Autoblography Part 1: James Young

By Shamus Posted Thursday Aug 25, 2011

Filed under: Personal 91 comments


Jim, to everyone who knew him.

Six months before I was born, he suffered a stroke that very nearly killed him. Cerebral hemorrhage. He was 29 years old. He collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. A couple of days later he woke up. The good news was that there was no obvious brain damage. The bad news was that all that blood had formed a clot in his brain that would kill him sooner or later if it wasn't removed.

I'm sure if this happened today they would remove the clot with lasers, or send self-replicating nanites in after it, or maybe just use the transporter and beam the sucker out. But we're talking about 1971 here, which means they had just enough medical knowledge to know that this was not a job for blunt tools and fire.

There was no way around it â€" to get the clot out they were going to have to go through some brain tissue. That brain tissue would be destroyed, and he would suffer some level of brain damage. So, the choice was to live with this time-bomb in his head, waiting for it to kill him at any moment, or to go in and destroy parts of his otherwise healthy brain. It wasn't much of a choice. They did the procedure. Afterwards the left side of his body was paralyzed, and he suffered from epilepsy. As a result, he would need to take anti-seizure medication for the rest of his life. He eventually recovered limited use of his left leg, but from that day on his left arm hung limp at his side, and he never made use of it again. When he sat, he’d lift it into his lap with his right arm and drape it over his left leg.


Dad hung around for a couple of years, sired my younger brother, and then split. He went to North Carolina and spent nearly a decade sleeping on the couches of his hippie friends and drinking his life away. He even mentioned being homeless for a stretch. That's not really the trajectory you’d expect from a guy who was basically one credit away from his master's degree. (English Lit.)

It was an odd sort of brain damage. He'd spent all of his twenties in college, and his brain was packed with a vast body of knowledge, most of it revolving around literature and mythology. (Which is probably how I ended up with “Telemachus” as my middle name.) However, after the stroke he had fantastic difficulty learning new things. Since he otherwise seemed like a man of above-average intelligence, it was often infuriating trying to explain things to him. It was hard to reconcile his apparent intelligence with his apparent thick-headedness, and it made the other person feel like he wasn't paying attention, or didn't care. It took me a while to understand that he wasn't being obstinate, he just had a few isolated spots in his brain that no longer worked properly.

Mom never spoke ill of him. She never openly blamed him for leaving. Never explained to us that he’d run off, preferring drunken free-living to his family. He was just gone, and he probably wasn’t coming back. She always explained the divorce in terms of the two of them not getting along, and she never mentioned his alcoholism. This let my brother and I form our own opinions. We never had the angst-fueled rage that some boys experienced towards their absent fathers.


To this day I am filled with sadness when I see a single mom tell her children, “You have your father to thank for this!” whenever something goes wrong. I understand her frustration, and she's probably right, but the damage she's inflicting on her sons is far worse than whatever hardships they might be dealing with at the moment. A woman might spend years telling her boys what an unreliable, lazy, duplicitous slob their father is. Boys tend to be hungry for knowledge of their father â€" good or bad â€" and will take these lessons, and plant them deep. The woman does this because she's angry at her ex-husband, but the damage she inflicts is against her own boys. Young men are often filled with thoughts over how they compare to their fathers. Am I like him? Am I different? Am I just as bad? Better to discover that your father is a bum than to be told so every day.

My father did sober up a decade later, just as Mom remarried. He never said so, but I strongly suspect the two are related. He left us, thinking he just needed to hit pause on his life. He needed to go get his head together, man. Just deal with this whole disability thing, get it out of his system. Then he’d come back and do the whole family thing.

Suddenly a decade had gone by. He was 42, his wife had married someone else, and his boys were nearly grown. He might have paused his own life, but everyone else had kept going.

Dad, sometime in the mid-90’s.
Dad, sometime in the mid-90’s.

