Thursday, December 22nd (“It is what it is”)

When life gives you peppers, make...?Can you believe my pepper plants are still producing? It’s the ass end of December, and my peppers are still all, “JULY, BITCHES!”

I think that’s a sign. An allegory, if you will. Even in the darkest part of the year, the coldest part (of course, as I say that it’s already over 60 degrees this morning and all the windows and the screen door to the porch are open), the part of the year where most things fold up and hibernate, life goes on.

Oh, hello, major family health crisis with the chance of death for Christmas, you feel familiar. I would like to punch you in your face. Your stupid, stupid face.

Ten years ago tomorrow, on Christmas Eve day in 2001, we made the decision to move Daddy from the hospital to Hospice. A bed there had opened up, and he wasn’t coming out of the coma they’d induced so that he could have a better chance with his thin, wasted body to maybe survive this round of chemotherapy. He wasn’t going to get better; this was a one-way trip. We had debated for a couple of days about what to do for Christmas. Do we still have it at my house, where it was being held then? Do we move it to Barbara’s apartment, to make it easy for her? Do we have at at Aunt Gay and Uncle Joe’s, where we were going to eat anyway, to make it easier for them to cook? Do we not have it at all? We opted to go on as usual, Christmas at my house where everything already was, and while it was weird to not have Daddy there, at least there was some semblance at trying to be normal.

Christmas Day 2009 Jeff and I drove to the VA to hang out with Uncle Joe for a while. We didn’t open any presents that day; we knew Uncle Joe was going to make it by then (after all, he’d made it that far, right? Surely the Universe wouldn’t fuck with us that much) so as a family we opted to hold off on Christmas celebrations until Uncle Joe was back out of the hospital again. My mom and Dave came up for Christmas that year, and they all went to see Uncle Joe in the morning, and Jeff and I went to see Uncle Joe in the afternoon. I honestly don’t remember what Tim did that day. I think he stayed home and read computer books (like ya do).

And now we have Christmas 2011.

Here’s the Readers Digest Condensed Version, which I have hinted at a little here but haven’t written down the whole thing, because for most of the year I thought there was something wrong with my blog and I didn’t want to write a lot of long, heart-felt posts just to have them disappear, but here we go now because (1) I hope those things are fixed and (2) I need to talk. In 500 words or less: Early this year, Rusty fell in his kitchen, and was on the floor for four days before someone found him. He spent months in the hospital and rehab center. He was finally pronounced well enough to be able to continue to live alone, and sent home, where he was for approximately a week when… something fuzzy happened. Either he slept on the floor on purpose, or he fell again and didn’t want to come clean about it, but they had to break in and get him up again and he’s been back in the hospital and rehab center since then. We had made the decision to bring him down here into a nursing home, but apparently his worn-out body has decided it has had enough, and is beginning the shut-down process. His mind, other than befuddled by morphine for the pain, is sharp as a tack. But his body is done.

Earlier this week (fuck, just yesterday, so not so much “earlier”) there were decisions that were made, and then made differently, involving an amputation (final verdict: don’t do the amputation, it wouldn’t solve anything and would just be a horrible experience for Rusty); Aunt Gay is up there and is really shouldering a lot of the burdens of choices and decisions, and I’m sure your thoughts would really mean a lot to her. She reads this blog, so feel free to leave her some words of love in the comments. And tell Uncle Joe that it’s OK if he wants to go to Dayton next week, that my mom and Dave and Barbara and Sharon and Chris and Laura and Gerry and Jag and Antony and Tim and I can totally handle the New Years Eve party (as long as they don’t mind if it’s still at their house, because dudes, people would show up there regardless).

