12/24/11

So This is Christmas

I didn't have any Christmas Eve plans this year, so when one of my fellow managers at work asked if I could close for him (working 4-1 instead of my normal 2-11) I said it would be no problem.  I put on a festive red shirt (a vest, too, to showcase my new Doctor Who pocket watch) and came into the office with a smile.  The workload was steady; although it was Christmas Eve, people still needed assistance with their cell phones.  It's just another night in the call center.

Later in the evening, an associate from another team came up to my desk.  She is an older woman, in her sixties surely, and someone I have a casual, 'Hey, how's it going?' relationship with.  She wished me a Merry Christmas and asked how I was doing, acknowledging that this was my first Christmas without my father.  It took me a moment to respond; the shock of her question hit pretty hard.  I knew that, of course.  A year ago today, actually, we had our last meal together and he drove back to Pawhuska.  I only saw him again briefly before he was gone.

No, the shock came from the remembrance.  Someone who was only a passing acquaintance took a few moments to remember me and my loss.  After searching my feelings for a moment, I smiled a genuine smile and said I was doing okay.  Dad was never big into holidays, as I've mentioned before, so there aren't any big traditions that are suddenly absent.  It's the little things I miss.  The phone calls, the occasional email.  I have moments where memories are so recent and thick that it nearly brings me to my knees, but those happen less and less often.  They happen more often in grocery stores than anywhere else, which makes sense.  But for the most part, Dad is someone who feels like he has been gone for a long time.

Tomorrow morning, I will get up.  Prepare food.  Make coffee.  I will welcome my mother, my brother, and his fiance into my home and we will have Christmas together.  Though Dad is gone, it feels normal.  As much as my world came to a screeching halt this year, it is moving smoothly and has been for a while.  My friend told me her father has been gone for seventeen years, and still has occasions where it hits as strong as it ever did.  I imagine that's how it's going to be.  I love my father, and cherish the good memories.  Christmases past with him in his recliner, watching us open presents as he smiled a small, knowing smile.

Though my eyes well up a little, the smile that comes with them is deep and genuine.  Merry Christmas, Dad.

12/18/11

Empty Picher

After some schedule juggling at work this past week, I found myself with a Saturday off for the first time in a long while.  Fatefully, this happened as I read an article about the abandoned mining town of Picher, Oklahoma and a random dinner engagement with my friends Leah and Darci.  All of these happenings added up to a relatively impromptu Saturday on the road with my fellow photographer friend Darci and a great opportunity to take my new camera out for a spin.

Like my father before me, I wanted to get on the road as early as possible.  I'm not used to dealing with delays like "I'm fixing my hair" but I'm a patient man.  We set out north on the Will Rogers Turnpike at about 9:30 AM on Saturday, full of excitement and expectations.  Due to massive amounts of mining, toxic lead contamination, and a kicker of a 2008 F4 tornado the town was evacuated and abandoned a few years ago.  Many of the structures have been torn down, and there's still light traffic on the highway that runs through the old town center, but the grounds of Picher is an eerie sight.  Roads to nowhere.  Concrete pads overgrown with weeds, old tile peeling up in the sunlight.  Post-apocalyptic spray-painted warnings like 'KEEP OUT' on buildings that seem in decent shape, as well as many dilapidated structures litter the old town footprint.

As you approach the town, you see tall mountains of gravel, or 'chat', left over from the mining operations.  Some of these mounds sidle right up to previously residential neighborhoods.  A water tower looms over the skeletal remains of the town, proudly proclaiming cityhood since 1918.  In fact, due to the mining operations, Picher produced over half of the lead and zinc used in World War I and was also a big contributor to World War II ammunition manufacture.  While walking the foundations of the old commercial district, I found an old Matchbox car, crushed and full of dirt.  "How appropriate," I thought.  How many hopes and dreams died here?  I also came across a fire hydrant with a hose still attached, as if the call to evacuate came amidst an emergency and people had to pick up and go with haste.

Once Darci and I had sufficiently explored, we set out westward.  Driving old Oklahoma and Kansas highways, we found ourselves in Sedan, KS...evidently the home of the World's Longest Yellow-Brick Road.  We parked downtown and looked at the historic storefronts, enjoying the last bit of warmth of the afternoon sun.  Due south of Sedan, not far across the state line, we drove to Pawhuska, my father's hometown.  I hadn't been back since his grave marker had been completed and placed.  I stopped to pay my respects.  There's something so final about words etched in stone.  The quiet time on the hillside was interrupted by a woman and several children with toys and Cheetos.

We cruised back into Tulsa at about 5:30.  It was a fantastic day trip and reminded me how much I missed the open road.  I need to do more research and find other close locations that I can stop by and capture.

12/11/11

Things Remembered

It's crazy, the things we remember.

There was a minor water leak at the office a few days ago.  I used to have a water cooler next to my desk that had been scheduled for removal months ago, but they just now got around to it.  It was hooked up to the water line and everything.  When it was taken out, the line wasn't drained properly and, during my off days, completely saturated the carpet around my desk.  I came to work on Saturday to a squishy workstation.  I called facilities and they took care of it pretty quick.

However, the area around my desk has this odd smell while it dries.  I'm not sure exactly what it is, but it smells just like Grandpa Hardy's butcher shop used to smell like.  Almost metallic.  That smell brought back a WAVE of memories from Hardy and Gail's house out in the country.  I remember the sound of the metal doorknob on the shop turning, the springs inside constricting.  The sound of a car driving down the gravel road behind the house, heading towards the creek.  The sound of Black Cats echoing off the countryside on the 4th of July.  Grandma Gail's laugh.  Their old dog, Tippy, barking as we pulled into the drive.  The sound of their old turn-dial microwave dinging.  The trash compactor.  All sights, sounds, and smells that completely fill my memory.

It's two weeks to Christmas.  I have a tree up, presents under the tree, and a stocking on the mantle.  The cheer grows stronger, even while the clouds grow darker.  The last time Dad and I spent time together was December 23rd and 24th last year.  I helped him pick out a new phone at the U.S. Cellular store.  We ate lunch at Brewburger, saw True Grit in the theater, watched Zombieland at home, and went to Blue Dome for breakfast the following day.  He wanted waffles, but they only had pancakes.  I almost ran a red light on the way home and that cracked him up when I panicked and slammed on the breaks.  It wasn't the last time I saw him, but it might as well have been.

I still haven't made the drive to Pawhuska to see his grave marker with my own eyes.  I'm off on Friday the 23rd and I might make the drive.  Might not...I guess it depends on how I'm feeling.  Plus I don't fancy taking that trip alone.  I did that enough when I was taking care of his estate.  Maybe I won't want to mar the holiday season with a day of somber sadness.  Then again, maybe it'll be somber anyway.  Grief is weird like that.


12/3/11

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving came and went without too much fanfare.  At least, that's how it was on the surface.  I went to Mom's on the day of for dinner.  Last year, I took care of Thanksgiving dinner at my tiny efficiency apartment and had Mom and Tyler over.  Dad never was big on holidays.  Since Mom's oven has since been replaced, she was tremendously excited to be able to cook this year.

ThankTyler had to work, and due to some scheduling communication failures, Mom and I ended up eating our meal with just the two of us.  It was peaceful, quiet.  Perhaps a little too quiet.  Make no mistake, the food was great and I love spending time with my mother.  With both Tyler and Dad not being present, it was just a little too hard to ignore that it was different this year.  After we ate, I got to see Tyler's new house.  Tyler and his fiance rented a place in Broken Arrow.  It's his first house.  He was so proud when he was showing me around the place.  I remember the feeling; I bought a house back in 2003 and couldn't be prouder as I sat in my own living room.  I was less proud when it was time to mow the lawn, but I digress.  It's nice to see my brother growing up.  I try to fight the feeling that a complete implosion is around the corner.

