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

Random thoughts from the most random of minds…

Fate’s Sense of Humor

I have less than five work days to write a brief for the Arizona Supreme Court. No big deal, right? I’m an appellate attorney, this is what I do. The case is one I’m extremely familiar with, as this will be the fifth substantial brief I’ve written for it in the past two-and-a-half years.

Simple, right? Not even close. Thursday is Micah’s birthday.

Thursday, February 7th, is my son’s nineteenth birthday. Or it would have been, if he was still here. He would be two-thirds of the way through his freshman year in college. Maybe he’s be playing ACHA hockey somewhere. Maybe he would be singing in his college choir. Maybe he would be rehearsing for his school’s spring musical.

No. He does not get to do any of those things. He gets to have us come visit him at the Mesa City Cemetery. He gets to be on the minds of those who cared enough about him to still remember him. He gets to have us carry his memory into Alita: Battle Angel, a movie that we think he probably would have liked. He gets to hear our cries, feel our tears dripping on his headstone.

Micah gets to watch from beyond as his father struggles to write a brief for another father trying to get his young son back. Get him back. Something that no writing, no matter how creative, how well supported by law and facts, can happen for this father and his son.

Do I sometimes have to struggle to write things for my job? Sure. Couldn’t fate have dropped this assignment on me during a week where I’m not wrapped up in the memories, the sorrow, the loss of my son? Apparently not. Apparently fate has a cruel sense of timing.

Today has already been obliterated by my distracted mind, looking for anything solid to hold on to. I will try to make at least a dent in the statement of facts before leaving this evening, but that will still leave most of the drafting to three work days before I have to turn it over to my secretary for preparation and filing, early next week.

I’d like to think I can lock things down mentally and emotionally and get to some serious writing tomorrow, but I am honestly not sure…I don’t tend to get calmer and more composed as dates like this arrive.

I’ve been asked by a couple people if we’re doing anything special to celebrate Micah’s birthday. We are. After a few quiet, private, family things on Thursday, we are hosting a Project; Rock Their World “party” on Saturday afternoon. We will be painting rocks with positive, loving messages to promote suicide prevention and to de-stigmatize mental illness. We hope that people will take the rocks they paint and place them where others will find them, post pictures, and spread our messages of hope.

It’s really all we can do…

David

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Never Easy

Last week was a long week. It was long and ongoing. There were brief reprieves from the black tar pits of the week…a check that came early, a couple hours playing games with a couple friends…but the overarching mood of the week survived those brief peaks.

Whether it was a blast of emails around 5:30pm on Wednesday night from a private, contract attorney that was so busy looking for someone else to blame (in this case, me), that he could not even see how illogical his emails were.

There was my daughter having extreme difficulty with a change in her medication routine, and continuing to go through struggles with school.

There were more revelations about people that I considered friends that, maybe, really aren’t so much.

There was silence. And in the silence, words and thoughts and phrases of self-doubt. Self-loathing, even.

Then there was sleep. Not much, to be sure. Over the past six weeks, I have probably averaged four hours per night. I rarely seem to be able to get much more these days. Some combination of insomnia, my brain refusing to quiet itself, or some third thing that I cannot even begin to place my finger on.

Have you ever done something just to make someone else happy, but also kind of because you would love to see others do the same for you? I find myself doing those things quite a bit. And, unfortunately, I rarely find myself rarely on the reciprocating end. Being who I am, I don’t stop, of course. I just keep right on doing the things that I think will make others happy, hoping that someone will stop for a minute and think, “Hey, I bet David would be tickled pink if I did this for him too!” Does it happen? Sometimes. Rarely. I know I have a good friend, a special relationship when someone actually does. When someone calls or texts just to say, “Hey, I’m just thinking of you. You doing okay?” I’ve had a couple yesterday and today. People that feel authentic–like they really mean it, as opposed to those that just mouth the words, but you can just tell that they’re doing it because they think that’s what society wants them to do. Texts and messages from people that I have never even met in person, but that have become important parts of my life. Little notes from people that don’t have to pass them along, just to keep me going, regardless of how dark the day gets.

Sometimes the gloom gets overwhelming. What happens when you become dependent on the small candles of hope that your friends hold in your darkness, and then suddenly the candles vanish?

I often worry that the high cost of being able to share my story will be driving those candle-holding friends away. One friend has recently used the term “broken” to describe herself. I think we’re all a little — or more — broken. What happens when one broken person unloads his heart with another broken person? Can I cause further damage to a broken person by taking up his or her offer to share my sorrow?

There are moments when I so badly want, badly need to share something, but the candles are out. The room is empty but for my shadowy figure. I think the gloom enjoys these moments, because the darkness intensifies, the echoes of my own heartbeat become louder. Sorrow becomes despair. The isolation becomes impenetrable. How hard it is to keep fighting the battle: will someone notice my isolation and say something, or do I need to break the isolation myself in order to talk to someone? Each time I need to break the silence myself, the battle becomes that much more difficult.

Fortunately, those moments are not normally the rule, but only the exception. My luck has been holding out that right when I need someone there most, someone appears. Hopefully my luck continues to hold out.

David


Reset, Please.

It has been way too long since I had a chance to sit down and write. I have a relatively long partial blog entry that I need to go back and finish. That entry started out as a reflection on the weekend leading up to the three-year anniversary of Micah’s death, and wound up including the anniversary itself…and then more.

