Two big things happened this week.

The first was my mom’s death. The second was being on the verge of full recovery from the cold so eloquently described in last week’s post.

With that background of introduction, here’s a charming word for you. Flem. With the slightest inflection of a German accent, it sounds horrible. Say it. “Flehhhm-in-zee. You just know, right? You know nothing called that can be anything good. I am floored…no, gob-smacked at how much adhesive-quality goop has been coming up out of me – whether I want it or not. Are you kidding me? The other day I caught myself mumbling something about, “What, am I running a factory for this stuff or something?”

OK, thus endeth the whine. Time to buck-up and finish the work of getting back to full-battle strength.

Having experience with colds, I had a template of patience for the process. What was cool was picking up a template I knew and cloning it as a pattern for another situation. I relied on my evaluation of it to successfully navigate this week’s white-water.

Lesson: Be mindful as to the nature of changes you sense as they occur…it’s all about where you’re at with it. The massive amount of feedback our bodies provide tells us a lot – like it does in my post-cold situation. As the cold goes through its paces, its conditions recede. We’ve all had colds. It’s pretty much common knowledge how they go. Our experiences teach us brighter pastures are coming around the bend.

Conversely, my cold has given me an awareness of the grind that comes with the cold wet monotony of being truly responsible and dedicated to tending to mechanical details of my daily life. This may not come as any headline, but you already know, it’s not easy out there. There. I just saved us both the cost of a newspaper.

So as I fume at the lazy and uninspired pace at which my cold is working its’ way out of me, I can (and do) read the signs my body is producing. Reading them informs my feeling confident it’s not going to be long before I’m going to be feeling fully fine. cue: This would be the point in the program where we all put one pinky finger up to our teeth and say: [all together now] “Eexccellenntt”.

I wrote two weeks ago about my mom’s response to my question of whether she wanted to talk. “Absolutely Not”. This week, she died.

What I find curious is for having been alerted to her passing, relatively speaking, I’m not all that upset.

Vowing to never be blind-sided like I was with my dad’s death, I took the time to cultivate listening posts I could trust to telegraph me anything they felt I should know. I deeply value the relationships I have with those few. I also got a brief phone call from my son, making sure that I knew. I don’t get calls from him during this period of our reintegration, but he called when it mattered. I very much want to talk to him about what was going through his head during the call he initiated. I love him for me wanting to know. Time will tell.

Point is, I caught another fleeting glimpse of how, after years and years of my mom wanting no relationship with me at all, and then her deciding if I kept insisting on wanting some manner of a functional relationship, her contribution would be going out of her way to treat ours as an adversarial relationship.

But like I said, I found out quickly. I have a little more insight into how quickly mom’s death had approached. I know some of the underlying medical issues accelerating her end. And thinking about her death as a new matter-of-fact? I’ve done some of that this week too. She died. She’s gone. In that I find no cause for celebration about something that will come to reach each of us.

But it is equally true that there isn’t much left to process about the state of affairs between her and I. In the same breath I use to replay all those old tapes, I feel like I’ve just set down a heavy duffel bag, one I’d been carrying for years. It was a good duffel. Most of the time, I never even really noticed it. It served me well in carrying the one piece of hopeful I held on to for her. Who knew? I chalk that up to me knowing how important it is to never-say-never. Maybe, just maybe, my mom and I could be good, or at least functional with one another. And if that ever happened, I was going to need my ‘stuff’ close-by. Even though it was past history, my duffel held files of the times when, as a kid, I really did have a blast; did think I was loved and did think, I was lucky.

But to be fair, I know the price for being honorable in my present conduct is being committed to looking at all the files, not just the good ones. One of bad ones (for many years) was a clear and non-delusional data-set chronicling the gauntlet I ran for being nothing other than different in the very strict evangelical bubble of experience that was my universe back then.

The world was flat.

Now, having gotten her news, it took a day or two to be able to define what I was feeling…such as it was.

And just then, it hit me.

That’s it. I had tried to her very end. And now, it was over. Done. For those parts, I finally had cause, to set my duffel down. With mom’s death, the precious ember of love I’d tended to so carefully, for so long, went with her. There will be no reconciliation and that’s the way she wanted it. She won, again. Or did she.

For all those years of emotional manipulation, what is it she won? For all that effort, what did she gain? Was it nothing more complicated than her being addicted to having things her way?

One of the sadder choices my family has made has been not being able to see me grow into the genuine me. They just do not want to know. They know precious nothing about my extended family through Rick (and Elsie). They know nothing of either my triumphs or, the tsunamis. They have no idea of how I never gave up hope for something better. I miss them. But you know what? I don’t live there anymore. I suspect I have very little in common with the ‘me’ my family has conjured up for themselves over the years.