Then I was home.  It was odd; I realized that all day I was fighting to get back home, and now that I was back home I had nothing there.  It was quiet, dark.  The night did not go as well as the day.  It'd been a long time since I had broken down with feelings of utter loss.  Thanksgiving memories are filled with food, good spirits, and Dad feeding Lucy bits of turkey as he carved it.  Hard to believe they are both gone now.

I wanted to call Dad and ask him questions.  For some reason, I was stuck on wanting to ask him what he was doing at my age and what his priorities were.  I don't feel aimless, I just want to know.  I was fine once I got on the other side of it.  I was talking about these feelings to a good friend of mine and she said, "Were you alive when your Dad was 30?"  I was 3.  "Then you know what his priority was."  That was impactful and it was all I could do to keep from totally losing my composure.

Since then, I've been thinking about Dad pretty constantly.  In this day and age, it's easy to backtrack a year and see what was important to me.  Facebook posts, blog entries, bank activity.  It's strange to look back and recall how different things were, even though they were almost the same.  As Christmas draws closer, I focus on my friends and my family.  Work is going well.  I listen to upbeat music. Should I slip into sorrow, I let myself settle there for a little bit...and then get back up.  I have too much good going on to focus on the bad.

To quote Andy Dufresne, Hope is a good thing.  Perhaps the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.

11/24/11

Thirty Years of Thanks

This year I celebrate my thirtieth Thanksgiving.  I thought it appropriate to take a trip in the way-back machine and call out thirty specific things, from recent history and the distant past, to be thankful for on this holiday.

  1. I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, and prayers that kept my heart beating on April 7, 1981 when I was born two months premature.  The doctors told my folks not to even name me, as I had zero chance for survival.  Yet, here I am.
  2. I am thankful for being raised by two wonderful, loving parents whose own thankfulness translated into a lifetime of love and care.  I am a true reflection of them, and knowing how many people care for me magnifies their success.
  3. I am thankful for old music.  I recall afternoons at home and trips to Grandma's full of Creedance, Harry Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Steppenwolf, and countless others.  It brings me joy to play old albums or see the old 8-track under my television, as it brings back waves of emotion that can be instantly replicated by opening my ears to that identical sound.
  4. I am thankful for Dad accepting the job to manage the first Price Mart grocery store in Tulsa, on Admiral just off Sheridan.  Taking that job moved us to Broken Arrow and the stability I grew up around.  Dad's subsequent promotions allowed us a comfortable living and many family vacations as well.
  5. I am thankful for the faithful canine companions that I've lived with and loved.  Sammy, Floyd, Lucy,  Penny.  I'm also thankful for my old cat, Atticus, who now enjoys a new family.  There is nothing like the love of a pet.
  6. I'm thankful for my childhood best friend, Jared, whose companionship was a constant in my formative years.  Spending the night at each other's houses, Nintendo, Boy Scouts, weekends at the lake with a bag full of little powdered donuts.
  7. I'm thankful for time at Grandpa Hardy and Grandma Gail's house in the country, near Pawhuska.  They lived in a converted schoolhouse on a few acres.  Fourth of July, Christmas, and other visits were so special to me.  The sounds of the countryside, the joy of exploration, and the warmth of the fireplace.
  8. I'm thankful for Saturday mornings at the office with Dad.  I got a young view into the working life and have fond memories of walking the stores afterwards.  For a while, they had a cooler with glass bottle Coke.  That was awesome!
  9. I'm thankful for being able to ride my bike all throughout my neighborhood without fear or concern.  I had friends on my block, and could ride to Jared's house without much difficulty.  Wolf Creek park wasn't far, either.  I can close my eyes and see the entire route.
  10. I'm thankful for my brother; without him, I would not have learned patience nearly as quickly or effectively.
  11. I'm thankful for Mom's open ear and honesty; it was that same openness that gave me the courage to call her up and get me out of troubling situations when I wanted no part of them.  She fielded my questions about religion and stoked my interest in reading.
  12. I'm thankful for Steve Ojas visiting my sixth grade class with his electronic flute and other musical gear; it was then I realized that electronic music had a strong appeal for me.  I remember nights of listening to MIDI music on my 60 mHz computer, feeling fulfilled when I found new files that were exceptionally well made.
  13. I'm thankful for Jared inviting me over one night to play this new PC game called Warcraft.  We built villages, fought orcs, and spent hours in front of that VGA screen.  Those sessions eventually gave way to Warcraft II, III, and eventually got me into World of Warcraft, which has given me so many hours of enjoyment, bonding, and even brought me face-to-face with new and cherished friends.
  14. I'm thankful for my first car, which I still miss.  Dad sold me his 1988 Merkur Scorpio for $1, a great deal at the time, but I sure made up for it in repairs over the years.  Leather seats, power moonroof, plentiful space, and it handled like a dream.  I wept when I drove it to the dealership to trade it in, even though it hadn't treated me super well.
  15. I'm thankful for open campus lunch when attending Tulsa Technology Center in 11th and 12th grade.  That core group of friends still exists, mostly intact, and when we get together it's just like old times.  The vibe cannot be replicated.
  16. I'm thankful for my first job at Price Mart, where I realized that the industry that put food on the table (literally) for my father and his father before him wasn't for me.  I learned a tremendous amount and it still affects the way I shop and treat employees at current stores.  I sure don't miss running carts, though.
  17. I'm thankful for my first trip to Italy in tenth grade with classmates.  Although I felt lonely and isolated at the time, the experience of being in another country lit a pilot light that would grow tremendously in a little over a decade's time.
  18. I'm thankful for my first girlfriend, Aubrey, for I learned a great deal.  We went to prom together, graduated together, and got our first apartment together.  Although things didn't end on the best note, the experience started to build a confidence in me that I had never had before.
  19. I'm thankful for Dad calling me into the living room at night, when I was doing something way more important like SimCity or building Lego constructions, and showing me his favorite scenes from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly or Escape from New York, sharing his love for movies that I soon embodied and took to the next level.  Although at the time I impatiently watched whatever he wanted to show me, they reside in my memory with great fondness.
  20. I'm thankful for my time in Topeka, KS and the poor treatment at the Blockbuster Video stores there.  It was that treatment that got me looking into other employment, finding Teletech, and earning enough money in a call center job to move back home to Broken Arrow.
  21. I'm thankful for Carla and her friend (whose name still escapes me) in Topeka, coworkers for a time, who called out that I wearing clothes based on grocery products was lame and I needed to find my own style.  That call-out helped me grow into my own person in that regard and I think of that conversation often.
  22. I'm thankful for Cingular Wireless, the job that morphed into a seven year pillar of my life and through which I met so many of my friends.  I grew into a leader in that organization and learned a lot about organizing and planning, which makes me successful in my job today.  I also got to experience the wireless industry and it stood up and came into it's own as the powerhouse it is today.
  23. I'm thankful for my ex-wife, Indi.  Our time together brought me into adulthood as I know it.  She taught me so much about independence and individuality.  We shared everything together for seven years and, though it wasn't meant to be forever, I don't regret our time together in the slightest.  She even got me to try a few vegetables.
  24. I'm thankful for the strength and emotional stability to be a source of strength when my parents divorced.  It was wholly unexpected and I was glad that I could be there for my parents when they'd been there for me through so much.  
  25. I'm thankful for midnight movies.  There's nothing like sitting in a crowded theater with dozens and dozens of fellow uber-fans:  cheering, laughing, and crying together.  The conversations after-the-fact with those that came with and the bond of social enjoyment.
  26. I'm thankful for the process of writing.  I've kept a blog or journal or SOMETHING for many years now and it's helped me shape the way I communicate.  It's how I deal with emotion and give a picture into my mind.  I think a thoughtful and well-written letter can be one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.
  27. I am thankful for the inspiration to pick up a camera and consciously find my creative vision.  I get more enjoyment out of photography than any other hobby I've ever had and I have pictures on my walls that always fill me with pride and vivid memory.  Sharing my work with others is deeply fulfilling.
  28. I am thankful for the courage and inspiration to sell my world and set off to experience the world of others.  My trip abroad was so monumentally enriching that it's impossible to dilute down to a bullet point.  Suffice to say it helped me understand myself better and get a better view of my fellow man.
  29. I am thankful for the strength and discipline to get through the process of my father's untimely death and relative chaos afterwards.  It fell to me to settle everything, and though it was stressful it got me through some of the rough times.  Without the strong foundation that Dad himself helped build for me, I would've just completely fallen apart.
  30. I am thankful for my rich network of friends and family.  Without you all, I could not have weathered the past year of loss and reflection with as much grace or vulnerability.  I am the most blessed guy in the world and all I have to do is look at the contact list in my phone to see why.

