Friday, May 13, 2016

Here's what's on my mind, Facebook

What's on your mind, Steve? That's what Facebook asked me today

Gee whiz. Where to begin, since Facebook is so interested. 

Let's see. There's Donald Trump. He seems to be on everyone's minds, not just mine. Everybody has his/her own theory on just what it is that makes Trump so appealing. Mine is that he's a wealthy, larger-than-life celebrity who gives the impression he's not afraid to tell it like it is. And that's fine. That makes him the political equivalent of Howard Cosell, another blowhard who claimed to "tell it like it is." 

Trump is not the only blowhard in this race, nor is being a blowhard necessarily a disqualification for running. Bernie Sanders is one too. He is Trump's polar opposite -- the only difference between the two, besides their basic ideology, being that he's had 40 or so years of political experience where Trump has none. 

That's not necessarily an advantage for Sanders of an impediment for Trump. To a lot of people, political experience equals the type of intractability that has turned government in 2016 into a daily taffy pull on even the most ridiculously basic issues. We cannot agree on anything, and the reason for that is political intractability that's caused by many factors.

First, we have succeeded, over the course of the last half-century, to elect dividers and not uniters, Why? Because it's easier to be a divider than it is to be a uniter. Dividers appeal to the baser aspects of human nature. It's easy to rally people around you if you're angry. You don't even have to present a thought-out solution to everyone's dissatisfaction either. You just have to make people think you're angry too, and, by damn, you're going to do something about it.

Of course, with Trump and Sanders the objects of the anger are different. But the anger is real. Trump caught on faster, and better, because he's identified a more general dissatisfaction with the system. People have had enough of the posers who occupy key seats in government -- especially federal government. I don't think they necessarily care whether Trump is on their side politically on all the arcane issues that make up public policy. They just like the fact that he seems to have the guts to say that the emperor -- and all of his minions -- has no clothes.

Sanders has narrowed his anger down to the country's high-level financial institutions, and he's not wrong. And unlike Trump, who has merely vowed to "make America great again," Sanders has at least broached the subject of how in the world Millennials are to be expected to compete for jobs that require highly specialized skills (and, by extension, pay a wage that makes achieving the American Dream somewhat possible) if they can't afford to go to college. 

To simplify even more: Trump is an unapologetic capitalist. Sanders is a socialist, or at least he says he is. But it's amazing how similar they are. For much of this campaign, Trump has given off the aura of the prototypical Angry White Man who sees all of the progress we've made on many different fronts as bad because the end game was a loss of his heretofore exalted status. This is the lament, isn't it? It's not our world anymore. It's not even our country. It's THEIR country. And never mind that, They had it given over to them They didn't earn it. They got it for free, and they still want it for free. 

Just who is "they?" Well that's the question, now, isn't it? Is it minorities? Women? Gays? All of the above? My guess is "they" isn't anyone who doesn't emanate from that class of people to whom money flows like water out of a tap. The money comes out these days, in their minds anyway, and is siphoned off to those who don't deserve it.

It's easy to dismiss Trump as a racist, and it's easy to compare him to Hitler, because that's what we do in politics. We paint people with as broad a brush as we can, and still get away with it, and hope that just enough of it will stick to the wall so it makes the right impression. That's not a new phenomenon. But it's getting uglier all the time as more and more people contemplate reaching for the pitchforks.

I don't think Trump is a racist. And I don't think he's Hitler. However, to provide just a cautionary note, none of what happened to Jews in Germany or blacks here occurred without a starting point. And that was a steady drumbeat of hate and scapegoating until those targeted were seen to be less human than the rest of us. When that happens, anything's possible, as we found out at the end of World War II.

To be honest, Trump was never even the scariest Republican in this year's race, because Ted Cruz had that all to himself. Still, I'm positive I could never vote for Trump, not because I think he's crazy, or a bigot, or because he shoots off his mouth. I can't vote for him because there has to be a shred of dignity when it comes to running for president, and being president, and that doesn't include ridiculing people with physical issues, or resorting to making crude remarks about female anatomy and biology, and urging that protesters be "punched in the mouth."

This isn't to say protesters can't be extremely annoying, or that Sanders' people haven't gone out of their way to be as subversive as their candidate would like to be. But like the song says, "it's all in the game." Anyone who's ever been in public office, or sought it, has had to deal with it.

If Trump is the Angry White Man, Sanders is the Grumpy Old Man. For all his socialism and his cultivating of millennials as his political base, Sanders is closer to the "Get Off My Lawn" type of guy. I honestly think Trump does everything either for effect or to draw attention to himself in a flashy way, and that he actually believes very little of what he says to people (another reason, by the way, that I don't trust him). Sanders, on the other hand, is a true believer. Listening to him, and I've listened as closely as I can since he became a candidate because he intrigues me, you're left with the impression that he believes this stuff. "I'll just make people like Trump over there pay for all of my initiatives."

Sure. And when I'm done with that, I'll cure cancer, solve the human genome, and start working on world peace.

Maybe it's because of my basic political leanings, but I like Bernie, even if I can admit he's got no shot at getting guys like Trump to pay for his social initiatives. It's not often you find someone who is 75 years old and that brash and that willing to veer so far out of the nice, comfortable political mainstream. And I especially like that he's running as a Democrat because if the Republicans aren't the only people in this country who need a conscience. The Democrats need one too ... as well as a collective set of gonads to stand up and fight for what they believe in once in a while.He appeals to that side of me that wants to see the political process turned on its head, only not by someone such as Trump, who's used to barking out orders and getting what he wants, because that's not going to happen if he wins. There are too many egos in Congress.

The other reason I like Bernie is because deep down inside, I know he doesn't have a shot. The system is working against him. All he's doing at this point is reinforcing my belief that Hillary Clinton's support is more of a house of cards than a solid base, and that unless she and her people can get him to stop running around undermining her chances for victory in November, he's going to keep right on embarrassing her.

And I'm actually torn about that because -- everybody take a deep breath now -- I don't like Hillary Clinton. Never did. Not even when she was First Lady. And that's sad in a way because, like Ted Kennedy (another politician I did not like), her issues are my issues. We are on the same side on a lot of things. I have no doubt she's brilliant, and able, and has the best and more complete resume of anyone who ran in this cycle. It's not because she's a woman, as I'd have gladly supported Elizabeth Warren had she chosen to run, and would even give Condoleezza Rice serious consideration had she entered the race. 