In that same vein, I’ve also caught myself wondering if, in all the years of re-telling, has the rigid narrative finally grown brittle. It explains why maybe they so vehemently refuse to open themselves up to even the possibility that our affairs always hold the incarnate potential to be better than they are.

But for all of that, it really does seem to be where they decided to stay. And while they set up their fort in that place, I was doing my own work of getting here from there. And make no mistake; I am in complete agreement with the proposition of continuing to do the work till the day I die.

As intriguing as this bit of TMI (too-much-information) might be, I found something valuable in between recurring bouts of needing to cough every time I changed positions inside the ‘warm spot’ under my covers. All my body needs now is for the last of the flem I’ve been producing to get up and go. Same kind of thing with mom.

Same song.

Second Verse.

Same as the first.

It’s done. It’s time.

I wish I had been in their lives as much as I wanted them in mine. I wish I were there now to render comfort and strength. But this is not Walton’s Mountain. And in the meantime, I’ve since made my way to some amazing places in Life. I learned how to love. In fact, I have come to relax to the point of loving lots of things; things like the people in my life, the friends I’ve had, the love of tennis, the writing, Rick’s cooking and working my craft where I work. And my family doesn’t want to see any of it. Sad…stupid, but sad.

Reading her carefully constructed obituary, I made it a point to stare deeply into her picture. I could see the steel in her eyes, but I also saw how heavy her choices had worn. And she did that. And she didn’t have to! But she did. As I read, I noticed my name mentioned in the survived-by list. But in reading just a little further, the whole farce of the tragedy deepened into even darker depths of grecian comedy. With a perplexed sense of amazement, I got to the part of the obituary that outlined the details of her services, it said: “Private services will be in XXXName Cemetary*****, &&&&City^^^^, by invitation only.”

Invitation only? For a funeral? What is this, 1962 in Hyannis Port?

After all this time and distance, I saw the stark outline of the fear they’ve cultivated for themselves. So much so they still felt it necessary to make it clear, in print, that I’m not on their list. And they don’t even know me.

The time to show up at mom’s was before she died. Who shows up afterwards?

Earlier in the week, I read something Umair Haque wrote I thought was really interesting. Reading it as something of a distraction unrelated to what I was going through, but the more it wandered around my imagination, the more I began to think I’d gotten it wrong. It was essentially related. Haque writes:

“Here’s a question.  Why are you (really) here?

Aloha: If there’s a single lament-slash-question I get most often — and most pointedly — lately, it goes something like this: “Listen, Deepak Kafka. I’ve read your stuff about living a meaningful life; I’ve followed your advice; I’ve even spent long evenings at dive bars, just like you recommend. But what the blazes do I do with mine?  I’ve searched high and low, looked far and wide, listened long and loug, but I still can’t find anything even vaguely resembling my Purpose”.

Let me offer you, then, my top four admittedly idiosyncratic — yet hopefully pragmatic — tips.

Be uncool enough to love. Purpose is a kind of love; it bridges the gap between the individual and the world.”

He goes on to cover several other tips like: 1) Head into your heartbreak zone. 2) the NASCAR Principle which rolls something like: ‘What are you going to make a dent in — that’s worthwhile enough to make a dent in you?’.

Kafka adds ‘Purpose’ to his short list when he says:

..finding a purpose is not like shopping. The unforgiving truth us: it’s a little more like boot camp. It hurts, it’s hard, but you can emerge fitter, tougher, better. Want purpose? Prepare to be left black and blue — all over, over and over again. Purpose beats you up; it bruises you; it’s no mere shadow-boxing with “life goals” but a bare-knuckle gladiatorial contest between you, and the heavyweight champion known as a life that matters. Like Big Love, it doesn’t just give you scrapes — it leaves with you scars.”

I agree.

But this week, my need-to-know efforts were even more thorough than usual. I could get into describing the body of literature I’ve researched this week about sociopaths, psychopaths and the differences between them, but I won’t. What I will say is having gotten to the point where I’m able to itemize the mom-flem remnants seeping out of my soul this week is huge. Because when you can name them, you can set the duffel down.

I may not be able to make sense of so much of the reasoning behind my peoples unified and oppositional front, maintained at such cost and over so many years. But I have acquired my own experience independent of theirs.

Emotionally, my duffel of family stuff served its purpose. It gave me a place to put important things I’ve learned.

My duffel made it easy to always have those things with me, ever available for consultation in-the-moment. Now, the sentence formed by my mother’s central role in all that swirled ‘angry’ has been punctuated with a period. I don’t know what the future might hold relative to the chance of a change or thaw with my siblings now that mom is gone. I have no predictions.

