Category Archives: Death

What A Life!

What a beautiful morning. Despite the rain and lightning moving in, I went outside and started hanging more painted tiles on my fence project. This week, I painted 20+ more tiles and a couple of dozen wood samples to attach to my out-of-control art project out there. It was sublime feeling the wind howl through the vertical slats of the fence boards and the light rainfall across my face and neck. I woke up with a reservoir of energy and enthusiasm. Nature repaid me with its light caresses as I stood there in the dark, loaded with washers, screws, and tiles leaning against the old boards. I know I looked foolish, standing there with no shirt on, smiling. The temperature dropped 10-15 while I was out there feeling the storm front coalesce above me.

I missed a couple of phone calls last night. I called my sister back around 4 a.m. She, of course, didn’t answer. I hope she’s fixing her hair. I know that such an endeavor will take her literal hours. Lord help all the people who don’t have their do-not-disturb turned on. Everyone lives a different life and schedule. I wake up with the same enthusiasm at 2 a.m. that I have at 4 p.m.

I thought about my cousin Jimmy’s son Noah. Jimmy died nine years ago, which seems like a lifetime ago. Noah is graduating as valedictorian of his high school class. I can’t help but imagine how proud Jimmy would be – and that Noah is going to college. Jimmy would want his son to be happy much more than he’d worry about finishing college. As someone who died in his early forties, Jimmy would be right to do so. So many plans, so many assumptions about the seemingly endless days ahead to love, laugh, and do the things that are within our grasp. It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen Noah. He’s grown unimaginably and has the youthful looks of someone who reminds me of a young Matthew McConaughey. I hope he keeps that handsomeness. Otherwise, he’ll grow into a jowly-cheeked Englishman like his grandfather, my Uncle Buck.

In the graduation picture, Noah is the one on the right. (ha!) The woman on the left is Alissa, my cousin Jimmy’s widow. They were married about a month before he died. I could write endlessly about the complexities of that, and of lives forcibly derailed by an unexpected circumstance. It’s a lesson I know too well. I’ll limit myself to saying that if you want something, grab that sh!t while you can. Tomorrow is never promised and plans for the future are all predicated on the false belief that there is always time and that youth is our protector. The other picture is from 2004 when Noah was a beautiful little baby. Jimmy and I had such fun watching Noah’s mind react to shenanigans. He smiled a LOT.

I included a picture of Noah’s mom from the first time I met her at my trailer in Johnson, in the part of my life I refer to as ‘the before.’ It didn’t work out with her and Jimmy. They had chemistry. Jimmy had many demons that would have made it almost impossible for her to make him happy. It’s no disrespect to Jimmy’s memory to share that truth. The Terry side of the family unfortunately is prone to shattering opportunities by succumbing to vices. Jimmy, like the rest of us, could sabotage the best things.

As the rain started, I looked up to the apartments. One of my neighbors had covered the railings with sheets. I went and pulled them down and took them to the dungeon/laundry room and stuffed them in the dryer and turned it on. When the neighbors exit and see that their sheets are missing, I’m going to say, “The Fayetteville police just issued another warning to advise everyone that the Infamous Sheet Bandit is up to hooliganism again. I saw him take the sheets.” I might as well use my act of consideration as justification for a little verbal pranking. I’ll let them think their sheets are missing for a couple of minutes before letting them know what I did. After the wife goes back inside to tell her family about the Infamous Sheet Bandit. It’s Fayetteville and such a miscreant may be indeed running loose on these streets.

I took a picture of my right hand a couple of days ago. Ribald interpretations aside (I’m left-handed, by the way), putting almost a thousand screws into boards in the last couple of weeks using only hand tools has given me an artists’ scar, one of tough callouses in the palm of my hand.

I rescued a really old tiny rocking chair from the hospital dumpster a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have the skills to make it beautiful. But I do have the enthusiasm to fix it and paint it and give it new life for a child I know. I so badly want to paint it a beautiful rich color. We have enough unadorned and practical things in life.

