Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Luck and Hard Work

I'm in a fiery mood today.  It's one of those attitudes that had served me well through the years, and ensured that I continue to move forward, always, in life.  I never really know what sparks it.  It could be general testosterone, or the nice weather, or even the thought of seeing Sarah next week.  Regardless, it's a feeling that I generally welcome.  It's not anger or's determination, acceptance, and drive.

When I am in this state, I can tend to get preachy, egotistical, and frankly, raw.  In this sense, perhaps there exists a chance that I can spark this same feeling in someone else, and help them move forward, even if only for a day.   I don't feel like "relating" today.  I feel like simply stating, in detail, what's on my mind, and allowing others to interpret it as they see fit.  

Megan is dead.  I've accepted that she is not coming back, and for the rest of my life, I will never hear her voice or see her face.  I'm not going to mope about it.  I don't feel sorry for myself, and I don't want anybody else feeling sorry for me.  Life is tough.  Work hard, and you might get the chance to make it a little easier, but ultimately, you, and everyone you know is going to die someday.  

That quote is only slightly off.  I don't see looking back at Megan as "wasting time".  I am simply choosing to remember the good things we had, and not wasting my time looking back at the bad things like hospital stays.

It will not consume me.  What is the purpose in that?  It doesn't mean I loved Megan any less, and the first person to insinuate that will probably end up having a bad day.  I loved that woman with a fire that could never be extinguished.  It still burns; it's just that I'm the only one left to provide the fuel.  I don't just love someone because it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.  I can, and do love both Megan and Sarah.  Sarah gets it, and there's not so much as a batted eye if I express to her that I really miss Megan.  

So you know what I'm going to do, now that Megan is dead? 

I'm going to continue to make Megan proud that she married me.  That is truly the way to honor and remember someone you love.  You think she wants to see me curled up on the floor, or moping around, bitching about how tough life is without her?  No.  That is not who she married.  She married a man that took care of her and loved her unconditionally for 12 years.  A Marine, and a man that loved her and our daughter to the ends of the earth.  One that was constantly working to improve himself  to earn even more of her love, because even though I already had it, I would never rest on my laurels and be content with what I had.  I AM going to love Sarah; not only in the way she deserves, but also in the way Megan deserved and received.  In that sense, I have even more love to give.  

Just the same, just about every single person reading these words right now needs to have a similar attitude.  The person you lost does not want to see you suffering.  They want to see you determined to enjoy life, and to be a better person than you were even with them.  If someone can give me a valid reason to just resolve to be alone for the rest of their lives (after accepting their loss, of course), I'm all ears.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Silver Linings Playbook

I’ve noted a shift in my overall attitude since Megan’s death.  I was somewhat of a pessimist in years past; always finding the bad news in any nugget of information that may have come my way.  Perhaps it was the shock of losing my wife that finally changed my outlook in everyday life.  I now take events or news with a different eye, one where I step back, and try to find the silver lining in anything.  It has made me a happier person overall, and it serves to suppress the stress of living in a way I had never thought possible.  While at first, this philosophy was a conscious effort, I’ve found that it has become habit, to where I no longer need to force myself to find a silver lining.

For instance...

In my garage, there are three cars, one of which is my Mustang.  I’ve had it for 15 years now, since I was 19 years old.  I had it before I had even met Megan, and she would watch me spend countless hours, in the dead of winter, pulling parts off and replacing them.  We went to car shows, parades, and made untold amounts of new friends doing so.  We drove it on our honeymoon.  It irks me every day to walk past it, and know that it isn’t running.  It needs a new fuel pump, and probably some other items replaced.  It has sat, motionless, for two years now, and after having so many memories with it, I just don’t have the motivation to crawl under it and replace the broken fuel pump.  

But at least it’s paid for and in good shape.  It doesn't cost me anything to sit there, and for a few hundred dollars, I could, in a pinch, have it running again.  I own a car, a pretty nice one at that, and one that has actual sentimental value.  Not everyone can say that.

My job?  Well, that’s what it is...a job.  I go in every day, sit at my desk, and wait for vague phone calls to come in about printers being out of paper or computers that won’t turn on.  My coworkers aren’t very sociable, and many of them are just generally unhappy.  It’s mindless work, that I’ve done for years.  There isn’t any real creativity or critical thought that goes into it any longer.

But it pays well, and it’s very stable.  I don't have to worry about losing my job or paying the bills.  There generally aren't any surprises.  I'm good at my work, and I generally feel appreciated.  Someday, I'm going to leave the IT field, and do something, and this job can function as the springboard to do just that.

Sarah and I live 1400 miles apart.  We have to live separate lives, that don’t always go as mutually planned.  There are events, family obligations, anxious moments, and good times that we don’t get to share any more than via Skype or text.  Even when we plan to spend time together, often a wrench is thrown in where one or both of us has another commitment that we need to be a part of at that time.  We’re both widows, and sometimes, we just need one another to be there, physically, in a bad moment, and it’s impossible to do so.

But at least we understand and love each other, and we know that we will close the distance and have a wonderful future together.  Shelby adores her, and we still get to see each other at least once a month.  She's healthy (which I am HUGELY thankful for), driven, and independent.  The distance only serves to reinforce those traits.

Shelby has lost her mother.  She is stuck with dear old dad here.  While I do my best to feed, clothe, entertain, and love her, there are just some braids that I don’t know how to do, and I’m not exactly experienced with the nail polish.  She has to go through the rest of her life without having her mother, the woman that doted so ferociously on her for 7 years of her youth.  Never again will she snuggle in bed on a cold winter night with Megan.

But at least she’s incredibly smart, happy, accepting, and well-adjusted, with no signs of any trauma in her past.  She's made the honor roll, and is considered gifted in both math and reading.  I haven't seen her cry in months.  She happily remembers the good times with Megan.  Vacations, events, weird things I did, and even making artwork for her while she was in the hospital.  

Megan is gone.  She doesn’t get to be here with us to see the Mustang run again, or me finally get out of the rat race and do something I love, or to be happy for Sarah and I, or to see Shelby become the powerful, fierce woman that we all know she will be.  There will never come a time when she walks through the door of our home and has the dogs greet her with tails flying like they used to.  No more memories of taking Shelby to the amusement park or having a nice date with me.

Her birthday is Friday, July 24th.  She never got to see this one, her 34th.  A few days later, we’ll be travelling to Myrtle Beach to spread her ashes.  She’ll never go back there either.  On August 6th, it would have been our 10th wedding anniversary.  A full decade.  Having that one extra digit on how long we had been married was so significant that we were going to renew our vows.  We didn’t make it.

But at least she isn’t sick.  At least she isn’t describing her daily respiration as “like breathing through a straw”.  At least the tattoo she had on her arm, the one that said “until my last breath” was honest.  No more stays in the hospital for weeks or months at a time, and no more waking up and literally coughing up bits of lung for 30 minutes.  She never has to worry about if her lungs are going to reject at any time.If I could have given those gifts to her for her birthday or anniversary, I would have.  In a sense, her death has actually lowered my stress over certain things. Because I am choosing to recognize the amount of stress we were under for over a decade together, and acknowledging that those particular stressors are no longer present.

At least she loved, and was loved, until the day she died, and beyond.  She has left one hell of a legacy.

If I didn't try to find the silver lining in any stress in my life, I would be a much more cynical and introverted person.  I would still be wallowing in sadness and loneliness, feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I've chosen to be thankful for what I do have, instead of worrying about what I don't.  While I identify as a widower in title, I will always strive to make that title a badge of honor in a weird way.  It's what Megan would have wanted most for this see her husband and daughter happy, healthy, and continuing on our journey, regardless of if she was here to witness it.