He returned and made peace with my brother and I. He joined AA. Straightened his life out. Because Mom hadn’t poisoned the well, we were able to reconcile with him. Yes, my childhood was harder without him around, but he acted out of ignorance, not malice. In truth, he never really understood what he left behind. Having become a successful father, I can see that the greatest damage he did was to himself. My childhood was a pain, but I'd go through it a hundred times over rather than give up a decade with my own children.

He was never a father to us, but he was a friend and we visited him regularly from the time of his recovery in the mid-80’s to his death in 2000. He lived just long enough to meet the first of his grandchildren before cancer took him at 59. At his funeral, a number of people came up to me, shook my hand, and told me that Dad had saved their life through AA. They said this in earnest, and I believe them.

He lost a great deal â€" probably more than he ever understood â€" but he found redemption in the end, and saved others from his fate. Not a bad deal.


From The Archives:

91 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 1: James Young

  1. SougoXIII says:

    Whoa, Shamus. I honestly don’t know what to say…

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    1. John says:

      I agree. Thanks for such a personal and moving piece.

      1. Lalaland says:

        I too am lost for words, thanks for sharing

        1. Eärlindor says:

          I agree.

          That. Is a good story.

          I look forward to the rest. :)

    2. DaveMc says:

      Yes, indeed. Nicely done.

  2. Spooky says:

    Your father sounded like a good man, even after everything that life threw at him. And your mother, like you said here, dealt with the issue extremely well.
    I believe that no one can say that they did a bad job at raising their kids, sure they might not have been the perfect family, but the results are here (i.e. Shamus “Telemachus” Young, and his brother – although we know less of him than the author of this blog) and they speak for themselves.

    A very touching piece, thanks for sharing this Shamus. :)

    PS: On a side note, your middle name went on fitting quite well given the original mythology (the son [of Ulysses] that kept on search for news about his missing father that had been away on the Trojan war) and the actual events on your life.

    1. DGM says:

      The name is appropriate in another way. According to the wikipedia entry it refers to the fact that he didn’t go to war. Didn’t Shamus say he was the first male in his family in a few generations to not serve in the military, on account of his asthma?

      If I believed in prophecy, I’d have to give his father credit for it on that one.

  3. ClearWater says:

    That link to Telemachus is a bit broken.

    1. Sietse Brouwer says:

      (Specifically, the [a href=””] tag uses smart quotmarks “” but should have straight quotmarks “”. <– Can't show them properly here because your comment system displays straight quotmarks as smart quotmarks, even though it stores them the way I type them.)

      Thank you for telling us this story. Your father sounds like a good man.

      1. Chris Robertson says:

        Thank you for telling us this story.
        It’s very flattering to be given such a personal glimpse into a (for all intents) stranger’s past.
        Your father sounds like a good man.
        And your mother more so.

    2. MrWhales says:

      Speaking of the link, that is almost foreshadowish of the rest of the post.. (Sorry I’m late, been busy)

  4. Phoenix says:

    Hard choice. Anyway, these things can make people act strange, in part because we usually identify ourselves with our physical/mental capabilities, in part because it can be very hard, sometimes impossible, to live without them.

    1. Mathias says:

      If my intelligence took a nosedive for the worse, I’d go a little bonkers.

      1. Sietse Brouwer says:

        I laughed when I read that as a joke, then I nodded when I read it as a fact. Well done.

        1. Will says:

          Honestly, it’s hard to blame someone for falling to pieces after suffering brain damage and partial paralysis to that degree.

  5. Mathias says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us. This was a very interesting read.

  6. Destrustor says:

    My own father had a stroke too a few years back (at least I think that’s what it’s called). He kept joking throughout it all, becoming the hospital’s unnoficial funny man and exasperating all the nurses and doctors(in a funny way). He made a complete recovery, going back to work a mere three months after the incident. The only lasting damage he got was insensitivity in some limbs (poking his left leg with a lit cigarette to show it off). Dads are tough as nails, and mine is also a beacon of neverending humor.
    I’m sorry to hear yours passed away. It’s always a great loss. Thanks for sharing this with us, as I imagine it must be hard sometimes.

