“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

A long road

Friends, I need to write something very personal and sad right now. Some of it will include things about my family and my age that I usually try to be vague about, but fuck it. I’m really only writing this to get it out of my system, so if you didn’t come here to be bummed out or to read my fuckin diaries, that’s perfectly all right. I recommend instead this review from last year of STEELE JUSTICE starring Martin Kove.

But the thing is my mom died Monday morning. It wasn’t sudden, and yet, of course, it kinda seemed like it was. This has been a trying half decade for me. After my dad’s Alzheimer’s was severe enough that he had to be moved into a facility, but before he passed away, Mom tripped and hit her head. Just a normal clumsy accident, didn’t think much of it, but the raccoon eyes that developed the next day helped convince her she should get checked for a concussion. The damage from the fall wasn’t severe, but there was something else they noticed: a brain tumor. A huge one. The surgeon who would soon remove it described it as “the mother of all tumors” and “the size of a grapefruit.”

He was one of the most immediately impressive people I’ve ever met. He looked us in the eye and very confidently told us that he thought he could do this, explained his qualifications, but also very matter of factly told us of the possibility she could die. But if they didn’t remove it, she would definitely die. There seemed to be no bullshit about him. It made me feel better.

When they estimated how long it had to have been growing there, I did the math in my head, and thought wow, when we were watching RETURN OF THE JEDI, this thing was already there, and we never knew it. They theorized that it even explained some things about her life. The sometimes crippling depression that had led her to stop working might have been triggered by pressure on her brain. Removing it might even give her a new outlook on life.

I was there with her when they prepared her for the surgery. It had all come upon us so fast, and I worried I wouldn’t see her alive again. I told myself not to use the word “goodbye” when they rolled her off, but I slipped. She waved and said, “See ya later!” like she didn’t have a care in the world. It still makes me smile.

I’ll spare you the chapters that could be written about the experience of waiting for something like that, not knowing the cause of delays, eventually being taken into a private room and being almost sure that this means they’re about to tell you the bad news. I will say that there’s something very powerful and life-affirming about the community that forms in these waiting rooms, the other friends and family and nuns you see camping out, passing the time, worrying, grieving, in a similar situation, but maybe earlier or farther along on their journey. I remember hearing someone whose relative had had the same surgery as my mom, but now they were back with some complications. I hoped that wouldn’t be us.

And at first it wasn’t. The recovery was long and grueling, but it seemed like she was coming back to her old self. She’d been a nurse, and it was at times galling how at home she felt in dramatic health scares. As our dad’s caretaker she’d tell us every detail of the medicines he took, the possibilities for the disease to advance or slow down, the experimental drugs, the study they would do on his brain after he died. As a patient she’d remember the names and departments of every doctor and nurse, quiz the med techs about the drugs they were giving her, recount for us what she’d learned. Until she couldn’t. She was the head of the family, really, and it was hard to watch her gradually become helpless, and realize that it was happening.

But that took some time. She was actually able to go home and live on her own for while. She was weak on the left side, and had left neglect, which I have learned is a thing where your brain doesn’t remember to look left. You’re not incapable of seeing, but it’s very hard to teach yourself to do it. So obviously she couldn’t drive and had some trouble getting around without a walker. Still, the fact that they could take this giant thing out of her head, leaving an empty space that needed to fill in, and that she could still be capable of so much, was incredible. Most of the stress was about getting her to appointments and therapists. She worked very hard to be approved to cook again. We worried about her, but she seemed to know what she was doing.

But there were problems, and before long a seizure brought me with her to an emergency room for what turned into a long series of problems and moves between hospitals and departments and rehab facilities. She eventually agreed to assisted living, and we found a great place, but then she had falls and had to go back to rehab and eventually it was clear she wouldn’t walk again, couldn’t feed herself, couldn’t even sit up in bed.

And somewhere in the middle of that she got diagnosed with breast cancer. We had no idea how we were going to get her to the radiation treatments, or how she would be able to take them. They decided she was too weak; treating her would be more dangerous than not treating her. She told us she had decided she didn’t want to keep fighting, she just wanted to be as comfortable as she could and appreciate what life she had left. She went on hospice. But for a while she would forget, and ask when her surgery was.

There are a few traumatic images that I don’t think I’ll ever get out of my brain. One is the first time I saw my dad in the memory ward. His eyes looked distant, and he was pacing up and down a hall. That’s pretty much all he did for his last years. He not only didn’t recognize me, he couldn’t even focus his eyes on me. He was somewhere else.

The rest of them are from my mom. Nobody should have to witness some of the things I saw her go through. And I won’t forget the feeling of helplessness of one of the many nights I spent with her in the emergency room waiting for someone to see her. Any time a hospital employee walked by you’d hear people begging them for help, and they’d calmly explain that they weren’t the doctor. Through the curtains I didn’t want to stare at the guy with the mangled, infected foot that he believed had spiders in it, so I could only watch the staff behind the desk. Accustomed to this level of hellish stress, they don’t even notice it, and they’re playfully joking around with each other like a normal job. My mom kept screaming and convulsing and I was convinced she was going to fall off of her bed. Eventually it broke me and I ranted at my brother. They don’t help anybody, they don’t care, she’s going to hurt herself and nobody will help us. But she was screaming so much that other patients started to yell for her to shut up, which seemed to finally get her some help.

It’s a little embarrassing to say, but I’m sure you won’t be surprised, that I started thinking of the corny song from FIRST BLOOD as my theme song. The lyrics much more clearly apply to Rambo’s situation than to mine, but I just kept thinking of that line, “It’s a long road, and it’s hard as hell…”

One of my constant fears is that I’ve passed my expiration date, that it’s too late to figure out how to live my life just as a writer. So the time before and after the day job, and especially the days off, are a precious commodity to fit in all the work on reviews and books along with, you know, normal human life and relationships. So selfishly these many long nights and days sitting in hospital rooms felt like they were crushing my dreams. And it was clear that she liked being in the hospital. As a person with terrible insurance, I try to avoid going to the doctor as long as possible. She would try to go for anything. At least once they made her leave before she wanted. They took good care of her and she liked the food and she liked that we all came to see her. But we had lives to live. It was burning us out.

So honestly it was a relief when she was on hospice and at least I didn’t have to worry about the next text or phone call, or about figuring out which hospital she’s at now and how I should get there and what room she’ll be in. That she’ll just be in her little apartment at all times, with nice people looking out for her. Whatever happens, it can’t get worse.

But of course I felt guilty for thinking that.

At this point they weren’t even sure what was wrong with her anymore. She was too weak to walk, she was having hallucinations about bees, about car accidents, she wasn’t making much sense, and they never figured out why. We just tried to be there and keep her as happy as you can be in that situation. At the beginning of the year it was believed she was getting close. The hospice arranged to have a harpist come into her room and play for her. It was moving and even heavier than it sounds because friends and loved ones were in chairs facing her bed like it was a recital. The harpist asked for requests and I didn’t know anything that would be appropriate but I thought man, I wish I could assume she knew “Maggot Brain.” That would be amazing on harp.

