• Croc

You’ll Accomp’ny Me

Updated: Nov 15, 2021


Letting go has never been one of my strong points.

Currently I am playing a game called Spiritfarer, a self proclaimed “cozy management game about dying”. Hell of a description, right?


It’s a wonderful game, simultaneously both intensely relaxing and pleasant, yet also extremely emotional. The object is to meet, learn about and ferry different souls who take the form of animal spirits, to their final resting place among the stars. Along the way they talk personally and anecdotally to you about their lives, of which you learn you were apparently always a part of.


There are silly things, wondrous things, sad things and things that resonate deeply. The game feels like such a parallel to myself in that it’s obsessed with comfort and appreciating the small mundane things, yet unable to avoid dealing with mortality and complex emotions.


You get a different (and equally adorable) hug animation with every animal character. They ride along with you on your upgradable ship as you cook fun meals for them that they love or hate and play the role of provider and confidante. And then, at some point in all this rich serene beauty and personal bonding, they all realize they’re ready to leave you.


It’s at this point that you realize the power of good character building in games. Goodbye hits hard, even in a “cozy management” game with fictional characters. The game does not pull these punches, rather it asks you to experience the deep emotions, good and bad, in the name of catharsis and honesty.


Currently I have been going through an intensely emotionally challenging time in my life. Two people in my life that mean the world to me are struggling badly. One emotionally and mentally, one physically.


My mother is in her 70s. I left the spacious comfort of her (our) house and set out on my own to California 24 years ago, and in the time since, I can count the total times I’ve seen her on two hands. My life was “busy”, her life was “busy”. We made time sometimes, but of course not nearly often enough. Especially now, that becomes painfully clear.


Mom divorced in 1981 when I was 8. It was a crazy time, full of changes and decisions and repeatedly getting used to a place only to up and move again.


She raised me mostly alone (every other weekend with dad) but also worked a full time job and went to Nursing School to fulfill a lifelong dream of hers. She was a damn good nurse (she worked in Psych), she frequently gave of herself to the point of emotional and sometimes even physical damage.


I was damn proud of her. Except for one really bad habit that she was never able to kick, the one that ultimately has taken a major and inevitable toll on her current state.



After decades of smoking and decades of arguments about it, I gave up trying to guilt her into stopping. Sometimes in life it’s important to realize that you cannot make people do things, you can tell them why you want them to, but eventually you have to just accept the choice they make whether you hate it or not, lest you waste the time you have left to have a good relationship with them. I love my mom too much to fight with her any more.


It’s been 3 years since I came to visit. It was supposed to be last April, but COVID happened.


This time she needs an oxygen tank at almost all times. Her mood is better than I’d expect it to be, probably because she’s happy to see me, but also because my stepfather Pete (an ex-baseball player whose promising career was cut short because of injury) is an incredibly loving and caring person who has single-handedly made her last 17 years some of the best of her life in spite of health problems. I will forever be grateful to him for that, and I told him so.


She is currently prone to coughing fits, the sound of lungs filled with fluid. I somehow seem to find a switch inside me to disconnect an emotional response to this alarming sound. I am concerned but I stay fairly upbeat, somehow. Mostly. Her smile is still as warm and loving as I remember, her mind is slower but still thankfully intact.


I apologize for my absence in her life, breaking down for the first time in a while. My emotions can only be held back so long. She feels more pain for my emotional regret than she does her own physical pain. She pretends it’s not so bad. She tells me that she understands that I have my own complex life, that she has made mistakes and been absent too, that she is proud of me, that everything is OK, as much as sitting in a room with your previously unstoppable mother now subservient to an oxygen tank, knowing the next few days might be the last you ever get to spend with her can possibly be okay.


Maybe she’ll get better. Anything Can Happen If You Stay Positive.


Mom was always as much my friend as my mom. She never took herself too seriously.

Meanwhile, far away from here, someone else also incredibly important to me is surviving day by day. Feeling miserable and helpless, a prisoner of their own cruel brain, knowing that logically, their life is quite good, yet feeling the exact opposite. Literally a mental hostage of a brutal and deceitful captor.


Sometimes the stark truth is absolutely terrifying, but no less urgent to hear.


You can’t love someone so much that you can overpower the hate they feel for themselves. Love is not all you need. It’s not a cure all. Often you need no small amount of luck, too. If you don’t accept the fact that some things are out of your hands, you run the risk of exacerbating the situation and becoming severely emotionally damaged in the process.


I always want to do more than I can, because I fear the consequences beyond my control. I’ve gotten quite skilled at learning to compartmentalize the things that terrify me, lock them away unless (until) they find a way to escape later.


So I put on my brave face, I try to stay positive, to say the right things, to feel the right things. Its all I can do, literally. There isn’t another possibility.


