I’ve been absent for a while, now. A great deal of events have happened. I’ll summarize the things that are most relevant.
I got a puppy. His name is Luigi, because he never gets to play. He’s a purebred black lab. Cute as a button. Definitely my player #2. Sleeps at my feet, highly trainable, and chews on everything. Dad and I disagreed about whether I should get a puppy on account of how busy I get with work and my studies, and we decided he was right, and he talked me out of it. A few days later I caved and got one anyway on an impulse. I just really wanted to have a dog and it needed to be one I raised from a puppy. However this puppers turns out when he’s grown is a direct reflection on me.
I came up with an idea that solves quite a few pretty serious problems in the open source community. I can’t talk about it yet, but, it’s going to be somewhat relevant to recent events you may have heard of:
You know, the funny part about that last one, is I’ve been almost SCREAMING in freenode/##linux about Arch Linux’s binary package pipeline and lack of peer review process being an imminent security weakness to malware injection in one of their repositories for YEARS and basically ignored on grounds of “well no one would do that” and “surely a distro that large would have thought of this”. And, as what usually happens when I am ignored on this topic, someone’s blimp came burning down to the ground all over the news. I can’t say I’m happy about it– it’s more indicative of the fact that these communities are just building things without having a real reason why, or awareness of a larger picture anymore. It’s just egos posturing these days, and chasing buzzwords for feigned glory and social identity.
Anyway, I’ve found a way for binary package based Linux distributions to have safe and securely auditable package repositories and build systems.
I talked to Dad about it, he got all excited too. It was the last thing I ever talked to him about. In retrospect, having the last conversation you and your father have together before he dies being one where, in zooming out, the son, a systems architect is telling the father with a PhD about a new invention, and the father being excited about it — I could not ask for a more honorable last conversation to have with my father given the contexts of our lives and where I was when I started out in the world on my own.
So many young men lose their fathers and have their last interaction be something mundane, or, worse. Mine was my father being proud of me and excited for my future. With appropriately noted irony, it ended with him telling me how to do something. His last words were teaching me something (Dad was a college professor and administrator in later years), and, my mentor. He taught me to be resilient, to be stubborn enough to find my own way, and to love study. He taught me the base workings of the world we live in and how to keep learning on my own. He taught me the crowd isn’t always right, and to do right by the world.
I also told my friend Nathaniel Jones about it, who had recently convinced me to re-evaluate a related architectural concept that ultimately made it possible. Nathaniel is one of my brightest acquaintances, particularly in the information security space. Deceptively intelligent, you’d never know he has his CISSP until you got him into the sticks on a technical topic — very well adjusted for a geek of his rank.
I immediately regretted telling him about it until the patent was filed, but that’s less of a “distrust for him” thing than a “managing my risk surface” thing. I would never keep someone around who couldn’t be trusted. We have similar values and goals.
I get the call. It’s my middle brother who lives with Dad. He’s at Dad’s office. Dad’s had a heart attack.
I ask if he’s going to a hospital.
He’s not. He died in his office.
It’s not real. He has misunderstood something. I need to fly out there and find out what’s going on. I just talked to Dad and he was fine.Me
I check google maps while I’m on the phone. Columbus, Ohio to Laconia New Hampshire is a 14 hour drive, 16 hours with a screaming puppy.
I tell him to tell me, play by play, exactly what happened, as it happened, and who said what verbatim — because I’m a day’s drive away and can’t fix whatever’s going on remotely.
He gives me the plays. Dad is dead.
Dad is dead.
I start packing my things while he’s still telling me what happened, and when he’s done I tell him to get home as soon as he can and wait for me — I’m 16 hours away.
I call my boss and tell him what’s going on. He offers to puppy-sit. My head is spinning. I decline.
Then a weird kind of autopilot kicked in and 14 hours later I’m there and there’s my brother.
It didn’t really set in until I saw him standing there by himself. In our family when people come to visit they meet you outside when you get there. It was just my brother. Dad’s not there.