11/13/11

The Value of Friendship

I was driving to get lunch tonight and a Beatles song shuffled on my iPod that I hadn't heard before.  Actually, that's not true; last year, my best friends Nikki and Brad bought me The Beatles Stereo Box Set.  When I got all that music loaded onto my computer, I listened through the entire Beatles catalog for the first time.  I feel like that needs a little backstory.

Some time ago (not a long time ago; three years maybe?) I was driving and one of the local radio stations was doing a B-Side playlist; playing an uninterrupted B-Side of an old album.  I could tell it was the Beatles, but I didn't recognize the song.  I picked up my cell and called Nikki.  She is a big time Beatlemaniac and it never occurred to me to call anyone else.  I told her I wanted to know the name of a song because I hadn't heard it before; she was incredulous to discover it was 'Golden Slumbers' from the back of Abbey Road.  "You haven't heard all of ABBEY ROAD?!  WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?" she immediately chastised me.  A sit-down listen through (on vinyl, as would be expected) was scheduled soon after.  This gift was the cap on that tale.  So, to bring us back to the beginning, a Beatles song came on my iPod I didn't remember.  It got me to thinking about my friends.

I met Nikki first, back when I was working at Cingular Wireless as a Technical Support representative.  We had a floor walking program at the time where I answered questions from Customer Service representatives.  We hit it off pretty quickly, having similar interests and senses of humor.  She schooled me in music, helped me with my sense of style, introduced me to the world of Harry Potter, encouraged me to be more confident, and has been there to listen to me at my whiniest.  She joined us in Japan during the world trip, too.

Brad was on tour at the time I met Nikki; when I finally got to meet him he had dreadlocks if you can believe it.  I wish I had a picture of that.  Brad played keyboards and backing vocals in a local band called 'All Too Familiar' and I followed him as he moved to The Commission and, finally, his own band Baron Von Swagger.  We have spent many nights playing video games and drinking beer long into the wee hours of the night.  Brad has introduced me to multiple bands that I'd never have heard of otherwise and introduced me to The West Wing.  We can sit and have nerdy Star Trek conversations or talk about the nature of God.  Brad is happiest when he is serving others, and takes pride in taking care of his friends.  We've road tripped to California, Atlanta, and Chicago together.

They are the kind of people that give before thinking of themselves.  I know I can call at any time, day or night, and if I say I need them they'll be there.  I sat on the tailgate of my truck outside their apartment as I realized my marriage was over.  When Dad passed, they were there for me too.  We laugh, we joke, we cry, we challenge each other, we turn to each other for comfort.  There is a strong bond of trust that comes with friendships of this caliber.  I don't know if they know how highly I think of them.  Well, they will now.

Life gets full quickly.  There are times when we get busy and I'll go weeks without seeing them; Nikki especially with her school/work schedule.  But like Beatles tunes, when they turn back up, there isn't a missed beat.  There's a feeling of synchronicity and enjoyment that is just built-in.  I hope everyone has a friend or friends that they are on this wavelength with.  They've gotten me through some pretty dark times.

Love you guys.

11/6/11

As Of Late

It's been a while since I've written.  I have felt the dull tendrils of grief slowly rising and wrapping around me, preparing me for an inevitable night of catharsis.  Until then, it seems little things set me off and put me into sad type moods.  It hasn't been anything overwhelming, just slight tugs at my normally constant smile.  It's not like things have been blah.  Far from it, actually.

I had a wonderful time in California with my friends last month.  I went out for Blizzcon in Anaheim and even stuck around to visit Disneyland.  It had been fifteen years or so since I last visited a Disney park and the nostalgia was palpable.  Visiting as an adult was quite different, and I was even talked into riding the Matterhorn and Space Mountain.  I'm not a roller coaster fan.  It's a testament to the persuasiveness of my companions that I buckled.  It wasn't too bad, to their credit.

It's hard to believe that we're already about a week into November.  I predict the next few months will be difficult to navigate, emotionally.  Just one year ago Indi and I split for good.  December 7 will be one year since my grandmother passed, and of course January is the big one.  The holiday season, and winter in general, is traditionally worse on depression and that kind of thing.  As I noticed the leaves changing and grass going dormant, I was reminded of the many trips I took to Pawhuska last winter to settle Dad's estate.  Highway 11 holds many pleasant memories of going to Grandma's house and visiting family, but now it also holds the memories of funerals and lawyers.  Such is life.

My camera took its last picture at Disney.  The lens mechanism failed and it's pretty expensive to repair.  I've been looking at getting a new one and I can't see any reason not to get the newest version of my old Canon G10.  It took great pictures and was very good to me in many countries.  Taking pictures is a therapeutic activity for me and I need to get back out and capture moments.  It brings me peace.  The newest incarnation of the Canon has an easier time with indoor pictures, too.  Thank goodness for that; it was my biggest complaint on the old model.  So much noise!

How strange is it that my brother is moving into a house with his fiance?  When did that kid grow up?  I think it's a ruse.


10/13/11

Still

It's been eight months and 25 days.  It's not like this is new.

Why is it when I tucked myself into bed tonight, expecting sleep and having not much else on my mind, that my thoughts turn to my father, and before I know it I'm crying out to him, wishing he were here.

I haven't cried in a while.  I suppose you could say it was time.  But it happened strangely.  Last night, my brother sent me a text trying to remember the name of a song.  After a little back and forth, I helped him remember 'Gimme Some Lovin' by Steve Winwood, one of Dad's favorites and one that I picked for his service.  I'm not sure why Tyler was trying to remember the song.  It wasn't any big deal.  I slept fine afterwards.

Tonight, when I laid down, I thought of that song.  I thought of Dad's picture up front in the church next to the urn.  I thought of last Christmas and my last time with him.  I'd say the emotions came flooding back, but that's not accurate in my mind; when I think of that phrase, I think of a sudden, overwhelming force.  It was actually much more like a real flood, where the water is low and slowly rises, it just keeps rising.  I wasn't suddenly in tears or anything, but one thing added to another added to another and suddenly I was just a mess.