It isn't any particular issue. It isn't Benghazi, as my own belief is that she did what many cabinet people have done before her and took the bullet for the Obama administration. It isn't E-mails, as that's just another GOP red herring. The Republicans have delighted over the years in tormenting the Clintons and they show no signs of stopping.

If it's anything, it's that she's too familiar a face at this point. We've been drawing from the same pool for too long. We had 12 years of the Bush Family. We stand have 16 years of the Clinton Family, albeit with 16 years in between. We just need to get away from all these people. They're either running the government or in the shadows. They've had their chance. It's time for a new cast of characters. I don't think the Constitution's provisions were intended to allow for dynasties (which is why I'll always wonder, had Robert Kennedy not been assassinated, whether he'd really have won in 1968).

That may be an obscenely ridiculous reason for feeling the way I do. And it's more than just a little possible that I'll vote for Hillary Clinton in November if it comes to that, as much as I do not like her. I am certain that Clinton will take the job, and the office, seriously. And that's something I cannot say about Donald Trump.

And that's what's on my mind, Facebook. Thank you!!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Six degrees of Trump

It's not hard to understand how, and why, Donald Trump has captured the imagination of certain conservatives within the United States of America.

He tells us it's OK to get angry and to lash out at things we don't understand, and with which we do not necessarily agree. He tell us it OK to talk tough ... that it's acceptable to heap ridicule on people we have deemed to be beneath us ... to make fun of whose with physical issues they cannot mask ... and even to demean women for the biological functions their bodies perform.

For every one of these insults Trump has hurled into this allegedly dignified presidential campaign, there is a group of Americans listening to pound their fists on the table and say something like, "damned straight." That is why he resonates. That is the cumulative effect of his daily doses of demagoguery.

The smart money says Trump will not be around for the final countdown. Either something will slow him down -- perhaps his latest pronouncement that the US shouldn't allow Muslims into the country -- or he himself will just lose interest and go back to counting his money and being a reality TV bully.

Others say that regardless of what ultimately happens with him, he's already hijacked the campaign beyond repair, and that he may have irrecoverably harmed his own party's chances of getting the White House back in 2016.

At this point, No. 2 seems more likely than No. 1. He's still made of Teflon. No matter what he does, or says, the same base of people who see him as the living personification of Howard Beale -- you remember Howard Beale? -- keeps going to the window and screaming "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore."

This is the way I see Trump.

I don't take Trump seriously, though I do take what he represents seriously. He is a dangerous man, not because he may become president (because I don't think he will), but because he legitimizes irrational anger. And irrational anger can often have dire consequences, as history has repeatedly shown.

I kind of felt the same way toward Ronald Reagan way back in 1980. It wasn't that he was conservative. Lots of good people are conservative; and -- conversely -- some liberals simply are not good people.

But Reagan made it legitimate to look down on poor people, with his apocryphal stories about welfare queens, and his other pronouncements that made it seem as if the have-nots were in the business of holding up the haves every day. If that were ever the case, wouldn't the paradigm have eventually shifted?

Trump is pretty easy to figure out. He's a megalomaniac. The closest thing to Donald Trump in classic American literature is Captain Ahab, a supremely self-obsessed man who is willing to bring the world down around him if there's something in it for him. There is nothing Donald Trump won't do to keep his name up in lights.

And that apparently includes running for president.

One would have hoped that simple respect would have kept Trump from making a mockery out of the one constant that has kept this country unique for almost 250 years -- the peaceful, scheduled transfer of power. Some campaigns over the years may have been a bit livelier than others, but there was always a baseline of dignity to the proceedings that kept presidential politics from going completely off the rails.

Until now.

This may be the result of a canyon-sized split in in the Republican party, where it seems as if the mainstream Grand Old Party is in danger of being usurped by the upstarts who would rather shut down government than listen to reason and work to find common ground.

It could be the result of an incumbent who, while certainly not the reckless George W. Bush who ushered in the 2st century, can be maddeningly deliberate and obtuse on visceral issues that genuinely make people's blood boil. Barack Obama may be absolutely right that there's no quick, easy fix when it comes to eradicating terrorist organizations such as ISIS. But he could do a better job at least speaking to the legitimate apprehension in this country about the presence of cells operating out of major U.S. population centers and acknowledging it.

Obama allowed himself to be upstaged internationally by Benjamin Netanyahu, and is in danger of being identified as on the wrong side of history on the whole Palestinian-Israeli issue (though, to his credit, he seems to be getting a little bit of the last laugh on Vladimir Putin on Syria).

Megalomaniacs such as Trump cannot thrive without some vacuum in which to step. And he has two pretty good one. First, there is no one currently running as president among the Republicans who can unify the divisive elements. And second, there's a lame-duck Democrat in the White House who bears the lashes of seven years of ups, downs, ins and outs. Disapproval ratings always seem to be a major issue with lame-ducks toward the end of their second terms. By then, they've angered enough people that it becomes harder and harder to find a base of people willing to say they're supporters.

Trump, being a megalomaniac, has no shame. I don't recall any other time -- at least in my life -- where someone who purports to be a serious political figure has so willingly resorted to demagoguery and pander. Even people I've historically barely been able to stand have at least paid lip service to maintaining some sense of decorum on the stump. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush -- all people of whom I was not a fan -- maintained dignity on the stump, and did not allow themselves to be seen as willing to incite people for their personal gain. This also goes for Democrats a little too far to the left, too. Either way, they've respected the process enough not to turn it into a sideshow.

Trump has not. And the hell of it is that Trump has to see what this is doing, not only to his own party, but to the country. Ted Kennedy once called politics a contact sport, and he was not wrong, of course, The pursuit of power can be pretty rough, and those who take part have to have exceptionally thick skin. We've all come to expect a sharp elbow or two to the ribs during political campaigns, and I think all but the most hopelessly naive among us accept it -- though grudgingly sometimes.

But what Trump is doing is more than just a sharp elbow to the ribs. His is a hay maker to the solar plexus. If your average political campaign can seem like a boxing match sometimes, at least it's being fought with something approaching Marquees de Queensberry rules. Trump has turned this into mud wrestling. No holds barred. The show is the thing.

If we understand Trump's motivation here, what are we to think of his followers? The ones who keep showing up in the polls helping him maintain his status as a frontrunner?

Answer: Not much.

In the beginning, all of this was understandable. We've reached a point in politics where nobody will say anything without having a focus group meet on it first. Hillary Clinton, whom -- I think -- will be your next president, is notorious for saying absolutely nothing spontaneously. Unless a gaggle of advisers told her to, she wouldn't tell you if you were on fire.

