Category Archives: Family

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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The Laugh

I dreamed such vivid dreams last night. I’m not sure what fueled them.

Even Barb, Mike’s mom, made an appearance. She woke me up, laughing. She reminded me that I once thought 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. was early. She worked hard and one of her jobs started incredibly early. It was my ‘job’ that summer to get up and go to Mike’s to be with him and his brother after she left for work. In my dream, she handed me a cup of coffee and sat and talked to me. She’s been gone for almost seven years. Over forty have passed since that summer I was paid to babysit my best friend.

I dreamed of Jimmy and Noah. Time has skipped fifteen years somehow. i posted this clip because it starts with Jimmy’s infamous laugh. If Noah inherited anything, I hope it’s that.

Love, X

Amaranthine Memories

This is a post in two parts. I didn’t know how to separate them…

She reached out to me in November, her heart dreading what I might tell her. Sheena and Deanne, my wife who died, were once inseparable comrades in friendship and a little mischief. The early 90s were their heyday. Both Sheena and Deanne were outgoing and beautiful young women.

They’d lost touch. I don’t remember that Deanne told me why other than she often told stories about her friends and the shenanigans and moments she lived before meeting me. As anyone knows, the first few months of getting to know someone is a sublime pleasure filled with stories and insights. We immerse ourselves into the unknown universe of someone else’s life as we get to know them. Deanne was almost ten years younger than me. Despite that, she had a lot of stories to tell and a large family to fill the spaces of her life. I already knew her brother Mark thanks to our jobs at Cargill.

Sheena said she’d seen Deanne once in April of 2001 when Sheena was giving birth to her daughter. Deanne worked at the hospital and surprised Sheena with an impromptu visit. Evidently, it was one filled with smiles and quick words. Sheena did not see her again. But she always wanted to and wondered where Deanne was in the world.

As so often happens when we get older, we think about the people who once touched us. Some of them drift away purposefully; others drift for other reasons. The truth is that some people have a room in our hearts even when we no longer see them. It’s one of life’s bittersweet lessons.

Sheena found an obituary for Deanne. I’d dutifully left a trail of her life and some of her stories on Ancestry and other places. People need to be remembered. Sheena told me that she cried reading it, knowing that her hopes of reconnecting were gone forever. I felt an immense pang of regret on her behalf. Deanne would have lovingly hugged Sheena had she had the chance. She loved a good grudge, but she loved connections more. One of Deanne’s foibles was how quickly she could get irritated. It was a blessing to her in some ways, too, though. As I grew to know her, her ire often made me laugh. She’d punch me in the arm and laugh, too, once the ridiculousness of the situation became apparent.

Sheena ultimately revealed that their friendship probably ruptured because she had told Deanne that we were not compatible. Deanne made up her mind about me very early on. I’m not sure I was consulted!

Sheena reached out to me on Ancestry, and I shared my entire picture collection with her, thousands of pictures – and every picture I owned of Deanne. She was able to sort through Deanne’s short life, as told in pictures. Later, I shared a few stories with her, ones some people have never read or heard.

More importantly, I gave Sheena peace. I let her know that she should feel happy that Deanne and I found each other and stayed together, even when it wasn’t easy. We all do and say things when we’re younger – and often continue the same when we’re older. And if she said the things she said to Deanne with an authentic heart, she should not be accountable for sharing her opinion or truth. That’s the risk of being genuine with other people.

The truth is that Deanne and I weren’t compatible at first glance. Or probably second glance. In that sense, Sheena was definitely not wrong. Deanne was an outgoing, buxom, active soul, almost ten years younger than me. I had no clue she was interested in me. Until she insisted I come over for a homemade meal. Believe me, I was not the one wearing the pants at the beginning of the relationship. Call me oblivious.

Sheena got to see Deanne’s life because I am committed to sharing every picture I own with anyone interested. I’m just the custodian. I love pictures, and I love knowing that people always come full circle with wanting to see every picture of someone they love or loved. Avoiding the soapbox, I will limit myself to saying that unappreciated or unseen pictures do no one any good.

