Sign here, and here, and here as well!

Just push play.  Stop staring at your phone and hit the button and let’s get this over with.  You’re going to need every bit of emotion out of you for what comes next.  Let the joy and sorrow, the pain and the memories wash over you for a few minutes.  Take the smiles or tears and let them escape, because sitting down and deciding what comes next needs to be rational, emotionless if possible.

Exactly 364 days ago I was taken somewhat by force to the hospital.  Another one of those cancer things that everyone worries about and dreads having to deal with.  My blood had become a poison onto itself and I didn’t realize it.  The doctor’s didn’t understand for another 24 hours because I was just talking gibberish.  Out came the paperwork, that set of directives that when I was mostly rational I chose a course of action.  The problem was the person who was supposed to make the decisions didn’t, or wouldn’t.  Maybe she just couldn’t?  Doesn’t matter, it just made the process longer and more exciting since I technically didn’t have a proxy any longer.

I time bombed the paperwork later so that I could make sure that everything was being handled the right way.  Or at least my way.  So today I have to finalize the new paperwork.  Going back over how I want to live and how I wish to die.  Thus the music.  A track I knew was going to absolutely leave me a wreck and make me quiver just from the title flashing on the screen.  The headphones covering my entire skull [I don’t care for those earbud junk you get with too many devices.  Thus old-school cans that cover my ears and envelop my senses].

There nothing fun about this process.  Over the last year things have not been handled in a way I always want.  I left too much leeway in case someone changed her mind and wanted to help.  My parents are doing their absolute best to understand my choices, even leaving the room when I can see on their face they disagree or want to argue a different point of view.  But now I have to chose the right person to chose for me.

What conditions will be acceptable?  How long will I be willing to tolerate other circumstances?  All simple questions until you are forced to actually put them on a piece of paper.  It’s no longer some “talk” between family, it’s a binding legal document that leaves no room for discussion.

My mother fought the distribution of some of my things.  Her viewpoint is valid, things can always change.  Maybe I should hold on to my stuff until later.  Nothing like bringing in more lawyers when this might not be the thing worth fight about, or even spending any wasted time on.

I never understood the level of confusion Kathy felt years ago when she had to say goodbye to her own daughter.  Turning off machines, acknowledging a very different world they were about to enter.  I’m trying to remove that for my parents, for my friends, for everyone.  I joke about people just doing what I tell them, but I know it will be hard in the end.  Even knowing that they really don’t have a decision to make can paralyze some.

So medical directives, new living will, and since the lawyer is getting paid a few changes to my actual will have to occur before the close of business today.  It’s stupid that at one point my brain put my ex into consideration, how would she have handled this?  Not well, that’s the thing I need to keep reminding myself.

The irony of this entire day is that my nephew turns 7 today.  While I’m plotting out the terms of my exit, everyone else is going to be celebrating the anniversary of his arrival!  I’ll give him a call after school, maybe some Facetime?  Who knows, I hope they run him into the ground with silly, goofy activities.  Uncle Lary has got to take care of the harder things.  And that’s the way it should be…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ripped from the Headlines!.”

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Adoption Day

The day I picked up my puppy from the animal shelter it was pouring outside by the time we made it back to the house.  After already wondering about the sanity of my Border Collie/ Husky mix because she jumped into the trunk of my sedan for her ride home, I absolutely knew I was going to be in for several life lessons on raising this animal.

Wooglin was my second dog that was completely my own.  Sure the ex was part of the decision, went with me to pick her up; but it was my name on the paperwork.  Cats aren’t an option, ever!  The ex had one that would bite my goatee and lay on my stomach while I was watching television.  The first part was annoying and I will admit for this exercise that it didn’t really bother me to have the cat crawl on me.  [Good practice for kids!]  But Wooglin, who came with the name Tonya, was insane on a new level.

I wasn’t thinking when I opened the door to the car.  My mind was still wrapped around how my old dog behaved.  If you could get her in the car, maybe she would come out later.  Very timid pouch who had been abused in a way that would make anyone angry.  Think shot in the backside and shaved for some reason that made no sense.  But the hours she spent sitting in my lap [again another Collie] made life better.