Along comes Trump who just wings it half the time. He says anything, and doesn't care how people react. Disregarding how inflammatory much of what he says is, it's still rather refreshing in the minds of many that he's willing to put himself on the line like that.

But that should have lasted a month, tops. It's now been almost a year. And Trump still says inflammatory, misanthropic things, and people still support him. Why?

Could it be because people are just so fed up with political pablum that they'll accept anything if it sounds different than the usual mush? Is that an indictment against Trump, or should we be complimenting him for recognizing yet another vacuum in U.S. politics: genuine human beings instead of programmed robots.

At the very least Trump is a real, live, human being with a heart and a pulse, whose face gets red, and changes expression, and whose blood seems to boil over that which makes him angry. We may not have to agree with him, but damn, we can appreciate his passion. Right?

Not so fast. Again, shouldn't we be able to be able to tell the difference between a person who is legitimately moved and angered over issues versus one whose continued rants about just about everything that plays well to the cheap seats smack of calculation? We should ... but we can't seem to. And this is the conundrum of Donald Trump. What makes him seem so real to people is actually quite phony. He's willing to incite anyone to keep the attention on himself.

The Republicans deserve to get banished to Aldebaran for the way they've handled the whole Trump thing. From the first debate, any serious candidate should have simply refused to take the stage with him. You can't ban him, but you can refuse to play. How much fun would it have been had Trump been reduced to debating himself?

I guarantee you, had the likes of Jeb Bush or Chris Christie, or Marco Rubio, just to name three, simply said, "No! We value this system too much to see it treated like a sideshow, and until he's gone, we're not taking part in this sideshow." You're not telling me their numbers wouldn't have soared?

There have been rumblings of late by Republicans that it's time for this charade to end, and now that Trump has come out and said something truly nutty (about Muslims) the heavy hitters are fighting back. Too little, too late. That should have happened long ago.

Which leads one to conjure up another "what-if:" What if the Republicans actually want Trump out there saying ridiculous, idiotic things? What if they figure the dumber he looks, it'll take a little bit of the focus off the truly scary things they're all saying? Every one of these candidates is flawed, but they all (well maybe not Ted Cruz and Ben Carson) look pretty tame in comparison to Trump. Still, at this point, it looks as if someone like Willard Romney is going to have to step in and do what Nixon did in 1968: pick up the fragmented remains of a disastrous early primary season and restore order. The comparison ends there, though. In '68, the Democrats were just as divided as the Republicans were. This year they're not. Even with the unexpected insurgency of Bernie Sanders, does anyone expect Clinton to lose the nomination?

I do think Trump will not be around next November, but I couldn't tell you who will be. It could be Romney -- again -- for all anyone knows. My personal opinion is that Trump has been allowed to hang around much too long, and do too much damage in the name of Republicans. And that's because none of the others who have chosen to run have enough cachet to fight him.

I believe it all spells defeat for the GOP next year. The only question that remains to be answered is whether Hillary's coat tails are long enough to sweep them out of power altogether. Rampant and excessive gerrymandering have made it hard for Democrats to win in some Congressional districts. But this disaster could transcend even those efforts.

As the noted philosopher Moses Horvitz once so eloquently said, "we shall see what we shall see."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Plausible deniability and the Patriots

We’ve all heard of plausible deniability, no doubt. That’s when you put about six layers of buffer between you and a questionable deed so that there’s no way it can be traced back to you.
Plausible deniability relies on a few givens. One of them is that nobody from the top of the chain down to the bottom talks. Whatever you do stays within the chain, and regardless of what happens, and that include unwanted discovery, the chain doesn’t break. Listen to Fleetwood Mac if you have any doubts.
If you want a good example of plausible deniability, you have two wonderful examples. One is the American Mafia, which shielded the big dogs at the expense of the grunt soldiers; and American government (and probably other governments too) where it happens pretty much all the time.
But here’s the rub: the practice of plausible deniability has always relied on the absence of a smoking gun. Richard Nixon got tripped up because he recorded Oval Office conversations that ended up incriminating him. And why do you think everyone’s so reluctant to turn over their cell phones to investigators? It’s not because of family pictures or semi-nude playmates. It’s because there could be incriminating emails and texts on them.
Of course, this leads us back to the Patriots, Tom Brady and “Deflategate” (this is the last time you’ll read this term here).
Do I think there was skullduggery involved in taking some air pressure out of footballs? Yes. Do I think it’s uncommon? No. Do I think it makes that much of a competitive difference? Yes, because otherwise why would you do it? It must make a difference, even if it’s nothing more than a mental binkie for Brady, or whoever else feels it necessary to doctor footballs.
So let’s cut to the chase. The Patriots doctored up the footballs. The question is to what extent is Brady at fault? Here’s where the whole plausible deniability aspect comes into play. I seriously doubt Brady went to two shlubs on the lowest end of the chain and taught them how to deflate footballs. I just think he’s way too smart to do anything that blatant.
However, I do see a scenario where Brady passes the word down the chain that he doesn’t like his footballs rock hard, especially in bad weather, where they can either be slippery in the rain or too difficult to grip in the freezing cold. The word is duly relayed to the proper people, through the usual layers of buffers, and voila. Tom Brady has a football that feels good in his hands.
Here’s the thing though. Brady is a superstar, perhaps the single most glamorous figure in pro football today. People who work with him and for him desperately want to make sure he’s happy, especially the lower minions within the organization – those who see it as a feather in their caps that they can accommodate Tom Terrific in this unique way.
So they take it too far. They don’t just deflate the football to the lowest allowable limit, they take it lower. They don’t get caught. So they take it even lower … as low as they can without it being obvious.
This goes on for who knows how long. Then, they get real sloppy.
What is Brady’s role in this? To be honest, if he’s such a fussbudget about his footballs, he should be able to tell that there’s some skullduggery going on. I cannot absolve him on this count. Sure, he probably didn’t tell these guys to under-inflate the footballs to the extent they did, but he had to know – and still let it go.
This, to Ted Wells, the private eye who investigated this thing constituted “general knowledge,” and I cannot disagree with him.

That much we can pretty much conclude. What's left, though, is comical -- partly due to the number of theories about what happened, and how (including, probably this one) because of the lengths to which the Patriots and their fans have gone to rationalize some of the Wells Report's findings.

