One year

April 1, 2014 in Cancer,Family,Finding my way,Living | Comments (10)

Tomorrow is a year since Dawn lost her battle with melanoma, leaving behind me and two wonderful boys, a business, friends who miss her every day, and a family that would give anything to have her back. She was just 39 years old.

From the day of her diagnosis, she preached the use of sunscreen and checking your skin. She implored strangers to stay away from the tanning bed, but they rarely listened. It couldn’t happen to them, they’d tell you. It couldn’t happen to us, either, but it did. It didn’t faze them. She told so many people that I’d be willing to bet that at least one of them has since been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer, and maybe they’re remembering that woman who told them to stay away from tanning beds. Maybe they’re telling a stranger now. I sure hope so.

I’ve told Dawn’s story several times here, and I invite you to go back and find some of the posts about her struggle. She really was an amazing woman in the most difficult time of her life, never once giving up on her fight; never once thinking she was going to lose. She smiled every day and she took in visitors whenever they wanted to see her, and she never wanted them to leave. “Even if I fall asleep,” she’d say, “I’d rather have them here than anywhere else.”

The thing I miss most is her touch. The way she’d run her fingers through my hair as I laid on her lap after a tough day. She would almost always fall asleep if I asked this of her in bed, and that became a running joke. She also picked on me incessantly, with that shit-eating grin accompanying her ribbing of me. If I did something stupid, she’d give me that deadpan “really?” look. But it’s her touch I miss most. Her hugs. She’d hold me when things were rough, and for the last 18 months, things were rough for me, too. She didn’t let me hide behind being the strong one or the caregiver. She knew this disease was almost as much mine as it was hers. Thing is, she’s done with it now. I’m still suffering from what melanoma takes away.

I’ve cried oceans of tears in the past year, and in many ways I’m worse now than I was then. A year ago the future held that she wouldn’t be here, and I’d be responsible for everything with the kids, the house, and everything else. I was aware of probably 10% of what that meant, and besides the tangible things like keeping our lives going, there was a storm waiting for me in the form of social interaction. I was going to fall in love again, and I wasn’t going to be able to stop that from happening.

I’ve found comfort in the huge number of new friends I’ve made over the past year, who help me along my way when my best friends, the ones who have always been here, can’t be there. We all have lives, but I’ve rarely felt nobody was there. I’m incredibly lucky for that. I’ve gotten too close with a few in that time, but that’s been part of my growth as a widower as well. I have regrets and wish I’d done things differently, but who wouldn’t? This new life of mine has been full of mistakes, but I move on and try and go to sleep at night and hope I wake up the next day, and I do it all over again. I’m often lost and lonely and miserable, but the clock keeps ticking. Someday I won’t hear that ticking and I’ll be back in a good place. I’ll keep trying different paths until the right one comes along.

What gets me out of bed every morning is a promise I made to Dawn in her last days. I was keeping the house so we could stay close to friends, I was going to continue pushing the boys to be the best men they could be, I was going to take over the business and keep it on the path she wanted all along. But mostly, I was going to live with no regrets over her leaving. We left nothing unsaid. We were lucky enough to have time to make our peace with our lives and our marriage, and this disease. She blessed my future in any way that made me happy, and I don’t know that I would even be here without that gift.

I’m still feeling my way through the dark with almost every aspect of my life. I have a wonderful therapist who doesn’t speak ill of my mistakes, but rather, she takes me where I am and guides me along the way to peace and happiness. I have friends who let me hide in hotels with my tears, understanding that I just can’t be with them that night. I live in a town that knows my story, and while I’ve spoken ill of that curse, as it were, I’m touched by the closeness of the community as they come together for one of their own.

Mostly, though, it’s all of you who shepherd me through. There are too many to name, for I’d surely forget a few who deserve to be named as much as anyone else. But there’s always someone around the corner holding a light for me, and they do as Dawn did – pick me up when I need to be picked up, or sit down in the dumps with me until I’m ready to climb back up. My boys and I cannot even remotely express the amount of gratitude we have for all of you, but we send an unending supply of virtual hugs and kisses to each and every one of you, for you have kept us breathing.

