Friday, October 29, 2010

Eddie


Normally, when you hear that a comic book is being adapted into a movie or a TV show, your mind goes right to the boys who wear their undies on the outside of their pants...Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and the like. Though in the Modern Era they certainly update the costumes (Thank You, God of Superhero Movies) when necessary and eliminate most of the cheese and most of the time these days you get some pretty great movies.

But there have been some pretty great movies based on comic books that you might not have even realized started OUT as comic books.

And when I say 'YOU' I mean most of the readers of this blog. Which is composed, I believe, primarily of those parents who have children with 'special needs' issues ranging from Infantile Spasms/Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Leukemia, Autism, PDD-NOS, Fragile-X Syndrome, Stroke and so many other life-altering disorders.

Anybody else who came along for the ride from my 'old days' on the Internet...well, you probably know all about this shit.


Movies like Men in Black, V for Vendetta, Jonah Hex or The League of Extraordinary Gentleman...all based on comic books. Remember in the 80's that movie called Weird Science? Comic book, an old EC Comics title, I believe. By the way, EC Comics used to make a BUNCH of horror comics...like Tales from the Crypt, which, yup...became a TV Show. Ever see the awesome movie From Hell with Johnny Depp about Jack the Ripper? Comic book. What about Wanted with the super sexy Angelina Jolie as an assassin? Comic book.


And the one that I always get people with is this one. Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks? Great movie. Great comic book first.

Which brings me to The Walking Dead.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a day would come that a comic book about a Zombie Apocalypse would be turned into a television series. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that a television series about a Zombie Apocalypse would be produced by Gale Ann Hurd (Terminator, Aliens) and the pilot directed by Frank Darabont. If you do not know who Frank Darabont is, shame on you. SHAME.


Frank Darabont is responsible for two of the three greatest prison films of all time. The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. He is a director, screenwriter and producer who has been nominated for three Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. He directed an episode of The Shield, for cryin' out loud.

This...this thing is gonna be GREAT. Set your DVR's folks, if you get AMC, for Halloween night. This series will be great, I just feel it. If you don't believe me, just watch the trailer. You wanna know why I know it will be good? The music. Whoever chose the music understands how to put together a television series.

But not just ANY television series. A ZOMBIE television series.

I have no idea why, but I love good, quality Zombie Apocalypse stories. I only know of one person who was more excited than I was when news of this series first broke, and that was Eddie Wires. And since you don't really know that Road to Perdition was a comic, you probably don't really know much about my friend Eddie either, even though, in my old circles, he's a celebrity.

In fact I know you don't know, because if I recall I re-ran an article about him from one of the Palisades blogs in the Spring and I think nobody responded at all. Let me go pull that up and check and see. Yeah. There weren't any comments.

Not that it was a knock on Eddie. It was just an indicator. Most of the stragglers from the old days had been there, done that. Most of the new readers, the SNP's (Special Needs Parents) were like 'WTF?'


Man, that article takes me back. I just re-read it again. I go back to it from time to time. I always smile when I think of that Toys McCoy Indiana Jones. That boy liked to have shit his pants the day I actually sent him one out of the blue. I was making good money at the time and wanted to shock him to the core.

Nowadays 12-inch Indiana Jones dolls are everywhere. But then, yeah, the only one was from Toys McCoy, and I tracked one down for around 900 dollars on eBay. Can you believe that shit? I just wanted to. But that's kind of the way things are when you have a friend like Eddie. He goes out of his way for EVERYBODY.

He does something for you and you feel this compulsion to one-up him. Besides, he was constantly 'doing' for me...all the time. Me and everybody else. He almost never left a window for me to have a chance to do for him. So when I saw an opportunity like that I took it. The photo below is from someone else's collection, for your reference. I couldn't afford the horse, it was pricey too. The other photo is of the packaging, which was AWESOME. That's also from someone else's stash.



But back to The Walking Dead thing, because yeah, while Eddie can certainly be described as a giving guy all day long, his love of all things Undead can be talked about much longer.

