The text came through last night. “We REALLY have to talk.” My first reaction was a silly one. I thought to myself noone really NEEDS to talk. My second reaction was to marvel at how silly and funny I am. But my third reaction was a little more profound. I realized that I was faced with what will certainly be another in a long string of rejections as I walk the path towards finding a soulmate and, amazingly, I don’t care. I’m getting better at this.
It’s been a long time coming. Everyone knew she wasn’t going to come around. Especially her. To her credit, she wasn’t the aggressor. I was. I thought that I could make her feel things she said she wasn’t ready for. I couldn’t. And by the contents of her cryptic text she is probably going to tell me tonight. I’m ready. So ready she doesn’t even need to say it. But she will. “Let’s be friends.” I almost want to text her not to bother. There is very little chance that I am wrong about the impending conversation and that she is going to profess her undying love for me. Not the way things have been lately. I know the signs. But I suppose I should let her get it out. It may make her feel better to tell me everything that I did wrong over the last few months. Why deny her the process? Let her dump me. I’m getting really good at being on the other end of that conversation. In fact, I’m a fucking PRO.
I think it’s time to rip the old heart out of my chest and hang it on a hook. Save the next one the trouble. That may be the only way to keep it from further damage. I’ll hang my dick next to it, after all I’m not using that either. I think I’m done. If I never hear the words “let’s be friends” again it will be too soon. I have enough fucking friends.
What do I need a woman for anyway? I have internet porn to poorly stand in for actual intimacy. I have television to remind me what a relationship looks like. I have friends to be jealous of for their health, wealth and success. I have my motorcycle to take to bars to eat and drink alone, comfortable that I will not be approached by strange women. I now have no reason to shave my beard or dress up. I can refine my greatest skill…being alone.
You know it’s been awhile when other bloggers reach out to you in the comments section to see if you’re ok. It’s quite the testament to the blogosphere when that happens. It occurred to me that, given my readers’ familiarity with my health issues, people assumed the worst. So I am here to tell you that I am doing physically well and still the best specimen in the clinic, although that isn’t saying a hell of a lot. Emotionally…not so much.
Like most great stories, this one starts with “About a girl…”
I met her through a friend. The bestie of my buddies new wife. When I met her she had a boyfriend. With this news I kept a careful, yet smitten eye on her. As luck, fate or divine providence would have it, she broke up with her guy the night that I met her. I was cautiously excited. A few days later the friend request came in. Soon, we were talking on the phone every night. She wanted us to get to know each other. So we did.
In what I now think of as a dumb move, I asked her to have dinner. That’s where it went south. Why?, you may ask. The answer is simple, I thought it was a date and she didn’t.
We had a great time. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner. She told me a lot about herself. In particular she spoke of how she wasn’t ready for a relationship. She said it so many times that I should have listened. I didn’t. I must have thought that I could “turn” her with my unrelenting charm. As the evening went on, I thought I had changed her mind. What had really happened is that she drank enough wine to temporarily knock down her walls. Experiencing emotions I hadn’t experienced in years, I failed to recognize that it was the booze talking.
The next day was awkward. The one after that even more so. I quickly learned that there were two of her. The drunk one had a far more favorable opinion of me. Sober girl was pushing back. Hard.
She wasn’t ready. That’s the takeaway. We’ve seen each other several times. In this Virus crazy world, going out is difficult. I mostly went to her house and stayed in the guest room. Mostly, we texted and talked on the phone. I have to say, I lit up whenever I saw a text from her. I was smitten. Until I noticed that I was always the one initiating conversation.
I began to scrutinize her responses and her language. I noticed that any attempts at intimacy, ranging from “I miss you”, and “you’re special to me” were met with a generic “thank you”. I asked her about it finally. She wasn’t able to address such comments because she’s not ready. She knew that I was in a different place than her and asked me if we could just “hang out” and let her figure out if she wants a relationship. It wasn’t ideal but I wanted to spend time with her. So I agreed.
We hung out a bit in recent weeks. Occasionally I slipped up and treated her like a girlfriend. The pushback was incredible. And frustrating. I was firmly stuck in the “friend zone” and that’s where I think I’m going to stay.
