Benny's World

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Look for me at the Daily Kos

This afternoon, I will be the guest diarist for the "Caturday" series at the Daily Kos. I should be around by 3 ET, if not sooner. Come by and post your favorite pootie or woozle (or other critter) pic!

Labels: , ,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Excerpt from Resilience

I'm going to lend a hand to Elizabeth Edwards' publicity team at Broadway Books. I saw this excerpt of Resilience online.

Chapter 1

I stood at the sink in an impossibly bright hospital room washing my face, washing away the heat that, with the doctor’s words, had come rushing to my face and neck and chest to fill every pore, to gather in the corners of my eyes and to line my lips and thicken my tongue. “He will never walk, his brain is dead,” the doctor had said. It still burned. How much cold water would it take to take the hot sting out of those words?

My father lay immobile behind me, a crisp sheet folded neatly across his chest, the crease apparently to be forever perfect above his forever-still form. I had not been able to bear to see him like that any longer, so I had turned away and instead watched my own warped reflection in the metal mirror that seemed to mimic the distortions within me. The doctor’s words were all I could hear inside my head, but they were too immense, too life-changing to stay in my head. They spilled out and filled the room, bouncing back from the walls and the metal me in the mirror, and with every echo a new torment: He will not walk. His brain is dead. He will not walk. His brain is dead. . . . I kept cupping water to my face, unable to cool the heat but equally unable to stop trying.

The day before, this solid man who would be seventy in four days, who still had cannonballs for shoulders and the calf muscles of a twenty-fiveyear-old fullback, had fallen over while eating a salad for dinner. He had played tennis in the morning and had gone biking in the afternoon. He came in to dinner after planting spring flowers in the yard. Every minute of his day was a test of his body, a test he passed over and over again. And then, with no warning, a massive stroke, and he could not move from the floor. I was forty years old, and I had never seen him fail at a single physical thing he had tried to do. Not once in forty years.

I closed my eyes as I cupped the water, and the images of my well father, strong and full of life, gathered on top of one another. Eating a hot pepper from his garden in Naples and thinking it a green pepper, his face goes flush, tears fill his eyes, his glasses fog up, but he chews on. And then, grinning at his astonished family, he gets up and picks another. The awestruck faces of the enlisted men he commanded in Japan when he came out of the pool into which they had thrown him and, with his soaking wet flight suit clinging to him, they saw his supremely muscled form outlined. News that he had made captain had come in while he was on an early-morning flight, so when he stepped out of the jet in his flight suit, his squadron had rallied around him cheering and had thrown him into the pool in giddy celebration. I always suspected that the vision of him earned him a respect from those enlisted men that morning that the additional stripe on his sleeve would not have won him.

I had sat with him at Bethesda Naval Hospital when he had four discs in his spine fused, the final remedy two decades after his back was injured when the wheels on the jet he was getting ready to pilot collapsed beneath the plane on the tarmac. He should have been groggy and still in the hours after recovery, but he was smiling at everyone, and teasing the nurses by pretending to smoke an endless series of imaginary cigarettes. Within weeks, he was back on his bicycle, and within months, he was back on the tennis court. There was the time his nose was flattened in college in a football game. The doctors said it was so crushed that he could choose whatever shape he wanted since they were starting from scratch. So he chose the shape he had had before. And he took up lacrosse, and he was an all-American his first year. He used to lift women up—my mother and her friends—and twirl them head over heels like batons. Proper women in 1950s shirtwaists ignored the fact that their garter belts had been on display, and they giggled to be treated as girls again. He carried my brother, my sister, and me all at once on his wide shoulders upstairs to bed when we were youngsters as if we were stuffed animals. Now, impossibly, he lay dying behind me, unable to move, unable to speak.

The doctor had called us into the room to tell us. My sister sat with her arm around my mother. My brother sat holding our father’s hand. I stood at the foot of the bed, my eyes on my father’s still face, not on the doctor I had never seen before. Each of us cried, not in a wailing way, but in low, lonely moans. The doctor talked on about the effect of the stroke on the blood flow to his brain, and we each half-listened, for truthfully nothing after “his brain is dead” could penetrate. Tracks of silent tears covered all of our cheeks. When the doctor left, we all hugged one another, grieving our collective loss and our individual ones, then everyone else left the room. I had to tell my children, ten-year-old Wade and eight-year-old Cate, where they waited in the hall with their father. And I had to wash my face before I would tell them.