A typical evening with the fam'What do I think…? I love Rusty. He is a rapscallion, and a tease, and gives a good back or foot rub, and he reminds me of a dinner roll because he’s hard and crusty on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. He’s pragmatic, and practical, and is a “show, not tell” kind of guy. I don’t think he’s ever told me he loves me; but he shows up, and isn’t that what love is? He doesn’t need to say the words because he shows you all the time. He’s been to every Christmas, Thanksgiving when we still celebrated it, birthdays when Aunt Gay and I used to have joint parties at Tarrytown or Merritt Island, random month-long visits, both of my weddings, my fathers death, Uncle Joe’s illness. He’s full of stories and I’ve gotten to hear a good portion of them. He’s Santa’s Evil Twin, he’s the Wise Old Man, he’s Gandalf and the Trickster and a librarian and a font of knowledge all rolled into one twinking-eye’d Old Man. He’s the best Grandfather a girl could choose to have.

And now it’s time to say goodbye. Thank you. I love you. You’ve meant so much to me. It’s time to celebrate and cultivate all the things in life I’ve learned from you, and practice them.

Would Rusty want me to mourn, or would Rusty want me to celebrate his life and pass on his stories and attitude? Yes, there will be mourning, there has to be. But I’m goddamn lucky to have had a Rusty in my life, and that joy deserves a nod as well.

Lest you think, though, that I’m without feeling, I’ll end this with something I wrote to Jag in an email the other night –
Also, pain is OK. I welcome pain. I’d never want to be without pain. Pain is a balance; without the pain of hurt and loss, we wouldn’t recognize the joy of bounty and love. If I don’t acknowledge pain upon losing someone, how can I acknowledge I have love for them? If you don’t feel a loss, how do you know there was anything there that you were holding special?

26 thoughts on “0

  1. I’ve told you elsewhere, but it bears repeating: I love you and your family to pieces. I don’t have anything else to add about Rusty, as I think I only met him once or twice, but I’m glad he has been a part of your family.

    Of the 2009 Christmasfest, I remember two things very clearly. I remember that the New Year’s Eve party was one of the most amazing, overwhelming things I’ve been invited to; so many amazing people that y’all have accumulated through your lives mingling together, having an amazing time. And I remember the second Christmas you had when Joe was home. I was hanging out with Sharon at Hanks when you came in, slightly (possibly more than slightly) drunk and overwhelmed with joy, wanting to share how happy you were that Joe was home and you were together at last with the entire world.

    I love you guys and feel fortunate to be at least a tangential part of your lives. If there’s anything I can do, I’m there. Or here. Or wherever.

  2. Thanks, Lore, that is beautiful.

    Rusty actually fell down his steps back in August. He got himself up into a chair and thought he was okay. Then he lay down on the floor to sleep and stiffened up so badly he couldn’t get up.

    I gave him your message. He said he couldn’t ask for a better granddaughter and smiled. Love and many hugs, Aunt Gay

  3. I love that last bit. So wonderful and so true.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. I can’t imagine what the universe is attempting to teach you by all this pain at what should be a joyous time.

    Much love and strength to you and to Aunt Gay and the rest of your family. You have a wonderful family and I feel blessed to be able to take a peek at it once in a while.


  4. I know Rusty best and saw him most often as the Grand Master of every worthwhile Hucksters Room on the Midwest convention circuit. When I look back, he presided over the paradigm shift from “Hucksters Room” to “Dealers Room” and the shifts from SF/F books to SF/F books and media to all-out media…and he made it look both easy. We were richer for his calm wisdom and we’ll be poorer now.

  5. Oh Lore, I knew this time would come but I hoped it would remain far in the future.

    I’m so glad that you can choose your family and that Rusty has been a part of yours for so long. I hope the joy and happiness that Rusty creates helps temper your sense of loss.

    I’m struggling to accept that I won’t see Rusty in just a few days. I probably only talked with him two-dozen times, but I’ve enjoyed every conversation.

    Gay and Joe, Lore and Tim, you are family we choose. It would be a privilege to help in whatever way we can.

  6. I’ve only met Rusty a couple of times, but he always seemed a wonderful person to me. I’m glad he has such loving people to look after him, especially now. You have the most amazing family, who has gone through so very much. I love you all.

  7. I am Sallie Abba’s father. I met Rusty at DemiCon in Des Moines, but I’m sure that blew past him. I met him this year in the rehab center and at his home. Living in Springfield, I often went to Dayton, and easily added Rusty to my agenda when I went there. Gay and Rusty had lunch with me and my wife, Mary Jane. As we were leaving from one visit to Stonespring, Rusty said, “Next time, Bill, you keep your mouth shut so I can talk to your lovely wife!” It was not a question.