Why didn’t I visit more? Was my career worth feeling like this?Me
A week goes by while we wardial the rest of the family to get everybody there. We’re split all over the country. Mom is on an island in the gulf, and my little brother is in Indiana. I was in Ohio before I came up. My middle brother and Dad were in New Hampshire. One uncle in Oklahoma. The other uncle and my aunt, who I’d never met as an adult, in Virginia.
We spend a week going through Dad’s “In the Event of My Death” box and handling the legals, which I won’t discuss here.
Dad gets cremated per his wishes. He wanted no ceremony. We celebrated his life anyway — me, my little brother, and my uncles polished off a bottle of Jefferson Reserve, a bottle of Dewar’s White Label, and a half a bottle of Absynthe while my middle brother, my mom and my aunt sit around us and chat. It was first time we’d had a family event sitting around a dinner table for most of us in a long, long time.
I’d normally brag about drinking everyone under the table but we were grieving. We all loved this man. We toasted to his life, his legacy in his sons, his passion for education, and the love that he had built all over the country. There were college cities all across America that can never forget him, students — now long graduated, who remember being helped by him to finish their degrees, called across the stage for graduation by him, and taught by him all along the way. His thesis is frequently cited in research journals. He was a PhD in Psychology and Philosophy, and had other credentials in History — I can’t even name all of his credentials because to me he was just “Dad”.
I have, as of yet, never met anyone with a legacy like his. And you’d have never known it just by talking to him. It’s easy to forget that when you’re his kid.
And a kid I was again when I went to see him before the cremation. Part of me was going to confirm that this was real — that he wasn’t going to jump out of a closet at the last minute and chew my ass reminding me I need to visit more. I needed to see my father’s body.
2018-08-04 Sidequest in Portland
I grieve in my own way. Most people don’t even see it. I’d been holding it together to get everyone coordinated because there’s a great deal of arrangements to make when someone dies, getting us all on the same page is like herding kittens, and I needed to get away for a road trip before I tie up loose ends and head back myself for my own sanity.
Luckily my alma mater was only 2.5 hours away, along with a whole host of memories that put a tremendous strain on my family about 10 years ago to the day, shortly before we all scattered across the country and I went off to start a long, long period of traveling myself. We didn’t really have a base to call home after that, so, I just kept traveling and never looked back. I was too busy with career, and everyone else was too busy with theirs.
So I drove out to Portland, Maine and go down memory lane. I drove to where my child died in 2008 and had a moment.
After a couple hours of driving around I visit the Old Port district, where the night scene was when I was a dorm kid and later when I was living in Falmouth. It was fun.
Then a strange, strange series of events happened.
Whenever I go to the Old Port, I bar-shop for like 20 minutes before I settle on a bar because it takes so long to get a drink due to the number of (mostly asshole) college aged kids. You can be at the bar for 30 minutes before they even get your order in if you go to the wrong bar, so, I’m picky. I eventually settle on Ri Ra’s. It’s a classier place, I was overdressed anyway because I only packed my work clothes when I left Ohio, so it worked out.
So I’m sitting there, on a picnic table, outside at Ri Ra’s, and of all people, it’s the guy who mowed our lawn when I lived in Falmouth, just next door, ten years ago. My fiance at the time had been having an affair with him, and then, after spending years ripping my life apart with very destructive lies and psychological abuse (mostly gaslighting), ended up marrying the loser. While this was all going on I did not know about any of it yet, so, was trying to find out what was going on and nobody was talking because everyone involved was a shitty person inside. I just strangled trying to find out the details. But all the while when I was looking for people, this guy, and his brother, would follow me around and I’d have to pretend I didn’t see them until I knew what was going on.
So this guy and his brother just pop up as soon as I’m sitting down to drink my beer, a Stella Artois on tap (it’s all they had that I’d be seen drinking). By this point I’d already hired PI’s years ago to put the story together, to find out about my baby (and its termination), to find out about my marriage being a setup, the affair, the rewriting of history, everything — I knew almost everything about them. They don’t know about that though.
