Archive for the ‘regrets’ Category

Mixed feelings

Posted: July 15, 2014 in family, grief, regrets

We go on… To the joy and through the tears – We Go On – Kellie Coffey

In a little over four hours, we will lay mom’s remains to rest. She will be buried with my father, closing the final chapter of the life of an extraordinary woman.

Still sucks for those of us left behind.

I was able to wake up and be fully functional on Saturday morning. This morning, I woke up in tears, just feeling I had to write a little bit… maybe getting it on screen will help with my control later. Not like anyone is going to blame me if I am a blubbering mess.

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

Mom and I on the morning of my wedding

So, Saturday was a huge turnout. I was so amazed to see so many of my mother’s friends, some of whom drove great distances to pay their respects. It was also amazed at some of my friends who came out… one friend I haven’t seen since my high school graduation 25 years ago. I even managed to make it all the way through Mom’s eulogy (with only minor breakdowns).

It was a fitting sendoff to a special lady.

Now, you might remember that a few months ago, I had posted about my personal crisis of faith. One of mom’s friends had asked her if I was angry at God. I tried to explain my feelings, best as I could, that I felt it to be unfair that so many good people are taken so soon, and so many bad people hang around for so long.

My mom had no such crisis, and if there is indeed an afterlife, she’s on the good side of things.

I wanted to say so much and now that I’m in front of a keyboard, I’m having a horrible time thinking of what I wanted to say. Ugh.

I’ll close by saying thank you to all the folks who came on Saturday to pay their respects. It was great to see everyone, even under the circumstances. It just reinforces that we need to take the time to get together under better circumstances, because life is too damn fragile.

I especially want to thank mom’s card club for all the years of friendship and love. Barbara, Janice, Aggie, Joanne and Carole, you were all like sisters to mom and I know she loved you to pieces. I also promise that Supportive Partner Woman and I will do our best to make mom’s cookie recipes at Christmas, and we will try (no promises) to get them decorated as well as she did. We will also stay in touch and will be there for you if you need anything, as you were always there for her.

For those of you who aren’t Disney fans, you might not understand the meaning of the opening quote. That song is at the end of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at EPCOT and I just felt those words to be especially poignant. Didn’t hurt that mom was a fan of IllumiNations, either. But that’s what she would want… for us to go on, persevere and life each day. She wouldn’t want us to be sad when we thought of her. She would want us to remember her with a smile.

I’m going to do that.

Just not today.

A eulogy

Posted: July 12, 2014 in family, friends, grief, I has a sad, regrets

One of my biggest pet peeves is going to a funeral and the celebrant obviously knows nothing about the dearly departed.

I feel that’s disrespectful. As such, I stood up and volunteered to eulogize my mother. It’s not something I could leave to chance. I couldn’t let someone sum up this extraordinary life with a few trite sentences about how JoAnn loved her family. Yes, she loved her family, but there was much, much more.

Without further ado, I present the first eulogy I’ve ever written.

Good afternoon.

I volunteered to take a few minutes to talk about JoAnn. Whether you called her JoAnn, Mom, Sis, Niece, Aunt, Cousin, hey you… she was certainly a unique and wonderful individual. We are lucky to have had her in our lives.

As you know, mom passed very suddenly. I was on my way home when I got a call from the dentist’s office informing me of what had happened. As anyone who has ever ridden with me knows, I can be a bit… impatient with other drivers, especially when I need to get somewhere. Turns out that the driver I was impatient with was driving a large farm tractor. Hey, it IS Lancaster County.

To make a long story short, I got home, picked up Laura and we were on our way to Reading. I opted to ride shotgun, seeing that I was pretty freaked out. We fully expected that mom would be sitting up in the emergency room, wondering what we were all doing there.

The fact that we are all here today proves that to be wishful thinking. I honestly always thought mom was indestructible. We assumed that when the apocalypse came, the only living things left on earth would be the cockroaches, Keith Richards and my mom.

Enough about what has happened. It is done.

This is a celebration of the life of an extraordinary woman.

A woman we all loved dearly.

Again, those of you who know me well know that I have a certain way with words. If you are expecting a eulogy that is sorrowful, well, I’m sorry to disappoint. If there’s one thing my mother was not, it was sorrowful. As such, I wanted to share some remembrances of her.