The girl she is when she drinks loves me. She’s affectionate and lovable. Sober girl apparently feels different.
Thursday night I told her it wasn’t working for me. I don’t know where we are headed now. We haven’t talked since. I really don’t know how I feel about it. But the confusion and mixed messages have consumed my life for months.
I should have listened.
I’m crazy about her but I have to prepare for life without her.
This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence, the second the 4th of July, the third is called The sewing machine and the curio cabinet.
A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain. I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.
now that you’re caught up, here we go…
It was difficult for me to reconcile my feelings when my uncle died. I hate to say it, but yea…elated covers it. I was a mixed-up 13 year old kid and I lacked maturity. I was relieved that a man that I hated out of personal experience and a steadfast devotion to my father (and the truth) was gone. I was happy at the prospect of being able to see my cousin and hang out on Railroad Avenue again. Unfortunately, I had only considered my angle. My selfishness had clouded my judgment. I hadn’t considered how my cousin felt about it.
All of my cousins were devastated. To this day I struggle with reconciling how powerful the paternal bond is and how they could love a man like my Uncle. The comparison’s are easy, I just had to compare him to my own father. My Uncle was mean, violent, closed off and capable of some pretty white-trash shit; my father, who was not much better off financially, was kind, pleasant and a very decent man. That aside, my cousins were grieving. Little did I know that part of their grief would be to “dig in” on the lie. I would soon find out that I still wasn’t welcome on Railroad Ave.
I was the unwelcome son of a thief.
My mother had a theory, which she shared with me during a moment of despondence. Jealousy. My father, and this is not an opinion, was the only success story in the family. Margie married a poor man with little earning potential and remained in the poor home with uneven floors and plastic on the windows that she, Ellie and Dad grew up in. Ellie was destined to live with her parents forever. Dad, on the other hand joined the military, got a good job when he got out, married his high school sweetheart and bought a house. In support of her theory, she told me that we were regarded as “lucky”, and “the rich ones”. I found this amusing, we were stable and I never wanted for anything, but we were lower middle class at best.
I saw Mike at school. He took the loss of his father really hard and I left him to it. I don’t think he fully understood my contempt for his father and when he talked of him it was all I could do to put on a fake and sympathetic face. It was a tough time for me as well. I thought that once the Wicked Dick of the West was gone, everything would be great. That was not to be the case. Even if Mike welcomed my family on Railroad Ave, the rest of the family did not.
This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence and the second the 4th of July.
Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.
Now that you’re caught up, here we go.
The Sewing machine
Have you ever seen a TV show in which the scene is a car pulling away and all you see is a child in the rear view looking out the rear window in disbelief, exaggerated by hands in the window? Well, that was me. I had just been ripped out of one of my favorite places after watching my father get into a shouting match and endure an expletive-laden verbal onslaught over something that he was as confused about as I. Of course, he at least knew what the accusation was. I myself did not. Until mom sat me down.
My drunk uncle had accused my father of stealing a rare gold coin.
The whole thing was incomprehensible to me. There were two glaring improbabilities of this situation. First of all, my father was not a thief. Nobody would ever believe that. Additionally, I don’t believe that he ever had it. If he did, he would of drank or gambled it away. Yet, he pursued his campaign against my family with fury, vitriol and astounding longevity. It would be years of threats against us and his family should they betray him and have contact with us.
I felt awful for my father and I was angry on behalf of him. He was deeply hurt and it was hard for me to watch as he processed it. I was also sad that I had lost my childhood hangout and most important, I had lost access to my cousin Mike. It felt as if I had lost my best friend. To make it worse, I had no idea at that time how long it would go on or how bad it would get. What I did know was that my Uncle wasn’t letting it go. His anger and resentment would begin with forbidding his wife and kids from speaking to any of us, the punishment was explicitly clear. He would beat them. He threatened to kill my father. Months would turn into years and his anger never subsided. It would result in my father eventually filing a restraining order against my uncle.