    Rusty is a beautiful man, and I am glad I got to know him a little, and to seek his book-crammed home.
    Bill Salyers

  8. That is a wonderful tribute to a wonderful person. Lore, you said it best right here and thank you. We will mourn, but then we’ll remember the twinkle in his eye, his kindness, his crustiness, the love he had for the science fiction community and all of it. And maybe start laughing again, Like we do when we share Tucker stories.

    I’ve known Gay and Joe for nearly all my time in fandom, and i wish I could be there to hug you all and mourn with you. But Kansas City is far far away, especially at this time of the year when the weather can go from lovely to horrible in a day or so.

    Hugs and love, sympathy and strength to all of you all. We’re losing our old ones, and it is very sad.

  9. Gay, thanks for being there with Rusty. It’s a heroic and courageous job, and all of us who care about Rusty owe you a big debt.

    And tell Rusty that Diana and I send our love. We don’t travel the convention circuit as much as we used to, but we’ve known Rusty at least since the mid-seventies, and he’s been part of our fannish family. He put many a good pulp magazine into my hands when I first fell into that (expensive) hobby. So tell that young whipper-snapper to get better and get up. There’s an entire genration of fans out there who still don’t know who sawed Courtney’s boat, and I’ve got an entire box of fhannish photos from the 40s and 50 left to me by Tucker, many unidentified, of course, so I need Rusty’s help.

    We love you, Rusty.

  10. I first met Rusty at ICON I in 1975, and have been fortunate to call him friend ever since. In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to have some private meals with him and have been thoroughly delighted with his range of knowledge, experience and love of life. I’ve been asked to fill in for him a couple of times as toastmaster at some cons and my name tag there reads “Rusty’s Minion”. It is a name I wear with much pride, and it means as much to me as my college degree. When my son started thinking about joining the Marines, I made sure that they had some private time together to discuss Rusty’s experiences there. Colin just graduated boot camp last week. Rusty’s a roll model for us all.

  11. My love and thoughts are with you and your family. You have such a way with words (I can now see why, the more I learn about your roots). I never met Rusty, but I know he played an integral part in the person you have become. For that we can all be grateful.

    Please know I am here for you. Having just gone through these same decisions and upheaval myself, I understand all the emotions you are going through – the huge range of them, and how they can go from one to the next in a split second with just a hint of a smell, or a word or whatever. You know he would want a life celebration and not sadness and mourning, but like you said it IS an important part of the life experience and needs to be felt.

    I Love you, Lor!

  12. How beautiful and moving (you’ve got me in tears). The depth of your love for Rusty has been evident ever since I steered following your blog, and you’ve written an incredible glimpse into the heart of that love here. I shed tears for your heartache, admire your courage and fortitude in the face of loss, and send you and all your family and friends of the heart love and care. We’ve not met in person, but imagine yourself wrapped in a powerful hug. Love you.

  13. I only met Rusty once, but how memorable must someone be when you actually remember meeting a person one time?

    I love you Lorena because you love so strong. Take care.

  14. I spent a couple of Halde-Christmas’s with you and just remember Rusty being larger-than-life. Gruff, but sweet.
    My love to you, Gay, and Joe.

  15. Thanks for putting into words all that love for Rusty.

    I’ve enjoyed seeing him at cons for a long time. In fact, when I read his name it always sparks the memory of him waving to me as I passed at the ’74 Worldcon and how I really felt so connected to everybody from that moment on.

  16. (File 770 sent me here)
    I only met Rusty twice because I am not a regular at DemiCon, but I will never forget him because the very first time he saw me he offered to unzip my corset. What a flirt!

    I hope his family will never forget the good times.

  17. I never got to know Rusty as well as I’d have liked–he just didn’t get over this way often enough. He probably wouldn’t remember me from Adam, no reason to. Tell him I wish him an easy passage, and hope he finds as much love in the next life as he has in this one.