It's nights like tonight that the silence of this house really gets to me.  Not that I'd know what to say, should a warm body be lying next to me.  Probably the same things, over and over again.  I might also not emote as much, afraid to disturb my partner.  Who knows?  Even though I have felt a ton of support from my friends and family, part of me still feels very alone.  I don't know what could change that.

I'm not really writing with purpose tonight.  No story or anecdote, no great learning.  Just writing.  I leave for Blizzcon in a week; a welcome vacation.  It's been more stressful at work lately with my project getting close to launch (Customer Service Week).  I feel as good as I probably can about it; perhaps that additional workload is wearing me thin where these emotions can easily surface.

It's nights like tonight I look out my window at the moon and wonder.  I speak to the night air, hoping it is heard.

9/26/11

Magic Hour

Magic Hour is the term for the first and last hour of sunlight in any given day.  Everything is washed in golden light and there is an ethereal quality to the atmosphere.  The orange and blue transitions to darkness as your eyes move from one side of the sky to the other.  It's a great time to take pictures.  It's also a time where I feel like anything is possible.

I've had a really good couple of weeks.  I have moments, of course, but overall September has been the best month I've had in nearly a year.  It feels very much like a sunrise; the cold and dark stillness of grief and loss is giving way to the warmth and brightness of life.  I smile.  I laugh.  I don't feel like I'm running on reserves anymore.  The river is flowing again and it's a very welcome feeling.

This afternoon, I went to lunch (so to speak) and drove the mile and a half to Taco Bueno.  It was about 7:15 PM and right at the tail end of Magic Hour; the sun had disappeared behind the westernmost buildings and I was left with the diffuse glow.  I got my food and pulled into a parking space to eat.  I was eating my quesadilla when I suddenly wondered how many times Dad sat in the same car, doing the same thing.  I know he ate out a lot, and would often eat in his car at the local Sonic.  I could imagine him sitting there, eating his food.  Radio on, probably, listening to one of the same 5 CDs he always had in his changer the last year of his life.  Nobody to talk to.  Just sitting there, going through a routine.

I didn't get sad.  I actually took comfort in the simplistic symmetry of the situation.  As I contemplated this, a minivan pulled up beside me.  A small child hopped out with his mother.  He looked over at the car and said, "Wow, what a cool Mustang!"  The mother agreed that, yes, it was indeed a cool Mustang, and followed that up by confirming that the boy wanted two burritos and a taco as they walked inside.  When I heard the kid exclaim his approval, I turned my head, met his eyes, and smiled.  He smiled back.  I have to believe that when Dad found himself sitting in his car, eating by himself, that he had the same run-ins.  It's Magic Hour, after all.  He was so proud of that car.

I miss him.  A whole hell of a lot.  I feel that his legacy is able to live on in his boys.  Every time I make a bad joke, every time I gun the accelerator in his car, every time Steppenwolf plays on the stereo.  Every time I call Tyler and ask how his car's running without thinking about it.  Every time I'm hanging out with my brother, we look at each other, and say, "Well...I don't know." and smile knowingly.  So many little things.  So many big things.  He'll never be completely gone, and that makes me smile.

9/24/11

Relations

Family is important.

When I was younger, we would spend the 4th of July and Christmas at my Dad's folks' place.  They lived in an old converted schoolhouse about fifteen miles north of Pawhuska, OK.  It sat on two acres and the only traffic that old gravel road ever saw were from few-and-far-between neighbors.  Dad was raised out there, as were my aunt and uncle.  We visited at other times, of course, and I also visited my Mom's folks in Barnsdall, OK semi-regularly.  At some point, those visits started waning.

I was somewhat close to most of my cousins.  Nobody ever fought or anything.  In the mid-nineties, we didn't go to my Mom's folks much anymore after some heavy family drama, but visits to Hardy and Gail (Dad's parents) continued.  In 1997, my aunt Kim passed away from cancer.  It was hard on the family (as would be expected) and it happened right around the time us kids were getting to an age where family gatherings started to lose their luster.  Factor in the age of my grandparents and a few other things and it wasn't long before the normal gatherings dwindled and then turned into visits too shamefully rare to mention. It's nobody's fault, it just happened. Now it's uncommon that I ever get up to Pawhuska and see the rest of my family there.  I keep telling myself I'll do better, but I haven't yet.

I remember seeing Grandpa Hardy in the hospital not long before he passed.  He was sitting up and had several tubes attached to his face.  He smiled when I came into the room; a smile that assured me there was still lucidity and understanding.  He couldn't really talk, but he reached out to shake my hand.  I know he wanted to show me how strong his grip was.  I shook his hand and smiled generously.  He had no strength left.  This was a man that I'd always known could crush every bone in my hand if he ever decided to.  He had whittled down to this. That's one thing I'm thankful for with my father; he didn't have to go through that process of withering.  He just went.

I look now and my Grandma Mary, on Mom's side, is the only grandparent left.  We have scares pretty regularly and I know it's not going to be long before she's gone, too.  I haven't seen her since before Dad passed.  I'm afraid if I go visit I'll be greeted with a version of her I don't want committed to memory.  I'm not close to that side of the family at all anymore, and that's a sad thing.

Every time Mom and I get together, she says, "Don't be a stranger!" as we part.  I know she wants to see me more.  She doesn't live that far away, only twenty minutes.  It's not a big deal.  But I don't see her but once every few weeks.  I feel guilty about it often.  I love my mother very much.  We get along great.  I don't know why I am not putting in a greater effort, or why I even need to put in an effort at all.  It vexes me, because I don't have many relations left.  "Life gets busy" is not a valid excuse.


9/23/11

Smiles

It's a new day.

As predicted, I woke up this morning in much better spirits.  Last night, I found myself in a place where I didn't want cheering up, but I did, and amidst the confusion I decided to reach out.  I spent a little over an hour with my good friends Leah and Darci, having a beer and just talking.  I came back home tired and vented; I awoke this morning with a smile.

Though I had no energy; I didn't run today.  I only went once this week.  Yipe.

When I'm feeling good, it's all smiles.  I launched one of my streaming electronic music channels, turned it up, piped it through the kitchen, and danced about.  I fixed tea and a quick breakfast.  I took a shower.  I started my chores.  I've been interacting with people all morning and it feels great.  Ever since I came home from Dragon*Con, I feel like I've been waking up.  Getting back to where I once belonged.  Bumps along the road are still expected, but I tell you they are so much fewer and far between.  Even my nightmares have reduced in quantity.

I write when moved.  The strongest emotions I've felt overall in the last year have been grief and sadness; I need an outlet for that emotion and writing has been my primary tool for that.  Things right now are terrific.  I write, but it's not public consumption writing.  It's been wonderful to be full of emotion on the other side of the spectrum.  An unexpected pleasure, to be sure.

Life is good!


9/22/11

Direction

It's going to be October soon.  Hard to believe the year is this far along already.  The weather has cooled and our highs are in the mid-to-low eighties most days.  We've had some rain.  Pretty soon the leaves will start to turn and summer will be a distant memory.

I've had a lot of really 'up' days lately.  I've been in good spirits and smiled even more than usual.  There are several reasons behind that, but I won't delve into those here.  It's the still moments that I want to talk about.  My phone stops alerting me, the porch light is out, and the house is silent.  My mind isn't on tomorrow, or an hour from now.  It's right here with me.  I want to talk, so I look at the keyboard.  I wonder what I will have to say as my fingers seek out the letters.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I start to think about Dad.  This may be related to the fact that I got unexpectedly sad in the kitchen a few minutes ago.