    Also, baby shamus! Heee heee heee!

    1. Mathias says:

      I second dads being tough as nails. Mine was in a car accident, and all he has to show for it is that he blinks more on one eye than the other, since he got a glass shard in his eye. No reduced eyesight or anything.

    2. TraderRager says:

      @Destrustor Your father sounds like a great man. Few people have the resolve to overcome something like that, but to joke about it? That takes some major guts.

      1. Kdansky says:

        A good friend of mine survived cancer. Twice. At age 11 and 16. And lost a leg. Now he does this:

        “Oh, sorry, I kicked you accidentally under the table.”
        “It’s fine, I can’t feel anything. It’s a prosthetic. I stepped on a land-mine when I served for the foreign legion. Here, take a look at it.”

        It’s hilarious, mostly because other people are completely thrown off and don’t know how to react. The other version involves a shiv-fight in prison over drugs.

        1. Rockbird says:

          People always act horrified when i deflect telemarketers with “I don’t think there would be any point in me buying that, i have cancer…”

          (Treatment is going very well and I’ll most probably make a full recovery)

          Personally I find joking about these things help :)

        2. Raygereio says:

          It's hilarious, mostly because other people are completely thrown off

          Prosthetics can be a great source of entertainment.
          I know an old guy who lost an eye while serving in the military. One of his favorite jokes is scaring people by bumped into them and popping his prosthetic eye out of the socket by twitching his eye muscles.

          1. Nawyria says:

            This had me literally laughing out loud. That’s real comedy gold right there.

          2. Mari says:

            OK, that’s not even funny and might trigger a full psychotic break in someone like with who freaks out over cartoon eyes being places nature didn’t put them (I’m looking at you, Elfen Lied!!). Yeah, well, prolly not a psychotic break but it would scar me for life.

        3. xXDarkWolfXx says:

          My great-grandpa lost one of his eyes (iv never been told how) and has a prosthetic and one time before i was born he was involved in a car accident and when the paramedics asked if he was okay he said he was fine but hed lost his eye and ended up scaring the crap out of them.

      2. Raygereio says:

        Joking about bad things is a way of dealing with that bad thing.
        Personally I think it’s the healthiest thing to do about it. The way I see it; if you treat something bad lightheartedly, then that bad thing isn’t heavy enough to drag you down into depression.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          I’m pretty sure there are clinical studies that say exactly that. People who joke about their condition are something like two or three times as likely to live through it.

    3. retas14 says:

      Yeah he was always joking around. One time he was in the hospital, one morning the nurses when’t to his room but he was nowhere to be found, they all panicked they strated to search everywhere, when they found him he was outside face down on the grass. They were all “OMG he’s dead”, when they got to him he was sleeping. So they woke him up and he was like “ah leave me alone i’m sleeping”

  7. neothoron says:

    Therapy it is, then.

    I like the way you analyze James’ reason for getting away from his family. Seeing that your middle name is Telemachus, I can’t help but think of Ulysses’ 20-year long absence from home.

    Thank you Shamus for writing this – to you it may be therapy; to me it is an enriching and touching read that I can integrate with my own reflections, particularly when I will be making life-altering choices. I guess it means that it is quite a good (auto)biography.

    1. Knight of Fools says:

      I have to second neothorin’s comment. One person’s therapy is another person’s enlightening read. It kind of puts a mirror up to my own life reading about the hard times other people have gone through, and makes me see how lucky things have turned out in my own life and family, and how I can make them better for my kids’ lives if something different comes up.

      The fact that you understand something so uncomfortable about your own life shows a great deal of personal understanding, which is something most people would like to emulate, but never get around to. Problem is, thinking about those uncomfortable bits in life can be uncomfortable, so getting to the point where experience becomes wisdom doesn’t come around much.

      The fact that you’re such a good writer, Shamus, doesn’t hurt that people are going to read, enjoy, and learn from your personal experiences. You can bet not every Telemachus on the internet can write about his own life and have half-a-dozen people even read the second paragraph.

