meaning, but for myself I withhold that which defines you. For the fire.
My heavy-starch husk
Holds me up
As I drop into my chair.
Humans in caves
Career the Valley outside my window.
She’s so far away now
I can’t see
Her eyes huge
When she last brushed by.
And now the jerks are expected
There’s nothing to do but
I hope to someday
Find something to say
I see you.
Because I’m no longer
He woke before dawn and watched the gray day break. Slow and half opaque. He rose while the boy slept and pulled on his shoes and wrapped in his blanket he walked out through the trees. He descended into a gryke in the stone and there he crouched coughing and he coughed for a long time. Then he just knelt in the ashes. He raised his face to the paling day. Are you there? he whispered. Will I see you at the last? Have you a neck by which to throttle you? Have you a heart? Damn you eternally have you a soul? Oh God, he whispered. Oh God. –CM, TR
Morning workouts bring cracked dust trails and seldom used railroad tracks. The California Sun is nowhere near as hot as the one over the New Mexico desert where I roamed aged 12. Yet, it’s just hot enough to peel back layers of memories revealing the most pleasant sensations of my early rides to the college where I’d double-booked classes only to capture lab time with the mainframe. What’s missing now are the oil pits, wind-blown plumes of invisible petroleum stink, and the web of caliche roads which seem to hold the Llano Estacado to Earth. In boiling heat I plotted back country pumpjack routes ending near the southwest quadrant of the road circumscribing NMJC. Summer weekdays I made the trip on an old ten-speed carving frustrating ruts when the hardpan failed. I suppose I was motivated by the same obsession I see in my own children today: Machine time. Still, I see no similar adventure in their own lives–solo quests over treacherous lands–and it saddens me. And today, every small avoidance on my trail run triggers instincts to instruct them as to what to watch for, what to avoid, the geology, and the observation of the toil of others, but my children aren’t there. Their absence begs the question: What have we wrought? A question repeating in my mind, but the words are not my own. While science and society progresses, we haven’t made any significant strides in our own nature. We’re still viciously vying for wants; corruption has no obvious face, and it is everywhere; the workplace is just a facade behind which hides a nature no different from ranchborne butchery; and cooled offices and retina displays have only changed the face of our routines. Beneath the thin veneer of our professions exists the same grunting club armed primate waiting to bash in your head for a few corporate kudos. How to prepare them?
after gathering surface samples Officer Jolene Manipulates the transnoumenal plasma plotting our course to next star system–altering reality with the touch of a small, sensitive hand.
Recent US Supreme Court news has focused on DOMA; however, there’s another case which intrigues me more: Salinas v Texas. Here’s the holding:
When petitioner had not yet been placed in custody or received Miranda warnings, and voluntarily responded to some questions by police about a murder, the prosecution’s use of his silence in response to another question as evidence of his guilty at trial did not violate the Fifth Amendment because petitioner failed to expressly invoke his privilege not to incriminate himself in response to the officer’s question.
Specifically, police informally asked questions to a suspect; pre-Miranda; suspect answered most; when presented with a question that might incriminate him, he remained silent. His silent pause was used against him in court as evidence of his guilt.
Language–the means, mode, and act of communication, syntax and grammar, verbal or otherwise–is on stage here. Before this year, I’d never attempted a critical, circumspect investigation into language and its role in forming society and, more important, reality. In my pursuit of tying specific words to concepts as I understand them (something most important to me over the past two years), I’ve learned to appreciate the role language plays in all things human. I’ve found many discrepancies in my notions of definition and meaning by practicing pause when considering important values I hold. For example, I value integrity as a defining characteristic. I often shape my world-view around what I would do in a particular situation to maximize a positive outcome for myself and for all. But, what does integrity mean to another person? This is a problem. Since I’m not The Other, there’s no way for me to ever, ever know we absolutely agree on, well, anything at all.
In work, language and the act of communicating is perilous. We’re constantly misinterpreting. Text messages, chats, and emails amplify the problem. I’ve heard: “I messaged So-and-So over thirty minutes ago, why haven’t they responded? Did I make them angry somehow?” Silence can be scary, and it’s never clear what it means. This court case and outcome I find astounding because no reasonable way to interpret the silence of Salinas. In this case, a man’s life was at stake.