As time goes on, I’m sure the pain will be replaced bit by bit with loving memories. There’s not enough room in my head or my heart for all of it yet, but I’m making room. I’ve still got a lot to tackle in this, but every day is a new opportunity. I’ll surely phone some of those days in, and maybe even stay in bed all day, but they keep coming and I keep trying to make them work for me. I can’t touch her, or feel her, or talk with her, or kiss her, but she’s here. She’s happy with my progress, I can just feel it. I’ve questioned my direction a couple times but I’ve made adjustments. Perhaps that was just her turning my shoulders in a different direction.

I love Dawn very much, even to this day, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate and accept that of me. I look at her smile every day and marvel at how she was able to wear it in those times. She truly is my hero, and is easily the most courageous, strongest, bravest person I’ll ever know. I just wish she was here so I could tell her that.

I love you, baby.


Goodbye for now

March 24, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (2)

I write here because it gets my feelings down on paper, so to speak. It allows me to express my deepest sadness in a way that I can’t seem to do on a whim. The thoughts fill me, and if they don’t come out here, they don’t come out anywhere. That’s just how it is.

I get compliments on my writing ability. I feel good about how I can convey to all of you exactly what I’m feeling, and when I go back and re-read what I’ve written, it’s perfect. It’s almost always perfect.

But it all comes from a very bad place in my heart, and that talent is gone when I’m in a good place. I don’t wanna spend any more time in that bad place. I don’t want to find good in that bad place. I want to get away from it all.

Technology has shrunk the world for us, and there’s a lot of bad in that, too. I want the world to be bigger. I want to find things with my eyes and my feet. I want to know what you’re doing when I get there. So I have to leave here. I don’t for how long, but it could be forever.

The world needs to be bigger, because it keeps shrinking and closing in on me, and I can barely breathe.

I thank you all.


March 23, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (3)

Disclaimer: None of these things are things I’ve considered doing, so please don’t call me or text me freaking out for me. My thoughts have come to think deeper about the mindset of those who do these things.

It’s Sunday again, and again I’m using all my strength to stay busy enough to keep my mind off things. It’s my mind that constantly digs up my life and twists and turns it in ways that make everything worse than it already is, and it overwhelms me and paralyzes me. It burns bridges. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to overcome, and I’m way behind in the war.

I wrote today and got some things out, but it didn’t make me feel better. Instead, it made me miss things more, and that’s discouraging. It isn’t loneliness that’s getting to me today, because I want to be alone. It’s just missing the happiness I had that I don’t have right now. It’s also sadness that I’m looking out for myself and keeping some things at arm’s length. Yes, sadness.

I don’t like this feeling. I want to feel something else, anything else. I want to get high, but I honestly don’t know what that’s like because I never have done it, but I know it’s something different. It’s days like this that gives me a little understanding about why people feel not being alive is better than being alive. It makes me feel what people look for when they cut themselves. We’ve all had paper cuts, or even the clean slice of a razor by mistake, and that pain sounds so sweet and satisfying. It’s another pain, a tangible pain, a pain I can point to. I’d be fucking ecstatic to be able to point to my pain.

I’m not sleeping well again, and I’ve never gotten around to eating well. I’m still enjoying the exercise but I’m not doing it enough. I’m still climbing uphill and sliding down the side of the mountain. And I know nobody can help me up and I know nobody will be my happiness. I’m still looking for it inside myself and I know it’s in there somewhere, but I don’t even know where to start. I don’t even know how to breathe sometimes.

I’m feeling my way through the dark like so many other people do, but I’m not running into anything. The room is empty. The darkness is relentless.

Days like this

March 20, 2014 in Brain Dumps,Finding my way,Living | Comments (2)

I woke up in a rough place this morning. Nothing in particular made this happen, but I still knew the moment I sat up in bed it was going to be a tough day.

I went through the motions getting the kids to school and stared at my messy house and piles of laundry. I watched my cat scratch itself, as it does regularly because I haven’t found it in myself to take her to the vet. The dog limps by for the same reason. It’s all backing up again.

The advice pours in from friends.

“Change it, make it a good day!”
“Play some loud music!”
“Come see me!”

But the fact is, I’ll find excuses to ignore this advice. I won’t say I find comfort in sadness, but I guess it’s something like that sometimes. I’m afraid if I don’t sit through it it’ll just come back at some point, or worse yet, collect together and drop on me all at once.

I’m jealous of those who are changing their lives and those who are tackling their struggles head-on. Some days I can do that and others I cannot, and today I cannot. I don’t want to put on my happy face today. I want to be that quiet guy in the corner you forget about when my seat’s empty. I don’t want to be anybody today.