Anyway, Wooglin took off for the other side of the neighborhood.  Faster than anything I had seen, racing between yards she had never seen.  Me dodging puddles as I tried to keep up with her progress.  Yeah the electric fence was being install a few days later, but I wouldn’t have had time to train her on it during the ride home!  House after house flew by.  When you live in the woods, where yards are measured in acres, it can be quite the journey to catch up.

By the time I got the leash on her and trudged through the rain that was now blowing from all directions.  August storms are fun things in Maryland.  Not as bad as Florida, but when you live within miles of the beach they have some extra oomph at times.  I’m soak through every bit of clothing.  The parts of me that aren’t covered in mud are covered in grass clippings.  The dog is now locked in the laundry room wrapped in bleach blankets because apparently the animal shelter forgot to tell me she freaks out when a hair dryer is started up.

I’m tired, worn out from a long day at work followed by the unexpected race for your life through the neighborhood and we still haven’t even thought about dinner.  By 9 p.m. I’m typically a little grumpy about needing food, not an early bird special guy, but I don’t like to eat than go to bed!

Grilled Cheese and a bowl of Tomato Soup.  The best of comfort foods according to the female half of this story.  I had some other soup since Campbell’s Condensed is not even on my radar.  Fortunately I always kept it around for her.  Dinner decided, we flopped out on the couch trying to figure out if my toe is broken.  [Never run in loafers!]  Wooglin, whose new name had been decided before even picking her up is still wrapped in the beach towels but wandering the house trying to find her new resting spot.  Too much hard wood for her, which I love watching her slide around on trying to gain traction.  Only one room with carpet on the main floor, that’s where she flops down and closes her eyes.

August 5, 2005, the day we adopted a dog, was interesting.  An impromptu marathon, dinner and a nap, the first steps towards a family?

Later, once the fence was installed, Wooglin tried to bolt again.  Only this time she hit four different yards on my street that also had electronic deterrents.  She would get shocked and run to the next house only to get shocked again.  By the time I removed the collar so I could get her home safely, she was a mess.  It took two days just to get her to go outside without having a leash on her.  Lesson learned.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “An Odd Trio.”

That Time, Some Girl?

Some of the paperwork I used to require for work needed to be sent to the local library branch near my office.  Mostly just demographic junk and numbers on pages that couldn’t leave the building and at times they would look cross-eyed at me if I photocopied anything.  There’s a young lady who handled most of my requests.  I don’t know if it was her job or just that she somehow was nominated to deal with a lunatic constantly requesting reams of paper.

Last February she was not looking happy.  I never asked if it was something at work, or something else; I didn’t know anything about her beyond name, rank, and phone number at the library.  But the look on her face made me uncomfortable.  The expression was the kind that makes most people walk in the other direction or ask another for assistance.  I kept my head down and just waved stupidly as I left the building.

When my ride dropped me back at my office, I asked someone if they knew her.  Local library, local people, seemed like a routine question.  No one knew her.  Most hadn’t stepped foot in a library in years.  The age of Amazon and Kindles making physical books part of history.

My email had an advertisement for flowers.  It’s weird enough getting them in my work email, until I remember sending flowers to someone who had an anniversary with the company.  Thus, you never get off their lists!  I paged through some of the romantic stuff knowing that was never an option.  Not for me, my brain doesn’t think in those terms anymore.  But I wanted to do something simple, something that might put a smile back on that face for even a moment.  I honestly don’t recall what arrangement I picked, there are just so many.  But I made a simple mistake, I wasn’t paying attention to the calendar.  February, anyone?  My brain was so consumed with trying to avoid February 11th and the 1st anniversary of my daughter’s death that I wasn’t aware of Valentine’s Day.

So I sent them off for delivery later that day.  Made sure they were received via the email or text methodology available through the website, and I went home.

Two weeks went by and I had to go back to the library for more paperwork.  [this would be a good time to mention that the government needs to just digitize everything and save us all some legwork!]  But as i went to the desk, the young lady in question asked me to step aside.

“I wanted to thank you, but I am seeing someone.”  Or words to that effect.  This hadn’t been a romantic gesture, so I wasn’t letdown by some rejection of affection.

