How Many Missed Calls?

<a href=””>Exhale</a&gt;

Just part of the normal routine for a Saturday, get up get something to drink and get moving.  I’d run out to the grocery store really quick because I just had the urge for a doughnut in the worst way.  So the only thing I took was the keys to the car and a few bucks to pay.  Even the dog, who kept trying to follow me into the garage, was left behind.  Drive a few miles, back in no time.

When I got back, all hell seemed to have broken loose.  There were multiple missed calls on my cell phone and the house line as well.  The Caller I.D. all showed the number for my former employer, but that was were my female half still worked.  My first thought was that she forgot something and needed me to get it to her, but then I listened and heard the voice of my former boss.

“She fell down and we couldn’t get you, so I called the ambulance to get her to the hospital.”

I thanked her and grabbed the keys.

Just two years earlier we had that moment where it become important to say “I love you”.  Another hospital trip that required a longer stay for her and a few more days of recovery after that.  Given my own personal history, panic is about the only word to describe my actions.

Calls to my folks to let them know.  Mostly just to keep me from running the car off the road.  They offered to come, but I told them I’d let them know as soon as I actually found out what happened.  My prayer being that she just needed a ride home because she tripped over her own two feet!  That wasn’t the case.

Back and forth with the people at the emergency room trying to get back to her.  Knowing all of her personal information and even lying about the exact nature of our marital status only got me so far.  Then they wheeled her out.  It was just a temporary thing.  Back for more tests, at least this time I could follow.

Calls to my parents, calls to her parents, me fumbling to explain to a highly trained nurse what was going on with her daughter.  Eventually they got there.

Remember that moment when fathers meet for the first time and it falls into a crisis moment?  Yep, that would have been that day.

After a few hours they talked about her needing some rest and that it was most likely a potassium deficiency that made her go boom.  Her mother trying to herd her to the car only to be faced down by me saying it was my responsibility to take care of her.  Come back to my place if you wish, but that was where we were going.

I called her office to let them know I would be picking her stuff up.  But stubborn female counterpart wanted to prove she could handle things for herself.  Everyone asked as we walked in, everyone was happy to see her go rest after they heard the tale.

Days like that panic me.  Not because I don’t know what to do.  And certainly not because I can’t handle it.  I’m just taken back to a time when I couldn’t do a thing and how helpless it felt.  It lived inside me every day we were together.  Worried some call would come requiring another trip to the hospital.  They came, along with the car issues, or some other thing that meant dropping everything so I could offer some assistance.  Goes with the territory!

The day ended with us just sitting on the couch.  I didn’t sleep well that night or even the next few nights.  Monday I even tried to take her to work myself just to make sure she was okay.  I lost that argument.

That last week we were together started with one of those phone calls.  Please come to the hospital, something isn’t right.  Only this time there weren’t any calls to her parents.  Something has always bothered me about that trip.  Being asked if I was still wanting to take care of her, that hurt.  Here I was, sitting there doing everything I could to swallow those fears.  It was obvious to me that was her mother talking.  It never made sense to me how you can ask someone that, call them for help, and then walk out the door two days later?

Oh well, she had her chance to help me when  I was in the hospital just a few days later and did nothing.  Just leads to more questions.


Bleacher Seats

Lately I haven’t cared to much about sports.  Maybe because the Red Sox were just so awful this year?  Most likely it has something to do with just having different priorities at this time, so when I do get a chance to catch part of a game it’s usually with my niece asking me tons of questions.  We’ve had some wonderful conversations not only about the rules of football but about everything else going on in her life.

When I was a teenager, I would go visit her father and we’d try to do things like normal people.  I think he just liked that I could drive [he’s 6 years younger than me!] and we could go just about anywhere the car could travel.  Tim’s not related to me, but we’re close.  He gives me a lot of leeway with his daughter since he knows we can both learn something from one another.

Susie isn’t much for sports.  She likes to watch theater on PBS or old movies where she can learn something for the next audition at school.