A little about Uncle John. I have tried up to this point to write this as if my cousins were reading it. I want above all to be fair. In that vein, perhaps it is a little unfair to call him my “drunk uncle.” It would be more fair and accurate to call him “that drunk, wife-beating, child-abusing rapist piece of shit Uncle.”
A father of six, Johnny (John Jr), Debbie, Cindy, Greg, Laurie, and Mike, he was a controlling “I’m home, my dinner had better be on the table or there will be hell to pay” alpha asshole. The first anecdote to illustrate this that comes to mind is a story my mother once told me.
My mother is a gifted seamstress. Margie, after years of watching my mother make her own clothes finally asked her to teach her how to sew. My mother loaned her one of her many sewing machines to use. One fall afternoon, as they were at the table sewing, my uncle came home from work. After he stopped at the local watering hole first, of course. He had a pretty good glow on. He entered the kitchen, ignored my mother as he always did, and demanded to know where his dinner was. Margie politely and cautiously told him that she lost track of time and that she would get it in a minute. My uncle picked up the sewing machine in front of her and threw it across the room, shattering a curio cabinet and many of the curios within. Margie stood in horrified disbelief, my mother fled the house and quickly drove home. It was no accident that the POS picked the curio cabinet as a target. It was a hand me down to Margie and it was dear to her. They were very poor, there weren’t a lot of nice things in the house. He meant to hurt her. He succeeded.
This pales in comparison to the many beatings he gave her. It was also no surprise to find out later that he sexually abused at least two of his daughters on multiple occasions. I certainly remember the beating he gave Mike when he found out that he and I had secretly gotten together for a game of basketball. Mike shrugged it off. I was horrified.
It was the last time we got together until Middle school. My Uncle couldn’t do anything about that.
A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain.
I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.
This is part 2 of a series. It can stand on it’s own or you can honor me by checking out yesterday’s post
My home town was incorporated in 1853 but the area was first settled in 1651. The building that is now the Town Hall has an enormous carved granite plaque on its walls dedicated to its founding fathers. My family is represented by 4 brave men, 3 of which died in the Civil War. Equally represented on the wall are the Smith’s (not their real names).
My family was always a presence in town, the Smith’s spread out all over Metropolitan Boston as aggressively as they proliferated in town. It was only inevitable that the two families would one day merge.
In the late 1940’s my Grandparents on my father’s side, along with a few cousins all moved to an uninhabited stretch of land along the abandoned Railroad tracks behind the Fire Station. It was an undesirable lot of land in many ways. On either side of the tracks was wetland that was prone to flooding every Spring. The ground was soft and needed to be fortified to build on. The insects were abominable in the summer. The Fire whistle on the nearby station was devastatingly loud. But the prospect of one family owning a whole street was attractive. Despite the family legacy of my family in town, we weren’t a family of wealth or influence. We were poor. 4 modest dwellings soon went up as 3 cousins I barely knew, and my Grandparents set up residence.
Railroad Avenue was born.
By the time I was born in 1965 my Grandparents had long since moved to the other side of town. Grandpa was forced into early retirement, sick with Emphysema from a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. He wasn’t able to afford the maintenance of a house. Ellie, my father’s youngest sister moved with them and assumed the role of caretaker. Her other sister Margie took over the house with her new husband, my uncle John and would have 6 children. My father had moved out when he joined the Army in 1960.
My parents purchased a home barely 2 miles from Railroad Ave in 1964. Dad was an Oil Burner repair man/Oil delivery driver for a fuel company that coincidentally marked the entrance to Railroad Ave. He would work there until it closed in 1970. Until that point, my earliest memories consisted of my mom and I meeting him after work and walking down Railroad Ave where we would hang out with my cousins. It was a happy time for me, my earliest memories are of playing with my youngest cousin Mike, who was my age. Learning to ride a bike on the puddle-ridden dirt road of Railroad Ave remains one of my happiest moments. The many cheers of the large group of beloved family members still echo in my head. This would be indicative of most warm summer days of my childhood. Until July 4th, 1974 when it all came crashing down.