By this point, I thought, I was as okay as I was gonna be about the knowledge that my mother would die soon. But then her sister would come in, or her best friend from college, or her work friend who I got to know on a hugging basis in the emergency room, and then I would start to see this tragedy through their eyes. I kept thinking that even though she was my mom, some of them had known her longer than I had.

There was an incredibly heavy day when my sister and I went to visit, and Mom’s church group came in to pray for her. Neither of us are religious, but we thought it was nice and agreed to take part, not realizing that these were going to be the prayers you say for someone right before they die, to send them off to Heaven. Not the last rites, but something like that. And then they started singing for her and she didn’t even seem conscious but suddenly this high pitch comes out of her, a note. “Aaaaaaaaaaaa” and then we realize she’s singing “Amazing Grace.” She still knew the words, at least some of them, and could sing better than I could.

One of the church ladies wanted to bring it up on her phone so we could sing along, and the first version that came up was by Judy Collins. And they had no idea, but my mom had been a huge fan of Judy Collins when we were growing up. She’d go see her whenever there was a tour. I don’t remember her going to any other concerts. When I was a little older I’d complain when she played the records. I said I hated them. She’d tease me that when I was a baby I would cry and the only way she could make me smile was to play Judy Collins. And anyway she had this song about a pearl handled gun, because Nancy Reagan slept with a pearl handled gun under her pillow, it was against guns and I was against guns so I should like it.

Years later I went into a Borders and a CD signing was going on. I looked at the woman behind the table and I knew her – for a second I thought she was a relative. And then of course I realized it was Judy Collins. I only knew her from seeing those record covers so much as a kid so I felt like she was my aunt or something.

I always wondered why the people in the movies were into Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin but my mom was listening to Judy Collins. I think she was kind of a weirdo, kind of a nerd. She made her own clothes. Her friend told me that in college she drove them crazy by studying while they were on the bus just going to the movies or something. I don’t think she ever tried to be cool. But she had her eccentricities. She loved Halloween. She was an early adopter of the buying-full-sized-bars-at-Costco technique. But many kids were too scared to approach the house because of the tombstones, the strobe lights, the sound effects records, and especially the witch makeup.

She didn’t like horror movies though, and gave me shit about it. ROSEMARY’S BABY was the only one she liked. And maybe THE SIXTH SENSE later. I always argued that my horror movies weren’t as morbid as her true crime TV movies and Ann Rule Ted Bundy books. When I was older she bought me the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET dvd box set as a Christmas gift, and I couldn’t believe it. I almost didn’t get rid of it when I upgraded to blu ray because it meant so much to me that it came from her.

She was a dyed in the wool Democrat. She loved to give my dad shit about voting for Reagan the first time. In the ’90s she loved Hillary Clinton. She saw her as someone who defied society’s limitations for women, who spoke her mind, who stood up to slander, who fought for health care (as a nurse this was huge to her), who pissed off all the worst, most sexist assholes. That attachment seemed to fade a little by the time Clinton was the Democratic nominee, but I never found out why. Mom was still herself during the election and followed what was going on. I always thought I was more cynical and more radical than she was, but I remember asking her if she was excited that she was going to get to see a woman president. She wasn’t as sure about it as I was.

After the harp and the “Amazing Grace” and everybody trying to get emotionally prepared, nothing happened. Mom seemed to get better, worse, better, worse. We got used to it. She laid in bed with MSNBC on all day, though she could no longer comprehend it. She showed occasional interest in the Mariners or the Seahawks, but didn’t really follow the games. It was hard to talk to her about much other than what she’d had for breakfast or lunch, but she usually thought she hadn’t eaten yet. On a more talkative day she would tell us about some visit that she obviously imagined, or deny a visit that we knew had happened. But often you couldn’t really talk to her except to tell her hello and I love you, which she usually knew how to respond to. I am ashamed to say, and I will always regret, that my visits got fewer and farther between. I had heard many updates but hadn’t seen her in a few weeks when I heard on Sunday night that, once again, they thought she might be getting ready to transition. There was no specific thing, but the hospice nurse felt from experience that it could be a matter of days or a week. I was scheduled to work in the morning so I would go see her after work, unless I heard that things were dire. Instead I woke up to a 5:40 am text that things were serious, got there in a half an hour, and, you know. Found her.

Before all this I would’ve thought that that would be one of the worst things to ever happen, to go into a room not knowing if a loved one was alive, looking at them, not knowing for sure, finding that they weren’t. But I’m almost as calm about that part as my mom would’ve been. This stuff grinds you down. You learn to be cavalier about it, even make jokes. Most of the time I feel like I’ve accepted my dad’s death three years ago. Then, out of the blue, somebody says something that reminds me of something that reminds me of something else that makes me think “I used to have a dad. Now I don’t.” That’s how my brain always formulates it. And now I have to update that one.

The family sat with the body for hours, crying, telling stories, laughing. It’s weird but this is my fourth time in five years – two grandparents and two parents. It’s surprising what you can get used to. Some of the staff came in to offer their condolences and tell us that they loved our mom. One was a young music therapist with an acoustic guitar tattooed on her wrist. She told us that she’d been working with our mom in recent days, singing with her. She said that Mom had been talking about Judy Collins, and a baby bouncing up and down.

“That was me!” I said. “I was the baby!” I couldn’t believe it. It gives me comfort to know that she had been thinking about me, even if she didn’t remember it was me. Just some baby. That’s good enough.

When I started writing this self indulgent thing yesterday I figured I might end up deleting most of it and just posting a little something nice about Mom. But the person I love most in this world told me that we don’t talk enough about grieving in this society, and in particular men don’t always talk about their feelings, and also we who enjoy talking about tough guy movies may be especially guilty of this, and maybe it’s helpful to people who are going through something like this or have gone through something like this or might go through something like this to hear from someone else. So I’m taking that advice.

I still feel a little guilty for dwelling so much on the horrors here. What I want to say is that this has been hell for all of us, and I would do it again for my mom.

Let me tell you one of the things I got from her. There were times growing up that she didn’t get what I was going through, didn’t like the way I was dressing or whatever. As an adult I never felt like I could explain to her what I was working on, that it wasn’t something she had the context to understand. She had all of my books and I’m pretty sure she never read a word of them and I don’t know that she should’ve. But what was important to her was that as a little kid I liked to write stories, so she pushed me to do it and she tried to get me the better teachers and she always advocated for me. When I was older she didn’t understand why I wouldn’t try to get a job at a newspaper or something, why that wouldn’t be fulfilling for me, but that’s okay. As a kid she let me believe that I could be a writer or an artist when I grew up. She didn’t let the difficulty of paying the bills get in the way. And I’m grateful for that.

I’ve written before about action movies as a bonding ritual between fathers and their sons or daughters, and my specific feelings about my dad as related to DIE HARD. I could say that in some sense my dad gave me my love of action movies. But it was my mom who gave me the ability, the will, the purpose of communicating those feelings creatively. So I hope that as I continue to express myself it will be some kind of tribute to both of them, the love they had for me and the sacrifices they made. And I hope I can be worthy of that.