Right now, I need a reset. I am not exactly sure what that looks like, or how I go about finding or performing one. I just know that the gloom has started to cloud my skies, the black tar pit of despair seems to be calling my name, and everything just seems out of sync.

For two weeks, I’ve had extreme difficulty focusing on my tasks at work. While it is not unusual for me to have quiet moments in my office, moments where I stop what I’m doing and think about the irony of a father that lost his child–and would have done anything, including giving his own life, to save or bring him back–trying to find loopholes for parents that, more often than not, threw their kids away. Parents that frequently were given 18 months, two years, three years, of chances to do services, get their parental ship uprighted, and still failed to do so. Now, however, they want to fight. Now, they want to make sure their kids know that bio mom and bio dad fought for them. Not during the two or three years when they actually had a chance to get the kids back, but after the judge has already found that severing parental rights is in the children’s best interests. This isn’t to say that all my clients just refused to do what they needed to, but an awful large percentage of them refused–repeatedly.

So, when I’m absorbed in memories of losing Micah, memories of sitting by his bedside, watching him draw his last breaths, how can I possibly focus on the parents that deny repeatedly that they have a meth problem, and claim the system is working against them, falsifying the drug test results just to hurt them?

Some people, when depression hits, dive in to the closest bottle, hit the closest bong, snort the closest white line. I’m often asked why I don’t drink (newsflash: I don’t drink). Aside from that fact that I was never raised in an environment where I saw the benefits of drinking alcohol, I’m not ever really sure what to say. In college, I used to make up excuses to get the constant questions to cease. It was just something I did. Today, I just point at Micah’s death. “I can only imagine what might have happened to me after Micah died if I was comfortable drinking or using drugs.” Honestly, would alcohol and drugs have been on the table for me on January 16, 2016, I might not be here today. If I was still here, I would undoubtedly not be the same person you see today

Instead of crawling into a bottle, I crawled onto Twitter. Now, going in, I wasn’t exactly a newbie to the Twittersphere. I’ve had a couple accounts for a while now. One, @GoalieDad37, that I’ve used for years, on-and-off, and the second @RRPAGuy37, that I created back in 2017 at the behest of my wife. She insisted that if I was going to post political thoughts that might be divisive, especially among the hockey community, I should have a separate account that I can specifically use for Roadrunners hockey tweets–and keep my more divisive thoughts on my “personal” account. I’ve had friends at differing levels on Twitter, but mainly casual acquaintances that would respond/react to a post here or there. Still, there were a few special friends that I felt closer to on Twitter…almost like actual in real life (IRL) friends. Not that I had met any of them, nor would ever be likely to meet them, but people I genuinely cared about.

But a few weeks ago, I felt a need to find connections. People that I could actually develop real relationships with. Real friendships that might, might transcend the bounds of the Matrix we know as the internet. So, probably against my own better judgment, I threw myself into a quest for real online people.`

The good news is, I found a few–a few people that I genuinely connected with, that were genuinely interested in connecting with me. I have made a few friends that I hope to develop long-term relationships with, perhaps meet, sooner or later. I met a few people that my heart just leapt out of my chest and flew to–people who needed someone to listen, someone to talk to, someone to care. Some of those people were willing to let me in and talk to me, some decided at an early stage that I was really not someone they were looking to get to know.

Then came the bad news: some people are just flaky, or so busily seeking Mr. or Mrs. Right, that they don’t really have time to waste on friendship. You chat a bit. You make witty banter. You express a sincere interest. It seems mutual–and then, POOF! Gone. I presume they just mute me, since I still see that I follow them and they follow me, but comments and questions go unanswered. They’re online commenting on other things, but don’t respond to me. I know how that sounds–I understand that I’m not the center of the universe, and many of the people I’m talking to have hundreds or thousands of other followers as well, but still. There was a conversation. Back and forth. Ball is in the other person’s court, but 36 hours and several visits to Twitter later, the other person is still sitting on the ball, not returning serve.

In these last few weeks, I’ve found myself spending more and more time browsing my Twitter timeline, texting and messaging with my Twitter friends (trying to focus more time and energy on the ones that respond and converse), and trying to lead a social life that, just maybe, I was never meant to lead. I don’t speak with the same tone and tenor as many of the male Twitter users I see. I don’t seem to portray the same toxic masculinity as so many out there. I’m kind. I’m polite. I’m caring. I bare my heart and soul with my tweets. (It’s amazing how much you can say in a couple 280-character posts.) And, as I guess I should have suspected might happen, sometimes that heart gets trampled and the soul gets crushed.

Do I want to give Twitter up? No. I have made a few friends that I believe will be a part of my life, in a very real way, for years to come. I have helped people through times of trouble, bouts of depression, moments of anxiety. I have been able to help a couple people with things they desperately need in real life. Whatever I have that I can afford to share to help others, I will gladly share. Sometimes it’s greatly appreciated, and — as in real life off the internet — sometimes not so much. (If you’re taking the time to read my blog, this last bit probably doesn’t apply to you.)

I do tend to find, however, that sometimes I have the lousiest timing. Usually, I seem to be around when other people need support most. I gladly give that support, even to those that I suspect would not likely return the favor–either lacking the time, ability, or capacity to do so. Sometimes though, when I could use some support myself, it becomes harder to find. Not nearly as hard to find as in real life, but harder than my mood wants to deal with at those particular moments.