Now, many of you know that while mom could be incredibly perceptive, she would also be completely oblivious from time to time. I remember one time I had her convinced that the stealth fighter was, in fact, invisible to the naked eye.

Yeah, I did that. She was a good sport about it, though. She usually was.

She taught me most of all the things I know about cooking. Everything else I know is due to the Food Network. Just don’t put the two of us in the same kitchen.

She taught me the value of working for something I wanted. Case in point. When we moved out to the spread on Rivervale Road, the soil was extremely rocky. Mom got the bright idea to pay Michelle and I a penny a rock. Me being me realized that there was no size parameters for the rocks being collected… we still got a penny if it was a piece of pea gravel or a boulder. You all can probably guess what I tried to pull. I threw a few large handfuls of gravel in the cart and said, “That’ll be $5.”

As you can imagine, that was not well received.

Mom was always very self-reliant. She hated asking people for help, no matter what it was. She usually didn’t mind asking me for help at inconvenient times, though. I seem to remember her asking me about an error message she had gotten got on her computer a few weeks before, as I was tiling a bar top. She would also ask me esoteric questions about her diagram less crossword puzzle while I was driving. Kind of hard to drive, chat and look something up on Google at the same time. Trust me. I’m certainly going to miss it.

That was mom.

Whenever I drove her anywhere, I’d have to tell her that I disconnected the brake pedal on her side of the car.

There was also the time at Michelle’s birthday party when she, well, kinda sorta, managed to start her shirt on fire.

We all have so many memories of times spent with her. For the family, the biggest might be her summer parties at the Rivervale house, where the pool was open, the food was yummy and plentiful, and mom was the driving force to put it all together. Dad and I would do a lot of work, but we had no part in the master plan. We were strictly manual labor.

Fact is, mymom was full of life and love, and had a good sense of humor. She was also known to leave us speechless. At our wedding, Mom had a few too many. (OK, one… not one too many… one) Turns out my father-in-law had assigned one of the young bartenders to keep an eye on mom and make sure she was taken care of. They were bantering back and forth and at one point, the bartender joked about taking Mom home. The next day, at brunch, mom said, “I should’ve taken him up on that. I could use a roll in the hay. After my jaw audibly hit the floor and my ears stopped bleeding, the best I could come up with was, “MOM!!!”

She just smiled her JoAnn smile and a legend was cemented.

Mom was also a great friend to many. Many of her friends she stayed in touch with since she was in grade school at Hyde Park Elementary. They liked to call themselves the Silver Belles and there were a few road trips of which the details are kind of sketchy. Something like, “What happens in Florida stays in Florida.” One detail about that trip that made it out was the time that mom, Joanne and Janice went to see a Phillies spring training game in Tampa. Mom called from the stands, and was commenting that former Phillie Pat Burrell was a good looking man. In the background I hear one of her companions say, “And he’s got a nice tushy!”

Yeah. That did happen.

She also learned how to text in recent months. And somehow she learned a lot of the text abbreviations that these kids today like to use. I’d send her a long text on my smartphone and she would send back, “love u2.” I asked her about that one time and she said that while she could text a little, she never quite figured out how to capitalize a word.

That was mom.

In addition to friends and family, Mom was always a particularly soft touch when it came to Michelle’s friends and my friends. They thought she was the coolest mom ever. She was, but try to get a teenager to admit that they had a cool mom. Later, when her and my dad moved to Exeter, she became a surrogate grandmother to some of the neighborhood children, not to mention keeping up her role as den mother to the neighborhood. She was someone you could talk to so easily that most of us did. Michelle and I certainly would yak her ear off. But she always had time for you.

My mother was also very spiritual. She was always quick to tell me of what she read in her daily devotions. She was also one who took those readings to heart and tried to live her life in accordance with her faith. There are a lot of people who trumpet how faithful they are. My mom just showed her faith by how she lived.

I know that mom has gone on to a better place. That she’s off in the afterlife with our dad, our grandparents, some of her favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. I know she’s getting licks from her dogs that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge before her.

I know she is going to be OK.

Somehow I just know.