Though it’s not done, I also added another picture of my dead tree project. I put one living branch on it, as well as three bright songbirds. Since I’m a fan of sentimental metaphors, I like to think it symbolizes that even dead trees provide beauty, comfort, and the possibility of adaptation to whatever comes next.

Love, X

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WTF-Time

“Lazy is a bad word. Shall we instead call it selective participation?” – The Internet

Today so far… woke up to laughter. Anytime 2 a.m. involves laughter is an auspicious day. And probably suspicious if I’m involved. There was heartache in the morning for someone I love and I hope she finds peace knowing she gave her presence in a time when it was most needed. I worked a bit, then came home and put wheels on my desk. Insert joke here! I built a wooden planter for sunflowers and installed it along the inside fence at this hideous apartment complex. Put up a shelf for random nonsense (I loathe specific nonsense.), one I repurposed and made from fence board. And then, because I couldn’t stand looking at it, I went outside (because that’s where trees and brush grows!) and cut away all the limbs and brush along the 50′ of the fence next to which I put in the planter. I’ve accumulated 4-5 truckloads of limbs and brush for ‘somebody’ to haul off; otherwise, the neighbors might stage an impromptu bonfire. I also picked up an entire bag of trash that somehow managed to get all over the complex since the last time I cleaned it. My back is still sore from all the previous festivities involved in “The Great Cleaning of 2022.” It’s 10 a.m. and I feel like I’ve accomplished a blizzard of activity. I’m going to go find some more laughter in a little while. My soul needs it. Enthusiasm is at a premium these days and I’m going to cash every bit of it in today.

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.” -Brian Tracy

X’s Frog Corollary: “If you have to kiss two people, at least one of them should be a woman.”

Remember that there are three distinct stages in life:

BIRTH

WTF

DEATH

The first two have already happened. Squeeze in as much wtf-time as you can, because it’s flying past with indifferent velocity. Otherwise, you’ll lose your health, your loved ones, or your life – only to look back and vehemently utter the phrase, “WTF happened to all the minutes?”

Love, X

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P.S. I made the picture out of several elements and rendered it.

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Monday’s Reflections

Summer gallops toward us. My metal front door already reached 156 F this afternoon. Last summer, it reached over 180. It catches the sun directly. It’s great for my solar lanterns and lights but makes me wonder when the wall might ignite in a fiery burst. The previous door was wooden until I moved in. The occupant had made the front door unusable too. That amuses me. What level of hooliganism must one exercise to render a door unusable? My childhood provides fodder for the ‘how.’

I bought Subway to eat. I still had a slew of coupons to use. The problem? I didn’t know they expired on my birthday until I ordered. To counterbalance my self-amusement and chagrin, I tipped the two workers in cash, surprising them. Jessica gave me a bottle of thai chili sauce and I drowned half of my sandwich in it, letting it run down across my hands and face as I stood outside in the warmth of the full sun, the sandwich precariously perched on the railing. Güino of course kept me company out there while I ate. He then tricked me and darted past me to the neighbors, where he proceeded to peer into the low window and meow at the cat occupants of the apartment. As I prodded him back toward my apartment with my foot, he had a lot to say to me in protest.

Earlier, hundreds of birds accumulated in the brush and unmaintained trees behind the apartment simplex. Their chirping roar was loud and beautiful. It gave me the idea to put a 15′ feeder pole outside my bedroom window. Lord knows the screen will never be fixed so moving it aside to fill the feeder won’t be a problem. Of course, I will paint it a garish vivid color, one befitting a person dedicated to swathing everything in polychrome.

An uncle of mine died this week. Amusingly, we called him Poor Bob. He was a plain-spoken, opinionated, and humorous man. He needed all those qualities to be married to my Aunt Marylou. It’s okay that I pick on her. She’s heard it all at least two times in her long lifetime. She’s the origin of my quip, “Every family needs an Aunt Marylou to get things done.” She’s been the de facto matriarch of the family since grandma Nellie died.

