Come on, be a friend

I’ve mentioned numerous times in my recent posts that grief isn’t linear. Loss means you jump back and forth across the continuum and experience a full palette of emotions; that’s at least how I’ve been processing the death of Mark.

Two weeks ago, I felt a bit of creative intensity returning. I’ve been able to blog, mainly personal reflections about losing a son. However, I’ve been short on new ideas. Grief affects our cognitive abilities, just one of the “gifts” that grief delivers.

I remembered a friend of Mark’s that I met at his celebration of life. He had offered his eye as an editor for anything—taking a look at Mark’s work, or even ideas I might have.

Hesitant about sending something I’d put together—an idea for an essay related to Mark and my experience as his father processing death, grief, and some of the bitter/hateful reactions from some corners of the internet. I used an essay written by David Foster Wallace as my jumping off point, and the reaction that his subject had when Wallace later committed suicide.

At the very least, his reaction was disappointing. I’m fine with being offered a critique, and even some suggestions about how best to pitch something like this. Instead, he chose to be dismissive at best, offering little in the way of encouragement.

My mood over the past few weeks has been alternating between deep sadness and red-hot anger, with several outbursts of frustration. As disorienting as this up-and-down yo-yoing looks and feels, the counselor we’ve been visiting for two months assures me (and Mary) that all this is quite normal.

Someone I’ve never met, but who had been following Mark’s journey, initiated an online conversation shortly after he was killed. It’s obvious from his public profile and body of work that this person is immensely talented. He also knows compassion and how to extend it to those suffering loss. He recommended Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking as a place to find some solace and a book on mourning that was worthy of my time and effort. I’m grateful he did. Continue reading

Distancing from Darkness

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received several hand-written notes. These were all personalized acknowledgements of what Mary and I have been going through since Mark was killed on January 21. Often, they touched on the difficult time that this person had in reaching out and the struggle for words that adequately addressed what they thought we are going through.

When people that know you don’t respond, it only compounds the grief and loss that you are feeling. That’s been my experience anyways in not hearing from people that I assume know that we lost our only son—and that we are walking through a valley and have been for more than two months.

As Linda Andrews writes in her lovely and pertinent book about grief and loss, Please Bring Soup To Comfort Me While I Grieve,

When it comes to the topic of grief, many people are uncomfortable and unprepared to know what to say or do. Some people try to say the right thing and others just avoid the whole situation. The effect on the person who is grieving is devastating; feelings of pain, hurt, anger and disappointment prevail. People who are grieving are not in a position to understand this flaw in the human spirit. Continue reading

Marching forth for Mark

Grief does funny things to you. It’s not linear, and no, there aren’t five stages. Perhaps if you need to stage grief, know that passage doesn’t proceed neatly.

Mark was killed on January 21. We weren’t the first people who found out. Word passed slowly from where Mark was mangled by the side of the road by a woman, who at the very least couldn’t maintain her lane and left it—hitting Mark walking legally, in the ribbon of pavement reserved for pedestrians (he was walking against traffic, in the middle of the day, while wearing his fluorescent vest)—to possibly being distracted by something other than simply maintaining control of her 5,000-pound lethal weapon.

It was nearly 10:30 on Saturday night when the Maine State Trooper knocked on our front door. That was more than eight hours after Mark was pronounced dead.

I now know more about the timeline and who found out before we did. Some of those people botched the handling of that information. I’m not surprised, really. It’s pretty obvious to see from their actions since Mark was killed that they don’t care at all about how Mary and I feel about losing our only son. Obviously, they know little or nothing about grief and at the very least, they come up woefully short in the empathy department. Lacking basic humanness, could they not at the very least, send a corporate-produced card with a perfunctory message that says, “we’re sorry for your loss”? I know Hallmark carries some decent ones. Apparently not. But, it’s also not my fucking job to help you improve your skills in the area of compassion and grief. Continue reading

Less Dreck

When you begin your journey hosting a blog, the experience is a heady one. You—just a solitary individual armed with a keyboard—think the world and your readership will sit at your feet and hang on each and every word. Actually, you probably don’t have quite those lofty aspirations, but there is a certain confidence (arrogance) that what you set down for content matters. It usually doesn’t.

The start of a brand new run through spring, summer, fall, and then, the close of yet another year, offers a chance to revisit how/why you do things. I’m reconsidering my own blogging schedule and what passes for content.

