At this moment in time as I type this, the 25th of June, 2022 (Edit: Yeah, it took me about five days to finish this post), I can earnestly say I have a brighter appreciation for life and the future. I withhold the knowledge that there is still much work to be done, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that have yet to be shed toward meaningful change and even greater quality of life.
Since the previous Low-Down, much has changed.
One, first and foremost above all, I got married in December 2020!
The love of my life is one that I've known for half of my lifetime. We went to high school together in 2002-2006, and apparently she had a crush on me back then. I say "apparently" because I had no idea, and I completely failed to pick up on her hints. I could make an entire news post about the history between Julia and I, but to keep this news post balanced, I'll say that my life has been made whole with the love I have for her, and the love she has for me. Since 2020 was still the height of the pandemic, we had a very small very cheap wedding in our hometown.
In addition to that, I spent the money and made the numerous trips to downtown Dallas to get a legal name change as we carve our own destiny together.
See, at some point in the last ten years, I learned that my father, John William Galt, was not a blood Galt. He was adopted into the Galts way back in the wake of WW2 (Dad was born in 1940, and his father was a prisoner of war, thought dead on the battlefield. Grandma remarried into the Galt's, and Dad would later relent that family "never really treated him like a Galt." Which irked me, but also made sense why we never vibed with them in family reunions.)
Upon this revelation, I pondered upon potential name-change ideas. Nothing of significance came to me in this time (but plenty of lame ideas did), until our marriage, and then I was inspired.
In our vows, I expressed how important teamwork and mutual respect are going to be for us as we raise a family. She had long prepared to ditch her last name, but I had a problem with the history of that tradition. Of men obtaining ownership of the wife, and that person (then, property) would reflect the name of the man. Almost erasing her family history by delegating it to a "maiden name."
I'm a feminist, a romantic, and a creative that wanted to do something cool and original. So my "Galt" and her "Pineda" became merged into "Galneda" No hyphen, just straight-up permanently fused. It required a lot of trips downtown for me to get the paperwork squared away, but we are now legally the first Galnedas. My best friend even bought us a small deed of Scottish land to make us officially "Lord Galneda" and "Lady Galneda" respectively which I think is extremely cool. All that I need to do now is to draft our official coat of arms and do whatever else to officialize a new family being created.
The timing of our marriage was really surreal in hindsight. Covid hit the US and it brought her and I closer together. My cat Rag was getting ill with something effecting his kidneys or liver- repeated vet visits, at a time when I was really struggling with money, only clarified what he didn't have; it wasn't feline leukemia, it wasn't this, it wasn't that, but my cat was getting thinner and thinner. He died literally one week before my wedding. It was a tremendous loss to me, but I did everything I could to nurture him and make his time on earth as peaceful as possible. I'm certain that cat knew he was loved.
2019, my brother Eddie passed away due to complications of diabetic ketoacidosis and kidney failure. He flatlined right around the same time a tornado had ripped through north Dallas, very close to the hospital he stayed at, by sheer coincidence. I am the youngest of my father's four boys, and Eddie's death marked the first of us to go. He was the second oldest. The brothers have never been the same, and neither have I.
This is around the time I began my sobriety. Come October I'll be three years without alcohol. No other intoxicants besides caffeine in me.
2020 took my cat. Yet, in 2021, both my Dad and my Grandmother were visiting the hospital at increasing frequencies. Since Covid, Grandma had been moved into a senior center that restricted socializing so badly that we couldn't visit her. In her depression, her health spiraled, but my mother kept me in the dark as to how she was doing because she didn't want to worry. We lived with my father who was having health complications of his own- now with cirrhosis of the liver, and it was the task of my wife and I to help caretake my father.
Once in 2021, we needed to take my Dad to the hospital, but due to the Covid policies, only one visitor was allowed with a patient at a time. Mom came out after checking on Dad, handed me a stack of papers, and told me to go visit Grandma in the same hospital on a different floor. I was floored, because I had no idea she was also here at this time. What I didn't know was that this was the last time I would ever see her. It was even more mournful than the last time I saw Eddie. Rigged up to machines in a hospital bed.
