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Life, Loss, Hockey and Baseball — not necessarily in that order.

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

Verbal Backlog

 

Every time, over the past couple weeks, I’ve felt the need to write something, something gets in the way.  Something has taken the form of fatigue, my desktop computer melting down, errands, sudden lack of focus and concentration, sound–you name it, it’s stopped me from writing.  It all adds up to a need to verbally explode.

Life is all about patterns.  Recently, my life has followed the pattern of good news then stress and anxiety then good news then more anxiety.  Over the past three weeks, I have watched the three-to-five month wait for my dream car become a three week wait.   I have had to scramble to make up the difference between what I planned as a down payment in mid September or early October, and what I would have on hand by late July.  I have taken a family trip to San Francisco, my first ever trip to the Bay.  I have had to overcome some family issues on that trip.  I have driven back into California four days later for a pair of weekend Cubs games against the Padres.  I have had repeating dreams of my son suddenly showing up alive.  I have had anxiety issues and moments of just breaking down and crying, seemingly at random times, during almost every day of the past week.  I have completed everything necessary to take delivery of my dream car next week.  Up, down, up, down, up, down…

So much has happened…I don’t know quite where to start.  San Francisco is a beautiful city.  The view from our hotel in Pacifica was gorgeous, right on the ocean.  I got to take my first trip to AT&T Park to watch the Cubs play the Giants.  AT&T Park is one of the nicest ballparks I’ve ever had the chance to visit–and I’ve visited quite a few.  No, it doesn’t top Wrigley, but I’m not sure what could.

 

Petco Park in San Diego is another beautiful place to watch a Cubs game.  The Cubs played well enough to make the experience all that much better, winning both games in pretty convincing style.

 

It was nice to see my brother, he flew out from Chicago and drove with me to San Diego.  In an interesting switch, he drove both ways and I played the role of passenger.  He rented a nice Audi and really wanted to drive it.  Quick trip: 26 hours total in San Diego.  Stayed in a nice little boutique hotel, Gaslamp Plaza Suites, felt like an old, converted office building.

Kind of the umbrella of good feeling was being invited in late June to actually configure my Tesla Model 3.  It was exciting to get the chance to pay that next $2500 deposit and officially choose my car color and other options.  Not a ton of options to choose, mind you, just exterior color, enhanced autopilot (or not), wheels (I stuck with the standard 18″ wheels with “Aero” covers), and that was about it.  Expensive enough without adding extra options that I didn’t plan on.

As exciting as that late June morning was, it was nothing in comparison to the email I received less than a week later, telling me that my delivery would be scheduled within approximately two to three weeks, and inviting me to set up financing, trade-in, and other final steps leading to delivery.  Before I knew it, I had a car loan set up at a decent interest rate, I had a quote on my trade-in, odds and ends finished up…and a delivery appointment for my new car.  After a little stressing over the down payment, the countdown to Tesla began.

All of this was in the foreground.  The background was me as an emotional wreck.  It’s been one of those months where everything reminds me of Micah.  Sure, there are the obvious links: seeing a “remember this?” photo or two on Facebook, but there were songs, movies, thoughts about movies, thoughts about actors, random mentions of death or suicide…even thinking about the new Bo Burnham movie, “Eighth Grade,” because Micah was a huge Bo Burnham fan, and I know he would have been demanding to see the movie.  I have had days where I was afraid to close my eyes, because I knew I would see an image of Micah: in his hospital bed, in his coffin.  I would think about holding his hand that last day, just hoping and praying that he would squeeze my hand back.

I have thought about driving my new car to the cemetery to “show” Micah.  I can hear Micah saying that the car is “cool,” but feel his excitement over the car waning in one drive.  Oh, sure, he’ll be excited at having a mobile hotspot built into the car.  He’d be asking me if there was some way to get the display to hook up to his Xbox for our next road trip.  By the time we got home, he’d be shaking his head, “It’s just a car.  Whatever.”  Although, I guess it’s worth considering that I’m thinking of what 15-year old Micah would have said.  Eighteen-year old Micah might have been a lot more interested in cars, wondering if I was going to let him drive it.

Eighteen-year old Micah…  While his sister is starting high school next week, would Micah be getting ready to start college?  Would he be planning his future?

My days of nonstop Micah thoughts were then, over the past week or so, joined by nonstop nights of Micah thoughts.  I usually do not remember my dreams…but on at least three or four occasions over the past week, I have awakened out of dreams featuring Micah, alive and well, and back in my life.  Most of them faded quickly after waking, but one in particular has stuck in my head.  I remember, in the dream, walking into the ice rink and saying, “You may have heard that Micah is actually back and alive.  Any chance you might need a goalie for your team tonight?”  Yeah…

Almost a new daily occurrence for me this week: just randomly starting to tear up while working on projects at work, getting choked up when looking at pretty much anything.  I have no idea why this is going on.  I have had these hyper-emotional periods before…maybe it will pass.  Maybe finally getting the chance to sit down and write for a bit will help too.