I’m sitting at my computer, facing the sun as it penetrates the poorly-closed blinds of the window. Shadows play across the bottom. The cat sitting on the extra-wide sill I installed below them provides a little motion as he moves and arcs his back against them. I left the back window open for him when I left early this morning. He’s had a full day of sun and warmth.

I filled the hummingbird feeder because I’m an optimist.

I’m going to make a cup of bitter coffee and stand on the landing as I drink it. Sunset isn’t until 7:35. If I do it right, that hour will seem languid and filled with countless thoughts. Some hours are much longer than others, just as some embraces are more fiery and soulful.

It’s not that this location is beautiful, but sometimes the light shimmers on surfaces and provides the perfect backdrop for contemplating.

I’ll look at pictures later, searching for those who’ve stepped away. It’s the least I can do, to remember. Even to experience a small moment. Most of our lives are these moments.

Love, X
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A Gazebo Moment

He sat at the wooden gazebo, staring out at the world outside its confines. The seventy-degree weather and the bright sun all but negated the possibility of any more winter. It filled his heart with a simple pleasure.

A few of his big moments happened inside the gazebo. He’d found out his brother had died, and he’d made two momentous decisions sitting in the gazebo. One was born of false optimism, and the other emerged from a “get-busy-living-or-get-busy-dying” moment. Some days, the latter still echoed in his head, the realization that so much hinges on an invisible fulcrum of thoughts. The alchemy and uncertainty both delighted and provoked nervousness in him.

As happens with some places, moments become embedded in them. One’s presence takes on a weight that was previously absent. When he needed to objectively consider a problem or opportunity in life, he often waited until he could sit in the gazebo and twirl the nuances in his mind. He learned that the right decision could still cause failure or distress; equally valid was that the wrong decision often yields surprises that lead to positive outcomes. Everyone taking a hard look at their lives surely must agree that some unexpected obstacles produce the sweetest fruit.

He sat for several minutes, silent and immobile to any observer. The gentle afternoon breeze accented the growing shadows falling inside the structure around him and over him. Though his eyes noted passers-by as they finished their respective days, the movement and transitions didn’t enter his thoughts. It was life’s static.

He thought about someone he once knew well and some of their most ridiculous moments. Her consternation with him colliding with her matter-of-fact demeanor, his weirdness punctuating all their encounters. He didn’t realize until much later that she thought fondly of him. Over the years, he failed to fully take advantage of the moments they could have shared as she grew older and frailer. He found out the day before that she’d passed away, never again to smile at his foolishness. Another small door of life had closed. It wasn’t regret per se that hit him; it was more akin to a feeling that life accelerated imperceptibly while he looked away from the more significant meaning and got distracted by mundane concerns. There would always be more pressing matters, details, or distractions. Time and people, however, would continue to decrease in supply.

He stood up and stretched his legs. The minutes in the gazebo already yielded the answer his mind required. Everything has a cost: time, money, or energy. Wasting enthusiasm or energy helps no one.

He’d go forth and find an enthusiastic smile.

Such a smile is one of the underappreciated gold standards of life. One directed at you? It is priceless and elusive. We fear that when people know us, they will recoil with annoyance.

The ‘he’ in the story is me, the proud owner of an unexpected life.

Love, X
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Both Personal And Random Ideas

“Make all the right choices. Eat all the right food. And you will still be dead one day. This is a rigged game, indeed, this gift of life.” – X

Have you ever thought that another way to describe a bath is “butt soup?”

For the first time in MANY years, I am getting a refund for both Federal and State taxes. While I can’t finance a yacht with the refund, it is a pleasant change of pace! Also, I did my taxes exceedingly fast; in previous years, it was a very tedious process, usually involving a lot of typing, swearing, and frustration – and that was just addressing the envelopes. Though I meticulously followed the software and triple-checked it, the IRS said my refund had to be adjusted. Whether it’s worth arguing over depends on whether my hold on sanity is firm the day I receive the letter to challenge their adjustment.