Pop culture was never as important for my parents as for me. There’s not even a specific movie I associate with my mom other than THE FUGITIVE, and that’s only because we went to see it right after she’d been laid off from a job she’d worked for decades, so during one of the hospital scenes she started crying. I don’t really know how to pay tribute to her in the medium of movie review like I did for my dad. But she always said her favorite actress was Meryl Streep. I’m not even sure which movies made her feel that way. It looks like I’ve only reviewed three Streep movies, and I know Mom never saw any of these, but I love them all:

RICKI AND THE FLASH

THE POST

ADAPTATION

Also here’s my review of LADY BIRD, another movie she never saw, but that reminded me of her.

I miss you Mom. Thanks for everything.

 

p.s. For obvious reasons I may be slow with the reviews for a bit, but writing is therapeutic for me so we’ll get things going again soon enough. When you see what dumb bullshit movie I review next please be aware that it was in the works for the Summer of ’98 series and was not what I thought would make the best statement about this juncture in my life. Also remember that I truly love and appreciate you all and I’m extremely grateful that you care enough to read any of this (or the STEELE JUSTICE review).

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 15th, 2018 at 4:19 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog), Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

113 Responses to “A long road”

  1. This was rough and necessary and beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Vern. Much love.

  2. Vern, thank you for writing and sharing this. My sincere condolences for your loss. And thank you: Everything you do for this site puts a little more community, trust and love in the world. It might sound silly to say that about a movie website, but it’s true. I always think about the line from the Louis Armstrong song: “I see friends shaking hands, saying ‘how do you do’ — they’re really saying ‘I love you'”. When you share your thoughts on the films of cinema, you are sharing love, and you are creating a way for others to share with you and with each other.

    Speaking for myself, I welcome anything you want to write and share, from deep reflections on deeply silly action movies to something like what you gave us today. I’ll make a money bet I’m not the only person here who feels this way.

    Thanks, Vern.

  3. Lovely words shared with class Vern. Strong as steel and did your feelings justice. Love and strength brother.

  4. I love you, this site, and everything you stand for, Vern. You and your writing matter a great deal. Keep on Verning. Thanks, man.

  5. This was not self indulgent. It was wonderful, and it made my cry, and it was beautiful, and it made ME miss your mom, which I hope pays some small tribute to both you and her.

    All the best to you, Vern. I’m sorry. I look forward to hearing from you again when life gives you the chance.

    Steve

  6. Your mom sounds like an amazing lady, Vern. Thanks for sharing this very moving piece of writing. My condolences to you and your family.

  7. Condolences vern, you know some of my similar medical travails with my parents, so I’m glad you were able to get a little healing with your writing.

    As you move forward know I’ve been thinking of you, and have what I hope will be a pleasant surprise in the works. This being my third move in as many years, I’m a little exhausted so progress has been halted, but I’m hoping to jump back in next week. Sorry for being vague, but I’d hoped to save it all for the reveal, yet in your trying time I’m hoping this little hint at things to come will provide a little solace.

  8. Vern, that was a beautiful remembrance of your mom. As someone who is watching both of my in-laws age rapidly and encounter some scary medical stuff lately, this hit really close to home.
    Cherish all of the good memories. Maybe crank up the Judy Collins if you want.

    I may not know you personally, but having been a reader since the AICN days, I feel like I kind of know Outlaw Vern. So all my condolences are with you.

    Never thought I’d find myself a little teary eyed after reading something on the website of the guy who wrote Seagalogy though.

  9. Thank you Vern, for the honest and heartfelt words. Whether movie-related or not, your writing always gives me something to reflect upon. I was genuinely concerned when you hadn’t posted anything in the last couple days, like I hadn’t heard from a friend who always calls to check in on me. I’m saddened to hear about the passing of your mom, but also relieved that you felt comfortable enough to share your trials with the rest of us. I foresee myself being in a similar situation as you in the not too distant future, and you can bet that “Vern’s been through this so I can make it too” will be a valuable reminder for me.

  10. Thank you for trusting us with this, Vern. It’s a beautiful and honest piece of writing. I’m sure she would be proud that she raised a son who’s so brave and sincere and talented.

    I started reading this before the comments started flooding in and I thought I was going to be the first one to man up and say I love you. I’m happy to be wrong. I love you, Vern, and I love all you other assholes. Let’s all be the men and women our mothers knew we could be.

  11. Vern,

    Though I’ve never written a comment on here, I’ve been a fan of your reviews for years on end (still hold onto your self published copy of Seagalogy with pride). I’ve always admired the heart you’ve put into your writing. Whether that means wit, unique observations telling of your encyclopedic genre knowledge, or your openness to differing opinions in comment threads, I’ve always held your writing up as the gold standard of reviews. My sincerest condolences, and sincerest appreciation for this beautiful tribute you’ve written.

  12. Much love to you and yours, Vern.

    I wanted to share a story to brighten your day, and tell you that yesterday at my job, we needed some books for set dressing of a shot. I grabbed all the books off my desk in the office, the most prominent naturally being The Good, The Tough, and The Deadly. I remembered what an awesome day that book signing was, and what a treat it was to meet you that day. I also thought you’d get a kick out of this book showing up in the background of a testimonial video for a printing company.

    Be well, good sir! We’ve got your back here.

  13. grimgrinningchris

    August 15th, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    I can’t tell you how much you writing this meant to me. And I hope that your writing does provide you catharsis and release. My folks died within 3 weeks of each other between Thanksgiving and Christmas back in 2012 and my inability to cope led me on a really dark dark downward spiral. It’s my sincere hope that you’re able to keep your head and heart together through what I know is a terribly difficult time.

    My father and I never had the relationship that my mother and I did- even though he raised me so reading about your love and admiration for your mom really touched me.

    I hope if you ever feel the need to vent or just write about her to write that you know that everyone here is more than happy to hear your hurt or your happiness or your memories.

    I don’t think I am talking out of my ass when I say all of us here come not just for what you write about or how you write about it, but because of who you are… and it sounds like your mother was a big part of making you who you are.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. This is a beautiful tribute to her. Thank you for sharing. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you, but I hope you can find some comfort in the fact that you are in the thoughts of us all.

  15. I’ve visited your site (sight?) nearly every day for like 15 years or something and it’s because you write with such commitment, humor, and humanity. It’s hard not to feel like I know you, and I’m a little surprised at how hard this hit me. I was crying on the bus. Thank you for sharing your story and all my love to you and your family.

  16. Vern,

    My deepest thoughts and condolences go out to you and your family.

    This brought tears to my eyes and, as others have said, made me think of losing my own loved one – in my case, it was my mother to lung cancer that spread to her brain. She was 56, and that was ten years ago next month.

    Your mother sounds like one incredible woman, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. We all love and care about you. Your writing is the most alive and REAL, no bullshit stuff, in my opinion, and your reviews always give me a lift after reading them.

    Thanks once again, Vern. We’re all here for you.

  17. it’s bittersweet vern, this crazy thing called life

    sorry for your loss

  18. My best wishes and condolences to you Vern. From a fan here in Singapore.

  19. Your writing is always enjoyable, even when the subject is somber. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m grateful your mother encouraged you to write.

  20. Thank you for letting it all out like that. I had a close run in with my mom almost passing and despite that I’m still not on the best terms in regards to speaking to her. This piece reminds me of the limited time and I should really start putting somethings behind me in regards to my relationship with her.

