Thursday, October 30, 2014

Strange Days

It has been pretty quiet on the blog but not so much in real life. I guess that meant that I did see a real division between blog and life, as this space here is supposed to be representative of the escape that games were for me. Not so now.

Reality makes updates (or lack thereof) as real as it gets and any division fades.

More than a week ago my mother went in for a life-saving lung transplant in New York. She was critically ill with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Despite a less than 7% chance of finding a donor matching her rare antibody profile, she did or I should say, the poor donor passed, and the life the donor lost gave mom a fighting chance at her own, so it found her. Relief at the news of a donor match can feel very transactional at first but the emotion sets in fast; it is humbling when a donor tries to save a life with their passing. It is a very real sacrifice. Well played, whoever you are.

Today, mom is still in critical care and has had every setback possible short of dying on the table during surgery. Before that surgery, she basically slept for 2 weeks running up to the donor's death as her O2 diffusion was so poor that breathing was only a clinical truth. Graft dysfunction, ECMO, kidney damage, organ efficacy, bypass, dialysis, hundreds of gallons of meds and blood infusions, neurological complications, MERSA... hell, even one of the doctors at the hospital where mom is residing in tested positive for Ebola but mercifully things are going well both for the doc and everybody else. See also: Give everyone a break already.

All of the above elicits feelings that range from, "what can I do to help" to "why bother?" The former isn't really a question. We're all there to support her and each other which we do. The latter takes more gumption both to ask to begin with and then, to answer. But the answer is simply that this was the only shot that she had. With less than a month or so left alive on her own, a transplant was what she wanted, it was her only hope. I remind everyone that she wanted this; technically, she could have just skipped it and passed on. But she chose to fight and did not want to just fade. She doesn't want to keep missing out on the kids growing up. She loves people and wants more time. She was an ER nurse for 30 years... she urged so many to never give up for so long, it is ingrained. So the answer to the former and the latter is the same, "she's fighting and so, we are too".

If you've read this far, I guess you get that this is the sort of free therapy that the internet is good for. Thanks. But more importantly beyond that, you are human and have a family. Given the games & hobby this blog orbits, you are probably the same-ish demographic as me in age, income and responsibilities: you are seeing how kids become the parents of the family as your family ages. When my kids were born, advice rained on our house like hail. But in the cool quiet of your elder parent's late years, that advice only patters on the pane when the wind seems to blow and the prevailing opinion changes direction like Fall gusts. So, we play the same game on many levels and it is easy to only see it as player one.

To close out this post, I just feel compelled to say that I don't want to escape too much from reality since we are what we do, but that was where it clicked. If you are blessed in life, you will have tough choices to make that almost always affect people. Games aren't really an escape, I realized, since they recharge me by the intrinsic interaction required to play or discuss them. The shared experiences games create is a nexus for interacting with just about everyone I know. Sure the settings are daydream fuel... and I daydream a lot, an escape of sorts. But my escape is really about joining others in reality. Hell, I'm taking Memoir '44 to the hospital with me so my dad and I can play and unwind. And that is my point, even in games high on "fighty" it is always a test on resolving people conflict, finishing the fight together. Games are great at empowering people to feel what closing out a conflict feels like probably when they need it most, like during a too-long lung transplant procedure. Or losing a loved one who is an organ donor. And at last, this is the reason I didn't really sweat the lack of updates as we fight for a reality that includes mom.

Life is a game and the goal is to play it. You only win when you play, when you fight. You only lose when you don't take your turn. Mom knows losing doesn't matter, only living to take a shot at the win.

Good luck on your turn.