I was talking to one of my friends yesterday, and mentioned that I did not want her to have to be afraid of triggering memories of Micah. I don’t want any of my friends to have to feel like they need to walk on eggshells to communicate with me. Micah is my son. Micah died. The memories of that event are extremely painful, but they are there. Most of the time, the tears and the breakdowns from having those memories forced to the forefront are actually somewhat therapeutic for me. I really do need the release. I keep it so bottled up inside, trying to put forward a professional image, or trying to look like I’m coping normally, that sometimes, being able to just toss that veneer aside helps.

No sooner did I find myself saying that yesterday then I saw a post this morning that blew the veneer away. I was a raw nerve. I knew the person who made the post didn’t intend to trigger me, wasn’t likely worried about walking on eggshells, and is someone that I have tried to talk with about her own loss…but it didn’t matter at that moment. The office door had to be closed. My transcript had to be put down. The sorrow demon had to be set free. But it was a quiet day…a day where I had said I was going to stay off Twitter…a day where my closest friends were either, themselves, dealing with depression issues that I did not want to add to, or dealing with circumstances that made a sorrowful discussion with me impractical. So, I sat and wallowed.

The aftereffects are long-lasting. I went to my Weight Watchers meeting (down another pound since last Wednesday, 55.2 lbs gone since early October), came back, closed my door, and continued to brood. I was trapped between wanting to reach out and call someone, and wanting to just let everyone get a break from me for a while. Trapped between needing to talk, and wanting to just continue to wallow.

You ever get to that place where you just can’t decide what you want and need to do? This is why I need a reset…

David

Special thanks to those that have been helping me cope over the last couple weeks… You know who you are. You know how much I appreciate you.

Another Year Bids Farewell

We’re only a few hours (Arizona time) from another year drawing to a close, and another new year beginning. So much has happened in 2018–some good, some bad, and most somewhere in between.

Some facets of life just go on, from year to year. Thankfully, I’ve continued to be gainfully employed in the same office (now for a hair over 13 years) as an attorney. I’ve maintained my health without serious issues. My family has remained intact and suffered neither further loss nor significant illness either. People that I consider my true friends have remained in my corner, available to me when I’ve needed them (and been able to reach out to them).

There have been some nice highlights to the year, as well. I finally got my dream car, after a two-plus year wait. We got to make our first family trip to the Big Apple and saw our first Broadway shows. We had the opportunity to visit San Francisco for the first time (and I got to watch the Cubs play at AT&T Park). I had a few opportunities to watch my Cubs play in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field again, as well as AT&T Park in San Francisco, Petco Park in San Diego, and Chase Field here in Phoenix. I had the opportunity to once again meet up with good friends for a week in Las Vegas. I was welcomed back with open arms as the public address announcer for the Roadrunners in Tucson, as well as the ASU Women’s Hockey team. I was able to make another trip to Chicago just a few weeks ago to root on my Roadrunners against my former favorite team, the Chicago Wolves (and got to see a good friend and enjoy my favorite skirt steak sandwich at Booby’s).

As 2018 has wound down, I have also started making some changes. After seven years of watching my waistline and belly grow (or–at best–maintain a certain very heavy range), I finally decided to do something about it. I joined Weight Watchers (I guess now just referred to as “WW”) at Work. So far, as of my 10-week weigh-in, I’ve lost almost 40 pounds. I’ve gone from needing “loose” or “stretch” 40-inch waist pants to being able to get 38’s on (still a little tight, but they fit), from needing XXXL shirts to fitting comfortably in just XXL…and almost XL. It’s honestly much more than a diet. WW has changed my eating habits. WW has encouraged me to become more active. I take pride in my ability to avoid so many of the things that I used to gorge myself on. I have gone from two cans or more of sugary soda per day to…umm…two glasses of Coke in the last eleven weeks (one at Thanksgiving, one on Christmas Eve), from french fries (or other fried potatoes) at almost every major meal to probably the equivalent of two large orders of fries total over eleven weeks.

I’ve made a couple less life-altering changes also… Out went the Windows 10 PC (after a final crash and meltdown), in came the new Mac Mini and accessories. Out went the Pixel 3 XL Google-made, Android-based cell phone, and in came the iPhone Xs. It was partially pushed by the realization that many of the customization options that I constantly touted for Android–I never actually took advantage of. I guess I’ve just reached a point in my life where things that simply work, how and when they’re supposed to, are more valuable. The iPhone is a bit smaller than my other recent phones, but it does what I need, when I need it to, and much smoother than the Pixel 3 XL did. The still camera isn’t AS nice, but it’s fine–and it’s video-taking abilities are superior (as far as I’ve seen to this point).

I have also started placing experiences ahead of tangible things. At one time, you never would have been able to convince me that I should spend $2-3-4,000 on a trip instead of a new technological toy. Perhaps this change has been long-brewing, all starting with that August, 2015, trip to Chicago for a couple quiet days of Cubs-Giants baseball at Wrigley Field. It grew to 3-4-5 trips a year to watch the Cubs play and see friends over the past couple years, and now, heading into 2019, it’s making it’s largest leap yet: London/UK, Amsterdam, and Paris for nine days, late May through early June.

With the good, however, comes the bad. Tonight, we marked the third New Year’s Eve without our son. All our plans for the future are for a family of three, not four. Talk about college centers around Avi, not her older brother, who would be midway through his freshman year in college. Instead of having a full bowling lane tonight, we only had a party of three.

