Category Archives: death

Happy Birthday, You’re Now Officially Closer To The End

I’ve had a birthday every year since I turned 1. I don’t remember that one, but some of them are supposed to be milestones. Thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, twenty, thirty, forty, and this year’s major occurrence, my fiftieth birthday. Fifty years old. God, that sounded so old when I was a kid. Fifty years old. People will tell you it’s not old at all. Usually these people are in their later fifties or their sixties or even seventies.

The thing I realized this morning as I turned fifty years old while working at my job, is that my life is already more than halfway over. Think about it. What’s the age of your oldest relative, or friend? What were the ages of the last three people whose funeral you attended? Was the average of any of these figures over 100? Heck, were any of the individual answers over 100. How about 95? 90? Even if the average is 90, although I suspect it’s probably closer to 80 or 85, I hit the halfway mark five years ago.

You know how when you’re reading a book and you hit that halfway point, everything starts gelling. All of the main characters have been introduced. The plot is usually fully revealed and the action is accelerating, forcing you to keep on reading to see how it all comes out. If you’re like me, you start calculating how many pages are left. Or maybe it’s a TV show and you know there will be three more commercial breaks. I’m not at that last commercial break yet, but I don’t need to worry about seeing Flo or the GEICO gecko more than another time or two.

I’m a little sad, mostly because I haven’t accomplished anything with my life other than the basics. I have a wife, a couple of grown kids, a granddaughter, a job, a car, and a house. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to make movies. I wanted to have fans that I entertained with my next project. Nope. I have a dog that puts on an acrobatic act for me every time she thinks she’s getting to go for a walk, but that’s the extent of my fan club, and honestly as cute as it is watching the dog jump and spin and twist in midair, it makes it very difficult to attach her leash to her collar.

Maybe some third act miracle will happen and I’ll still get that fame I was dreaming of when I was a child of fifteen, twenty-one, or thirty-four. But the pages are getting flipped faster. The action is accelerating, and before you know it Time’s finger will be ready to flip that last page to see how it all wraps up…

Part of me imagines people happy and celebrating as they toss me in the ground. I’ve battled with depression all my life and low self-esteem issues as well. I know I’m a great person, but I can’t convince myself that I am. And I sure can’t convince anyone else, except for maybe my dog… and maybe my wife… maybe the kids… oh and some of my nieces and nephews and cousins and maybe my sisters and some other friends and family. And maybe that’s enough. Maybe that’s more than enough.

How Did We Know What Was Going On Back Then?

My wife and I were driving down the road today talking about various things when we got to discussing making a “junk journal” for the kids. I have a lot of crazy stuff that I have held onto through the years. Some of it looks like nothing to the untrained eye, but to those in the know, there are stories and history in these various items. I have an old pill tin that my dad carried around with him. I have a pocket knife that he won for my mom and that she carried around with her from then on. To my kids these items are just a small green tin and a pocket knife. They don’t understand the family history attached to these pieces. I also have books and toys that have a special place in my life or DVDs that are out of print and worth a pretty penny. These are things the kids need to know before boxing all this stuff up and taking it to Goodwill after they put me six feet under.

The fact of the matter is that none of them have the attention span to remember everything about all of this mess. There’s also the problem with me forgetting lots of details as well. For example, I can’t remember what it was that Dad used to carry in that tiny pill tin. I remember Mom telling me about it, but I can’t remember the full story. Since Mom passed away several years ago I can’t ask her any longer. My sister or my cousin might remember, but I need to get the facts down where the kids can find it when my time finally comes to an end. Of course they will also have to wait for my wife to pass before they truly get to run free with my things but never the less.

So in the midst of this conversation I mentioned to my wife about how certain toys were special to me growing up. The Mego Planet of the Apes action figures were some of my favorites. I had the full set of them and their accessories. Most of the expensive pieces were Christmas gifts left under the tree by Santa or given to me by my Aunt EI. The actual figures however were ones that I got at Kmart and Murphy’s Mart and Hecks department stores. There were two waves of the action figures as I recall. The first batch was based on the movie. The second batch was based on the television series. I still remember playing at my Aunt Tress’ one day as a kid, and it just came to me that the new figures should be out. One of my cousins might have seen them and mentioned it or it might just have been a psychic premonition, but I begged me mom to stop on the way home. She agreed to stop and sure enough there they were.

When the Kenner Star Wars action figures actually came out (my mom refused to buy me the Early Bird IOU that was offered) we just ran into them in the store. I think the first ones we bought might have actually come from Krogers grocery store in Saint Albans. The thing was, I didn’t have the Internet to tell me these things were coming out. We didn’t have toy magazines to prepare us for new toys and toy lines. We found out the old-fashioned way; we bumped into them.

Sometimes I learned about new toys by ads in my comic books. I remember the big two page spread for the Haunted Mansion action model kids or the Strange Change models. I recall ads for Evel Knievel, the Six Million Dollar Man, and lots of different cars and bikes like Hot Wheels and Matchbox. Today kids and collectors know exactly when each wave of the new action figures are going to start shipping. They know which figures are going to be hard to locate and eBay helps make that search easier as well. Some how this just doesn’t seem as exciting as going into the toy department and finding the new additions to the Aurora Prehistoric Scenes model kit line. Silly as it sounds, I think I liked our way best.

