Post 8: A brief pause among so many moving parts

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Hank Dutton (center)

August 8, 1952 - February 22, 2019


It’s been a week of rapid readjustment here in Lake World-be-gone, my new home. ‘Someone with influence’ must have read my plea last week. The rain came at last. The snow has mostly melted. We are finally free to travel again—to the supermarket and the hardware store. Land o’the free! I thought all troubles were at last behind us. Until...

Our poor guppies died—tragically, like Romeo, Romeo. They were both males—but such inseparable playmates, all day, every day—until one of them developed a hideous parasite which I will not further describe in hope of guarding your untroubled sleep. Probably came in with those Malaysian snails. Perhaps we should have built a wall. Alas...

It was necessary to ‘remove’ the infected guppy quickly, before its ‘passenger’ matured and ‘dispersed’ in the aquarium. His friend, left suddenly alone, swam ‘round and ‘round and ‘round the tank for days, looking for his lost pal. Until, one night as we slept, he managed to leap up and out through the tank lid’s one tiny feeding hole—thinking, perhaps to follow and find his lost chum. Alas, perhaps he has. We found him next morning, dried and mummified on the countertop.

We will rebuild. There is a fish store in America where two new guppies await our arrival, unawares. May their path prove smoother, and their friendship just as grand—if significantly longer.


On the brighter side, I’ve secured a dandy new snow shovel! As there appears to be no more snow in the foreseeable forecast, I may not get to try it out until next winter. That is not a complaint.

Then our dishwasher died. Considerably more expensive than the guppies.


But on the brighter side, my mother turned 86 last weekend, and thanks to her new, closer proximity, was able to spend last weekend and Thursday evening celebrating with us. We had a great deal of fun eating tasty meals, working an elaborate ‘Murder Mystery jigsaw puzzle,’ and seeing a live theater performance of Shakespeare In Love, enjoyable despite the-uh-tremendous variety of performance skills embraced therein. My mom is doing fabulously for her age, and, as always, it was lovely to have her here with us.


We had come into this week expecting to fit her visits in around a weekend of houseguests followed immediately by three days of medical tourism in America. A lot to orchestrate in one week. But the houseguests had to postpone for weather and ‘moving parts’ issues of their own, and one of those doctor’s appointments was unexpectedly moved to March—leaving us suddenly with yards and yards of time to get some work done! Go Team!

Ah, but trouble so often seems to come in threes.

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I met my wife’s uncle, Hank, (the younger brother of Shannon’s mother, Donna) only once, a couple years before Shannon and I were married, in Los Angeles where he had lived for many years. He was a shaggy, jovial man living in a cluttered one-room flat. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll with him to lunch: cheap but delicious food with an ample side of laughter—and beer. It was a pleasant visit, though I knew even then that Hank could, at times, be more difficult to engage with.

Tragic childhood events in Hank and Donna’s family (not mine to illuminate here) left Hank to navigate a bewildering life-long struggle with mental illness and alcohol addiction. Since his sister’s death this past July, he has not been doing well. Last week found him in the hospital recovering from a stroke and seizure. After just a week of treatment, Hank insisted on checking himself out and going home. On Friday morning, we learned that Hank had died there, in the company of a friend. We are still awaiting news of the official cause, but I think we all understand that the real cause was years of heartbreak and despair grown too heavy to carry any farther.

Shannon and I have spent a lot of time these past few days thinking about her ‘Uncle Hankle:’ the loving, charming, playful boy he was once, in pursuit of dreams, surrounded by friends (Hank was fond of saying that he never met a stranger), and about the difficult life that led him to this end. It is almost impossible, I think, not to become distracted by all that’s broken in lives like Hank’s, but at some point—often this one—it seems important to think as well of how much strength—maybe even well-disguised heroism—is required to carry that much pain as far as people like Hank do. Just to get up each morning and keep going—with little if any hope of anyone’s approval, or reason to expect any happy outcome...

Shannon and I have lifted a few glasses lately to Hank’s memory—and to his all too well-disguised courage. Sometime in the next few weeks, we will be headed to Los Angeles for one more family funeral, where we will meet some of Hank’s current friends, none of whom we know well, most of whom we’ve never met. Shannon and her family will likely share some tales there of the younger Hank his L.A. friends never met. I hope that some of them will help us better know the later Hank we saw so little of.


Reflecting on all this, I find no comfortable way back into the ongoing exploration of my own comparatively tame and distant woods just now. So I’ll leave it here for this week.

As always, cyber friends, thank you for your company. Until next Sunday, I wish you health and peace.

Mark Ferrari6 Comments