One Year Later; A Vinegar Valentine to Grief

By Bay Posted Friday Jun 16, 2023

Filed under: Epilogue 31 comments

So, yesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s passing. It doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, but I suppose grief has a way of messing with your understanding of time.

A year ago I had just finished the first complete draft of a book of vampire smut I was intending to publish, and was just entering the publishing stage of a book of poetry that was five years in the making.

I hadn’t seen my dad for a month when I’d gotten the call he was going to the hospital, of his own volition. I was in the middle of trying to get Wizards101, the only MMO I’ve ever truly loved, working on the laptop I had at the time. I had gotten through the character creation screen just fine, and had gotten to the moment where it would crash my entire system, when my phone rang.

Mom was at work, and let me know that Dad had called 911 for himself, and was waiting for the ambulance.

Months before that, Dad had laughed when his telehealth doctor had told him to call 911 for himself. He’d waited patiently for someone to be able to drive him, because he didn’t take the doctor seriously.

Mom telling me that my dad had called 911 on his own, without being told to? That was an immediate red flag. Something was very, very wrong.

While I spoke to her I watched the loading indicator of my game spin around, and around, and around. I knew when I heard my phone ring it was never going to stop loading, but I didn’t have the brainpower to stop it. Mom was an hour drive away, and I was a six hour drive away. “Do you think I should come down?” I asked, helplessly knowing my car had just been in the shop, and there was no money to put gas in it anyway.

“That’s up to you.” She said, audibly running around on the other side of the line, gathering things to leave work.

She doesn’t have answers, and neither do I.  I had flown to visit just last month under similar concern, and it had nearly bankrupted us. It felt horrible, thinking about money at a time like that, but our apartment was dingy, full of mold, and expensive. Not only that, but the car we’d bought in early 2020 kept breaking down, and we were so underwater on the loan that there was nothing we could do about it.

Mom hung up to start driving, and I hard-rebooted my laptop. I wanted to start driving right then, go hug my dad, but that would be losing partners’ hours at work since I’d be taking the one car, it would be putting the gas on the credit card, it would be adding to the pile of debt that was crushing us, and risking eviction. We talked about a plane ticket, but then I wouldn’t have gotten there till the next day, and considering what my worry was, it didn’t feel helpful.

Instead I cried, and clung to my phone, hoping for good news. I don’t really remember the rest of the night, I know I watched Monsters University to try and distract myself, and I know I was woken up at four in the morning by the call.

I know that Peter and I cleaned his bedroom while we processed it, locating the source of our ant problem in a sort of dissociative state. What do you do when your dad just died? Hollywood shows grief as a continuous line of sad which gets progressively better with time. But, even that first day, we couldn’t physically process it every minute. We probably looked insane, laughing manically in a Walmart because it was six in the morning and…wandering around Walmart seemed like the thing to do.

I think I bought a plant?

If I did, I don’t know where it is or what happened to it. Sorry buddy.

The donations from this site afterwards paid for the move back to Pennsylvania, something we’d been already planning on doing, but were struggling to afford.

I was entirely wheelchair bound, and after the six hour drive to PA the next day, ended up bedridden. The motion of the car and sitting in the position I had to caused a flare-up that sent me to the emergency room twice, and both times I was told they couldn’t help me.

So, it’s been a year, with some good, some bad, and ALL ‘my Dad is gone and there’s nothing I can do about it.’

I haven’t touched Wizards101 since. I can’t stomach it, despite the fact that this computer would point and laugh at it’s processing needs. Hell, this thing could probably run Wizards 101, Minecraft, and the Sims 4 all at once and still be good for more.

I haven’t worked on either of my books at all, I don’t even know what to do with them, they were my pride and joy a year ago, but it’s oddly hard to work on things pre-the 15th of June 2022.

I haven’t touched my wheelchair in almost six months now. My rehab doctor was so excited to find out that she came to see me when I was in a different appointment in the same building just to give me a high five. I walked 20,000 steps in one day recently, although it looks like I’ll never be free of the limp I evolved during the last two years. Something about a tendon in my ankle being too tight, but surgery might be an option if I ever decide to go that route.

I miss my dad.


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31 thoughts on “One Year Later; A Vinegar Valentine to Grief

  1. Matt` says:

    A whole year? Already? Doesn’t feel right, but there it is.