Another little update…remember that big case I argued before the Court of Appeals?  Well, I wound up filing a petition for review to the Arizona Supreme Court after we lost before the Court of Appeals, challenging the way in which the Court of Appeals arrived at its decision.  Two days later, the Arizona Supreme Court ordered DCS to file a response to my petition for review.  That response is due next week.  I could be looking at another brief, or an oral argument before the Arizona Supreme Court, or possibly both.  While that’s been percolating, I have picked up another couple sizable appeals, including one with a mind-blowing 15 transcripts to read.  All of this while I have already picked up a full month’s caseload of appeals before July 18th.  I’m going to have a very busy August.

Thrown into the August mix are my vacation plans.  I have thrown my hat in the ring for a possible weekend of volunteering at the big Star Trek Las Vegas convention the first weekend in August.  I have plane and baseball tickets for my last planned Wrigley Field pilgrimage of the season, August 14th and 15th.  Finally, I have my annual best friends meet-up in Las Vegas planned for the third week in August.  Here’s hoping that the Arizona Supreme Court plays nice with my August vacation schedule — because, well, yeah, I would cancel my vacation plans to argue before the Arizona Supreme Court.

Finally, the Roadrunners released their 2018-19 schedule last week.  Schedule contains the same 34 regular season home games, but a few more fall on weekdays (eleven this season, compared to seven last season).  Only two immediate conflicts with my existing calendar, but those should be workable.  The best news though?  I will have my new dream car to enjoy on all those trips to Tucson this fall.

Time to press on and move forward.  Time to make a therapist appointment.  Time to stay busy to drive away the sorrow, depression, and anxiety.

David

 

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Lost

I have lost count of how many times, in the last three weeks, I felt a real need to write and get words, thoughts, and ideas off my mind and down in hard copy.  The right time and situation for getting my thoughts out just never seemed to converge.  Not on a Monday…or a Tuesday…or a Thursday…or a Sunday…until now.

It’s not just the need to write either.  My need to express myself in any meaningful way seems stifled over the past few weeks.  Each emotional crisis has been met with a period of anxiety and isolation.  I have felt more and more alone as recent weeks have gone by.  As a result, I feel less and less like I have anyone that I can talk to about my thoughts, emotions, issues — outside my own home.  On a few occasions, I wondered whether this was real or imagined.  Are there people I can trust and talk to, or do I just have a long list of people that say the socially-appropriate thing (“You know you can talk to me any time.”), but don’t actually want to ever engage in those discussions?

It’s painful to watch as people that you think you’re friendly with–or at least get along with–gather together to do something, passing right by you without a single person suggesting you join them.  It’s numbing, however, when this seems to happen with regularity.  When the only time you’re part of a group activity is when you’re actively pushing your way into it, and when you don’t start the conversation, you are usually left on the outside looking in, what are you supposed to think?  How are you supposed to feel?  Outside.  Alone.  Invisible.

Now imagine being in this position on a day when you’re fighting to hold your emotional composure, on a day when just a smile or a friendly hello or a random “How are you doing?” could at least brighten your day a little, and instead you become suddenly invisible to everyone around you.  Maybe I hide my emotions too well.  Maybe I’m incredibly difficult to read.  Or maybe the easy thing to do, when you see someone that looks like they’re suffering, is to walk past and not get involved.  Not your problem, right?

So, the door gets shut.  I stop talking to anyone, unless I absolutely need to for work.  I cry.  I clench my muscles.  I fall down a dark hole inside and don’t even bother looking up.  I start to wonder if anyone would really notice if I just vanished… for the rest of the month–the rest of the year–the rest of my career.  I mean, at work, as long as the briefs get filed timely and my clients don’t complain, I might as well replace my physical footprint with a digital one.

I started to feel the way I felt at the end in most of my youth hockey activities.  I was never alone while I had something important to offer someone.  Once I was no longer a connection, no longer someone with influence to peddle, I was invisible.  The solution to that problem was a simple one, first suggested by Micah years ago when he saw me struggling with isolation even around the rink: just stop doing it.  “If people don’t treat you right, just stop doing things for them.”  It’s just sad that it’s only after Micah’s death that I really hear his words…

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed my anxiety starting to elevate.  The more that gets trapped inside, the more my brain and body start overloading on stimuli.  Eating potato chips sounds like some kind of auditory torture.  Speaking in a normal volume sounds like screaming.  My muscles tense up.  I feel on the verge of tears, but unable to open the faucets.  I want to just run somewhere and hide.  My language slips from professional and conversational to broken and filled with vulgarities.  My inhibitions, my filters, simply disappear.  If you ask me a question, you’ll get too honest of an answer.  It comes and goes…but recently all too frequently.

