Today was the last 'big' step in the aftermath of my father's untimely demise.  It was moving day.

Thanks to my night schedule at work, early mornings are once again a struggle for my brain to acknowledge.  And, yes, 7 am is early.  Thankfully, I got up with enough time to fix myself a cup of coffee and check the web.  Last time Dad was down to visit, I made him a cup of coffee.  I use Taster's Choice, as it's much easier for Single Me to fix one cup instead of brewing a whole pot.  He remarked on how good a cup of coffee it was, which was unsurprising.  I am sure to a father that any cup of coffee fixed by his son is good.  However, one of the first things I saw when visiting his apartment last week was a new canister of Taster's Choice, used a handful of times.  It still makes me tear up a bit.  I'm glad he enjoyed it so much.  Anyway, that's not what I sat down to write.  Tangents.

I set out at about 7:30 to get to the U-Haul place and got it sorted without issue.  I took the truck and waited at the Rendezvous Point (always wanted to say that) for my helpers.  Mom, Tyler, and two of my good friends arrived shortly and we set out for Pawhuska.  The drive from Tulsa to Pawhuska is a mostly unremarkable country highway that passes through a few small towns.  For me, though, that drive represents Christmas at Grandma's.  It represents the Martin Family 4th of July parties.  I remember passing my first car.  I grin and speed up a bit too fast to zoom through the S-Curve just outside of Skiatook.  It is filled with positive memories. Today, those memories surfaced like they always do, but underlined the fact that the drive would never be the same again.

The move itself went rather smoothly.  We had plenty of help and it felt like old times.  I've moved this furniture several times over the past few years.  Everything was fine and good until we were finished.  The others left first, I did a final round to make sure things were set before I dropped the keys off.  I stood there in the empty living room of my Dad's last home and suddenly wept.  Seeing the bare walls and empty rooms underlined the last week and a half.

"Rhys, I'm sorry.  Your father has passed away."

I can still hear my uncle's voice.  I wonder if it will ever go away.  It's not his fault, of course.  In fact, it was a minor miracle that he got in touch with me.  But it is what it is.  I'm fortunate, you might say, in that Dad was a separate world for me.  He lived out of town.  We didn't have any set routines or schedules.  I saw him when I saw him.  I can live my daily life, for the most part, and it's nearly identical to the time before.  I can move the grief to the side for a little bit and come back to it later.  It usually hits hard when it does, though.  Perhaps I need to find a better balance.  Perhaps it's just going to take time.



Thank you all so very much for coming.  As I’ve talked to some of you this past week, I’ve come to realize that everyone thought as highly of my father as I did. 

I love my Dad very much, and I know he loved me.  I was proud of the things he did in his life, just as I know he was proud of the man I had become.  Many people do not get that luxury.  I have countless moments in my life I can visit to remember the greatest man I’ve ever known.  A Tarzan yell from the living room.  I steady hand on the seat as I learned to ride my bicycle.  The sound of his voice on the micro-cassette recorder as he sat at the kitchen table on the weekends, comparing the prices on the price sheet in front of him to the ones he had spoken to himself while walking the competitor’s stores.  The gleam in his eye when he made a joke, often followed by a self-acknowledging, “Oh” and a sly grin.  The sense of comfort of knowing if I called him, he would answer or call right back.  Every time.

Tony taught me everything I know about being a good, honest man.  He taught me loyalty.  He taught me to respect people.  He told me that a man never breaks his word, and that a handshake is more than a formality.  He taught me generosity and strength.  He taught me the value of a hard day’s work.  He taught me how to laugh, even if the joke was on me.  He pointed to John Wayne on the television and showed me the importance of heroes.  Dad was my hero; I still want to be him when I grow up.

I want to share a particular experience with you.  When I was in Cub Scouts, we took part in the annual Father Son Cake Bake.  Neither of us was particularly skilled at baking, and we had to come up with something we could bake to fit the theme, which was, ‘New Frontiers’ this particular year.  I was getting frustrated, and Dad finally said, “I have an idea.”  We baked two round chocolate cakes, one a bit smaller than the other.  We made a chocolate icing with copious amounts of green food coloring and various nuts.  We assembled the cake in a lopsided fashion and Dad took a ceramic cowboy boot and made an imprint.  We titled it, ‘Watch your Step’ and took it to the competition.  All of the judges would stop, look at it a moment, and laugh.  However, there were other cakes that had taken HOURS.  Space Shuttles, forts, underwater scenes…so they couldn’t give our little cow pattie one of the top awards; however, they made a ‘Nice Try’ award for us that year to show us how much they loved the idea.  That was my Dad.

My final memories of my father take place just before Christmas.  He came to Tulsa, we had lunch, and went to see the remake of ‘True Grit’.  As we were leaving the movie, I asked him, “So, what did you think?”  He looked at me and said, “It was okay…” Then he got that sly smile on his face and finished, “…but it wasn’t The Duke.”  I know how he felt, because there will also never be another Tony Martin.

Thank You.


Can't sleep.