People have told me that “it becomes your new normal after a couple years.” Problem is, there is no such thing as normal after you lose your child — unless normal includes constant reminders of what you’ve lost. Constant reminders of a future without your first-born son. This is not normal. This can never be normal. This is something I will never become accustomed to.

Every time I take what I believe to be a step forward, I feel compelled to look in the rear view mirror to see what I’ve left behind. Every time I meet someone new, in any environment, the questions turn to children–how many do I have? “One…well, I had two, but now I have one…I have one child left…” There is no simple answer.

“I’m so sorry,” they always say. “I’m sorry for your loss.” I’m sorry, too. I wish I could think of words that help–help me, help someone else to understand the true context of what they feel sorry about, help me to stop having nightmares about seeing my son in his hospital bed, taking his last breath, in his casket. Help. Help.

If nearly three years has taught me anything, there really is no adequate help. Even people with the best intentions are at a loss as to what help means. I can’t tell them. I don’t know either. I’m pretty sure no one wants to hear me groan on about how much I miss my son. Heaven knows, I’ve been told directly that there are people that read my blog, only to turn around and complain, publicly, about how I express my grief. People who shamelessly cast aspersions at a father’s grief and how he chooses to express it. No one is forced to read my words. No one is forced to feel compassion. If today’s world has one screaming message, it’s certainly that a percentage of the population feels no grief, pity, or compassion for anyone outside their church, their home, their immediate family–or themselves.

So many of the people that knew Micah have faded from our lives now. Some are gone completely, while others are in the background, peeking out occasionally to say, “Hello.” This creates a problem for me, personally. When I do have the urge to talk about Micah, how do I do so with people that have no frame of reference? Seriously–so many people that I consider closer acquaintances or friends today only really know of Micah through this blog, or through explanations as to why all my jerseys have the number 37 on them, or just because, at some point, I told them that I lost my son to suicide a couple years ago. Some, who I see as my genuine friends, will listen and provide a shoulder, when needed…but my paranoia, that I will alienate more people by talking about him, is still not too far off. Do people that have not lost a child understand that the grief never really goes away? That a grieving parent never truly gets over their loss, and is never tired talking about their child?

I’ve been listening to the new Disturbed album, EVOLUTION, recently. It’s amazing how much meaning can be derived from the hardest of hard rock band lyrics. I’ve been following Disturbed ever since I saw an interview with lead singer David Draiman on the National Holocaust Memorial Museum website. talking about the song, “Never Again.” Their music speaks to me, in a way few other bands today do. The song, “Hold On to Memories,” is the latest song to stick in my head.

They’re never really gone, as long as there’s a memory in your mind.

Hold on to the memories.
Hold on to every moment — to keep them alive.


Make the most of the rest of your life,
Shine your light on this world, while you can.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hold-on-to-memories/1425820707?i=1425820714

2019 is here. I can’t be sure exactly what ups and downs it might hold, but I do know one thing for certain–it will be another year without my son. And the best I can do is try to make the rest of my life, shining my light on this world, while holding on to every memory of Micah to keep him alive.

David

Fighting the Spiral

I used to think that if I kept insanely busy, I wouldn’t have time to think about missing Micah, or my other various social shortcomings.  As time has gone on, I’ve discovered that now staying busy has started to have the opposite effect.  Busy = rushing around = anxiety = stress = thinking about my issues even more.

Now I’m kind of left wondering what the solution might be.  Maybe it’s just the holiday season, bringing up more memories, more mental images, and that’s leading to my current spiral.  I went to visit Micah last weekend, after not having been to his grave in months–which I really needed to do, but it didn’t really do much to help my emotional state.

Life at work has become a source of stress again as well.  Last week, I “celebrated” my 48th birthday.  Normally, people in the office have a birthday, and there’s much celebration.  Maybe it’s just my current state of mind/emotion, but it was somewhat deflating to see my office decorated with two small “Happy Birthday” banners and a plant with two mini Happy Birthday balloons stuck in the planter, while a coworker’s office was turned upside down with color and sparkle and warm greetings.

Earlier this week, we had an office birthday lunch, celebrating both my birthday and my coworker’s.  No one asked if I wanted to carpool over to the restaurant with them, or if they could hop in my car (and yes, almost everyone returned to the office immediately afterwards).  When people got up to leave after lunch, it felt like I was watching the end of the lunch on a monitor somewhere.  I felt completely disconnected from the people departing.  It felt as if everyone was getting up and leaving without noticing that I was still sitting there.  Shortly after returning to the office, I found a cake sitting out in the break area–but no one sent out an email saying that it was for our birthdays.  I figure that there likely was an email sent out, but that I was not included on it.  Probably sent out by the coworker’s division to only the coworker’s division…

It might just be all about the lens through which I’m viewing events recently.  I’ve been having flashbacks to Micah’s death as I drive into work in the morning.  I spent part of my weekend helping with roller hockey issues.  Normally this brings forth the ghosts of Micah and roller hockey past, but this weekend hit an even more emotional chord on Saturday morning.