“The chickens came home to roost. Or so they thought… the smell of fried chicken soon permeated the air.” -X

Last week, very early in the morning, as I rounded the corner of the apartments near the trail by the hospital, I found three bags stuffed with personal items. Though there was no one there along the fringe of the building, I surmised that someone had slept between the minimal hedging and the brick wall. I saw someone there the following day, and I left them in peace. When I passed by again, they were gone, but the bags were still there. I left a gift for them next to their bags. I’ve not seen the bags since. I wonder about them each day.

I keep learning that being clear and honest still likely results in a mess. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is or how concisely and openly you share; the odds still dictate that things will likely spin away from you. Likely, there’s nothing you can do about it. So much of the outcome depends on the other mercurial person. Not stating your truth will just as likely cause you to bubble over unexpectedly when the pressure to speak overwhelms you. As hard as it is, between the two options, it’s always better to just state your truth when you feel like you need to. It won’t feel like the best option, though. Most of us are hard-wired to put off what plagues us until it seeps or explodes out. It’s important to remember that the feelings you bury are still alive under all the layers.

Wine ice cubes are fantastic. Not only do they go well in actual wine, but they also can be used as needed when you want wine to cook with. Don’t “at me,” either, saying that ice cubes in wine are uncouth. There are no actual rules regarding taste, cooking, or eating. The sooner we abandon that nonsense, the better off we’ll all be. And happier eating macaroni over the sink – or a bowl of cereal for supper. One wine ice cube is much better than a cheap grape popsicle, too. In my opinion. Adult note: if you drink enough wine, your appetite will likely go away. And your ability to cook coherently definitely will.

“Wisdom teaches us to be patient with the ridiculous setbacks we’re all going to encounter. It also somehow still fails to prepare us for being surprised by how people will act.” – X

Not everyone is wired the same way sexually. That’s to be expected. But if you’re a sexual person and not being intimate, consequences to your quality of life or well-being always follow. It doesn’t mean that sex is an overwhelming or inflexible motivator; it just means that human behavior will succumb to the urge toward intimacy. People need to stop being ashamed of their essential needs and how they practice and define them. Sex is the big mystery that permeates our lives in multiple ways – yet most of us have a completely mistaken idea of how other people live sexually, much less how to be happy with our sexual selves.

My therapist told me that in one of my first sessions, I said this: “Isn’t it odd how most of our need to look presentable isn’t really so we’ll feel good about ourselves. It’s because we are leaning into the idea of spectator attractiveness. We want to look good to other people. Because if not, generally speaking, we’d all dress comfortably and not think much about hair, makeup, shoes, or how we are perceived. Absent the expectation of attractiveness and left to our own devices, we might be a lot less preoccupied with appearance and happier as a result.” I could be wrong, but it seems to be true generally.

You can drive around the roundabout 17 times if you need to. Likewise, you can fail as many times as you need to or have to until you finally make the turnoff. It’s where you end up that matters, anyway. It would be nice to avoid a convoluted, circuitous path of errors, but life tends not to work that way.

“You’re not afraid of being alone in the dark. You are afraid that you might not be alone in the dark.” This isn’t my quote. It does demonstrate how our fears and thoughts overtake us.

Male secret #34: most men do not care if a woman’s legs are smoothly shaved. Or if their nails are painted, their blouse, shoes, pants match, etc. The enthusiasm of presence derails all those concerns. I’m not sure you should trust a middle-aged man named X or not – but this is true.

Rule of Presence: each of us will jump to hold the door for another person, but we will move heaven and earth to stop someone from passing us on the road.