A few bright moments over the past week or so have helped keep me above the floor of the pit.  Lunch with a friendly face last week that admitted feeling the same way around the office.  Finding out last week that it was my turn to order my new car (Tesla Model 3)–and delivery of the car was now just a few months away.  Even a simple phone call today to thank me for being a friend that’s there to talk to, to chat with, to help and listen.

That phone call was this morning, and it got me thinking just how rare calls like that are.  You don’t befriend someone because you want a pat on the back for doing it.  But when it happens…when it happened this morning…I was almost speechless.  What do you say?  I usually say things like, “You’re welcome.  It’s just who I am–what I do–the kind of friend I am.”  It was a nice feeling on an otherwise tough morning–a feeling like I made a deeper connection with someone–a candle in the darkness.

I’m not perfect–far from it.  I’m sure I cause some/many of my own interpersonal issues.  It just sucks to feel like there’s nothing I can do–and still be myself–to solve the problem.

A few weeks ago, I had been looking at the Cubs schedule and noticed that they were going to be in San Diego in mid July, right before the All Star Break–and roughly at the same time my wife and daughter are taking a brief five day trip to Chicago.  How cool, I thought.  Road trip!  Then it dawned on me: road trip with whom?  I could not think of a single non-related person that I could call and propose that idea to.  I talked myself out of each name that popped to mind: that person will be too busy, it would just be weird to go with this person, it would be too expensive for this person…and after a few moments, I ran out of people.  I initially figured that I would just take the six-hour drive alone, but before locking down that idea, I decided to call my brother in Chicago.  I knew he had points galore for flights and hotel rooms, and he would love to watch the Cubs play.  I was right.  My brother is flying out next Friday night from Chicago, driving with me to San Diego on Saturday morning, and driving back with me on Sunday afternoon after the game, before flying back to Chicago on Monday morning.  But the thought that I would have had to go alone lingers…

Am I okay now?  I don’t think I’ve been okay for quite some time, but I’m coping.  I’m trying to laugh when I can, smile when it’s possible.  I’m constantly reminding myself that I should be proud of my oddities, my eccentricities.  But feeling alone still stings…even if I can numb the stings by telling myself that they’re not what’s important.

David

The War for My Mind

Events and thoughts rarely ever happen when you most need, want, or expect them.

My synapses have been firing non-stop since about 4:30 Friday afternoon, when I received notice that the state was requesting to have a recent court of appeals decision against one of my clients published.  See, most decisions by the court of appeals are “memorandum decisions.”  These are decisions that affect the actual parties to the appeal, but have very limited impact (used for “pursuasive” purposes only) outside the actual litigants in the case.  Every once in a while, if the issues in the appeal are serious enough, and the court feels that its decision needs to be used to inform courts across the state of how to interpret or handle specific rules, statutes, or other issues that commonly need to be addressed, the court of appeals will “publish” the decision, creating precedent that needs to be followed by courts around the state.

Sometimes, one or more parties to the appeal will ask the court of appeals to change its mind and consider publishing a memorandum decision.  This is one of those times.  Without getting into the minutia of the case, the state wants to turn this awful decision into rock-solid case law that can be used to make it nearly impossible for parents to successfully petition the court to allow their children to come home before the state wants to send them home.  It’s not a dismissal, mind you–this kind of request just turns a case into an in-home dependency — court and state are still involved, but there would be a finding that the kids could safely go home while the rest gets worked out.

Seeing that motion drop into my email at 4:30 last Friday afternoon, any chance I had to relax my brain a bit over the weekend vanished.  This is the same case that provided me a first chance to participate in oral argument before the court of appeals.  This is the same case that I have worked on time and time again over the past twenty months…and now it looks like that work will go on at least a little longer.

So, with my brain doing advanced gymnastics routines trying to figure out how to leap over this next judicial hurdle, it was the perfect time for an emotional tidal wave to hit me.  Some combination of talking to or seeing people that were a part of Micah’s life, and then reading about the apparent suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade this morning, led me to crash today.  Let me tell you, nothing quite interrupts the flow of thought and writing on an important legal brief like depression and feelings of loss.

I’m still in that anger stage, mind you.  I’ve done a little housekeeping with my Facebook friends list, which helped treat a little bit of the anger.  I keep seeing all these people around me affected by suicides, and I’m angry that I can’t seem to do anything about it, and that people who do have the power to do something don’t give a damn until it personally affects them.

I had a rough weekend.  We had tickets to go see Upgrade as a family–but that was before my daughter got sick, we had power outage issues, my wife had work to finish, and, understandably, my wife didn’t want to leave our daughter home alone.  Our tickets weren’t digital, so I couldn’t just refund them.  Being in a not-so-hot frame of mind and having two extra tickets to the movie…and feeling like I had no one to call to join me…led to a miserable evening.