After running a scorekeeper training, the husband and wife who have taken over the Royals state inline program approached me.  The Royals were the program that started with Micah and his former AHU Knights ice hockey team back in 2012.  I quickly became involved as a team manager, as well as the Royals rep to the IHAAZ (state roller hockey) Board of Directors.  I’ve been involved ever since, even after Micah’s death.  As the years have gone by since Micah’s passing, I’ve grown, understandably I hope, distant from the families that comprise the organization, to the point where I was just a figurehead at IHAAZ Board meetings for the past year and a half.  The Paris family moved down from Prescott, and expressed an interest in being involved with the Royals.  By the time it was all said and done, they had created Royals 2.0, and I was happily able to step aside and let them take over.

Anyhow,  they approached me to let me know how much they appreciated everything I did for the Royals, and IHAAZ in general, and wanted to tell me that my contributions, and those of Micah, would never be forgotten.  They handed me two helmet stickers–simple circles with the number 37 in the middle.  The Royals have officially retired Micah’s number, and the players will all wear “37” stickers on their helmets.  I choked up.  I was touched…but I immediately felt Micah’s presence–and loss, with gusto.

Finally, upon my return to work on Monday morning, I discovered that the husband of one of my coworkers had committed suicide late last week.

Put it all together, and I’ve felt like I’m in a full emotional downward spiral for the past week.

Even things that normally perk me up have only created limited emotional bumps.  I finally got to don the new custom-made costume and become The Greatest Showman, hosting three Greatest Showman Sing-Alongs on Sunday (2) and again Monday night (1).  I’ve been in Tucson to announce three exciting Roadrunners wins.  As fun as those games and sing-alongs have been, there has been little lingering happiness afterwards.

So, how do I continue moving forward?

For starters, my continued efforts at self-improvement have made me physically feel better.  In eight weeks on Weight Watchers, I have dropped over 30 pounds (today’s weigh-in pending).  I have become more active, taking brisk one-mile walks every night that I’m home before 10pm.  I have watched my waistline retreat from barely fitting in size 40 pants with stretch waistbands, to being able to get into size 38 pants (with a minimum of discomfort).  I can once again comfortably wear 2XL shirts, instead of 3XL shirts.  I’m more comfortable driving.  I’m looking forward to my next flight, where the seat won’t feel quite so cramped.  Even though 30 pounds of weight loss in two months is fantastic–it’s just a start: my goal is to lose at least 75 pounds total before our big 2019 summer trip to Europe.  I’d love to be down around 200 pounds by next summer–nearly 100 pounds less of me than Fall 2018.

I’m getting ready to start my own podcast.  My first podcasts will be about MLB baseball and, more specifically, the Chicago Cubs.  From there, I may hit a number of other topics.  The hardware is all in place, I just need to find some good podcast-creation software for the Mac.

My second annual (?) trip to Chicago to watch the Roadrunners take on my former favorite AHL team, the Chicago Wolves, is rapidly approaching.  In fact, that trip is just over 48 hours away.  While in Chicago, I’ll get to have lunch with by brother, hopefully hang out with one of my good friends (and soon-to-be Cubs podcast partner), root on my Roadrunners on the road, and make my annual pilgrimage to Booby’s in Niles for a skirt steak sandwich.  I might even make a side trip over to Kaufman’s in Skokie or Max and Benny’s in Northbrook for a good, Kosher corned beef sandwich and some of the best fresh pickles in existence.  (Unfortunately, the aforementioned Weight Watchers diet will keep me away from most of their fantastic baked good…)  I considered enjoying one lunch at Poochie’s in Skokie–but just thinking about two big juicy Vienna Beef hot dogs, slathered with cheddar cheese, and a big order of fresh-cut fries is causing me to gain weight.  Booby’s will have to suffice as my “cheat” meal on this trip.

Finally, most germane to this blog, I’m going to get back to writing more frequent blog posts.  Maybe getting my thoughts out more frequently will help my overall emotional state.  (And, I’m finally going to get to writing a novel–that’s on my 2019 to-do list.)  I guess we’ll see soon enough.

 

David

Square One

As we approach the third anniversary of Micah’s death, it seems that every step forward in my personal healing, as well as my family’s healing, is greeted with a huge shove backwards.  Wednesday night was just one of those shoves…

Nothing sucks quite as much as going out to do something you absolutely love–in this case, going out for a night of live theatre–and winding up conflicted, depressed, and back at square one.  Wednesday night, we went to see the national touring company of Dear Evan Hansen.

I’m one of those people that likes to go see a show with little to no idea of the plot.  I want that unique, first-time viewing experience.  Even in shows where I listened to the soundtrack incessantly prior to seeing a live performance, I always tended to find a few surprises that the soundtrack did not adequately convey.  In the case of Dear Evan Hansen, I had only heard a couple songs on Google Music’s “Broadway Bangers” station, and just generally glowing reviews of “how good the show is.”  I think everyone I talked to about being excited to see the show just assumed that I already knew the plot.  I was totally unprepared…

Without too many spoilers, about 15-20 minutes into Act I, we’re told that one of the characters that interacts briefly with Evan, an even more mentally ill teenager, Connor Murphy, committed suicide shortly after crossing paths with Evan.  Those words hit me in a way that few other “triggers” have hit me in the past two years.  The brief glimpse of Connor we got, prior to finding out that he committed suicide, revealed a number of Micah-like traits.  Then again, Evan also had a few Micah-like traits.  Either way, seeing the suffering of Connor’s parents and sister…it just hit too close to home.