July 4th was a standing holiday on Railroad Ave. Despite being avid campers in the summer we were always there. Family and friends showed up with coolers of beer, armloads of food and enough fireworks to level the town. For nine-year old me, it was the best day of the year. We ran around like heathens, played wiffleball and watched the legendary horseshoe tournament that almost always came down to my dad and one of my older cousins.
On this particular 4th of July the horseshoe tournament was interrupted by my uncle John, who came tearing out of the house yelling for my father. When he located him, he pushed my dad and began screaming about how my dad “stole it.” When pressed for details and a rational explanation he continued to attempt to fight my father, who fended him off admirably. A shouting match ensued, sides were taken and the day was inexplicably ruined for all. Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.
I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.
I sat with head bowed, choking back tears in the front row of the funeral home. My children were to my left, my wife on my right. She clutched my hand. As if the day wasn’t surreal enough, it was the first time she had even touched me in years. We listened intently as the minister patiently read the obituary to my father. I’m not sure why I was so moved by the words as he spoke…I wrote it. To everyone else in the room, including them, the words were fresh. I’d like to think the eulogy was good, the amount of tears falling gave me a good indication. One word I purposely and aggressively peppered into my dedication to my beloved father was honest. It had double significance on that day. It served as a theme and also as a great big message to them. It was my intention while writing it that my overuse of the word “honest” made them squirm in their goddamn seats.
Later, as I stood graveside in the cold rain of the early December day, people approached me one by one and wished me well in their own way. All had an account of Dad and told me brief anecdotes of the times he had made an impression on them. The crowd thinned as everyone went back to their lives, many of the cousins held back. One by one they approached me and said something encouraging about Dad. I barely spoke to them. I stared straight ahead and nodded solemnly.
The only thought echoing through my brain was still waiting for that apology. I was being harsh, I knew it. I didn’t hate them. I didn’t even dislike them. They were family. And it was a long time ago. I was simply feeling the full and mighty wrath of decades of resentment bubbling to the surface over an incredibly formative moment in my childhood.
How do I just let go of something that almost ruined my childhood and scarred my father, the most honest man I ever met, for life?
I’ve never been described as patient. Now, its all I can be.
I want to get out and enjoy Spring. It’s my favorite season. I can go outside finally. But I can’t go anywhere where there are people. This virus is really fucking up my Spring. And maybe my summer and fall. But there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Patience.
I’m officially on the transplant list. The typical wait time is 3-6 years. I have been on dialysis for 20 months. I get credit for those. Still, I have 1-4 years unless I get a donor. Transplants are postponed, like everything else in the world until further notice. Patience.
I met a woman. She’s the total package. Attractive, smart, funny, and fun. We got off to a rough start but I was lucky enough to get a second chance at a first impression. She had me firmly entrenched in the “friend zone” until I clawed my way out. She’s great. But she is hesitant to put a toe in the cold water. I guess I’m the cold water in this scenario. It’s not me, it’s every guy she’s gone out with before me. I can’t say if they are good or bad but I don’t think they did right by her. She needs that and I wonder if she knows what it is like to be treated nice. I’ll show her if she lets me. It will take work. And time. I think we’re going to be great when the walls come down. Until then…
The tiniest of organisms have the same role in the universe as the largest ones. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. The Blue whale feeds on Krill, the largest creature sustained by one of the smallest. Pollen, carried by the small but mighty bee sustains all life here on dry land. Small matters. Except when you are a person, then it’s all about big. Big dreams, big houses, big cars, big bank accounts. The bigger the better, give me more more more and when done with that I’ll take just a little more. Not all people, of course but you get the point. Given the means I may be the same way. But my profound and distinct lack of means has had a very profound and welcome effect on who I have become at this stage in my life…I have embraced my smallness.
At some point in life we have to check our ego at the door. For some, it may never happen but for a lot of us things, money, or both stop making us happy and we want more. By more in this case I mean more substance, more meaning, more gratification, more connection. Unfortunately, this can only be obtained by downsizing. If not your life then at least your attitude.I am on a journey in that direction, a quest for smallness, but I had an easier path than most. I didn’t walk away from the pursuit of more influence, stature, and wealth. Illness took it all away for me. For quite a while I didn’t know what it meant, I questioned why it happened to me and felt that my life as I knew it was over. What I would find is that when one life ended, so to speak, another one began.