Happy birthday Megan.  I love you.  

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lack of Updates

I know it has been far too long, and far too infrequent that I've updated my ramblings on here.  Many, many things have happened, developed, and changed in the last few months.  It's prudent that I cover where my journey has taken me recently.

I am still writing for Widow's Voice every other Tuesday.  I've been cross posting that writing here, but even that is only sporadic.  If you follow those posts, you will note the significant reason that this blog hasn't been updated nearly enough.

To summarize, I met Sarah at Camp Widow back in February, and we formed an instantaneous connection.  We've talked every single day since then, and we've fallen in love.  She lives in Texas, 1400 miles away, but we've had the luxury of 3 different trips together so far, with more planned, roughly monthly right now.  Being that she's a widow as well, we get each other.  We know that Megan, and her Drew will always be loved and a huge part of our hearts, and there isn't any jealousy or weirdness when one of us simply misses our persons.  It has truly been wonderful, and we're looking forward to a wonderful future together. (Shelby also ADORES her, and will be meeting her for the first time in person in a few short weeks)

Outside of Sarah, I'm still on the hamster wheel here at work.  It's stable, and it's "quieted down" somewhat over the past few months, but ultimately, I still see this job as a springboard to bigger, better, more desirable things.  I'll stay here for as long as I need to, because it's a good job, but someday, I'll be leaving IT.

I'm sincerely going to work on updating here more often.  It could be weekly, maybe monthly, but it's something I need to focus on.  I have quite a few topics circling my head: Megan's birthday, Our anniversary, Sarah and Shelby's meeting, the next Camp Widow, etc.  All of that will happen before September's over.

So, in a nutshell, I'm apologizing to myself for the lack of writing. I'm making a commitment to write more, as even though I'm am in a happier place right now, journaling and writing in general is still therapeutic and fun.  I just need to force it sometimes and realize that not everything I write needs to come from a bad day or stress.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hey Bud


I am in a very unique situation, not only being a widower, but in love with a widow. The silver lining to this is that it allows me to see things from two perspectives. I’ve decided that since Sarah hasn’t yet traveled to my home, I would write this week from the perspective of dating a widow. Things like meeting in-laws, friends, and seeing pictures of late partners can be a scary thought for anyone.

Perhaps my loss has tempered those anxious moments, but regardless, I would hope that any person that is dating someone who has suffered loss can feel the same comfort and respect that I experienced a few weeks ago, as well as return that reverence to those around them.

I’ve written a letter to Drew, Sarah’s late fiance about this. He deserves to have a word from me from this side.

Hey bud,

A few weeks ago, I came down there to Texas to see Sarah. I know you (and Megan) have been keeping an eye on things over the past months. You guys have watched us get to know each other and fall in love. You’ve watched us have fun together in Kentucky, and Virginia, where I met your mom. Through endless phone, skype, and text conversations, late into the night, I can’t help but feel like you were there, maybe not guiding anything, but watching. I’m pretty sure you’re happy.

So at that time, it got a little more interesting I guess, for both Sarah and I, as well as yourself. I was on your home turf. I walked off of the plane in Austin, and your fiance was waiting there for me with a kiss and a smile.

I’m not going to say that it wasn’t thought provoking. We hopped in your truck, and drove the hour or so to the ranch. I’d seen the inside before, in pictures and though Skype, but there you were, staring me in the face from the wall when we walked through the door. This was it. I was now truly in your space.

Oddly, it wasn’t difficult, or awkward. I didn’t feel as if I was trespassing on your memory or not supposed to be there. Chalk some of that up to the similarities we shared in personality I guess. It felt like I was simply part of what has always been there. It was already getting late, so Sarah and I hit the rack that night, and I let my mind wander with thoughts of what the next morning would be like, waking up and having your family see me walking around the kitchen.

I’m happy to say your family welcomed me as warmly as Sarah has. Hell, your mom came out in the morning, when we were getting our coffee, and gave me a hug. Your sister shook my hand and smiled, and they went off into town for their day.

But I guess you saw all this already.

Then, and for the entire weekend, I had this indescribable feeling that I was not taking your place, but serving your purpose. I’m my own man. I know it, Sarah knows it, and your friends and family know it. I went to lunch with your mom and sister, and it felt as if I was simply visiting for the 100th time. We didn’t make concrete plans for anything, other than camping that weekend, and as it turns out, after a nice night of dinner, finally meeting your stepfather (who is such a great guy to talk to), and an impromptu date with Sarah, I drove your truck home.

I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t incredibly meaningful to me. I have a truck myself, and I know how much it means to have someone else drive it. Its this odd sentimentality about our vehicles that guys like us have. To be driving your truck was surreal. It felt natural, and out of place at the same time. I didn’t really comment on it to Sarah at the moment, but she knew anyway. I might as well have been wearing your clothes.

Then came the reason I was actually down there that particular week...Drewfest. I specifically was there to be a part of the celebration of you that occurs every year since that dumbass accident. I respect you, totally, and fully, without even knowing you. You had to have been a hell of a person to not only have Sarah’s love, but to have the love of the friends I was about to meet. I see the same thing with Megan. She was small in frame, but she had a hell of a presence to everyone that knew her. I can’t imagine what kind of influence you two have wherever you are now.

I can’t state more strongly that I again felt like I was there all along. We didn’t sit there and talk about you, or the fact that everyone was meeting me for the first time, after hearing about me for months. We had a fun, enjoyable weekend as a group of friends, and not once did anyone get emotional or did I feel like I was a “new” person, to be watched with a critical eye. We sat around a campfire, that I set up, and shot the shit for hours. We didn’t forget about you. In fact, we remembered you more fully as a person, and not someone who was obviously missing.

After another day of tubing and campfire talk, Sarah and I went back to the ranch. Did you see what happened next? I fired up the grill, and we cooked fajitas for your family. I hope I made you proud with my grilling skills, because the whole time I was just pondering how cool it would have been to have you and Megan sitting there on the patio with us, sipping a beer and talking about how good the chicken smelled.

That’s the thing. Through all of this, I wished you were there. Having you there in the flesh would only have enhanced the weekend. I can sense that we would have been fast friends, probably to the ultimate annoyance of Sarah and Megan, but then again, they would have been allied as well. All of us would have made a hell of a group. There are times when it feels like Megan and yourself would have made a good couple, and honestly, I hope that you two are indeed together, because I know she’s in good hands.

As Sarah wrote, I visited your grave the next day. Of course it was solemn, but it wasn’t just because I felt bad for Sarah. Somehow, I miss you too. Maybe not as intensely as I miss Megan, obviously, but I still wished that I didn’t have to not know you in the flesh. I was visiting the final resting place of a friend.

Someday, you and I are gonna sit down and talk about all of this over a good beer. Truthfully, I hope that someday is a long time from now for both Sarah and I’s sake. I’ll take care of things here, and love Sarah like she deserves to be loved, as long as you agree to watch over Megan and take her for some helicopter rides where she’s NOT going to the hospital...she’d love that.

Wherever Sarah and I end up, your picture will be hanging on our wall right beside Megan’s, and I’ll be proud to have it there.

Later man,


Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tailor Made

Today, as I sit down to write with tired eyes, I must admit that although I miss Megan as much now as before, it has shifted over these past few months from an intense grief at the thought of her death to more of a longing for her to be present to witness where life has taken me since that time.