  8. Tamayn says:

    You’d be surprised at how mundane the stories of our lives may seem to ourselves, but for others, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the lives of others.

    It’s a very interesting story. I look forward to the next installment!

  9. “We never had the angst-fueled rage that some boys experienced towards their absent fathers.”

    Ah, that certainly strikes a tone of familiarity. The absence of my father was something it tended to treat with a kind of giddy curiosity, like a mystery to be solved. It also made my mother all kinds of pissed whenever I asked about him, which was it’s own entertainment! >:)

    SIDE NOTE: The first half of this post sounds awfully familiar. Was it taken from an earlier post?

    1. Raygereio says:

      SIDE NOTE: The first half of this post sounds awfully familiar. Was it taken from an earlier post?

  10. Not to mention the personality changes and other problems in accountability that often come with that sort of harsh brain surgery.

    Well done post Shamus

  11. Noumenon says:

    I would totally opt for the chance-of-instant-death over certainty-of-brain-damage, especially if there was a chance I could hold out till nanites.

    1. Meredith says:

      I sort of thought the same thing. Shamus writes that it wasn’t much of a choice, but to me it would be fairly difficult.

      Thanks for sharing such personal stories with the internet, Shamus. That can’t be easy, but it is very interesting and touching.

      1. Will says:

        It’s not a chance of instant death. That kind of clot will kill you. It’s a question of when, not if. It’s a choice between certain death at an uncertain time (probably sooner rather than later) or certain brain damage to an uncertain degree.

        It’s a shitty choice, but the latter is less shitty than the former.

        1. Kacky Snorgle says:

          Except that “certain death at an uncertain time” is really just a description of life, so I’m not sure how strongly it should weigh in the analysis…. Like Noumenon, my first gut instinct is to choose the other way. (And to be very thankful that I’m not currently faced with such a choice at all.)

          1. modus0 says:

            Okay, how about “certainty of death in the very near future”?

            If you were faced with the decision to either take some brain damage, but continue living for a long period of time, or avoid the damage and maybe still be alive in a year, which would you choose?

            1. Soylent Dave says:

              That’s not the choice.

              The choice is brain damage (no idea how serious it’s going to be), and the chance of living longer versus probable quick death in the relatively near future.

              The surgery isn’t guaranteed to work, and even if it does there’s no guarantee you’ll live a long and healthy life because of it. Nor is there any guarantee that the surgery won’t kill you.

              I don’t think either of those is the ‘easy’ choice – although it’s probably weighted more to the former the younger you are (Shamus’ Dad was very young to have to go through that).

              1. Alexander The 1st says:

                Hmm…This would be an interesting moral choice in a video game…And none of the “Why can’t I take the third option to leave it alone?” – namely because that IS the second option, and not so enjoyable as it first seems.

  12. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

    What….is it my move? Are we playing Impasse’?

    1. DGM the Morbidly Curious says:

      So, what’s YOUR middle name, and how well did it end up fitting?

  13. Fat Tony says:

    Your middle name is: AWSEOME! and yor views on your father are humbling, I hate people who disrespect they’re parents (except extreme cases) as most of the time parents are tying to do the best they can, yor fathers reaction to his new illness is rather common, it’s just a shame that he’d left children, but it’s better that he’d decend into alcholism out-of-sight and out of mind than to some how cuase harm (mental of physical, to you or your mum, as happen so often with alcoholics etc).
    It’s also nice to see that he got over it as well. =)

    (P.S I thought you said your life story was boring this is pretty interesting)

  14. ccesarano says:

    Yay! I contributed the genre title!

    I admire your mother a lot, actually. My sister is currently a single mom, though through different circumstances (it seems there’s a lot of single moms that were never married these days, and most divorcee women I meet never had children. Interesting, that). I understand there’s a lot of difficulty. My niece has my father and I to present male role models to her, but once in a while she wants to have a dad like the other kids. She’ll call me dad or my father dad without really understanding why we can’t be her father. It only lasts a day or two, though, and then it’ll vanish from her mind for a while.

