XP n Me (also a huge post about my grandma)

XP makes my laptop useable, not only because the software I use on a daily basis runs on it acceptably (Colibri, various games that make use of OpenGL, and also the camel-breaking-straw Cisco VPN Client), but also because startup is 40% faster (using my calibrated patienceometer) and every single task is noticeably faster. It has been very nice to not be tethered to home for my vpn usage, so I can do various afterhour tasks from any location that has decently fast internet, meaning that while I am still working a lot of afterhours events, I am less likely to be viciously angry during them. This is good, because I tend to work a little less erratically when I’m not cursing at the top of my lungs and scaring the dogs.

I said I’d post more about my (paternal) grandmother’s timely-and-expected-but-still-very-sudden death, and I’m about to do so. She was 82, and had lived a very long life. She had stopped “living” (in the “enjoying the bounty of Earth with your senses” sense) entirely six years ago, upon the death of my grandfather, and effectively some four years earlier when she fell in the tub and broke her hip. She eschewed physical therapy for an alternative healing theory that I will call “sitting around and waiting for death” at that time, and every moment spent away from her recliner, or better yet, her bed, was a painful one filled with self-imposed doubt and fear. I know her only as a shrewish but relatively affable old woman, who the world once whipped (with a substance abusing husband and a natural aversion to social activity) and thus redirected the rest of her life to the study of large type mystery novels and harsh judgment of others. I loved her, in the way that one loves family that one cannot really stand, I certainly did not hate her. She was always that paper-skinned old woman to me, the one that asked “why” instead of doing ten times out of ten, the one that saw the difficult stairs in front of a building instead of the treasures within, the wait for the table instead of the delicious food, the opportunity for betrayal instead of the promise of friendship. She was so much like me I couldn’t bear it. She taught me that cynicism was a lifestyle that had to exist twenty four hours a day, and that comedy that did not mock someone else was a watered down sauce. I remember her favored method of dispensing knowledge, the head forward, shaking, as if the truth had to be flung in droplets from her baby soft jowls. It had a formula. ‘Aaron, you have to understand, this man (or woman, or group, or car, or official, or job, or country) was a (disgrace, poor family, pile of junk, idiot of the first degree, embarrassment to the crown, etc).’ Followed by a point by point burning of their most disappointing or damning features. She would then make her one unique gesture, a kind of laugh-bray-shiver that involved holding her hands up as if warding off the whole affair, as if this were something at the same time funny and terrifying, a joke we should all get but be frightened of. I worry that I will become like her in my old age, unable to enjoy anything, merely serve as the counterpoint to someone elses enjoyment. Anything above subsistence level was an indulgence, a childish want. That we should want more than one set of sheets was silly, food that tasted good? As long as it tasted good while still being cheap. Gifts were for children. Chances were given once, if that, and then trust was gone forever.

Once, upon realizing that I had made a mistake leaving college, I came back home, and asked for the opportunity to go back to community college, asking effectively if I could live with either grandmother to save the cost of renting a place. My paternal grandmother looked at me very solemnly, with all the warmth she could muster, and mentioned how proud my grandfather would have been that I came back begging for a second chance at education. I began to weep, because my pride had been demolished, but I was happy that I would be able to reorganize my life, head back down a better path. She then informed me that, and these are her words, “the family simply c[ouldn’t] waste the money for that again”. I stared up, red eyed and not comprehending, until I saw that face, and understood the comment for what it was. No second go, you made your bed, that’s where you’ll lie. I think that was effectively the last time we spoke. The past seven years have only been pleasantries and polite conversation.
I don’t hate her. I don’t _exactly_ hate her. Didn’t, since hating the dead is sort of ridiculous. But I did loathe her a little.

I’m glad she didn’t suffer, and the effects on my dad have been disconcerting, but my own reaction to it is mixed relief and distant sadness. I hope she’s happy wherever she is now.

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