I have just returned from an extended weekend in Kentucky with an amazing woman named Sarah, who also happens to be the same Sarah the writes here on Widow's Voice every Sunday.  We met at Camp Widow East in February, completely by chance and/or fate, depending on your beliefs.  Neither of us had any intention of finding someone new at that time, but here we are. Three months after meeting, Sarah and I are a couple.  Not a day has passed since February 5th that we have not talked, and this past weekend, we were finally able to close the 1400 miles of distance, and bring our lives into the same physical space for a few days.  It was wonderful.

 It's an odd thing, not only being a widower, but being with a widow.  Both Megan and Drew are eternally present in our lives and hearts, but now, after endless hours on the phone or Skype, I can almost feel Drew as a friend of mine.  It's as if I know him personally, and there are even moments where I mourn his loss.  There is no jealousy when Sarah speaks of him. In fact, I love that she gets that wide eyed, contented joy when describing an event or memory with him.  

Of course, there is always the thought that had Drew or Megan not died, neither of us would have met the other, but there is also the thought that had they not existed, it would have also prevented us from meeting.  The two of them made Sarah and I who we are.  I am thankful for Drew's love towards Sarah, and her love for him, because she would not be the same person without him.  I took Sarah to a restaurant on the Ohio river immediately after picking her up at the airport called "Drew's", simply because of the name.

Just as I feel a connection with Drew, I can feel the same connection between Sarah and Megan.  There is no competition between them.  They are not the same person, and although there is a multitude of similarities, there are just as many differences.  Megan would love her and her attitude (primarily because they both make fun of me).  That's how I knew that Sarah was not a "band-aid" or a "rebound".  I have not once looked at her and thought "well, Megan did it this way, and that means Sarah's way is wrong"

Although I am filled with happiness about Sarah, I am struggling to find a poignant, teachable moment.  I can't suggest that any widow or widower who is ready to date go out and find another widow, because not only are there good people outside of our "club" that could be just as compassionate and understanding, but there also remains the fact that I wasn't ready to date.  Fate happened.  She sat down at that table at Camp Widow, and we clicked.  I had no choice in the matter, and now we've fallen for each other.  

I guess that the smartest thing I did was keep my eyes, and my heart open.  Just as I knew that I wasn't ready to go looking for someone else, I also knew that I shouldn't prevent a good thing from happening.  

I hope that Sarah and I's relationship can give some hope to other widows and widowers, and inspire people to realize that although we may have lost the loves of our lives, that when they were lost, we were given a new life, and a chance to have a new love.  

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The First Mother's Day

Two days ago, I experienced my first Mother's Day without Megan.  Had you asked me back in January how I would have handled it, I would have expressed sheer terror at the prospect.  At that time, just two months since losing her, all I could imagine was that I would be an emotional train wreck, and would probably have just called my mother and mother-in-law to wish them a happy day, and stayed holed up in my house.

That isn't what occurred, however.  Yesterday was "OK", for lack of a better term.

Our tradition for the past few years had been for Shelby and I to wake up early, go downstairs, make a mess of the kitchen preparing bacon, eggs, pancakes, and coffee, and bring it to Megan in bed, along with a card and a small gift.  Shelby would turn some cartoons on and we'd sit and talk, all three of us, until Megan was ready to get out of bed.  It was a simple acknowledgment of how special she was, and that we would do anything for her.  We would clean up the kitchen and get our day started, where we would be visiting our parents and probably going out to dinner in the evening.

I woke up Sunday at that same early time that I always do, fully aware that it was Mother's Day, and painfully acknowledging the fact that for the first time in eight years, Megan wasn't there to cook breakfast for.  The dogs, having woke me up, were fed and let outside, and I went back to bed.  The bacon stayed in the freezer, and the coffee pot sat there cold.

Sunday was, well, just Sunday.

After a few hours, I roused and went downstairs to find Shelby watching some cartoons, and the dogs, as per usual, passed out on the couch beside her.  I asked if she was hungry, she responded with a yes, and asked if we could cook.  This suggestion seemed completely foreign to me for some reason.  I think that I may have forgotten in that moment that cooking breakfast wasn't just for special occasions, and I casually suggested we just go to McDonald's.  Even Shelby was somewhat miffed at this, as it is very rare that we eat McDonald's period, let alone on a Sunday morning.

We returned home, greasy, bagged food in hand, and sat out on the deck to have breakfast.  I began to think about what Mother's Day would or should be in the future.  I don't want random Egg McMuffins at 10:00 AM to be our new tradition.  This was one of those times where it would just be nice to shoot a text to Megan and say "What do you think we should do?"

I felt incredibly "single" at that moment.  This started as neither a depressing nor contented feeling.  It was just present, acting as a catalyst to my thoughts.  I'm a single parent.  Within the four walls of our home, Mother's day has lost it's happy connotations.  Now, it only sharpens the focus on Megan's death.  It serves as a reminder that Shelby will never make breakfast in bed for her own mother, ever again.  At just 8 years old, Shelby is celebrating Mother's Day by sitting on a deck and eating fast food with her dad.  This is not what I had in mind.

This brought me to thinking about the woman I am now dating.  Shelby adores her.  She has no children of her own, but I know she is an incredible mother nonetheless, and she understands (and sympathizes with) how confusing this journey is for not only me, but also for Shelby.  I am indescribably lucky to have someone that I can at least bounce things off of, and not have it seen as "baggage".  Undeniably, the thought crossed my mind that she may be celebrating Mother's day with us in the future.

As I sat and let all of these thoughts manifest, Shelby began playing with the dogs and laughing.  It was one of her deep belly laughs, the one you hear when you know she doesn't have a care in the world.  It was then that I knew that it will be Shelby that dictates how we celebrate her mother.  If it means cooking breakfast, and eating it ourselves, then so be it.  If it means eating fast food, then we'll do that.  She is old enough now that she can make her own judgments, and I will support her in whatever she wants to do, just as I did Megan.  Mother's day will now be Shelby's day.

I may make suggestions to her, but ultimately, I still have my mother to celebrate.  Only Shelby truly understands what it's like to have lost hers.  Perhaps in this case, she should be my guide.

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Their Own Chambers

I'm learning how to love a new person right now, and even though I love her deeply, she is not the person I spent 12 years of my life with.  There are different mannerisms, needs, and habits that I have to learn how to fit into.  This is not to say that it's a bad thing; just that it's a learning experience just like so much of life is.

I spent a lot of time recently, thinking about how different I am now than when I was 22.  I had all of the patience in the world then, because I felt I had my whole life ahead of me.  I'm now 34.  I have a stable, well-paying career.  I have an 8 year old daughter.  I'd been married, for almost a decade.  There are many times when I look at those facts, and think that my whole life has pretty much been fulfilled.

Marriage, or any relationship really, is not a rose garden or fairy tale.  I refuse to put Megan and I's relationship on a pedestal and not acknowledge that it took a lot of work sometimes.  We had "rough patches", just as any couple will do, and we worked it out and started over with fresh perspectives and goals.  We loved each other, and we were able to weather these storms.

There was a process to this.  Megan would pull back and become quiet. I would generally perceive an issue or stress of some sort, and do my best to analyze and resolve the dilemma, oftentimes having to pry it out of her.  Before she began the process of rejection, we had begun "dating" again as an agreed upon solution to a funk we had been in as a couple.   Things were going well.  We had talked everything over, and I was happy with the direction we were going.  While it certainly wasn't easy mentally, to have had the stress in the first place, it was nice to have a common goal and solution to work on.  Ultimately though, she died before we could hit an equilibrium where it wasn't just work, and it haunts me to have never fully resolved that phase.

