Promising Voices


Let’s be simplistic in my approach.  Voices are like a chorus, some loud and confident while others are soft making them barely distinguishable from the rest.  Plenty fall somewhere in-between.  There needs to be a mix of all these voices complimenting one another.  Every person bringing a slightly different sound and quality, one that might not sound quite the same if any one of those voices were offering a solo.

At times I hear a wide variety of voices still ringing in my ears.  Some are in the room and wanting me to hear them, others are just faint memories that grow a little quieter with each passing day.  All of them are important in various ways.  Even the ones that hurt have a place.

The chorus in my mind sometimes sings songs that bring me closer to positive memories.  The sound a baseball makes when it hits my catchers mitt as it passes by a batter brings  me a smile every time.  Laughter coming from some other part of the house bringing me into the present when the past in sometimes weighing me down.  The sound of a child crying because I hope that just holding her will be enough.

The opposite side of that coin has to be those voices that still stop me in my tracks.  Hearing someone blame you for something you couldn’t control under any circumstance, that still rings clear.  The sound of a voice echoing in my phone telling me my world changed and that my daughter wouldn’t be coming home.  And that same crying from a child that never was heard because that phone call came after I had my chance to say goodbye.

I love the sound of music.  Having a deep voice always had me playing the part of booming voice.  Rarely do they get the lead, but pull that range out and the chorus is diminished.

Once in a while, when I have been forced to spend the night at the hospital, you hear a voice call out and then fall silent.  Some of those times mean other voices from the same place get very loud.  Other times those voices can barely mumble.  Human frailty meeting and diverging into different places.

By this time next year my voice will have joined that silent chorus.  Nature of life, sometimes things can’t be fixed.  I however am looking forward to knowing the answer to one question.

Am I going to get a chance to sit next to a voice I know will be perfect with every note.  Even if she is completely off-key!

That voice gives me hope.



Recasting My Play…


She’s been sitting in the rehearsal hall waiting for months.  There’s wasn’t a role for her when the auditions took place, so she just sits in the chairs hoping that someone falls out of the production.  The minor roll of background player isn’t working anymore and it looks like the director is considering recasting at least one of the secondary players.

The play has been written and the ending known to everyone.  There’s only the question of how long will the production run.  Not how many minutes will tick by, but once this goes from rehearsal to a house filled with people.  Short run or longer?

After doing the drive out to Maine with more people in the car than expected, I was asked if there was something more someone could do for me.  The drive up had been quiet, people wanted to give me a chance to think about what I was going to say and how I was going to feel.  Talking to a grave site is uncomfortable, until it isn’t anymore.  The first couple of sentences stuttered out and the last few trickled out from behind quivering lips.

I could have stood in silence and hoped my daughter knew my thoughts.  But a part of me wanted the other people around us, those who would be remaining behind, could hear that I needed them to also watch over her.  Complete Daddy Issue, but one I fully own.

I slept part of the drive home, it was just emotions draining from me.

This friend who keeps showing up at odd times needed to talk.  We usually have something to discuss about her own daughter and how it has been nice that I try to help her.  (The young lady in question is my niece’s best friend.  No obligation to help other than wanting to help.)

“You’ve been willing to be there for my daughter, even when you have other things that get in the way.  I know why you do it, it keeps you close to your own child.  But what can I do to make your life a little easier?”

This is where the director has to decide if the audience gets to change the dialog or if they are captive to the entire show.

Having written about how deeply hurt I was by trusting someone not to make fun of me and getting just that response, allowing someone to help me get through this last part of my time is very hard.  It’s not them I completely question, but myself.

I have finally reached a point where certain things from the past just don’t control my emotions in the same way.  Accepting the cancer for what it is and not a punishment is a step in the right direction.  Some days I don’t have a good grip on my emotions.  It comes from knowing I need people around me but being absolutely terrified of needing people around me.  Oxymoron or self-realized irony?

Mostly I don’t know what I can offer in return.  The stuff about her daughter is right, I do it so I can understand my own relationship to my child.  But what about her?

The one thing I will admit to, it feels good to get a hug.  It’s always too tight for me.  My shoulders folding in.  I think that is the point though, letting my know I can lean in a bit and have someone carry a little of my weight for even a few seconds.

A while back I had set the cast list.  Limited to family and a few others who I knew could help.  But my play is needing more than people gathered in the background, mouthing conversations for the audience.

I acknowledge there is a voice to be heard, maybe I should let her take the microphone so the rest of us can hear…

Hide and Seek


The walk is going to feel good after sitting in the car for a little over two hours.  It will be slow and in order to keep my feet moving some silly verse will be silently sung in my head.  There have always been lots of walks to take, just this one repeats itself from time to time.  Almost the exact same footprints in both directions.

The florist thinks I’m crazy.  I keep ordering the same arrangement.  But my target is very vocal about what she wants and what she doesn’t like.  So my lap should be full of pedals and pollen by the time I emerge from the vehicle.

