"El Loco Rises"
created by
Michael McCaffery

Readers Please Note:

Due to advancing dementia, I am "throwing in the towel" on websites. 

I am having increasing difficulty keeping up to my inner quality standards, and so

it is time to take the step before I embarrass myself further.

Should I change my mind, or what is left of it, I will continue, but this is likely it.

I have had a blast with this site, among all the others, and thank all of you for your readership.

You can contribute to this effort by sending half your net worth in bitcoin to

 

ellocostupido@hell.org

Winding Down


A Semi-Serious Essay

by

 

Michael McCaffery

“El Loco”

May 24,2022

Copyright  2022

All Rights Reserved

It seems to me - nowadays, at least - that several things are happening not only in my life, but also nationally, that I would like to address, directly, openly and honestly, and which I have not always done, sometimes to my detriment.  

 

I know from past experience that merely discussing these verbally, if only by myself in this way, and then rereading them allows me to see what I write somewhat differently, and more importantly, a bit more critically.  This helps to shape them and allow them to be read and experienced more clearly by others, as verbal gymnastics and bromides are not nearly as clear and precise and meaningful as the written word.   


While writing, I seem to be more careful (for someone might have a copy and even read and retain it), and what I write is then more likely to be considered by others simply due to the fact that it is written, and therefore takes a bit more effort to produce, as opposed to random ejaculations of verbal pomposity (such as this phrase that you have just read).

 

That is one point of view.   Others are many and numerous, and likely have just popped up in the Reader’s brain, so I congratulate you, and welcome you aboard the “El Loco Essay Effort” created and produced locally in Santa Fe by yours truly, as pure  whimsy and possibly profound pissy personal postulations.   (Forgive me; I was swept away in high school by the concept of repeated resonating retorts in the form of consonants together with puerile probing.   It is a nasty habit that irritates others, and I may actually stop someday soon, but not by my choice.)

 

You get to choose how you see it, as always.  And so, let us proceed.

 

First, I now clearly see - and am surrounded by - evidence of my mental decline in terms of memory; there is no doubt nor equivocation on my part any more.  And so I have a choice as to whether to fight it (not very likely to change the outcome) or just gracefully accept it and move on to what’s next, whatever that is.

 

I will add quickly that I am not particularly alarmed by this, but see it as a product of an active life (mentally, at least) filled with curiosity about the wondrous ways of the world, combined with a huge curiosity as to how humans seem to have invented so many ways to “screw up the gift that is Life”.  (This last phrase is a secret "term of art" only permitted to be used by professional writers, an exalted status that year for and have not yet reached.)  The evidence is out there for all to see, yet it is combined with an innate wonder should we wish to open our eyes as to the majesty and mystery of this incredible gift of life, sometimes laughingly called “reality.”

 

I will further quickly add that I have had much experience with taking this gift and using it inappropriately, or at least ineffectively.  I likely also speak for many others in making this assertion, and you know who you are, even if you are not reading this.

 

Any thinking person can see that the latter course (acceptance) is the more useful thing to do, much easier, and less painful and damaging to others and ourselves.  But that is quite difficult for me, since acceptance to me denotes failure, betrayal, and cowardice.   Of course, those are all words that I choose to use (I tend to write and type “stream of consciousness” without giving much thought other than to get the contents of my brain down on paper - or at least pixelated - where others can be entertained, enlightened, horrified, or simply amused, before I forget what I was going to say), and are designed to keep the Reader’s attention for a while, since there is a possibility things may become more amusing, in that I might lighten up, or perhaps I actually have some really nifty thoughts that might be useful or worthwhile, even if only recognized after the fact.  


(I think if have now broken my world’s record as the longest written sentence - ever.  It is simply that once I get going, it is hard to stop, which is a common theme in most of my noticeable failures in life.)

 

Having come to this point with no apparent breakthrough, I’ll simply continue to write - as accurately as possible - the remaining contents of my formerly agile mind in the hopes that some humor or, better yet, stunning insights may pop up and make the effort worthwhile.  Or maybe not, as is sometimes - and maybe even quite often - the case.

 

So what’s the point of writing all this?   It is a good question to keep in mind when an earnest writer thinks he may have something to say that might be of use to others, and for me, the answers to that now easily come from within my brain.  The best answer is that I write to see what I will write (I rarely know in advance, and try not to plan any detail other than considering general themes), as some other entity takes over at some point and what I write is actually conceived and then thought somewhere else, and magically and mysteriously implanted in my feverish brain in the hope it might entertain, inform, or even poke and prod the Reader to enter realms of thought that are usually not entered into nor entertained by that Reader.   This to me is one of the majestic wonders of life, and the source of some if not all of my past troubles and difficulties, and possibly all the future ones, also.