I still feel a bit of remorse for both Deanne and Sheena. They could have reconnected. Had I been aware, I would have asked Deanne to look past any past words and find Sheena again. I did the same with Deanne’s dad. Deanne doubted she could forge a new beginning with him. Through the years, though, I encouraged her to try from a new foundation. And she did. I still count it as one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. More so because she died so young.

I hope Sheena found a way to fill her life with new souls. She seems like the kind of person who deserves it. Her words to Deanne so many years ago would have been received differently had I known at the time.
*
*

After Deanne died, I didn’t have a big interval of time before I met Dawn, my ex-wife. Whether you can understand or not, I made the choice to plow through life and not let myself get overwhelmed with the loss. When we first got together, I had her meet Deanne’s brother and his wife. I wanted them to know that me getting on with life didn’t negate Deanne. Quite the contrary. I had to make a choice, one that wasn’t really a choice at all. Things could have ended very badly for me. If you’ve lived a life with loss, you can imagine what some of those endings might look like for me. There’s no shame in acknowledging them.

It’s not a choice a lot of people might make. I make no apologies, though. Dawn and I were together when we were very young. She’d had an intervening marriage, one that fizzled and ground down into apathy. We were happy to find each other again.

Deanne never was between Dawn and me. At least not for me. She wasn’t a ghost, but she was a catalyst and reminder for me, something that people misunderstand. When life snatches your optimism through mortality, there are a lot of impossible feelings. This amplifies when you consider how capricious life can be; anyone or anything can disappear at any moment. Deanne deserved more years to continue her journey. She was substantially different from the time when we first met. And that was a great thing to witness. I try to remember to be grateful for the years I had with her. The song always ends, leaving us with a melody we can replay in our heads through memories.

At the risk of repeating myself, one of my biggest mistakes in life has been to occasionally forget the lesson that Deanne’s death dealt me: life is for the living, obstacles will always punch, and love is never wasted, no matter how it ends.

It’s true I shared fewer stories about Deanne than I should have. I did make the mistake of not writing all the stories of adventure and mischief I had with Deanne. And also some about our hard times. We definitely had them. As Dawn and I disintegrated, she seemed to switch the narrative on me about how it was with Deanne. Whether that’s true or not is in the eye of the beholder. I made a choice – as did she. I’d make the same choice again because a choice to live and love is a positive choice; fearing another loss and avoiding taking the risk is a negative choice.

Someone reminded me this morning not to veer. Since she’s a disguised writer, I’m obligated to heed her warning.

Every love is forged with expansiveness and optimism. That we can’t navigate the treachery of daily living and one another’s messes isn’t a knock to love or vulnerability, though. The problem lies within us. Familiarity breeds contempt. We assign motive to actions or words, usually based on our faulty filters. It’s hilariously evident that most of us want the same things.

When love has drawn its last breath, it is easy to focus on the things that were wrong.

When a person draws their last breath, all the doors are shut forever.

Whether you are 31 or 71, the door is always about to shut. We just don’t see it coming. That helps us to forget how precarious our lives are. That same forgetfulness affords us the ability to live our daily lives but it also has the reciprocal defect of failing to focus on what lights us up.

For Sheena, for Deanne, and for anyone who no longer walks the Earth, we can do our best by choosing optimism over despair, deliberate risk over comfort, and for being ourselves, even as the world madly surprises us.

Deanne would tell us that all these years she’s been gone that she would hope we were squeezing the absolute hell out of whatever life has to offer – and shame on us if we aren’t.

She would have loved to be alive and make a lot of mistakes. We should be too. She’d be the first to call me out for being an idiot. And she’d mean it.

Love, X
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Never Veer

I love sharing on social media. I do. It’s personal, revelatory, and I try to be honest without stepping on people. I tend to step on myself the hardest.