I could clean the tear tracks, but the heat would not go away. I gave up and turned to leave and face the children. As I turned, I looked again at my father, but now he was looking back. He was still immobile, his huge bulk still pinned beneath the tight sheets, but his eyes were open. Not just open but wide dishes of panic. He could not speak. And yet he did. We stood staring at one another—I haven’t any idea how long—and he said, or his eyes said, I am here. I am not dead. I am here. I want to live. I answered back in words. “Don’t worry,” I said. “We know. We are not giving up on you.” And I marched past my family to the nurses’ station and told them that that doctor was not allowed back into my father’s room under any circumstances.

This was April 18, 1990. We buried my father in April of 2008. Oh, his body kept failing him, little by little until the last of him slipped away eighteen years later. But in between he learned to drive again (in a fairly frightening fashion), and drove until his response time was demonstrably too slow and we could not let him drive any longer. He talked again, in an odd and sometimes inappropriately scatalogical way—“the boobs are boiling”—but still making people smile, until he no longer could talk easily, and losing confidence in his voice, he started talking again with his eyes. He danced with my mother for nearly a dozen more years. He never biked or played tennis again, but he traveled. He went to Poland and Spain, he took a cruise and watched the whales off the Alaskan coast. He voted for his son-in- law for vice president of the United States. And he was there to bury his oldest grandson—my firstborn. But he was also there to hold four more grandchildren—Ty and Louis and Emma Claire and Jack—and even two great-grandchildren— Anna and Zachary—who were born after his stroke. In the end, he was surrounded by family—his wife of nearly sixty years, his children and grandchildren, his sister and her children—when finally, of his own will, he quit fighting and let go.

There were times in the eighteen years more that he lived when he wanted to give up, when he didn’t want to keep fighting to drive or to dance or to live. I remember sitting with him once after my son Wade died. We were going through a workbook his rehabilitation therapist had assigned him. I would read; he would answer questions. He got them right at first, and then he started to miss them, a few at first and then all of them. His frustration mounted, and he finally said with awkward resignation that he was a burden he promised himself he would never be and he would just as soon die. I was stunned and angry. I wanted him to live so badly; how could he not want it, too? If you could have Wade back, I asked, but only in your exact condition, no better, would you take him? He raised his head a little, and his deep brown eyes met mine. He nodded. Then you understand how we feel. We know it is not perfect, but nothing really ever is. I reached for his hand and told him you are here, and that is what I want. And, I added, if you think this is getting you out of finishing this assignment, you are wrong. He opened his mouth. It was not the wide smile I remembered, but the gap between his two front teeth showed, and that was smile enough for me.

There is nothing about resilience that I can say that my father did not first utter silently in eighteen years of living inside a two-dimensional cutout of himself. From the first moment when he forced open his eyes to tell me that he was alive, through all the setbacks of a body on which he had relied that subsequently failed him little by little, he held on to whatever he had, however meager it was. He managed somehow to turn whatever he held on to into precisely what he needed to survive. When in the first year he had the audacity to tell the rehabilitation counselor that he wanted to drive, or when in the eighth year he danced with my mother, or when in year sixteen he unabashedly flirted with the aide at the assisted-living center, he was saying to the world what he said to me in 1990: I understand that it will not be all I crave, but I want to live. And so he did. When he could no longer drive himself, he wanted to walk. When he could no longer walk himself, he wanted a wheelchair that he could manage himself. He kept narrowing his life and his expectations to what he had left, and in doing so—no matter how small his world—he always reflected the sheer majesty of living. Too many times I have had to use my father’s strength—or my mother’s grace as she stood beside him—as a touchstone. I suspect we each have someone like him, someone whose personal courage in the face of impossible odds inspires us to do something we thought we could not do, who reminds us that what seems like a mountain in front of us can in fact be climbed. My father was an imperfect man in many ways, but maybe it was better that he was imperfect and that I knew he was, for I learned that perfection was not a requirement of resilience. This was Dad, and if he could decide to live, so could I.

If one reads the book, as I have, one will discover that only a small part of it is about John's indiscretion. It is really about how Elizabeth is bouncing back and fighting the dragons in her life. She also remains positive, hence "the gifts" she sees from her family and others' life experiences.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big Yellow Taxi for the Edwardses

Why is it that we don't know what we have until it's gone..

Around the blogosphere..

Montana Maven about sharing in Italy

TomP sharing that workers for HartMarx are rebelling not to shut their plants down..and I am glad they are...American clothes for everyone..