For awhile now, posting twice a week—on set days at that—seemed like the best plan. I’m not certain that convention is necessary any longer. Since I no longer really care to serve as anyone’s paragon of a writer these days, self-imposed deadlines have become a bit of a drag. Continue reading

Not Quite As Dark

It’s been awhile since I felt excitement coming home after work. No, I’m not sick of my wife of 34 years, and I have no intention of parting ways.

Actually, for the past several years, I’m usually the one who has been working at home, or coming home long before Mary arrives from her job, or evening workout with SheJAMS.

I adore the cat we added to our home slightly more than a year ago. Lucy is always happy to see me, whenever I return.

This time of year, when I’ve put away my umpiring gear (and volleyball referee’s whistle), as well as hung up the road bike for the season, the approach of darkness has elicited something akin to that claustrophobic feeling that makes breathing difficult.

We are now in week two in our new house. As we unpack the assorted boxes and crates and begin rearranging things into something that feels like home again, returning home after work elicits anticipation and a thrill as I head towards our place by the cove.

Yes, December is the darkest month, but this year, it doesn’t seem as bleak as years past. A new town and a new place to call “home” has a lot to do with that.

Dream Sequences and Baseball Fields

Dreams get referenced often, yet I contend that they’re one of the least understood elements of our brains and subconscious.

All of us dream. Researchers tell us that people can spend two hours of their sleep in some stage of dreaming.

Sometimes reality impersonates the dream fugue. Visiting former haunts and places that once occupied significance in our lives can unleash memories that we’d stored away.

The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach was built in 1983, principally fueled by the vision and dream of a successful Bangor lawyer, Jordan Kobritz, who didn’t want to practice law anymore. Kobritz believed that OOB’s summer influx of tourists and vacationers would provide the population necessary to support a minor league baseball team, one played at the AAA-level.

Baseball meets the beach at OOB.

Baseball meets the beach at OOB.

Continue reading

A New Standard for Beer

The first beer I ever tasted was probably a Carling Black Label. How do I know that? There’s a grainy picture taken when I was three or four, with my Uncle Dick letting me have a sip of his beer. He was big on that brand.

Given our current culture wars and the binary battles being waged that extend even to beer, this might be the time to step away from the people who flaunt particular lifestyles. Or, if you are part of a group that’s not in the vanguard—stop hiding your uncouth behavior away from the bright lights and your Facebook profile.

I mean, what kind of country are we living in that certain arbiters get to decide the brands of beer we’re all supposed to be belting down? Given the explosion of craft beer and brewing, especially in burgs like Portland, Maine—where a new craft brewer opens every other week—or so it seems, admitting that you like “lawnmower beer” is liable to get you exiled to a place with a much lower hipster quotient.

Cold beers on the patio: the stuff of summer.

Cold beers on the patio: the stuff of summer.

Continue reading

Holding My Place

When you’ve been blogging since 2003, like I have, there are ebbs and flows to content creation. A new job, a topsy-turvy month of May (and now into early June) often bring challenges to my own self-imposed schedule of Tuesdays and Fridays.

As much as I’d like to sit home this morning and crank out 500+ words, my aching knees and back (from umpiring) tell me that I’ll feel better if I put in 30-40 minutes in the pool before heading to work. I try to listen to my body now and then.

Think of today as a placeholder. I’ll have something more substantial next Tuesday, even if it’s simply pictures from Sunday’s Bicycles Battling Cancer ride.

See you then.

I'm sort of like this in the pool.

I’m sort of like this in the pool.

Dreams and Songs

I’m not a poet. Many years ago I wrote some bad poetry and sent it into the college literary magazine at UMO. This was during my freshman year, and my poems got soundly rejected. I now leave the work of poetry to my son, Mark.

I mention poetry and a particular work of poetry for a reason that will soon become apparent.

John Berryman was a popular poet during the 1960s when it seems poetry was ubiquitous in America. That period was many things—both good and bad. It was a time when artists (and poets) had more cultural cred, or so it seems now in retrospect.

"The Dream Songs," by John Berryman

“The Dream Songs,” by John Berryman

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A Discovery (of sorts)

I discovered something last week. Actually, calling it a “discovery” imbues it with significance and something akin to magic. That’s not what I’m talking about. And to say that I came across something new and unique isn’t really the truth, either.

But, I did finally admit that spending most of my week out in nature and not looking at a screen was really good for me. I think I spent about 5 minutes in Zuckerland, and limiting time with Fakebook was especially positive.

So as I move forward into the summer months, I’m planning to spend as little time online as possible. If I read blogs, I will have a routine and try to keep to just a handful of meaningful sites.

I am planning to continue with the blogging, but I’m not sure what other writing I’m going to be doing. Continue reading