At various points Wednesday night–right through to today–I felt like I had freshly lost Micah.  Watching Connor’s parents on that stage, seeing the emotions and struggles they were going through, seeing how Connor’s sister was in an utter state of denial…it was like looking into a twisted, time-warped mirror.  Not just any mirror though, but one that reflected hurt and pain as clearly as images.

For much of yesterday, I felt trapped in that time warp.  My emotions were out of control.  My brain only allowed me to see Micah in his hospital bed, or his coffin, every time I closed my eyes.  Sleep did not come easily the last two nights, as persistent images of Micah were burned into my dreams.

While all of this was my inner monologue, externally, I dealt with–well, what else?  Hockey.  Youth hockey.  It’s time for yours truly to start crafting the Cactus Cup Invitational Hockey Tournament schedule.  It’s time to get the first state roller hockey festival paperwork generated.  Everywhere I turned, the ghost of Micah.

Back at square one, that’s where you’ll find me for the rest of the weekend…and then, who knows?

 

David

Loss, in a positive way.

Life is rarely easy.  This isn’t some great new revelation, I understand.  However, when you still choke up every time you pass a picture of your late son–walking into your bedroom, getting your shoes out of the closet, sitting at the dining room table–the reminders of what you’ve lost make life take on an entirely different level of difficulty.

I’m not saying I don’t want those reminders, or that I want to purge my house of memories of Micah.  I need to see him.  I need to remember him.  I never want him slipping far from my thoughts.  I still need to hold my son near to my heart, as much of him as I can.  That’s all I have left.

As much as I want to see and hold my son again, I don’t want to be joining him anytime soon.  As depressed as I may get when I dwell on those memories and feel just how much I miss him, that is not a thought that crosses my mind.  So, when I stepped on the scale in my bathroom a couple weeks ago, and saw just how close to 300 pounds I was… When I tried to fit into a pair of stretchy 40″ waist jeans and could not squeeze in…  When I looked in the mirror and saw how far out my belly protruded–and since I don’t drink, it definitely couldn’t be called a “beer belly”…

No, I’m nowhere near as heavy as my father was for most of his adult life.  He probably averaged close to 350 pounds at any given point from about 25 years old until his far-too-early death not long after his 60th birthday.  With the weight came diabetes, and a host of other medical issues, of which I cannot recall names.  With the weight came difficulty sleeping, sleep apnea, and generally being uncomfortable in most situations.  He carried so much weight, and his health was so poor, that the doctors did not want to take the risk of more radical types of procedures to help him get rid of the weight.

My daughter has already lost both of her paternal grandparents–my mother, before she was born, and my father, only shortly after she turned two.  She has already lost her brother.  She has lost her cousin.  I can not bear the thought of her losing her father.

Around the same time that all of this was hitting me, one of my coworkers started talking about the Weight Watchers at Work program starting up again in a few days.  My decision was almost instantaneous.  I needed to try something, and needed to try it now.  Sure, I got lucky several years back, and through a combination of skipping meals, cutting out soda–cold turkey, and spending a lot of time at the hot yoga studio, I managed to get down below 230 pounds.  I looked healthier–even my face thinned out.  I felt more energetic.  I could fit into airplane seats more comfortably.  Unfortunately, the hot yoga studio also thinned out my wallet to the tune of $140/month, and while I was a regular guest of the studio, it ate up a good chunk of my free time.  (In fact, the main reason I stopped going was just a lack of free time once Micah’s hockey season started up again in earnest.)  Maybe I’ll venture back to the hot yoga studio again at some point–but for now, I’ll make due with increased activity and a Weight Watchers diet.

It’s early still–I only attended my introductory meeting last Wednesday, one week ago–but I am already starting to feel a little different.  According to my sketchy bathroom scale, I’ve already lost a hair over five pounds in the first week.  My pants fit a hair more comfortably already.  I know I won’t continue to drop five pounds a week.  Although that would be amazing–dropping 60 pounds in the 12 weeks of the program, but reality says that’s not happening.  Still, even if I just lose the 15 points required for the refund of my initial membership fee, I’ll feel a bit better…and I will have started to make some healthier lifestyle choices in the process.

My goal?  To get back down around 230 pounds by next baseball season.  Even if it takes until next summer to get down around 225 pounds, I will be much better off overall–and, in the process, I’ll give my family a bit of a sigh of relief–that I won’t follow my father’s footsteps.

I kept those size 38 jeans, and those XXL and even XL shirts.  I will wear them again.

Second weigh-in is tomorrow.  Here we go!

David

Ghost

Nothing has the potential to make you feel nearly so alone as an extended period time, of, well, being alone.

Saturday afternoon, my wife and daughter took off for Chicago to visit family and see old friends for a few days.  I say a “few days” but it’s basically a five-day trip.  Coming off a week at work where I rarely saw or talked to anyone, spending the next five days in an empty house was not something I looked forward to.  Sure, I had the Roadrunners season opener on Saturday night, and, yes, I was meeting up with a couple new friends to watch the eleventh season premiere of Doctor Who on Sunday morning, but 24 hours after my wife and daughter took off, the house was mine–all mine.

I really don’t, typically, like being alone.  A few minutes here or there is fine, even an afternoon or evening of peace and quiet can be nice, but after more than a couple hours, it turns gloomy.  My initial energy and ambition to binge-watch a couple shows faded quickly, as just sitting in front of the TV made me sleepy.  I got through about three episodes of The Defenders on Netflix, but that was it.  Didn’t even get around to starting the new season of Man in the High Castle.  I think that might have something to do with me preferring to watch TV shows (and movies, for that matter) with other people.  I like to talk about, analyze, and even sometimes just poke fun at what I’m watching.  That plays much better with other people to bounce things off of.  Talking to myself during the movie just isn’t a whole heck of a lot of fun.