I’ve put up three ‘fake’ streets signs in the last couple of months. All of them are still posted. PS If you want to do it quickly, have the sign made prior to showing up, with the bolt already through it. Since most street posts have multiple bolt holes, push the bolt through and twirl the nut on it quickly. Also, did you know you can order a custom street sign easily? If you’re bored, google it. It’s no accident that 75 mph is a great sign to add in Johnson. (I didn’t do that one due to public safety concerns. And the lack of a sense of humor with traffic enforcement there, now that I think about it.)

Another one I stole from the internet: “Each and every selfie is a picture of perhaps your own worst enemy.”

It’s been about six months since my surgery. It’s been the longest ten years of my life. I’m still thankful to be here. But I can’t escape the idea that I’d be a lot happier with a check for one million dollars in my wallet. I might not ever cash it.

Love, X
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Deanne

things often go awry, as they so often do
that unimaginable morning, it was you

nine years my junior, with a lingering cough
your energy ebbed and your spirit diminished

i watched my love and life wither
it can’t get that bad, i foolishy hoped

life had a hard lesson for me, again

i sat on the floor next to you
our albino cat standing guard,
as he had all night
before i made the horrible call

life had fled, from you, from me

promises made, hopes shared
became mist and floated away

a little piece of me stayed there, forever

another piece of me, the vibrancy you shared
found a way forward

i can’t believe i’m still standing
filled with love, expanding

sometimes, in moments
i’m back there, remembering the lesson

you said i was love
even in impatience
“my muffin,” you teased
and I? pleased

i try to remember the helplessness
hopelessness and despair

not to drown in them, no

but to live the knowledge
that we’re all closer than we think

it’s all here or gone in a blink

in those crevices of experience
we thrive or subside

with each new self-genesis
i take a long moment
to swallow the risk

and i remember

life knocks, i answer

it is not a question

it is life, moving

Love, X
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Thoughts, Bittersweet And Kind

Thoughts, Bittersweet And Kind

When people move away from a relationship or marriage, they become revisionists. It’s a natural human reaction. Because I don’t want hypocrisy lightning to strike me, I will be the first to admit I’ve done it too. When things go sour, we overwrite the good moments, and the sense of wrong and failure fill our heads. Most of us don’t go into relationships will ill intentions. There are exceptions; some people don’t see behind the masks of those they are with until later. It’s not their fault. Love drives us. We all pretty much want the same things. How we traverse the minefields of our own vanities and life determines how successful our relationships might be. When it ends, we’re left with a raw fringe that often transposes into a filter that overwrites all the positive things we experienced.

I haven’t written a tremendous amount about my marriage. In part, it is because I saw no need to inflame emotions or trespass across the boundary of where my right of expression would infringe upon her life.

As time passes, she’s told me more than once that she thought I was there for so long because it was an easy life. Such a comment is an indictment of what we actually shared. There was a lot of love there for most of the marriage. The end was a bitter pie, that’s true. Since I’m the one who added a lot of the bitter, it is my pie to eat.

When we first got together, I was trying to recover from the sudden and unexpected death of my wife. She was ten years younger than me. Her death was a stop sign in my life. The brutal truth is that had she not died, my life would have continued along that trajectory, probably forever. That’s not how life works though. It’s a series of blows, each of which we either confront or bury.

I made the decision to live life. The risk of me not doing so might have been my demise. “Get busy living or get busy dying” was certainly in my head. It wasn’t going to be easy no matter what choices I made.

One of the reasons the accusation of staying in the marriage because it was “easy” bothers me is that anyone who knows me knows that I am not money-driven. That’s both a defect and an advantage. I feel rich in a lot of ways no matter what roof is over my head or what car I drive. Growing up, I lost a lot. Houses burned, tornadoes came, and violent parents made physical comfort an impossibility. Security is never in the things that envelop me. There is no doubt that my conscious decision to ignore ambition has cost me in some ways. That same lack of ambition also provided insurance, flexibility, and more free time to fill in life’s spaces with ordinary moments. We live most of our lives in those spaces rather than in the grand ones that most people prominently use to illustrate their lives.