As I look up they’re still tracing a perimeter around me walking while I’m sipping my beer and he says “He looked right at me that time”. I realize this situation could turn ugly, so, I make it obvious to him that I see him. He’s scared of something. He stumbles into his brother who is glaring me down while I glare him down.
The brother has hate in his eyes, like he’s some kind of victim. Like HE is the victim. These manchildren are upset that their bullshit plotting never came to fruition and that their lives now suck while my success continues to grow. I was supposed to die ten years ago and they couldn’t pull it off. So she destroyed my image, my state of peace, and my professional life for a time instead — any response from me would have justified their scheming and I was never going to give it to them. The course of my life was irreparably derailed and I was supposed to sink and I didn’t. He was there every step along the way and knew what was being done to me, and even provided physical security for his brother while it was going on in case I became aware of it. Be angry. I’m better than you are in every way a person can be better than someone. That applies to your brother too. You can’t even imitate me. You have both soiled the lives of everyone involved in that situation, and frankly, everyone else around you. That goes for your father, too, who impersonated a police officer to threaten me.
I didn’t say that. What came out was a glare that pushed a jobless loser into his brother about 100 feet away before they both took off back into the shadows of the Old Port district on a Saturday night.
Why were they there? Why were they there at the exact moment I’m sitting down to get a beer in a city I haven’t set foot in for 10 years, the moment I arrive from out of state? How did they know where I’d be and when I’d be there? How did they know where I’d be 10 years ago the first time I saw them following me when all that started?Me, halfway into my beer
There are too many coincidences there that I won’t go into.
I reached out a friend with some awareness of clandestine-related things and explained it to him. We scowered social media to see if there was an exposure point for my location. Nothing.
After our friendly game of “capture the flag” I drive back to New Hampshire.
So, I get back to where I was staying in Laconia that night.
Towards the end of the next day I feel like checking the rest of Portland out and meeting up with an old college buddy of mine. While I’m packing my things for another road trip in the parking lot outside the dorm building Dad’s school was letting me stay in while I took care of things related to Dad’s death, I see a familiar face again.
This time, on the other side of our football field sized parking lot, walking a dog. I realize this person has been parked in the otherwise empty parking lot for several hours walking the same dog. The dog looks familiar. The woman looks familiar but it’s too far out to make out for a bit. She starts waving really big and calling out like she’s trying to get my attention. I start to walk closer and when I can make it out better, and I recognize the dog. After she realizes she’s been identified and sees me starting to walk towards her, I see her rush to get inside the white van with her dog and speed off. I try to get a picture with my phone but it all happened too fast.
Here’s the weird part. Nobody knew where I was staying but my immediate family, myself, and the school. Laconia, New Hampshire, is a several hours long drive from Portland, Maine. That’s a very, very long time to drive round trip to be seen walking a dog.
I continue my trip. Car’s driving a little different but I can’t figure it out. About an hour away my tire pressure alarm goes off. I’m losing air. I stop at a gas station and fill it back up with air. While I’m doing that I find a very large nail in my tire. It was new.
I pulled into a motel for the night and got a new tire the next morning.
I still made it out.
With new tires in Portland, I explore the coastal area a bit and go back to New Hampshire again.
2018-08-07 The Trip Home
I pick up dad’s ashes to hold onto.
Found another nail in another tire at the end of the trip. Same size.
Fuck it. Time to go home.
I resolve to not let Dad’s death, or these bizarre events, get under my skin. Everyone dies. Dad lived a great life. He did not want to be mourned. He wanted us to all do well, so, that’s what I’ll continue doing. That, and, I’ve got to be the anchor now. But god damn it it hurts.
Work in the morning.
At some point along the trip, I’d thrown my back out and it was setting in. I can no longer walk by this point and I’ve got sciatica pain. I go to urgent care. Lumbar Radiculopathy. I’ve been recovering ever since.
From there on, nothing terribly unusual happened. I’ve been slowly getting my head back together again after such a hard trip, with so many memories I did not want.
In summary, losing your father is a huge life event, and it’s something most people go through. This will sting a long time. But you’ve gotta keep carrying your flag.