“Not the reason I sent them.  You looked distracted that day, unhappy.  I made a promise to someone that I would try to make small gestures to thank people, try to make a small difference.”  [I made this promise to the kid when I was wanting her to be proud of her father, not weirded-out by my gruffness]

I was as confused as she was.  My mind just forgot about Valentine’s Day.  It’s meaning was completely lost and I guess my gesture only muddied the waters of what was to me just a business relationship.

A few months ago I received an email from the library asking if they could find any more material for me.  I had to reply that I wasn’t in the area anymore and thanked them for all of their assistance.

There are times when I wonder who was more confused by our interaction, me or the girl?  It’s funny how when you are avoiding something, like a holiday, you end up walking headlong into it.  I wonder what the reaction would have been if I had done this in the middle of June?  Oh yeah, I avoid that holiday too!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Secret Admirers.”

Forgiveness Project

Damn Disney Channel.  I can easily look someone in the face and say that if I want to get a Star Wars fix, this is my only outlet for new material.  Somewhere along the line it became okay for adults to watch cartoons again.  So when someone might see Disney on the DVR they don’t think much of it.  But hidden inside the folder is something a little more pathetic, possibly subversive, but every time I watch an episode I get the full range of emotions to experience.

Inside that folder is a show called “Girl Meets World”, and I have watched every episode.  Last Spring I went to dinner at a fiend’s house while I was trying to be social, remind myself that the world existed beyond the walls of my office or home.  Their 5 year old daughter is a fan of this show and the cross-eyed glances while I was talking to her about it made me realize to keep my mouth shut in the future.  Lots of things had been learned about me that night, the daughter issue, the cancer issue; so information overload about Lary came between the salad and pasta!

Last Friday they had an episode about forgiveness.  The plot details addressed a very serious adult issue the way teenagers might approach it.  But it hit home faster than most things once the credits rolled at the end.  While it’s important to forgive others, the most important thing is forgiving ourselves.  It was like stepping on a rake left out in the leaves, smacking me right between the eyes.

Anger was easy to express.  After everything that my former mother-in-law did to upset the apple cart, I always tried to understand.  Even forgiving her for something while I was still railing about it.  I’ve been pissed at God, doctors, my family, people on the street and mostly myself.  I’ve been able to forgive every single one of them at the same time I was so angry.  I needed to get rid of the anger.

I can’t forgive myself.  Talking to people about it they keep begging me to try.  Asking me to do the one thing I haven’t been able to do.  The level of anger I feel at myself I can’t undo.  All of that need to protect others came back to take it away, take them away.

There was a point when I was working towards accepting my life the way it was unfurling where I reached out and apologized to a couple of people I needed to clear the air with.  When I was met by silence it just intensified my inner pain.  I realize their desire to ignore things is on them, not me; but I still took it back on myself.  I had been wrong in the first place, so I must still be the one who did the wrong thing.

Learning to forgive yourself is about changing your history.  At least that was the way they stated it on that show.  You can’t change history, but you can make a difference in the way your future might unfold.  I guess you alter your present so that those memories become something positive.  Those recent portions of your history supplant the more painful ones.  Turning a negative into a positive?

When I look into the mirror I want to scream at the person I see looking back.  I’ve tried anything short of directly shocking my brain to forget being told I’m to blame for everything.  Those words have become so much a part of who I think I am, who people want me to be so that they have an excuse for their behavior; that I have made it harder to forgive myself for the things that were under my control.

My mother always told me you can earn forgiveness by making sure to not repeat the thing that caused the issue to begin with.  Learn from your mistakes.  You’re doomed to repeat history if you don’t study it!

That guilty pleasure is about my seeing the world as my daughter might have at some point.  Fathers always worry about doing or saying the wrong thing where their daughters are concerned.  Forgiveness might have taken a little longer for some of those things, but life isn’t a 22 minute sit-com where the world changes by the time fading to black arrives.  I might have spent time at the Mall making up for those errors, but it would have been worth it.

I can easily forgive other people, why can’t I even forgive myself?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No Apologies.”

Six Penny Opera

Smile, Frown, Repeat those, The End…

Those times when you are telling a story and a person in the room has that glazed looked in their eyes makes you wonder.  Am I getting my tale across in a way that is touching them or do they have allergies and need to sneeze?  Last night while I stood their talking about life, or the ending of life; there was a woman 20 feet away from me who I believe was suffering from the former.  My story was bringing out an emotional response.  I know I was having an emotional response to her reactions.