So now, I am starting over with a completely new woman.  I knew Megan's process and mannerisms.  I knew how to "play her game" and work with her.  This is something I have to learn again though. I have to learn that when my new woman gets quiet or needs time to herself, that it's NOT because she is mad or has an issue with me or us.  That is the hardest thing for me to grasp right now, because it was Megan's "tell".  Something was ALWAYS wrong when she got quiet.  That's not the case with the new woman.  I love her deeply and truly, and I need to disassociate the love I had for Megan from the love I have for her.  This is not to say I should forget or love Megan less; that will never happen, but I need to see them as living in two different, albeit equally sized, chambers of my heart.

I guess what I'm taking away from all of this is that I need to sometimes reset my own perspectives.  While there may be similar mannerisms or behaviors, they can be, and likely are for very different reasons. The way I live my new life, while greatly influenced by Megan and the life I had with her, cannot be BASED solely on her.  It's not fair to myself, or my new love to compare what I had with what I have.

I am learning that I need to archive the chamber of my heart that Megan lives in.  I need to always use it as reference material, and sometimes take the lessons I learned with her and move them to the new chamber.  The key is to make sure that Megan is not the only author in the library moving forward.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Weeping Willows

Hey babe,

Do you remember this place? Do you remember how much Shelby loves coming here? It was the first place that Shelby and I ever took a hike, and it's the final place, a year ago, that you and I took a walk. I can still remember Shelby running around, picking up last year’s acorns, the few remaining ones left alone by the squirrels at least. I remember holding your hand and just walking, letting her be fascinated by nature, as she always was, and still is. We strolled...slowly. You had already been in rejection for a few months, but you weren't sick enough yet that you couldn't shuffle along.

We could smell the dogwood trees blooming, and I remember you commenting on how they smelled so much better than any perfume that anyone had ever worn around you, and how, for a change, a potent scent didn't make you cough.

I remember being terrified at the time that this would be the last walk we would ever take together. Turns out, my fear would become reality in November..

God, how many times we came here, and walked the different paths through the various gardens, but we always ended up here, at the “Weeping Collection”.

You loved weeping willows. They were your favorite tree, and every time we would pass one on a drive, you would always comment on how much you loved them. I always wished that we lived somewhere where I could have planted one for you. They need more space, and our little white house with the white picket fence on a ⅛ acre city lot in Akron just would not suffice. I wish we had gotten even just a year or two more...long enough we could have moved, and I could have planted that willow for you on the little mini-farm I always wanted to live out the rest of my days on. I knew you weren't going to be around forever, but I had at least hoped for the chance to get you out of the city.

We would have renewed our vows on our 10th anniversary, this coming August, right here under this weeping willow in the gazebo. I had decided upon it on our walk, but I never got the chance to tell you.

So, I came back here today to write this to you. I had to come in the spring, just to remember that walk, and all the sights, sounds, and smells. Honestly, what I needed most was to sit and mourn you for awhile. I haven’t mourned the loss of you for some time because frankly, I've been happy. I needed to sit here and talk to you, honestly, deeply, and frankly, in a place that was one of the last that you and I shared before sitting quietly among industrial tile floors, a ventilator pumping away, and IV poles for six months, and I needed to do it alone, at least this first time.

I’m sorry babe. I’m sorry that I didn't move fast enough in life to plant that willow for you, or to renew our vows under the little gazebo covered in wisteria. If I knew then what I know now, we would have done it that very day. There was no sense in waiting for a specific date, because honestly, the vows I took, and wanted to renew, meant the world to me no matter when they were stated. I guess there is no sense in renewing them now, as now that death has done us part, they can never be broken. I am morbidly proud of that fact.

Unfortunately, we can only know what we know now. I know now that you were preparing me, for 12 years, to be the man I am today. I know now that, other than still being alive and healthy, you wouldn't have it any other way for Shelby or I. I know now that I am supposed to continue my life as if you were still here with us, but with someone else that is just as special as you were, and that I can love just as much as I loved you.

I know now that every spring, I should come here, walk, talk to you, mourn you, and thank you for being who you were, and who you continue to reveal yourself to be. I know now that the same thanks should have been given to you while you were alive. I know now that those who deserve thanks and love should get it then and there, when I’m feeling it, and not on some arbitrary “special occasion”, because there aren't any guarantees that the special occasion will occur.

You taught me all of this, Megan. You've taught me that I can love even more than I ever thought possible, and that my love for you will continue to grow right alongside my new love. You've brought me to where I am today, and you'll continue to take me where I'm going. In that sense, we're still holding hands, walking together, and I know you'll be there by my side the rest of my life. Shelby? She's running just ahead, taking in everything on her own terms, but always under both of our watchful eyes.

Thank you.

Take care babe, I love you.

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation. This post was originally published at that location. Widow's Voice can be found at

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Setting a Standard

Shelby needs to have an example of what a caring, devoted man, father, and husband should be.  She is a mere 8 years old, but I believe most readers here will understand when I state that, well, I might not be here by the time she's 18.  It's a cold, hard truth that should never be swept under the rug or glossed over, and I can unfortunately speak from experience.

She needs standards, before she even sniffs at being interested in boys.  I can only hope that I've been, and will continue to be an example to her.

She needed to see that a man can allow and encourage her to be independent, but to always support her in a time of need.

She needed to see that a man will sacrifice his own happiness, not in love, obviously, but in general for his wife's well-being.

She needed to see that a man will hold his wife's hair for 1.5 hours, every morning for a decade, as she has her routine coughing fits, and that it is never seen as normal to him.

She needed to see that a man will be calm and collected and able to make informed, quick decisions when faced with his wife coughing up pints of blood.

She needed to see that a man will carry his wife to bed when she can't walk up the stairs, and that it is always effortless.

She needed to see that a man will bathe his 33 year old wife as she cries, because she can no longer do it herself.

She needed to see that no amount of sickness, frustration, or trauma will ever make a man walk away from a woman he truly loves.

She needed to see that 12 years is not nearly enough time for a man to give all of his love to his wife.

She needed to see that a man can be strong most of the time, but it's OK for them to cry when their goddamn wife dies.

She needs to see that a man will fulfill his vows, in sickness and in health, until death does him part from his wife.

She needed to see what true love is, and she needs to see it again.

She needs to see that though a new woman may be now part of his life, a man can and will still love his wife, and the mother of his beautiful daughter just as much.

She needs to see that a man in this situation will make smart decisions about bringing a new woman into his daughter's life.  Decisions not based on loneliness.

She needs to see that a child is always the priority for a man, but he is able to balance that with someone new that he truly loves.

She needs to see what it's like for two smart, experienced adults to meet and fall for each other in a healthy way.

She needs to see that a man can only expand his heart with love for another person, rather than replace space that someone else previously held.

She needs to see that a man should have his own drive and determination, but that the women in his life will always factor into that.

She needs to see that a man can lose his wife, but still have the confidence to move forward and keep living life without fear.

She needs to see that a man will always honor, cherish, and respect a woman's past, and know that it is what makes her who she is.

She needs to see that a man will always tell his worst truth, rather than his best lie.

She needs to see that lightning can indeed strike twice.

Shelby needed to see me love and take care of Megan for those years. As much as it pains me to say this, Megan becoming sicker and dying was another learning experience for her.  She learned that although her dad bent over backwards, he didn't break, and would walk to the end of the earth for the woman he loves.  He didn't shut down or stop taking care of his one remaining piece of his wife.  She deserves to be honored, respected, loved, and taken care of by a man just as much as I honored, respected, and loved Megan.