    I can relate all too well to the stories of a loved one losing their mind and self. I wasn’t even really close to my grandfather all that much and it was still very tough to witness such a strong and stoic man, a WWII vet who fought in the Philipeans, be reduced to what he was.

    Love ya man and hang in there.

  21. Been, my sincerest condolences for your loss. This was a beautiful read and I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with your local readers to share all this, as you should. There is no good way to go through a loss like this but this is particularly painful and drawn out and I hope you can find some peace now that your dear mom’s suffering has ended. Much love, stay strong.

  22. Vern, my deepest condolences. I appreciate the love and care you have taken with this writing and especially acknowledging the feelings we have gone through or will in some future. Your mom raised a hell of a brave kid. Take care and stay strong.

  23. Vern, I wish I had magic words to take away some of your pain, but at the same time that pain you feel is a tribute to the love you shared with your mom. It was wonderful to read about her and that love. It came through very clearly in your writing. As always you express yourself with true genuineness that makes it easy to feel a part of your world. We’re lucky to have you and I hope you can feel our love and good wishes for you.

  24. Sorry for your loss, and thanks for writing this. Your writing has meant a lot to me, and like others have said, I feel like I know you though we’ve never met. We feel for you, friend.

  25. I have to comment on this one, Vern.

    My father is a general practitioner whose career has lead him into a specialization in geriatric medicine–meaning that he runs the medical programs at nursing homes. My father’s entire job is to help his patients be independent for as long as possible; then after independence becomes impossible his job is more about helping his patients to be comfortable; and after that his job is mostly about helping his patients exit this life as peacefully and happily as possible. He does this work every day.

    A few years ago, he had to help his own mother–my grandmother–find a nursing home. Of course he was able to help her find a good one, because that’s his business. And my grandmother has been comfortable there. But she has continued to decline, as well. And dealing his mother’s decline hasn’t been easy for my father, even though it’s literally his job to help strangers with the same thing.

    My father, the kind doctor who helps old people live & die happily–he doesn’t have all the answers. People ask him questions that he doesn’t know the answers to; he is confronted with situations in which there are no good answers; or the right answers do not please the patient’s family members. It’s never easy. No one has all the answers. He doesn’t have all the answers even in the case of his own mother.

    But I called him a kind doctor. And this is the thing that I’ve noticed about him: he’s always kind. In the face of the endless mystery of mortality, he is always kind.

    To quote Lonergan: “I really feel like what I do is very connected with the real center of people’s lives. I’m not saying I’m always Mr. Effective, but I don’t feel like my life is off to the side of what’s important. I don’t feel like my happiness or comfort are based on closing my eyes to trouble within myself or trouble within other people.”

    To quote Vonnegut: “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

    Because of my father, I’ve taken mortality and healthcare very seriously. So I’ll say that I teach at a school for students with cerebral palsy. Our students are incredibly fragile, and it is not unusual for 1-3 students/recent graduates to die per year. This mortality rate is no fault of the school; it’s just a fact that living with cerebral palsy lowers your life expectancy. But it means that when I go to work, the mortality of real young people is always on my mind. It’s part and parcel of trying to treat them with kindness.

    Finding the language to talk about and process death is incredibly difficult, maybe impossible, especially when you feel like death has become just as institutionalized as every other aspect of our society. But I swear you are surrounded by kind people, if you can pick them out of the crowd. And you yourself have a deep and redemptive capacity for kindness. It shows in your writing.

    Like my father before me, I don’t have the answers. But my thought is: after you get your bearings again, keep finding new ways to be kind.

  26. Well hell, man. My most sincere condolences. Do what you gotta do and know that we’re all here pulling for you. Even if you don’t publish anything for a while, I’ve gotten thru many a slow work day reading the archives, watching you grow and evolve as a writer. You’re great, man, and I’m sure your mother was proud. Sorry, never been good at this stuff, but thank you for being brave enough to write about this.

  27. Thank you for writing and sharing this Vern. You’ve done your mother proud.

  28. Very sad to learn of your mom’s passing, Vern. I hope writing is and stays therapeutic for you during this difficult time. What you wrote didn’t strike me as self-indulgent at all. I can only echo others who found what you wrote honest, beautiful, and moving. I lost both my grandparents within a year of each other after prolonged drawn out medical issues, but my dad and mom are still with me and in relatively good health, so I can only imagine–especially in such a compressed time frame–what all of that is experience must feel and be like. I can only say that from my perspective what you’ve written about how your mom wanted to encourage to do you–specifically your writing and artistry–it seems to me that you’ve more than lived up to that. Your reviews have become essential reading for me for a number of years now. I’m sure your own lack of ego in your writing and opinions encouraged me take my own opinions about movies less seriously and be less precious about those, while still staying passionate about them. I hope that your writing does provide you a release and an outlet for the pressures you feel in your life because, for me, reading your reviews and comments, and the thoughts of your commenters, often helps me crystallize my own thoughts about movies and issues going on in them. And they often spur me to watch (or rewatch) certain things. Your work is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your voice and my condolences for your loss.

  29. So sorry for your loss, Vern.

  30. Shit, man, my deepest condolences. Life can be a real shitrooster sometimes.

    Not gonna lie, I got triggered a few times while reading this, thanks to a few similarities to my own life, but I’m glad you wrote all that. You’re a good man (from what I can piece together without ever having met you) and a good writer, so this was basically peak Vern.

    Take your time, we will still be here whenever you publish your next review.

  31. I really appreciate you posting this Vern, more than I can express. I bestow my most profound and heartfelt blessings upon you and your family.

  32. Dear Vern,
    Thank you so much for sharing this story. My father died in November after decent fight with cancer and I can absolutely empathise with your feeling of some relief with your mother’s eventual passing. In my father’s case, he had become so far removed from the vibrant and impressive man he was that his death was a real mercy.
    The guilt is natural and, in a sense, healthy. The fact that you wished you could have done more than you were already doing just shows the love you have for your family. I wasn’t living in the same cou try as the rest of my family and I still wish I could have been there for my mother and sisters whilst they dealt with such a shitty situation.
    Thank you also for pointing out the importance of talking about our emotions. Typical New Zealand masculinity is very much of the “real men don’t cry” mentality and our rate of teen suicide amongst young men is shocking.
    I hope this community you have created can offer you some solace in this time of need.

  33. Thank you for this very personal story, Vern. I’m not a man of many words, so I’ll just say this: I love you, man.

  34. I’m very sorry to hear that, Vern.

    These have been hard times for everybody I feel, in early 2016 I lost my grandmother to lung cancer, last December, just a few weeks before Christmas, I lost an uncle to a stroke and now a month ago my grandfather had quintuple bypass surgery, while he survived it soon after he too had a stroke and while he’s still with us and on the road to recovery, it’s been difficult for him.

    Loss sucks, I know exactly what you mean when you describe being randomly reminded of family members you’ve lost, I miss my grandmother and uncle dearly, but I’m very sorry you had to go through that with your parents, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been and you have my deepest condolences.

    I’ve been a fan of yours for a decade since AICN and a follower of your personal website for close to a decade now, I hope this doesn’t sound weird but I consider you a friend, keep on keeping on buddy.