And we often did talk about just that, as thankfully we found many opportunities (excuses) to converse about work (zombies) throughout the course of 2009 since, as fate would have it, the year saw the birth of Bennett's seizures, but also the birth of me back to work in the business again full-time, which meant more exposure to Eddie.

We were still in touch even outside the boundaries of work, we'd crossed that border years before, but the projects gave us renewed vigor.

Interesting when you consider that there are only about 3-4 people who EVER call me regularly on the phone. He's one of them. But for the whole year I was fortunate enough to have Eddie as a lifeline during some of the darkest times, often doing nothing more than just sitting there painting and listening while I talked about that which I was most afraid of.

That's what good friends do.


They don't bother with the fact that you're voice is raw because you just spent the last two hours doing most of the talking. They listen. They confirm. They validate.

But they also tell you things honestly. They don't sugar coat. Eddie said two things to me over the past eight years that I will never, ever forget.

The first was an answer to a question. I once asked him, if there actually was a Zombie Apocalypse and he was making his way through the desolate streets, looking for food and shelter, and he saw me, bloodied and moaning and slowly shambling in his direction, what would he do?

'Ohhhh...dude...I don't know. I hate to have to say it but...I think I'd hesitate for a few seconds. Yeah I'd hesitate. But then I'd have to blow you away. Sorry brother.'

In Bro-Speak, that's like saying 'I Love You'. I'll cherish it always.


The other thing he said was quite different. See, one of the very strange oddities about life, and one of the things I find quite unfair about it, is here you have this man, so giving, so noble and loving and married to such a great woman and all they wanted to do was BE parents. They tried for years to have kids. And they kept having trouble conceiving.

To tell you how bad Eddie felt for his wife when he would tell me about the tremendous losses they suffered would be the understatement of the decade. The weight of his words were just...staggering sometimes. So heavy. He was so...burdened for her. For himself too, but mostly for her. That was his style. It was during times like these where I would do the listening, and he would do the talking.

It wasn't fair.

It never is.

What was it that he said to me? That other thing I will never forget? One day while I was talking about the difficulties we were having with Bennett, and this was pre-surgery when things were REALLY at their peak of bad, so it was while Bennett was still having seizures, and Eddie said 'Dude, I'd trade places with you.'


Now, to some of you, that might seem shocking, or even cruel. It shouldn't. NOt these days, anyway. You need to understand he has the right to talk like that to me, he's been given it.

Though at the time, admittedly, I was taken aback a little. Into complete silence honestly. I felt, for a moment, as if I had been slapped all the way from Georgia. And he even sensed it, because he immediately went on to say 'Oh man, that didn't come out the way I meant it to.'

But he said exactly what I needed to hear. And in the end we both agreed that it came out EXACTLY how he meant it to. Because it WAS how he felt. He wanted so badly to be a father, and the truth was that he WOULD trade places with me. In a heartbeat. And he was honest with me and cared enough for me to remind me of a Truth that I have, ever since that day, held very close to my heart and will always try to remember as one of those Truth with a capital 'T' type statements.

Never, ever forget that no matter how bad you think you have it, there will always be someone out there, and it could be someone whom you would never suspect, who would be happy to trade places with you.

I remember how much more alive I felt after that particular conversation. That's how I felt after most conversations with Eddie. Invigorated. Re-animated. Eddie always has this way of bringing...well, in some weird way, in bringing life to the lifelessness. No wonder the guy has such a love for zombies now that I think about it. It's almost a mirror image of who he is...minus the lust for the consumption of human flesh of course.

Even when you look at his career choice there's almost an eerie parallel...he takes the pieces of a prototype you give him, all dull and grey and dead...and does what he does so effortlessly. He breathes life into each and every part, creating a masterpiece of pigment and binder.


'Wow, you really are crazy dude.'

I can almost hear him saying it now, reading this and thinking I reach WAY too far for analogies and connections and parallels and all that crazy shit. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Yeah, that's probably true.

But I don't think I'm reaching too far with this...