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that Megan also set a standard for Shelby, upon which she can judge all women.  She has briefly met this new woman, just through a video call, and she has fully approved.  She has even made the statement that she is "magnificent", and she can't wait to do things with her.  To have Shelby not only approve, but to encourage me to love the new woman means the world to me, because Shelby is the closest I will ever come to having Megan's approval.

Shelby knows I deserve a woman that loves me just as much as her mother did.  She knows that whatever woman comes into my life will need to be strong, driven, smart, and ultimately, will need to accept that Megan is and always will be a part of our lives.  She knows that no woman could ever replace Megan, and that a new one should only compliment her.

She knows that this new woman fills out all of those check-boxes.

No matter what anyone else's opinion is on new love, there is only one person's that matters to me, and that is Shelby's.

I need to ensure that as I move forward with this new woman that the example I set with Megan continues on.  Megan is no longer here to advise Shelby on these matters, so all I can do is lead by example.

I am setting the standard by which Shelby will judge all men.

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Where do you Want to be in Five Years?

I hate this question in job interviews, not only because it's cliche, but also because it's a bullshit question.  First of all, if I'm interviewing for a position, I obviously don't work there yet, do I, dipshit?  How the hell am I supposed to know where I want to be in five years in relation to your company?  I might hate the place two days after I start.  "Well sir, I would like to be running the company, with 10 weeks paid vacation, a corner office, and a liquor cabinet near my desk like Don Draper, only I'm never wearing a suit"

It's so dishonest.  Really, if we're strictly talking about where I wanted to be in five years in relation to the company I'm interviewing for, it would basically be that I want to still be working here, and not wanting to rip my hair out every single day.  I want a decent amount of vacation time, a salary I think is fair, and to not feel like the entire company's business rests on my shoulders when someone's printer goes down, let alone when I want to take a half day.

Let me talk about where I want to be in five years in general, from this very point in time.  I've done a ton of reflecting on this, and it hasn't only been since Megan died.  We had talked about it for a few years, albeit not too seriously, but she knew that deep in my heart, it's what I really wanted, not just for me, but for us.

A little background is in order.  I'm an IT systems engineer by trade.  I make a very good salary.  I get paid vacation, sick days, and at my current employer, a private office.  I have good health insurance, no job security issues, and generally, the day to day tasks I'm faced with are very easily handled.  I've been doing this for 17 years now.

I don't want it anymore.  It is NOT interesting or challenging or in any way enjoyable.  Its a goddamned paycheck is what it is.  For what?  So I can have three cars and eat steak instead of hot dogs?  Yes, I have another person to feed, clothe, and shelter with Shelby.  You know what?  She likes hot dogs and reading books.  She's just fine being entertained by an old smartphone with no service plan and wathcing netflix on the shattered screen.

We (including Megan) are not materialistic.  I worked so we had health insurance to keep Megan alive as long as she did.  She knew I was miserable, but it was a reality that I needed to pursue this career to keep her healthy.  I have the money, so I buy shit, simple as that.

So where would I like to be in five years?  Someplace else, geographically, mentally, and financially.  I'll keep working in IT as long as I need to in order to reach that goal.  I'll pay off whatever debt we have, ensure we're stable, sell some things, and start a new life for both of us, on my own terms.  I'm older and wiser now than when I was 17 and shipping off to boot camp.  I can decipher the things I need versus the things I simply want.

What I need is for Shelby to be smart, happy, well adjusted, and ready to be her own woman and make her own decisions when she grows up.  I have no doubt she will achieve that goal I've set for her in whatever way her amazing little brain and heart decides.  I'm going to make sure that little girl grows up to rule the goddamned world.

What I want is for that to occur, but to finally be doing what I really desire, which is wandering the wilds.  There are ways to do this, and even to still monetize it.  Something I've always wanted is to be a wilderness guide.  NOLS offers these courses, allowing me to become certified to do just that.  In five years, if I play my cards right, I could be wandering the Rockies or Appalachians, taking people with me, and teaching them all about the wonders of these places and how to appreciate them.  Yes, I already have the background experience.  I'm self taught.  Now I have the means to make it official by taking a course.  Yes, it sounds all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but hell, I do this stuff for free now.  

Talk about a life change.  Honestly, I've been keeping up with the Jonses for so long, over half of my life, that I don't even know exactly how to roadmap something like this.  What I do know, is that when I was 8 or 9 years old, I would pour over trail guides and maps of wherever we would be taking a family vacation, and I would plan the entire day out and know the ins-and-outs of every single trail or overlook we would be passing.  I could tell you exactly what species of maple tree you were looking at, even in winter.  I could forage for ramps, berries, watercress, and any other multitude of edible plant.  (I still make dendelion salds from the weeds in my front yard from time to time)  I've wanted to guide people into the woods for that long.  I could pack my bags in about 15 minutes, drive to Dolly Sods in West Virginia, and get someone to any single point in that federal wilderness without so much as a glance at a map.  I want to do that for people.

I want to be a modern day Mors Kochanski, John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Henry David Thoreau all rolled into one.  I want to be the person, as an adult, that can shepherd a group of unassuming "city folk" into the back of beyond, and show them why these places are so special.  I want to make sure that that 8 year old me, pouring over trail guides, learning how to use a compass, reading books upon books about the wilderness and how to survive and thrive in it is brought out in people of any age.  I want to write about it for those that aren't there, in those spaces, and make them want be there with simple words.

I don't care about money, fame, or fortune.  I really don't.  I care about Shelby.  We don't need a little house with a white picket fence, two dogs, three cars, and cable TV to be healthy, smart, and happy.  She already has that same love for nature and learning about it that I did when I was 8 years old.  She grabs a map at every trailhead we go to.  She reads books about wildflowers, insects, trees, and mountains.  She can sit, starry-eyed, and just flip through a photo book of the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, and can tell you all about the various landmarks at a glance, without ever having been there.  She is my doppelganger.

So, where do I want to be in five years?  I want to be shepherding people like Shelby, regardless of their age, over the river and through the woods to what could be their own calling or love.  If people pay me to do that, all the better.  I think I've finally come to the realization though, that through all this time, it's the one "job" that no one would ever have to pay me to do.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Expect the Unexpected

Every other Tuesday, I am a featured writer for Widow's Voice, located at This was posted on Tuesday, March 31st.    
Megan had not only given me permission to "move on" again once she was gone, she had outright demanded it, years before she died.  She refused to take my heart with her, leaving a hole in me that could never be filled.  This is why, in the deepest pit of my soul, I believe she has brought someone new into my life in the best way possible: unexpectedly.

By random occurrence, I have met a new woman.  I wasn't out looking for a date, or even looking at women as something desirable or needed, when she just happened to sit down next to me at a bar where I was hanging out with some mutual friends.  I was completely numb at the time, with no desire to interact with anyone, so I was just gritting my teeth and trying to act "normal" by making small talk.

Then she sat down.  Damn.

We exchanged a few cordial "get to know the basics" questions, and immediately became fast friends.  Although completely platonic, I was blindsided by a connection that I had never expected to occur.  Suddenly, I was transported back to December 10th, 2002, when I walked into a Kay-Bee toy store, met Megan, and unexpectedly, my whole journey began over a cash register, pudding cups, and Van Wilder in her mother's basement.

