Okay, I haven't updated in quite a while and I think it's time I ditch the video posts, at least for now, and write seriously about what's been going on in my life over the winter. It has been one big long emotional stress ball, but things are looking up.
If one thing has been ever-present in my life this winter, death has been it. Last fall, an old friend of Danny's passed away, and we drove to Montgomery, AL, to attend the funeral. It was held in a modernistic but ugly church, with bad music, and I felt rather out of place. Other than having a weekend away with Danny, I enjoyed nothing about being there.
I ended up not having the jaw surgery that was scheduled for December. I have a birth defect, hemifacial microsomia, that amounts to prenatal underdevelopment of one side of the face. Mine is relatively mild as far as that defect goes and could have been much worse, but it's always been a problem for me. A few years ago I started taking care of my neglected teeth and the oral surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth started me on the track to getting orthodontic braces and had an eye on doing surgery to fix my slightly malformed right jaw. In doing the needed measurements for the surgery, he found that the kind of surgery he wanted to do to straighten out my bite was not possible, and the only surgery that would actually have a chance of helping would be an extensive procedure, an overhaul of my jaw. However, the extensive surgery would risk making my jaw non-functional, so it was a basically all or nothing proposition. We ultimately decided that at my age it would be best to leave well enough alone and not do any surgery. I must admit I was excited about having the surgery, but not looking forward to the lengthy recovery or facing the risks. In my view, it was bittersweet. At present, my orthodontist is doing some final tweaking of my braces to maximize some things non-surgically, and I'm nearly done.
After the death of his Danny's friend, both of us started pondering our own mortality and in February Danny made an appointment for us to visit a local funeral home to start making our final arrangements. It is something he'd always meant to do, but his friend's passing away had spurred him to act. In the meantime, though, we got the sudden news in our dear friend and club brother, J., whom we had only known a couple of years, committed suicide. He had attempted it last year, and at the time that put us through the wringer emotionally, but this devastated us. He left no note and no explanation, but from piecing together clues from his other friends it seems he'd had a history of depression; in the past few years he'd had some minor health issues that may have negatively affected his finances; and the week before, after more than a year of stressing about it, he'd officially lost his job. He was an incredibly sweet and loving man, but he was an exceedingly private person. Most of his family lives in a state far away and other than getting his body and arranging for his car, they had little interest in taking over the dissemination of his belongings, so that task has fallen to his closest confidant. We're sorry she was saddled with the responsibility, but we were able to take some of his things, including his club colors. He had also enormously helped our roommate John to get his small business, John's Pantry, off the ground in its first few months, so two baker's racks from J.'s kitchen are now there. And I'm glad that a few plants that J. had given us -- some rainlilies (Zephyranthes
) and a red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora
) -- are growing well and getting ready to bloom. It's a damn shame J. chose to end his life in the dreariest days of winter, because everyone's mood seems to lift in these beautiful days of spring when in our part of the world everything is growing and Nature is blushing into joyful color. Getting those few things of J.'s from his house, and the beauty of springtime and Easter, have been invaluable for us in helping us to turn the page and close the book on grieving over him.
Ultimately, as difficult as it was, Danny and I kept our appointment and made our arrangements. Doing it while still raw from J.'s death ironically made the process easier; I think we were just that much more numb from it all. As morbid as it seems, it's a comforting thought that Danny and I will be together when our lives are over. And a neat thing about it is that we'll be buried together (double deep in the same plot) in a new, military-only section of the cemetery. That's progress in action, folks.
My photographic mojo has suffered from all this, but I've been using the opportunity to sharpen my darkroom printing skills and round out my kit. I had thought about modestly celebrating the end of my term in braces by buying myself either a Leica rangefinder (the Rolls Royce of cameras), or, more reasonably, a "clone": one of the non-Leica cameras that conform to the Leica specifications and take the same lenses, not notably by fellow German company Voigtländer, or by any one of the few camera companies in the former Soviet Union. Completely by chance, I got a fantastic deal on one of the latter, a FED-2b
, with two lenses included. I think I've got a pinhole light leak in one of the shutter curtains, but it's not serious and I'm trying to track it down. Fantastic camera otherwise and it satisfies my "I deserve a Leica" hankering. Danny usually opposes my gear geekery, but he actually spurred me on recently to buy a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye
, a Bakelite pseudo-TLR box camera from the 1950s. Very cute! With spring and more sunlight returning, I think I'm getting some of that mojo back, and feeling better. I'm already working on setting up an online shop to offer some of my handmade silver halide photographs for sale.
One more thing I'll be doing as soon as my braces come off is getting a tattoo. Our deceased friend J. had thoughtfully commissioned a local tattoo artist to draw up a design for me, based on my idea: a tattoo of St. Michael the Archangel, as depicted by Sir Jacob Epstein's bronze sculpture at Coventry Cathedral, symbolizing my personal victory over the "demons" of insecurity, low self-esteem, and dysfunction due to my birth defect. It will be on the outside of my left shin, mostly in monochrome, with some color highlighting.
At the urging of a friend, this week I'll be seeing a dermatologist to see about getting a large, bumpy mole removed that I have near my left ear. Maybe he can remove a couple of prominent smaller ones from my back, too. It makes no sense for an ugly mole to spoil what would otherwise be my faaaaaabulous new looks when the braces are done! ;-)
Since I've turned 40 last fall, I seem to have settled into what may be my mode of thinking for this decade: working on putting my impulsive younger days behind me, and slowly getting my life affairs settled in preparation for my more mature years.