Losing

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My friend Glenn’s prognosis isn’t good.  There is absolutely no hope.  None.  Nada.  I have been in constant contact with him since his diagnosis, and absolutely nothing good has happened.  He can’t swallow, so a feeding tube has been placed.  It boggles my mind how quickly he has deteriorated.  A trip to the Mayo Clinic only brought him a second opinion that was just as bad as the first.  He said that at least a consensus on his diagnosis has removed the need to make decisions.

This past weekend, I called the boys to tell them.  Those were difficult conversations.  The kids consider Glenn a part of our family.  The boys were shocked, quiet, and deflated.  In many ways, Glenn has been a larger part of our family than many of our closest relatives.  We’re all in disbelief that such a senseless thing would happen to a man who has already had too large a share of misfortune.

There is never a time when I think of him that I don’t hear his voice.  I knew his voice before I ever met him in person.  We had been hired as a team, and our first contact was over the phone.  I remember exactly where I was the first time he called me.  I was filling up my car at a gas station by our local airport when my phone rang.  His Jersey accent was strong, and his gregarious personality came through loud and clear.  I was smiling ear to ear during the entire conversation.  I knew immediately that I would enjoy working with this man, and I was right.  There was never a cross word exchanged between the two of us.  We were a team immediately from the moment of that first conversation.

I have spent some time considering this unique friendship, and I know that I have been blessed to have had such a good friend in my life.  Glenn is the brother I never had.  He’s the brother I wish I could have had.  He has interfered in my personal life without asking and without being asked.  He has given me advice.  He’s known my deepest secrets, and he never judged me harshly.  He has worried along with me, and he has shared joyous times.  He has spent holidays with my family and evenings around the fire.  He came to concerts when I was playing and to my kids’ graduations parties.  He often over-stayed his welcome, but he never expected to be treated like a guest.

He kept his eyes on my kids.  He told me what he had seen on Facebook that I may have missed (or had been blocked from seeing.)  While this annoyed the kids at the time, years later they have understood that he was simply looking out for their best interest.  He cared.  No one asked Glenn to adopt our family, and we probably never lived up to the family he deserved to have, but he adopted us nonetheless.

And so now I am the annoying friend.  Not a day goes by that I haven’t asked how he’s doing, if he needs anything.  I remind him that I love him, and that I’ll be there for him in any way possible.  Tonight he told me to sit tight.  He said, “As things progress, I’m going to need you.  For now, just pray.  I’ll need you soon enough.”

My heart is breaking at the thought of a world without Glenn.

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Worry For A Friend

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I’ve been feeling really burned out and frustrated.  The past two years have taken a heavy toll on me.  One thing I have learned for sure is that change causes stress, even if those changes have been good.  I’m simply worn out and exhausted.  Moving, starting a new job, making sure that the kids are adjusting has made my head spin.

Weeks ago, I decided to take a short trip back home by myself.  I planned on getting my hair cut by the same person I had trusted for years.  (The ordeal of finding another stylist could be a blog post all by itself.)  I was going to call a former co-worker and see if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  I planned on doing a little shopping at places that I miss and then meander around my hometown on the way back home.  I looked forward to a low-key getaway BY MYSELF.  I just wanted 24 hours of not having to work, worry about work, or kids, or anything.

I emailed my hairstylist, and asked her to let me know when she could fit me in on either a Thursday night or anytime on a Friday.  May 1st was the first available date.  I was excited to plan my getaway, until I went to schedule the day off.  I sat down at my computer and opened up my calendar to May 1st.  Right across the top of the page I saw “Lola – No School.”  I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to go away by myself.

Lola is 11-years-old.  While she is sometimes home for an hour or two after school, she doesn’t like it.  There is no way that I would leave her home alone all day while I went off to selfishly spend time alone.  My next thought was that if I asked Lola to tag along with me, then Emily would expect to come along, too.  I took a deep breath and emailed my hair stylist to ask if she could also fit the girls in for a hair appointment on that date.

That evening as we sat on the patio, I asked the girls if they’d like to come along with me.  They whooped with pleasure, and I felt like a heal for wishing that I would have been able to have some time to myself.  Then T said, “Hey, can I go, too?”  The girls let out a big….UGH!

When T stepped inside the house for a moment, I talked to the girls.  I told them that they needed to apologize to their dad and tell him that of course he was welcome to come along.  So there I was, both girls and a husband coming along on my alone trip.  Oh, the dog was coming, too, because no one was going to be home to let him outside.

In my head, I was griping and complaining.  Even as I made hotel reservations for two rooms, I was wishing for the weekend trip I had planned by myself.  I arranged for a friend to keep our dog as an overnight guest, because I couldn’t find a hotel that would allow pets.  The dog will be with us, just not at bedtime.  When T started making arrangements for us to visit his mom and then invited his sister to join us for dinner, I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “Quit hijacking my trip!”  Then something happened to make me take a step back and realize what is really important.  My family wanted to be included.  They want to spend time with me.  I should be grateful, not griping.