Lately we have been talking about how she isn’t dealing so well with my health issues.  Susie used to be a little quiet about them, not sure if she should say anything.  But once she saw that in the middle of this football coverage they were doing human interest stories about people overcoming various things, she felt like maybe this was the right time to talk.  If the athlete can speak up, why couldn’t she?

So we sit on the couch and talk.  We have our own little secrets that don’t get shared with her parents or possibly even any of her friends.  It was hard for her to tell me that she was angry I wasn’t around much, or at all for years.  That she didn’t know how to deal with her emotions.

Alternately cheering some play while saying that you are afraid is confusing for even me.  I’m supposed to be the adult, but there are times she is the one teaching me.  It’s possible that since we are preparing her in a different way to handle my death, she won’t feel the same set of emotions as having someone just call and tell them it’s over.  Getting the acceptance part out of the way clears a path to something better.

She’s seen the videos of me playing baseball or basketball when I was younger.  Her grandmother is the one who taped them.  They have since been placed on DVDs and for that I’m grateful.  The reaction she had to this pair of shorts I used to wear was the same as her aunt’s years ago.  “Please, stop wearing those things.  You look stupid!”  Even after the shorts faded and wore out, a piece of the fabric sat in my pocket as a good luck charm.  A reminder of love lost.  A silly rabbit’s foot made of cloth.

We can go to a movie, or some play, or any number of other things; but talking is usually not acceptable behavior.  While I still get that warm feeling from rubbing shoulders at fun parts, sports opens up something different.

The most important thing Susie keeps trying to drill into me has to do with showing some emotion.  Not just on a piece of paper, but out in the world.  She’s found that these are just the right times to have those talks.  They come naturally, organically in a way that saying to someone “We need to talk” only causes tension.

I know that some of the things she asks I shouldn’t reply to, but that would change our relationship.  Better to be honest than to have her learn differently later and be upset.  Her friends have asked questions that I believe are about their own relationships with their families, those are harder to answer.  Not truly my place, but sometimes they don’t know how to talk to other adults.  And I’ll admit that there are times I don’t act anything like an adult should!

Sunday’s are different than I expected them to be.  But I wouldn’t trade this time I’ve been given with Susie for anything.

My Box

<a href=””>Safety First</a>

Once in a while I need to remind myself I’m not failing.  There are days when something just happen because my body just isn’t up for the adventure, but there are times when things work out to some degree.

Saturday was one of those days when I quite honestly have considered speeding up the process of death.  I felt like a huge failure and it seemed like such a simple thing beforehand that when I faltered, my emotions just got the better of me.

I hold certain things connected to my daughter sacred.  Not on the level of a religious experience, but short of an earthquake shuttering the Northeastern portion of the United States; I was supposed to make my own pilgrimage.  And it had to happen on the 19th!

I know that there aren’t going to be many more opportunities for me to visit my daughter’s grave site.  Winter might make it just impossible to drive the distance and the rest is in the hands of the doctors and my ability to keep it together.

My hands were shaking when I woke up.  The shaking was the reason I woke up in the first place.  Not from a bad dream, not from nerves, but my body was just having one of the episodes where it was not going to agree with what my heart wanted to accomplish.

Some days are like that.  I just wished it hadn’t been this day!

My ride was worried that I would try to go anyway.  That my stubborn need to do the right thing was going to force me into a bad decision.  Kathy just sat there and tried her best to talk to me.  It wasn’t working, and I wanted it to.  Or did I?

There are days when contemplating the overuse of medication has entered my mind.  I’m told that it natural given my circumstances.  But then I started to think about how I was going to take what had been a good memory and I was possibly erasing that for selfish reasons.  Fear enters then.

It was a worse feeling than I had allowed myself in quite some time.  You can always leave a place you feel unsafe, but you can’t escape your thoughts.  They follow you no matter what.  Push them away and eventually they are going to grab onto you and ensure that you don’t feel safe.  That was how Saturday went.

Sitting on a couch, surrounded by people who absolutely love and try to understand me; I felt alone and trapped.  Two days later and I’m still upset with myself for not trying, but I know that it could have ended badly.  This isn’t pushing myself to go that extra lap around a track, we’re talking about keeling over at a grave.