And do you feel scared? I do…Things can only get better…


I think about the friends I have, my support group, how lucky I am. I don’t allow myself to feel guilt about how much I know I will have to lean on them, because I know how I feel when people need me, and I know they want to help. I just make sure they know how important they are. Over and over. They keep me alive, they keep me going in spite of my eternal anxiety, even when it’s justified. There will be good times to come, this I know.


Love doesn’t cure all, but it IS eternal. People become a part of you. You can preserve little pieces of them, you can hold that love, you can know it is real, that death cannot touch it.


Is it possible to mourn someone before they’re even gone? Why am I getting ahead of myself? I’m trying to prepare for a test with no right answers.


There’s a scene in Donnie Darko, one of my favorite movies, where the smug, self-righteous teacher asks her students to determine if the actions taken by characters in situations on example cards are based either in fear or love.


Nothing is ever as simple, or as difficult, as it seems.

Donnie is called on and points out that the exercise is stupid because you can’t just narrow events and decisions out to just fear or love, life is situational and complex. I remember watching that scene and thinking “YEAH! You tell that bitch, Donnie!”


But now, I can kind of see the other side. How much fear motivates and demotivates us in so many ways. And how love drives so much that is good. No, you can’t boil everything down to fear or love, but they are two of the most powerful influencers of human behavior. I let myself be motivated by fear too much. I am only a flawed human who takes the guise of a cute animal so I can present a version of myself I can allow myself to love and feel lovable.


But I AM loved. I am lucky and I am loved.


Nothing is forever, but love can be.


When my mom is gone, I cannot create new memories with her, I cannot hold her and laugh with her and tell her how much I love her anymore, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is a great mom, that she helped make me who I am, that she loved me in her occasionally flawed but always fierce way, that I was lucky for the time we did have.


It blows me away how beautiful she was. And is.

Her DNA will end when mine does, but her love will not. Nor will mine. She knows how much she means to me, because that much I am able to make sure of, and it is some comfort in the face of all my sadness over the lost time together and the anxiety of what is to come.


I call everyone I know by their furry names around her. She's seen my fursuits and unsurprisingly loves them. I never wanted to be anything but myself around her once I came to terms with myself, and I'm fortunate that she never made me feel like I had to anyway. Her brother being gay certainly didn't hurt.


Some mothers are not so open-minded and accepting. My mom always just wanted me to be happy, whatever life that meant for me, and I am eternally grateful to be so lucky.


My mom understands me so well that she's already told me not to come home when she passes, that it's already taken care of. She wants us to remember the good times, the love. She wants to be cremated, no funeral, no giant gathering of overwhelming sorrow.


The idea doesn't appeal to her or me, but as they say, funerals are for the living. She doesn't want me to suffer any more than I have to, but I don't want to let down the people who are left. I want to deal with it in my own way, privately, away from how everyone else deals with it. Am I selfish? She says no, so why do I doubt? I worry about Pete, but his large family is all over Florida, and they are loving. It won't make the loss any better but he wouldn't be as alone as mom would be if it was him.


I am getting close now to finishing Spiritfarer, only a few quests and spirits left to ferry. I almost want to stop playing it so I don’t have to face the end, partially because the game is so wonderful and enjoyable, partially because my real life is involuntarily seeping into the game’s events and heavy themes. It's a lot.


I won’t be able to ferry the last soul in the game to their passing without thinking of my mom, even though she's still here. And I will probably let myself sob, the way I thankfully managed not to as I hugged her goodbye and walked away into the airport as if it was the same as any of the other dozens of times.


And yet somehow, in the end it will be okay.


Because we had so much love together over so many years, and even when the gaps got too large for us, we both thankfully had someone there to fill it admirably.


No one and nothing can take that away, and there are still warm smiles and hearts here to console and accompany me through the coming storm, for which I am, and will always be grateful.


Someone recently asked me why I named my wolf Foster. Like most of my character names, it was something I thought deeply for a long time about. In the end, I wanted something evocative of his spirit and my personality. Besides the “foster dad” fun side of the name, the truth is that beyond all else, there is no greater legacy, nothing more permanent and immortal than the love we foster in others.


Thank you mom, for teaching me that it’s okay to screw up as long as you do it for the right reasons and learn from it. You can have major flaws without being unworthy of love, and certainly without being unable to love without reservation. It took me too long to understand that “living up to other people’s expectations” was usually just “living up to our anxiety and trauma fueled expectations of others’ expectations”.


You’ve always been proud of me even when I struggled to be proud of myself. I know part of that comes with being a mom, but you don’t get this far in life with such good friends without doing a few things right.


You did a lot of things right… I’m so grateful one of them was me.


I will always love you. I always have.


I could never find the right way to tell you Have you noticed I've been gone? 'Cause I left behind the home that you made me But I will carry it along

And it's a long way forward, so trust in me I'll give them shelter, like you've done for me And I know, I'm not alone, you'll be watching over us Until you're gone

- Porter Robinson, "Shelter"



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