Reservations for lunch have been made.  Another traditional choice that is slowly becoming our favorite meeting place.

The weather is supposed to be clear in Maine tomorrow.  A little warm even for late March.  My time won’t be cut short by Mother Nature having another say in my day.  The overcoat will keep me warm from any breeze as I stand there trying to find the words to speak.

It might be a smart idea to have a few things in the back of my mind to say.  Easy ways to work towards the topics that are the reasons for my visit.  My tongue is going to stumble because there will come a point when emotions are going to take over.  And they should, there is no reason to hide them.  Not here and not for her.

This walk is different from the others I had planned.  School, to the park, standing there cheering like a loon at graduation, walking her down the isle to a new destiny.  Those I knew about from the minute I met her.  My next set of steps are the same one’s I hadn’t ever allowed myself to think about, and at times they now freeze me in place.

My heart is fearless about this journey, my brain is conflicted about how to feel.  Visiting a grave site always brings out mixed emotions.  The last visit I sat on a blanket and talked for a little while.

“I miss you Bug, I absolutely miss you…”  Those words are always present.  Along with a slew of others that only the wind has heard.

I don’t set a limit on my time.  This is my chance to say anything without the rest of the world worrying.  I’ve left with smiles and just about every other expression.  My feet move a little slower on the way out.

Is there anything I forgot to say?  I know you can hear me whisper “I love you”.

Tomorrow morning will be a rush to get somewhere I never expected.  A destination that holds my future while reminding me of my past.

She may be lost to the world, but I know exactly where she is.  Every time I put my hand on my chest, she’s right there.  Where she will always be.




This is a tough topic for me to write about.  Asking for help has a different meaning to every person.  Knowing when something is out of control and needs correction means being able to identify the problem in the first.

There are lots of things I can point out about the positive and negative effects of requesting help.  But they only matter if you follow one simple suggestion –

Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or wrong.  It doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you should feel shame in any way.  Not asking for help causes you bigger problems than not.

I speak from experience.  I asked someone for help and they proceeded to make fun of me for having done so.  The amount of shame I felt as a result colored everything that ever followed.

They were wrong.

These days I ask for simple things.  A ride to the doctors or a stupid errand to be handled.  But I no longer sit down and tell anyone what is happening in my head.  That simple, cruel act from my past has ensured that all the therapy in the world won’t correct my misplaced feelings of inadequacy.

It’s hard to ask anyone for anything.

That time, right after my daughter’s death, I only cared about getting help for the ex.  I turned away every single question because I thought it would take away from others being able to help her.  Not altruism on my part, just needed to make sure she was okay before I could allow myself to handle things.

Things for me got worse.  I closed myself off to everything, anyone who might have been able to talk.  By the time I was asking for help, it was being denied to me.

There’s help out there.  I’m just too scared to let those close to me know I still need it.  Or that I really needed it to begin with.

Pledge Bowling…


The room smelled like wet goat.  Surprising since if you moved the curtains you would have a complete view of the Charles River.  The feel of hay rubbing against my hands was odd as well.  But that was just the beginning of the strange moments about to pass in the room.  The blindfold remained as the questions began…

“Who was the first King of the United States?”

“When did we land on Mars?”

It’s a test called The Shepardson that was administered after not enough sleep and far too much scrubbing of hardwood floors.  January 27, 1991, the day I was formally inducted into my fraternity.  Also the day I learned that some questions just don’t have answers no matter how hard you stumble around hoping to find something.

That weekend they knew exactly how to tear me down in order to keep me off-balance.  My Pledge Father spent most of the time uttering words to the affect of “You’re here to help keep our grade point average high.  No other reason for you to be here!”  Over and over, no sleep and it really hurt after hearing it several times.

I couldn’t believe that someone had the nerve to tell me I didn’t belong.

There are too many times that searching for an answer only leads to more pain and suffering.  This morning the first thing that came to my mind was something regarding my daughter.  I have no reason why it triggered today.  By the times the eyes were open, panic had set in.

It’s still there hours later.  And if it continues, I’m going to need to ask for some help understanding why.

Hopefully there is an answer, maybe there won’t be.  Could just be one of those episodes where my brain needed to feel a little closeness to someone not around and other parts of me put the wall up before I could get the thoughts out.  Emotions are confusing on this topic, the nerves ending completely raw still.

Why do we ask silly questions of the Pledges?  Some answer quickly with “There is no response possible.”  Others take some time to understand the question and still come up silent.  This after we have used them for human bowling balls and purveyors of women for parties where they recruit our guests.  Frat living isn’t what most people think, at times it is, but mostly it’s calm.

As I keep delving deeper into the blackness of my mind, finding answers I can live with has become to important task.  Maybe not having 100% of the total will always be my answer.  It goes against everything I was taught.  Fighting my own brain when it requires more information, when at the end it isn’t ever going to be enough.

We just move on to the next question.  Maybe the original question comes back.  It has been for me.  Time doesn’t heal everything and some things are just to important to let alone.

I Pay You for My Thoughts?


