Wow, it's been almost a month since my last post. Have you ever sat down to work on something, and then when you look up, it's like, 3 weeks later? It's been like that.

So much has happened, and there's so much I've wanted to write about but haven't had the time, I'm not sure where to begin. I suppose I should start with filling in on events.

Since last post:

I have had an epiphany about my thesis. Guess what? I'm not supposed to already know how to do this. It's not like I just missed that day in high school English or something, or that I learned it for a test and then promptly forgot. These people have asked me to do something, and they do not expect me to already know how to do it. In fact, they know I don't know. They are giddy with anticipation of my mistakes. Not (necessarily) so they can ridicule me, but because writing a thesis is a process. That's been like a mantra - "It's a process." I kept repeating it, but I didn't truly understand it until recently.

I cannot express to you the magnitude of this revelation. It seems like a small thing, but it really isn't. It was an "Ohhhh, stars above...!" moment (thank you Kung-Pow:Enter the Fist).
At any rate, I am experiencing considerably less anxiety about my thesis. Mind you, that still leaves a whole lot of anxiety, but by comparison, the amount has been drastically reduced.

I also felt a bit like an idiot for spending the last 20 years of my life in school and not catching onto that concept a little more quickly. Really, I learn neuroscience. You'd think I'd be able to grasp this "process" thing.

I have also determined that the GRE is absolutely useless and misleading as an assessment/preparation tool for graduate school. You know what they should do? They should tell people to study for the GRE, and then give them a stress-management test. If you fail the stress management test, they should pat you on the back and reccommend an alternate career path. It'd be simpler, healthier, and cheaper all around.

That's the other thing I realized; getting a bachelor's degree does not in any way prepare you for grad school. I would have been more prepared for grad school if I'd taken a few years off, gotten married, maybe had some kids. Grad school is about learning from life. It's coming up with solutions to problems that don't have any "right" answers. It's like, at first, in kindergarten, they use life to teach you about academics ("If I have 3 apples, and you have 2 apples, how many apples do we have? See, that's math!") Later on in one's educational career, the focus shifts increasingly towards academics, until by college, you're learning academic stuff just for the sake of academics. (Do I really need to know what "proximodistal development" is? Will it impact my day-to-day living? Of course not. But, as an aside, proximodistal development is developing from the inside-out, like a fetus. Torso first, arms and legs later. Now, don't you feel enlightened?) Then, in graduate school, they pull a complete 180 on you. Now, they want you to use academics to learn about life. There's the familiar information regurgitation, but that's not what you're learning. You already know that crap. You are learning how to think about the whys and hows that don't have set answers. And you're learning to do it in a pressure cooker.

Also, my aunt died. That was a bit of a shocker. I'm not really ready to write about this yet, because I am by necessity too focused on the fact that I missed a whole week right at the end of the semester. It really couldn't have happened at a worse time. I know that sounds callous, but really it isn't. I'm grieving, I'm processing, but I also have to get through this last week of school, or it may as well have been me in that casket. The point of life is to live it, and I'm living with some looming deadlines at the moment. More looming, it would seem, than that final deadline.

But what happened to my Aunt Susie, that she should die so unexpectedly, and at such a young age (only 59)? She had some health problems, sure, but nobody was thinking she'd just drop off like that. Apparently, she'd had a few nasty falls that, unbeknownst to anyone, were causing bleeding in her brain. This bleeding seems to have been going on for some time. Then, one Thursday evening in late April, she was standing in her living room, talking with her husband (about a bill, of all things), and she just kind of went rigid and fell over. In my mind, it was like in the cartoons, with someone yelling "Tim-ber!" in the background. Doctors speculate that she was more or less brain-dead before she hit the floor. She was completely unresponsive (no reflexes, etc.), but still breathing on her own at this point. She was Care-Flighted to a trauma hospital in Houston, the family was called, the process was started.

My mother called and told me first, but she was on a cell phone in a car, so I couldn't quite catch everything. I called my youngest aunt, Rhonda, for more details. This was around 9.30pm. I talked to my aunt for quite some time, my father called, everyone was trying to figure out what was going on. Is it serious? Is she going to be okay? Was it an overdose? These were the types of questions we were asking. Later that evening, my Aunt Rhonda called me crying, (she always takes charge first and gets emotional when there's no more to be busy with) she was alone (Uncle Jesse works nights) and just wanted to talk. We talked for a bit, and decided I should come down, to help her the next day. She was planning to leave for Houston the next afternoon, but there was a lot a preparation she needed to do, and I could help with that. So I got in my car at 11pm on Thursday night and drove to Austin in torrential rain. I had one change of clothes, a bedroll, and a toothbrush.
I slept for three hours on the couch, and got up at 7 when my cousins, Andre and Tessa got up for school. Throughout the morning, it became increasingly clear that my Aunt Susie was not going to make it. She was being kept alive on life support basically so that family who wanted to see her "one last time" could get to Houston. Rather than drive back to Denton and then turn around a day later and drive to Houston for the inevitable funeral, I decided to travel down to Houston with Aunt Rhonda and her family. I mean, I was already halfway there, anyway. I borrowed some tshirts from Tessa (who is 8) and bought a pack of skivvies.
Friday afternoon, my Aunt Susie was taken off life support, and died shortly thereafter. I did not witness this. There was some confusion about the necessity of an autopsy, since the death was technically injury-related. This delayed the funeral planning. Family descended upon Kay (Susie's daughter)'s house. Fortunately, Kay has a beautiful and spacious home.

For a few days, some people went back and forth between Kay's and Aunt Susie's house, sorting through things. My Aunt Rhonda found a birthday card, stamped, sealed, and addressed to her. (Her birthday is April 27th.) On it was a post-it note that read, in Aunt Susie's handwriting, "Mail Monday."

A visitation-type thing was held on Monday, where the body could be viewed briefly. This was against my late aunt's wishes, but some family members requested it for closure purposes. I went to the "early showing", mostly out of morbid curiousity (literally!). It was my first viewing of a dead body. It freaked me out. It was strongly reminiscent of my visit to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London. I was struck by her hands - her nails were painted (I assume to cover up any discoloration), but I don't recall her nails ever being painted before. Certainly not that color. Also, she wasn't wearing any rings! Aunt Susie always wore lots of these ridiculous, huge rings - usually 2 or 3 per hand. It was quite strange and not-Aunt-Susie-like to see her without them. And she was wearing too much makeup, but I hear that's common for these occassions. She was wearing an outfit she'd bought earlier in the week, but never gotten a chance to wear. It was cute on her. Her hair looked great.

I have not yet decided whether dead-body viewing is a requirement for my grieving process. All I can say about it really is that it was strange. I did not cry, but my sister Rachel bawled on my shoulder out on the front porch of the funeral home for half an hour. Then they closed the casket, and the regular visitation began.

The funeral was held on Tuesday at 10Am. I cried during the service, but not at the gravesite. There is so much talent in my family, and it was showcased on this occassion. Aunt Susie's children (Kay and Todd), and 3 of her grandchildren read anectdotes, stories, and thoughts that they had written for the occassion. It was quite touching. Other cousins, the brother-sister musical duo Jen and Eric, sang. Todd (an artist) and others compiled a multi-media presentation - picutres, music, and love notes Aunt Susie had written to my Uncle Bob. The whole thing was pretty amazing.

Later, I went to my Aunt Susie's house, to help move some stuff. She had written a little love note to my uncle in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. It was still there.