    I don’t comment much, but Shamus has been in my blog folder for about as long as I’ve had a blog folder. Right there at the top of the list, god only knows how long it’s been. I miss him too. The internet feels a little smaller without him.

    1. Zaxares says:

      Same here. I actually blinked a little to realize that it’s been a year already. I still check this site daily, and yeah, part of me still half-expects to see one of his grumbling blog posts about recent game developments (I wonder what he would have thought of Diablo IV and it’s surprisingly high cosmetics, for a Western game anyway, for example), or broader tech trends like AI-generated art and writing. I miss him too. :(

      1. Lino says:

        I would have loved to hear his opinion on the new System Shock – doubly so, because he also backed that game on Kickstarter and documented part of its rocky development journey…

        1. Dev Null says:

          Oh man, yes.

  2. LazerFX says:

    I feel you. It doesn’t feel like a year, but there you go.

    13 years since my mum passed. I still miss her, she never got to see her granddaughter, or my wife, or all these things. But honestly, I can at least look back and smile now, and imagine in a bittersweet way what she’d have thought, and said…

    People say it gets better. I say it gets different – easier, possibly. But also everyone is different.

    I Feel for you, and your family. We (the readers) appreciate what you do, continuing on a legacy.

  3. Ramsus says:

    It’s been a year already? Wow. It certainly feels like “it’s been a while” but I guess since maybe I still come here once a week (usually around Monday, which is a lot less than the “every day” I used to but it’s still a thing that’s been part of my life for well over a decade) and I still read Darths & Droids (and another webcomic that borrows the same style, though I have no idea if they’re even aware of Shamus) and watch Spoiler Warning it’s like his presence in my mind is still close enough that it didn’t feel like it’d be a long enough time for it to have been a year already.

    I don’t know how this experience of running the blog has been for you, but for my part I’m glad you have. Don’t know what else to say other than I wish you well.

  4. Syal says:

    Doesn’t feel like a year already, man, time just blurs together these days.

    Good news on the wheelchair, at least.

    You could always turn the books into blogposts. This seems like the correct audience for vampire smut.

  5. Jeremiah says:

    Can’t believe it’s been a year. In some ways it feels shorter and in others longer. Grief really fucks with time perception, I guess.

  6. It’s weird. I’ve been playing video games – literally – since they were invented, but it feels as if Shamus took some of my joy of gaming with him. It just hasn’t been the same. He experienced games in much the same way that I do, but was far more articulate in describing that experience.

    And I know EXACTLY how it feels to have the car that constantly needs repairs, the rent that you can’t quite pay, and the refrigerator that’s perpetually empty. I spent most of my 20s and 30s living that way. I hope that you are all in a better place now.

  7. Chuk says:

    My condolences again — seems like it was more recent than that, but then everything does these days. I didn’t know him but I miss his work still.

  8. Mersadeon says:

    My dad (well, step-dad, but he’s the real deal) had a stroke 2 years ago that he survived basically as a miracle, and somehow he has made an almost 100% recovery*, similarly miraculous. That happened on an April 1st.

    When I asked whether I should come -a 3 hour journey by train that would make me miss work at a place actively looking for a reason to fire me- she said the same thing your mother said. Not out of malice or bitterly, just matter-of-factly. Like you, I knew I was in no position to make the journey right then and there, and by the time I would have arrived, it would have been too late anyway (though thankfully, Germany has student tickets for your whole state included in the semester fee, so my financial concerns were tiny in comparison to yours).

    I don’t have a point or anything, just felt very much reminded.

    *funnily enough, he is an avid gamer and one of the few things that he didn’t fully recover are a lot of memories of movies he watched and games he played. He truly has the “privilege” to re-experience some of them the first time, twice!

    Anyway. Some other random thoughts.

    Mom telling me that my dad had called 911 on his own, without being told to? That was an immediate red flag.

    Man… I’m thankful that my partner is a blood lab tech studying to become a doctor, because I am exactly like that and she is the exact opposite. Maybe that will even out and make me take my health semi-seriously. Though recently I’m mostly struggling with doctors not taking things seriously and kicking the can down the line.

    We probably looked insane, laughing manically in a Walmart because it was six in the morning and…wandering around Walmart seemed like the thing to do.

    Walmart is open at six in the morning? Is that normal for Walmart, or for American stores in general?

    Doesn’t feel like a year to me, either. Not a great year, either.

