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.

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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.

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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

Randomness #1

After more than 12 years of blogging, I’m not sure what it is that I want to write about anymore. For more than a decade I’ve written about books, politics, self-help, workforce development, aging—and a host of other topics. Lately, I’ve been posting frequently about America’s spiral downward towards something less than we are as a nation. Honestly, I don’t know what we’ll be as a nation  in another five years, let alone 20. I’m guessing I won’t be enamored with the visual.

I don’t want to write about that today. Politics is off the table, too—I’ve decided to take a break from weighing-in on anything political.

Sports is a topic that many people like to talk and debate. These days, it often seems like the flipside of politics, at least in the greater-Boston market.

So for today, I’ll just pick a few random things I’ve observed over the past week. Continue reading

Dogs and Cats

When our Sheltie, Bernie, died in 2009, Mary and I were crushed. Say whatever you want about animals not measuring up to the status of fellow humans—losing a beloved pet that has been an integral part of your family for 15 years hurts just like losing a human loved one.

He was the only dog I’ve ever had. When he was gone, it left a void in our household. Of course, life goes on.

Mary and I discussed getting another dog numerous times. The verdict was always, “we’re too busy,” and “a dog is like having a child.” The premise being—you can’t come and go as you please. Still, I missed having a pet around the house, especially as the amount of time I spent working at home increased.

A cat was never an option, or so I thought. I’m not sure why. We’d had cats when Mark was small and we even had a couple of energetic and enjoyable cats when we moved out to the country from Lisbon Falls in 1989. They were outdoor cats, coming and going as cats are want to do—until they disappeared—likely devoured by a wild animal in the dark. With Bernie’s arrival, we became a dog household.

When you live out in the woods and there are fields nearby, you are also in the midst of mouse country. One July evening this summer, I was up in my office writing and listening to baseball on the radio when I heard Mary scream. I went downstairs to find a mouse climbing the screen slider between the living room and our outdoor deck. We had a mouse in the house!

I managed to subdue the critter only to have another one show up in our kitchen this fall. Traps and other so-called mouse-control devices didn’t address the problem. Mary is pretty laid back and easygoing—except when it comes to mice living in the pantry. They had to go!

One morning I said to Mary, “you know the best way to get rid of a mouse, don’t you?” She looked at me, a question mark written on her face. “A cat,” I said, answering my own question.

It wasn’t long before she came home with a video of a beautiful chartreuse kitten residing at the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. This kitten was a dead ringer for perhaps the best cat we’d ever owned, Shauna, who disappeared after we’d moved out to Durham.

Lucy perched on her cat house, watching the birds.

Lucy perched on her cat house, watching the birds.

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