It feels like he's always been gone.  Seeing the words typed makes my eyes water.  I still check his email once a week or so and unsubscribe from any junk mail he happens to still get, clear Facebook notifications for the account I created for him.  I haven't posted on his wall in a while, even though I have thought about him.  His contact is still in my phone.  I have pictures of him in various places.  But they have dust on them now.  It's a strange mixture of acceptance and fresh pain.  I remember writing that it felt like he was just here.  They say that time heals all wounds; I think it heals some, and others just morph into different wounds.

I've had a few windfalls as of late.  I found a cache of webchats that Google saved from when I was traveling the world.  Mom found a collection of pictures that I didn't know still existed.  My conversations about him are happy, and my memories of him are fond.  I know he would be proud of the successes I've had at work this year.  Still, like a spouse saying 'I love you' ... it's still good to hear it.

My religious views have shifted since coming home.  Where once a conservative non-denominational Christian stood, now stands an agnostic.  I really don't feel like I'll see him again.  While that's not a new realization for me, it's something I've only recently really looked inward at.

Eh, I dunno.  This post is kind've directionless.  I had some allergy meds earlier and I'm a bit spacey.  I think it's tremendously sad to sit and cry in the silent dark without letting someone know about it.  So, here it is, world.  I'll be okay.  Tomorrow is a new day.

9/6/11

Dragon*Con 2011

Boy howdy.  Dragon*Con.  What a whirlwind of amazing times!

The group of us (Brad, Nikki, Niki, Zack, and me) left Tulsa on Wednesday night thirteen minutes ahead of schedule.  We arrived in Atlanta twelve hours later at 11:00 AM, tired and ready to be out of the van.  I checked into my room at the Sheraton (to a lobby blaring Star Wars music) and immediately went down to registration.  They did a new thing this year where they scanned barcodes on postcards; aside from a computer outage for awhile it wasn't too awful getting registered and getting my badge.  Thursday isn't an official Con day, but people start going out in costume anyway.  I enjoyed walking around the hotels and seeing people, including some familiar faces.

Friday is when things got real.  The only panel I really wanted to attend this year was the Back to the Future Panel with Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and James Tolkan.  I put on my Marty costume and set out to do a little wandering first.  Over the course of the weekend, I'd say my costume was a 3 or 4 out of 10 in regards to demand for pictures, but everyone that took a picture was tremendously excited.  I also got a lot of compliments for accuracy, which made my geek heart swell.  When I made my way over to the Westin Hotel for the BTTF panel I ran into my first other Marty costume.  Although I was concerned about what it would do to the space-time continuum, I talked with him a bit and got some great pictures.  He had an accurate JVC camcorder and the right Aiwa tape player.  I was jealous!

The panel was good, many expected questions.  Christopher Lloyd is a lot like his characters IRL, a little disjointed, but fun.  Afterwards, I did a lot more wandering.  Three of the hotels are joined by sky bridges; since I was wearing many layers, I decided to avoid the outdoors when at all possible.  There were a lot of really amazing costumes this year.  I took way more pictures this time around.  I felt like I was able to tap into the vibe a bit more, too, especially in costume.  There's an unspoken bond between folks cosplaying.

There were several very popular folks.  Of course, scantily clad women are always popular.  There were a few Rufio's from 'Hook' that got chants wherever they went.  There was a Macho Man running around taking credit for stopping the Rapture.  I saw a Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter give a Star Wars rebel pilot crap for Porkins' demise in 'A New Hope' only to have the pilot berate the fighters and speak honorably of Porkins' sacrifice.  I saw Lando Calrissian and Captain Sisko get into a duel while the crowd chanted the classic Star Trek battle music.  Cobra Commander raged at Zack's Doctor Doom shirt.  There was a whole group of Yip Yip Muppet aliens very in character (though they did surround a Captain America at one point and chanted 'USA!' instead.)  Jesus took Professor X's wheelchair.  But probably the most elaborate group was the Pee Wee's Playhouse folks:



Oh, and a drunken Gryffindor student complimented my costume.  When she went for a high five, I said, 'Ten points to Gryffindor!' and got a kiss for my nerd knowledge.  That was pretty awesome.  This blog doesn't cover everything that happened...that would be impossible.  I hung out with my friends, met up with old friends, rekindled connections, made new ones, learned a lot, taught a little bit, and had the time of my life.  'Til next year, Atlanta.

8/27/11

Bad Dreams

I have bad dreams.

I don't have any recollection of pleasant dreams at any point in my life.  When I was young, I rarely remembered my dreams at all.  When I did, it was a nightmare or a jumbled mess of confusion.  Some of the nightmares were so vivid I remember them to this day.  There were also a handful that unfolded in an interesting way.  At the end of the nightmare, something terrifying would happen.  I woke up, crying/screaming from the fright, and my mother was there.  She comforted me and calmed me down.  Then I woke up for real.

The comfort mini-dream only lasted a few seconds.  It was enough for me to get my wits about me.  When I really woke up, I was still distraught but not nearly at the level I probably would've been had I just straight woken up.  As I mentioned before, this only happened a few times --- and when I was real young, like 10 or 11.    I still had bad dreams, but nothing unfolded like those few dreams.  As I grew up, I remembered my dreams more often but the content didn't get any better.

Today, I had one of those dreams-within-dreams for the first time in twenty years.  I was somewhere with my family, and Dad was there.  It was a confusing jumble, mostly, though at one point we clasped hands and danced down a hallway in a manner reminiscent of Jake and Elwood near the end of The Blues Brothers.  We were both laughing.  At the end of that dream, he began to fade like Marty in Back to the Future.  I woke up, realized he was gone, and scream/cried.  Mom was not there to console me.  I just lay there.  Then I woke up for real.  I had a moment of shock as I realized the familiar pattern, and then finished dealing with the wave of grief that came from the original dream.

This has been a strange journey of emotion.  I feel like I'm dealing with the majority of them well, but then I run into walls like this.  The same thing happens when I am at home alone and The Iron Curtain of Divorce drapes across my shoulders and makes itself known.  Are these setbacks?  I don't really think so.  It feels like a pressure release once I'm out of the other side of it.  When I'm in the middle of the storm, though, it feels like it'll last forever.

I listened to Sweet Home Chicago on the way to work today.  It helped me get past the hurdle and appreciate the dream for what it truly was.  A few more moments with Dad.

8/19/11

Old Boxes

In less than two weeks, I'll be in Atlanta, GA for Dragon*Con.  For those that are unaware, it's a 40,000+ member multi-genre fan convention that is spread out over five hotels in the downtown Atlanta area.  Went last year for the first time and had a total blast.  On the last day of August, I pile into a van with my friend Nikki, Brad, Niki, and Heather and road trip out there.  I assembled the best Marty McFly costume possible and will even spend a day wandering around in costume this year!  I get a little more excited every day.

In preparation for that road trip, I went to Mom's yesterday to sort through an old box of Dad's hats.  Dad collected them for awhile and had a ton to choose from.  Most of them were related to various grocery products or golf tournaments he attended.  Many memories flooded back as I sorted through them.  I laughed, smiled, talked to Mom about them.  It was good.  As I drove home with a paper grocery sack full of my favorites, I had a strange moment.  I almost turned to the sack of hats and said something, like I was about to tell Dad something.  Or tell a friend something about Dad.  It's hard to explain.  For a very brief moment, I completely forgot where and when I was.  I didn't get upset or anything at the time.  It was just odd.

Later in the day, I was watching an episode of The West Wing with my friend Amanda.  There's a moment where one of the characters is celebrating a political victory in a primary election when he suddenly gets a phone call that his father died, which obviously stops him in his tracks.  As soon as it happened in the show, I had another moment, where my head tilted slightly.  I'd seen the show before, but it's been awhile.  The moment was very similar to the phone call I received, ironically, precisely seven months prior to watching the episode.  I didn't realize what day it was.

