Friday, June 11, 2010

Velveteen Rabbits

This header for this blog post was inspired by Thai's widow, Katherine (by the way, that was also my mother's name), who in an e-mail to me said this:

"I want you to know that you had actually, like the velveteen rabbit in the children's story, become real to me."

This was in response to my e-mail to her where I reminded her that she referred to me as Thai's "imaginary friend." We are all now becoming real to her, just like the beloved rabbit in the story. And just like the rabbit in the story, The Velveteen Rabbit, we are all shedding a tear for Thai now.

Meeting Thai

It was the fall of 2008; I was working out of an office in Somerset, Pennsylvania. It was a great time for me. I was staying in this tiny little town called Mill Run. It was just four miles from a famous Frank Lloyd Wright home called Fallingwater. This project allowed me to explore a large part of the country that I had never been to before.

Anyway, Thai had suggested that we meet for lunch. I didn't want to waste an opportunity so I left in the morning and drove to Hagerstown, Maryland, to meet him at a little hole in the wall (and I do mean hole in the wall) deli. The entrance was down an alleyway and wasn't much to look at inside or out. But Thai had assured me that it came highly recommended by his peers at work.

I showed up about 10:45, and expected to wait the 15 minutes until the agreed upon meeting time of 11:00. Well, 11:00 comes and goes; no Thai. I think Thai calls me around 11:15 and says he just arrived. But he doesn't know where the deli is at. (Wait, you mean you suggest a place and you don't even know where it's at...?) He tells me he is out on the main road, and I walk down the alleyway to the sidewalk. I should interject here that I have some PTSD due to an angry driver trying to run me over with a car. While walking down the alley, someone in a car drove up behind me. In the alley, there was nowhere to run. So I had to face my fear and step to the side as far as possible. I get through it. Heart pounding and panting with fear, but I get through it.

So Thai tells me what he is wearing (and I am looking all over the place as I am in a strange place and not feeling completely safe) and I finally spot him waving at me. I can't remember the explanation exactly as to why he is late. I think it had something to do with his kid being sick, or getting up late, or something.

But anyway, we finally sit down to eat lunch. He isn't scheduled to go to work until 2:00 or something. We talk for 2 full hours about a whole number of subjects. Everything from the debt issues, to my work, to medical issues and everything in between. We part, having talked fully about all of the issues that interested us both. We were going to meet again in Cumberland, where Thai had another hospital he worked at, but by the time Thai got around to working over there, I had already been sent home. You know, I never did get to take that train ride in Cumberland like I had planned.

A Friendship Develops

After that, Thai and I started exchanging e-mails and phone calls regularly. Besides discussing the political and financial issues of the day, we exchange information on a professional level. I would ask him medical questions (often about my own health issues). And he explained medical concepts in a way that would be understood to a ordinary person (like me).

The phone calls became so frequent, that on the day that RKohn announced Thai's death in the comments over at Sudden Debt, I was just about to call Thai and tell him the good news that I had lost 20 pounds in the last 5 weeks. I had also noticed that he had not been posting here at Street Rat (I had just assumed he was busy with work.) I was also going to ask him to explain some other medical issues that another friend's dad had suffered from.

Anyway, I had asked him how to lose weight. "Calories, calories, calories" was his answer. So I have cut my caloric intake to 1000 calories per day and have been walking at least two miles per day in the summer sun (with a sauna suit on). And usually another two miles in the evening (without the sauna suit). But, being next to the lake here, it is hot and muggy in the evening. Just right to cause a lot of sweating. It seems to be working, at least so far. But I still have a long way to go.

The Kübler-Ross Model (the five stages of grief)

I suspect we are all experiencing some -- or all -- stages of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief right now. I know I am.

1. Denial – My initial shock of "No, it can't be true!" This passed quickly as reality set in.

2. Anger – For me, this manifested itself in the form of "How could you deprive me of another (expected) 30 years of intellectual challenges and stimulation?"

3. Bargaining – I didn't really suffer from this stage (yet). As I realize that I am helpless to change anything now.

4. Depression – This is the stage I am most likely in. I already miss Thai and want that expected time back (bargaining?). But I realize there is nothing that I can do but go on. But who will I find that can challenge me like Thai did? An intellectual equal isn't as easy for me as you might think. And in Thai's fractal world, he always had to be the blog hog and make the Pareto half of all of the comments (do the math, if you don't understand, ask about it in the comments and I'll explain).

The Pareto Principle is related to fractals. I think it was one of the subjects that got us talking to begin with.

5. Acceptance – I am sure I will reach this stage eventually. It is just so hard to see it from here.

Thai's death, coming when it did, reminded me of my mother's passing near Memorial Day.

A Song That Keeps Going Through My Head

I think that this song expresses our sentiments pretty well.

But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do once you find them

Jim Croce: Time in a Bottle

And, a happier song that seems to explain Thai's understanding of fractals:

He was in search of an answer
The nature of what we are
He was trying to do it a new way
He was bright as a star
But nobody understood him
"His numbers are not the way"
He's lost in the deepest enigma
Which no one's unraveled today

But he knew, he knew more than me or you
No one could see his view, Oh where was he going to
And he tried, but before he could tell us he died
When he left us the people cried,
Oh where was he going to?

He had a different idea
A glimpse of the master plan
He could see into the future
A true visionary man
But there's something he never told us
It died when he went away
If only he could have been with us
No telling what he might say

But he knew, he knew more than me or you
No one could see his view
Oh, where was he going to
But he knew, you could tell by the picture he drew
It was totally something new,
Oh where was he going to?

Kansas: Portrait (He Knew)

Goodbye, my friend. I hope that someday all of our questions will get answered. You certainly left us too soon. You will be missed.

In some spiritual way, I hope that we can meet again and finish exploring all those ideas that you have left asked and unanswered.
(by OkieLawyer)

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