And now, sitting on my desk, is a solid three weeks worth of work.  Three weeks of frustrating work…

I hope I can clear my head tonight, somehow, and be ready to get back to work tomorrow morning.  Lots of work to do, little time to get it done.

 

David

A long weekend comes full circle…

Time is linear, right?  Things happen, that time passes and they become part of the past.  We can think about and remember those past events, but they are gone, unable to be altered or modified even by the best of intentions.

Sometimes, we create artificial time loops.  This is the all-too-often paraphrased, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  We make the same mistakes, and seem to relive the same consequences–not because we have found a way to jump in and out of a linear timeline, but because we are too foolish to try to take a different path with our choices.  As a result, we suffer similar consequences to our forebears that we decided to emulate.

When someone close to you dies, it creates a puncture in linear time.  You get drawn–sucked–back to the vacuum created by the puncture.  You relive those final moments time and time again.  Unlike a loop where you might be able to make a change that alters the timeline, you can only watch, helplessly, as the resolution plays out, just outside your reach.  No matter what you do to try and prepare, to try and extend your hands, raise your voice, you are an agonized witness, stuck behind a soundproof crystal-clear glass barrier.

This is how I feel right now.  As hard as I try to make corrections, learn from my past to avoid repeating it, the puncture-loops continue to hold me back.  All I need to do is close my eyes, and I can transport back to Micah’s hospital bed.  Sometimes this happens voluntarily, sometimes its controlled by outside forces that I cannot comprehend, convince, or change.

My daughter and I spent good chunks of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Phoenix Comic Fest.  Spending a little time with a friend and her daughter on Saturday morning, but otherwise, just the two of us moving around the convention floor.  Didn’t bump into any of the various friends and acquaintances that I knew were somewhere in the Phoenix Convention Center.  Returned home on Sunday afternoon, wondering why we went in the first place.  We only watched two panels (not many of the other guests held much interest for us).  We saw much of the same sci-fi/fantasy flea market stuff in the main exhibit hall that we see every Comic Fest.  Meh.

Saturday was our 23rd anniversary.  Due to my ASU Softball commitment (this was Super Regionals Weekend), we decided to have our celebratory dinner on Sunday night instead.  It was a subdued affair–a good time, but subdued and quiet.

We spent the majority of Memorial Day quietly to ourselves.  Not that we really had many options, mind you.  Picnics, BBQs, friendly gatherings–these are the things that other people do.  Oddballs like me, well, I go grocery shopping, start smoking a brisket, catch a movie by myself, then come home and put the rest of the dinner together and finish the brisket.  One of my wife’s good friends, a former coworker, in town for a week or two, joined us for dinner.  We walked the dog, and I returned to my home office to write.

Another weekend, much the same as so many others…  Cool to get to announce the ASU Softball team’s journey into the Women’s College World Series.  (I’ll be watching/following their WCWS games starting Wednesday morning!)  Not so cool to feel another reminder of just how small our actual circle of friends is…

I will head back to work tomorrow.  Late last week, decisions on two of my cases were handed down by the Court of Appeals.  My big case, with the father in Mexico, child here living with a Great White Hope foster family?  Lost.  Despite the case law being very clear that the Court of Appeals is not allowed to reweigh the evidence–yup, they reweighed the evidence.  My job tomorrow and into the latter part of the week is to determine if there’s anything egregious in the Court of Appeals decision that I can challenge to the Arizona Supreme Court.

My second decision involved a case where the parent failed to appear for a hearing, but the judge failed to follow the rules with regards to his final order, leaving out important details.  Typically, the Court of Appeals just says, “Nah, there was plenty of evidence on the record for us to find, so the court’s failure to make a correct final order isn’t that big a deal.”  In this case, not so fast.  In a 2-1 published decision, the Court of Appeals agreed with my arguments!  The third judge even authored a dissent.  For the first time in nearly four years as an appeals attorney, I have a published WIN from the Court of Appeals!

So, I have that going for me…

David

Graduation Eve

Tomorrow night, the Campo Verde High School Class of 2018 will be presented and receive their diplomas.  It would have been Micah’s graduation night.