Suitcase Full of Memories

I had today off from work, but no money to do anything. I gave the wife her Valentine’s gift last night (the newest Rachel Morgan book from Kim Harrison entitled Ever After) and she fixed us a nice meal of comfort foods (steak, potatoes, peas, and cornbread). After eating we decided to go move some more boxes from the old house.

At the moment we’re trying to clear out the attic which mostly holds my toys. I still have a large amount of the toys I grew up with and I used to collect them as well, so there are plenty of boxes of odd action figures and the like. There was also a large suitcase that my sister had gotten me when I graduated high school back in 1982. I used it several times, but not recently. I had no idea that anything had been packed away in it, but was pleasantly surprised to find that something had indeed been stored in it. When I was a baby, my mom had a drawer in which she kept awards that I had won at kindergarten. She also had my baby book in there and artwork I made in school. She saved my Doctor Doolittle sweatshirt and my Jungle Book shirt. As I grew up she kept other things in there as well. My graduation program, my diploma from NEC, and other items. I had wondered the other day where some of this stuff might have gone. When I opened the suitcase, the question was answered for me as soon as I spotted the green trimmed white sweatshirt with Rex Harrison and a pushme-pullyou on it. This was the holy grail of childhood treasures.

I wish Mom was still alive to go over some of these items with me. I’m not sure what the significance is of some of them. I think the old mercury thermometer in the blue plastic case was my baby thermometer, and I don’t think this one was designed to go under your tongue. I’d really like to know what was special about it. There is a plastic elephant that I played with as a toddler, but I didn’t think it was a seminal item from my childhood. There was a stuffed doll with red hair and a bell inside it that I remember being much more important to me, but I didn’t find it in the case. I also remember hearing Mom, my aunt, and my cousin talk about a string of plastic bells that I had to have from Arlens back when I was still a baby. That also hasn’t shown up. I did find a toy lion that Mom said I used to carry everywhere with me.

The funny thing is, as much as I would love to have Mom tell me about all the things I don’t remember, I would also love to hear her tell me about all the other stuff just one more time as well. At one point I wanted to take a video camera and record my mom and my aunt talking about their lives and my childhood so that I could pass it on to my kids. I kept putting it off because there was always something else that needed to get done. Now both of them are gone and I can never hear those stories ever again. There’s probably an extra bit of nostalgia over this tonight because it was the day after Valentine’s Day, February 15, 2007, that my mom passed away. She had always been an incredibly strong woman. She broke her hip in 2002 and never regained her ability to drive or to walk unassisted. She had gotten worse before one night in January 2007 she fell in the shower. She kept going further down hill. My wife and I sat with her in the hospital for several weeks on the late night shift. My sister and her family sat with her during the day.

One night she seemed to be pulling out of it. She wanted to watch Charles Stanley, a television preacher she enjoyed, and I made sure to find him for her. We talked and she seemed coherent. About a week later they were putting her in hospice. I had to return to work and so my wife took the evening shifts at hospice. On Thursday afternoon, I drove my wife up to sit with her and let my sister and her husband go home and rest. It was a rough day. It had snowed on Wednesday morning and my son had fallen asleep at the wheel of his car and slammed into a power pole. He missed a gas meter by a few feet. The car was totalled, but he was fine. My other sister had been planning to come in from out-of-state, but had a medical emergency of her own come up and wasn’t able to be there. We were worried it was cancer.

When I got to Hubbard Hospice House, my wife asked if I was coming in or just dropping her off. Mom’s condition hadn’t really changed since they moved her there. She wasn’t better, but she wasn’t any worse either. She was just out of it. She didn’t seem to know a lot of what was going on. She couldn’t really talk anymore. At least not to where you could understand the words. Those of us that knew her seemed to instinctually know her meaning however. I told my wife that I was going in. I didn’t plan to stay long, but I wanted to Mom to know in whatever sort of fog she was in, that I was there and I loved her.

When I got in, she was worse. Lots worse. Her breathing was more labored. The staff all said she likely didn’t have long. My sister didn’t want to leave, but she had to eat and shower. She needed some rest too. I called work and told them that I would not be in. Mom needed me and I was going to be there. My sister left and told me to call her if there was any change. I sat there with my wife for an hour or so and we talked to Mom. She couldn’t reply, but we wanted to let her know she wasn’t alone. My other sister called and I talked to her. I held the phone to Mom’s ear and let her talk to her as well. Mom’s eyes seemed to show at least a glint of recognition. My sister told her that she loved her and we finished the call and hung up. Within moments Mom’s breathing slowed even more. We called the nurses and began trying to reach my sister that had just left and my cousin. Everyone was on their way, but before any of them could get there she was gone. I held her hand and held my wife and cried. My cousin and her son arrived just a few moments later. It was over so fast. She was no longer in pain.

My sister and her husband soon showed up as well. My wife began making the calls. She had her parents go to the house and get the kids. Her dad talked with the kids and told them what had happened. Our daughter went home with them, but my son decided to stay home to help field phone calls.

That was 6 years ago, but not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her. There have been many times something has happened and I think, “I need to call Mom and let her know,” only to suddenly remember that I no longer need to tell her because she already knows. As I said I’d give anything to be able to ask her about the stuff in that suitcase. I wish I could remember what all that stuff meant, but at least I will never forget who saved it for me and I will always remember how amazing and wonderful she was. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom. I miss you so much.