In about nine hours, I drive out of town and to the town where my father was raised.  He helped at his father's grocery store.  He graduated high school.  He raced cars at the Pawhuska Municipal Airport.  He moved back to care for his ailing mother.  Tomorrow, he completes his journey and we all say farewell.

My apartment is in more disarray than usual.  I'm typically very tidy; not quite a neat freak, but the last week has seen me really slack off on picking up clothes, making my bed, generally straightening up.  I haven't felt up to it.  I've talked to people, told them I'm okay.  I am, really, considering.  What I said the other day is also true.  This is going to be a good year and I have several positive goals in front of me.  But right now I only have one goal.  

Bury my father.

I always thought the scenes in movies where people saw lost loved ones were hokey.  I have visualized my Dad countless times this past week.  In fact, there are several things that have replayed in my mind time and time again this past week.  One of the visuals I have most often is him leaving my apartment.  We would hug, and he would walk uncertainly towards the front yard and his car.  He never wanted to go.  I hear the voice of my uncle on the telephone, regretfully telling me that my father passed away.  The embrace of my mother as she chokes out the words, 'I'm so sorry' as I told her Dad was gone.  The tortured anguish that erupted out of my brother as he crumpled to the floor.  It's all too much.

I feel like I am made entirely out of sadness.  But, as I said before...things will be okay again.  They just aren't right now.

My 2011 Starts Friday

2010 was a hell of a year.  In February, I returned home from my travels abroad as a better refined and defined version of myself.  I spent the next few months reconnecting with family, friends, and adjusting to being home again.  In May, my marriage took a big hit and it seemed to be finished.  I started a new career.  My brother in law attempted suicide in my home.  June brought me to the realization that I could no longer afford the house I purchased five years ago and entered into the short sale process, which brought me to my apartment near Cherry Street.  My marriage got a surprise second chance.

In August, I took a road trip to Atlanta with my best friends to experience the awe that is Dragon*Con.  October saw a solo adventure to California for BlizzCon.  In November, my marriage fell apart.  I got promoted at work.  December saw my grandmother succumb to lymphoma.  Last week, my father passed away with no warning.

In two days, I will attend my father’s funeral service.  I will quite literally bury a huge part of my life and prepare to embark on life with a new set of rules.  2010 had many ups and downs, and although my Dad was still around when I celebrated the New Year, I’m making an executive decision to put this event under the 2010 umbrella.  It’s up to me to carry on and continue making BOTH of my parents proud.  This is the year I become debt free.  This is the year I see more of America.  This is the year I come into my own in the workplace and make a difference.  This is the year I take all that I learned of myself on foreign soil and continue to be a force for good for my family and my friends.

Thank you all for sticking with me.  It’ll all be okay.



Went back to work today.  It was mostly good to get my mind on something else for a little bit.  I had several people come up to me throughout the day and offer their support.  It means the world to me.  I just wish I knew what I needed.

I felt like a ghost, haunting my old life.  I was in familiar places doing familiar things.  I was interacting with people in the same way I did before (for the most part).  I, however, was in an entirely different place mentally.  I have a photo on my desk of the four of us at Grandma's service.  I'd look over, feel the familiar warmth of love and family, but then remember one is gone.  It's like starting a car, it almost turns over, then doesn't.  Oh.  Right.  That thing happened.  Last week.  Was it that long ago?  Didn't I just get that call a few minutes ago?  My world seems to be fighting against itself.

I was told by a dear friend that life will never be normal again.  In time, I'll just have a new definition of normal.  I don't know how long it'll be before this bubble that separates me from the rest of my life will go away.  I hope it's soon.  I smile and laugh in the normal way.  I make jokes, chat about trivial things, do my job.  But the in-between times...I'm not a depressed, useless husk...but I don't idle nearly as well as I used to.  I just sigh and think, almost nonchalantly, 'Gee, I sure miss my Dad.'  I'm hoping I'll at least stabilize somewhat after the funeral on Thursday.

Grandma Gail had this habit when she was on the phone.  While we were talking, she'd put in this filler phrase.  Sometimes it'd be appropriate, sometimes not.  "Well...I don't know..."  in kind of a 'what can you do?' type of usage.  I noticed that Dad had started using that same phrase throughout our conversations.  Not nearly as much, but it was still there.  Same tone, same inflection, same filler placement.

Well...I don't know either.



I awoke at the crack of 8 AM today to drive out to the Reasor's Foods store just north of Owasso.  I'm not used to getting up early anymore, and it took some doing.  Factor in that my apartment was roughly 57 degrees and you have an unhappy camper.

The day I found out about my Dad's passing, I contacted his employer and let them know.  His boss in Kansas City was very sorry, enjoyed working with my father, and asked if there was anything he could do.  Like most people, no, there wasn't, but I appreciated the offer.  He told me that Dad had a few things in his possession that would need to be gathered.  No problems, that is to be expected.  Dad's last job was traveling around the Tulsa area for Acosta, Inc. building displays and checking product layouts for certain General Merchandise products in area grocery stores.  He had a small AT&T HTC phone used as a mobile computer, part of a Colgate display, and a red binder of corporate information.