Since that time, this new woman and I have talked every day, sometimes for hours on end.  The connection we found at that bar has only grown, without any signs of slowing.  I am again faced with a question that is confusing to me, albeit in a newly pleasant way, and that is "what would Megan think?"

Our relationship has matured, and we have committed to each other.  She gets me, my story, and understands it all, just as I get her, and her story.  We know for a fact that Megan is a part of this relationship, and we BOTH cherish her and wish she was here.  A better person could not have found me.  She has encouraged me to love Megan even more, and I do.

I am truly and deeply happy, for the first time in well over a year.  Though Megan died only four short months ago, she was "dying" long before that, so my happiness was put on hold when it began, and obliterated when she died.  She knew this.  It's why we had the final  "talk" in June, when she was admitted for her last 6 month stay.

I am truly sympathetic to all widows that did not have this "luxury" of knowing their dead partner's wishes before they died.  Though incredibly hard to swallow at the time, Megan said these exact words to me as she lay dying in a hospital bed in Cleveland:

"Don't you dare sit around by yourself if I die.  You need someone else.  Now go get me some broccoli and cheese soup downstairs"

That was Megan.  Frank, to the point, then shifting gears into bossing me around.  She was a goddamned master of living in the moment, influencing the future, and always being right.  That is why I don't feel guilty in the slightest about being happy with a wonderful woman other than my wife.  It is a powerful reality of my heart, and my mind.  Of course, I am still a logical, cynical person at my core, and I know that opening myself up to this could result in a crash of epic proportions.  I am still completely terrified of that happening, because it's been over a decade since I took this kind of risk.

I still reflect upon the absence of Megan every day, but there has been somewhat of a shift in that perspective.  I've gone past the "acceptance" stage of losing her.  She's dead.  No sugar coating it.  What I pine for the most about her is our friendship.  It isn't the affection, her sharp wit, her motherly instincts, and her uncanny ability to be strong in the face of death.  It is her friendship that I miss right now.  I want her to appear, when I am with this new woman, smile, give me a high five, and say "about damn time, idiot, she's magnificent"

How strange is that?  To know that I am falling for another woman, and to want my dead wife to be not only pleased about it but present to witness what is happening?  Honestly, given some of the signs I've seen since meeting this new woman, I'm positive that it was Megan that made sure I was sitting at that bar, and that there was a seat left open beside me.  She expected it, she wanted it, and she made it happen.

I love Megan even more for bringing someone new into my life at just the right, unexpected time, and that is key.  12 years ago, Megan and I crashed into each other like a freight train, and though I'm now left without her in the physical world, she continues to surprise me in whatever ethereal world she exists in now.  I am still putting blind faith into everything about her, and expecting the unexpected.

There is so much more for me to say about all of this.  For now, I am content in the belief that Megan has my back, and she's going to make sure I'm happy.  I just wish she was here to share it with.  I miss my best friend and partner-in-crime, poking fun at me, but also being happy for me.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Year Without a Summer

Ohio in this time of year is a cruel joke.  Personally, I truthfully enjoy the snow, cold, blanket of white, and silence that winter brings.  It's something I begin missing every year around November, when the leaves have fallen, and the Autumn color palette of reds, oranges, and yellows have turned to brown death.  Winter comes along every year here, sealing the earth, and wiping it clean every spring.

But in March, we only get glimpses of the impending rebirth.  There will be a day of mid sixty degree weather, with the sun shining and the windows down, and then winter returns, just as it's doing today, as I write this.

Megan's rejection process followed much the same schedule.  Last winter, we were ready to start a new year of life and sunny days together with Shelby, but by spring, the cruel joke had started.  What we originally believed to just be a minor setback, the 30 degree snowy day following the hopeful, sunny day we had before, turned out to be a permanent winter. 

We had a year without a summer.  There were no spring flowers, no long lazy days sitting out on the deck, no happy, relaxing talks on a road trip.  It was just winter.  It was winter until October, when we got the fall colors that were the last hope of her getting a transplant.

November came, and the colors started to fade.  Leaf by leaf, certain aspects of her health, mind, and heart started to fall to the ground.

On November 19th, the last leaf fell, and I was plunged back into winter.  

Winter remained as scheduled here in Ohio.  When I just sat, frozen and sealed inside my mind after losing that last little leaf.  There were a few indian summers, like we always have, when I returned to Crossfit, for instance, and realized that even for a few hours a day, I could have warm sunny weather in my mind.  

But it wasn't enough to convince me that spring would eventually return.  I would still have to deal with returning home to the cold. 

But I found a place where spring could finally begin.  I had to go travel south, to Florida, where it's continual spring and summer.  As soon as I arrived, I caught a glimpse of that first daffodil, cracking through the frozen surface of the forest floor at the end of winter.  I could hope for what summer would be like again.  I stared at that daffodil for a moment, and realized that it symbolized a new round of seasons.  I could finally have a "next summer".  

Megan always loved daffodils, for the same reasons.  They were always the first indicator that the long, cold, crappy winter (that she NEVER enjoyed) was almost over.  

Although it may be cold, snowy, and generally crappy here in Ohio as I write this, I'm pretty sure it's a nice warm late spring day for me.  Summer is right around the corner, and I don't think I'm going to be missing winter for a long time.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

4 Months Time

Today is 4 months since Megan died.  On one hand, its seems like it was so recently when I look at it from a purely intellectual perspective.  On the other hand, most of the time anymore it feels like years.

I feel a lot of that perception is based on the fact that financially, physically, and emotionally, Shelby and I are doing pretty well.  I'm off of the anti-depressant (that only lasted a month, and I was fed up with it), Shelby is getting straight A's and is a very happy little kid, and we're both in very good health.  To the outside world, no one even knows that anything ever happened.  Not because we hide it, hell, I am VERY open about what happened, but because we aren't sulking around like our world has ended.  I can't explain why it didn't take at least a year or two to get to this point, but why in the holy hell would I try to deny it?

I was actually asked at the gym the other day, after participating in a "painting" fundraiser, what my wife thought about my artwork that I had created.

Most people at the gym know the entire story.  They knew Megan as well.  I distinctly remember one of the guys doing the "inhale scream" when he heard this woman ask about what my wife thought about it.  He was bracing for me to flip out, and his eyes were as big as saucers.

There was none of that.  I actually laughed.  Maybe it's my morbid humor, but I snorted, and said "Oh you didn't know?  She passed away (I still hate that term, but polite society demands it) back in November" and pointed to my memorial tattoo.  The look on her face was priceless.  It's so odd when people you are less familiar with, but still friendly to realize that you are a widower and suddenly want to over-sympathize as if we were at her funeral mass, and not in a cool, loud, crowded Crossfit gym poking fun at each other for cracking ribs attempting muscle-ups.  

I didn't launch into the entire back-story, and I didn't get in a funk in any way.  I've actually started referring people to this blog if they are truly interested.  Not because it pains me to talk doesn't, but because I wanted to get her out of the funk she had just fallen into unexpectedly.

So really, because we aren't displaying any outward signs of grief, the world isn't treating us as if we're grieving, and it's causing us to move through even further.  There's something to be said for that.  Of course it was horrible in that first month or two to try to act like I was in a good mood, but for the most part, I stuck with it.  I was so sick of people asking how I was doing that I basically convinced them that there was no need to ask.  Once they stopped asking (and I met with other widows in Tampa for a weekend), I actually no longer had to try to act just happened.