I was, for lack of a better term, for most of this past summer, a zombie.

Living, but not alive. Dead, but not gone. Everything in my world was pushing me down so much, it felt as if I were just shambling around like any other member of the Walking Dead.


We'd all been struggling with one of our own who is battling Cancer as much as one possibly can, but everybody sees where it is headed and everyone is very unhappy about it. It started affecting me when I began to realize that Bennett may never get a chance to know this person, and I think that is a real crime. This person is a remarkable, amazing human being.

I was having a very hard time with losing my job and feelings of total and complete career failure. I lost my job officially in December of 2009, but I actually still thought it was coming back around...it was not until some events occurred in early summer that I realized it was truly over.

Now, I was faced with a very real fear about what I could do next. Let's face it...my skill sets are not easily matched to a job, certainly not locally. Had I made a huge error in judgment about my entire career? What will I do? Am I too old to choose a different path?

I had problems with my weight again, and it kept going back up. My blood pressure kept rising, my back issues were attacking me with a vengeance, so much so that I was in some fairly severe pain most of the summer. Physically I was a real mess, and the side effects of all the medications I was taking did not help at all.

Living a sloth-like, sedentary existence did not help, nor did losing myself in the world of the X-Box like I mentioned earlier this week, often playing more of the game than even speaking with my family, even committing virtual suicide. I didn't attend many of the family gatherings, and those I did attend I barely 'attended' at all. I spoke very little (not that I'm hugely chatty in crowds, but this was different) and spent most of my time figuring out ways to leave.


My wife? I said it before, I was virtually ignoring her in every way possible. We'd chat, we didn't outright fight that much, I just was not being her husband. I stopped doing the big things because of the medication, but I stopped doing the little things too. I was not much help to her and she was really starting to get affected by the distance I was creating between me and her and everybody.

Carter had to be taken out of the Peer Program at Bennett's school, something else I never really talked about. We were spending all our days together here at the house and really clashing with each other. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to try to re-connect with my son who was feeling left out because of Bennett's condition, I isolated myself from him, saying to Jen that he was just too hard to manage all day. Now in addition to everything else, I was becoming a parental failure. Or at least I felt like it.

And then, of course, there was Bennett. Little, sweet Bennett, who was making some progress but not the progress I wanted, and certainly not at the speed with which I was expecting or hoping. He was so hard to connect with, his disabilities so hard to...accept. And yet, there were positives, I just focused so much on the negatives that even though I was seeing the positives I wasn't letting them comfort me, I wasn't allowing them to do any kind of good within me.

I think partially this is why on August 11th, Jennifer decided to take Bennett and Carter up to her sister's house and she would take Bennett to his one year follow up appointments on the 12th and 13th alone, while I stayed here. She said at the time she just didn't think I needed the added stress, but as I look back I think she just wanted to be away from me for a while as I was not someone who was much fun to be around.

I should have insisted, but of course I didn't, I stayed home, because that was becoming my new Modus Operandi.

Avoid.

Don't leave the house.

Exist within myself.

Be unavailable.

Of all the things about this summer and my descent into total disconnect, this is the one complete regret that I have for which I offer no excuse or rationale or even ask for forgiveness. The fact that I had led us both to a place where I was not in attendance at these appointments is, frankly, unforgivable. I can only cop to that as one in the loss column, learn from it, and move on.

This was not yet, however, the straw that would break the camel's back. I had not yet hit rock bottom. That was coming.


I got a phone call from another very good friend of mine, who took it upon himself to do something he knew would be difficult. He knew the news that was to be delivered was going to shake me to my very core, but he wanted to call me and get to me first to soften the blow and he wanted me to hear this particular piece of news from a person who I would know deep-down cared about me.

He also knew this news would travel fast. It is the Internet age after all.

I have yet to thank this person properly for taking on this burden, but I will figure out a way to do so, in some way in the future, because it was a tremendous act of kindness, compassion and friendship. And I know it was damn hard.

He got right to the point, his voice shaky, and this is one guy who doesn't HAVE a shaky voice.