    In an environment like that, she does surprisingly well with not having a genuine biological father. Maybe kids are, on the whole, programmed to be able to deal with missing parents since once upon a time it was likely for your father to die in battle, either parent to die of disease or even your mother to die in child birth.

    Still, as I said, my niece is growing up where she has plenty of positive male role models (at least, I hope I’m a positive one). She still has a mother, though, to present a role model for her own gender. It’s a little different to be a son and not have your father around, the man that’s supposed to teach you what sort of man you are intended to be. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties I’ve come to realize just how similar to my father I am, and I look back and wonder when the Hell it happened. Similarly, I can see how my behavior and attitude has been changed based on how he raised me. In the end, I think he had a greater influence on my brother and I than my mother, whereas my sister’s personality is clearly more closely related to my mother’s and her relationship there.

    So growing up that many years without a clear and definite male role model, especially knowing your biological father was far away, must have been a…rather interesting experience. That you turned out to be/seem like such a nice guy definitely reflects well on your mother.

    It does sound like your father could write some interesting stories of his own life, though…or, could have, were he not dead.

    1. Funny Money Guy says:

      I think there is a definite element of the NUMBER of children of each gender, however. I am a male, and I have 2 brothers, who are 19m younger than me, and for anyone who was listening closely — they are twins.
      I find that me and the younger of the twins are very much similar to each other and to my Dad, while the “middle” child is similar to my mother and maternal grandmother.

  15. Jeremiah says:

    My dad left when I was really young. Much like your mother, mine never talked bad about him (at least not until much later). He just wasn’t around.

    After reading your take on that I feel a strong need to thank her for that. I’m a pretty well-adjusted guy and I’m certain that’s partly thanks to how she handled my dad not being around.

    1. Funny Money Guy says:

      Kudos to Shamus’ and Jeremiah’s mothers for not speaking ill of the absent fathers.

      1. Soylent Dave says:

        I suspect the single mums who are most negative about the absent fathers are those who still have some contact with them.

        It’s a lot harder to remain positive – or to not be negative – about someone who is regularly letting your child down, or upsetting him. Conversely it’s probably easier to not badmouth someone when he isn’t there, constantly reminding you why you split up in the first place.

        It’s also hard not to join in or agree when the child starts bitching about his dad (probably more common when your child is heading towards teenage). It’s not impossible, though.

        But it can be difficult.

  16. HeadHunter says:

    Wow, Shamus – thanks for sharing that with us.

    I know what you mean about divorced mothers messing up their sons without even realizing it, and I’m glad you didn’t have to go through that. I was able to undo some of the damage as an adult when I reconected with my father. I got the chance to form my own opinion of the man, for better or worse, and I can see some of him in the man I’ve become, despite his absence as I grew up.

    We never were able to really reconcile, despite a few attempts over the years. He’s just too set in his ways to be open to someone living their life in any other way than his, and I think part of what he expected from me was vicarious fulfillment of all the things he never was able to do.

    But now, at least, I can say that my feelings toward him and my opinion of the man are my own, rather than my mother’s.

    P.S.: From that first picture of your father, I can see the strong resemblance you share. When I was about 23, I saw a picture of my father in his Coast Guard uniform and even I would have thought it was me but for the fact that I’ve never been in the Coast Guard.

  17. hardband says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I know you are doing it for yourself, but I found this really interesting.

  18. nawyria says:

    In truth, he never really understood what he left behind. Having become a successful father, I can see that the greatest damage he did was to himself. My childhood was a pain, but I'd go through it a hundred times over rather than give up a decade with my own children.

    This statement hits home for my relationship with my father. He was absent for the larget part of my first three years, only to divorce my mother after he came back from abroad. From that point on I only visited him every friday and every other saturday and sunday, but he came into my life as an absolute stranger. In my seventh year he returned to his home country Egypt and we’d see each other for two weeks every one or two years, but still he had more of a ‘distant relative’ vibe than an ‘actual’ father.

