Island Life


It happened again last week. It of course is that thing that comes at the end of when you get a puppy and run through many calendars only to find that that puppy is not around to bump up against your leg in the kitchen anymore. This was a good run though- Zeek nearly made it to seventeen years, and he bounced back from having tumors removed from his liver and parathyroid, and then seemed to enjoy what remained of his life. Towards the end he mostly did not like going outside, mainly because both sides of our house are four steps above ground level, and negotiating that descent was more of a challenged than he liked to contend with. We have been going through a lot of potty pads and inside clean up time as of late.
But when he did get outside, there were times when you could see flashes of his old self, or at least his attempts at that state. He had no trouble walking, but when he was feeling as spritely as he could, he would take off at a jerky trot until he realized that, in going down a slight incline, someone had failed to refill the brake fluid in his system. One time he just crashed, but eventually he learned his limits, and would start to brake before obstacles or ends of paths came on too fast and close for comfort. And then one day he ate his full can of wet food for breakfast, went for a walk and then steadily declined with yelping and unsteadiness until we decided his time had come, and so it did.

I have watched a number of dogs and cats stop being. It is a strange thing. I watched my mother stop being- that was very strange as well. I watched my dad sit with her after she had gone and felt totally helpless in the moments, because there was, in the end, nothing one could really do about that. What always comes to mind lately when some being stops being is a scene from the movie ‘Rogue One’, which I believe I may have referenced here in the past, since it had a singular and profound influence on me. It occurs toward the end, when the heroine and the hero are striving against all odds to steal the plans to the deathstar and send them up to the rebels circling in their spaceships far overhead. The heroes are being assisted by a robot who is fighting his own impossible battle to keep the never ending stream of opposing soldiers from foiling their attempts at the theft. The blaster hits finally became too much for him, so he sealed the entrance door and then collapsed to the floor. As his head comes down with a thump, the lights that are his eyes go out in a simple, sudden stillness. The image always sends chills through me in its jarring finality.

Besides cartoons, it seems to me that the first Star Wars with R2D2 and C3PO is the first instance I can recall where a robot actually has a character and a spirit, in a sense. They are artificial intelligence, but they also respond to language and actions as a human would, and so the dividing line between humanoid and robotoid is obscured and perhaps even obliterated. K2, the robot in Rogue One, is seen from the start as snarky and cynical, two characteristics that generally fall to humans rather than mechanical men (they do seem to mostly be “male” identified). The chilling part to me in K2’s lights out death, is that it seemed eerily final. There was a spirit there and then there wasn’t. For some reason that realization flashed over to the big picture focus for me- where does a spirit really go, or does it go anywhere? I suppose that’s why religions where conceived in part, I just don’t find any comfort in the speculation of a belief.

And so it was that my week continued in the knowledge that, in a separate reality, the sunroof in my car had started to leak and that everything I had tried to do to fix it had no effect in stemming the proverbial tide. I got up Monday morning with the intention of heading to the dealer to face the repair bill music. New cars are not in my future, and a sunroof that works is a summertime joy, and has been a necessity in some of the cross country filming I have done. I made it to the ferry on the way to the dealer and found an email from my nephew on my phone with the subject line that is the title of this piece. I read the first line of it and decided I should probably deal with it when I was sitting at my computer at home. The last two lines of it went like this:

“So if you can do without a bunch of new bikes and dumb filming shit you don’t need, Please send my mom some of your unearned monopoly money.

If you have any heart you will call my mom and offer to help her so she doesn’t lose her farm and her dignity. If you don’t then everything I say is the truest of true. And so it goes Peter Ray, Heaven or Hell?”

For those of you who have not been following the bouncing ball that is this column, or even if you have, it should be stated that after my father died almost six years ago now, I found out that in the final year and a half of his life, my sister, as executor of his estate, had gotten power of attorney and the joint checkbook for his affairs, and proceeded to blow through over a million dollars in that time, half of which I was entitled to according to the trusts, and would have made for a relatively secure retirement, combined with what she had not yet spent, which was not a lot. Having shown Wendy the entirety of the email later that evening, she reminded me that I had predicted this scenario back when things were getting settled with lawyers and stuff. It was actually a fairly easy prognostication to make, when applying, as I have learned to do in a number of instances, the simple question that goes like this: “what has changed?” In the hindsight of thinking back over some of the mysteries around my sister and my parents and their financial vagaries, it would seem that she had been scamming them most of her life to one degree or another. New Hampshire had passed an elder abuse law in early 2015, which if my dad had still been alive to see, she would then have been eligible for a prison term as a result of her actions- instead she got away with barely a slap to the wrist. And instead, she was free to carry on unbridled, which she apparently has. And in continuing on with her complete lack of spending restraint, she seems to be about to lose her house, because even with all of her trust money pilfering, she failed to pay off her own mortgage at the time. Oh well.

Instead of rejecting her outright, I offered her a plan and some money if she chose to go with it. It involved my getting my money and possibly then some back. She chose to not accept it, which I mostly expected, because I knew that anything that might involve my reciprocal benefit would be unacceptable to her. This did all provide a slight window into perhaps getting back in touch with my nephews and nieces, all of whom except one dropped out of communications as all of this was transpiring. I have been, and continue to be, in touch with some of my cousins in an attempt to maintain some family ties. As for my sister- in truth I just don’t care. Paying any more attention to her would kind of feel like going down with a drowning victim, an escape for which I learned in life saving class so many years ago. One could intone the old trope at this point- Karma is a bitch- but that would entail a belief that Karma is a valid thing with substantial consequences, but at this juncture I’m just not feelin’ it.