    1. Storm says:

      Walmart is open at six in the morning? Is that normal for Walmart, or for American stores in general?

      Reasonably common for supermarkets in America. Depending on your location, some places like Walmart will be open 24 hours a day – though that’s become a bit less common after Covid started.

  9. Storm says:

    It really has been a year, huh? I keep thinking of Shamus like he just passed away a couple months back – but, well, time these last few years has been difficult to pin down. Events like that even more so.

    I’m glad you’ve been keeping the site up, this place is still one of the first things I click when I’ve not got anything pressing to do and am doing my daily pass over different sites. This place has always felt kind of insular compared to the wider internet, and I was worried it would fade away with Shamus gone. It’s been nice to see it still having some people around. I hope it’s been helpful for you as well, in some way.

    It’s not the same thing, but I miss him too.

  10. Lino says:

    I was extremely busy with work and life on the 15th. I remember Shamus passed away in June, but I didn’t remember the exact date (I’m very bad with dates).

    Still, something possessed me to go the Landmarks Category and click on this anniversary post – the one about Eternal September. Those last 4-5 paragraphs made me feel… Conflicted – introspective as his writings always do, cozy in the feeling of having being a part of this community, wistful of a point in time that feels like a different era, very sad that he’s gone, angry at the world that it had to be so soon…

    Yesterday, Paul made a tribute video and it was then that I realised it had been an entire year. I highly recommend you give it a watch, by the way – it’s a great, heartfelt insight from someone who knew him personally.

    I still listen to the Diecast and reread many of Shamus’ writings: The Systems Analyst, Crash Dot Com, Tarson’s End, TIM Island and his Mass Effect retrospective, The Twelve Year Mistake, and so much more… I still haven’t read The Witch Watch or Free Radical – I like knowing that I’ve still got two big pieces of writing of his that I haven’t read yet (yes, it’s very stupid, I know :D).

    But once I’m ready to pull the trigger, I plan on buying all his books in physical format, even though I’ve got The Other Kind of Life in digital and I’ve reread his Mass Effect series multiple times. It’s difficult to articulate, but having a physical book makes me feel a little closer to an author. And now that Shamus is gone, it’s pretty much the best I could hope for.

    1. Lino says:

      And congratulations on ditching the wheelchair, Bay! Wishing you all the best!

  11. Son of Valhalla says:

    The first significant time I mourned in my family was the death of my grandma in 2013. I was 17. You’re right, no movies get grief right. It never ends.

    She really encouraged my writing. I started writing short stories when I was 8, and cringey lyrics when I was 10, and poems when I was 15. We talked briefly about each other’s writing. Mine was more fantasy/scifi-based, because that’s the genre I grew up with and gravitated towards. Hers was more emotional and contemplative and family-based, because our family unraveled between 2010 to 2015 to the point where my cousins and I haven’t spoken in 8 years now.

    In 2020, I started getting published in some small indie sites and magazines. While I still feel like I’m practicing writing everytime I put something together, it’s felt nice getting those things done and continuing to do what I’ve liked for so long.

    By that point, it had been 7 years since my grandma died. I miss her everyday. Had I been able to become an adult alongside her, we would’ve been even closer.

    I have no idea why I’m writing about this story. I will say sorry for your Dad. Shamus was informative, humorous, and quite smart, but I’m sure he was that and more to you and your siblings.

  12. Tuck says:

    Last year all I could post was “:(” because I couldn’t find words. Today: <3 for you and all the family.

  13. Joshua says:

    I will always remember this day. I had followed Shamus since 2006 when DMotR had started. In a few months, that would have made 16 years. I remember feeling more loss from a person that I had never met than from any “shocking” death of a celebrity or notable figure.

    Unfortunately, as much as it hurt to lose Shamus and this community, there was another reason why 2022 would go down as the worst year in my life. Nearly three weeks after this date (July 5th), I received an early morning phone call from my sister that our mother had passed away at a relatively young age. From a heart attack. In Pittsburgh.

    So, unfortunately, I’ll always associate this time of year with the loss of these two people who left us all in a similar place and a similar manner. For those who have not yet experienced it, the loss of a parent is profoundly life-altering, so I can fully relate to Bay.

  14. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    A year already? Damn… When I read that post title in my RSS feed and was really hoping that Paul had developed a very nasty sense of humour, I was surprised at how much of a gut punch this was. And a year later, I’m amazed at how much his voice is missing. He really was one of a kind.