More troubling is that the existence of rights is tied to an act of language. Our Supreme Court confirmed Salinas should have exercised his right, and only then would his silence be inadmissible. With the conjuring of a right by his use of language it would have created the reality keeping him out of jail. Yet Salinas’ silence was instead used as a determining factor of his guilt. All this time I’ve acted as if rights are intrinsic. You have them, or you don’t. No magic spells required. I’ve obviously misunderstood Miranda as a safety net for the uninformed: The police must tell you your rights just to make sure you know them so they can’t coerce you to incriminate yourself. Instead, you do not have the right to remain silent without incriminating yourself until the police have informed you of your rights and you have used a form of language to exercise those rights. I believe this is a mistake and a marked indicator of our flawed society.
This issue indicates the power and provides clear evidence of the important role language plays in defining what and who we are. Every day I talk to dozens of people, and many of those conversations happen in a closed room, in a one-on-one setting as it’s part of my job. I listen, and I do whatever I can to help them, even if it is trivial. After countless hours of conversations with hundreds in this setting, I’ve become exceptionally aware, I believe, of the Otherness of the person in the room. I routinely and clearly see the barriers to communication: Distance, hesitation, fear, doubt, distrust, confusion, cultural issues, and just plain frustration in trying to convey an idea. You see the patterns enough, they become obvious. Today, it’s difficult to avoid acute self-awareness during these conversations. I’m constantly reminded there’s another person in the room with their own world-view, their own values, their own concerns, and it’s all wrapped in the period of time they’ve existed. Now, once at the front of my thoughts, the mechanics of identifying and addressing the concerns of the Other become automatic.
I think this takes a huge amount of practice, and I suspect most people never have such an opportunity. I think I’m probably lucky to be in this position; however, I can’t overstate how difficult it can be to always reach a positive outcome–and maintain that integrity I value. Language deficiencies leave room for misinterpretations that may prohibit outcomes perceived as my maintaining integrity, no matter what I do.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights, considers the recanting of a person’s religion a human right legally protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
The Committee observes that the freedom to ‘have or to adopt’ a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one’s current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views [...] Article 18.2 bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to their religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.
In some countries apostasy from the religion supported by the state is explicitly forbidden. This is largely the case in some states where Islam is the state religion; conversion to Islam is encouraged, conversion from Islam penalised.
- Iran – illegal (death penalty)
- Egypt – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment)
- Pakistan – illegal (death penalty since 2007)
- United Arab Emirates – illegal (3 years’ imprisonment, flogging)
- Somalia – illegal (death penalty)
- Afghanistan – illegal (death penalty, although the U.S. and other coalition members have put pressure that has prevented recent executions)
- Saudi Arabia – illegal (death penalty, although there have been no recently reported executions)
- Sudan – illegal (death penalty, although there have only been recent reports of torture, and not of execution)
- Qatar – illegal (death penalty)
- Yemen – illegal (death penalty)
- Malaysia – illegal in five of 13 states (fine, imprisonment, and flogging)
- Mauritania – illegal (death penalty if still apostate after 3 days)
- Morocco – illegal to proselytise conversion (15 years’ imprisonment)
- Jordan – possibly illegal (fine, jail, child custody loss, marriage annulment) although officials claim otherwise, convictions are recorded for apostasy
- Oman – legal in criminal code, but according to the family code, a father can lose custody of his child
The only way to get out of a mirror-maze is to close your eyes and hold out your hands. To write this allegedly ultimate story is a form of artistic fill in the blank, or an artistic form of the same. [jb, 111]
For the first time in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself. [c ts 122-123]
All these creatures spend their time explaining, realizing happily that they agree with each other. In Heaven’s name, why is it so important to think the same things all together? [s n 8] I am beginning to believe that nothing can ever be proved. These are honest hypotheses which take the facts into account but I sense so definitely that they come from me, and that they are simply a way to unify my own knowledge. Slow, lazy, sulky, the facts adapt themselves to the rigor of the order I wish to give them. I have the feeling of doing a work of pure imagination. [s n 13]
When the water touched my brow and Adam’s sin left me, I contrived by strain like defecation to bring tears into my eyes–but felt nothing. There was some simple radical difference; I hoped it was genius, feared it was madness, I devoted myself to amiability and inconspicuousness. I was seized by the terrifying transports I’d thought to find in toolshed, in communion-cup. The grass was alive! The town, the river, myself, were not imaginary; time roared in my ears like wind; the world was going on! James Joyce once wrote. I’m going to scream.