Graduation.  I see all Micah’s friends and teammates and their families posting all over social media…graduation pictures, thoughts of the past and future, congratulations on their next steps, talk of all their friends being around them, being important to them.  Another moment of wondering if I shouldn’t just avoid social media, or maybe even close my accounts…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve consumed myself with various tasks and responsibilities to pass the time, keep me busy, keep my mind off more painful things.  Of course, all good things must come to an end–and that’s precisely what happened to the Roadrunners playoff run and the state roller hockey season.  One last little burst of softball announcing popped up…

Highlight of the month: A couple weeks ago, I received an email from the Manager of Game Presentation for ASU Athletics (the guy who assigns me games to announce).  ASU was on the verge of being awarded an NCAA D1 Softball Regional playoff berth, and he wanted to know if I was available to work the games.  I’ve really come to love softball, and enjoy my time in the Farrington Stadium press box, announcing to the Sun Devil Softball players and crowd.  I jumped at the chance.  Six exciting games this past weekend later, Regionals ended.  The next morning, an email asking me to work the Super Regionals next weekend.  It’s just two more games, with a possibility of a third–but I’m looking forward to another series at Farrington (with a wee bit of national exposure to boot).

In the meantime, a few things popped up…and pulled me down like a heavy rock in the river.

When I was involved in some grief counseling and therapy, one of the things they talked about was how not everyone goes through the “cycle” or “stages” of grief the same way or at the same time.  Some people never even experience all the supposed “stages”.  This week, I feel like I’ve pulled into the Anger stage with a purpose.

I’m not angry at Micah.  I’ve passed in and out of anger at myself plenty over the past two-plus years.  I’m angry at the mess that I’ve allowed myself to wallow in.  I look at my social media accounts and see scores of people that, at one time or another, I considered friends.  As I scrolled through the list, I tried to think of the last time I had any contact at all with each person.  It depressed me.  I came across names of relatives that I haven’t spoken to in years–probably since the death of either my father (2006) or mother (2000).  Relatives that never really knew Micah, don’t know Avi…maybe don’t even know what my vocation (attorney) or beloved hobby (PA announcing) are.

I vented on Facebook.  I probably shouldn’t have, but I did.  It prompted some very heartfelt responses, but also probably looked more like a plea for pity than the angry vent that it was meant to be.

Yes, I hurt.  Yes, this week is ripping me apart.  I feel like the wounds of two years ago have been ripped open and exposed.  The worst part is that aside from my writing, I don’t really want to talk about it.  As strange as this sounds, I don’t know how.  I don’t know to whom.  I’m not sure how much exposing of the wound I can take and still be able to function.

I guess I’ll just move forward.  I’ll feel my way, and hope I pick the right people to trust with my thoughts, feelings and emotional outpouring.

In the end, no matter what I do, I’m not going to fill the hole in my heart, in my soul, left by my goalie, my tenor, my 37, my missing Class of 2018 graduate…my Micah.

David

Echoes

Friday night, the Tucson Roadrunners fell to the Texas Stars, 3-2 in overtime.  This was an elimination game for the Roadrunners, game five in a Best of Seven series, with the Stars up 3-1 in the first four.  The loss eliminated the Roadrunners from the Calder Cup Playoffs and ended their 2017-18 campaign.  The loss essentially ended my PA announcing “season.”

See, every year before now, as much as I talked about cutting back or eliminating youth hockey scorekeeping from my plate, I still kept the door open a crack, doing some odds-and-ends scorekeeping a few times per month.  This summer is different.  I actually cut back my youth ice hockey scorekeeping this year to the point where I’m no longer doing any scorekeeping at all.  My last youth (or adult league) game was back in February, and sometime in early March, I actually unchecked the “Ready to be scheduled” box on the scheduling website, effectively removing myself from the system.  Really, the last youth hockey scorekeeping I’ve done or will likely do in the future, was for the state roller hockey tournament last Sunday evening.

All that’s left for me to announce until October’s Roadrunners home opener (schedule is still TBA) is this weekend’s NCAA D1 Softball Tempe Regional tournament.  I’ve grown quite fond of college softball over the past couple years, so I’m really looking forward to working some great games this weekend.  The Tempe Regional includes ASU, Ole Miss, Long Beach State, and New Mexico State.  If ASU can win the weekend’s double-elimination tournament, they’ll host next weekend’s Super Regional, a best-of-three series against the winner of the South Carolina Regional.  If those games are here, who knows?  Maybe I’ll get to do one or two…

Aside from another weekend of softball though, my calendar–for the first time in years–is void of any announcing or scorekeeping for an extended period of time.  With summer quickly approaching, and no local teams (that I’m aware of) looking for baseball PA announcers, I can…relax?  (Really?  What is this whole “relaxing” thing?)

Even stranger, however, is my now nearly complete detachment from youth ice hockey.  I say “nearly complete” as I will still continue to schedule and help run the annual Cactus Cup youth hockey tournament every January.  Aside from a weekend (and the prep time leading up to that weekend) working with some good friends, my youth ice hockey tenure has drawn to a close.

I admit, as I tried to work around ice hockey tryout schedules to make the roller hockey state finals schedule work, I did think a little about ice hockey, tryouts, preparations for a new season, and so on–but much more in terms of things I did not miss, than things I felt a need to go get involved with again.  During a few idle moments over the weekend, I did poke around to see who made what team, especially with the dust only now settling over the apparent merger-not-merger of two local youth ice hockey programs.