The fact of the matter is, I'm NOT classically grieving right now.  I'm NOT mourning right now.  I really, really miss Megan.  I always will, and I think about her every day, but it doesn't consume me.  I feel like her death has accelerated time, rather than stopped it.  She truly is still around, and I know it.  Hell, I'm back to having conversations with her in my head and dreams, and all we can seemingly talk about is how proud we are of Shelby and how happy she is for me.  At this point, I have to recant a portion of my statement in my original post on here, where I said that "if she was guiding me, she's doing a really shitty job".  I now think she was giving me time to work through things on my own, until she resurfaced and started putting her foot down and making sure I was in the right place at the right time to bring amazing new things into Shelby and I's life.

 Has it really only been 4 months?  Has it really been over a year since she started the process of rejection?  I simply don't feel like it "just happened", but I tend to think those around me do.  Maybe they don't have the luxury of getting to see and talk to her and realize that she wants us all to be happy, and now she's doing her damnedest to facilitate it.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Place of Existence

For years, I have wandered outside.  When I was very young, on through my teenage years, I would often times find myself on my Aunt's cattle farm, traipsing around the back lots, playing in the creeks, or just generally exploring the land and finding interesting spots to spend time with my brother and cousins.  We were always outside.  We camped, fished, shot at old oil cans, roamed, watched birds or squirrels, built little shelters or dammed the creeks with a shovel and time, stared at the stars, and generally didn't have a care in the world.  I was a kid...that's the way it should be.

The farm is no longer in the family, but now, I have my own place.  It's a place that Megan never knew about, nor did Shelby.  It's a place I can go to to just "exist", and be that kid again, playing in the creek, listening to birds, or staring at a beech tree in winter, with its white leaves just barely clinging on while they flutter through the cold winter wind.  I found it one day maybe 7 years ago by glancing at a topographic map, looking for a sea of green and picking an interesting looking spot.  This little glade at the outlet of a small spring caught my eye, and I decided to explore.

It amazes me that I forgot about this place until last weekend.  Megan has been dead almost 4 months, she was in the hospital for 6 months before that, and had been diagnosed with rejection in early February.  That was the last time I visited my place...February 16th, 2014.  I read my journal entry from that day, and it might as well have been written the day she was going to die.  The terrifying feeling that I was going to be on my own had already crept in, and it was just as suffocating then as it was later on in November.

I packed my backpack, hopped in the truck, and decided that it was time to exist.  It's an odd thing for me sometimes to want to write something down, but predetermine that whatever I write is going to be more honest, raw, and meaningful if I wait and disappear into my place.  After a few miles of plodding through that late-winter crusty, creaky snow, I had finally returned to my place of existence.

I set my little stove up to make some coffee with snowmelt, assembled my mini chair, grabbed my journal, and started writing in my own little Walden that I had constructed.

There is something about being outside in an isolated spot in the woods that clears my head and fills it with thoughts at the same time.  I put pen to waterproof paper for awhile, every so often adding a little bit more snow to my pot until there was enough water in it to have a nice cup of coffee.  Once it was ready, I took a break and "existed" for awhile.

That's when it hit me.  Here I was, in a place that I had always come alone, but always had someone to return home to once I cleared my head.  Only now, I knew I would be returning to an empty house, and I was happy.  Not happy about having an empty home, obviously, but happy that I could still come to this place.  Happy because I was that skinny, nerdy little kid again, outside, building things out of sticks and snow and imagination, and not having a care in the world.  Happy because I was outside. 

Happy because after years of walking with Megan, I still had somewhere where I had NO memories with her, and the only footprints leading to it were mine.

I stayed for about 3 hours total, but I really didn't want to leave.  I could have continued happily existing for what felt like years. Finally, a small snippet of my own instruction manual for dealing with losing Megan wiggled its way into my head, oddly, from a comedy special that I had seen on Netflix.  I feel anyone dealing with any kind of stress, not just the loss of a partner, would find this advice useful:

Go outside. Remain.

Every other Tuesday, I write for Widow's Voice, the blog of the Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.  This post was originally published at that location.  Widow's Voice can be found at

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


When your spouse/ partner dies, the world sees it generally fit to give you a little bit of time to process that information.  It's never enough time, of course, but at least a token three days bereavement leave is granted, because you know, three days is PLENTY of time to heal right up.  Hell, I was ready to go unicorn riding with Ronald McDonald in Madagascar by day 4!  Thanks, world, for giving me SO much time to find inner peace!

Honestly though, I have to find humor in all of the bullshit tasks you have to go through after the fact.   From paperwork, to calling banks, to verifying it was Megan's body in her casket before they cremated her (really?  that's a law now?  I don't even want to know why, but I unfortunately think I do know why) It really is my "coping" mechanism, and it's served me well for years.  

On March 5th, I had an appointment at the Social Security office to set up Shelby's survivor's benefits.  (Quick back story, Megan was on disability, and when she died, Shelby became entitled to receive a portion of her benefits until she is 18.)  This turned out to be an exercise in ineptitude.

First, I called to set up the appointment back in January.  They had no openings until March.  Really?  You're telling me this will take only 45 minutes, but I have to wait until March to sit down and answer a few questions and show a few documents to you?  Alright, at least I'm penciled in.

So I show up about 20 minutes early to the federal building, because I'm a responsible adult, and I'm not late to appointments. Of course, this being a federal building, I have to go through the x-rays and body wanding, and tell them what I was there for so they can be sure I'm not there to attack the place.  It's a good system they have, but it's a weel known fact that terrorists are incapable of lying about their true intentions.  Since the SS office didn't open until 9:00 AM, I was told to go wait in the main lobby on the big cold granite bench with all of the other responsible adults.

That's when I learned that there's a "system" to this.  About 4 or 5 people were there early, waiting with me and getting the stinkeye from security like we were a huge inconvenience.  At about 5 until 9:00, a wave of people came flooding into the lobby, somehow breezed past the secret service wannabes, and hopped right on the elevator to go up to the dingy little social security office.  Turns out that it's MUCH more efficient to be almost late.  Paul Blart informed the rest of us punctual dumbasses on the stone monolith that we were free to go upstairs after the first load of 10 people crammed in and rode up.

Now, this being 'murica, of course there was a "check-in" kiosk as soon as you walked in, and of course the damn thing wasn't working, and of course there was no sign of anyone that could even POSSIBLY work there anywhere within a two mile radius.  It was only 8:57 AM you see.  They open at 9:00.

Picture a scene of what is now 17 people, waiting patiently in a somehow organized line behind this kiosk (seriously, I don't even know how some of these people could stand up...I almost got drunk from the fumes), and stretching back to the elevator doors. The man at the front of the line (we shall call him "Dunkin") is feverishly tapping on the screen of this kiosk, because he somehow knows that if he hits it hard enough multiple times it will suddenly come to life and bend to his will.  The woman behind him (eh, let's call her "Sniffles") is watching over his shoulder....probably taking notes so she knows how to operate the damn thing the next time she's there.  I swear she should could have given Dunkin a hickey as close as she was.

Finally, at 9:00 AM, the Kiosk magically comes to life, because, you see, it gets paid hourly wages, and it'll be damned if it works one second before it's on the clock.  Dunkin finds that his finger mashing has worked to awaken the infernal machine, and promptly forgets the last 4 of his social security number.  Sniffles is getting impatient while he flounders around for his wallet (his back pocket was pretty well out of reach for his t-rex arms), and asks if she can go ahead and put her info in so she can get her ticket (that's right, you get tickets here, like the worlds worst amusement park).  "One second" is the response.  It is now 9:04, it is approaching 20 people waiting, and not a single person has checked in yet.