  35. My heart goes out to you for enduring such a traumatic few years. I wish this wasn’t something people like you have to go through. I appreciate you sharing your pain with us, and hope you’ll continue to do it because it always benefits me to read.

    I’ve been coming your sight for over ten years now, nearly every day. I keep coming back not just because of your pinpoint accurate takes on cinema, but because your humanity, decency and humor always shine through and elevate the reviews beyond the usual disposable commentary I read from other entertainment writers. For what it’s worth, I crave the politics too – both in your reviews and your tweets. The world seems pretty dark sometimes, but you always brighten it up for me.

    I selfishly hope you’ll keep doing what you’re doing. With your great work, you help make life something to enjoy rather than something to overcome.

    I had a hard year myself, with addiction problems that spiraled out of control a few months ago. At the time of this writing, I’m 74 days sober and working a program. I feel great about my decision to get clean. I believe I have what it takes to make this stick. When I was in rehab, I didn’t miss not having a phone – except that I couldn’t read your new reviews!

    When I can find employment again and a place to stand in the world, I’m looking forward to finally buying “Niketown.” I’m sure it’ll be excellent.

    I hope you never lose your optimism in the face of death, disease, or Trump. You represent so much to me that is wonderful about work, art, and cinema. I look forward to seeing whatever direction the next ten years of your career takes you, and wish you love and happiness.

  36. The Undefeated Gaul

    August 16th, 2018 at 1:02 am

    That was a beautiful piece of writing. So sorry for your loss, Vern. Hang in there.

  37. The world needs more like you, Vern. A voice of empathy and compassion in a time of short supply. Stay strong.

  38. A wonderful piece, Vern. And take your time. We’re not going anywhere.

  39. Deepest condolences. Beautiful piece.

  40. Thank you for this and sorry for your loss Vern.

  41. Paperbacks and Pugs

    August 16th, 2018 at 4:31 am

    I rarely comment, but thank you for sharing this moving piece, Vern. I’m sorry for your loss.

  42. Thank you for sharing, Vern. I have to admit that I had to stop reading in the middle temporarily because it was making me a bit too emotional.

    Your mother sound lovely. This was a beautiful tribute. I’m sorry for your loss.

  43. I lost my mom to Alzheimer’s in February, nothing good to say about going through this stuff. I hope you take solace in the fact that you do have this forum to share something like this, and a solid fan base that is glad to listen. I think a lot of us internalize grief when we go through these things, maybe it is because we don’t have a website, maybe it is because we fear we won’t do a very good job expressing our thoughts. Maybe more than that. Thanks for sharing this.

  44. Thank you for sharing.

    Having lost my father many years ago, in a similar way I can relate to some of the whirlpool of feelings, emotions and thoughts that feel like they are racing around in your head. But actually take place over a period of weeks or months.

    Stay strong and cherish the memories and good times. It’s how we can keep alive those closest to us, who are no longer there

  45. Vern,

    I’ve been reading your stuff for years but have never commented. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m very sorry for your loss.

  46. Thank you for this, Vern. My sincere condolences.

    Be assured that this is not self-indulgence, and the person you love most in this world has told you true.

    And if you ever feel like writing a review of THE FUGITIVE, I’m confident you’ll do your mom proud. But no pressure.

  47. I don’t comment much, but I check this site every day for new reviews. I can’t really relate to your situation having not gone through this yet, but I do know that it’s got to be tough. I just wanted to say that I’ve got a lot of respect for you talking about all of this. It takes a lot of balls.

    Either way you do what you gotta do and I’ll keep checking in every day for new reviews. Much love and I’m very sorry for your loss.

  48. Sorry to hear about your loss, Vern. It seems like you and your mom are both more at peace now, but that doesn’t make losing her any less hard. It sounds like she was a really incredible person and mother.

  49. I’m sorry for your loss, Vern, your mom sounds like she was a truly wonderful mother and a person. I just want to say that your writing and your websight and your work means more to me than just funny movie reviews- what I admire most is the way you thoughtfully approach your responses and engage people and ideas with genuine constructive sincerity, even (especially) when they are obviously not of the same intent. Your corner of the internet is one of the few places I know of that honors this outlook, and it is an inspiration for me to live up to the Commitment to Excellence elsewhere outside the dojo, to give the bar fighting men the time along with the motivation to change. You are carrying the fire for more people than you might realize. Also since we are being open and honest, I’ve never seen Steele Justice so I’m going to do that tonight. Thanks for everything bud.

  50. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post with us. And thank you again for this website, easily the best thing on the Internet. The love you’ve received from everyone here doesn’t surprise me because of the incredible environment that you’ve fostered here, and that is a direct result of being raised right by a wonderful woman who will be missed. I’m sorry for your loss and hope you take all the time you need- we’re here for ya, my friend.

  51. I’m sorry for your loss and I wish you all the best.

    Thanks for sharing this, it is beautifully written and honest. I’ve never written a comment before, but I’ve been reading your reviews for years now and I’ve always enjoyed them even if I’m not that much into movies, to be honest. Which is funny when I start to think about it and actually says a lot about the quality of your reviews, I’d say.

    Anyway, a few years ago, I found myself in a similar situation and I just wanted to offer my sincerest condolences.

  52. thank you for sharing, this was really touching.

  53. That was as intense and beautiful and moving a read as anything I’ve ever laid eyes on Vern. I’m not going to get into any personal specifics but this touched a lot of bases that are deeply familiar and I am so so sorry for your loss(es). You are such an incredibly talented writer and your Mother was clearly an amazing person and gave us all a real gift in you.

    All my best.

  54. Thanks for sharing Vern. We should talk more about grieving in society. We all go through it. Thanks again, and all my best.

  55. Vern,

    Sorry for your loss. This was incredibly well-written and powerful, and rings true to a lot of us who have had to deal with the decline and deaths of loved ones. Take all the time you need, and continue to keep your parents in your memory.

  56. This hit me hard. Its been a very bad year and the lowlight was losing my mom slowly to cancer. I got to go home and see her when she was first diagnosed and we said our goodbyes then, but after that it was listening to her on a phone on a different continent listening to her slowly become something else. All the quirks that made her my mom slowly disappeared and the last words she said before she slipped into her final coma were dont let him come back and see me like this. But Ill say one thing Vern, the night before I had to give her eulogy when I was just broken and sad I turned to your writings here and it got me through it, reading all those Vern classics made me feel less alone and for the first time in a while I felt like I was going to get through that next day and the rest of this shit year. This was a fantastic piece of writing, like everyone else, my thoughts are with you and your family. You have created something wonderful here, Im sure your mom was immensely proud of you and I think all we can do when we lose these massive influences in our lives is to try our best to live up to the examples they set. So far you seem to be doing a pretty great job of that.

  57. AnimalRamirez1976

    August 16th, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Thinking of you at this time. Thank you for your words and your website. Condolences.

  58. Sorry to hear about your mom, Vern. Also your dad. It is heartbreaking to hear about both of them fading away like that. I don’t know what I will do when my parents start to give out. Stay strong and thanks for sharing, your reviews and insights are a bright spot in the world and I am thankful for you and your work, as are many others.