I got a call from a lady on Thursday.  She was in charge of actually getting the items that were in Dad's possession.  She asked when she could get them.  When I told her I'd be in Pawhuska until the weekend, she was audibly disappointed.  She begrudgingly asked if I could meet her at the north Reasor's at 9 AM on Monday.  When I went up there this morning, I met her in the HBC section.  She was pleased to get the items back, and said, "Where are the services?  They're going to ask me so I better write it down."  I gave  her the day, time, church.  She said, "Well, okay, that should do it.  It was a shock to hear about Tony.  Have a good day."  And walked off.

I just wanted to punch her.  I understand that she didn't really know my father.  Honestly, sympathies from a stranger are the least of my concerns at this point in my life.  I went back out to the car and cried.  It's tough being in any kind of grocery store because they remind me so much of him.  They were his life.  To be dealt with so curtly by one of his coworkers was a stunner, for sure.  But it showed me that the rest of the world keeps rotating.  My father is gone.  Life moves forward.  I'm caught in a whirlwind, but everyone else continues BAU.  That's okay.  That's how it is designed.  Today I go back to work and try to apply that same concept to my work day and hope I don't break down too much.



My life this past week has been a strange mix of tremendous sadness, fond reflection, and detached organization.  This post is a bit scatterbrained, but so am I.

As I mentioned before, I've been working at getting things straightened out for the services and getting the legal part of his estate settled.  We settled on having his funeral next Thursday at 4:00 PM in his hometown of Pawhuska.  I spent some time with a lawyer there in town, establishing myself as the overseer of his estate and amassing all of his debts to ensure nothing gets missed.  Mom, Tyler, and I spent Wed-Fri going through Dad's place; sorting, tossing, and saving things as needed.  When I returned home, I wrote my speech for Dad's service.  Practiced it.  Went through our picture box and extracted every photo that featured my father.  Today, the three of us went through them, selected the ones we wanted for the presentation, and I assembled it onto a DVD.

Going through his place and his photos weren't as hard as I expected.  It allowed me to access memories and past times, placing myself there instead of here.  I've talked to many people that I hadn't talked to in years, most expressing condolences and shock.  A lot of interactions are awkward.  What do you say to a son that just lost his father?  How do I go on and pretend my entire life hasn't just changed?  I hate being the guy that just talks about his sadness and breaks down at random times.  I understand it's necessary, but I don't like it.

I created a Facebook account for my father.  It will allow me to post to his wall when I think about him & visit pictures of him any time I want to.  Right now I'm very day-to-day as it is.  I tell myself, "Dad's busy, I don't get to talk to him today." or "I'm just borrowing his car.  He'll need it back soon."  I look over at his cowboy hat, and although it's my size, I know it will always be too big for me.  

I can't go ten minutes with "The Living Years" or "Cats in the Cradle" trying to pry into my brain and turn on the waterworks.  Sometimes I scream.  I have all of these emotions going through me and am learning how to deal with them on the fly.  But not once have I felt angry.  I have not felt that life is unfair, regardless of how events have turned out.  I am very thankful for the time I spent with my father, and know that my grief takes the place of his peace.  

The last time my Dad called me was on January 5th at 4:13 PM.  We talked for six and a half minutes as I helped him get to my workplace to drop off a copy of the truck's insurance verification, which had been stolen a few days prior.  I was so angry the truck got broken into.  But, now, those vandals are the source of the last time I saw him.  We talked for maybe two minutes as he dropped that off and a framed picture for mother.  He complained about driving at night.  We hugged and he left.  

I've learned a few things about Tony Martin in the last few days.  He loved Altoids.  He spent his nights at home watching old home movies.  He liked James Taylor.  He kept photos of his kids in drawers and on shelves where only he could see them.  He loved working in grocery stores; not just for them but actually IN the store, interacting with people.  He meant a lot to a lot of people.



I woke up this morning hoping the last twenty hours weren't true. I hoped that I'd be able to turn over, grab my cell phone, and call my Dad. I could hear his, "Yellow?" as he answered his phone. I'd sit and listen about his day, hear the same two or three stories I heard last time I talked to him, and tell him how my life was going. I'd laugh at his bad jokes and mentally file them away to use them later.

Instead, I now live in a world where my father is no longer here. I've held my mother as she cried and been there for my brother has he crumpled to the floor in a mixture of anger and bottomless sorrow. I've talked to family friends that I haven't talked to in years for the sole purpose of passing on tragedy. I've stood in my Dad's apartment, listening to the emptiness and expecting to see him around every corner. I hear him sneeze. I hear him laugh. It's just not real.

Today I get to finalize details for the services, which will take place sometime next week. Due to circumstances and Dad's general feelings ("Do whatever you like, I won't be there.") he will spend his eternal rest inside an urn. He had no signatories or a will, so my next steps are getting the ball rolling on the legal front and figuring out how to deal with his cluttered apartment, which needs to be cleared in a matter of days.

This sucks. I loved my father very much. I know he loved me. The last time we got together it was two days before Christmas. We got a hamburger and saw True Grit. It is a fine final memory and I just hold on to that when I break down. Thank you all for the sympathy, thoughts, and prayers. I have been reading and re-reading them to help keep my head above water. I am truly blessed.