    Fast forward another couple of years and he’s remarried and sires my half-sister, starting another family in Egypt. However I can’t escape the feeling that he misses me. I’ve been told he views his family (and unfortunately my half-sister) in the light of me, his firstborn – or at least the image he has created/formed of me. When I visited him last april (after not having seen each other for several years) I thought he had a sense of longing, mixed with a feeling of guilt – a feeling that unfortunately was not reciprocal to the same degree.

    I reconciled with him that visit, but we both silently agreed there was no undoing past events and no making up for lost time. I feel sad for him, but am glad that we at got on friendly terms. Like you, I have my mother to thank for that.

    I’m glad you and your father eventually met in a positive light; he seems like a good-natured person. Thanks for sharing your story with us, it’s helped me put my relationship with my father in a different perspective.

    1. Will says:

      It takes a truely rare and emotionless individual to completely divorce himself (or herself) from his own children. I would be more surprised if you didn’t get the impression that there was some form of guilt or regret there.

      1. Nawyria says:

        True, but since I lacked any real connection to him for years I had always assumed it was just some form of callous disregard or lack of emotional investment. It’s comforting and at the same time unsettling to learn that he had cared for all those years.

  19. LB says:

    Didn’t you say he was in the Marines a while back?

      1. Jon Ericson says:

        My first reaction was to quote the Corps’ motto, but that doesn’t seem appropriate in this case. Google translate, bless its heart, suggests in finem fidelis as a possible alternative.

        1. Zaghadka says:

          I would think semper fidelis is just right. It may well be that value is what brought him back to make peace.

          Faithful fathers may leave, they may be louses or drunks, but no faithful father will ever forget. Semper fi.

  20. James says:

    Thank you for sharing that Shamus, and thanks for the post title! It is a treat to read the beginning of what already seems like an interesting life. I am excited to read about your early programming stuff, as it is something that I myself always hoped to get into but never found the time for. I will now be checking the site 10 times daily instead of 5 for updates!

  21. asterismW says:

    I smell a meme being born…

    I was right, that was fascinating. I always love learning things about people that I never would have expected. I never went through that myself, having grown up with both parents, but I know people who have. I have a great deal of respect for them, both the single parent and the children. Thank you for sharing that touching story with us.

    P.S. I loved the picture at the end; your father was very handsome. He reminds me of some of my uncles for some reason, whom I’ve never met and who have also passed away.

  22. Groboclown says:

    Once again, further evidence that Kurt Vonnegut was right when he claimed that America's two greatest contributions to the world were “AA and jazz.”

  23. Paul Spooner says:

    Made me cry a bit, that’s a beautiful story.
    I know you don’t like to get into religious debates, but I would be interested in hearing where Christianity falls into your childhood.

  24. Irridium says:

    Reading this, it makes me really grateful for my father. I’d rather not go into the details, but when I was about 5 he divorced my mom and had to leave. But he always, ALWAYS made sure to visit me and my brother, and spend time with us. Literally every weekend for 15 years he would pick me and my brother up and we’d spend the weekend with him. He made sure he was always in my life, always there for me, and I can’t be grateful enough for that.

  25. Nikos Saripoulos says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I had a hard time with my dad too but i’m still too young to understand him!

    Looking forward to the next part

  26. xXDarkWolfXx says:

    I envy people who got to have life experiences like yours Shamus, or really anyone who got to have life experiences involving a father since my biological dad left before i was born.

  27. Patrick the Angst-fueled rage says:

    Additionally, if you make a post about mom you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO include the picture of her 70’s afro….err… I mean “Perm”.

    1. Mari says:

      Hasn’t Shamus inflicted enough of the 70s on us with that wallpaper in the birthday pic?

    2. krellen says:

      My father had one of those when he married my mother.

  28. Adam says:

    Yup. Totally reading every entry in your series, now.

  29. Jon Ericson says:

    I love a story of redemption and you’ve told your father’s well. You are, of course, correct that vilifying your dad would have been a bad move on the part of your mom as it would have made the stories at his funeral incomprehensible. She made it possible to seem him as a human and not a monster.