  59. Vern, I’m very sorry for your loss and the pain around it. So, with that in mind, I would like to share something with you I’ve been doing for a few years now. When my wife and I go to sleep at the same time, I will read her one of your reviews, like a bedtime story. They make us laugh and think and feel, and have been (this is not hyperbolic) a cornerstone of our relationship. We wish you the safest journey through your grief. Be well, and all of us readers (and at least one listener) will be here for you.

  60. Love ya, dude. As much as I can love a mysterious internet film critic I’ll never meet. Nothing any of us can say to ease the pain you’re feeling, just know that there are thousands (hundreds? Ok at least a dozen) of people out there who really care about you. Hang in there Vern.

  61. The world has lost one of the good ones.

    Sincerely Vern, this was the most affecting thing that I’ve read in some time. I’ve been having a helluva year on a number of different fronts and most of the time, I just feel completely lost and alone. I always check your page multiple times a day to see what’s new; hell, I spend a lot of my time just going through and reading old reviews that I’ve read before. I own all your books and have been as much of an advocate for your works as I can be in my small circle. I used to work at a major book chain and when we got in a stack of Seagalogies I put them on display, got half my co-workers to buy copies, and hand wrote a standee for the display extolling the virtues. Finally, one of my best friends contacted me last night to tell me he’d finally bought The Seagalogy and is loving it and wants more. I directed him here so maybe he’ll pop up some day. I made sure that he knows about the community we have here and that you’ve built. It’s truly the tops.

    But I found myself tearing up as I read this post. There were many touching passages but I’m generally pretty stoic when reading things. However, little by little two things sunk in until I was nearly crying.

    One, obviously, I started drawing parallels between your experiences and mine and many of the things you said struck so hard at the blocks that I feel in my own head.

    Two, that, and I hope this isn’t strange to say, I felt as if I were hearing my friend pour his heart out. I feel as much of a friendship with you as I can possibly have through this medium and I hope that’s not too much to say. From a friend, stay strong and know that, hey, you did something with your writing and what you did matters and people out there that you’ve never met or known are pulling for you. All the love.

  62. Long time reader, never commented before. Your work has given me a lot of pleasure and solace for a lot of years. My sincere condolences Vern.

  63. Very sorry for your loss. Hopefully all the love in these comments is some small indication of everything you’ve meant to us over the years, and if you mom helped to make you what you are, we all owe her a lot of gratitude. Take all the time you need to heal, and let us know if there is anything we can do to help you

  64. This is my first time commenting here Vern but I have been following your writing from AICN days. Thank you for doing what you do. I’m sorry for your loss.

  65. Sending much love your way Vern. Following your writing for over a decade it feels like you are a friend, a loved one even. I know the pain of losing family, and I know it’s different for everyone. This was a beautiful piece of writing and it sounds like your mother was an incredible human being, which we have far too few of these days. I wish you peace in your time of mourning, and although it’s not much, believe you have a lot of people out here who are thinking of you.

    Thank you for sharing something so personal and close to your heart. You’re one of the good ones, and I’m sure your mom knew that. Love ya brother. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  66. Hey Vern, first time posting here, sorry for your loss man, been reading your stuff since AICN, you are my favorite reviewer, my deepest condolences, front Venezuela, a big fan.

  67. Vern, I’ve got nothing helpful or insightful to say – just sorry that you’ve had so much loss recently. Take care of yourself, and thanks for taking the time to write all this out.

  68. I hope it’s okay if I Support Group a little. Vern’s piece has awakened various get-off-my-chests related to my recently deceased grandfather.

    This guy was really significant to my life because at a time when I was totally aimless and fucked up — art school flunkout, working dead-end jobs and worrying about paying for the next meal, too reliant on the fickle gifts of weed and ethanol to stay the demons — gramp’s health started to turn on him. We needed each other. I accepted the shame I share with too much of my generation and took rent-free shelter under my family’s roof, and went back to school while helping him around the house with the shit he could no longer handle on his own.

    A series of spinal surgeries later, he could fend little for himself, I’d become his primary care giver on a level I never would have conceived. I prepared his meals, administered his medication, supervised him when he needed to walk. I came up with so many ways for him to summon me in the middle of the night if he needed to pee, but he was the most technophobic person I’ve ever known and could not get with any of these programs, and would just shout out to me, and I would wake up to a distant murmur of “renfield! ….. renfield!…… ” and wonder if I was dreaming and it turns out he has fallen down and has been calling for me for hours.

    He was a bashful person and we both had to get used to the fact that he couldn’t shower on his own, and that the places he particularly needed help washing were the most humiliating. This is a reality many humans adapt to but I think he never got over this particular embarrassment, especially as his continence abandoned him.

    I battled long and hard with him to behave in ways that would make him healthier and extend his life, and he resisted me at every turn. Our relationship grew quite volatile. He would be hell-bent on repeating behavior that had e.g. led to him falling and breaking his hip, and mis-remembering events in a way I increasingly interpreted as strategic and hostile.

    His medical needs eventually eclipsed my aptitude, and professionals were brought aboard. I got to be his grandson again. We entered into this improbable golden-days relationship where we had immense trust and respect for one another without the conflict of me being the OT/PT drill sergeant. I have a feeling that I have been very privileged to get to know my grandfather as closely as I did.

    It struck me that Vern talked about his mom zoning out to MSNBC. My grampa was also an articulate progressive and supporter of the US Democratic party who eventually ran on autopilot, but for some reason he went for Fox News. (This was a huge problem for me. You guys hear clips from what sort of bullshit is played on Fox News and it is probably horrifying to you, but living in a household where it is just a part of the ambiance is a very different level of mindrape, but anyway.) He was way too far gone to debate the merits of this news channel vs that at this point and there was no profit in discussion. All that said, I never once heard him refer to 45 by his true name, it was always “I can’t believe Donald Duck is running for president” or some variation.

    Anyway, big ups to my grampa, and to Vern’s mom. N.E.R.D. This felt good to write.

  69. Damn, I’m really sorry to hear this. I know there’s nothing I or anyone can say to really help, but I’m thinking of you, man.

  70. Take care of yourself, Vern. My condolences.

  71. Another first time commenter – I don’t even know your name but I’ve been coming to this site for such a long time that it feels like you’re a friend. And I’m thinking of you and very sorry for your loss. Thank you for the beautiful words.

  72. Thank you everyone, you’re all so nice. And Patrick, I wish you the best of luck with your sobriety. I’m sure I speak for everyone here when I say please let us know if there’s anything we can do to encourage or support you in that.

  73. My sincere condolences Vern. Thank you for sharing. It was beautiful.

  74. First of all Vern. I hope you’re well. I get the feeling I will be going through similar things not too long from now. My dad had a stroke when I was around 23. I’m now 37 and he’s persevered and gotten better but he’s always effected by it. Wish you well through all this. I can’t tell you how much back in the day coming home from a crap day at work and just reading your site and especially reading your hilarious AICN reviews would make me feel better. Anyway this isn’t about us. It’s about you. Like others have said we’re not going anywhere. Post again when you’re able. You’ve been killing it all summer with a review every day. Take time for yourself. We all love and care about you Vern.