March 16, 2014 in Family,Finding my way | Comments (4)

The boys and I had a great vacation. We needed the time away even more than I thought, and I think we have been able to sufficiently reboot from this long, cold winter. The weather was perfect, the pools were heated and open late, and we saw some baseball. All in all I couldn’t have asked for more, and I’m feeling good going forward, at least for the near future.

I’m learning that it takes more than just one or two trips like this to keep myself going. A trip like this will hopefully get me through the spring, when I’m sure I’ll need some other escape from life to keep going. I guess the hope is that the time between these shakeups stretches longer each time, until some day I realize I don’t need them for anything more than leisure.

Leading up to this trip, the proverbial phrase “it’s always darkest before the dawn” rang loudly. There were several important things in my life that were crashing down on me all at once, and I fell into a pretty deep depression over it all. I felt completely out of control and hopeless. I felt, again, that the things I held so dear to me had no desire to walk with me anymore, and it was nobody’s fault but mine, and again, nothing was changing it, and nothing was stopping me from trying to change it.

On our way to Florida, we stopped and saw a couple friends – one of which I hadn’t seen in 24 years, and another that I’d never actually met in person. Me and the boys sat and talked and laughed with them and had a good time and didn’t talk once about what I had been through. This gave me a sense of relief about my plight that I had yet to experience, and it felt good, and it jump-started my vacation from the cold and the snow, and mostly, my life. At one point on the way I texted a friend and said “you know, I haven’t spent a moment thinking of the bad things in my life.” This wasn’t how it had been before, and this wasn’t what I thought would happen. It was just me, my boys, the traffic, and music.

As I stood on the beach the day before we left, watching the boys fight the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, a thought crossed my mind. It was just the three of us. Nobody else was there. Nobody was acting kind to me. It was just us, and no matter what happens, it’s going to be just us, and I cried happy tears. It’s all I need, and everything else will work out. I can’t go wrong with that in mind.

I can’t change things in my life if they’re going to change, no matter how hard I try. I just need to appreciate what I have and build on that. Sure, there are things and people who make me happy, but sometimes they’re going to move on. That’s nothing on them, it’s just the way life goes.

No matter what life throws at me, there will always be the three of us. The rest is just gravy.


March 5, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (3)

I was stopped in the school parking lot today by someone who wanted to express their concern for me in person. This isn’t the first time that someone has seeked me out in the last few days to check on me. It has been a very difficult couple of weeks and I can’t seem to catch a break, but in that regard, I’m having trouble feeling like I deserve a break right now.

I’ve put a lot on Facebook and Twitter about how hard it’s been for me lately. Probably too much. My mind has been a mess for a couple weeks and I’ve done almost nothing to change that; I’ve let it eat at me. I’ve complained about people and pinned shit that I thought would make me feel better, but all I’ve felt is regret. I’d like to be able to tell you all that it’s not as bad as I make it out to be on social media, but the fact is that it’s at least as bad as I make it out to be on social media.

I’ve disappointed a few people and likely lost someone very important to me, and that’s pretty much on me. I can barely handle myself and I dump everything on other people. It’s incredibly selfish to look for people to bring me up, especially when all I do is drag them down. I feel awful about that, and none of you get to say good riddance to those people. They mean the world to me and I fucked it up, and it hurts.

I’d do anything to earn the trust and friendship back, but I understand if it’s gone too far and I have nobody to blame but myself. I appreciate everyone’s concern, though, and I hope to keep working on getting better and finding myself again. I’ve tried to make good with people I know I’ve disappointed and I plan on holding my bad times for therapy and not for everyone’s consumption. I’ll be okay, I’m sure, and I’ll pull out of this funk. I want you all to know that all of your worries aren’t unfounded, nor are they falling on deaf ears. I’ll simplify my life, and I don’t know when it will happen, nor do I care, but some day I’ll be okay. I hope my friends are here when I am.


February 26, 2014 in Food and health,Running is blah | Comments (1)

I’ve always been a bit of a boxing fan. I probably became a fan because my grandpa used to watch it pretty much every weekend, be it on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, or some other televised event. I didn’t know who the boxers were then, but there was always a fight on at some point on the weekend, and I guess that stuck with me.