'I don't know how to say it so let me just say it. Eddie Wires died.'

It was August 12th. He'd had a heart attack. He died in his studio, doing what he loved doing. Painting a prototype. Eddie was only 38 years old I think, I know he was a few years younger than me but like most dudes I never kept track of his actual age or his birthday and stuff, though I think it was in June. The point is...this was not something that you expect to hear about your friend.

You just...don't.

Until you do.

Eddie was a special human being. I hate saying something so...ordinary about someone so extraordinary and so unique. It's as big an understatement as I've maybe ever written. A nicer, more generous, more open, more lovable guy you could not ever possibly meet. I've only, in the 9 years or so I've known him, heard him say anything negative about someone MAYBE twice. Three tops.

About a week or two prior to the 12th, Eddie called me about a box.

He'd found a couple of things in his monstrous piles of boxes that he had been looking for on my behalf FOR THREE YEARS and some Minimates and he was going to send them, and of course the conversation quickly degenerated into us talking about what technically 'qualifies' as a true 'Zombie Apocalypse', how many seasons would The Walking Dead actually last, some strategies about some money he needed to collect on, and whether or not he would maybe at least TRY to look into Chantix (yes, he indeed was a smoker).

Oh yeah, and The Mist, which he had recommended and I had just watched and he wanted my review, which I was just about to get to that part when...

*CLICK-CLACK*


He got a call that came in that he had to take (clients ALWAYS took precedent, and I always understood that, and I wasn't a client that day) and he said 'Lemme call you right back buddy...'

And that was the last time I ever heard his voice.

Getting the news at that time was like getting hit in the teeth with a mallet. Jennifer was gone, in Cleveland, with the kids, attending appointments at the Cleveland Clinic I should have been there for, and Eddie was dead. It was a monumentally difficult morning.

Something...broke inside me.

I began to sob, then I fell tried to go over to the sofa but I fell and I cried in a way I had not probably since the night of Bennett's surgery when I got back to the hotel room by myself and was alone. It's the kind of crying you see in movies and hope you never have to experience. The kind that sometimes you don't even make sounds during.

I felt totally helpless. Utterly hopeless, and just sat there, in shock. Tears. It was not pretty. And I would be lying to you if I didn't admit that, for a moment, I didn't consider, if only FOR a moment, putting an end to it right then and there.

It was that bad. I don't recall so many different things being so wrong all at the same time, and I didn't know how to cope with it all.

Later that day, I had to get out of the house, that was all that I could do. I kept thinking that if I stay here, alone, it will be bad. I had to leave.

Months before that day Eddie and I had been talking about the new Hasbro Imperial Walker that was coming out, which happened to, coincidentally, been released that very week. He had said long ago that if I picked him up one and sent it to him he would go over it and give it some battle damage and snow effects and stuff and really make it squeal. The stickers and shit they give you for most of the mainstream vehicles and the paltry attempt to add any paint to them by the manufacturer usually sucks ass.

So I went to ToysRUs that afternoon and bought one. It was sort of surreal, cause I was in a sort of tunnel (I really wish I could describe that day adequately, but I can't), and I must have looked freshly beaten up in the face. I barely noticed anyone around me. They looked like apparitions.

I didn't just go to TRU...I went to Target and a few other places, just looking at toys, reminiscing in my own mind about conversations Eddie and I previously had about the industry as a whole, and how different toy shopping was today compared to even a few short years ago. For some reason, as long as I kept moving, thinking and buying, I kept myself together.


I went home, assembled the AT-AT, tears in my eyes but not losing it, and then played with it a while. I messed around with the legs looking for a good pose, seeing what action figures might look best around it and in it and all that. I then took it upstairs and put it on my shelf above my computer, where it sits right now.

It felt good to do, but there wasn't any doubt in my mind that I had officially reached a point that I could call rock bottom for real. I was so...exhausted from my life, and had no real energy left to live it.

For the next week, I remained in this state of un-being. Undead. Miserable. Dejected. Distant. I was very, very sad. And yet...something was brewing. Something...better.