Before the divorce, I signed over the house to my ex-wife. I did it for a lot of reasons. I could have insisted that we divest everything and sell it. Had I done so, I would have had 40-50K in my pocket when I left. As it was, I left with $5000. Someone motivated by money would have never walked away from that money. She would have needed to move and start over exactly as I did. It didn’t matter who was at fault; that’s just the way it works. I don’t know many people who’ve willingly given up such a big chunk in order to let their ex have peace and security.

It bothers me that the love I had and the gift I gave her by letting her keep the house are now being characterized as untrue. But I understand.

I sit as the villain in her head. If that helps her have a good life again, I can accept it. During the last few months, I stayed as a roommate. Luckily, I was going to counseling. I learned to sleep and I learned that I didn’t need nearly as much sleep as I had been getting before something in my head snapped. Over time, the anxiety I wasn’t addressing built to a point where I had to either succumb or deal with it. I waited too long to get a handle on it. That was arrogance on my part. There’s no other word for it.

I learned some lessons, some of them unflattering about myself. But one of the lessons I learned is that no matter what your intentions, if you don’t express the hard things in your mind when they come up, they fester and burn you from the inside out. It is so easy to walk through each day, letting the details and routine gloss over the things that need to be said. And done. It’s obvious that I didn’t really learn some of the lessons deeply because I repeated the same pattern by swallowing my truths a few times, ignored the little voice inside my head saying “No,” or stopped striving for the demand of a normal kind of affection.

When I had my emergency surgery, it was my ex-wife who came to the emergency room and stayed with me until my surgery started. She got to witness me violently throwing up and yelling in surprise pain each time a spasm of internal tearing got the better of me. She got her karma that night! But despite that, she was there. And that’s not nothing.

I don’t want to ever come across as someone who doesn’t appreciate that or the good years we had.

I also don’t want to be the kind of person who feels like I’m ‘too much.’ I’ve learned that my ‘too much’ is exactly what some people want. And that is true for all of you, too. I was surprised to find that the things that give me connection are these: writing, a buttload of laughter, and the ability to sit in a chair, intertwined, with nothing but the comfort of someone who sees me as me. I’ll get there, in part because of the long past that lies behind me, including all the stupid things I’ve done and the times I let my arrogance or inattention to what matters lead me astray. I don’t want to be right. I want to be happy.

If you have a happy marriage or relationship, please whisper its truth in gratitude or prayer. Don’t let the valleys overshadow the inevitable peaks. And if your relationship ends, try to avoid the pitfall of painting everything as sinister or dark. We’re all complicated people and so often we find ourselves at the end of a road without a clear idea of how we got so far astray. We started in love.

As the noted philosophers of VanHalen said: “If love’s got you down, love can lift you right back up. Get up and make it work.”

Love, X
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P.S. Wherever I end up, there is going to be a swing. Without playfulness, the seriousness of what we experience would drown us.

Bobby Dean

He’s been gone 28 years today. He died at 3:33 in the morning. I was awake at that time this morning and took my first drink of coffee as I watched the minute click over. Nothing noteworthy happened unless you factor in the gratitude that I felt for still being here.

He violently tried to mold me into the man he thought he was. In doing so, he achieved the opposite result. And I’m grateful. His legacy is one of addiction, fists, and one of the wildest senses of humor I’ve ever experienced. He was in prison in Pendleton, Indiana, when he was in his 20s, and accumulated countless DUIs, fights, arrests, and violent confrontations. He also found his humanity from time to time and helped other people. I remind myself of those times as often as I can because they were just as much a part of him as the times he lashed out.

I think back to his funeral, with Jimmy and Mike sitting near me. Both of them are gone now. Both of them, unfortunately, absorbed much of the Terry inclination for self-destruction. Though I couldn’t apply the realization properly, I recognized at a young age that I was susceptible to much of the same sort of demons that possessed so many of my family. I learned to dance around them.