I have also - just now - realized that "writing" for me is an attempt to express the inexpressible, make contact with any sentient beings remaining on this planet (you know who you are, and we are few in number), and achieve some sort of pleasure and warmth in embracing other beings, acknowledging them, and seeing the commonalities we all have, rather than focusing on the differences, as many so often do.

 

In addition, I myself might even learn something, and whatever happens, it is highly likely to be better for me than watching TeeVee, also known as The Idiot Box.   (Not that there is anything wrong with that, “a la” Seinfeld, once again.)   

 

And so, off we go!


 

MEMORY

 

Of course, memory is one of the first things that comes to mind (using “memory” and “mind” in one sentence is my version of humor, so please forgive me).   Until one experiences a loss of memory, one cannot possibly understand the feeling that a major part of who one is perceived to be by one’s self has been irretrievably lost forever, will not return, and in one fell swoop a major part of one’s identify is lost, likely forever.   

 

This is a stunning realization, to say the least, and the dark thoughts that automatically and rapidly fill one’s brain in that situation range from “unsettling” to “black despair,” and that is on a reasonably good day, with “clear skies and a following wind” (and old nautical term from days of yore).   “Yore” is hereby defined as any period of time before I was born).

 

So much of what we are (or more accurately what we think we are) is related to memory, and not having a significant part of that memory 

 

removes a certain certainty (forgive the cute alliteration) that forms the core of who we think we are.  That is, we are what we think and 

remember, whether or not either of those is accurate.  This explains much of the public discourse, political campaigns, never-ending Sunday sermons, and all the good advice your funny uncle used to provide you, some or all for free.  

 

Once one realizes that this is a one way street, that realization can easily become one’s Armageddon, in the sense that a person undergoing that loses one’s “self” and “identity,” along with the consequent horror of facing the “void,” which is my term for the unknowable and unthinkable.   Some more evolved people call this “heaven,” others somewhat more grounded call it “hell.”  It can be a stunning experience when first encountered, and then it becomes worse, until ultimately one is forced to simply accept it, and take other more strident measures to avoid the hopeless feeling, or else follow another path which I am not willing to do at this point, even if I could think of one openly and publicly, which I will not do.  

 

As with many experiences, how we grasp and deal with that meaning provides the outcome, and so on and so forth, in never ending cycles, sometimes called “this is your life.”   I am not now talking about either Groucho Marx or George Fenneman.  (Most of you will have to look up these two people, who did a radio and TV show together back in the “good old days,” which is another resurrected fiction that I know and recall so fondly.)


Not having gone beyond this point noted above at this juncture, I am not able to report what then happens, but should I be able to describe 

it, I will do so in the future.  Stay tuned, don’t touch that dial !  (Many of you now have some clue about how dated my experiences are, but I did earn them, fair and square, with hardly any cheating.)

 

It is quite interesting to me that I now perceive that who “we” think we are (meaning of course who I think “I” am) is a function of our memory (understandable), yet is also who we think we will or ought to be.  By that I mean that without a future, life significantly shifts into another realm, which I find hard to describe, but it has much in common with “deep fear” and a visceral “sinking” feeling, which one can easily see and experience even in advance of the event, which does not begin to compare with the living breathing experience as it actually happens.



ACTIONS AND SOLUTIONS

 

The sobering truth is that there are no ultimate solutions, and few interim actions that can help us adjust to this, other than simply being with that pure personal profound experience.   This is the point where religion, philosophy, and culture carry one forward, if one is prepared, aware, saved, or perhaps only simply lucky.

 

Having a somewhat flexible (some call it “rubbery”) mind, I find having differing ideas of reality simultaneously is invigorating, as it provides 

the illusion that there are alternate solutions to the conundrum, and one only needs to make a choice.  As usual, this is easy to say, and very difficult to do.

 

The old and quite useful homily - “with acceptance comes peace” - springs to mind, as always, as it is a sure-fire way to work one’s way out of difficult situations, providing one is able to accept what distresses one without needing to “change” it to something “better.”   Then, unfortunately, comes the difficulty of accepting the “better” alternative, which once done, commits one to a firm course, which may turn out not to be the best course after all.  This is a common problem shared by all of humanity, as we all know, at least those of us who are human.  (I try to be inclusive.)  And so it goes, on and on, until we tire of the mental gymnastics and spiritual siphoning, and move on to more fruitful and less frightening endeavors.  Such is life, repeated endlessly, over and over, and that is only if we are among the lucky ones.