  18. When I came back to fandom in the early part of the last decade, I searched out Rusty because my Dad had met him and seen his slide show years before and told me about it. I’m crushed to hear it’s not going well. I know one of his sons, he’s a BArea fan and a BASFAn. I had a good long chat with Rusty at Reconstruction. He made me laugh a lot. I made him laugh a couple of times, and the best part of all, and a shockingly weird coincidence, we had a great discussion about your Dad’s baseball stories, some of my all-time faves. I can’t remember what brought it up, but it was wonderful to share a moment like that.

    We’re doing an issue of Journey Planet called “First Fandom Meets Fast Fandom”, and I’ve been planning on writing about my exchanges with Rusty over the years. I had hoped I could get him a copy to comment on. I still hope…

  19. Rusty, Gay, Lorena, everyone —

    My heart is with you all. May you be surrounded with peace, love, and comfort on this journey as yet another fan heads off to the Enchanted Convention. And what a fan, what a man!

    Rusty, you’ve just always been there. I didn’t get into fandom until the early ’80s, but you’re in the Minicon history from long, long before that, and in fandom’s history, too. We’ll carry the truths and the tales with us into the future, we’ll keep welcoming the neos, those at their first convention, and there will always be laughter, even midst our tears.

    Thank you for helping make fandom such a welcoming and interesting place. Thank you for everything.

    Geri Sullivan
    Minneapolis in ’73 post-supporting bid chair

  20. I entered fandom in 1986 and have no idea when I first met Rusty. I quite possibly saw him at my first convention. He was simply always there and I was always aware of who he was and his importance. He is one of those giants who I figured I knew, but was unaware of me, even as I became more active, so you can imagine my surprise when I was walking through the restaurant at an Icon in Iowa one morning and saw Rusty and Gay enjoying breakfast and Rusty motioned me over to join the two of them.

    Even when I’ve gone for years without seeing Rusty, he is always a part of my fandom, an omnipresent influence on the cons I attend and wish to attend.

  21. Your post on Rusty was beautiful, as he clearly also was. My regret that I only met him a few times, including one of your family’s holiday gatherings on Merritt Island too many years ago. Bonnie and I extend our condolences to you, the rest of the Haldeclan, and to Rusty’s other family and friends.

  22. We got the sad news a few hours ago, and Patrick and I have been quietly talking, drinking toasts, and trading stories of Rusty ever since. There’s been much laughter here, in balance to the sense of loss and the tears. Most of all, though, we’ve felt enormous gratitude that we were privileged enough to know Rusty. No matter how many months had passed since we’d last seen him, he would always greet us warmly, and we’d fall back into cheerful conversation as if we’d parted only minutes before. I suspect that’s how our next reunion will also be. World without end, Amen, Amen…

    Rusty was one of the first people who welcomed me into the SF community. He was a major reason that SF fandom immediately felt like HOME. And there aren’t words enough to say how much that gentle loving-kindness of his meant to my deeply uncertain, achingly shy, and far younger self. Speech falls so far short – no words could be sufficiently fine to express how it felt to find where I belonged, to be made so radiantly welcome. All I can do is to try to pay it onwards, greeting and bringing in others, as Rusty did for me.

    Somewhere, Lynn Hickman, Khen Moore, and a host of other absent friends are having a “Welcome Home” party, and a laughing, vital Rusty is once again the Fan Guest of Honor. He kept them all waiting a very long time. But I can’t help selfishly wishing that he could have kept them waiting forever. We’re going to miss him so terribly.

    Lorena, thank you for giving us a place to share our memories, and to send our best wishes and condolences to all of you. Gay (and Joe!), thank you for all that you did to help over the years – Gay’s quick thinking and clear-headed decisiveness surely gave us half a decade more with Rusty than we would’ve had otherwise. And Rusty, thank you so much for welcoming me into SF fandom! You helped teach me that we can have families of the heart – the Family that we CHOOSE – as well as the kin we’re dealt by fate. You gave us all so very much, and in our memories of you, we are still blessed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



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