I can see the headline in my mind “Man expires while trying to celebrate life.”  Anyone think that the Boston Globe would run that?  More like a New York Daily News kind of headline.  [yes, a small dig at the silliness of their editorial choices.]

There are so very many things that Kathy and her family can protect me from, just not this.  I can’t run away from the very people I ran to when I got sick.  I wasn’t able to look at my own home the same after everything that had been lost.  Where am I going to go?

For me, failing my daughter is about the worst thing I can think of.  The punishment that goes on in my own head, or maybe my heart, is unbearable.  If follows me into every brightly lit room and every dark corner.

I never thought I would hear words worse than being told “I’m sorry, we lost her.”  I was wrong.  There is something so much worse, something that continues to destroy me daily –

I’m so sorry Abigail.

Sore Feet

<a href=””>10,000 Spoons</a>

The magic number that some person in the running show industry has come up with is 300.  That the number of miles they “suggest” you replace your shoes at.  In a quick look at the math, I was running 7-8 miles a day, everyday!  49 on the low end, 64 on the high.  New shoes every month according to someone whose name I never heard.  I was replacing my shoes when the inserts were completely flat.

I’m not a fan of paying huge sums for these things.  Last year’s model works just the same and for half the price most times.  Some young lady at the sporting goods store told me the rubber ages like car tires and you need to be careful.  Sure I’m a little more careful with the car, but my feet mean something to me as well.  I still bought the older model.  No explosions on the street as I did laps later.

We look at lots of things as just disposable.  Most times it costs more than some objects to fix them so into the pit at the dump they go.  I have a tube amplifier from the 1970’s that has outlasted it’s modern counterpart.  I even think it sounds better, but technology limits its use.  No “modern” inputs for Bluray or anything digital.

Lately, in facing some emotions that go with preparing for a more complicated and shortened future, I’m curious about how others feel about life.  I place a very high value on certain relationships while others might see them as completely disposable.  For me the irony becomes who is right?

My nephew is too young to really understand when he talks about some person being his best friend and later talking about another person holding the same place in his life.  Part of me hopes that it is all true, but their kids and haven’t needed to learn what that truly means.

Tomorrow is what we ironically call “Daughter Day”.  The anniversary of learning the sex of my child.  There will be a cupcake or three and a few stories rambling out of my mouth, but that’s it.  My concern with not being around to celebrate the actual date months from now.  Or the true irony of not knowing when that day arrives.

My feet used to be sore from all the running, my knees too!  Now they are just tired of the running.  I don’t think life is disposable, not anyone’s.  I’m just wondering if others feel the same?


Starting a Countdown

262,800 minutes and the only reason I even know that number is because I’m have see the musical Rent once or twice.  It’s the amount of minutes that occupy 6 months.  The same amount of time a grim looking doctor gave me before they believe this boy is going to shift into a different plain of existence.  It was quite a conversation, and I’m still playing back most of the words in my head.

I’ve always been a morning person.  It was important to me to get my world in order so that later I could be available for other people.  That theory has long been the routine.  In simple ways it meant I wouldn’t have something hanging over my day interfering with spending time with friends or family.

The office world laughs because I would be in hours before some others were even leaving their homes.  The quiet allowed me to get plenty done and left plenty of time for me to be able to deal with the issues that my office mates would bring to my day.  Being the top of the food chain meant that at times my time wasn’t truly my own.

These days I try to do as much as possible, at least when my body is up for the challenge.  Day, night, an hour spent preparing for something that I know I might not complete until the next day.  Right now I have a list of things to do, one that while I knew had a clock ticking came to a very harsh reality yesterday.

My first thought wasn’t even for myself.  My brain instantly went to how long can I avoid this conversation with my family.  Having them stare at the same clock isn’t quite what I would consider fair.  But it has changed some priorities.  I made the only other person to know swear to keep the information between us.

Later on will be the time to be scared or some other emotion that is going to paralyze me when I realize the true nature of my doctor’s words.  I’m not naive, I’m not trying to hide; but right now I have this manic need to get things done.

There are some ugly choices ahead.  Some of my theories changed when I had a daughter.  Now I want to spend my eternity with her rather than on some baseball field my family sneaks on to.