A fog was lifting, thoughts within me that up until that point had only been at the fringe of my consciousness were starting to become clearer. And finally, after a week of these thoughts jumping around in my head, I wrote about them in the post called Black & White, where I essentially admitted that I had reached a very bad place and felt like more of a liability to my family than anything good or helpful.

Though even now, looking at that post, you can see what I am about to finalize here...the influence is there. The clarity was finalizing. I knew what I had to do, I could feel something started to shift, it was just a matter of doing something about it. Or, as Tennessee puts it in another of Eddie's (and mine) favorite Zombie films, Zombieland...it was 'Time to nut up or shut up.'


After reading and tweaking the post a few times, I waffled about publishing it. It was hardcore in its admissions, and I wasn't sure I should be so open about how I was really feeling. I read some other blogs that were very vulnerable that day, and I decided to publish it. I did, and read it again once it was live. I do that usually anyway just to check for spelling mistakes and grammar. I'm anal like that.

But then I read it again. And again. And then again.

I'm glad I did, because if there was doubt before that, it quickly dissipated, as I was overcome with a clearness of focus I had not experienced in a long time, a sense of purpose I had not known in what felt like forever, and the sudden and unexplainable realization I that if I didn't do something, and fast, that I would lose everything in my life that I considered valuable.

And just like that, I could hear Eddie's words in my head as if he were speaking them right next to me.

'Dude, I'd trade places with you.'

Eddie was gone. But he made me understand what I needed to do and do QUICKLY. I owed it to his memory, to my wife, to my kids, to everyone in my entire life that mattered to me. It is not enough just be alive, but I have to LIVE MY LIFE.

Survival isn't enough.

Getting by isn't enough.

There has to be more to it than that.


It's what we loved, LOVED, about the original comic book concept behind The Walking Dead in the first place, and what separates it from most other tales of a Zombie Apocalypse, certainly from the Romero classics.

In this story, there is a potential cure.

And even years ago, when we would talk about a potential television series about zombies (long before the comic book even existed), we agreed that the one thing you would need to make it work would be a light at the end of the tunnel, a possible cure for the plague, because without it, you end up with nothing to propel your characters toward the light, you end up with no Earth for the Battlestar Galactica to find. No One-Armed Man to finally catch up to.

And I had forgotten that. I had forgotten that there has to be something to hope for when you are trapped in your Apocalypse. That there is a possible antidote, somewhere, hidden away in some long-abandoned bunker, somewhere.

And while there really isn't, in truth, an all-out 'cure' for Bennett's condition, that is, in and of itself, irrelevant, because there is always advancement, improvement, growth, learning and most importantly there is a CURE FOR HOW I BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SON AND WITH MY FAMILY FROM WITHIN AND NOT WITHSTANDING THE FRAMEWORK OF THIS DISORDER. There are things to be inspired by, things to motivate my daily life. There are goals to reach for. People to reach out to for help and to seek help from along the way.


You have to celebrate the small victories. Cheer them. And you have to step back from time to time to have a few laughs and a few drinks (on Eddie) along the way. It isn't always going to be a fight for your life, trapped in a boarded up house, conserving ammo and fighting off the Undead hordes.

Those will exist, but there will be good times to.

And it was there, armed with that strength of mind, that conviction of consciousness, that new breath of renewed life and vitality, given to me in the most tragic of circumstances by the death of a dear friend, that I was able to begin an entirely new phase of this journey through our post-apocalyptic landscape.

As it turned out, I did have a major battle to fight, right out of the gate, as Jen finally pulled the trigger on the suggestion of a separation a few days after these revelations, which I have mentioned before. But we persevered. I survived. Together we endured. I had the strength to fight it and overcome it. To grow, evolve and learn from it. In fact, I've had more than a few people write me and say that even from the outside looking in that lately things just seem...different about me.

They are.

I have Eddie to thank for that. I think, under any other circumstances, I might have thrown in the towel.