 

In my particular case, I sometimes theoretically consider the coward’s way out, that of “ending it all,” but purely as an intellectual and mental exercise, with no intention of actually moving forward.   I am truly grateful that most thoughts that I have do not ever get carried out in my real life, as that would lead to even more trouble than I now have, which is actually not very much, compared to many others who populate our planet.  As always, I can be grateful for what I do not have, along with what I have, however temporarily.

 

And so this brings up multiple difficulties, most of which are obvious, but that is very problematic for me to handle, since I actually like life, 

even with its many problems (or perhaps because of them), and have no idea what I would do with myself were I not alive to disturb and pester or even love other beings.  I say that with humor, but it is a real thought for me, and I play with it often in a theoretical way, with no 

specific intention to go forward with any real plan.  Besides, most options in that arena are messy, difficult for others, do not really solve the incipient problem, and are the ultimate “final” and quite cowardly decision.  

 

I think I’ll pass that one by, for now.

And, finally (whew!):

Friendships 

 

I have been lucky to have some lifelong deeply satisfying relationships with some guys I knew in college.  We very good became friends, and although our backgrounds were quite different and we went our separate ways after that, we always stayed in touch and occasionally got together and had good talks and lots of fun.  We were very close yet physically distant.

 

As I became aware that my dementia diagnosis was terminal, I started writing about it on one of my public websites.  Eventually it was clear that the disease was moving rapidly.   I had seen those who were in the late stages of dementia, and did not want to go through with that, so I began looking for options, including medically assisted suicide, and began openly writing about that process as an option.

 

My friends are very strong Catholics, and get much value from their religion.  I honor and respect that.  The more I wrote (we almost never see each other), the less I heard from them, until there was nothing.  I was not sure what was happening, since there were no responses.   

 

Early one morning as I lay awake, it  began to dawn on me as to what the problem might be.  I did find out shortly after some online questioning that indeed that was the issue, which was that their Catholic religious values and precepts prevented them from communicating further and shunning me.  This came through a third party after an inquiry from me.

 

I was stunned and surprised and curious, and after some direct and indirect inquiry found that my suspicions were correct, yet it was all over just like that, after almost sixty years, with no notice (it would not have changed the decision as to my course), and I found out through communication with a third party.

 

This happened a few hours ago, and I am stunned, yet not actually surprised.   While I do not understand much of the Catholic religion, I do respect anyone with strong beliefs.  So two and maybe three lifetime friendships are gone, just like that, with no warning or communication.

 

I see they likely handled it properly, and I respect those with strong moral beliefs that would require them to leave strong lifelong friendships.  I bear them no animosity, have learned a lesson, but I am still processing such a stunning turn of events.  They will always be my friends, even though we will no longer communicate and I am shut out of their lives.

 

I thought this was worth writing about, perhaps almost like therapy.  This happened yesterday as I write this, and I have begun to more fully understand, although I likely will not fully grasp it for a while, as I begin to process and accept it.

 

The twists and turns of life continue to amaze and astound me.  I do not blame others any more for my own faults and self-made problems, and I see how I actually was the prime cause and ultimately responsible for this, yet it is something so foreign to me that I am still learning to grasp it.  Life can be quite interesting occasionally, if not always.


 

May 25, 2022

Santa Fe NM

Final Observations:

 

I thought it might be useful (this is how I usually start my essays) to consider and discuss internally - and also simultaneously and openly - my thoughts about my ongoing dementia, (now entering its third year) for several reasons.

 

First, when I write thoughts down, then read them, they then occur differently to me upon the reading, than when they enter my frazzled brain and I attempt to transcribe them into words and phrases that are intelligible and meaningful to others.  I have done this all my life, since an early age, and was seen as a prodigy of sorts (a euphemism in the South, where I was raised and educated, for insanity, or at a minimum, the stupid dork who always did his homework), doing it sometimes for approbation, but usually to access those deepest inner thoughts, put them down into print, read them, correct all the glaring errors in my thought process, and then make them available to my vast world-wide audience, which can vary from one (me) to many (perhaps up to six or seven).   It is my way of contributing to the betterment of mankind, and it keeps me off the proverbial ledge, yet pays nothing other than ego-stroking.