The best, by far, is the one where Jim McNally, one of the two aforementioned shlubs at the bottom of the chain, claimed -- after he was found using the term "deflater" -- he only meant he was trying to lose weight.

Yeah, right. Where's that pin. I want to try that.

McNally and cohort John Jastrzemski (rhymes with Yastrzemski, as in Carl, as the Red Sox Hall of Famer) traded texts back and forth, ostensibly complaining about Brady and all they had to do to get his footballs ready. There were also references to Brady giving them autographed paraphernalia in the days after the story broke, and expressing concern about McNally's stress level in the face of all this. No direct communication with the Terrific One, but there were allusions.

 Apparently, McNally and Jastrzemski never watched CSI, because if they had, they'd have known that computer and cell phone records tell the tale on you. You may think you've deleted them, but they live in some vast cyber warehouse just waiting to incriminate you. Silly people. Don Corleone could have told them "if you want to do stuff like this, you leave no traces. None. Zip. Nada."

Those texts provided Wells with something he certainly wasn't going to get from Brady: evidence that this situation was not a coincidence, and that there was a conspiracy on the part of someone to doctor the footballs, and that if Brady didn't give the order, he certainly was complicit in it by his lack of action, not to mention his lack of cooperation with Wells.

 So now, at least according to me, we have our genus and we have our weak link in the deniability chain broken.

Now, all we need is our motive. Let's see. Who could have been motivated to wipe the smirk off Brady's, Bill Belichick's and the Patriots' faces?

The line forms to the right and goes around the corner.

The Patriots have always given the NFL the figurative finger. And once Roger Goodell became commissioner, in great part due to Bob Kraft's influence, Belichick et al felt even more empowered to flaunt NFL rules and taunt the league all at the same time. 

The 2007 spygate scandal certainly gave the league plenty of reasons to keep an eye on them thereafter, but skullduggerers (don't know if that's a word, but it ought to be) have been one or two steps ahead of the law since sports became organized. 

There are spitballs, excessively manicured infields, stick'um on hands, piped in noise, turning up the temperature in domed stadia ... in the NHL, if there's too much action around the net someone will surreptitiously knock net off its moorings ... which is supposed to result in a penalty but never does ... Michael Jordan took enough steps to participate in a walk-a-thon on his way to the basket, but never got called; whereas Kelly Olynyk can move his pivot foot a half-inch and get called for traveling.

When I was a kid, the Patriots never got a break. Whenever they played teams like the Dolphins or (especially) the Raiders, they couldn't buy a call that went their way (ironic, now, since Raiders' fans are the worst when it comes to bitching about how the NFL shows favoritism toward Kraft and the Pats).

Obviously, the worm has turned there. Now it's the Patriots who get every break ... every call. We in New England feel that's only right, considering all the times it went the other way. And those of us with exceptionally long memories recall 1976, when referee Ben Drieth took a playoff win away from them with a horrible roughing-the-passer call, moments after letting a blatant pass interference call against Oakland go. And we were giddy with happiness when we finally tasted revenge ... on a snowy Foxborough, Mass., night in 2001, when the officials -- at no proven behest of New England or the Krafts -- invoked the obscure "tuck rule" to rob the Raiders of a playoff win en route to the Patriots' first-ever Super Bowl win.

Anyway, this is the NFL in 2015. The Patriots, even after having been unmasked as cheaters eight years earlier, are the anointed ones. And nobody, except the Patriots and their fans, likes that very much.

 This isn't exactly the "they hate us 'cause they ain't us" chant. But it does provide some context for what happened prior to that Colts game -- again, only my theory but certainly not set in stone anywhere.

The week before that Patriots-Colts AFC championship game, the Patriots were about to go down to defeat to the Baltimore Ravens -- the one team that has consistently had their number, especially in marquee games -- in the divisional playoff round. Belichick came up with a slew of funky formations that confused everyone on the other side, including the referees. John Harbaugh -- who, as coaches go, doesn't seem to be all about himself, the way Don Shula was, and Rex Ryan is, and Belichick will always be -- squawked to the referees about it, to no avail.

When asked about it after the game, Brady offered that he knew what he was doing, and that if the Ravens didn't know, maybe they should read the rulebook better.

For a guy as smart as he is, that was pretty dumb. That was the equivalent of waving the red flag in front of a bull. 

It's a funny thing about people who play hard and fast with the rules. They think nobody notices, but they do. Supposedly, the Colts had their suspicions the last time the Patriots were in Indy that they were messing with the footballs. Coaches talk to each other. There's almost always a common link between teams ... an assistant coach, or GM, or a player who's been traded. These are not 32 totally separate and impregnable entities. 

There are certainly those bonds between the Ravens and the Colts, and I wouldn't be at all shocked if there was some communicating going on between the two teams, with the objective being to shove the rulebook up Brady's, well, you know.

Or, it could simply be a case of the Colts knowing they had a trump card and waiting for the right time to play it.

At any rate, it's "more probable than not" that general, overall disgust with the Patriots and their flaunting, tauntinig ways had as much to do with how this all played out. And those who think that if this were the Jacksonville Jaguars who did this, nobody would have cared are right. But since it was the Patriots, and since they're serial cheaters, and since they're not exactly humble in the way they flip off the NFL every chance they get, it's only natural that when the time came to get them in the vice grip, the NFL wasn't going to pass up the chance.

The rest is mundane. It probably was a sting, designed to catch the Patriots rather than warn them. Brady got too cocky at the end of the first half of the Colts game and thew a pick, which gave the Colts the perfect opportunity to put their plan in action (I'm certainly not alone in my thinking here). 

The sad thing is that Brady didn't have to do this. He torched the Colts for 28 points in the second half,, in miserable weather, which was after the bogus footballs were discovered and, presumably, properly inflated. Two weeks later, he led a fourth-quarter comeback to win the Super Bowl, again with balls that we can only hope, after all the hullabaloo that preceded the game, were properly inflated.

So you have to wonder what the advantage was? Or, at least, what he thought it would be. 

This is another in a long line of lessons we should learn: that the coverup is always worse than the crime. The Patriots might have ended up with a fine over this, but the penalty would be nowhere as severe as it ended up being (four-game suspension for Brady; $1 million fine; loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks over two years) had they not devoted most of their time to stonewalling the NFL, and going way over the top in denials.

The supreme loser is Brady, whose once-impeccable reputation is in shreds. He's unmasked as just one more guy who chose to evade the truth rather than face up to it, and, from all appearances, it doesn't look as if he's ready to change any of that.