It’s been taught in every economics class for decades, price is the amount of something a person is willing to exchange for a good or service.  Or as the kids say “What’s it worth to you?”  In some cultures they expect you are going to argue the value of an item.  If you don’t, they lose respect for you and laugh once out of sight.  Some places just say, “That’s the price on it!” and that’s what you pay.  It’s the cost of something.

In life the price you pay is the unintended path you walk in order to achieve a sought after outcome.  What are you willing to do to get your goal?  Will you walk across a desert because at the end you’ll get a pat on the back?  The cost sometimes is your soul.

Without getting a moral debate going about Faust and the Devil, sometimes the cost of getting a desired result is way to high.  Irrational thoughts push aside a more tempered approach.  Anger and doubt, fear of losing replace what might otherwise make an experience enjoyable.

I know about losing things.  Plenty of those things are replaceable, but one never will be.  The price I have been willing to pay also means, that if I want to continue living, I also pay in real terms with real money in the form of therapy.

When I sat thinking about ending my life, I was willing to sacrifice anything that might follow to end what felt like an endless series of pain.  In so short a period of months the loses were piling up and I just couldn’t handle them.  One more, even minor setback, felt like it was going to push me to do something that was very thinkable, even realistic for me.

My mind had become so clouded with fear that every opportunity to get myself away from my own thoughts was passed up.  And it created a world were real cost were being paid by those around me.

You don’t make good decisions when you don’t sleep for long periods of time.  Add in chemo, radiation, all sorts of drugs to combat the cancer/anxiety/pain, the world sneaks up on you rather than you capturing moments.  A silent tap on the shoulder to remind you of things you walked past and forgot to enjoy or notice.

I’m supposed to be the Master of My Own Destiny, yet there are days when I wonder if that could possibly be true.

Do I still undervalue my place in the world, absolutely.  I did what I was taught to do, take the blame, pay the price and carry the burden.

Is there some sage advice I can offer?  Not really.  As much as I can teach about economics I need to learn about every other aspect of life.

What I can say is this – enjoy every moment you can while you can.  Hold dear those things you value.  And mainly just let people in ( the cost of not is higher than you ever want to pay!  I know this on a daily basis.)


Just One Thing…


“Take this piece of paper and write down something you need.”

The question didn’t make sense to me.  Therapists ask lots of crazy questions over the course of appointments, but this need a little more direction.

“Not a person, just an idea of what you think is important.”

This was a few weeks after my relationship had resulted in the chorus of a Taylor Swift song “We’re never, ever getting back together!”  Only even this sentiment hadn’t been spoken, just silence made it obvious.  (It’s not like I had picked up the phone or tried either.  Other things needed to be addressed first.)

So she slid a few Post-It Notes over and walked out of the room to give me a few minutes.  It took a little thought to capture what I wanted to write.  There were other pages to add to, but I knew the answer to the question as soon as the door closed.

When the doctor walked back in, I put the note in her hand.  Just a few words that I could tell surprised her.  Maybe the response was different from what was expected?  Maybe I should have written something else?

“This is what you need?  The one thing that you think would make your day better?”

Now I’m completely confused.  But I answered the question anyway.

“In my mind this is the one thing that covers so many other areas that when it happens, I honestly know it will be the right place to be or the right person to be around.”

My answer wasn’t the world peace thing or even something that couldn’t be accomplished in a few minutes by someone who honestly wanted to try.  And if it weren’t for a small amount of society mistrust and possibly a slightly creepy factor, I know that my niece has done this.  So age isn’t a factor in the act, just the situation surrounding it.

This was 18 months ago and I still keep the piece of paper in the back of the case for my phone.  Only the doctor and I know it it there.  No reason for anyone to remove the back of the phone.  It goes with me every place I have been.  Not just the words but the concept that I would be at ease when I find it.

Time isn’t on my side with this.  It also means that finding the right person to accomplish it has it limits as well.  There are plenty of dating sites for various groups, but not one for people with a terminal illness.  Cancer Companions?  No, that sounds like a Meals on Wheels scenario.  For the morbidly amusing, how about Last Date?

What’s on that paper?

2016-03-21 10.12.38

For me it encapsulates the simplest thing I can possibly need, but also something so easy that it can’t happen.

If asked, it doesn’t matter what the meal is.  Doesn’t matter what the time of day might be.  And if I were to be honest about it, I would be happy if it were a peanut butter sandwich on a paper towel placed next me while reading.

The only thing that matters is that someone try.  They aren’t guilted into doing something.

When my niece makes dinner for the family, I always smile and know that at some point she is going to be able to do anything.  My nephew is too young to be allowed to do much more than cut food and make a salad ( but as a vegetarian, that works!)

When my friends were sick I would make food.  Cookies, stupid things like homemade Pop-Tarts.  I even know who is allergic to something or hates a particular food.  It helps that I like to cook.

When I find that one thing.  That one person who can do this simplest of thing for me, even once, I can honestly know that I’m in the right place.