 

I will again apologize, as always, for my long run-on sentences, and off-beat and unusual humor, but once an earth-shaking thought occurs which must be shared with an adoring public for the betterment of humanity, it keeps occurring, getting longer and longer to really explain what I really mean, and sometimes I go off the deep end.  You will soon see what I mean.  

 

I will further say that I am deadly serious about this, which is a weird way to describe it, yet I always use humor so as not to be too off-putting and to encourage the Reader to continue.  I used to fear speaking out of concern that “they would not invite me to their parties” but that never happens anyway, I do not like parties, and there are more interesting ways to waste time.

 

I often mask deep dark truths with humor (okay, always) as it takes the edge off, encourages the reader to continue one or two more moments to see if this a real stuff, and after a while, they/you are hooked.  I use twists and turns, provocative thoughts, absurd notions, and grand themes hidden among the verbal poppycock that eases the journey for the somewhat puzzled and concerned Reader.

 

Should you dare continue, you may be surprised, you will be entertained, and you likely will be provoked.  What better way to spend your precious time?  (This is called “the hook” in writer/author parlance.)

 

Further, I will also declare, as all honest authors do, that I do not write this.  Really.  It comes from elsewhere - I know not where - and I am not a religious yet am a deeply spiritual person, which may offend some of my Readers.  I encourage you to continue a bit further to see if this is something you might like to continue reading.  At this point,  I do not know where this will go (although some general themes such as ”meaning of life” and “the answer” and “the question” keep popping up), but as in life, there are no guarantees.   I like to write, as it keeps me out of the bars (mostly) and I enjoy the mental gymnastics.  I am also part Irish, which simply means I have more bullshit than the average person.


 

BACKGROUND:

 

First, a disclaimer.  I am a self-described “author and writer” with a background in logic and engineering and hard sciences, with experience in alternative therapies and modes of experience, and all those experiences have informed me, sometimes making me seem smart, often a bit crazy, but usually with a sprinkling of humor and self-deprecating insight.  This is intended to entertain, perhaps enlighten, and is not to be taken seriously, except for the important parts, which will not be marked nor annotated.

 

Finally, about my dementia.  It is both a blessing and a curse, and please allow me to explain, elucidate, entertain, all at once.

 

I am finding a certain fluidity or ease of thought, rapid facility with words and phrases that actually come out readily, are (IMHO, of course) quite witty and engaging and useful, even when people roll their eyes and gradually ease toward the exits.  No more “Mister Staid Nice Guy.”   I would be great at an authentic Irish pub on a Saturday night, and I have been there and done that, but was too shy and reticent to do anything other than listen in amazement and with a bit of jealousy.

 

Speaking of which, and while we are in the neighborhood, Liz and I are talking about a farewell tour for El Loco to Ireland this summer.   It is only the talking stages, for my thought is that I will not make it that far to be able to go out in polite company.  But the Irish pubs I have in mind might welcome someone with my current in-the-moment humor and jocular speech, or they might banish me forever from the Emerald Isle.  We shall see.  One of the benefits is that Exit International (Google it) has a chapter there, and are able to do the Final Exit process, so some of it could be tax-deductible.  I doubt I will make it that far, but, whatever.  Hope springs eternal.

I am adding an update to the previous paragraph:  We are no longer considering a "trip" or "vacation," simply something simple, maybe in the back yard, surrounded by the domestic animals and a few of the many thousands of the prairie animals, but it is hard to get them to understand formal invitations.

 

Some of you are likely now wondering how I can be so light and easy about all this, which is an excellent question.  My best answer is that I no longer, as I think I have said earlier (it’s all stream-of-consciousness” nowadays, whether I like it or not), have any motive to censor my speaking out of fear that “they” will not invite me to their parties any more, or might socially distance from me, the worst fear of a reticent and shy adolescent (I used to be one, now I'm a gregarious senior).   All that I do now is likely the last time, so as a data-driven engineer, I factor in the cost-benefit ratio.

 

Another reason is that what other choice is there?  I can go into a deep depression, contemplate suicide (been there, almost did that), become morose, moody, antagonistic, withdrawn, but I already do all that naturally and easily, so what would be the point?

 

As you can likely see, my mind and especially speech is far more “fertile” (we all know the euphemism for “fertile” if you have been in a cow pasture) and “interesting” now than before, since I care less and less about more and more, and likely will ultimately care nothing about everything, or maybe nothing about .  At that point, I expect to become Joe Biden’s speechwriter.   (You are going to have to learn to put up with my socio-political jibes to get any value at all from this, all intended as good fun.)