After the show was over, I sat in my room for a bit and, well, just sat there.  I wasn't weeping or anything, or even overly sad.  I just felt a little disoriented.  It's like that moment of realization where you say, "...oh."

I feel like I'm moving forward alright, but the setbacks are disappointing.  For example, last week I had a dream where I re-married Indi.  I woke up and was angry at myself for feeling that way.  I went for a run to get past it and pushed myself a bit too hard.  Also last week, my team had a little meeting where we talked about how things were going and one piece of feedback they had for me was that I expect too much of myself.

But if I don't expect a lot out of me, who will?

8/5/11

Marked

Today has been unexpectedly full of Dad stuff.

I was searching my Gmail account this morning for some information I'd sent awhile back and found an old chat log between Dad and me back when I was in Indonesia.  It brought a smile to my face and I suddenly thought, "Hey, wait.  If this was saved, are there others?"  A quick search later and I was face to face with about a dozen conversations with my father, frozen in time and waiting for me to find them.

I can hear his voice when I read the words.  We talked about food and Dad's experiences in France and Portugal.  We talked about his job and how he was scraping by trying to divert product.  We talked about Grandma and how she was doing with her cancer treatments.  We talked about Lucy (our family dog) being put down.  He gave me advice on taking care of my house and the renters that had left it in poor shape.  He was genuinely happy to chat, even though I know he would've greatly preferred a phone call.

Dad was never a skilled typist; some of his messages suddenly become ALL CAPS and later return to normal without explanation.  He wasn't the greatest speller in the world.  He tried to explain to me what Pineapple Upside Down Pie was ("it's like cake, but it's pie")  Some excerpts:


7:29 AM me: It's 9:30 PM
7:30 AM Dad: Wow, it's 7:30, Ijust milked the chickens.
 me: Early!
7:31 AM Dad: I HAVEN'T HAD MY COFFEE


11:39 AM Dad: I have already packed and am ready to go
  Gail says Hi.
 me: Tell her hi back! How is she doing?
 Dad: She loved your card


8:46 PM me: just getting up for breakfast. It's cooler here than it is there - I hear ya'll are having quite the heat wave.
8:47 PM Dad: Yep, 100 today
 me: That's rough.
8:48 PM Dad: no, 140 is rough
 me: Well, that's true.
  Any diverting luck?
8:49 PM Dad: IT'S 140 IN IRAQ



9:11 PM Dad: SHE IS TAKING PILLS, PILLS . she can'teat garlic or get out in the sun
9:12 PM Was that too tough for you to understand
9:13 PM She doesn't eat steak, steaks scare her
9:14 PM me: ...
 Dad: She has to quit smoking, because of her cofin
 me: Well, that would be a blessing.
9:15 PM Dad: Dont say Blessing or holy water
 me: because of the garlic, right?
 Dad: THAT'S THE TICKET
 me: I'm caught up now


Some of it makes me laugh.  Some of it makes me tear up.  All of it reminds me that I miss him.  But it is getting easier.  Finds like this helps.  I also got the call that Dad's grave marker was finished and placed.  Since his last 'story' that I heard every time we talked was about someone at Reasor's asking him if he was THE Tony Martin, Tyler and I found it only fitting to mark his final resting place.


Dad closed all of his IM conversations with 'Love ya, Nuff Said'.  It was nice to hear your voice again, Dad.  I love you.

Nuff said.

8/2/11

Next

I walked into a courtroom for the second time this year and talked to a judge about a recent loss.  After six years, four months, and eight days of marriage it's officially and legally done for.  Yeah, it's been coming for a long time and has essentially been over since November...but getting the documents signed and filed means it's truly over and done with.  I have looked inwards and discovered a strange sense of uncertainty.

Not about myself.  I feel more sure of myself now than I ever have in my life.  But I've been dealing with death and divorce for so long there will truly be a gap that I'm not used to having.  My hope is to recharge the ol' emotional Duracell's and return to a place of understanding and stability.  I no longer have to organize and plan around the legal system and that's definitely going to be a de-stresser.  The last of the related bills are paid or scheduled in a way that I shouldn't have any additional craziness over and above the typical day-to-day random expenditures that crop up.

I've done all this and maintained relationships with my friends.  Thank you all for sticking with me during these ups and downs.  It's not over, but the worst has definitely passed.  I've started exercising regularly and feel good about it.  I am doing well at my job and am seeing some doors open thanks to my hard work.  I feel cared for and know that I have a network of people to lean on when the night is unfriendly.

Time to move forward.

7/27/11

Coffee

I used to abhor mornings.  I'd sign up for the late shift at work and feel accomplished when I slept past noon.  I'd stay up and out late and repeat the process.  Mornings were for school, and school's out.  Even when I worked 8-5 at my old job I despised getting up and about that early.  When I traveled, I found that my internal clock changed.  When I got home, I tried to get back to a lazy bones schedule but my body wouldn't have it.

I've been on a late shift (2-11) since December and will most likely be on it for awhile longer.  I've slowly been slipping into a later and later sleep schedule.  Last week, I decided I would start running a few mornings a week and get into better shape.  I have been getting up at 7:00 every other day or so to get out and beat the heat.  I always tell myself I'm going to go home and go back to sleep, but that never works.  When I sit and look at myself, I see that I really enjoy having my whole morning.  My days feel fuller.

If I think about it long enough, mornings remind me of Dad.  He would take me to school some mornings and we'd always stop for breakfast.  I'd go to the office with him occasionally on Saturdays and wander the halls of Horner Foods while he worked on price books.  Maybe we'd go check a few stores.  Early mornings remind me of Disney World and getting to the park at opening.  I remember fixing Dad a tall glass of Diet Coke and a cup of coffee while he was in the shower.  I remember getting up to the smell of my favorite meal and helping Dad scramble the eggs.  I laugh as I write this as I remember his insane energy in the mornings while I would grumble.  We called it Narca-wakey; the affliction of being suddenly totally awake.  That laughter hitches when I realize those memories are all I have now.  I suppose that's all we have anyway.  That's how life works.

I get a strange pleasure out of sitting in my house (or on my porch, should the weather not be molten outside) with a cup of coffee and knowing the world is spinning up.  It's not hurried yet.  It's not stressful yet.  The day is new and there are no expectations.  By the time I go into the office, I've lived a whole day.  Work's just a piece of the larger picture, not the overwhelming task.

7/18/11

Six Months Later

I went to work yesterday like normal.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  It's been dreadfully hot in the heartland and I've had a real focus on getting from air-conditioned-place to air-conditioned-place as quickly as possible.  I got to work, booted up my computer, and looked over at a picture on my desk.  Since Christmas, I've had a picture of my family right next to my desk phone.  It's probably my favorite picture of the four of us together.  For no real reason that I was aware of, the picture of my father made me tear up and I had to quickly busy myself with work stuff.  I told a friend of mine about it and she asked if any important dates were coming up.  After thinking for a minute, I realized that today, July 18th, marks six months since The Call.

As I've mentioned before, it simultaneously feels like it's been years and like this all happened yesterday.  I've also noticed that Dad's voice in my head is now at a lower volume than it used to be.  I know the day will come eventually when I will have to struggle to truly hear him.  It breaks my heart, but that's life.  About a week ago, I took his picture down from the shelf and cried while holding it.  I thought that only happened in the movies.  Guess not.  Aside from that moment, it's been a good month since I've had any kind of emotional breakdown over this.  I've been more focused on finalizing my divorce.