Too bad. He's had one of the best careers a player could possibly have. He's going to have to work long and hard to rebuild his reputation now.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A retrospective on my mother, Evelyn A. Krause

I've been putting this off for too long. I knew -- the second my mother took her last few breaths -- that I had to write something about it. And a good friend inasmuch as told me it was my duty to chronicle the experience of watching my elderly mother just deteriorate before my eyes until, finally, both my sister and I were practically begging whatever forces that control these things to take her.

My first observation concerning the above is to be careful what you beg for. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew that as hard as it was to say goodbye, my mother's long protracted period of suffering -- whether it was consciously or otherwise -- was over. She would be in pain no more. She wouldn't have to wake up every morning confined to bed or a wheelchair ... at the mercy of attendants at the nursing home who, although they went well above and beyond, were no substitutes for the gift of mobility and vitality. Nor should they have been expected to be. There would be no more diminished capacity. No more indignities that go with being 90. No more would she struggle to articulate what she knew she wanted to say.

All my life I've heard "but it's a blessing." "She's in a better place." "Now, she won't have to suffer anymore."

I don't know about any of that. My mother always told me -- especially after my father died in 2007 -- that they would have to drag her kicking and screaming into the ground. She did not want to die. Diminished capacity be damned. She fought for every breath she took, especially in the last weeks of her life when congestive heart failure and pneumonia began to do her body irreparable damage.

Then again, if there were ever anything you could take to the bank, it was that my mother was a fighter. She was fifth among seven brothers and sisters ... far enough down to have to fight for everything she got. My sister and I always surmised that being so far down in the pecking order -- without being the baby -- prepared her well. My mother was, if nothing else, a woman who spoke her mind, torpedoes be damned. But then, she could turn around and express genuine amazement and hurt when people reacted negatively. It was one of her many paradoxes.

My mother competed. In everything. She'd come home from playing bridge, or poker, or cribbage, and be spitting nickels if she lost. She loved her brother, Robert, but cursed over, under and sideways and down if he beat her in cribbage. Which -- unfortunately -- was all the time.

She and my father would come home from playing bridge with Henry and Jane Iwanowicz and she would be giving him hell for the bad hands he played. She taught me whist, and whenever we'd play partners - - which we did now and then -- she'd give me a look that would scare God if I put the wrong card down. I resisted the urge to learn bridge because I don't think I could go through the discomfort of causing her to lose at that, too.

I'll never forget the year one of the local fathers put together a girls baseball team called the "Squaws" that my sister played on. They had a mother-daughter game and my mom hit a bullet, right at my sister ... who stuck her glove out reflexively (more like in fear of her life) and caught it. My mother couldn't get over it, and that's all we heard about for a month.

Yet oddly enough, I love playing cribbage. A few years back, when she was still lucid, that was one way to pass the time during nursing home visits. We'd play cribbage. I'd get her as often as she'd get me (I never beat Uncle Rob either, by the way).

She also loved puzzles, and another mother-son bonding experience -- back when she was still home and very much alert -- was to do the daily crosswords together.

She was a remarkable woman ... witty, talented, an accomplished poet, pianist and composer. In another era, when it wasn't so damn difficult to get your music/poetry published, she'd have achieved at least moderate fame. But she didn't ask for that. All she asked was that her family and friends appreciate what the brought to them. And we did, albeit grudgingly at times. You know how it is. You're 15, it's 1968, and your mother has just written this song that could have fit perfectly on the Lawrence Welk show. Decidedly not cool.

My sister Jayne and I would guffaw. We'd call it old fashioned ... whatever. And my mother would insist we hear it again ... and again ... and again. We'd have to learn it ... sing it ... at parties ... in front of our friends ... who laughed at us, silently (I'm sure) thanking God it wasn't them who had to suffer such abject humiliation. She could sense our displeasure. And she'd pull me aside and say, "someday, you'll be playing these songs yourself with tears running down  your face."

I haven't even attempted that yet.

It was the same with the poems. She'd write one, and make us read them back to her "word for word." God help either of us if we screwed up the meter. She'd stop us and make us start over. There was no "picking up where you left off."

Most of her poems were tame ... paeans to nature, the Red Sox, or of enduring the rambunctious activities of our Labrador Retriever. Every now and then, though, she'd pull one out of left field. After the Attaca prison riots of 1972, she wrote a blistering poem, laying waste to the inmates who were responsible.

One of my cousins took exception to the tone of it, and wrote a blistering response. Now, as I've said before, my mother never minded telling you what she thought ... but she was a little less enthusiastic about getting negative feedback. And she was not happy that this cousin of mine -- and nephew of hers -- had the temerity to respond so vociferously.    

And she was really unhappy with me. By this time, I was a freshman in college, and I knew everything ... and if you weren't sure, all you had to do was ask me. I told her that she should be honored that someone from my generation took her poem seriously enough to compose a thoughtful -- albeit negative -- response. She didn't quite see it that way.

Evelyn Krause definitely had that side of her. She had high expectations for everyone around her, nd that went double for her two children. There was no slacking when it came to my mother. The word wasn't in her vocabulary. I was by no means a poor student, but there was always one subject that kept me off the honor roll in high school. If it wasn't math, it was French ... or (gasp!) religion. She didn't want to hear about the "A" in history. It was always "how can you -- an altar boy! -- get a 'C' in religion?"

This is the dichotomy of a parent/child relationship, though. And I suppose it's more of a paradoxical thing with mothers. They gave us life. They nurtured us. We never stop being their children. And in time, we accept the fact that they'll never stop being our mothers.

Their propensity to push us, pull us, drag us kicking and screaming, to places we'd never want to go otherwise (whether that's in the real-time sense of figuratively) is derived from the same instincts that make mama bears attack anyone who comes within a wide radius of her cubs. We're all part of the same animal kingdom.

It is such a complicated relationship. Except in rare cases, no one loves us more (and I definitely know that was true in my case); yet no one has more of a license to be a critic. In fact, mothers are generally our biggest critics. We've all heard it. Growing up, I don't think my mother ever considered it a good week if I didn't get the litany of all my usual faults and foibles. My room was a mess; I didn't study enough; I should practice my accordion more so I can play like George Guanci; I never looked as if I cared about anything. Words like "lackadaisical" sprung from her lips often.