Oddly, I never became a fan of MMA fighting. It was always about boxing and still is. I even watch it on ESPN pretty regularly, but finding a fight with people I recognize is pretty tough to do. Even the PPV events are a drag because the main event doesn’t usually happen until midnight. That’s a lot of undercard when you’re paying for a particular fight.

Anyway, I was never really interested in actually getting in a ring and learning how to box, but hitting a heavy bag was always fun. Recently, it has become an outlet for pent-up emotions, of which I have a metric fuckton. It’s not unusual for me to end up on the floor of my basement bawling my eyes out after a session with the heavy bag, but that’s good. It feels good to let it out.

The one thing that sticks with me with boxing, though, is the level of exercise it gives me. I couldn’t go more than a few minutes without being utterly exhausted, and seeing as how I hate running and I hate riding the exercise bike and I hate, well, almost anything that causes my heart rate to increase, in the back of my mind boxing always had a glimmer of light for me.

Therefore, at the behest of a good friend of mine who has been working out in a boxing gym for about four weeks now, I went and checked out a gym in Ann Arbor to see if it was something I’d like to do. Title Boxing Club is on the west side of Ann Arbor, oddly enough, in the same building where I bought a bicycle several years ago.  They have an offer of one free class to try and see if it’s something you’d like to do, so despite battling a cold, I decided to do it today.  I’ll use my texts to the aforementioned friend to describe how it went.

First of all, I had to buy hand wraps, and the woman who showed me around last week was there to help me wrap my hands. You get to use loaner gloves for your free hourlong class, and since I seem to have big hands, I got to use the full leather ones, which was pretty cool. About 15 people were in my class, and the hour is broken down into a 15-minute warmup, 8 3-minute rounds of various combinations on the heavy bag with a one-minute break in between, then 15 minutes of core work.

The bell rung for the beginning and I was already nervous about the level of energy our class trainer had. This woman was the captain of the women’s boxing team at the University of Michigan, she was muscular and fit and happy and I wanted to kill her, but holy hell was she awesome.  Anyway, the first 15 minutes summed up as so:

So it’s 15 minutes of warm up consisting of squats and high knee and jump rope and running in place and mountain climbers and burpees and OMFG kill me now

I think we were a minute and a half into the warmup when I was sure I was gonna die at some point. There was prayer, and pain, and the desire to punch myself in the face for even thinking there was a chance in hell this was a good idea. My GOD did it suck. And there was still 13 minutes on the clock.

I survived the warm-up, and not only was I warm, I was just about done. But nobody else was. They all were ready for more, and I certainly didn’t want to be the loser who walked out then and there, so it was time to box. Round One came up on the board, and the clock started, and the trainer continued barking commands…

Then 8 3-minute rounds of various combos both regular and southpaw and one guy said he couldn’t get thru six rounds the first time and I want to punch handicapped kittens

I did it. I stopped a few times in awe of my lung capacity, and to make sure I could still lift my arms, and that I had feet at the bottom of my rubbery legs, but I did it. I finished all 8 rounds. The guy who said he’d been coming a year and was a part-time trainer is the same guy who told me he got through six rounds his first time and was done – he came over and fist-bumped me. I was pretty pumped. We were almost done. 15 minutes of core work and I will have survived.

Core work. It sounds so innocent…

Then 15 minutes of core work like planks and side planks and crunches and scissors and I think I’m dead now.

This was way worse than the boxing. Planks, side planks, crunches, a medicine ball, twists and turns. At one point I could actually feel my ab muscles twirling into a ball in revolt. It was awful. I wondered what I did to deserve this. I wondered if it would be better just to bang my head against the brick wall until I bled out. If I could stand or lift my arms or blink I would’ve decked the trainer right then and there. But I couldn’t. Sneaky bitch.

And then we were done. The misery was finally over, and I could lay there in my sweat-soaked shirt and peel off my hand wraps and catch my breath, which literally took about 10 minutes it seemed. And then, after talking to one of the other trainers, I did the unthinkable…

I paid them to do the same thing to me over and over again for a year.

But here’s the thing – as much as it hurt and as much as I complained and as much as I thought I was gonna die, I didn’t want to quit. I wanted to be able to do squats during the one-minute round breaks. I wanted to be able to do the speed punches at the end of each round. I just wanted to be able to do more. I know I pushed myself harder than I’ve ever been pushed and there’s still so much more to do and I want to do it. I hate to run. I hate to bike. But this is fucking awesome and I loved hating every single minute of it. Most of all I made it through and it felt incredible and all I wanted to do was tell everyone.