My heart knows that I no longer should worry about trying to find inner strength to reach out to a few people.  It doesn’t seem fair.  If asked, they know how I feel about them.  My selfish desire to get one last hug in just seems confusing.  Maybe I don’t really have a good plan, this is where my emotions will fight my resolve.  Who am I really protecting?

The best part of yesterday was stopping on the way home and picking up a gingerbread house for the little girl next door.  Kids sometimes know more than we give them credit for.  And the hug I received, one that shocked the other adults in the room since she had never reacted that way towards me, will stick in my heart for ever.

Mornings were supposed to be about acknowledging the new, a fresh start.  Now I’m not sure how to look at them.  This is one of those times when I wish I were just dressing a kid for school and rushing out the door.  Silly thought, but right now it’s what I want.

<a href=””>Because the Night</a>

Clock Watching

It was a perfect excuse to blow off my family.  Getting in the car a driving for a few hours just to have dinner and then get back into the car and drive another 180 miles back home wasn’t worth it.  Thanksgiving wasn’t that big a deal to me, everyone said if I changed my mind there would be plenty of food.  I was happy for the break.

The plan had been simple.  I had laid the hints left and right for two weeks about how I was going to spend the holiday by myself and that I would be open to doing something differently if invited.  In my retraction of the dinner with family offer I had left clues that maybe I wanted to spend it with someone else and wanted the flexibility to do that.

The night before I made a few pies.  Some for my parents to take with them, one for the neighbors, and one just in case that opportunity to dine came my way.  All of them apple, my personal favorite.

As Thanksgiving Day progressed I had gotten up, gone for a run, played with the dog and generally made myself available via phone should it ring.  Minutes became hours and hours kept passing by.  Well, I wasn’t going to let my baking go to waste so I drove over to the young lady in questions house and told her that I had made this for her family.  I waved as people stared at me through the window and I got back into my car and drove home.

That’s when the phone rang.  “My mother wanted to know why you didn’t stay longer.”

“Well, the invitation never came.  So I felt awkward enough without knowing what I was doing there in the first place.”

The conversation was weird because my feelings were pretty hurt by this point and I didn’t really want to say that.  In my family we pretty much have always planned on a random two or three people showing up at the very last minute, so food was always over-flowing the tables.  The joke was that those not wanting to spend it with their family could spend it with mine?!!!  [There was a Christmas where we had my brother’s girlfriend of the time come for dinner.  Her family is Jewish and her father was convinced we were going to try to convert her.  About the only thing Christian that day was a simple prayer before the meal!]

I had thought it clear, “Hey, I would really like to spend some time with you today.”  I guess sometimes you have to say those exact words for someone to understand.

A little while later there was a knock at the back door and there was a plate of food being held by a very nervous person.  I was still a little fuming since like I had stated, my feelings were rather hurt.  I’ll admit to basically inhaling the bounty before me since I hadn’t eaten much that day.

It took me a little while before I could look her in the eyes and tell her how confused I was.  Even the people in the office had not made an offer for dinner because they knew why I was blowing off others that day.  It wasn’t like we hadn’t been dating for over two years at this point.

My mom called me later that night  just to let me know that they had made the journey home safely and that my aunt wanted me to come visit soon.  There was the obvious gentle prying mothers attempt to gain some insight into how my day had gone.  Her 34 year old son had picked someone over his own mother for the holiday, curiosity about how things went was only natural.

I didn’t tell her the truth.  In fact she only learned about it years later when the relationship had ended.

That is the story of the first Thanksgiving I spent with the ex.  It was horrible and I carried that resentment through Christmas where I didn’t pass up on invitations from others.  I couldn’t bear the thought of reliving that experience again.  The anger, hurt, and just general disappointment was something I had never felt before.


<a href=””>Third Rate Romance</a>

Hey Humpty-Dummy!

I barely noticed the strange car in the driveway.  Between a teenager living there on the weekends and the absolute rule I have with my host that she spend more time with friends and less worry about my pacing the house, it really wasn’t that odd.  Even the bumper sticker with my former high school on it didn’t raise an eyebrow.  It should have.