The most excitement I’ve had so far, with the family in Chicago, was “gifted” to me over the past 36 hours by some kind of intestinal virus.  I won’t describe further.  The only thing it did for me was keep me home from work today, since dealing with the effects of the virus is much easier when you’re not dressed up for work, sitting behind your desk.

Home from work–in other words, even further isolation.  For “fun” this morning, I spent an hour updating my budget spreadsheet, after engaging in a bit of retail online therapy.  A little while working on the budget, and more while messing with social media afterwards, I started to think about people that I don’t ever hear from.  Sure, there are people that I only talk to once or twice a year, but that’s all I expect from certain people.  There are even people I talk to or see less frequently than that, but I have moved those people into the rationalized category of “long-term acquaintances.”  They’re friends, of a sort, but not really anyone I could depend on in a crunch.  Actually, pretty much everyone in the infrequent contact category falls there.  Where I really start descending the spiral staircase is thinking about the people that I always kind of hoped would be there, if I needed someone to talk to, but who have, to use the modern vernacular, ghosted me.

I thought about replacing these ghosting people’s photos or avatars on my phone with a picture or GIF of a ghost.  Maybe they’re there, maybe they’re not.  Maybe they’ve decided to move on from our friendship for one reason or another, or, heck, maybe someone lost their phone and all their contacts, and doesn’t recognize my number any longer.  Of course, that’s a harder sell when it comes to email addresses or Facebook messages.  Regardless of the reason, it hurts to turn towards someone you thought considered you a friend, and find an empty seat, an egg-as-avatar (for those who use Twitter a lot) waiting instead.  It’s almost scary to cast a message into the void, left to wonder if anyone will ever see it, or perhaps respond to it.  I know technical problems abound these days, but when it becomes a serious pattern…  Was it something I said?  Something I did?  Or is it just–like so many people I knew in the youth hockey community–a case of that common link being nothing but a ghost himself.  Is it the memory of Micah, once something to bond over, now reduced to a painful reminder?

I’ll never argue that my mind tends to follow a certain path.  Thoughts about being alone…alone in the house…ghosts…ghosting…being alone in the interior while feeling alone in the exterior as well.

I suppose I can overextend the ghost theme a bit too.  I preordered a white Pixel 3XL phone today.  I could call it ghost white…except that ghosts make me think more of a translucent white–and Google calls the color “Clearly White.”  Maybe clearly white signals kind of a faint, translucent white after all…

Maybe I’ll write a bit more about the phone and a couple other subjects later.  It’s time to get out of this empty house and go watch ALL THAT JAZZ at the Alamo Drafthouse, complete with Q&A with renowned actress and choreographer, Ann Reinking.

David

 

Split

There are days and weeks (and months) when so much happens, so much that I want to write about, that I simply don’t have the time to write.  Or, if I do have the time, it’s late at night when I can’t keep my eyes open.  There have been a lot of those days and weeks recently…

Hockey has returned.  Good timing — as the Cubs just ended most of my interest in baseball until Spring Training, losing a one-game NL Central tiebreaker and the National League Wild Card game on back-to-back days.  Back to hockey…the Coyotes and Blackhawks start their quests for Lord Stanley’s Cup tonight.  My Tucson Roadrunners take the ice on Saturday night–my first game of the season–against the San Diego Gulls.

I have recently been very charged up over the possibility of Brett Kavanaugh becoming the newest lifetime member of the United States Supreme Court.  Without getting too deep into the political mud, let’s just say that I think his views on women’s rights to control their own bodies–and even to consume birth control medications–are abhorrent to a government that is supposed to be built on the separation of church and state.  Additionally, he demonstrated a volatile, aggressive demeanor during his hearing, as well as tendencies to lie under oath and to be a hyper-partisan purveyor of tinfoil hat conspiracy theories.  (See?  I didn’t even get into whether or not he actually raped or attempted to rape Dr. Ford 35 years ago.)

As you might be able to tell, when it comes to our personal and civil liberties, I have a really hard time biting my tongue.  While I realize that me ranting and raving isn’t likely to change the thought process of a die-hard on the opposite side of the fence…you just never know when someone might read something that makes sense, pause, and say, “Huh.  That’s a good point.”  The real problem is, over the past several months, I migrated most of my active social media activity into one Twitter account: my account loosely associated with my role as the Roadrunners PA guy.  I tried to limit how often I shared or posted fresh political content–but it was still too much.

This morning, I decided to return to my original Twitter account for political and more personal posts, and to leave the PA guy account for hockey-related tweets.  My first split on the day.  Now, I just need to make sure I don’t abandon either of my accounts.  I want to try and provide fresh content on both fronts throughout the season.  Oh, and I suppose my Facebook account will be a mixed bag still, since it’s not really directly or indirectly linked to my PA gig.

I fear I have buried the lead.  While this morning’s decision to divide my Twitter time between two accounts is a “split” of sorts, that was a minor part of my day–and week…

Late last summer, missing Micah, knowing my family was all continuing to suffer, I decided to take a risk–and suggest that we get a family dog.  The risk was not that my family would disagree–we have talked at length on many occasions about getting a family therapy dog.  The risk was to my health.  For years, I have been aware of pretty severe allergies to any pets that have hair or fur and produce dander.  I knew that certain dogs were considered “hypoallergenic,” so I hoped that we could get lucky and get a new, hypoallergenic family member from a local rescue shelter.