So I’m going back to do it some more. Assuming I can stand up tomorrow.

Title Boxing Club – Ann Arbor 


February 25, 2014 in Finding my way | Comments (0)

I can’t get up.

I can’t even refill my coffee cup.

I have to do something and my mind tells me to just get up and do it. Stand up and put one foot in front of the other and just fucking do it. But I can’t, and I have no idea why.

Did I do something wrong and I don’t know it? What’s making me feel this way today? What’s going to get me out of it?

It may be grief, or pain, or sadness, or uncertainty. Or maybe the world just doesn’t need me right now. Maybe it all goes on and spins without me helping it today. Maybe it’s looking at me and saying “It’s okay, just come up when you’re ready.”

But then it’s gotten the best of me, and I’m not ready to succumb. Undefined sadness stabs me in the heart but doesn’t kill me. It makes me suffer. It makes me find a way to fight.

Hope brings no happiness today, but I still hope I figure it out before I run out of ways to fight.

I just need to stand up now.


February 24, 2014 in Brain Dumps,Finding my way,Goodpeoples | Comments (1)

I felt inspired by my earlier post and wanted to write some more today. I thought about working on my screenplay more (huh? you say) but couldn’t get more than about two minutes of screen time on that, so I came back here. But what to write about? Anything and everything, I guess.

I have a friend who went through what I went through. She lost her husband a little over a year ago and had a very difficult day today. I offered my shoulder to cry on as I’ve done on hers so many times, but she said no. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want anybody. I don’t know how that makes you feel but it’s perfectly understandable to me. We perfect the art of putting on a pretty, happy face for people around us whose concern is probably genuine, but our apprehension in sharing our grief is incredibly overwhelming.

I often talk about the pain of being alone. I often talk about how loneliness is debilitating and destroys any plans I may have for any given day. But you shouldn’t think for a second that being alone is always a terrible thing for me. I regularly choose to be alone and I’m not above lying about what I’m doing to have time for myself. I listen to the Shit list I mentioned before, or I go to breakfast. Shit, I even just flat-out close my office door at work, because being alone is so much better than being fake. So much better.

At the same time, my happiness isn’t always fake, either. I honestly enjoy the company of my friends and do what I can to be with them as much as I can, when I feel like it. I went to a concert last week in a smoke-filled bus and had a fantastic time with a bunch of people I haven’t really hung out with before. I enjoy the pick-up line at school because it affords me the opportunity to spend five minutes with people who often find it difficult to spend social time with me.

So what’s the point? My life is feeling more like mine. It feels less like a life I am hoping to have and more like one I’m supposed to have, and I’m getting comfortable with it. I’m setting boundaries all around me and controlling how effective those boundaries are. I’m accepting what I can get when it doesn’t jive with what I want, and I’m worrying less. I’m here for people to come to for whatever reason, and I’m going to people who can help me with whatever I may need, even if it’s just a smile.

I don’t know if it’s right or it’s wrong, and I certainly expect a different plan will be in place before long, but this is how it is today. I wrote before about playing my cards closer to the vest. I wrote about some people getting more of me than others. Those things are still true, but everybody gets a little bit of me. It may just be here. This place is the least I give. It’s everything I’m completely comfortable with. But there’s so much more. And I like saving that for just a few of you.

I think I’m gonna learn to fly.

Just write

in Writing | Comments (0)

Write every day. It doesn’t matter what you write about or how awful it is. It doesn’t matter if you are in the zone or in left field. Just write, and do it every single day.

I’ll admit that I’ve been hesitant to write here lately. The reasons aren’t important right now, but after a few days and conversations with friends I’m back in the right frame of mind. So I’ll write some more.

I don’t know what will come of it or what I will talk about, but the therapeutic outlet it gives me is nothing I can walk away from easily. I’ve simply adjusted my sails and have become more mindful of the effect my writing may have on others. I like to share my life with all of you and will continue to do so, and it will probably be easier and more introspective now, and yet more controlled.

I’m still the same old me, and I hope you look forward to reading more from me. I hope to do it every day, no matter the quality of the content. I enjoy having you read along, but I don’t write for anyone but me. I’m excited to get rolling again.