Time flies even when you’re not having fun. This time last year it had been half a year since Sandra died and I’d just come back from Plymouth to scatter her ashes. My youngest nephew was still a couple of days from being born; he’ll be one next Sunday, coincidently being born on the same day as his aunt’s birthday and a week after his daddy’s. It’s a cliche, but the world moves on even when you stand on top of it screaming for it to stop.
Grief lessens over time of course and eighteen months of being alone is starting to feel normal. To be honest, the two years before that, which Sandra mostly spent in hospital, didn’t feel like a normal relationship anymore either, but more as if everything was on hold until she got better, or not. It’s hard to get out from under that holding pattern. Not sure I quite want to yet either.
Another month, another disappointingly small pile of books read. Nobody to blame but myself.
Invented Knowledge — Ronald H. Fritze
A slightly disappointing overview of pseudohistory, looking at Atlantis, ancient discoverers of America, racist pseudohistory and Black Athena. All a bit of a mismatch with nothing to tie it all together.
Calcio — John Foot
A nicely chatty history of Italian football.
Valor’s Trial — Tanya Huff
Another Mil-sf adventure for gunnery sergeant Torin Kerr, who has to escape a prisoner of war camp.
The Truth of Valor — Tanya Huff
Now civilian, Kerr has to stop a band of pirates who have kidnapped her lover.
Gabriel’s Ghost — Linnea Sinclair
A science fiction romance adventure, which has some consent issues but is better than it needed to be.
No, I refused to take part in the whole abdication/crowning spectacle. I didn’t go out to witness it, avoided the telly and only went out to the local freemarket to do some traditional Queensday shopping. You never know what you might find after all. In this case there wasn’t that much, but I couldn’t be bothered to get into town proper. Still managed to score 11 DVDs and some classic Dutch comic strip Kapitein Rob compilations.
Apart from this annual ritual of cleaning out our attics and selling them to our neighbours for them to store it in their attics, I’d rather have a republic.
So I woke up this morning and tried to get out of bed only to find out I had pinched a nerve or something during the night, just above my buttocks and could barely move. There was that intense pain in the small of my back that makes it hard to breathe trying to sit up and I had to stumble around the apartment like an old man, moving stiffly, actually having to hold on to the wall trying to bend down enough to sit. It took about an hour of going back to bed with several paracetamol, a very hot shower and copious amounts of tiger balm to get rid of some that stiffness.
While I was going through all that, I couldn’t help but think that now I knew a bit of what Sandra had been going through for so long, that feeling of having to be careful all the time not to hurt yourself more. Even before she really got ill and had to go on dialysis she always lived in an unstable equilibrium, where a little nudge in the wrong direction could sent her into yet another health crisis. Which is why she had her little routines and tricks to keep a “normal” life going.
She was always a bit stiff and in pain in the mornings; I could always see when she was in pain as she would be hunched over, drawn into herself. It was her stomach and digestive system that mostly gave her these troubles, for various reasons. So that’s what she needed to stabilise first when she got up, often much earlier than me, even when I was getting up at 6AM to get to work early. She’d move slowly from the bedroom to the kitchen, turn the radio up slightly, put her stool by the door and smoke a cigaret, brew a cup of tea, start on the various pills she needed to get her guts calm (codine phosphate, loperamide, etc), then smoke a phatty to really get it under control. She smoked enough dope to impress even the most stoned teenager, but I’ve rarely seen it affect her; it went all into pain control.
So yeah, when I found myself doing the stumbling in the kitchen this morning, that called up memories of Sand.
De Februari-Staking — B. A. Sijes
This is the history of how, on 25 and 26 February, 1941, workers in Amsterdam went on strike against the increasing persecution of the Jews by the nazi occupation forces. It was the first openly, massive act of resistance against this persecution in occupied Europe.
The Riddle Master of Hed — Patricia A. McKilip
A classic fantasy story I hadn’t read before. Interesting, somewhat strange in places, feeling as if I stepped into the middle rather than the start of a trilogy.
Selling Out — Justina Robson
The second book in Robson’s science fiction/fantasy mixup starring Lila Black, who almost died on her first mission and was remade in a nuclear powered killing machine
Bloodmind — Liz Williams
The sequel to Darkland, as Vali Hallsdottir once again has to work together with those who’d normally be her enemy to stop somebody worse.
Dragonsong — Anne McCaffrey
The first novel in the Harper Hall trilogy of Pern novels, this pretty much is a young adult power fantasy of an unappreciated young woman running away from home only to find her talents appreciated for the first time.
Dragonsinger — Anne McCaffrey
The second Harper Hall novel, continuing the adventures of Menolly, as she struggles to adjust to life in Harper Hall.
We hate being told we must be saints or angels, because we’re doing something really ordinary and normal – that is, taking care of kids in need. If some children showed up dirty and hungry and needing a safe place on your doorstep, you’d care for them too – we just signed up to be the doorstep they arrive at. The idea of sainthood makes it impossible for ordinary people to do this – and the truth is the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents. This also stinks because if we’re saints and angels, we can’t ever be jerks or human or need help, and that’s bad, because sometimes this is hard.
Back in 1980 my parents, who already had two children and a third on the way, took the decision to make themselves available as foster parents as well, out of a mixture of leftist idealism and Christian sense of charity. At first they were looking for younger children in the same age range of me and my brother, but instead their first placement was sixteen year old, the first teenager they had to learn to deal with. It actually worked out pretty well: he stayed a couple of years, moved out when he got his first job, is still part of the family and that was that. Over the years our family took in a half dozen or so children of different ages and personalities, some staying only a short period as things improved with their biological families, some staying for years, becoming part of the family.
As a kid growing up with at least one or two foster brothers or sisters living with us, all this seemed normal, even though we were aware that it was not common to do. There were problems and conflicts of course, but no more so than with your biological siblings. Certainly we never thought of our parents of saints or angels, nor can I remember other people thinking that way about them; they got praise for what they did, sure, but nothing as absurdly over the top as that.
Being a foster parent, like being any parent is hard work; it’s far from well rewarded monetary and of course there are some special challenges you won’t have to deal with if you stick to just raising your biological children (if only because of the whole necessary bureaucracy surrounding fostering) but it’s not a profession for a saint. Saints don’t raise children.