Just yesterday, I received a text from a dear family friend from back home.  Earlier in the day, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and the doctor’s prognosis was grim.  Damn cancer!  My friend has three children, and the youngest isn’t even out of grade school.  My heart sank at the thought of what he will be facing and what he will be missing.  He had been misdiagnosed for too long.  Now it appears as if it’s too late for any treatment to have much of an impact on the disease.

I can’t stop thinking about him and remembering times together and our many conversations.  Our backgrounds are so different, but we have been friends from the moment we met.  He is from New Jersey, and I’m a small town Midwesterner.  Years ago, he and I were hired by an organization as a team.  Technically, I was his boss, but we worked as a team.  I can still remember our first conversation.  We hadn’t yet met, but we immediately hit it off.  He was my muse, and he inspired creativity in me.  I owe much of my success in that job to him.

My family became his family.  As a divorced man without extended family nearby, he often spent time at our house and joined us on holidays.  Eventually our jobs took us on separate paths, but our friendship has continued.

He is younger than me.  He’s too young, and he has so much left to accomplish.  Nothing about loss is logical.

He and I have exchanged many texts since yesterday.  He’s not able to speak right now, and I’m thankful that we are able to text as a means of communication.  I asked him if I can come see him, but he keeps saying, “Not now.  Soon.  It’s really bad now.”  I’m afraid, because I don’t know what that means.  I’m praying that there will be a time soon.  I have told him that all he needs to do is let me know.  I can be there in two hours…day or night.

I feel petty and selfish.  All week I have been complaining inside.  I wanted my trip alone.  I resented the fact that first my responsibilities changed my plans, and then everyone else climbed on board.  I feel like an idiot for concentrating on the negative instead of being grateful for a day off work, a trip back home, my health, and the chance to spend time with people I love.

Life is too damn short, precious, and fragile.  I have lost too many people that I love.  We all have…or eventually we all will.  One day, someone will mourn the loss of our lives.  No one escapes death.  In the face of certain tragedy and loss, how is it that we human beings are able to lose sight of the precious gift of each new day?  Why do we waste time complaining, or stuck in jobs we hate, or live our lives plodding from one day to the next?  Obviously, I don’t have the answers to these questions.

We are all human, and it is in our nature to carry on in the face of all the uncertainty and loss that life throws our way.  We are resilient and relentless in the pursuit of another day.  We adapt.  We make do with what is available to us.  We cherish the memories, and we make new memories to pass along to those who follow along behind after we’re gone.

Please say a prayer (or send good vibes and strength) for my friend that he will be granted a little extra time to make a few more memories with the people who love him.

The Commander

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This morning, I received an email from my friend Tom.  Tom is a former fellow band member from back home.  T and I have stayed in touch (somewhat) with Tom and his wife.  He was emailing to tell me that our former bass player, Bob, had recently died.  While that was sad, it wasn’t surprising news.  Bob was well into his eighties, and I had known that his health had been failing.  What surprised me most was that Tom asked me to call him as soon as I had a chance to talk.  I replied that I would give him a call when I headed out for lunch.

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Hiding and Guilt

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Almost a year ago, I met a man.  I was looking for an architect who would do some pro bono work for small, local businesses.  These small businesses were willing to make a financial commitment to their businesses and make physical improvements to buildings in a blighted area.  I wanted to make sure that the end results were beneficial to the district and the business owners.  I wanted to get the most bang for our buck, as my organization was giving out grants to encourage these improvements.  A name of a local architect was recommended to me, and I gave him a call.  From our first phone conversation, we hit it off.  I explained what I needed and what my organization was hoping to accomplish.  He generously offered to meet with building and business owners.  We made an appointment for an initial meeting the following week. Continue Reading »

What Does Aging Really Mean?

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I turned 50 a few months ago.  There.  I said it.  (Or wrote it.)  I’ve refused to acknowledge the fact that I’m past the half century mark.  Most likely, my life is more than half over.  What do I have to look forward to besides wrinkles, sags, and memory loss?  I’m struggling to find anything good about aging.  I’ve tried on a few platitudes for size.  “I’m grateful for all the good things in my life.”  “Life has been an amazing journey.”  Blah, blah, blah…  My children are wonderful, happy, and healthy.  I have a successful career.  I don’t have the financial worries that plagued my life in younger days.  Yeah, great.  I also don’t have my youth.  That was worth something, wasn’t it?   Continue Reading »

Being the Bad Guy (Or Woman)

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“Though it be honest, it is never good to bring bad news.”

William Shakespeare

A lot of people are mad at me tonight.  Well, maybe it’s not me they’re mad at, but there has not been a shortage of people who have blasted their anger and disappointment my way this evening.

I knew this day was coming, and I have dreaded it.  I have secretly cherished conversations or email exchanges with certain people, because I knew that SOON, they were going to be upset with me.  The ax was going to fall eventually, and they would know the truth, or the results, results that I have already known for about a week.  Having people upset with me is part of my job.  It’s a role that I have voluntarily accepted, however reluctantly. Continue Reading »