 

For those of you who think I am putting you on, I swear that I am not.  This is what always pops up in my wise-ass brain, but I have learned the hard way to censor my speech so as to be socially acceptable, and now that will not happen anyway, so it does not matter.

 

That smart-aleck little wise-ass punk that always resided within me, yet always or mostly previously suppressed, has now been given permission to speak, and all happens fluidly and with great ease and no embarrassment.   I am betting on this being a one way trip, since if it is not, I will be quite lonely in the future.  

 

And so, what of the future?  What shall I do?  Nothing other than go from day to day (a concept I almost never followed until now, always planning and scheduling and thinking and arranging, and seeking, and now I am in what the old hippies called the “eternal moment of now,” which is another term for vapid insanity.  We all should try it some time, as it is quite freeing, allows those brain cells to be used for something far more useful than cocktail party chatter (say, solving quadratic equations), and you always know that you will not be invited to tiresome parties any more.  Actually, no parties, but whatever.

 

There are no chapter headings, footnotes, references, or other “authorly” bullshit herein, since that takes too much time, and this will never be considered for Reader’s Digest or Book of the Month Club anyway.

 

So, let is proceed, and I hope you enjoy the ride. 


 

SUMMARY OF THE LAST THREE YEARS

 

I was diagnosed with dementia in the form of Alzheimer’s Disease almost three years ago, to my horror and surprise, did the requisite and usual research as an inveterate engineer, and found out I was toast.

 

I freaked out, went through all the stages of acceptance of a certain death sentence (the first of those was being born, and almost certain precursor to death, since my name was not Jesus), sought out remedies, refused to believe my doctors, found out they were right, went through all the usual stages, and ended up in acceptance, bounced back, and continued on.

 

Then I found that “it” started, I again was horrified, did all appropriate “inner work” which helped a little, read every available book, then brought out the heavy artillery, in the form of my horrible yet very necessary (to me) humor and deflection.  My dementia physician retired shortly thereafter (a very learned and somewhat crusty and highly respected authority on dementia), and he was replaced with a young physician named Ann Garcia, who was literally a God-Send (I say this as an agnostic).  She was and is perceptive, empathetic, quite informed, intuitive, and (now the feminists will tune out) a very nice attractive pleasant super-smart dementia specialist.   Liz and I both like her, she is attuned to the latest research, and most importantly, she laughs at my horribly lame jokes.  Physicians, take note

 

We meet with her next week, as we do occasionally, she listens actively and very well, is quite well connected within the medical community, and is open to discussions that sometimes are not encouraged within the medical system here in very Catholic Santa Fe.  I am lucky to have her, Liz respects her, and so all the boxes are checked, and we are moving on.  Except there is no place to move; it is terminal and definite.  It is all palliative from now on, as it always has been.

 

I am actually a lucky man to have all this support, even when it involves kicking my ass, which is occasionally greatly needed.

 

And so, what now?  (Always a good question to ask at a critical juncture (red pill or blue pill, which is a writer’s term of art and not a medical choice.)

 

Some homilies may provide the answer:

  •  One day at a time

  • Keep smiling and and nodding and laughing

  • Be kind to wives, animals, and most other people

  • Try to pay attention

  • Honor your betters, should you find any

  • Keep your innate humor and sunny outlook

  • Failing the above items, go out and get some right now

  • Perspective, perspective, perspective

  • Always remember, and never forget, that all is transitory - that is both the good and bad news

  • Consider writing a book about all the things you have learned, remember, and actively use.  Mine would be very short

  • Did I mention perspective yet?

 

So, this is it, for the duration.   I find I make far too many mistreaks :-) for my standards, it is tiresome to correct them, my laptop does not seem to like me any more, and my dog and cat still listen to my rants and awful jokes, even when asleep.  On the other hand, I feel more lucid, productive, care not what I say as long as it is true, which keeps me at home mostly, and far away from polite company, which I never liked anyway.  I am like the drunk old funny uncle at the Christmas party that everyone tries to avoid (that is my paranoia, and likely not true), I am tired, have said it all, and look forward to the next phase, which I embrace and am welcoming (since I have no choice).   As the old sexist jokes goes, "lay back and enjoy it."

I sure wish I had found this space earlier, but better late than never.

Vaya con dios!

El Loco

May 23, 2022

(p.s.   On second thought, I may not be through yet, so "don't touch that dial yet.")