Eddie was somewhat responsive the last time I saw him. About four or five days before his death. Grandma was not. She was 91, and some short time later, she passed away. The power of attorney issue in the wake of her has been a headache for my mother, but we are finally putting her ashes to rest next month. Driving to her hometown of Lebanon, Illinois.
Meanwhile, my Dad's health worsened.
I changed jobs several times. By the time I made the last post here on Newgrounds, with long hair and portly proportions, I was working night shift freight team for Home Depot. It was a good workout, but the benefits and pay were underwhelming. My writing partner got himself a job doing security for a company called HSS. I applied as well, to discover that this was specifically security for Hospitals. I kept with the nightshift so that Dad had more coverage at home, Julia working construction as an electrician's apprentice during the day, and me handling security at night.
(Here, the before and after of an enthusiastic, freshly shaved guard, and haggard me getting ready to quit this boring place)
This helped a couple of ways. Being hospital security, nobody stopped me to enforce the "one visitor a day" rule on patients. My Dad was entering the hospital more and more around this time. Liver cirrhosis. Although he's been sober since the 80's, decades of drinking prior to his sobriety, poor eating habits, diabetes, and a sedentary lifestyle caught up with him. Seeing him like that brought about a chilling importance for physical fitness and dietary restrictions. I tried to lean hard on him to do the right thing, even though he was pretty belligerent sometimes.
Y'know, even if he was wrong and he was being called out on it, he was from a time where it was pretty normal to square up and try to intimidate people down. He only raised his hand on me once in his life. He swung a cane at me in the middle of an argument, and I caught it with my wrist. It didn't hurt as badly as the observation hurt me that he could get mad enough to do that...but my oldest brother assured me that it used to be much worse. And the love is there for him and it's real, not just out of forgiveness, but out of a glowing respect to how much he has changed for the better.
And there at the end, in 2021, I saw even more change. And yet, I saw the same old belligerence. He would cooperate when we made adjustments to his lifestyle. He would work with us as my mother, my wife, and I made it work. He relied on his cane more and more, and sometimes he would fall. The cirrhosis, it retains liquid that the organs can't process correctly, and it makes him heavier. His legs, atrophied from sitting all day, would give out. When he was bloated like that and he fell to the ground, sometimes two people weren't enough to get him back up.
The cane was replaced with the walker. And when the walker wasn't enough, we rented a wheelchair from the hospital. When it wasn't enough to park the wheelchair at the steps to the porch and walk him up into the house, Julie found a guy, and we replaced those steps with a concrete ramp. We renovated rooms for him, it was a part of a daily routine every morning and every night. And the entire time I helped him, he thanked me and reminded me that he loved me.
I did it for that. I figured, he'd changed diapers for four boys, it was time somebody got his. I also did it, and pushed through the really tough times, by considering it training. This was the crucible for me to navigate that would simulate taking care of a baby, which- at that time, I was not sure if I was ready to do. But here I had a dependent, that necessitated a lot of care and attention at all hours. A dependent that sometimes couldn't articulate what they needed, and one that required specific food with restrictions and clothing and linens and clean up after they made waste. Dealing with waste, dealing with medication, dealing with doctor appointments and navigating them safely to them. Holding them accountable to a plan.
There were days where I didn't know how much more I could take it. That this was unreasonable, and it was too much. But we knew an assisted living situation like a senior center would just be a lonely death sentence for someone as social as him. So we stayed on it. Julie and I switched jobs to work in opposite schedules of my oldest brother, who worked at Texas Instruments. A semiconductor fabrication facility that works three days on one week, and four days on the other. Julie and I worked on one half of the week, my brother on the other, so Dad had full coverage.
Dad believed in a lot of things over the course of his life. He believed in reincarnation, and he believed in ghosts. He swore up and down he lived in a haunted house with a benevolent ghost that he called "Misses White." He theorized ghosts were people that just got left out of the loop in the cycle of life, perhaps willingly, or perhaps they were lost. And in the last decade or more of his life, he was very vocal about how he was ready "for the next adventure." He was tired of it all. Tired of the pain, tired of the boredom, sick of his body failing left and right. Nurses told him his dietary restrictions? He would joke and say "My diet is very simple: if I enjoy it, I can't eat it." Nurses told him he had to exercise more? "I'm a creature of comfort, I don't like pain." So he sat. And he griped. And his learned helplessness evolved into real helplessness.