Dad's contact is still in my phone.  Every time I scroll by it, I think about removing it...and decide not to.  It's not like I need the space in my phone.  And there's a tiny bit of comfort having it in there; I remember when I could call him and it reminds me to still talk to him.  I just don't have to press 'Talk' anymore.  I still think about him all the time.  It's almost annoying.  I relive the same memories over and over again.  I remember how sad he was the last few years of his life.  I don't feel regret.  Just sadness.

I finally ordered a custom plate for Dad's Mustang.  I've wanted to for as long as I've had it.  I thought about a lot of things, and finally settled on something that meant a lot to both of us.  Dad's favorite actor was John Wayne.  When I was little, I'd watch movies with him all the time...but I couldn't pronounce John Wayne.  The closest I got was 'jah vee, daddy!'  So that's what I got.  Jah Vee.  People will ask and it will give me the opportunity to share.

Miss you Dad.  I know it'll be okay.  I just wish it was already.

6/25/11

Measuring Time

I have an odd work schedule.  I'm off on Thursdays and Fridays and work from 2:00 PM to 11:00 PM on the other days of the week.  I measure my weeks on this schedule; the weeks start on Saturday and end on Friday.  It's interesting to look at that very conventional system and see how easy it is to adapt to whatever I need; I lay out my week differently than just about everyone else I know but it's what I gotta do.

I take that information and look at my past eight months.  I've lost three important people in my life and the impact has been tremendous.  I see Indi dropping me off at the airport to go to BlizzCon last October and see a very different person getting on that flight.  I look forward and see myself helping Indi move out.  Then I see myself watching old home movies on VHS with Dad the night before Grandma's funeral.  Then I hear my uncle's voice and see myself embracing my mother after I learned that Dad was gone.  It's been over five months since that day and time has been measured differently.

There are days that it feels like I'm on vacation from myself.  It doesn't feel like a short period of time anymore, but there's still a lingering feeling that everything will return to normal someday.  Objectively, I know this isn't true.  Other days I feel like I've been on my own forever and I don't remember what it was like to curl up at night and be happily in the arms of another, though that honestly isn't that long ago.  To fully appreciate the strangeness of time, all I really have to do is look at my work and realize that this time last year I was just completing my training for an entry level position and now I'm responsible for a team and well known throughout the center.

My point with all of this is that we all feel time differently.  This isn't just a you vs. me observation, but a me vs. me observation too.  I feel time differently, sometimes moment by moment.  It's honestly like I'm time traveling within myself.  I'm broken.  I'm fixed.  I'm ready to move on.  I'm not.  I think of Dad and laugh.  I think of Dad and cry.  I pick up my phone to text something funny to Indi.  I remember that it's not the same.  I've been here forever.  I only just got here.

There's progress in that realization.  I do remember a few months ago when I felt broken ALL of the time.  That's not the case anymore.  There is a method to this madness...at least, there'd better be.

5/28/11

Confusion

Historically, I do not have pleasant dreams.  Before I met Indi, I often didn’t remember them; maybe one or two a month.  They were always a jumbled mess or a nightmare.  When we started sharing the same bed, I started remembering my dreams nightly.  Still a mixture of confused/bad dreams, but I remembered them regularly.  After we split, I expected to go back to my rare remembrance state of being.  So far, that hasn’t happened.
In addition to recalling my dreams every morning, they are getting progressively more wrenching.  After Dad passed, I had a series of dreams about him that caused me to awake and re-experience the pain of loss.  Lately I’ve been dreaming a lot about Indi and waking up still thinking she would be lying next to me.  It’s frustrating and confusing.  I miss her a lot, obviously…but it’s been six months.  Why do I feel like I’ve regressed to a state where if she called today and asked to move back in, I’d say yes?  Is it meant to be?  Am I just lonely?  
Stupid brain.  I feel like I’m never destined to be happy again.

5/8/11

Mother's Day

Some of you have the pleasure of knowing my mother.  She comes out to Baron von Swagger shows and hangs out at my place sometimes.  She's a cool lady and has been as long as I've been around.  She's been doing this job for thirty years; twenty-six of those years have been double time.  I was a pretty good kid, but I wasn't perfect.  She has the patience of a saint.  Those of you who know my brother know she must!

Mom was always the one helping me with my homework, or walking the aisles of Hobby Lobby while we planned the next school project.  She was the one that encouraged me to read.  Whenever I awoke from a bad dream, she comforted me.  She let me know she was religious while leaving me open to make my own choices.  She taught me how to drive, knowing my father's temper wasn't the best learning tool.  She held me when I cried from the agony of my first heartbreak.  She believed in me and told me I could be anybody I wanted to be.

When Dad passed away, they had been divorced for over six years.  Yet she was there for me and my brother immediately and entirely.  In the dark silence of my uncle's house, I knelt next to the couch where she slept and woke her. Once again, she held me as I experienced sorrow the depths of which I'd never experienced.  She gave me words of comfort and as much reassurance that any mortal could.  She held my hand and smiled.

In good times and bad, Mom has always been just a phone call away.  I know I can reach out to her at any time and she will be there gladly.  When I talk to her, I hear the joy in her voice.  I know she is proud of me.  I don't have a little picture frame that says, 'WORLDS BEST MOM'.  I don't need to advertise.  The smile on my face says everything.  Anyone that knows her knows that's true.  I love her dearly and wish her the happiest of Mother's Days.

4/18/11

To my Father

Hey Dad!

Been thinking about you a lot today, so I figured I'd write to you and let you know how my day is going.  I had to get up early (for me, anyway) and drive to Pawhuska today.  I was nervous, because I had to appear before a judge and possibly testify.  I remember you telling me about testifying when you had that car accident back in the mid-nineties.  Didn't you get t-boned by a Jenks driving instructor?  I remember it being ridiculous on some level.  Anyway, this wasn't for any kind of accident; it was to settle your estate.  Still, it was a courtroom and I'd never been in one before.

I accidentally turned my alarm off this morning, but ended up being okay; I woke up three minutes after my 'final snooze' deadline all on my own.  Thanks for that.  I had set out a nice shirt, one of your ties, and a jacket to wear.  I understand you're supposed to dress up for court.  I grabbed your tie bar, too; the one with the embossed 'M' on it.  I felt it would be a subtle yet sharp way to let the world know I am your son.  I left the house a little before 8:30 and hit the road.

They've opened the Quicktrip at Highway 75 and Highway 20.  I know how often you made this drive, and know that you would've appreciated having it out here.  I stopped and got coffee.  When I arrived in Pawhuska, I noted the new Mcdonald's was open, too.  You had always complained about the lack of food options in P-town, and I'm sorry you weren't there to take advantage of it.  No matter; I wasn't hungry.  Before long I found myself sitting with my lawyer, going over last minute details and possible questions the judge may ask me.  I remember remarking fondly about the fact that he used a lot of Big Chief tablets to take notes, however it now wore on me, as he wasn't well organized.  I helped him with some math to take care of our final creditors and we went to the courthouse on time.

At the Osage County Courthouse, if you didn't know, the Probate Court time takes place right after domestic dispute cases, stuff like restraining orders.  I sat in the courtroom and listened to a few cases before it was my turn and tried to avoid eye contact.  I felt like I'd tapped into personal phone conversations, and emotions were high.  Before I knew it, it was time for our case.  My palms were sweaty but I walked tall to the front and sat in front of the judge.  He and my lawyer (a former judge himself) had a friendly banter regarding the required information, the judge asked me if everything was in order, and signed off.  Way easier than I expected, and I was relieved.