    My wife has struggled with overcoming her mother’s overly-critical attitude, not just toward my father-in-law, but to just about everything under the sun. And it’s amazing how often our son will pick up some little nuance of our negative attitudes and mirror it back at us. Ugly.

    At any rate, a wonderful and thought-provoking start to what I hope will be a long series.

    1. Phoenix says:

      Love is such a beautiful thing it’s very sad that isn’t always the center of all our lives.

  30. Cyranor says:

    Wow that is very touching, your Father sounds like a good man, a bit misguided during your childhood perhaps but a good man nonetheless.

  31. Mari says:

    I wasn’t going to comment on this post because words seem somewhat lacking after reading that. But I just had to say “Wow, what a family!”

  32. Mersadeon says:

    ,,It's not particularly exotic, heartwarming, insightful, or gut-wrenching.”

    You lied, Shamus. You lied.

  33. Kasper says:

    It took this series one entry to convince me that it’s going to be nothing but moving reading. I don’t care that you’re writing this autoblogography for yourself shamus, you egocentrical character. It’s going to enrich the days, and in some cases maybe even lives of a lot of us.
    I am not overstating things when I say that reading your blog has improved my life. Reading about someone as introverted as I am and taking advantage of your experience with it (I’m only 23, so I don’t have the life experience you do yet) has made me switch educational paths, and I’ve not regretted that choice ever since I made it. Instead of just going with the flow of life, reading this blog has been a part of the process of me taking control over my life.


    Since you were sharing your story I felt like sharing this too. If you don’t like it, it wasn’t intended for you, but for me in the first place.

  34. RichardB says:

    Thank you for a very moving and powerful post.

  35. BenD says:

    I read with emotional fascination in part due to a close relative who has the same basic issue – a clot in the brain, a ticking time bomb – and who has chosen the other path, the ‘never knowing if today you die’ path. He has not died yet. I don’t know what to say about this except that while the surgery is more sophisticated than it was in the 70s, it is still dangerous, and my relative would even today face a good chance of brain damage from choosing surgery.

  36. mookers says:

    Shamus, you are one of my favourite writers. Thank you for sharing your story; I look forward to reading more of it.

  37. Abnaxis says:

    The more I read about you and you blog, the more I am convinced you are some bizarro off-world twin of me. We have such similar histories and experiences, yet we almost always come to opposite conclusions.

    To wit: My father had a brain hemorrhage when I was nine (somehow a brain hemorrhage is different from a stroke–I don’t know how. I was nine…) and lost control of most of his right side. He likewise bailed on my (not us, my mother wasn’t ever in the picture) and ran off to do my own thing.

    As I have grown old enough to look at the situation with adult eyes, I have come to think that the hemorrhage didn’t really fundamentally change him all that much. I mean yeah, he couldn’t work and half his body went numb, but the only effect it had was allowing him an excuse to express all his negative qualities, it didn’t create them. As a result, my relationship with my father is tepid at best (I still see him once or twice a year, at my aunt’s insistence–she has never spoken bad about either of my parents and does whatever she can to keep us on speaking terms).

    I dunno, though–maybe by the time I’m forty, I’ll have changed my mind…

    1. Okay, no one will probably ever see this, but because the question was asked….

      A stroke cuts off blood to part of the brain, usually caused by a blood clot. A brain hemorrhage is a lot of bleeding into the brain. Since the brain’s in a closed space without much room for excess anything, the pressure squishes it. I had something similar, but much less dangerous, when I had an excess of cerebrospinal fluid (pseudotumor cerebri).

      A stroke can lead to hemorrhage, as the blood vessel that’s blocked can burst.

  38. Chuck Henebry says:

    This is an unbelievably dignified autoblogography. Thanks for telling your story so well.

  39. Crystalgate says:

    A very moving story. I have one that’s unfortunately not as moving.