But here's the other side. If my mother always knew exactly what to say to push my buttons, she also always knew what to say to make it all go away. She also knew what to do. She could read me like a book. If I was upset, she knew what to cook to make me feel better. I can't count the number of times I came home from school, upset about something either the teacher said or did (or one of my peers). I wasn't one to tell tales, but she could tell my my body language, or my face, that things weren't all right.

She was cool about those things. She let me stew. And when it was time for supper, there was a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs, or a nice, sizzling steak, waiting for us. She knew those were my favorites. Steak and French fries. She didn't like me eating French fries, but when I was down about something, they magically appeared.

She did this for my sister, I'm sure, too. But I was so self-absorbed as a kid I never knew, or cared, much about anything she might have liked.

Then, after supper, while I was doing homework (or pretending to, at least) she'd quietly come up to my room and ask me what happened. We'd talk it out ... and, you know, she was very good in these situations about telling me what I didn't necessarily want to hear ... but in a way that didn't make you feel horrible about it afterward.

The only subject that was out of bounds with us was boy-girls stuff. She didn't want to know about girlfriends (not that I had a ton of them) and she was not the person to ask about any teenage crushes as she thought they took away from all the other things I had an obligation to accomplish (she'd have made a good football coach, my mother).

I know ... I know ... Irish-American son (well half ... her half) writes about "sainted" mother. Not exactly original, or -- for that matter -- necessarily confined to Celtic heritage. And I don't mean to go in that direction. Obviously she had her faults. Obviously not every day with her was a bed of roses. She was -- in my mind, at least -- an exceptional person. And exceptional people are often impatient if the rest of the world can't, or won't, keep up. Even if they're her children ... and even if they're 60 years old.

But she still defended us fiercely if need be. She had no problem telling off the entire board of directors of the West Lynn American Little League when I didn't get picked for the majors one year and staged a crying fit for the ages. And when a classmate blindsided me and gave me a textbook shiner in seventh grade she -- much to my horror -- called the kid's mother and threatened to get the police involved.

That's one of the few times, when all was said and done, that I really wanted to crawl into a hole and cover myself up.There's such a thing as honor. And much as didn't really like to fight, there were times when, to quote Rocky Balboa, "a man gotta do what a man gotta do." Having her threaten police action pretty much negated any chance of retaliation ... even that meant getting my block knocked off all over again.

However, all of this is but a prelude to what follows. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of what "life with mother" was all about before we segue into the next phase.

Mom always had her aches and pains. Her father was severely arthritic by the time he reached his 50s ,.. so was she ... so was I ... and so were a few of my cousins. In retrospect, being arthritic should have been the least of my family's concerns. Three of my mother's sisters died after long, awful bouts with Alzheimer's; Uncle Rob died of cancer; and two of my cousins have already died from cancer as well.

Comparatively, arthritis may be painful, but it doesn't rob you of yourself the way Alzheimer's does; and it's not a death sentence. I don't suppose that makes you feel any better when you're struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or when your knees buckle and you fall up against your 88-year-old aunt who is still recovering from a broken hip. But it is something to keep in mind.

I don't know if there's a name yet for having both knees and both hips replaced in one lifetime, but maybe from hereon out we'll call it Full Evelyn Monty ... sort of like Tommy John Surgery. She had them all done.

I feel for people born of her era sometimes. They call it the "greatest generation" and perhaps it was. But on the other hand, people born prior to the depression missed so much in terms of 21st century way of life. My grandfather was an active guy, a lover of life ... and boy would he have ever benefited from knee replacement surgery.

Neither of my parents ever exercised in their adulthood. It just wasn't what they were taught to do. You didn't see the whole world walking when I was a kid. Runners were freaks. To me, exercisers were either muscle-bound guys tossing medicine balls around or Bulgarian weight lifters. Even I had to undergo a total re-indoctrination into modern exercise when I got into my late 20s and discovered its benefits. I might not be the world's greatest devotee (the happiest part of my day is when I leave the gym) but I understand its benefits.

One of the biggest tragedies in my mother's life is that she never exercised ... and never saw the value of taking the stress of extra poundage off her joints ... or even by keeping them moving in order to keep them functioning. By the time she was in her mid-to-late 50s, we were already wheeling her around airports because she could no longer walk around the terminals.

Going forward, armed with the information we have now, there's no excuse for people who refuse to move. But there just wasn't a premium put on it when she was of this age, and old habits die hard. Hers was a more sedentary existence.

This worked against her as she got older and her joints became less and less compromising. If anyone's ever had the experience, they know that the more something hurts, the less you want to hurt it. It stands to reason that if your knees hurt, or your back aches, every time you walk more than 100 feet, chances are you have to be spectacularly motivated if you're going to do it. We aren't most of the time.

This was my mother's albatross from middle age on. She didn't wake up one morning and forget how to walk. It happened incrementally, over the course of 25 years, until she could no longer do it. First, she needed the wheelchair if she was going shopping. Soon enough, we had a wheelchair in the house. Eventually, it was a motorized chair that left gouges in the woodwork because while there was now a handicapped person in the house, the house wasn't close to being handicap accessible. Entrance ways were too small. There were too many tight corners. The bathroom was a closet, which meant she had to park the chair at the doorway, and do contortions to get onto her walker, which she then used gingerly the rest of the way.

Getting in and out of bed was a particular project involving the wheelchair, the bureau, ropes so she could hoist herself into bed, and again so she could hoist herself toward the middle so she wouldn't fall off.

Most of these were devised by my father and sister, who seemed to have the know-how to anticipate way better than I ever did. When my father got too old and infirmed himself to be able to tend to her needs, I had visions of both of them being institutionalized.

My dad died before that ever happened. He was almost the opposite of my mother. He wasn't going to hang arouond forever. In fact, once it became obvious to him that his body was badly failing him, he pretty much gave up. He was depressed, and when the two of them were home and in their respective recliners, they just looked like two of the saddest people. She couldn't walk (and therefore could do little for herself) and he had gotten past the point of being able to tend to her (which -- I think -- is what kept him alive until he was 87).

He died in 2007, and we kept mom in the house for more than two years afterward by virtue of home health aides, and teamwork. I took the morning shift and Jayne took the night shift. I admit I had the easier job. Getting her blueberry muffin (and my bagel) and coffee at Dunkins and doing crosswords might have done nothing for my weight, but it was certainly less of an imposition than coming home from work, after a long day of nursing, and then having to tend to a disabled mother, the way Jayne had to do.