Sitting on the couch, drink some ice tea and passing around a plate of cookies was a face I hadn’t seen in a long time.  The person next to her was a complete stranger to me.  But I was putting it together slowly.  Jill had brought her husband.  The big question was “how did she know where to find me?”  My mother!!!!

When I was growing up she was the one person who could walk into my parent’s house and not have to say a word.  For a time, she used to come over every Sunday morning and crawl back into bed until we had to be someplace.  My parents never said a word about this girl slipping under the covers, even the time she just showed up on Saturday night after going out and didn’t feel like having her mother drive her over the next day.

My eyes instantly welled up.  Jill’s husband looked really uncomfortable.  Might be the stories from when we were younger, could just be that seeing another man showing emotions about his wife wasn’t really his thing.  But give him credit, stood up and shook my hand.

“Hey Humpty-Dummy, why didn’t you call?  I’m angry with you for not letting me know!”  Jill is still a very blunt person.  [sidenote – a girl I was dating in high school called her when I broke up with her hoping that she could get Jill to reconsider my choice.  That level of influence over me.]

“Jill, I need you to be more specific about what I did wrong.  I think you’re going to have a short list of things you want to correct.”

With that she grabbed me with a force only a mother can understand and she didn’t let go.  Even when I was squirming because she was pulling on a bandage she obviously knew about but couldn’t see.

There was no reasons to ask her how she got here.  She’d been to Kathy’s home when we were younger, easy to find for her.

“Lary, I’m not angry about you being sick.  I’ve known about that for some time.  Your father said something to mine, but they both asked I steer clear.  I’m here because I’m upset you didn’t tell anyone about your daughter.  You have the emotional control of a two-year-old.  Always have, and I see nothing has changed that.”

Jill was the only person I would let anywhere near me when Patre had died when we were younger.  She sat there playing dumb board games with me for hours until I need to just be by myself for a little while.  When we went to Europe later that year, her mother took me aside and looked me square in the face, saying “You watch my little girl.  I’ll haunt you if she gets into trouble.”  That’s how close our families were.  Even my grandparents knew her grandparents for years before either of us were born!

We talked about all of the details for a while.  Hubby went out to grab something and only returned after being summoned via text message.

I needed this more than I realized.  Jill knew it too.  She told me that when her father told her I was staying in Boston that she also knew where I would go.  Guess I still have some issues trusting people?

Jill promised not to let anyone else know, even admitting that she was in town because a group of people had gotten together and someone had let it slip that they were wondering why I dropped off the planet.

I made some promises that we both knew I would only follow through on half of them.  But it wasn’t good enough.  There is one promise I know she will check on shortly, my letting someone else know what is going on.  I don’t understand why this one particular person has to be brought into the fold.  One of those puzzles in life where you don’t see the complete picture until you gather all of the single pieces.

And with that Jill was gone again.

I haven’t seen Jill since shortly after we graduated college.  Her mother was sick and I checked in on her before I left for a different life in Florida.  I couldn’t make it back for the funeral.  My mother hand delivered the flowers to the cemetery for me.  But she knew that after all this time I still need the same thing.  Someone basically sitting on top of me and reminding me that there are people out there willing to help, or at least listen for some time.

The one thing Jill kept saying was that it was time to worry about myself and not about everyone else.  She remembers how that went before, I was moody and silent too often.  That trip was what brought me out of it because I put so much distance between me and life, I needed to break.  Obviously why my parents let their 16 year old son go with friends for weeks without any real contact.

This battle I keep facing, the emotional Lary constantly fighting the rational Lary has got to stop.  There are always going to be times when the emotions are going to win.  And other times when my rational mind is going to take over and up will come the defenses.

At some point I’m going to need other people around me.  For more than just a few minutes or a phone call.  That bullshit about everyone being an island upon themselves is just that, bullshit.  Humpty-Dummy needs to remember that sometimes those phones calls need to be about asking someone to just come over and watch the paint dry while we talk or even not talk.  But Humpty-Dummy still hasn’t gotten control enough of his emotions, yet!

<a href=””>Unexpected Guests</a>