But when I slip...when I get all wrapped up in emotion and let my darker feelings get the better of me, when I get bogged down in the negative and feel that things are at their absolute worst, I remember Eddie and other friends who have always been there for me, and those memories are always warm.

They are always peaceful.


They inspire me to always be thankful for the good things that I have. They instill in me a humility of self I strive to maintain as much as I possibly can. And when I do think of Eddie, and the kind, gentle, caring, unique soul he carried with him, I try so very hard to re-ignite my faith, because I want so much to believe I will see him again someday and thank him for...for just being him.

And to find out what he thought of The Walking Dead, of course.


You take care of yourself Eddie, wherever you are. I don't know when I will be able to take your picture off my header image. I haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet. I don't know when I will stop checking your Facebook page to see if you have responded to any of the messages people send you. I don't know if I will ever have my heart NOT skip a beat when your name comes up when I scroll through my phone on the Caller ID, or if I will ever have the courage to remove it from the phone entirely.

Hell, I don't even know what will happen Sunday...will I be more riveted by the actual show, or will I be in tears most of the time, thinking of how much worse off the world is without you in it, but how blessed I was to have known you for the time that I did?

I really don't know. I only know this for certain. If somehow, in my life, I can ever be one/tenth of the man you were, then I will be a great man, and get through all of this just fine.


Thank you for being there for me pal, I miss you like crazy, you know. There are days. Holy shit, dude...there are days.

And to be honest? I know you're gone now, but before that? If we really did have a Zombie Apocalypse? Yeah...I'd have hesitated also. Probably much longer than I should have. But then I'd have to blow you away too.

I love you, Eddie.


Goodbye.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wanna See Something REALLY Scary?


That line, spoken by Dan Aykroyd to Albert Brooks in the opening 'teaser' sequence to the 1983 film Twilight Zone: The Movie, is one of the more memorable moments from the mostly forgettable film. Well, forgettable unless you happened to be related to Vic Morrow, Myca Dinh Le or Renee Shin-Yi Chen. I guess that's not really a fair thing to say. It was, after all, an 'accident'.

And truthfully, the film wasn't horrible as far as television-to-film adaptations go, it just wasn't really necessary, as so many of them aren't. Yes, I can admit that the George Miller directed adaptation of the classic episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' that originally starred William Shatner was easily the best of the four segments and very entertaining.

Though I still say, especially since it was 1983...IT SHOULD HAVE RE-CAST CAPTAIN KIRK IN THE SAME ROLE.


And the Spielberg-directed remake of the episode 'Kick the Can' was heart-warming and charming in that way that delivers the smiles with the cheese and yet somehow doesn't come across as overly 'cheesy', in that style that only Spielberg is capable of doing.

But necessary? No...and I know why I believe that to be true. I've never once, EVER, looked for it on DVD.

And yet, whenever I say the line 'You wanna see something REALLY scary?' I always think of that movie.

So what does that say?

Somehow, in some way, some aspect of it was good enough to stick with me.

And of course, none of that has a DAMN thing to do with this.

But, hey...you wanna see something REALLY scary?


Check out THIS shit. It's an article sent to me by Kim, who usually sends my silly stuff to cheer me up but decided I've been way too happy and calm lately and decided I needed to worry and stress out more about stuff.

Thanks Kim! :)

Everyday Chemicals May Be Harming Kids

I posted a link to this on my Facebook page yesterday, and I posed this question. Do you ever sit there and think you are fighting an un-winnable war?

I do, and when I read stuff like this it only reinforces this feeling.

How do you protect your kids? And can you really? How far can you really take it and is it ever going to be enough? Can you afford it? How much is too much? What kind of control do you really have?

I remember when, almost two years ago now, I quit smoking. I was so proud of myself because I was not going to be exposing my kids or my wife or myself to all that crap anymore.

And don't get me wrong, I have ZERO regrets about that. Zero. We obviously don't expose them to chemicals in the house that we KNOW of that are bad for them, but hell, a well-respected physician didn't even know about all the stuff that was in the home that had never been tested by the EPA in that article.