I also know she is worried about all of us. Because that’s what she did. She constantly thought of others before herself. Without fail. She sacrificed a lot so that Michelle and I could get an education. We might not have had a lot of the frills, but we had everything we needed to succeed and, most of all, we had the best mom you could ask for.

I believe our task is a simple one going forward. To live our lives to the fullest. She wouldn’t want us to be sad. Mom would want us to think of those happy times. Take each day as it comes was pretty much her attitude. I’m also pretty sure that right now she’s looking down on all of us and wondering what the fuss is about.

So, with all that being said, kids, make sure you take any available moment to tell your parents you love them and how much you appreciate them. Because they can be gone with no warning and you don’t want to carry that guilt. It’s saying (and really meaning) three little words that mean so, so much.

Finally, I’d like to close with the following quote from some Italian dude whose name I have absolutely NO idea how to pronounce, but I’ll try anyway, E.A. Bucchianeri, “So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”

To have this much grief, you had to have a lot of love. That we did. And while it might not seem like it, someday it will balance out. We are hurting now. That’s natural. But the grief will fade and we will always have those wonderful memories of which my mom was a huge part.

Thank you all for coming this afternoon.

 

Mom and I at my 40th birthday party

Mom and I at my 40th birthday party

I write this with a heavy heart.

On Monday, my mother suffered a massive stroke. It was unexpected… she was in great shape and I fully expected her to outlive me. Her blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar were better than mine and , not only that, she had much more willpower. When the drugstore blood pressure machine showed her BP was a little elevated, she managed to pretty much eliminate extra sodium from her diet. She kept up her own house, and while she might have been slowing down a little, she was still able to take care of things.

So, as I was driving home from the gym Monday, I called her, as I normally do. Ever since I had a heart scare a few years ago (turned out to be nothing), she would worry if I didn’t check in. It was 5-10 minutes out of my day, not a problem. If I couldn’t call, I would send a text (she recently learned to text). When she didn’t answer, I assumed that she went to the grocery store or had other errands to run. I tried her cell, but no answer, which again was nothing unusual. A few minutes later, my phone rang. I almost declined the call because I didn’t recognize the number. I answered, and it was my mom’s dentist’s office, letting me know that she had been in for an appointment and collapsed and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance.

That is not what I expected.

I raced home, collected Supportive Partner Woman, called my sister and my aunt and uncle and went heading to the hospital. Thankfully, SPW was in better possession of her faculties and drove, as I was a nervous wreck. I fully expected to show up in the emergency room and find her sitting up, wide awake, wondering what we were all doing fussing over her.

Instead, I found a bad scene… a scene out of my worst nightmares.

Mom had an aneurysm that burst and was showing no brain function. She was being kept alive with a machine doing her breathing for her. Today there was no signs of brain function, either, and she was taken off the ventilator, being declared brain dead. I was able to hold her hand as her heart finally stopped around 25 minutes after being taken off life support.

So many thoughts went crashing through my mind. Many tears were shed. In fact, I’m still not sure I’ve fully accepted this. It all seems so surreal.

I still have my memories, though.

Memories of mom teaching me how to read (Richard Scarry in the house).

Mom showing me around a kitchen.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

1989 band trip to Disney World that the folks went on at the last minute as chaperones. The funny part is that they were in the room next to where we were playing poker and being rowdy and they never mentioned that we were too loud. I was mortified when I found out where their room was. Whoops.

Mom being there with a shoulder to cry on when life went to complete shit.

Mom being a rock when my dad died, even though she was hurting worse than we were.

Going to the drive-in for the Disney movies and popping popcorn and making sure my sister and I had blankets and pillows, in case we fell asleep.

Laughing because she could be so perceptive and yet oblivious at the same time. Case in point, we had a surprise 50th birthday party for her. We instructed my dad to go to a certain entrance of the hall, and I made sure that cars she would recognize were parked on another side of the building. Dad got his signals crossed, parked right next to my car and she never even noticed.

She was the glue that kept our family together and now she’s gone.

It’s not fair.

As I was talking to my uncle last night, I said that the world was a better place for having her in it. We both had a good cry.

I know deep down this is how she would want to go… quickly and painlessly. That doesn’t make it easy on those of us left behind, however. I ask of you to say an extra prayer for Mama T tonight, or, if you’re not the praying kind, to keep her in your thoughts.

