Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

The Misery Express

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So–last night, to sort of cap everything off,  Bill’s mother went into the emergency room with blood clots in her legs, inoperable.  She’s had operations for those a few times, but now her arteries are just too hard.  So Bill’s sister Mary is looking for hospice for her, and we’re all hoping she lasts long enough for us to get there.  It’s one of those things, though.  She may not recognize us if we do come.

Mary Agnes has never really been okay since Bill’s sister JoAnn died.  I don’t suppose that’s surprising.  JoAnn was the third of her four children to die before her.  Bill’s father died years ago.  The last few years she’s been alone, relying on the Rosary and very depressed.


I look back over what I have seen in my life and I find it harder and harder to put the pieces together.   The extremes make enough sense.  The people who really screwed up, the people who lived so well ( in a moral sense), both seem to have come out where they should. 

So have the people with themes, as I’d guess I’d have to put it.  The people who weren’t actively bad but didn’t actually do anything except sort of go through the day by day by rote ended up–well, pretty much where they started.  The people who desperately wanted one particular thing and were actively engaged in working for it didn’t always get that one particular thing, but they did always get something above and beyond what they’d started with. 

And some of those stories are very interesting.

But there seem to be a lot of people who aren’t–aren’t defined at all, I guess.  Who just are.  When Mary Agnes was a young girl, she defied her very conservative Italian immigrant family to go off to Adelphi and become an RN.    My mother defied her father and spent a season singing in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. 

And then, you know, the Fifties happened, and they both came home and got married, and now we’re here.

It’s very odd for all this to be happening when I’m reading my way through This Is John Galt Speaking. 

I always thought the argument in that piece made perfect sense, but it does sometimes make it sound as if death is optional.

Ah, more later, maybe cheerier.

Written by janeh

July 12th, 2010 at 8:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses to 'The Misery Express'

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  1. I see fewer life-long patterns the older and closer to death I come. I’ve developed a certain amount of hesitancy to pronounce on other people’s lives, after discovering that in some cases my assumptions were about 180 degrees off. That being said – I myself pursued an ambition when I was younger, failed, but yet didn’t end up with more than I started with. I don’t know what you mean by people being ‘not defined’. Most people seem to get through, some more easily than others; some more obviously (or seemingly) happy or successful than others. How they live is definition enough, I guess.

    I skimmed through a little of the Galt thing online, and bounced off hard. I think he – or Rand – lost me with all that stuff about how evil sacrifice is and how you should never do things for others. There are dangers in great sacrifice, of course, for both the person sacrificing and the person being sacrificed for, but for me the core of being human is in giving to others – and accepting from them – so talk of ‘I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine’, if it’s not, as it clearly isn’t, a warning against the dangers of going to the extreme with sacrifice, is meaningless. Or perhaps a expression of blindness towards the give and take that make up human society.

    I’m sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. Troubles always seem to come in battalions! People say losing a child (even an adult one) is the worst kind of loss; I can’t imagine losing three! No wonder the poor woman is depressed – even without her health problems, that is a terrible thing to have to bear.


    12 Jul 10 at 2:51 pm

  2. So VERY sorry to hear that both your mother and mother-in-law are in bad shape. I went through my father and stepmother dying 20 and 18 years ago, when I was living many miles away. I had to keep in touch by telephone, but had the great good fortune of having loving relatives who lived close enough to help them.

    Some of the philosophers I’ve been reading recently suggest that the “Bad Times” are needed as a contrast to the “Good Times”. In other words, if you don’t know what BAD feels like, how will you recognize/enjoy/appreciate the GOOD? I guess i see the point, but I don’t really like it!

    Well, I will close with my 84-year old cousin’s words of comfort. “This too shall pass.”

    (By the way, when *I* am feeling really down, one of my favorite remedies is to reread one of your novels.)


    12 Jul 10 at 3:58 pm

  3. I’d agree about the extremes as a general rule. At least there are people who can’t seem to be helped even by dropping big hunks of money and opportunity on them, and most of the time, diligence, honesty and frugality pay off. The bulk of us just seem to go on until we come to the end and then stop, and certainly a lot of us have done something incongruous.

    What struck me over the years was how often someone who came to a spectacular end–either death or disaster, sometimes both–had done the same sort of thing over and over. Finally it just caught up with them. I suspect that’s true for the less spectacular too. The range of human behavior as a species is pretty broad, but as individuals we mostly settle into our ruts early.

    There’s a character in Crusie’s FAST WOMEN who after a disaster of a year, realizes that she hasn’t built a new life: she’s rebuilt the old life with someone else, in a new place. I suspect the behavior is more common than the epiphany.

    Sleep whenever you can. It doesn’t cure anything directly, but it makes the problems easier to bear, and tends to improve the decision-making.


    12 Jul 10 at 4:32 pm

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