Why people wanted to listen, I have no idea.  The story I was weaving wasn’t something I would have signed up for, but it is the life I have been given.  The unvarnished truth about how death and loss has brought me at times close to the point of madness only to get brief reprieves because I find some point of light to stare at.

When I talk about my daughter, you can see people get very uncomfortable.  Listening to that pain come pouring out affects people in ways that scare them.  Maybe angers them when I get to the part about my ex.  And a little bit of the depression I feel get transferred to them for a few minutes.  Wondering how they might react to circumstances that they would never wish on even their worst of enemies.  A life that could be theirs in a different universe.

By the time I was done talking, my body felt like it had run a marathon followed by a sparing round with whomever is the current Heavy-Weight Champion of the World.  13 hours later, my 25 minute talk which turned into 45 because I didn’t want to stop talking about my daughter, still has me weak, drained from the emotions that came from me and afterwards from people who asked some significant questions.

A women introduced herself and told me she had lost two of her children early in their lives.  She then did the thing I never know how to respond to, hugged me.  An almost tight, let me take some of this pain from you type grip around my shoulders.  I winced a bit because you can’t see the bandages under my sweater and pants, those scars are as hidden from view as the emotional ones to someone not looking.  She wanted me to know that she had kept quiet about her grief for years and only recently was able to make steps towards dealing with it.  Getting help she needed a long time ago.

I could only stand stone-faced at the gentleman whose daughter is friends with my niece.  He made a remark about how cruel is was what my ex did.  I don’t know how to react to something like that.

The questions and conversations about what I had said must have made for interesting drives home for some of those families.  It must have been overload for the teenagers and carefully worded replies from their parents.

The most normal reaction I saw was the people who couldn’t make eye-contact with me afterwards.  Some of their shame for being a willing participant in my very public display showing through.  I wish I had thought to put a stand of Kleenex for sale outside the room!

Talking about the future is hard, I’m not sure where it is going.  Reliving the past is excruciating.  That memory set I carry with it’s matching luggage of depression and fear.  Available on Amazon as we speak!  Low, Low pricing…

Last night’s part of my journey was about offering something I couldn’t to another.  Hope.

Who knows what later today will bring?  The future is a always evolving combination of love, hate, peace and at times turmoil.  Today I’m at peace with my world.  At least until something from work upset that apple cart!  I hope you are finding some peace as well.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other.”

Blisters on my feet.

Oh, the places you’ll go!  I don’t remember which graduation ceremony I was attending when someone pulled that line out along with the Dr. Suess book that goes along with it.  There was probably some reference to a journey starting with placing one foot forward.  Those moments always seem to call for hyperbole of the highest order.  But I think I would like to do some cross country trip just by walking it.  Seeing the sights in slow motion, being able to stop at any moment without having to worry about traffic or the pilot saying “if you look out your window”.

Life is about those small moments that effect you in a large way.  Some person standing on the edge of a dock painting what they see and it makes you look out onto the landscape just a little bit differently.  It isn’t about seeing what they see, just giving yourself an opportunity to admire what they are envisioning.

Once in a while I put the Travel Channel on and watch some show about hidden venues in various towns.  Places that until they were broadcast globally were the favorites of people in town.  Maybe they served great ice cream or the chef spend two days marinating some meat and of you were the 26th person to order it you were out of luck.  Word of mouth gone wild!

Without being on foot, I wouldn’t have this great story about having visited this little town in Austria where my Filipino friend was pulled into an Om-pa band.  They had never seen someone like him and rewarded his efforts with Apple Schnapps [which quickly got him drunk!]  If we had just kept driving or had taken the train like a few other people, we would have missed that.

I’m a big fan of Impressionist Art.  Walking around some of the world’s museums has been a joy.  Hours spent looking for a print of this Monet painting I absolutely adore has been a wonderful experience.  Having spoken to people in gift shops, art history majors trying their best to hand sketch their version of a Master’s work, and even some random person with a well-worn catalog they carry to mark what they have seen in their journeys has led me to continue my chase for my obsessive desire.