I miss her already.

RIP, Mom… 1942-2014

I’m pleased to report that the six day period of hell has come to a close.

This started last Saturday when we buried my cousin Bill, who had passed away a few weeks beforehand. I had written about the sense of loss I felt at that time, but we finally got his ashes to their final resting place. We followed up with a family brunch at the Exeter Family Restaurant , which was underwhelming to say the least, then Supportive Partner Woman and I made tracks back to cow country. The following day, my mom came up so I could do her taxes. We then took her for her first ever visit to Wegman’s.

She was a bit overwhelmed.

She called when she got home to let us know she was safe, then a few minutes later, the phone rang again to let us know that Aunt Marie had passed away on Saturday night.

(thump)

The other shoe had dropped.

That funeral was this past Friday… bookending a six day stretch that was crappy, to say the least. This week was also filled with too many work obligations, not enough sleep, and not enough fresh air.

All it proves is that life is too damn short.

In the good news department, though, I did manage to construct a solidly-built ramp for my in-law’s home so my mother-in-law can get out to the family room. It was a chance to use power tools (which I’m always in favor of), and a chance to bitch about cheap Chinese-made wood screws. I might have something there… there’s NO reason an 18v cordless drill should be able to torque the head right off the screw. This happened twice. Not happy, but what can you do? I also opted to build a computer stand for the iMac, freeing up space underneath for the external hard drive and the Time Machine.

I also got some good exercise in. My group meeting took place with the exercise physiologist and he had us doing circuits. I was doing OK, but the mountain climbers really hurt on Saturday. The part that made me feel pretty good was the running in place… I was able to go 45 seconds without too much effort. This leads me to believe that I can do some intervals during the Troegtoberfest race and not be dead last. Woot!

I’ve also come to a conclusion that I’m going to go see a wound care specialist about Stubby and Wayne. These things are healing, but it seems the podiatrist doesn’t have a clue on how to make it more permanent (and faster). If I have to go back in the boot for awhile, so be it… if it really helps, I’m all for it.

So, I’m calling it a night. Hope that you all have a very happy Easter (Passover, etc.) and I’ll catch you in a few days.

Sadness, loss, and frustration

Posted: April 3, 2014 in family, regrets

Author’s note: Just a warning… I’m writing this after too many days of not enough sleep, a ten-hour shift and it’s 3:40 AM. As a result, it’s a little on the rambling side. Sorry.

As you can probably tell from the title, this isn’t going to be a particularly uplifting post.

In LOLspeak, I haz a sad.

I can usually be counted on to put on a brave face, suck it up and wall whatever is bothering me off in some dark corner of my psyche. I’m pretty sure if you managed to chisel through the walls, you’d find a very depressing and gloomy path.

I know that internalizing isn’t usually the best course of action, but sometimes you gotta do what you do. This is my usual M.O. Is it healthy? Probably not.

The root cause of my sadness is based in grief. As those of you who read this know, I recently lost a favorite cousin. He’s being laid to rest on Saturday.

At my mom's 70th birthday party, just two years ago

At my mom’s 70th birthday party, just two years ago

The kicker came when my mom called last Sunday to let us know that my Aunt Marie was in hospice care and given days to live. We went to say our goodbyes on Tuesday and it really tore me up. This vibrant woman, unresponsive, struggling to breathe. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it really hit me hard.

Now, Aunt Marie is actually my great aunt. She is my late grandmother’s sister-in-law, but the fine distinctions never came to mind. It was a special treat when she came to visit. She was always so full of life and fun. As much as it hit me, this one hit my sister even harder. She would go to Aunt Marie’s for a few weeks every summer. As usual, I feel extremely guilty for letting life get in the way of seeing her as the years have marched on. I just hope she knows on some level that I came by to wish her well.

So, while I know that death is as much a part of life as anything, it sucks that it has to be so humbling.

The real clincher is that her sickness is my old nemesis.

Cancer.

I hate that fucking disease with every fiber of my being. While she’s not gone yet, that little bastard is what’s going to do it.

Here lies the frustration. So far, cancer has taken away so many of my loved ones and all I have to show for it are the tears. This is why I raise money and donate money to fight it. Maybe it’s a losing battle, but if we can do something to either stop or at least slow the advance, we might have a prayer of staying in the game.