What I do know is, wherever the roaring river takes me, I’m so grateful for all the bad stuff. It helped me build a chart to guide myself into the right currents, all of them taking me to where I need to be when I get to where I’m going. I’m so thankful for having the river knowledge I do when it comes to my family. In large part, the reasons I know what I stand for and why I love who I do is because I passed through every one of their cauldrons and came out the other side.

The other day, a delivery truck driver called the office, asking for directions to our facility. I asked him, “Where are you right now?”. He paused, ‘I don’t know…’

That wasn’t helping me (or him) at all. How do you know what road to take if you don’t where you’re at to begin with? But guess what…the opposite is true as well. Know who you are and where you’re at, and you can navigate just about anything Life throws at you. Besides, if you think about it, all a map really does is give two points a platform on which to connect via some kind of line over the topography represented between them. And then?

You can get from there to here.

While keeping eye on the emotional GPS markers inside of each of us, I hadn’t anticipated gaining a new appreciation for seeing its rippling strength underneath the quiet and day-in-day-out routine of simply walking it out every day. It isn’t about knowing where all the lines are, sometimes it boils down to how you fold them.

I was reading JMGoyder’s blog (aka Julie), Wing and Things [] and one of her commenters quoted something attributed to Mark Twain (though I can’t find source verification).

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  ~ Unknown

Life is good. I wish you good fortune in folding your paper this week.

Won’t it be fun to go sailing when you’re done?. I can’t wait.

See you on the river.

My musical offering this week is for my family – all of them. Click and enjoy:

PHOTO CREDIT and ATTRIBUTIONS: Origamie Sailboat with my personal appreciation for the focus Year Stuck gave me in her post at just the time I needed it worst. Stunned by her unwitting sense of timing, I salute her for her choice.


Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) –; Glimpse in a Full Moon:; Purpose: How to find your Purpose (Havque); TMI: Source Graphic @; Worn Duffel:; Getting Directions:; How to Let Your Purpose Find You by Umair Haque, (8:00 AM October 22, 2012 in the Harvard Business Review:; Julile (JMGoyder): julie-ants-and-ming-2009 @; Flag of the Red Cross:

There’s been so much to cover this week and I’ve gone on so long, but there is still so much more to know. So if you do want to Read More About it, let me first start with the disclaimer.

I didn’t go to medical school and I don’t play a doctor on TV. I do however, have the highest regard for the work of so many in psychiatry, psychology and sociology. The following is provided only as a springboard if you have the need to look into what’s involved in someone around you being some flavor of sociopath. Be thoughtful as you learn. And if you think you’re at a point where it’d be good to talk to a qualified professional, you should.

This is no bowl of mashed potatoes. Now onto what may be the top seven clinical definitions and/or characteristics of a sociopath.

Profile of the Sociopath: This website summarizes some of the common features of descriptions of the behavior of sociopaths.


  1. Glibness and Superficial Charm;
  2. Manipulative and Conning: They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.;
  3. Grandiose Sense of Self : Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”;
  4. Pathological Lying; Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  5. Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt; A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.;
  6. Shallow Emotions: When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.;
  7. Incapacity for Love.

~ + ~

You can read the entire article at the link shown above. Be careful to remember there is a spectrum of behavior you’re looking at. It is very important to come to any conclusions with great respect. Below are a few more places where you can ‘read more about it’. I wish you well in your research. Dan



– ## –

About dan4kent

Born and raised in the Midwest, Dan lives in the Chicagoland area. With a grown son from a previous marriage, he has since built a committed relationship of 33 years with his partner Rick, the Love of his Life. Having written his whole life, he blogged for years because he has to write…he can’t help it. Know the feeling? There’s ‘good‘ to be found in all of it. “If all I do is leave someone (or something) better than I found them, then I’ve done my part. Thanks for letting me grace your screen, if only for a little while.”
This entry was posted in Gay, Hope, Inspiration, LGBT, Life, Life Lessons, Love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to SAIL AWAY

  1. yearstricken says:

    I haven’t been able to read your post until tonight. I am sorry for the pain and loss in the relationship with your mother. We each must make our way through sorrow, and though we would never choose that path, it’s often the place we learn the greatest truths.

    • dan4kent says:

      It’s so very cool that you find your way to spend some of your time with me. I appreciate your words of condolance, but am equally blinded by the sheer Truth you point to in terms of how the ‘lessons learned’ come to pass. Be well. Be you. Me and many others are counting on it. Your friend in the blogosphere. Dan

  2. Dan,
    I feel as though I’ve just witnessed a particularly profound “share” at a recovery meeting. Thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope. As I was reading what Kafka said about Purpose, I was reminded of the closing call to action in the meetings: Keep coming back. It works, if you work it. So, work it because you’re worth it.

