Last month we broke up with our cable company. We were paying an outrageous amount of money each month, and after watching them offer everything but oral sex to new customers, while telling us to basically bend over when we tried to reduce our plan to something more reasonable, we said good bye. Now, for the first time since, oh, 1979, I don't have cable TV. It's weird, but not in a bad way. See now that we have a baby, and a new car payment, we needed to tighten the budget somewhere. We are not extravagant people, so most of our spending is necessary, but it became clear that every show that we follow on the old boob tube is available online, and most of them are free. So cable was the logical victim. So far I'm not missing it, though I think Mrs. Marius might be. I did just have a bit of an epiphany, though. Our television consumption has shifted from passive to active. It's strange to think of TV as anything but passive, but the simple act of watching a show online requires deliberate, albeit minor, action. We can no longer just turn on the box and become couch potatoes, mindlessly pressing the channel up button until something causes a couple of brain cells to fire and we stay there for a few minutes or more. Now we have to decide that it's time to watch X; we have to log in, find the web site that carries X, and then watch. Granted I'm not going to be monitoring my standing heart rate while downloading the latest Mythbusters from Amazon.com, but it does strike me as interesting that an activity that has for nearly a century been considered one of the least active things you can do, when coupled with a technology that takes passivity to a whole new level, you get a requirement of deliberateness.
I think I just blew my own mind.
Yesterday was one of those Dickensian 'best of times/worst of times' kind of days, but before I get to that let me explain a bit about what family means to me. I am not unique in having two distinct families; the one I was born into, and the one I chose, but the chosen family is different to what most of y'all out there would recognize. I've told y'all about the SCA, the Medieval recreationist group I have dabbled with over the years, and many of you are part of my SCA family so this won't be news to you, but most of my extended family comes from that group. Familial ties sprout up in the SCA as a natural part of the creation of your persona, and as friends gravitate together and households get formed, the family structure makes a great deal of sense...although sometimes the metaphor can get a bit strained. For example concepts like incest tend to get ignored leading to sometimes strange statements like 'I'd like you to meet my girlfriend, and sister.' But even though it's all in good fun the emotional bonds we form with our family members are very real, and often last a lifetime.
Now let's set the Way-Back machine to 1981. It was the height of my Dungeons and Dragons playing years, and my brother told me about a woman he knew who ran an awesome D&D game. I soon met Barbara for the first time, and became a regular at her table. She was quite a but older than us, but the age range of her regular players ran from my age and a bit younger, to people in their 30's, so it didn't seem the least bit strange. Her games were elaborate, rich with detail, and a blast to play, and it didn't take long before I was one of the regular cadre of folks that hung out at her place. Both she and her husband at the time were affiliated with the local police department, and she was the den mother of the men and women in blue in our town. During our D&D times we had often heard of the SCA, but in these pre-Internet days we had no idea how to track them down. Then I graduated high school and moved to Gainesville, Florida and went to the University of Florida. Shortly after I arrived I spied a flyer saying that the SCA would be doing a demonstration at the school soon, and my friend Adam and I eagerly attended. The beginnings of my SCA career were, to say the least, ignominious, but we shall leave that for another time. The important bit here is that I quickly acquired contact information for the branch back home, and sent that info with all speed to all my friends, including, of course, Barb.
To encapsulate the events of the ensuing 30 years or so would take more time, kilobytes, and functioning brain cells than I have available at this time, but very soon Natasha(as Barb became known) became better and better known in the Kingdom, and as a first aid practitioner, or Chirugeon, she was one of the only people who knew the signs when I was in trouble on the lyst field and saved my ass on numerous occasions when the heat was just too much (she was rarely far away when I was in armor, as seen in the above pic. that's her behind me). I honestly can't recall how she became Matka, Russian for mother, to me, but it made so much sense that I never needed to question it. She has been my second mother for more than half of my life, and in some ways knows me better than my biological mom ever did.
Now we are back to the present. Barb has had many health issues over the past few years, and one that will ultimately send her away from us, but there is no telling how soon that will happen. Could be today, could be next year. I was told about this when Mrs. Marius was about 6 months pregnant, and I told Barb in no uncertain terms that she was not to go anywhere until she got to meet her granddaughter. Well, yesterday that finally happened. We gathered up the kids and drove the 2 1/2 hours north to visit. Under any other circumstances I'd have waited for a free couple of days so we could have a leisurely visit, but due to work schedules and such we could only stay a couple of hours and then head back home. It was great to see Barb, and the rest of the family with whom she lives, but the drive home could only be described as hellish. The baby doesn't mind the car, but HATES her car seat, and the Child of the Apocalypse just hates everything these days, so the ride was less than fun. Then, once we got home at 9:30, the baby was wide awake, though I was exhausted. But, I'd do it all again to get these pictures:
So Matka, you know I love you and have for a very, very long time, and I am so grateful for having you in my life, and I'm even more grateful that you got to meet Sharon. Now you have to stick around til she's talking so you can tell her stories. (you didn't really think I was letting you go, did you?) :-)
Your loving son,