I learned to play the game of Chicken with my crazy dad. Do you know what his secret was? NEVER veer, even if you’re going to get killed. He told people beforehand, “I’m not going to veer. I’m not kidding.” And he never did, even when it could have killed him. People learned not to play Chicken with Bobby Dean. Not in cars, not on tractors, not ever. Never veering is a stupid way to play chicken – unless your goal is to stop people from challenging you. There is no truth I will not confide if it is in my heart to do so.

I wrote very personal posts on the 23rd and yesterday. Both were honest and revelatory. The one from the 23rd was an admission that I’m as guilty as anyone about being a revisionist. I’ve not hurtfully crossed the line needlessly about anyone – including my ex-wife. That’s not to say I couldn’t. Two of the components of my post were to mention that I appreciated the good years, as well as to mention that I could have engaged in a flame war during the divorce, even though I bore the responsibility for the mess. It’s okay to need to gain perspective and distance. Even if it makes me the villain. It’s not okay to wipe away the good times, the good things, or the concessions I made to mitigate my self-made disaster.

With my level of humor and stark, combined with my willingness and ability to literally say anything, it would be manifestly easy for me to shatter a lot of illusions and break eggs. Even while still admitting I’ve behaved like a lunatic at times. I’ve been considerate after-the-fact. I can’t erase the past. It’s unwise to argue with someone who buys ink by the gallon, or with someone who will respond to accusations by admitting even worse truths himself. No one can win a “let’s share secrets” war with me. I will go there – not out of spite, no matter how someone pushes me to inflame or respond to fire with fire. It’s a fool’s game, especially after the final whistle has blown. The players should exit the field, hopefully with the goal of learning from what happened. Even if they fouled forty times during the game. An examined life always yields lessons.

People trust me not to reveal secrets they share. Believe me, one of the most satisfying aspects of social media is that many people have shared some of the most intimate things possible using it.

As you’d guess, I caught hell privately for the things I shared. Even the post about my wife who died brought out a level of accusation that surprised me. None of those accusations touch the truth, though. Everyone was kind, loving, and supportive to me for both posts. Well, almost everyone. And I love that. Worrying about the critics is another fool’s errand. Because I’m a fool, I’ve been guilty of that at times.

“You’re the villain in someone’s story” has always been true.

Equally true is that telling me I can’t tell my story isn’t going to end well. I’ll be respectful – but not silent. Trust me to be both honest and responsible.

If you play Chicken with me, I will not veer, now or ever.

Love, X

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.

The Pond: A Christmas Story

Janus and Rob sang along to the Christmas music as they drove through the rural roads. They both disliked holiday music – except when they were together. They then caroled each other constantly, to their friend’s horror. Neither sang well. Their howling dog Sir Barkalot consistently voted loudly with a wail when they sang for too long. In the confines of the small car on a cold winter December 24th, though, they created the perfect repository for their mutual enjoyment.

Neither dared think about their destination. It was enough to continue the tradition, now unbroken for thirteen years. They woke up on Christmas Eve morning, drank a gallon of coffee each, and then wrapped themselves in warm clothing and drove to the same cherished spot.

Because they’d done so for thirteen years, Rob already knew he had to stop about halfway there; otherwise, Janus would howl in mimicry of Sir Barkalot until he did. As they sang “Little Drummer Boy” in raucous unison, Rob noted the mile marker that indicated he would have to turn off the main road in a couple of minutes. Janus must have noted the same thing. As “The Little Drummer Boy” ended, she mashed the audio button to “Off” as they neared the turnoff.

In the back seat, there was a small lunchbox. Inside it: two rocks, one from each of them. Each year, the lunchbox changed to something similar to whatever was popular.

Rob navigated the turnoff and slowed. The gravel road was rough, and almost no one traveled it. Luckily, this year, there was no snow to worsen it.

He recalled spending weekends with his grandparents, who had lived nearby. He accidentally discovered a deep, surprisingly clear pond on his adventure excursions. It was there that he proposed to Janus years later. She screamed, “Yes!” much to the dismay of all the nearby birds.

Rob drove to the poorly-maintained gate and stopped, turning the ignition off. “Are you ready?” he asked Janus. She nodded.