But things just kept deteriorating for her physically. There were more and more emergency phone calls in the middle of the night because she'd fallen. She didn't want to call the Fire Department because the last time we did that, one of the firemen said -- in front of the both of them -- that if he had to come up again he was going to call the authorities. That really infuriated me, and for one of the few times in my life, I ratted someone out (I knew the fire chief). Next thing I knew, the firefighter had "retired." Wonder why. I hope it was an either/or.

Most of the time, though, it was my son and I coming up to the house at 3 a.m. to help my mother up after a fall. It happened so often that I finally had to tell her to forget about going to bed, and to sleep in the recliner. It was easier for her to get in and out of the chair than it was to go through the whole process of going back to bed.

That bought us about two or three months of relative peace (at least as far as midnight phone calls) but there were always other things.

You don't have time to contemplate how unfair all of this is. You're living it. It's a daily part of your life. If you're not on active duty, whether it's preparing meals, or supervising doctor's visits, or just going over there to keep her company and take her mind off her misery, then you're worrying about it. Family life takes a beating. You're never really sure, when the phone rings, what, or who, is going to be coming out of the other end. And if it rings, say, past 10 p.m. on any night, the chill just goes right through you.

Finally, though, the situation became untenable. She couldn't perform even minimal functions to take care of herself. By this time, she was 86 and, truthfully, for all she had going against her, it's a miracle she was able to stay home for as long as she did.

Of course, you can't tell a son or a daughter that when the time comes to make this decision. If there's one recurring horror story we've all heard over the years, it's the dreaded "nursing home." Nobody wants to be there. They put my father in one for rehab purposes only (after he suffered a hairline fracture in his back) and he died two weeks later. It was the last place he wanted to be ... and he made sure we all knew it.

It was against this backdrop we finally threw up our hands. It was a Saturday night, and my mother had -- once again -- stumbled getting out of her chair. Jayne was there, and she made the split-second decision to call an ambulance and get her admitted to Union Hospital. I think we both knew that her split-second decision would mean she'd never see her house again. And she never did.

What an awful, awful, way to have that happen. There are times you just have to shut yourself in some corner and just cry. Not for you. Never for yourself. With me, it was always "here was this incredibly proud woman, who had accomplished so much, and who had given so much to the world, and she's reduced to this! She's reduced to being a "case" in someone's files ... and a statistic for Mass. Health to ponder."

It was shortly before Christmas 2009 when we had a family conference at Life Care Center for the North Shore and for the first time they told us they didn't think she could go home. That started four months of hell ... better known as "Dealing with Mass. Health" to do the paperwork to get her insured for extended stay as opposed to short term.

This cycle is basically one humiliation after another. Your body goes. You become helpless. You have to depend on your children for the same things for which they depended on you.

And then you get your assets taken away from you.

I know there's fraud, and I know that the state has its reasons for the policies it has, but this process is a little like watching someone come in and repossess your entire  house piece by piece. And where Jayne took the lead on medical matters, I took it on financial matters. This was my baby ... and my baby alone. Thank God for lawyers ... and for Atty. Stephen L. Smith in particular. He is a very able elder-affairs lawyer who shepherded us through this process. He may be among the most trustworthy people I know He was the king of debunking misinformation ... which, as we all know, abounds and sounds so believable most of the time.

In the four months I dealt with him, I learned that you could take everything Steve said to the bank. He never steered us wrong. And some of the things we had to do to liquidate was very time consuming and heartbreaking. He is one of the real good guys in this saga. No matter what he said, and no matter how skeptically it was initially received, Steve proved to be correct.

What this came down to, in short, was that everything up to $2,000, liquid, property, investments, or miscellaneous, was hers. Anything beyond $2 grand was theirs. This meant liquidating assets such as insurance policies, stock dividends, bank accounts, and getting rid of it. We paid for my mother's entire funeral with liquidated assets (allowed) and paid off a long-standing, five-figure loan (also allowed). But we couldn't buy a headstone for their grave (which is why there still isn't one).

We were fortunate in one respect. Four years prior to 2009, we had their house converted to a life estate, with them as joint tenants. I don't think the ink was dry on the new deed before the state extended the evergreen period on life estates. We were able to qualify without having to lose the house, too (since she wouldn't be living there).

One Saturday evening, I came home and opened up the mail and there was correspondence from Mass. Health saying they were placing a lien on the house. I didn't know what that meant ... I thought they were going to try to go after the house anyway, even though we fell within the evergreen period. I placed a panic call to Steve (it was one of about 1,000 times, I think, that I made the mistake of thinking he was wrong about something), who told me to calm down ... that that's standard Mass. Health procedure when they were ready to approve someone. The lien is their protection.

Two days later, confirmation arrived. I cannot think of another time in my life when I've been so happy ... and so sad ... over the same thing. I was happy for myself. The process was over and Steve got us through. The sadness was for her. Life Care was to be her home, now. She would never see the house she'd lived in for 57 years. Eventually, my sister and I bought what was left of the mortgage (which meant about six months of just horrendous dealings with Bank of America ... but that's another story for another day), Steve negotiated with Mass. Health for us to buy out the lien, and we kept it in the family (my son lives there now).

It was imperceptible at first. We'd go to visit her and she'd have trouble getting words out. Nothing astonishing. But noticeable. You could still carry on a conversation, but she'd have trouble keeping up, especially if it was late in the afternoon and she was tired. We found that cribbage stimulated her mind, as did puzzle books, so we kept her in supply.

Secretly, I feared that if she was in a nursing home, she'd be dead within a year. She fooled us. She stayed alive four more years. But it was more and more of a struggle for her.

It took her some time to get used to the culture. We brought her motorized chair there (which involved paying a mover) but she couldn't get the hang of using it there, even though the doorways and hallways were wider. But there was so much human traffic in those halls, and her mind was starting to slip just enough so that she became an unnecessary adventure on that thing, and she had to stop using it.

That's the thing about this. My cousin Jack watched his mother, my Aunt Eileen, die from Alzheimer's, and he called it a cruel disease because it just robbed her of herself in painful increments. Dementia is only a little less cruel. As time goes by, the slippage is gradual until one day it just comes up and slaps you in the face. That's how it was with my mother. We'd figured we could deal with her in this condition, and we'd get there one day and she'd have regressed even more.

If there's one thing I inherited from my mother is my need for white noise in the background almost all the time ... either music or the TV. She'd keep the TV on in her room, and she'd start talking and the next thing you'd know, she'd confuse reality with what was on the TV. She had vivid dreams that she could swear were real. One New Year's Day I went up there to hear all about the swinging party she'd been to the night before. On several occasions, she told me she could walk. Every time I'd hear this, I'd just die a little more inside. It's unavoidable.