On our first visit to the shelter, we found a hyper little poodle mix.  Poodles, I had always been told, were hypoallergenic and typically did not shed (shedding is often a red flag for allergy problems).  Ellie was a beautiful little year-and-a-half old, mainly housebroken dog that seemed to immediate take to all three of us.  We did not leave without her.

As rescue dogs go, there wasn’t a lot of paperwork to be had–many more guesses than certainties.  Everyone seemed pretty sure that she was a Schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix), which should still be “okay” for my allergies and related asthma issues.  Good thing we initially decided to let Ellie sleep in the master bedroom with us, huh?

Over time, we noticed that my breathing issues were becoming worse.  From the occasional puff on my rescue inhaler to two or more breathing treatments on the nebulizer each week, my health was becoming more of an issue.  I still promised to do whatever I needed to do in order for Ellie to stay with us.  Trying to find some outside solutions, I got a series of appointments with my doctor and a pulmonologist.  After blood draws, breathing tests, and trying a couple different medications, the pulmonologist revealed that one of the blood tests was an allergy panel.  It turns out that my dog allergies are almost as bad as my cat allergies (which I always knew were pretty lethal–15 minutes in a house or apartment with a cat, and I was wheezing and grasping for my inhaler).  When I told the pulmonologist that I didn’t really see getting rid of Ellie as a possibility, he gave an understanding-but-disapproving nod, and said that I was pretty much already treating my allergies and asthma as aggressively as I could.  His last suggestion was to replace my bed linen and comforter, since dander really never comes out of those things, and to add an air purifier to the bedroom.

Yes, I tried those suggestions.  Then, just to maximize my breathing comfort, I sequestered myself strictly to my home office and bedroom for most of my waking time at home.  These were the two rooms that we did not allow Ellie to enter (for more than a passing few seconds).  That might have worked–at least to help me breathe a little easier–but it came at a cost: isolation.

I have real difficulty being alone.  I have always felt a need to have people around me.  This isn’t to say that I need to be the center of attention, just part of the conversation.  Unfortunately, my day job often does not provide me with that luxury.  As an appeals attorney, I spend most of my time alone in my office, reading transcripts, reviewing case files, researching case law, and drafting briefs.  Because I am in a division of one (and a half, technically–we have a second attorney that spends half her time doing appeals and the other half working juvenile delinquency cases), I don’t have many colleagues that I see as part of my daily routine.  Most days, I eat lunch alone at my desk (many lets-go-to-lunch caravans seem to miss my office door and my email).

So, coming home from that work environment to a house where I had to hide in my office or bedroom for most of the evening, was starting to really get to me.  Isolated at work, now isolated at home…  My mental health was starting to go south as quickly as my physical health.

Last week, however, changed everything.  After a long day, including spending a little more time than usual outside my office and bedroom, my breathing was worse than normal.  The recent pattern had become: breathe in dander/hair/fur, sinuses trapped it and caused major leakage into my lungs, and spend the rest of the evening coughing deeply to try and clear the gunk from my lungs.  The real problem is, when I cough deeply like that for a minute or so, I get light-headed and feel like I’m about to pass out.  During one of these coughing fits last week, I lost my balance and wound up on the floor.  After my wife and daughter observed that, the decision was taken from my hands: Eliie needed to go.

My family had already experience the loss of son and brother, Micah.  How bad could losing the family pet of a little more than a year be?  Incredibly dumb question, all around.  The past week has been challenging.  We have all gone through rough spots as we contemplated life without Ellie.  Last night, my wife decided that today was the day that she would take Ellie back to the shelter.  (We agreed, when we adopted her, that if we ever decided to give her up, the shelter would basically get first dibs.)

The house was very quiet this afternoon.  I was working from home, keeping an eye on my daughter.  My daughter spent most of the afternoon feeling very low, occasionally sobbing at the thought of Ellie leaving us for good before dinnertime arrived.  When my wife got home to take Ellie to the shelter, Niagara Falls all around.  She took Ellie by herself, as she knew that my daughter could not likely handle the actual separation at the shelter, and I would be looking at an evening of breathing treatments in the ER if I spent an hour in the shelter with all the other dogs and cats present.

We feel as though we’ve lost another family member.  Sure, we’ll appreciate not having to be awakened at 5:30am by Ellie scratching at our door to be walked, but we’ll miss the love and affection she gave us as a before-during-and-after thank you.  We won’t miss having to clean up her occasional accidents around the house, but we’ll miss her running to the garage door to welcome us home every time we came through the door.

I blame myself for all of this.  I know I shouldn’t, but I do.  I made the bright decision to try this–then I got just as attached as everyone else…and then I started getting sick.  Damn my allergies.  Damn my asthma.  Damn my decision to push the envelope, knowing that there was a strong chance this might eventually happen.

I miss Micah.  Now I miss Ellie too.  And this weekend?  My wife and daughter take off for five days in Chicago.  No sooner did we let go of Ellie so that, among other things, I wouldn’t be isolated in my own house, then I will spend five days alone and isolated with my family in Chicago.

Split.  My heart.  Split.

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