They both exited the car. Rob opened the back door and removed the lunchbox. He looked a bit absurd, he knew.

Despite the cold, he held Janus’ right hand as they passed through the gap in the gate and fence. Within a couple of minutes, they reached the pond. It wasn’t frozen over.

Janus leaned to kiss Rob, who was already expecting it.

He held the lunchbox out and opened it. “Don’t look,” he reminded her. “How am I going to know which rock is mine, then?” she asked. It was their joke each year. She peeked in and removed her rock.

Rob put the lunchbox down on the brown grass and removed his rock.

They walked to the edge of the pond, staring at the water.

Janus looked at her rock to read the name written there. “Jacqueline,” she whispered.

Rob read the name written in marker on his rock: “Suzanne.”

Some years, the names were both boys’ names; never had both been feminine.

Janus threw her rock first. It was an awkward toss but sailed halfway across the vast pond. Rob launched his rock, and it landed within a couple of feet of the other bank.

Janus motioned for Rob to come closer. He stood next to her with his left arm around her waist. She tilted her head onto his shoulder as they both stared across the pond. Both of them were considering a life that almost was.

A few moments later, they both felt the moment pass. They turned to walk back to the waiting car.

“Do you think your mom and dad are tired of Astro yet?” Janice laughed as she asked Rob the same question she’d asked him last night and again this morning.

“Duh! An eight-year-old wants everything. They probably have him tied up on the front porch rocking chair at this point.” He paused. “You know what, though? We should stop for breakfast on the way.”

They both laughed, knowing that they would indeed stop.

By the time they turned around to leave the old gravel road, both were thinking of the beautiful Christmas awaiting them. And how much they had spoiled their adopted son Astro.

They counted themselves among the lucky few. Loss? Yes? But life and love also.

Janus hit the “On” button to resume the Christmas music. They both wanted to howl and sing as one should on such a day.

Merry Christmas!

Love, X

The Backward Clock Runs For Mike

I stayed up last night walking the town instead of sleeping. I did manage almost two hours of rest. The cold was a perverse distraction and relief as I walked without music, phone, or Fitbit. For whatever reason, my energy level was high despite the lack of sleep. I went running this afternoon, thinking of my brother Mike. I couldn’t help but be nostalgic about his absence. It motivated me to run like the wind, thinking of us when we were younger and when I started running out of the blue in 9th grade when we lived in Tontitown.

Wearing my lucky red ripshirt, I ran for him and for all the life he is missing out on. Though I love all manner of dreary weather, the sun was high today and I ran through the streets lined with countless apartments. Every time I thought I couldn’t run more, I reminded myself that Mike would love to be alive and out there with me if only he could have conquered his addiction.

There were a lot of people out and about today. I waved to most of them and wished anyone who could hear me a “Merry Xmas.” A guy near the E-Z Mart a few blocks away responded unexpectedly with an “Eff Xmas!” as if he meant it. I quipped back, “I’d like to, but the dinner I’d have to buy would be expensive.” He looked at me quizzically and just shook his head. A couple of days ago, a woman told me, “I don’t celebrate Xmas.” I said, “That’s okay. You might not be married, but you can wish your friend a happy anniversary, can’t you?” She was unamused by my quick wit.

Today, in addition to hitting my highest recorded number of steps, I’m going to break my “floors” record, too just to be arrogant. I try to get 50+ a day. I’m only 30,000 steps ahead of my nearest Workweek Hustle challenger, not counting the unrecorded 9 miles from last night. 🙂

Apart from all that, I was grateful that I woke up able to run, walk, and climb stairs. It’s not something I take for granted and especially with all the energy I unexpectedly woke up with for the day. Anxiety did grip me for a bit – which is always a surprise when I feel like I’m energetic. The workday beat that out of me.

I sit at my desk, watching my backward clock tick away the seconds, minutes, hours – all of which can’t be taken for granted. Mike would be nodding in agreement.

P.S. Merry Xmas

Love, X
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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!