Dunkin realizes that Ohio driver's licenses don't put the social security number on there any more, so he finally decides to let sniffles in front of him while he calls...someone.  Sniffles remembers the last 4 of her SSN, but her appointment isn't until 10:00, and there's no way to change it from the magical kiosk.  Evidently, she thought she was at an airline check-in, and could change her seat right, Sniffles is pissed.

After 5 more comedic performances, I walk up to the kiosk, put my last 4 in, a ticket spits out, and I wait for an appointment that was supposed to start 15 minutes ago.  I'm finally called into the back.

I take a seat in front of "Diane" and pull out all of my paperwork...Shelby's birth certificate, Megan's social security card, our marriage license, etc.  Diane starts asking boilerplate questions about my income, if Megan worked, my military service, if Shelby had disabilities, and the like.  She never makes eye contact with me, as she's too busy doing the one finger shuffle across her keyboard.  Take a look at your keyboard, and try to figure out why it would take 15 seconds to type the name "Welker".

These questions go on for at least 25 minutes, and finally, she says we're done, and she just has to go grab the paperwork off of the printer and have me sign it.  Ok.  "Not bad" I think, "I'll be out of here before 10:00, when Sniffles out in the waiting room can come back for her appointment"

She returns with a stack of paper, and asks me to review it for accuracy and sign off on it.  Here is what I have now determined about my's probably news to you, because it sure was to me:
  • I was born in February 2007
  • Shelby, my 8 year old daughter, was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps in 2002 
  •  Megan lived in Canton, and I lived in Akron
  • We were married in 1981, magically, 26 years before I was born (Megan was a cradle robber)
After pointing out that I am not an 8 year old to Diane, she gets flustered, and spends another 15 minutes trying to determine where her life went so wrong.  Three more trips to the printer, and we finally have a coherent document that doesn't somehow bend the space-time continuum.  

I sign off on the application, and then I'm informed of the "benefits".  Shelby will be getting a direct deposit of a portion of Megan's disability until she graduates high school.  Well, at least she'll have some extra savings by that point.  

Then the best news of the day!  I am entitled to a "survivor's" benefit!  Only I'm not.  Because I have a good paying job, my wife was apparently worthless to the gubmint.  If only I made less or was unemployed, then I could get the whole $250 that Megan was worth.  That's right, after years of paying into social security, Megan was worth $250.  I'm not saying I SHOULD be entitled any benefits, but if you're going to dole out government cheese based on someone losing their goddamned WIFE, at least make it a little more than a token $250.

At this point, we're 5 minutes from being done, and "Schteve" comes over to Diane's desk and tells her to vacate, because he has an appointment at 10.  Really?  There are literally 3 other empty desks within my field of view.  This sets off an argument between them about how it's not anyone's desk, and they need to share.  The dad in me almost stepped in and told them to play nice or I would be turning this car around.  Schteve relents and finds another desk.

Finally, this whole clusterfuck is over with, and I get the hell out of the office, with 9 copies of the paperwork in hand, because they are not allowed to keep or toss the incorrect applications themselves, because they have identifying personal information on them (I would LOVE to see someone try to steal my identity using this information)

I'm actually in a good mood as I walk out, not only because it's finally over, and one more task was accomplished, but also because I realize that the Federal government is helping the make-a-wish foundation give Diane her special day that she always dreamed about.

This being downtown Akron, I had to pay for parking.  There aren't any attendants in this lot though.  There is one "pay station" on the 3rd floor of the garage that you pop your ticket into, pay your fee, and it spits the ticket back out and you're on your way.

Hey, only $2!  Damn, I only have a twenty.  "Oh well," I think, "it gives change."

Yeah, the whole $18 change was in the form of Sacajawea Golden dollars.  It felt like I had just won the jackpot at the worlds most "value-oriented" Casino!  Clink after clink after clink!  I half expected an employee to come running out and tell me I had just won a 1995 Buick Skylark along with my now 3 pounds of gold doubloons.  

Thing is, for some people, this would just be a shitty, shitty day, and cause endless amounts of frustration and possibly even trigger some anxiety.  My response is almost always the opposite...I have to laugh at this kind of stuff, and I immediately want to share it and laugh some more.  I look at these "follow-on" tasks with an outsider's eye (generally, I try to channel Megan, because she would be laughing her ass off) and treat them as just another thing I have to do.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Life Lesson From Nintendo

There has been a few times in life where I've hit the reset or pause buttons.  You know, the one that the old Nintendo sitting on your shelf collecting dust has?  You would be happily playing a game, getting further and further along, and suddenly, you would have to go to school, or a friend would come over to play outside (and I still firmly believe that being outside with friends is better than any video game), or your parents would realize that you hadn't cleaned your room and yell at you to get the hell off of the Nintendo and do as you're told...

Press the pause button.

It was the rudimentary "save" function.  You couldn't turn the system off, and the if the power went out, your game was reset yet again, but most of the time, it worked out ok.  You could think of nothing else but going back to your little electronic world once you were ripped out of it, but you had to have confidence that it would still be there, waiting for you to pick right back up where you left off if you just stepped back and took care of your responsibilities first.  Logic and odds dictated that the smart thing to do was to simply press pause, and revisit it later.

But there was always a worse scenario.  Again, you would be happily playing a game, almost to completion, slaying enemies or toadstools or winning the final race, and the game would freeze.  You had one and only option at that point.

Hit the reset button.

Old video game systems never had a true "save" function.  No matter how much progress you had made, it was all lost the minute the game froze, the power went out, or you ran out of lives.  The only way to earn back the progress you had made was to hit the reset button and start all over.

But it was different than the first time you played the game.  You had experience.  You knew where those enemies were hiding, where you needed to jump, and where you needed to slow down and figure out a puzzle, because you had done it all before.  It was frustrating to have to go through it all again when you felt so accomplished the first time, but the end goal was still the same, to progress further and ultimately, beat the game.  You might not have remembered everything from the first run through, but you damn sure had it a little easier.  There was never a question of putting the controller down and walking away...the game was there, and it must be won.

I knew all of this when I was 8 years old.  It now amazes me that at 34, it took me this long to realize that Megan's death has shown me the same thing as Mario and Luigi did all those years ago.  I was happily playing the game of life until her first transplant, in 2011, where we had to hit the pause button while she healed from the surgery, and all we could think about was picking it right back up and progressing further.  We were in the final boss battle in 2014, where we hit the pause button yet again in order to take care of responsibilities, but there was a glitch in the system, the game froze, and she ran out of lives.  Game over.

My only choice was to hit the reset button.  I have the experience of going through the game the first time and I'm able to remember how it's played, but there are always things that I don't recall because it was such a long and epic game.

Weird thing is, I've found a secret level that I've never seen before prior to this run-through.  It's shiny and new and interesting and most of the time, fun to play, but it's difficult, because I don't know all of the ins and outs and where the enemies and special jumps and hidden spots are.  I know how to use the controller in this game in general, I'm very experienced with it, but not necessarily in this level.  I've already had to hit the pause button just to keep my composure and not want to toss the controller at the TV.  I have to have confidence that the power's not going to go out, but I can't help but worry that the game will freeze while I do other things and take care of responsibilities, and I'll have to start all over yet again.  This secret level is almost an entirely new game for me, and I can't stop thinking about sitting back down and playing it.  Even with the difficulty and unknowns, it's one of the most interesting parts of the entire game...i just wish there was a strategy guide for it, because I'm flyin pretty fuckin blind right now.

So, it's paused while I search for my own guidebook, when hopefully, I can come back, sit down, and just enjoy playing it without ever having to press the reset button.