I was Bobby Dean’s accidental namesake. Not too many years before he died, I killed off that part of me, both in name and spirit.

It probably saved my life. Walking around with the people close to me calling me X was a constant reminder that I could choose my own way. While I have stumbled with the best of them, I’ve managed to keep my sanity all these years.

But through the arc of time, I still feel stirrings of Bobby Dean inside of me. Some of that is hard steel. Some of it is limitless humor. He taught me to take hard, unexpected punches and to swallow the blood, even if I did so through tears. At 54, things look entirely different to me. I don’t judge him as harshly as I once did. Being human has taught me that although I will never eclipse the stupidity and violence of some of my dad’s actions, I have that part of Bobby Dean inside of me. It is strangely comforting, even as I strive to be his opposite.

Were he alive, I would love to sit and have a coffee with him while he smoked a camel. And to talk to him about the sister I didn’t know I had. As reprehensible as the behavior was that led to her creation, it’s hard to fault the universe for the result. She’s a kind human being and proof that Bobby Dean could contribute to the creation of a stellar human being. If we met again, I don’t know whether we would hug or trade punches. Or both. But I do know that I would be overwhelmed. I can now see him as a person apart from being my dad. There was so much I could have learned from him; he was a mechanic, electrician, tiler, carpenter, painter, welder, gunsmith, outdoorsman, and farmer. If only he had acquired the skills to be loving, his life would have been ideal.

He, of course, hasn’t changed. He made his choices and left his footprints. He had his chance and walked the Earth. My understanding of him has changed. He would laugh at me and tell me to put my boots on and go out and get the punch in the face. He would also call me his favorite curse word: _ _ _ _ s u c k e r. Then offer me one of those horrible peppermint Brach candies that he loved.

Out of all the lessons I learned from him, one he didn’t even know he was teaching, is that we all need people and love. To find a way to get past what we’ve done and who we think we are. If we’re alive, we can use the steel and even the heartache to turn away from the things that make us lesser.

To Bobby Dean. Dad. Troubled human being.

Love, X
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P.S. Below are more pictures, some of which I amateurishly colorized. All of the images used in this post were originally in black and white.

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Dad in 1963. He was about 19.

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Dad standing on a horse, of course.

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Dad with Goldie, somewhere around 1974-75. He was 31, which blows my mind to consider.

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My sister Marsha, brother Mike, me. Seeing it in color changes everything.

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Me as a toddler. The picture looks strikingly different in color!

Jane’s Thanksgiving Tree

(This is another inspired story, from a stolen picture…)

She’d been gone five long years. Jane. To think her name caused John’s head to pulse with remembrance.

John stood at the low curb, looking up at the tree. Jane’s father Jack planted it when her parents owned the suburban house. Jane shyly let John kiss her for the first time under that tree, one Thanksgiving afternoon. There were many more such moments, each melting into the next.

A month before their wedding, her parents told them, “The house is yours. Fill it with love and children, if that’s what you want.”

They moved in three days after their simple wedding. Every fall, John jokingly complained about the mountain of leaves that the vibrant tree produced. Jane laughed like she always did, knowing that he’d faithfully rake and mulch the crimson leaves. Eventually. Often, they were still piled dutifully, awaiting John’s attention, by the time Thanksgiving graced the calendar.

After the diagnosis, John went outside each night to stand under the tree and imagine how it must feel to spend one’s entire life without fearing the next day. Or whatever day would bring finality to the love of his life.

Five years later, he stood with his hand on his daughter Jenny’s shoulder, pointing up at the polychromatic leaves. “Your mother loved this tree, Jenny, like she loved you. When the leaves fall, it’s your mom telling you that everything has its season.”

Jenny looked at the tree, then at John. “Oh Daddy, you’re so cute!”

Jane. Beloved.

May every crimson leave bear your name.
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Happy Thanksgiving, especially to those with a heavy heart or a burdened mind.
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Love, X