  75. This is beautifully articulated, Vern. I’m really sorry for your loss.

  76. Lovely tribute to your mom, and all my condolences to you. You said that writing is theraputic for you, but hopefully you can see from all these comments that your writing means a lot to a whole bunch of us random weirdos on the internet.

    Keep on keeping on, bud.

  77. Deepest condolences Vern. I can somewhat sympathise. A year ago my mother was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour (a grade IV glioblastoma) which in a matter of weeks turned her from a high-energy tough-as-nails businesswoman, to someone who can’t walk, talk, feed herself and barely acknowledges my presence. I’ve been her caretaker, cooking, feeding, changing diapers and all the rest for the past year, trying to inject some dignity into a profoundly undignified process of dying.

    The feeling of seeing the body and mind of someone you love deteriorate like this, until they are utterly helpless is something you can’t explain to someone who hasn’t seen it.

    All the best.

  78. Thank you Vern.

    I’ve learned so much from you and I am a better person for this web sight. I don’t know what to say about this Tells It Like It Is. We all hope for the best for you, and love you as much as we can through the internet. Your endurance gives endurance to us. Here and out there in meatspace. Thank you.

  79. Crushinator Jones

    August 17th, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    Hey Vern,

    Everyone has already told you this is very good. It is.

    Just wanted to say two things:

    1) You’re not past your prime as a writer.
    2) Fundamentally you are a good person, you need to be able to empathize with people and connect with feelings in order to be an effective writer and you absolutely can.

    My thoughts are with you in this trying time.

  80. Thank you for your truth, Vern. My mom is a Judy Collins loving nurse in her twilight years, so this hit me right in the gut. Love is a long road.

  81. Thank you Renfield, Patrick and others sharing your experiences with this kind of stuff. You hang in there and I will too.

  82. Yet another lurker breaking cover to offer condolences. Like everyone here, I am very sorry to hear of your recent loss and hope that you can take comfort in the time that you spent with your mother down the years. She certainly sounds like an interesting lady.

    I also wanted to thank you for your writing, which is a pleasure to read and has often raised a smile and a hearty chuckle after a hard day at t’mill. Ditto the comments section, which is often filled with trivia, humour and other assorted titbits for my delectation.

    ‘Tis a good ship you have here, Sir, and may the Great Old Ones bless (er – wait… That sounds wrong. Mebbe “gracefully refuse to drive insane”?) all who sail in her.

  83. Thanks for sharing Vern.

    I’m very close to my mother. Was raised by her and my Grandparents on her side. My Grandfather (when I just turned 15) and Grandmother (when I was 23) have both passed (my only close experiences with death thus far, I turn 32 in December) and we’re the only close family each other have in the country (she has a brother who has lived overseas for the past 22 years). We’ve been particularly close this year because she was in hospital for a month at the start of the year and was sent to London for heart surgery in February, and I’ve been spending a lot of my free time at hers as she recovers (it’s a much longer process in the UK than America, apparently). It was always a very high chance of survival, but it was still a testing time obviously. I’m very lucky she’s still here.

    And I quite like that Judy Collins song. Adding synths to folk music was probably an attempt to be “down with the kids” in 84, but to me it sounds unique and interesting in 2018.

  84. Hi Vern I’m really sorry for your loss. Your tale about your mom was really moving and beautifully written, it actually made me tear up quite hard. As I’m now an old fart close to being 45, I can as most commenters relate to having been struck with close family loss, my dad died of brain tumor 10 years go. All the best.

  85. I’ve been reading the site for years too but never throught to comment until now.  Just a thank you for a great bit of writing that really hit home for me – my mother died last year of a nasty head and neck cancer and there’s not many things I’ve read since that seem to get close to the reality of it.

    One phrase that did stick with me a while back was ‘watching someone you love being taken apart piece by piece’ which is a good a way to describe it as I can think of. It sucks. It sucks that you’re powerless to change the outcome. It sucks that the person dying is aware of how diminished they have  become, and you can tell how embarrassed they are just being seen like that. It sucks that when they die a part of you is happy because at least you’re not having to deal with sickness and cancer 24/7. It sucks that afterwards you can’t even dream about them without them being sick in your dreams.

    These experiences are so common but not many people seem to talk about it, or at least talk about it well. Reading a couple of bits here did help me take a bit of weight off. Thanks again for writing it and wish you all the best.

  86. I’m so sorry for you and your family’s loss, Vern. She sounded like a remarkable and lovely woman, and I have little doubt she was and is proud of you now.

    My mother had a bit of a scare in May, but it was fortunately taken care of quickly and she’s doing good now.

    I did deal with a major loss earlier in the year. One that I’m not quite over. I won’t get too deep into it, but I fell in love with this person and felt I could open up about things I stay quiet about otherwise. The nature of our relationship allowed it to happen in a way it can’t anywhere else. We fell out of touch about a year before it happened, but when I read the obituary and tributes from people whose lives were affected in a good way by how just big-hearted she was it really sunk in deep and I’ve not quite gotten out of it yet.

    I don’t find it trivial or embarrassing to relate these to-the-bone personal experiences sometimes to the movies we watch, or the music we listen to. Art exists to hold a mirror up and make sense of it all. Entertainment less so, but there is more of a blur between the two than we wish to acknowledge. I had my own moment of this recently revisiting UNFORGIVEN. 2/3rds of that movie, and maybe more, exists as a reflection of grief. Will Munny carries it like an albatross and there’s no real relief for him, except maybe at the end when he is in the most danger. Maybe through that he lets go, who knows.

  87. Queen_Nemma aka abradley24

    August 18th, 2018 at 10:32 pm

    Just wanted you to know that your writing (came aboard during the AICN days) has helped me through some hard times. Late at night when I can’t sleep, yours is one of the few sites I still vist.

    I lost my grandpa to cancer a few years ago, and my grandma thinks she won’t be around much longer. And since I moved to Texas there’s a good chance I won’t be there when she goes.

    I don’t have a real relationship with my parents. I’m not sure how I’m going to process it when they go.

    Thank you for posting about your relationship with your mom. Weirdly enough, I feel better when reading about the kind of closeness I never had. It’s good to hear about positive impact, especially these days.

    Your work is a definite part of my life, and I thank you. Very sorry for your loss.

  88. I’m sorry for your loss. I’ve lost a parent, and although that plays out differently for everyone, it’s near the top of the list of life’s most difficult times. This was beautifully written, as usual: honest and deeply affecting. I wish there was something I could do for your pain. I hope you’re taking care of yourself right now, doing whatever it is that makes you feel at your best, and spending time with your best friends/companions. It helps.

    And when you’re ready, return to the great work. I hope you do realize how great it is. I read all the time–books and articles for fun, cases and briefs for work. There’s been many a time where I’ve read one of your pieces and thought, “Damn, that’s the best thing I’ve read in a while and probably the best thing I’m gonna read for a while.” Keep going.

  89. So very sorry for your loss, Vern.

    Over the years, your writing has meant so much to me, and clearly many others.

    I checked the site as always on Monday and Tuesday, not finding new reviews so I read some old ones.

    I’ll keep doing that for as long as it takes. And I’ll keep thinking of you.