For someone with a reputation for being cranky about people, I enjoy learning something new from each and every one of them.  Walking through a National Park with a ranger, being lectured on the rock formations is a different type of history than what I learned in school.  My mind considering what was happening thousands of miles away when this layer was formed.

If I were honest it is more personal than just seeing new things.  It is about the feeling I remember of small hands wrapped around mine.  Whether it was a kid or an adult, some of my most precious and simple memories are about walking someplace.  At times there might have been complete silence or voices laughing so loudly others were staring.  Racing forward at times when other couldn’t keep up.  Every visit with my grandfather we went for a walk.  Feed the ducks, go to the park to watch people fly their model airplanes, listen to him tell me about his brothers and how I should watch out for mine.  The journeys weren’t unique, but each one was special.

Walking someplace, any place lets me see the world the way I like to.  In simple terms.  Leave the complexity of work or health, relationship issues or even dying someplace else and feel the breeze on my skin.  Smell the leaves turning vibrant colors even as children ride their bikes through the piles at the curb.  For too long I raced to get somewhere, a little harder on the pedal.  Now each of those steps, while being a little harder than they once were, means everything.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Trains, Planes, and Automobiles.”

Stick to the Script

In about 36 hours I’m going to be standing behind a podium and talking to people about what it feels like to be me.  The audience is going to be a mixture of teenagers and adults who are choosing to listen to me lecture not about economics or even anything remotely pleasant.  They’re going to pile into seats to listen to me talk about loss and how it effects people.  I’m nervous because I’ve needed to write the entire thing down so that I don’t deviate in any manner.  Picking and deleting words before they can come out of my mouth.  Did I say I’m nervous?

Within a circle of people I’m renown for going overly intellectual when we get to a point where my emotions are taking the lead and I’m not capable of talking without my voice cracking.  That stupid facade of Dr. Lary coming down like a bulldozer leveling a brick wall.  Only in this case, I know that if I don’t speak “from the heart”, no one is going to listen.  That my words are going to echo through silence and my voice will not be heard by anyone.

Some of the teenagers are going to laugh at me.  I might have done the same thing when I was their age.  We’re delving into an area that makes most people very uncomfortable.  Some might not even have experienced a death close to them.  The adults might also be uncomfortable because they know how easily it could be them wearing my size 14 shoes!  There’s no blame in their feelings, just an awkward acknowledgment that they exist.

I’m not only going to have to talk about my daughter, but about my own impending death.  And you can’t be clinical about that.  Have we covered that I’m nervous?  Someone’s going to ask why I have no negative feelings about the ex and I’m going to have to reply with the truth, love sometimes makes you do horribly stupid things.  Even when it is gone, you still do stupid things to protect a memory.

All of that emotion is going to be laid bare for people I don’t know to see.  I can’t even show that to my family, yet I’m voluntarily going to be on a stage doing my one man show.  Dr. Lary’s Meltdown – A play in one act!  [see I’m already hiding my emotions behind my education, defensive moves complete.]  I only hope that my message of “don’t give up like I have” comes through.

I saw a program the other day where one of the participants kept reminding another that walking away was the absolute worst thing he ever did.  Not knowing how the next chapter picks up meant he just put down the book for fear of knowing the ending.  [back when Dallas was a big deal in the 1980’s, they put out a book positing the murder of Jock Ewing but the final two chapters were not included, you had to send away for them.  I never got around to sending in the self-addressed envelop, so I don’t know how the story ended.  Silly me!]  That same message needs to come across.  When I gave up on the phone ever ringing, I also gave up on myself.

It’s a hard lesson for any person to learn.  About themselves or any other person they care about.  My niece is going to be in the audience and she is going to see a side of me that we don’t talk about.  She knows all of the details of my life, we sit and talk about life whenever she wants.  But when her friends are going to hear some of this, they are going to look at her differently.  She’s prepared since she asked me to do this.  I remember being her age when her aunt died and not having anywhere near the capacity she has.  But then she’s had time to absorb things, ask questions that I didn’t have back then.

So while I’m going to be sitting in a chair for some of this, standing in one spot for a period of time is just not possible anymore; my heart is going to not only be on my sleeve but most likely crawling up others people’s sleeves hoping for some understanding.  Nervous?  Maybe we should call this scared of what I might actually say if I deviate from the script.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Singin’ in the Rain.”