My old life, littered with insecurity and doubt was made no better by the pursuit of big things, in my new life I have found it to be all about the simple and the real. It happened when I stopped trying to control everything. It can’t be done.
No man, regardless of stature is a match for the awesome power and force of the tide. No man will ever make his life better by shaking his fist and screaming at the heavens. Regardless of wealth, stature and achievement no man will live forever. Billions have lived and died before we were ever born and their physical legacy will never be larger than the plot of ground they are buried in. While our time on earth may seem long, it is but a speck. We are all miniscule players in a vast tapestry that we know not a damn thing about. But if you embrace your smallness you will begin to see the big picture.
I like being a small cog. I like being part of the crowd, not standing on my toes to rise above the others. I like the challenge of being a bit player trying to create meaningful change. I enjoy doing small things that make a big impression on another. I’m ok with being ordinary in stature. Don’t know what I mean? Throw a pebble into a pond and see how far and long the ripple carries.
This is where faith begins and control ends. I have placed, finally, my legacy in the hands of a force I know little about but trust inherently. God, mother nature, fate…I can’t tell you for sure. But I believe in the darkest recesses of my soul that by downsizing my attitude I will achieve a greatness in the arena of humanity that I never would have if not for the epiphany I have been so fortunate to have experienced.
I no longer care if I have the answers. They will be revealed in time. I have faith. I have never been happier since I have learned to respect the mighty tide as a humbling yet beautiful reminder of exactly where I stand.
With eyes closed, slowly swaying with her right hand to the sky, she sings with a passion and conviction that I can only look at with admiration and longing. My eyes close, my skin bristles, a small tear forms in the corner of my eye. The music makes me feel vulnerable, open. She begins to freeform, she breaks into a rambling tearful prayer. I’m mesmerized…
The Holy Spirit is what she’s having. And I think I want it.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have had a complex and difficult relationship with God. Once “Born again”, or so I thought in my teens it wasn’t long before I lapsed into a state of agnosticism which later devolved into what I can only call Atheism. I rejected all of it. I have no problem telling you why; I saw too many people praying for themselves and their own advancement, and I had a very hard time understanding why a kind and benevolent God would give babies cancer. While tolerant of other’s right to worship and willing to engage in a debate with anyone, and I could argue my side as good as anyone, I didn’t budge for years.
Much ado was made about my atheism when I got married. We got married in a hotel. A Justice of the Peace presided. It was a civil ceremony and I told the J.O.P. quite definitively that I wanted no mention of G.O.D. My wife, a non-practicing Jew and me a Atheistic angry ex-Protestant…well we sure pissed off our families. That, the pissed-off thing reached new heights when we failed to introduce our kids to religion. No baptisms, no Bar or Batmitzvah’s. No church or temple. I do regret teaching my children my views, as impressionable children I may have ruined it for them.
I wouldn’t begin to come around, and I only came around a small bit, until I petitioned for membership in Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a organization known for making good men better. I was by all accounts a good, if not flawed man and I was a good candidate by all standards. But I was required to acknowledge a faith in a higher power. No specifics required as to denomination or name, but no atheists. I had to really evaluate my stance because one thing I did not want to do was enter a faith-based organization characterized by worthy men on a lie.
Hard questions followed and if not for a good friend I wouldn’t have started on the path that I am now discussing. “A good friend came out of nowhere and gave you a kidney, saving your life?” “Yes.” “And that was just a accident or a coincidence?” “No.” “You know for certain that there is nothing out there?” “No. Nobody can honestly say that.” “Then if you dismiss nothing, then you logically have to ackknowledge something?” “Yes.” “Isn’t it possible that you don’t need to know why things happen, that it’s beyond you?” “Yes.” That was the conversation that opened the door for me to acknowledge that maybe there’s more to it. My compromise was to call it Spirituality.