The part that really depresses me is the simple unfairness of it all. Good people die in such a horrible way, shadows of their former selves, and bad people are still walking around. I want to believe that it is all part of some cosmic master plan by a supreme being, whether it be God, Allah, Yahweh, or whatever supreme deity you happen to believe in. I just have such a hard time believing that said deity, if He is indeed benevolent as we are taught, would let people suffer so much, rob them of their dignity and faculties, basically leaving behind an empty shell.

You could say I have a pretty bad crisis of faith.

Now I know a lot of people will read that and have issues with what I am saying. If these comments offend you, you have my apologies. I don’t mean to offend.

At any rate, there you have it. Grief, sadness, frustration, all in under 700 words.

Do me a favor, though. Treasure your loved ones. Tell your parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, hell, complete strangers even, tell them you love them. Give them a hug. They are all that really matters in life. Enjoy and cherish the time you do have together, because that time will be over all too soon.

And regretting those times you didn’t have together is a shitty way to go through life.

Just sayin’

So, today had the promise of a pretty good day. I got some sleep, write a post, did stuff for awhile, the Supportive Partner Woman (Understanding!) and I went to visit her family. I’ve alluded to the fact that SPW’s mother has had some health issues and she is currently in a care facility for therapy and rehabilitation. As such, we’ve been known to take the holiday meal to her. SPW’s sister and brother-in-law brought a ham, potato filling, green bean surprise, corm, rolls, basically an entire feast.

I brought a container of sugar-free Jell-o and a container of sugar-free pudding.

easterI thought I’d be OK with it. I really thought I’d be OK with it. Then I made the mistake of thinking about it. Then, as a lark, I took pictures of the great disparity. Then I wanted nothing more than to eat real food. It was a physical longing such that I never really felt before. I just wanted some ham and potatoes and bread. Lots of bread. I just wanted to eat and eat and eat and eat. And the worst part is that I wasn’t even hungry. It was a compulsion

I was a junkie in search of his fix.

It scared me so much I couldn’t even talk about it with SPW, who was feeling incredibly guilty for eating real food in front of me.

I started wondering whether I had just made one huge mistake.

I’ve been pondering that since I got home. I was even trying to plot a way to put some leftovers in the blender and puree myself some Easter dinner.

Pureed ham. Ain’t nothing better ‘n that.

Seriously, though… I have to wonder if I’m always going to feel that way at a holiday table. Or if we go out. Will I always be craving that next meal? Was this just a moment of weakness or am I doomed to this feeling every time? I just don’t know.

In a way, those of us who are overweight have it tougher than folks addicted to alcohol or drugs or smoking. We still need food to survive. This whole episode today has me wondering if I can do this. If I really can succeed.

I guess I need to take it one day at a time.

Thanks for listening.

Warning: This isn’t exactly an upbeat piece. There’s some profanity. If it bothers you, my apologies.

I sat in the Nerd Lair Monday night, opened the bottle of John Jameson and had a drink. This is not something I do often anymore. See, alcohol and insulin aren’t always the best of bedfellows.

It’s not that I’m a teetotaler. I have my share of nights I don’t remember. Granted, that was mostly back in college. Suffice it to say, I had a day Monday that was simply booze-worthy.

Not sure why it was so bad… just one of those days I felt like King Midas in reverse. Everything I touched turned to shit. So, I sat in the half-light, nursing a whiskey on the rocks and feeling sorry for myself. That’s the one thing I was excelling at yesterday. That and generally being very down.

Now, Supportive Partner Woman (Very supportive!) has been good at attending to my moodiness. She always asks what she can do to make me happy (or at least happier), but I never really seem to know what will boost my mood for the long-term. That’s pretty sad, when you stop and think about it.

I don’t really know what makes me happy anymore.

That’s not an indictment of SPW (Best friend I’ve ever had!)… not by any stretch. If there’s a better match for me out there, well, I’d need to see some serious proof before I was convinced. Maybe the issue is that I don’t seem to have any dreams any more. I just can’t conjure up enthusiasm for much of anything. What I do find myself enjoying winds up being a quick fix and it’s all too soon back to cold reality.