    My mother and father broke up and my mother tried to do what your mother didn’t, poison the well. Now, I was 19 and my brothers a few years younger and we did not buy everything she said. In the end, most of the poison ended up in her own well. To be fair, my father didn’t handle the situation that well either. He unfortunately choose to say things that sounds good rather than that saying things that actually are good things to say. This made my mother even more angry and gave her an excuse to believe that the poison in her well was my father’s doing rather than her own.

    They have stopped fighting, but both are still in denial of their own wrongdoing.

  40. Jarenth says:


    First, thanks for writing this. In the starting post you wrote “I don't know that anyone is interested in reading my story“; I guess it’s obvious that we do.

    Second, your father was rocking a dapper look in that picture.

  41. Pingback: Math Think
  42. Stephen Shellen says:

    Reading this very personal history of your father is very touching and I hope then, if you take the time, that my situation may resonate inside of your heart. My children were threatened and stolen and all government agencies, police and courts, all the way up to the Hague, protected an evil organization. I was death threatened, harassed and blacklisted ending up homeless on more than occasion. As much as ritual abuse and programming of young children may sound like something out of film or off some conspiracy site it is, more and more, coming to light. No, I am not talking about David Icke but The Guardian and other publications in the main stream reporting on this information. Gruesome, disgusting and true. Love does cure all and maybe that is what is lacking most in our society.Your father was most likely traumatized and didn’t know how to cope. Your mom sounds like a trouper and she understood the most basic emotional laws about a child and if one parent poisons a child against the other parent it will in turn be damaging to that child. I had my children stolen after going to the authorities and tried in vain for years to have them returned.I was broke and unable to understand the reasons for my targeting. However now I do and if one researches ritual abuse it becomes clearer. It is a network you are dealing with.Currently I am an advocate for children, to stop world wide child trafficking. It is a disgusting truth that 2 million children a year are now trafficked. As much as we have responsibilities for our children we have a responsibility for all children.

  43. Neil Roy says:

    Wow, I had to almost wipe a tear from my eye after reading this. Sounds like your mother handled this as best as one could expect, I am impressed by her and I definitely feel for your dad.

    My parents divorced in the 70s as well and I never seen my father much afterwards, mainly because he lived so far away, only in our case, my mother left him, not because of anything he did wrong. She never spoke bad of him either though and he is still alive to this day, and I love and respect him. Sadly, my mother died of cancer around 1991. I do feel my life would have been much more improved had he been in it, but I don’t blame him or her. They had problems, it wasn’t personal against me. The way I look at it, no matter what happened, I wouldn’t exist had it not been for them, so I owe them my life. How could I ever possibly hate either one?! Like you, I got into programming early on and have a pretty good sense of humour, strange, I wonder if the interests and sense of humour comes from the single parent situation, or just the 70s? There was certainly enough to laugh at back then. :)

  44. Gilbert diamond says:

    I’m the cousin of this amazing writer (my real name isn’t gilbert h diamond, it’s gilbert Q diamond. the q is for quix)

    My mom, jims brothers wife, was not so Abagailish like Telemechus mom, she did poison the well. And so we have the other case study. Happily, I, like the writer, reconciled and had a comparabley amicable relationship with my father.

    Once again, the writers mom, the hero, always spoke positively about my dad, her brother. Wow, what a great woman.
    Just thought Telemachus would like to know. Quix. 😀

  45. Gilbert diamond says:

    I got my personal pronouns mixed up, my dad was jims wife’s brother. My mom was jims wife’s brothers wife. That makes Telemechus, my moms husbands sisters son. AKA, my cousin.

  46. Not my real name says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve kept in touch with your stuff on and off over the years, and when it’s off, I keep re-finding your stuffs.
    But today, I found this, and I find myself as a female, in the shoes of your mother. And you have inspired me. Thank you.

  47. There was a clog in his brain, that was showing him the time he was going to die?
    I’ll bet he had to take a lot of iron, from losing so much blood.
    When James was older, he had a cute mustache. It looks like a fat worm!

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