What did I discover in all this?  First of all, it still hurts to see the names of kids Micah played hockey with–and to think about the series of what-ifs that follow.  What if Micah would have survived–or never attempted suicide in the first place?  Micah would be graduating high school next week.  Micah would probably be looking forward to heading off to college–maybe Northern Arizona University’s choral music program, maybe Arizona’s choral music program, maybe just over to Chandler-Gilbert Community College for a couple years to build credits and get ready for university life.  If he was headed to NAU or UA, would he be trying out for their ACHA hockey teams?  If he was staying here, would he be trying out for the Knights or another Junior A team?  Heck–would Micah still be playing hockey at all, or would he have simply played high school hockey this past year (his high school finally got a team this past season), and looked forward more to singing and acting (and college in general) than playing competitive college hockey?

My second thought was, “Man, what a mess!” Or, to quote from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, EVITA, “Oh what a circus!  Oh what a show!”  It brought back memories of the cattle call tryouts, parents sitting in the stands (or standing at the glass) talking about how their kid was better than so-and-so, faster than so-and-so…how that kid is not really here for tryouts, but to get extra ice time…how this kid already signed with the other organization, and is just here to distract the coaches, or so he can tell the coach that wants him NO.  I remember the struggle and anxiety after tryouts, wondering if Micah made it, wondering why Micah was passed over, stressing over what it would cost if Micah did make that team.

After looking at a couple rosters, just to see where a couple particular kids wound up, I started self-questioning what I was actually doing (and why).  Why was I torturing myself?  I’m not managing any teams.  I don’t work or volunteer for any organizations.  I have very little contact with most of the families I knew from hockey, outside the occasional Facebook or Twitter post or message.  I suppose it was just my tendency as an information junkie to want to know what’s going on — even if I’m no longer personally involved.  Maybe it was just that errant thought, during a conversation at the roller hockey tournament last weekend, about trying to put together a new private youth ice hockey league to propose to the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association board.  Not likely, as I had to laugh off the idea half-way through.  I’m not going to forget, anytime soon, that the Board wasn’t even willing to consider a $10 per player stipend for the folks running and doing the majority of the work for the league.  What chance those same folks are now going to consider a privately-run league that would actually charge enough to make running the league worthwhile?  Perhaps by the time I retire from my current practice of law…maybe…eh…

For now, I just consider these thoughts and interests as echoes of days gone by.  When the echoes have ceased, perhaps I will be better able to focus on the future…

 

David

Another Mother’s Day

It was a quiet day.  We walked the dog early.  We went for Dutch Bros drinks.  We came home.  My wife’s lone request: smoke a brisket for dinner.  She tried to sleep in the TV room.  I prepared and began smoking the brisket, then watched the Cubs game — in between bouts of dozing off.

We sent cordial messages to friends and family, wishing them a Happy Mother’s Day–and then returned to speechlessness.  The social media world around us filled with pictures of mothers and their children, a few messages of the day, memorializing mothers lost to the passage of time.

The most active parts of our Facebook pages were the victims of suicide groups, bereavement groups we had been invited to as a part of a far-too-quickly-growing club of parents who had lost children to suicide or accident.  A club that no one ever wants to receive an invitation to join–the cost…

The worst part for me personally is looking at all the posts from mothers that have lost their children, realizing their are few posts by fathers.  Maybe it’s the too frequent and unfortunate side-effect of losing a child, that the marriage dissolves.  Maybe its the gender stereotype that only women are supposed to grieve–men are supposed to turn the other cheek, hold back the tears, and fight on–because “real men” don’t take the time to shed tears or expose their emotions.  Perhaps its that other men see these message areas without much male interaction and feel, like I find myself feeling, like an outsider.  Whatever the reason, nothing twists the dagger in your heart quite like feeling separated, isolated in your grief.

See, my problem (probably one of many) is that as much as I try to push the grief down, bury it deep, it always manages to find a way back to the surface.  Sometimes this happens at more-or-less appropriate times, quiet moments where I can sob a little, remember, and push forward after taking a couple deep breaths.  Sometimes this happens at the most inopportune times–as I prepare for an oral argument before the Court of Appeals, or as I prepare to enter a meeting room where my colleagues have gathered to celebrate new employees coming onboard.  I can’t ever control my emotions, when it comes to Micah, I can only hope to contain them.

I have found too many days recently where I could not bring myself to be part of a group.  Normally, I will become irritated, upset, if I feel as though people are avoiding contact with me, getting together in a group and excluding me from that group.  But on these recent days, I was invited into the group–but felt as though I could not join.  The pullback from my emotional state literally prevented me from turning a doorknob and entering the conference room.  I could not be around other people.  I needed to isolate myself.