  15. Rawiya says:

    I stopped regularly reading this blog a very long time ago because it’s been an age and a half since I really had the mental space to have any strong feelings about video games but I checked in now and then, I somehow found it reassuring the site still existed, that something good from the pre social media giants era was still humming along. I still feel shocked when I remember he’s gone, and I’m sorry you didn’t get to see him one last time.

    On another note I have maybe a weird request, there’s a track that’s been missing from his soundcloud. I think it was called Burning, it was the first track he made if I remember correctly and I always adored it. I’m wondering if anyone has a copy, I’m assuming he didn’t intentionally delete it, I remember it disappearing when sound cloud lost files but I could be wrong. I’d really love to have it in my music rotation again but I lost my own mp3 collection to carelessness.

  16. Jason says:

    I miss your dad’s posts. I remember when DM of the Rings came out and got to read those as they released. When he finished and started video game blogging, I always enjoyed his take on things. I’m sorry you had to go through that last year.
    I lost my dad earlier this year in February. I feel like I’m still processing that. I miss him every day. Much love to you and your family.

  17. BespectacledGentleman says:

    I keep trying to comment something never quite know what to say. Thanks for keeping the site going—I’ve really enjoyed having a reason to come back after spending ~10 years as a regular reader. God, that’s almost half my life… I can’t even imagine how much Shamus influenced my view on the gaming hobby. He also persuaded me to give up Twitter, which I’m eternally grateful for.

    (I am making myself laugh a bit envisioning a paperback copy of the vampire book sitting next to The Other Kind of Life on my shelf)

  18. ObsidianNebula says:

    It still shocks me that he’s gone sometimes. I started reading this blog as a tween; I grew up with his words. A quote of his is still the first line of my Tumblr bio. I thought about removing it after he died, because it hurt to read, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of it either. I’m glad I kept it.
    (It’s “Obsessive, pedantic nitpickery is my eternal mandate,” in case you’re wondering.)

  19. Simplex says:

    This hit me right in the feels. Let the memory of Shamus live on,

  20. Sleeping Dragon says:

    It obviously can’t compare with loosing him as a parent but I miss him too if only as a reader of his posts. There’s been countless times where I refered to something he said over this year and the System Shock remake coming out recently made me feel particularly wistful because he couldn’t be here for it.

  21. Blanko2 says:

    i cant believe it’s been a year already.
    i miss his tech and gaming insight greatly, i can’t think of anyone who wrote similarly about such a broad variety of topics in such an easy to read way.
    I’m glad you’ve kept his memory going on this website.

  22. l00mx says:

    It’s funny, I more or less stopped reading the blog for the last 12 months, as it was difficult to come back here in some ways, especially after reading Shamus’ content for so long. For no obvious reason, I started reading again last week and binge read all of the “Epilogue” content. I had no idea it had been nearly an entire year, but maybe something in my subconscious was vaguely aware of it. Thanks again for keeping the site alive, I’m loving the Sims 4 content and appreciate the little slice-of-life updates we’re getting into how things are with you and the family.

    I hope things continue to get better for you health-wise, and that, even though it’s hard, I hope the blog continues to give you that sense of connection to your father. He’ll continue to be missed by a great many.

  23. Daimbert says:

    While just a regular reader and semi-regular commenter, one thing that I’ve noticed this past year that surprised me was the number of times that I’d read a story or something about a video game — like I think the System Shock reboot actually coming out — and thinking to myself “Shamus will … would have said something about this at some point”. It amazes me how much of my information about games came through him.

  24. Ingolifs says:

    A good friend from Uni died recently, and I didn’t find out about it until a month later.
    I had a catchup with his sister, and talked about missing having him around to talk about maths stuff. I said ‘Obviously that’s nowhere near the level of grief you must feel’.
    She said something really nice to me. She said “All grief is valid“.

    I think that’s a great thing to keep in mind here on this website, where most people still coming grieve for Shamus the blogger in their own small way, meanwhile Bay is grieving for their entire father. Both of these things are compatible.

  25. RCN says:

    For me it feels like an eternity ago, since my daughter was born in the meantime and now time has seem to crawl as I look her develop day to day.

    Death sucks.

    Sorry I can’t give you any consolation. Death just sucks.

  26. krellen says:

    I miss him too, Bay.

    I wish there was an easy way to make it better.

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