    I truly am always encouraged and inspired to get back into the fray and do the work I need to do, in order to achieve the understanding of who I am, where I am at and what direction I really want to go vs the direction I’ve been heading, whenever I read your posts.

    Congratulations on having stayed true to you by carrying the duffle in order to be available and prepared for the possibility of reconciliation. Even more so for being able to put it down in true closure.

    Thanks for showing the way.


    • dan4kent says:

      Kina!!! You probably felt that way because it was. So then, a toast to the picking up, and the setting down of each of our duffles, both acts dependent on the grace of knowing when it’s time to do it. It was good to have you stop by so we could walk around my insides, if only for a little while. Uber cool. Like you. Uber cool. See you at the next meeting (ha!). Dan

      • Dan,
        Next meeting is tomorrow, November 3 on my blog where you and your blog get linked and mentioned, along with others of our fellow travelers whom you may or may not have met. See you there.


      • dan4kent says:

        Excellent. I’m intrigued. So I’m RSVP’ing ‘yes’. RSVP = really special, very present. Travel well, as will I. Dan

  3. I wish I knew what to say to you for what you’ve been going through these days, but I don’t. No amount of words would be appropriate. Complications in family relationships are just about the most painful and the most difficult to handle in life. As you said, “sad… stupid, but sad.” How true. I come from a dysfunctional family too and that’s why I could somehow relate.
    When things get beyond my control, all I could manage is tell myself (with a shrug), – “So be it.” Again, easier said than done.
    Do you think there might be some closure on your part for now?
    Powerful post indeed, and a beautiful one as well.
    With admiration, Marj

    • dan4kent says:

      Marj — I really value the depth of understanding you’ve displayed in what you thought to write. There is nothing ‘sad’ about what has happened in you. As to closure? I used to wrestle with an authentic definition of ‘closure’…I kept thinking about some kind of ziplock sandwich bag. That seems like shuttng the air out…and I’ve grown fond of breathing air. For me, I think closure has come to mean a working relationship with the bad that enhances my ability to function ‘normally’. And if I’m ‘functional’, I’m enabled to be on Good’s team, do my part and have it mean something.
      The sad never leaves, but Life does go on. So maybe the real choice in all this for me over the years has been: Do I stay in the bleachers; or, do I take my own field and play it out in the mud, with turf in my teeth. I choose ‘Play”. No waffling on that call.
      Do I feel lighter? Yes. Do I feel smarter about my insides? Yes. Will that matter to members of my family? Not my call. It’s not mine to carry (like the duffle that served its purpose). With mom gone, what happens next for them, will be up to each of them to declare. I’ll keep you posted. Dan

  4. purplemary54 says:

    Well, reading your post today taught me that I am not a sociopath. I already knew that, but I’m pretty sure my hypochondria extends to mental illness, too, so better safe than sorry.

    I could offer sympathies, but I think I’ll offer empathies instead. I understand how you feel. And there’s peace in understanding that you did your best, but now this is done. Whatever happens now is what happens, for better or worse. I wish you luck.

    • dan4kent says:

      PM54 – So pleased to see you in my in-box. I graciously accept empathies any day. They mean so much more than some canned Hallmark moment. And I second your emotion RE: doing your best. It’s the most any of us can ever do. But I also suspect you know that already. Well written and even better, received. Be well in your walk this week. Dan

  5. Dear Dan,
    I would offer my sympathy but instead I will tell you, I am proud of you….For never being afraid to be the person you are. It would be so easy/so accepted to write about the regrets surrounding your relationship with your mother now that she has passed. Instead, you write the honest truth…and you know in your heart what is right. Keep on doing what is right and good. Keep on sailing.

    • dan4kent says:

      Mel – It’s always a good day when someone tells you they are proud of you. While ‘right and good’ can be a slippery pig, your heartfelt encouragement adds to me. But then, when I think about it, I suspect you ‘add’ to most of what you touch. I appreciate you reaching back to me. It is meaningful when we get together in the blogosphere. Humbly offered, your friend, Dan.

  6. Oh, Dan— You have really, really been through the rough stuff in the last few weeks. I am so sorry about your cold, and about these complex issues surrounding your mother’s death. Thank you for taking time to write this beautiful, thoughtful essay while managing so many major real life issues and themes. Sending you good thoughts and a genuine hug— Courtenay. ❤

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