As I walked out of the court house, the sun came out for a little bit.  Thanks for that, too.  It's been a rough 24 hours as I prepared to lay this last task to rest before moving on in earnest.  I still hear your laugh and still look at my phone, hoping you will call me, though I know that time is now long past.  It's been three months since my world changed, but I'm managing okay.  I have a lot of friends and family that have helped me.  I also have you to talk to, anytime, and for that I am thankful.

Miss you, Dad.  Love you.  I've enclosed a picture of myself and the Mustang; I want you to know I'm taking extra special care of it for you.

4/17/11

Eve

Tomorrow morning, I drive to Pawhuska and appear before a judge.  Dad's estate gets finalized, and the legal side of my father's passing will be completed.  All his bills will be paid, and I will be free to move on from the paperwork, signatures, haggling with creditors, and stresses of fairly splitting what's left between me and my brother.

I got the oil changed in the Mustang last week.  One of the guys at Jiffy Lube asked some questions about the car's history and I mentioned that I wasn't sure, as it belonged to my father and he passed in January.  The guy said, "Oh, that just happened.  I'm sorry to hear that."

What do you mean, it just happened?  Tomorrow marks three months since Dad was found.  It feels like an eternity.  It's like he's been gone for years.  It's something I feel like I've always lived with.  Some mornings I wake up and just sit, not thinking about anything specific except how little I want to interact with the outside world.  I want to run away to some exotic place where I can focus on new experiences and get to know new people so I don't have to dwell on the old familiar aches.

I'm a very empathetic person.  I consider it one of my greatest traits.  In the last three months, I've felt that reservoir deplete and there are times when I don't feel anything for others.  It's not a callous thing; it's like going to take a drink from a glass that is empty.  I don't break down very much any more, but I feel so emotionally lethargic.  I'm dating an awesome girl, and we have great times together, yet there are times I just shut off.  I'm happy when Mom or my brother calls me, but I don't always want to see them, though my heart aches for their company more now that I've been touched by absence.  As I've mentioned before, I feel like I live in a world of contradiction.

At least tomorrow will bring some closure.  I can stop pouring energy into that aspect of the long goodbye and maybe save some of it up again.  Dad's birthday is on May 3rd, Lord knows I'm going to need it then.

4/3/11

Thirty Years

April 7th, 1981.  The Soviet Union was the big scare in the newspapers.  Ronald Reagan was still in the hospital from his assassination attempt. "Rapture" by Blondie was #1 on the radio.  The Tulsa World spoke about a new downtown renovation project for the Brady district.


At 11:45 AM, I was born.  I was only 2 lbs 10 oz and 16 inches long.  Before I entered the world, the doctor told my folks not to even name me due to how early I was, seeing as how I wasn't supposed to be here until early June.  A few hours after I had entered the world at St. Francis Hospital, Dad excused himself from the room and came back a few minutes later, telling Mom that I would be okay; he had a talk with God and had straightened everything out.

I was definitely okay.  When I was six, we moved from Claremore to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma to follow Dad's promotion at work.  I celebrated my seventh birthday at McDonald's among new friends, though my mother tells me I was concerned that they would sing Happy Birthday to me.  For as long as I can remember, I've had this deep dislike for the traditional 'Happy Birthday' song and avoided it at all costs, including skipping a few friend's parties.

When I was ten, we were in Springfield, MO at a Food Show.  In the grocery industry, distributors used to have big annual conventions where companies could showcase their newest products and deals could be negotiated in person between grocery operators and suppliers.  1991 lined up with my birthday and we went out to Hemingway's Restaurant at the Bass Pro Shop.  They sang Happy Birthday to me and I was mortified.  I made my parents promise to never do that to me again, though Dad greatly enjoyed teasing me about it every year thereafter.

When I turned sixteen, Dad sold me my first car, his 1988 Merkur Scorpio, for $1.  I absolutely loved that car and drove it until it became too expensive to fix.  There are dozens places along Highway 75 between Tulsa and Topeka, KS that hold memories of me pulling over for various reasons.  When I finally sold it in 2003, I wept.

Most of my birthdays at home were celebrated with going out to dinner (to a place of my choosing, seems like it was always Goldie's) and a movie.  One year we went to Disney World in Orlando.  Once I left home and lived on my own, I kept up that tradition for the most part, now accompanied by a phone call from my brother and parents, and a card from my grandparents.  When I turned 23, Indi organized a surprise birthday party at Hideway Pizza on Cherry Street with my family and friends.  My 28th birthday coincided with our Farewell Party at the VFW on Peoria, as we would shortly be setting out to travel the world.

Looking back, I've had a really good run so far.  I wouldn't change a thing about myself.  I love my family and my friends very much, and everyone has had a hand in shaping me into the man I am now.  I try not to think about the fact that I'm only going to hear from Mom this year, but as I get closer it gets harder.  It's been a long while since I've had 'family celebrations' for my birthday but there's usually still been dinner involved.  Last year, Dad bought mine even though he couldn't afford it and it went straight on his credit card.  I never in a million years thought it would be our last one together.  That's the way it works, though.

I don't work on Thursday, and I think celebrating with dinner and a movie (even if the movie is at my house) is in order.  I have a party planned this coming Saturday, too.  I'm really looking forward to that.

3/31/11

Debt

Tomorrow is April.  It's my 30th birthday month.  I'm not overly concerned with thirty years; just another year, really.  I am happy at my job.  I love my family.  I have many wonderful friends.  I love the house I live in.  So much has gone my way in the last year, though as anyone is aware I've had a lot to struggle with as well.  It's occurred to me several times that I won't be getting a certain phone call this year.

Today I woke up to a call from the lawyer.  Evidently a collections agency has been blowing up his office with calls to settle Dad's biggest debt.  I took the reigns and called them to get things taken care of.  The last year of Dad's life was spent living on one of his credit cards, as he didn't have much income coming in.  The lady on the other end of the phone expressed her cardboard condolences and we set to haggling.  I was able to talk her down a quarter of the debt owed and took it.  After all, it was all true debt.  Dad paid for our last meal together on that card.  I gave the lady the appropriate information and washed my hands of it.

My second task today was to head to the IRS office over off of Highway 169 to get the particulars on the taxes Dad owed for 2009.  I'd never been there before, and I was surprised at how high security the office was.  Guard kiosks, metal detectors, the whole nine yards.  The whole process there was much easier than I expected, as I walked out with the information I needed in about twenty minutes.  Once again, a stranger offered their half-hearted condolences as I wrapped up.  They didn't know my father.  The don't know me.  I remember being irked that a coworker of Dad's was so callous when I was returning some of his work supplies, days after his passing.  Now it seems I've turned a corner, and strangers offering condolences just make me sigh.

Every day brings the final date of closure a bit closer.  I have held onto the administration duties as a duty to my father's memory and have carried out what needs to be done with respect and patience.  Once it's over, I don't know what's going to happen.  Maybe I'll be just fine.  Maybe I'll try to find something to fill that void of responsibility.  I'll be relieved that it's over.  I'll also wish I had something else I could do for Dad.

When my brother and I get together, he's all we talk about.  The good memories, the stories we've heard a hundred times.  There is plenty of laughter.  I still have other people that ask how I'm doing once in awhile.  I'm doing well most of the time, and certainly I'm doing well at work.  It's not the place for such things.  It's still in the emptiness of home when I am abducted by sorrow.  I miss him so much.  And it sucks that new people in my life will never get a chance to meet him.