Maybe it was the fear that I was going to go into this room and, despite being invited to be present, was going to feel like an outsider anyhow.  It was probably a combination of things, but the most powerful push was just a feeling like I needed to be alone with my sorrow, my emotions.

As I read about people enjoying brunch with their mothers, or mothers enjoying the day spent with their children, those feelings of isolation returned.  Twenty-five percent of this family is gone.  It’s as though everything we try to do on these holidays is a constant thorn, reminding us of that loss.

So, the result?  We spend a quiet, sleepy day trying to pretend this is just another Sunday…just like we will in mid June for Father’s Day.

Cherish your loved ones.  Hold them close.  Appreciate the time you have with them while you have it.  When that time runs out…

David

I reached the next plateau. I reached for Micah.

I have played many roles during my 24 years of adulting.  I was a junior high teacher for eight years, during which time I completed a Masters degree in Secondary Education.  I decided the next target was to help more children and families outside the classroom, so I took the LSAT and became a law student at the Arizona State University College of Law (now known as the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law).  After three years, I graduated in the top third of my class and took the July 2005 Arizona State Bar Exam.  In October, 2005, I was notified that I had passed the Arizona State Bar, and would soon be admitted to the practice of law.  On November 10, 2005, I became David C. Lieb, Esq.  (And no, I never actually sign my name with the Esquire title.)
I started my attorney tenure as a criminal defense attorney.  After a few months, I was given the opportunity to work with kids as a juvenile delinquency attorney.  Four and a half years later, I was honored to become part of my office’s first Dependency division, representing adults in cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS, now known in Arizona as DCS).  A couple years later, I took the opportunity to work with a very different client base–the mentally ill.  I spent two and a half years working in mental health law.
During the summer of 2014, my supervisor asked me, one afternoon, to meet with her privately for a bit.  It turned out that my motion practice had come to the attention of not only that supervisor, but the director of my overall office.  She was very impressed with my writing style and legal arguments, and asked if I would consider becoming our office’s full-time appellate attorney —  the first full-time appellate attorney we had employed since breaking away from the main county public defender’s office some seven years earlier.  I was flattered.  I was intrigued.  Six short weeks later, I was the office’s full-time appellate attorney.
I have been the full-time “half” of our appellate division (along with my good friend and colleague of over a decade, Suzanne, who is part appellate attorney, part delinquency attorney) for almost four years now.  I have written dozens of briefs representing both appellants and appellees for our office.  I have represented dependency and severance clients, as well as a handful of mental health clients, in their appeals matters.  But until today, my appeals practice was limited to reading, researching, writing, and occasionally taking part in a telephone conference with a court of appeals panel on an expedited matter.
This morning at 10:00am, I took my next huge step as an appellate attorney.  I argued before the Arizona Court of Appeals — a full-blown oral argument.  I am still coming down from the rush, the high, of that experience.
Many non-attorneys think that appellate attorneys argue before the court of appeals or even the United States Supreme Court all the time.  After all, attorneys in all the big movies seem to make their fortunes in that big courtroom with several judges sitting behind the mahogany bench.  The truth is, at least in Arizona, before the state courts, oral arguments are very rare.  Suzanne, my colleague, has been handling juvenile court appeals of one type or another for twenty-some years.  She can remember maybe three times that she’s had the opportunity to argue in person before the court of appeals.
How did it go?  I’m always a lousy judge (pun unintended) of my own performance in court.  Believe it or not, I sometimes half self-esteem issues when it comes to how I perform in a courtroom.  The reviews from my colleagues present in the courtroom this morning were glowing.  Apparently, based on their comments, I achieved attorney rock star status this morning.  I was confident.  I was knowledgeable.  I answered questions from the panel directly without wavering.  I even, according to a couple of my colleagues, had a “mic drop” ending to my oral argument.
Now, whether any of this translates into my client winning on appeal is an entirely different matter all together.  I will be happy to share more details about this after the court renders its decision, hopefully sometime in the next few weeks.  (You will also, eventually, be able to find the courtroom recording of my oral argument on YouTube somewhere, or so I’ve been told.)
If my day could only be about that hearing, and the jumble of nerves, energy and emotions that it stoked, that would be sufficient.  As we say at Passover, “Dayenu.”  Not content to just have those emotions and thoughts running rampant through my mind as I drove to the state courthouse this morning, real life sought to intervene.
I had no less than three pictures of Micah randomly pop up on my way down to the courthouse this morning.  Despite my fancier-than-normal dress, I decided to wear my purple ML37 wristband along with the shirt, tie, slacks and sport coat.  As I parked the car outside the court building, I took a few moments to have a couple words with Micah.  I told him how excited I was to have him there with me today, as I took this huge step in my career.  It sounds corny.  Even after almost two and a half years, I still have those moments when I feel like Micah is standing alongside me.  Today was one of those days.
As I drove through traffic, I found myself fighting back tears, overwhelmed with emotions.  But as I approached the courthouse, a calmness settled over me.  Sure, I was still somewhat a bundle of nerves about my argument, but I felt at peace about it.  I was not worried about what the attorney for DCS might say, or what the judges might ask.  I knew then, like I had never really known in my two weeks of preparation, that I would be fine.  I would be calm.  I would focus my mind on doing the best thinking-on-my-feet lawyering I had ever done.
And I did.
Thank you, Micah.  I argued for my client.  I argued for future parents that might have the same issues he is facing.  I excelled today because I knew you would have been proud of me, proud to tell your friends and teammates that your dad argued before the Court of Appeals today–and kicked ass.
David