He was entering the hospital every month toward the latter half of '21. Every two weeks, he needed to be drained through paracentesis. At one point, he was bloating at such a rate that we even tried to argue once a week, paracentesis. And then when we'd sit in on doctor's appointments, he would lie to the doctor claiming everything was fine, but everything was not fine. He'd come out of those paracentesis appointments a completely different belt size, and he would look so frail. Every time it got done, he'd look worse and worse afterwards. He used to have such a booming voice, and he would be reduced to a whisper. He would sit haunched forward in his chair, wilted, and exhausted to greater and greater depths every time, like a fading flame.
He passed away in early January this year. He was born on the fourth day of the fourth month of 1940.
It still comes in waves. It probably will from now on. But this is one of many significant events that have transpired in the past few years. They called me his clone, and I based most of my passions off of his. I have become an author because he was an author. I have become a voice actor because he was a voice actor. I became a martial artist because he was a martial artist. I hope to become a father someday as well. I do what I can to spread his wisdom to others in need of it. He was always the light of the room, outspoken, and passionate for imagination and creativity. I want him to live on, and I can pay tribute to his memory by carrying the torch with his infectious, charismatic spirit. The heart of a storyteller with the voice of a performer.
This Cyanide & Happiness short was his final performance. He is the Cosmic Arbiter. Two for One Todd is me.
He would always say to me, One must let go of what was in order to achieve what can be.
And I've repeated that many times, to myself and to friends as advice. He was always such a psychic entity, he had intuition and gut feelings that were supernatural. He was impossibly attuned to unexplainable things, and it may have saved his and other's lives numerous times. With someone so psychic and so certain of ghosts, I was sure there would be a haunting in the house.
But Julie is in the know on some things as well. I had seen her do this when Rag died, where she opened a window near his body to permit the spirit to be free outside. Dad passed away in our arms, in his room. After she attempted CPR, she made way for the EMT's and opened the window there.
I have to think that maybe he made it out. He's already onto his next adventure, because he is not here. Just as with Eddie's passing, I did not feel him at his ceremony, and I did not feel him in his apartment. It ate away at me for a while, because I'd suspect I was broken, or perhaps numb/blind/deaf to the spiritual energies, but I do not feel Dad's presence. Yet he comes to me in dreams. I have to wonder if it's really him or just what my brain would generate to simulate something familiar. Sometimes I'm aware in the dream, like "Oh, waitaminute, how are you here?" But the dreams are so hazed by forgetfulness, I never remember his response. I can't recall the specifics of our interactions, but I remember him being there. Sometimes in my periphery, just out of sight.
You would think it comforting, but sometimes it's frustrating. I wish I could ask him questions. I wish we could talk more. But I'm trying to find comfort in it, because this is what he wanted. No longer limited by flesh burdened by time, I should be happier that he's free of pain. I know that I am happy sometimes, but lately the dips have been blindsiding me.
I am in midair between points in my life, and I am still discovering just what is it that makes me who I am. Who is the person that my wife knows me to be, that contradicts the gremlins in my mind that would have me believe I'm something I'm not. The sins of my father are not mine, and I am not his clone. I am not him, nor am I better or worse. I am different, and my thoughts are my own. His burdens are not mine to bare. The gifts he's bestowed onto me do not belong to him. I'm not obligated to make the same mistakes that he made, and I can find new ways to achieve my chief definitive aim in life.
I can do it all for me. But I can also do it in his honor. And I'll do it the best that I can.
I have goals. I feel the warmth of destiny intensify with every passing day. I hear the grains of sand spill within the hour glass. I've been writing this post for far too long.
With my strong and beautiful wife at my side, it's possible. All of my goals are within reach. I just have to put in the work and the time.
I'm ready for what's next.
Thanks for stopping by <3