    Much love, brother. X

  90. Vern, condolences to you and thanks for sharing. It’s so hard to see parents suffer at the end of their lives. My wife lost her dad to cancer and then soon after, has had to watch her mother spiral into early onset dementia that’s left her a shell of herself. As difficult as her father’s prolonged illness was to cope with, it’s been so much more grueling to deal with the slow decline of her mother and the frequent frustrations and guilt that come with seeing her receiving often inadequate care. It’s not something that people like to talk about and burden others with but it should be discussed more because these experiences are so universal and coping with them in private often only compounds the loneliness and isolation. Sorry for your loss, Vern, and thanks for the many years of great writing.

  91. My condolences Vern. We all love you here. But that should go without saying by now.

    And I’m sure that reviewing a “dumb bullshit movie” for the Summer of ’98 series would be as fitting a statement about this life juncture as anything, because a) we have no choice but to carry on if we are not to be defeated, and b) we can always count on you for a fresh and philosophical take on any movie.

  92. I’m really sorry to hear this. Hang in there. We love you.

  93. Haven’t been to this site in a while (life gets in the way sometimes), but today I get a few minutes to check in and I find this. Not going to hit you with the usual cliches, and so many here have expressed their condolences better than I ever could, but just wanted you to know I’m feeling for you. I watched my own dad waste away thanks to cancer and it was hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, especially when his mind went towards the end.

    It’s been a real pleasure reading your writing over the years, and seeing you gradually shed your semi-ironic tough-guy persona while never losing your edge. Hope you never lose your sincerity, as it’s what keeps me coming back.

  94. Deepest sympathies, Vern. If your mom inspiring your writing then we’ve all got a lot to thank her for.

  95. Sorry I’m late to this but beautifully written and my condolences. The American health care system is indeed a scary place nobody really understands until they go through it.

    If your next Summer of ‘98 review is Baseketball it will be a well deserved tension breaker. Or if it’s The Meg first.

  96. So sorry for your loss, Vern, but so grateful you’ve shared this. I lost my father to cancer earlier this year, and I think it speaks to how little we talk about grief, and how much we want to, need to, that just reading this slice of honesty from you made me want to write “I lost my father to cancer earlier this year” to you and a bunch of strangers. The pain rings true, but so does the hellishness of the journey. Jason Isbell has that great line “there’s one thing that’s real clear to me, no one dies with dignity” and damn if it isn’t true. It’s hard to watch someone you love go through that. It’s torture. All the more so because it’s not about you, and you need to suck it up for them. Which is the way it should be. But damn if it isn’t hard all around. Anyway, I’m glad you decided to publish this, it meant a lot to me, and seemingly to many others on your site. Keep it up, all of it.

  97. This was beautiful, Vern. I’ve been through it with both my parents and a sister, and I related to everything you described. Wishing you peace.

  98. Back in January a good friend of mine died. It was sudden and unexpected and she was only 36, so it doesn’t relate to your experience of a long, harrowing slog leading up to her death, but that’s what it’s been like going through the grieving process.

    I’ve known her since she was a teenager. Her family is like a 2nd family to me. I think even worse than my own grief is watching her wife, siblings and parents truly gutted. It’s ripped a gigantic hole in their lives which is never going to close.

    I bring this all up because it was her birthday yesterday. To celebrate everyone made her favorite dinner – simple spaghetti made with sauce from a jar. The family is spread from coast to coast and everyone made the same dinner. Those of us here ate dinner and watched her favorite movie JURASSIC PARK. It was actually really lovely. For the first time the memories of her didn’t hurt so much.

    I know you said you didn’t have the same connection with your mom over movies, Vern, but I know you’ll have that same moment of the memories being more sweet than bitter as I had watching that movie last night. Maybe you’ve already gotten there, since you’ve been dealing with everything for so long, but if not, I wanted to let you know it’ll happen.

  99. Thank for sharing this Vern. Your writing and this site has often been of comfort to me during tough times. I’m really sorry to hear how hard you have had it recently. I will continue to root for you my friend. X

  100. Thank you for sharing. This site brings me joy in the good times and bad times. It is indeed a long road.

  101. So sorry to read this Vern. All the best to you and the family.

  102. Vern,

    I am so sorry for your loss and everything you and your mother went trough. My heart goes out to you. It took me awhile to finish reading this because I kept weeping, and I can’t help but getting emotional writing this. A few years back my wife was diagnosed with a brain tomor on her left front lobe after having a seizure. we were fortunate in that the surgery was a success but the road to recovery has not been easy and it has been so hard to watch someone I love suffer so much and be powerless to do anything about it. Her day to day health is good now but the tomor is still there, we will have to deal with it again at some point. The burden of this knowlage wieghs heavily on my wife and I and has forced me to really take stock in my life and priorities.

    When I was staying with my wife while she was in the hospital reading your work on my phone was one of the few things I could enjoy that would help me escape and cope when it felt like my life was falling down around me. I wish there was a way I could repay the favor.

    Stay strong brother, better days are ahead.

  103. I’m so so sorry. Always love you, buddy.

  104. Love, peace, respect, and honor to all who gather here and all that they care about.

  105. I’m sorry I didn’t get to this until now – that was a really great thing to read. I appreciate it, and I appreciate you. I’m sorry for your loss; all the best to you and your loved ones.

  106. So sorry for your loss, Vern. I know it probably doesn’t mean much to hear an anonymous stranger say it online, but you have my very best thoughts and wishes. I know your many reviews have brought a smile to my face in dark times and I hope the our words here manage to do the same for you. All the best.

  107. Vern, just wanted to add my voice to all the good folks above thanking you for sharing your thoughts and your Mom with us. She was and will always be a spectacular lady, because she raised a talented, honest, and wonderful writer.

    Love you man. Take all the time you need. Peace.

  108. Vern – so sorry for your loss and the hard times recently. I’ve been there and its shitty but you will get through it. Keep up the great work. I love your writing and the community that you’ve created here. It’s really re-ignited my love for movies.

  109. That was some real badass juxtaposition right there. I hope you feel better, reading your stuff always makes me happy (I bought your first two books and they were a real help in one of the most obscure moments of my life). And this about your mother really made appreciate my mom a whole lot more.

  110. Vern: My heart goes out to you. I know there is nothing else no one could ever say to make it any less painful because my family and I have also been through a terrible and sudden loss very recently, but I am glad you do have a channel to let it out. Having wonderful people that are worth loving definitely helps, and watching good, or at least cathartic flicks doesn’t hurt, either.

  111. Thank you, Vern. Been a fan for years, always check in here when I’ve seen a new movie so I can get your take, I love your writing. Anyway, today I came here, just putzing around on the internet, and see this. I am so sorry. I lost my mother just over a year ago, still something I’m dealing with every day, and I love what you said here so much. There are no words, just wanted to say Thank You and keep on writing. Hopefully it is as helpful and carthartic for you to write it as it is for me to read. Much love.

  112. Thank you, Xelaphobia and Nico. Best wishes to you and your families as well.

  113. I am so sorry for your loss, it’s so strange to remember going over to your house in high school and thinking your parents seemed so grown up and parent-y, and it was always a little intimidating to meet your friends’ parents. Thinking about you and Mike, hope you are doing ok.

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