From the top of the mountain…

When I last left you, I was sitting at the Smoke Daddy restaurant across from Wrigley Field, feeling pretty low having just heard that I flew to Chicago to watch the snow fall and not watch a Cubs game.  Thanks to input from a couple friends, however, and a desire to do whatever I could to make something positive out of the experience, I turned things around.

First, I went to the Southwest Airlines app and discovered that the Tuesday evening, 7:40pm nonstop flight back to Phoenix was very close in cost/points to the flight I was scheduled to take on Monday night.  For 900 additional points (which I had available in my Southwest account), I swapped flights to Tuesday night.

Next, I pulled up Hotwire.com on my phone and found a good deal on a boutique hotel in the Gold Coast area, a couple miles south of Wrigleyville, a quick six minute walk from the nearest Red Line stop.  Overnight stay covered.

Finally, I decided, on the advice of another high school friend, to go catch the not-postponed White Sox game on the South Side.  A quick visit to StubHub and a 30 minute Red Line ride later, I was sitting eight rows behind the White Sox dugout for the Sox-Rays afternoon game.  The White Sox lost 5-4, and it was pretty cold (35, give or take a couple degrees), but I got to visit Guaranteed Rate Field for the first time in close to 25 years.

After the game, I took the train back north, checked into the hotel, and made my way down to the shops on State Street in the Loop to pick up a few necessities for the overnight stay.  Remember, I had not really packed for an overnight trip–just brought headsets, a portable charger, my evening medications, my phone and tablet — that was it.  I grabbed a couple things at the local grocery store on the way back, ordered dinner from Lou Malnati’s next door to the hotel, ate–and fell asleep.

I woke up Tuesday morning to a beautiful, sunny day.  Yes, it was still cold–but 45 and sunny was better than 35 and snowing, to be sure.  I met my buddy, David, for a quick bite of early lunch, and into the ballpark we went.  The result was not quite as beautiful as the weather — the Cubs lost a stinker, 8-5.  After the game, I watched David start his first set at Slugger’s Piano Bar, and headed for Midway to fly home.

I have struggled ever since.

Maybe it’s a lack of sleep over the two nights I’ve been home.

I found myself on social media — often problematic when it comes to my emotional state — looking at a group I had been invited to with parents who had lost a loved one, mostly to suicide.  I am already in a similar group of those who have suffered a loss.  One thing I notice in common between the two: almost all the posts are from mothers that have lost children.  The groups appear to be 90 percent women talking about mothers losing their children, setting up activities and support for moms.  I felt out of place.  Honestly, I felt like a man without a place in general.  I responded to one woman’s post that mentioned Micah with an old picture of Micah that seemed relevant.  Her response to me: “Yes.”  My wife commented a few minutes later, and the woman gave a full response, including thanking my wife for posting the picture–that I had posted.

I came away wondering what happens to the fathers of kids that commit suicide.  Are we supposed to fall in lock-step with the gender stereotype of being strong and stoic, “crying is for the weak”, and all that?  Are there grieving father groups that I just haven’t found?  Maybe in some of those relationships, the marriage didn’t survive the death of a child?

Without considering the “club” to which I now belong, whose membership is determined by the loss of a child, I often go through waves of feeling isolated.  There are a bunch of people at work going to lunch — but no one asked me.  People interact socially in the hallway, but never seem to find their way to my office.  Too often, I feel like the guy that everyone says, “He’s such a nice guy, but this thing we’re going to do–eh, it’s not really him.”

For ten years, I was part of the youth ice hockey community in Arizona.  Micah died.  The youth hockey world supported us.  I struggled to spend much time at the rink afterwards.  Slowly, over the next year or two, many of the hockey friends disappeared.

Sometimes I just feel so disconnected from everything, everyone.  I go to a party and sit alone in the crowd.  If I don’t approach people, people don’t approach me.  Maybe doing public address announcing is perfect for me.  I’m a voice that people like to hear, but just a voice.

David

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