Another cousin said, after her father died, that there had been a growing disconnect between what was ... and what she saw in the last few months of his life. I understand completely. There was no similarity between the proud, often contentious, yet totally nurturing mother I grew up with and what I saw when I visited her. My sister and I used to laugh that no matter what her state of mind was on a given day, she never lost ability to push our buttons. It's probably the last of her life skills to have deserted her.

But desert her it did. She grew increasingly docile (which you'd think would be a good thing, but I saw it as a sign that she was beginning to comprehend that she was dying). She stayed in bed more, and sat in her wheelchair less. Never a big fan of nursing home food to begin with, she'd just leave meals uneaten (but chow down with gusto if we bought in candy or a donut or a muffin). She had trouble coordinating herself to even drink with a straw, let alone a cup.

And the problem with articulation just got worse. By last year, it was difficult to have a conversation with her.

But old instincts just don't die. My mother would play BINGO on Sunday's in the rec room (it was the only social thing she did in her last years there) and her competitive instincts came to the surface. I had a tougher time finding those letters and numbers than she did. She loved games, and she was in her element.

Last August, we received a call from the nursing home that she had pneumonia and she couldn't wake up. I got there before Jayne and sat with her, and I guess it all came out. All of the years of caring for her, watching her slowly die, just caught up. Next thing I knew, half the nursing home descended on me en masse to make sure I was going to be OK. One of the social workers summoned a priest. This was going to be it.

(As an aside, I will have to say that being in a nursing home is not the best way to spend your last years, but the folks at Life Care were beyond wonderful, and for that we'll always be grateful.)

Only it wasn't. She rallied. The staff brought the comfort cart in (which had food and drinks), figuring we'd be in for a long stay. We swear, she sniffed the cookies and woke up ... as if nothing had happened.

She had a couple of more scares over the next few months, and somehow, every time, she managed to come out of them. We thought maybe she was morphing into a cat, and was going through all her  nine lives.

As I said earlier, you're so focused on what you need to do in these situations that you don't always see the signs. As co-owner of the family manse, I am -- for all intents and purposes -- the primary caretaker and landlord. Often, dealing with situations involving the house (not to mention my own) forced me to take my eye off one ball or the other, and things have fallen through the cracks. They, as well as an unpredictable work schedule, kept me away from the nursing home for longer stretches of time than I'd have liked for the last five or six months. But every time I went, I could see her condition was getting worse and worse.

Easter was a revelation for me. We all went and she was sitting in her wheelchair, pretty much ungroomed, and all I could do was look and feel my heart sink to the ground. My mother had the look of a dying woman. I had a sense that whatever was going to happen would go into acceleration phase.

It wasn't even two weeks later, on a Wednesday afternoon, April 30, that we got a phone call from the nursing home that, once again, she was asleep and not responding. I rushed over there, and she was unresponsive. She stayed that way for two more days, but when I went to see her that Saturday, she was awake and alert. She looked exhausted from the pneumonia, but she was strong enough to see me, and recognize me.

To be honest, I didn't know how to feel about that. As a son who was about to lose his mother, I didn't want her to die. I think everyone's primal instinct is to revert back to being a little kid. And as a little kid, it was, "Mama, don't leave me."

But as a 60-year-old adult, it was more like, "how much does she have to suffer ... how much fighting is she going to be made to do!!"

That brief visit -- cut short, sadly, because one of the attendants shooed me out of the room so she could tend to her for something -- was the last time I ever saw my mother awake, with a look of recognition (and love) in her eyes for me. My sister also got to spend some time with her that day as well. We're both grateful for that.

By the next night, she was back in a coma, but stable. Monday ... same thing.

I went over there Tuesday morning to pretty much the same set of circumstances, except as morning passed into afternoon, she began to be less serene and indicate more discomfort. A minister from our parish came into the room and gave me communion, and answered one question we had: Should we call the priest again?

"No," she said. "She has earned her reward." And when she left, she bent over and whispered to my mother, "you have earned it, Evelyn." It's these little things you remember most of all.

When Deborah left, I got as close to her as the furniture would allow, and gave her "permission." Anyone who has ever done that knows what that's like. It's awful. I did it with my father, too. You just have to hope they can hear you ... because, sadly, that's the time you finally say all the things you should have said when they were alert. I told her it was OK. That she'd fought, and fought, and fought ... and that it was time for her to let go ... to rest.

I actually went to work. I had to get away from it, and she didn't seem to be any worse than she'd been for the last few days, so I figured it was OK to go to the office. I stayed until about 8:30, and figured I'd go the nursing home afterward. My sister was already there.

I got there around 8:45 and the night nurse had just shifted her position in the bed. Jayne and I went upstairs and we weren't in the room for 10 minutes before we noticed a change in her breathing. And before we could even digest that ... she let out an exhale and died. It was the same exact thing that happened with my father seven years earlier than that.

I don't have words for how that felt. I don't know why, but it felt way worse than it did seven years ago. Maybe because it was the second parent ... and maybe it was the subconscious realization that, after 60 years of having my mother in some way, shape or form, to talk to when things became overwhelming, she was gone.

For a rather robust looking woman, my mother looked small and shrunken in her bed. And she looked sad. Even with all the suffering she did, she looked sad. And I was sad for her.

Now that it's over, and I've had time to digest it and begin to put it in perspective, I feel that the immediate difficulty I had in the aftermath of my mother's death came from releasing all the pent-up emotion and stress that came with caring for her all these years ... and from watching her struggle for so long. What I'm left with is a sad sense of unfairness about the way her life ended up. I wonder if others who have watched their parents suffer for years, feel the same way.

She was two weeks short of being 91. She had a good run. There's no denying that. And I suppose you do look around and see the enormous tragedies that befall people who have died much younger than at age 91, and you can take some comfort in that. But you can't compare life circumstances. Not when it comes to this. Our situations are all unique. She was my mother ... and I watched it all unfold. I saw how she deteriorated bit by bit until she was nothing but a shell of what she once was. And while I know that happens more often than not, this time it was unique to her ... and to us.

I'm grateful for all the time we had with her ... and for all the wonderful memories growing up with Evelyn A. Krause brought. Still, I wish I'd had one more day ... one more visit ... with her. And I'll always wish that.