Maybe I just stopped trying to have fun because I figured I’d screw it up anyway. The awkward part of myself is like a bull in a china shop and the uptight side of myself tells the other side, “See? This is why we can’t have nice things!” It’s like I just broke the collectible Elvis plates that mama had stashed around the double wide.

The only thing I feel I’ve ever been marginally successful at is being fat. And yet I still manage to mess that up by not being jolly. Pretty sad when you can’t even be a proper fat guy.

I can’t help thinking that maybe what I need is some success. Something to just go right. A break. Maybe a day when my commute to work is not filled with red lights, tractor trailers, cement mixers, Amish buggies and the armada of complete dickholes who think that them getting to a stoplight 2 seconds before I do is important.  Maybe a day when my hips and ankles don’t hurt. Maybe a period of time when I can stop being so judgmental of everyone and everything. Maybe a day when I’m not angry and bitter about one thing or another.

I certainly wasn’t raised to be this way, but it’s been this way for a long time.

I’m not kidding about the long time part, either. The last time I can truly remember being generally happy would be third grade. See, when I went to the fourth grade, I changed schools. I was the new kid, I wasn’t popular. I was bigger than most of the other kids and I was bullied. Bullied for being new, for being awkward, because my family wasn’t in the right tax bracket.

Bullied for being different.

I wasn’t physically bullied very much… I was bigger (taller, too) than most of the other kids and I could hold my own. It was mostly mental… the taunting, the insults. The worst bullying really came from my sixth grade social studies/reading/spelling teacher. That was pretty much just a mind-fuck (excuse the language) by a vindictive bitch of a teacher who had about as much right to teach kids as a pedophile does to be a camp counselor. My crime? I made the mistake of arguing over the spelling of a word that was mistyped on the vocabulary sheet. According to the sheet, “Research” was spelled “Reasearch”. I pointed it out and for that I was branded as disruptive, my desk was moved to the corner and I spent most of the year being basically ostracized. Bad enough it happened with that particular teacher, but she passed the word to the other teachers that I was trouble and it took an awful lot to work out from under that shadow. I don’t know that I ever fully emerged. The really good news is that it’s my understanding that she went on to be a guidance counselor. How’s that for a kick in the teeth?

Where were my parents during all this? Well, they were old school. They believed that the teacher was always right. Apparently I was neither the first nor the last target for this particular teacher and once the parental units found out about that, they apologized for not listening to me.

I think I started dying a little on the inside at that point. I know I stopped trying in school, figuring if I didn’t always get great grades, maybe other kids would like me. That didn’t work too well… they just made fun of me for getting lower grades. I put on a big show of  “I don’t care”, but the truth is I did care, and it hurt. It hurt a lot. I tried that whole “sticks and stones” thing… yeah. That didn’t work so well. Because even a small trickle of water will eventually cut through a rock.

It came down to me trusting no one… not even myself. I never went to anyone about this. I just became adept at bullshit. Call it my coping mechanism. Well, fast forward 30+ years and my gift of bullshit is deserting me. Maybe it’s not deserting me, maybe I just realize I’m getting older and other than SPW and a few close friends, I don’t have anyone. I have plenty of acquaintances, but few friends.

I’ve been on the fence about the surgery for several months. I guess a large part of me was scared that even if I do get down to a normal weight, I’ll still hear the comments, the snide remarks about the rhino in the room. You know what? I’ve spent my whole life worrying about what other people might think. The people who don’t matter.

You know what I say?

Screw ’em. Screw ’em all.

I’m doing it because it offers the best chance for me to improve my physical health and my mental health. I’ve been cowed for 30+ years and I’m not going to put up with it anymore. Gotta move on.

All that being said, I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I don’t deny that. I caused hurt to people and I regret that most deeply. If I ever hurt you and didn’t apologize, well, I’m truly sorry. On the other hand, if you were an asshole to me and it never bothered you, I’m sorry for you. But if figuratively kicking someone who’s down made you feel that much better about yourself, well, I’m so glad I could help.

So, there you have it. I’m getting the operation. And it’s going to be a success.

God knows I need one.

I also want to point out that I have a lot to be thankful for and it’s not all gloom and doom. I have a good family, I’m not living on the streets and I have the best wife I could ever want. She’s my rock.