More l8tr


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Memo to George Stephanopoulos: Smoking Oregano Isn't a Substitute

George Stephanopoulos said in the ABC's This Week that, and let's make certain I have the quote correct:

I've talked to a lot of former Edwards staffers about this. Up until December of 2007, most on Edwards' staff didn't believe rumors about the affair.

But by late December, early January of last year, several people in his inner circle began to think the rumors were true. Several of them had gotten together and devised a "doomsday" strategy of sorts.

Basically, if it looked like Edwards was going to win the Democratic Party nomination, they were going to sabotage his campaign, several former Edwards' staffers have told me.

They said they were Democrats first, and if it looked like Edwards was going to become the nominee, they were going to bring down the campaign.

Yo, check it out dawg (borrowing from Randy Jackson of American Idol)...

Joe Trippi has already denied the allegation, via Chris Cillizza of WaPO:
"The storyline that a sleeper cell existed within the Edwards campaign that knew the truth [about the candidate's marital indiscretions] and was prepared to wait out the campaign and destroy it if it looked like John Edwards was taking off is exactly what I called it -- fantasyland," Trippi emailed the Fix. "It's a great way in hindsight to sound heroic -- but it isn't true."

In the past three days, I have talked to two former JRE campaign staffers who concurred with Trippi. Today one of them said, "it is total BS."

So George S, unless you can produce the trolls, the joint you're smoking isn't even a real one. Quit smearing former campaign staffers, dude. Many of them have gotten jobs other places, and they are trustworthy. You aren't and you proved it a long time ago when you quit working for the Clintons and penned a kiss and tell. But I guess you are "all too human."

Labels: , ,

More about John Edwards at the Fuller Center in El Salvador

The Fuller Center has posted pictures of JRE's visit in El Salvador. According to the website:

Mr. Edwards is meeting with the Fuller Center’s director of operations in El Salvador, Mike Bonderer, and Fuller Center President David Snell to talk about housing for the poor.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bonderer, Mr. Snell and Mr. Edwards met with the head of the El Salvador Assembly (U.S. Congress equivalent) to discuss housing and poverty issues. This week, they will visit the Fuller Center build site, where six new housing units are in the works, to meet with homeowners and volunteers. Mr. Edwards will also help with construction toward the end of the week.

350 homes have already been built in cooperation with Homes from the Heart.

BW readers probably know Elizabeth mentioned this on the Today Show and on Larry King Live last night.

Good to see JRE doing something meaningful when it comes to poverty awareness.

(h/t Waiting for Hope at the Old Elm Tree)

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Salon Paid for this Crap Snark Post?

Salon, the online magazine that I normally read because of Glenn Greenwald, has stooped to a new level with this post by some person named Choire Sicha (I suspect a made-up alias).

Even on the Daily Kos, this would be considered unacceptable by most bloggers. It is not a real opinion.

I urge Salon to pull this diary. psst...Glenn, pls tell the eds this is not good journalism that you practice.

Labels: , , ,

Teaser for Tonight's LKL Interview of Elizabeth Edwards

I look forward to seeing the rest of the interview and hearing Elizabeth's responses to the questions that viewers could submit ahead of time. I wished I had asked what the name of her store is as she doesn't disclose it in her book. I think I may know, but not completely certain. I do know the registered name of her company, however. I found it online.

Update: for anyone who prefers to read the transcript, CNN has it online now. It helps correct some timeline presumptions I made the other day. Turns out John told Elizabeth after the Chapel Hill event in 2006.

Update: CNN picked up BW's post.

Labels: , , ,

Elizabeth Edwards' Media Appearances

BW readers will note that I have added a link to Elizabeth's media appearances on the sidebar. She will be on Larry King Live tonight.

In case you missed the interview on the Today show, here's the link.

(h/t to Amy Goodale)

If you have not read the book Resilience, please do buy a copy. It is a short tome, but I think you will find yourself in her shoes or at least encouraged to think about the sad times in your families' lives, and how you rebounded in different ways. Reading it will also help you understand the context when EE is being interviewed.

Here's the LAT's review of the book.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

John Edwards Off to El Salvador

I just learned that JRE is off to El Salvador to do some work with the Fuller Center. The Fuller Center is a faith-based center that works on housing for the poor worldwide, and they are finishing a housing building blitz.

I'm glad to see that John is still on raising awareness about global poverty and what private-public partnerships are available.

This is a gift for all.

Labels: , , ,