Then my father died. My father was a Godly man. He lived by a strong moral code and he loved Jesus. Especially towards the end as Parkinson’s ravaged his once strong body and spirit. When he died I started doing two things I never did before; I talked to a granite gravestone, and I began seeing shadows in my house. The Paranormal is a great indicator of God. The shadows, hopefully my father, seemed benevolent but I had heard enough stories to know that not all are. You can’t believe in evil without acknowledging its polar opposite and that is something holy. Still, that one incident aside, I really didn’t move beyond the label of Spiritual.
But I began to open myself up a bit more. I began to find the chirp of the bird, the deer sightings, sunsets, mighty storms and reflections on the water as particularly beautiful and less of a coincidence of nature. I found God outside the walls of a Church. I adopted the “Kayaking” doctrine.
“Kayaking” worked for me. But the selfish praying for a football victory, a winning lottery ticket and the hateful vitriol or outright fucking hypocrisy that I had witnessed in past “Church” phases was still with me. And I still had a hard time with the whole dead baby thing.
Recently I have been talking a lot with a lovely woman who has shown me what I had been missing. She is kind in her actions and her prayers. She prays for others, not for personal gain. She is humble yet strong, she controls what she can and has faith in that which she cannot. She has shown me what I have been missing and didn’t know I was searching for. Faith. People have a hard time with control and I am no exception, letting go of that white knuckle grip is a daunting task. And I’m not quite ready to fall in lockstep with the old “Everything happens for a reason”, or “It’s all predetermined”. But I am coming around to the possibility that I will learn someday, not today the reason for the triumph, or calamity that has just occurred. It’s called FAITH and I’m starting to come around to it.
The people of faith that I have been watching with a keen eye have a special walk. A special smile. They are not acting better than you and I, they just convey a feeling that something has their back. That everything is going to be ok even if they don’t know how, why or when.
I think I’m on a journey that will take me there. I think that my hardships, lessons, and scars have happened for a reason. I may be a vessel, placed on this earth to help one person or many. I may have to hold on to my questions for a while to see if they ever get answered. In the interim, I want to spend more time around people of faith.
Friends and family. Sometimes, in the bustle of our everyday lives we lose touch with those that sustain us the most. Now, as the world has come to a screeching halt they have become the most important asset. My kids have been amazing. Before the collapse of modern society they, most of them at least, were great at keeping touch. My oldest daughter was always the leader in keeping in touch with me. My oldest boy was good but like his old man, time gets away from him. And that’s ok. He’s an adult and he has his own life. My youngest boy is probably the worst, he has the least ability to keep track of time of all and I had to call him to see how he is. Again, it’s alright. He has a job and a girl and he is living his life. My youngest daughter is just now starting to get busy. But she almost rivaled her sister in checking up on the old man. I was always grateful for the communication.
Now, the kids are all in constant touch. They all have accrued a solid education on what my immunocompromised ass is or isn’t supposed to do during a pandemic and they have been amazingly supportive and critical at the same time. They applaud my attitude but chastise for going anywhere. They want me to stay in and never go out, but I have to. We need things. So they yell at me. Constantly. And I love them for it.
My friends have been amazing also. I always knew I had an great circle but I never knew how much so. Friends that I spoke to frequently now call or text me constantly. Friends that I have maintained contact with sporadically are reaching out. They all know my situation and they are all concerned. It has really touched my heart and to their credit, I have made sure that they are all safe and healthy. Physically and mentally. Despite this unprecedented event, they all seem to be handling it.
Then there’s my special lady friend. She isn’t doing so well.
In the short time I’ve known her I have recognized and reveled in her free spirit. Before the pandemic she went into the city for work. She occasionally worked from home but not more than two days a week. Going into the city was her break, her routine. It made her appreciate home. Now, she appreciates getting out of the home more than ever. Some birds are not meant to be caged. I’m worried about her. What she is experiencing is beyond stir crazy. She’s depressed and on top of it all, she feels like the walls are actually closing in.
The confinement. This is where the pandemic really hits home. Well, you know, besides dying that is. I’m a fixer. I want to help. I want to jump in my car and visit her. I want to hug her and tell her it’s going to be ok. I want to take her for a ride. I just want to keep her company.