We don't give the kids 'diet' foods that have Aspartame, limit the junk foods and we try to limit their exposure to meats that have growth hormone (though again...like anything else, you have to TRUST that there is compliance, but that's another issue). There has been talk of some more radical shifts in diet, to see if we can make some alterations in mood/behavior in a more natural way. But aside from going super radical, we try to make sure they take their vitamins, get their fiber and a balanced diet, lots of water, get them out and active, etc., etc.

The stuff you think you are SUPPOSED to do as a Mom and Dad.

But then you wonder...what else is there in the house that might be contributing to Bennett's problems that have nothing to do with his diet? I can't deny that it doesn't cross my mind. We live in such a chemical world, but how do I even begin to wrap my head around the sheer raw amount of junk that there actually is all within, say five square feet of where I am sitting right now?


An old friend of mine from my high school days left an interesting comment on Facebook which was very telling about the double-edged sword that can exist even in the act of trying to 'do something' good. She said 'I now use vinegar to clean with, so to avoid harsh chemicals. But the apples it was made from can have pesticides, too. No easy answers there.' She's right.

It's mind-boggling, really. One could, if one was so inclined, drive oneself nuts by going down this road of analysis. But on the other hand, you have do something.

But the real question is...WHAT?

See?

Scary.

OUT.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Problems, Solutions & Zombies


Remember a couple of blogs ago, when I mentioned that, over the summer, I had pushed my wife to the point where she was ready to pull the plug on our most perfect union? And remember I told you that I felt that the primary force pushing her to that point was Yours Truly? Well, I wasn't yanking anybody's chain.

I think under any NORMAL circumstances, wives often shake their heads at some of the things their husbands get into. And vice versa.

This is natural.

This is expected.

Women are from Venus and Men are from...I dunno, Hell I guess.

We are vastly different creatures, yet somehow we figure out a way to co-habitate and exist together in relationships, sometimes we even go the distance...until departed by six feet of dirt.


It's work, it's effort, and you have to have some give and take certainly.

Fortunately, Jennifer and I have some very foundational things in common, those things that are most important, which is really the binding agent for us. I'm lucky that way. We both are. Other things, like the fact that she enjoys watching football (traditionally a male activity) or I enjoy cooking (traditionally a female activity), are what I call Bonus Levels. We have quite a lot of those as well.

But there are those things that we will never meet in the middle on.


Say hello to the X-Box 360, my favorite coping mechanism, but something that Jennifer wouldn't mind taking a baseball bat to from time to time.

And CERTAINLY, at least this summer, I think she probably would have had the right to do just that. Because I went WAY overboard. This machine might as well have been a mistress.

And for a while...I got lost in it.

Especially in Red Dead Redemption, which, because of the timing of its release, came out just when I started becoming super, super depressed. Right at the beginning of the worst of my downward spiral, the sweeping landscape of the world of RDR sucked me in, and what started as a part of a solution, something I used to cope with the depression and sadness I was feeling about my life, was now becoming part of the problem, as, instead of hours dealing with some of our issues I was spending hours lost in imaginary worlds.


And it wasn't healthy in other ways either. After everyone was asleep in the house, I would sometimes just ride a horse out to one of the cliffs and watch the sun set over the virtual horizon. This might take a half an hour, maybe a full hour, of real time...with me just sitting there, contemplating, dwelling, thinking, but not really DOING. It was odd.

What was even stranger was this. Sometimes, for reasons I can't even begin to explain, I would just take the character and leap off the cliff, plunging him to his death. Sure, he'd re-spawn at a different spot, but there was no real reason to DO that.

It made no sense.

I would do that or recklessly attack people or groups of bears in situations where there was little to gain and little chance of survival or success.


Again...why? If you are GOING to play...play with a purpose, play for an outcome. I was lost in there for all the wrong reasons. In many ways, the virtual self was just a mirror image of the real self. There simply WAS no escape from the Truth. I had to start playing with a purpose and playing for an outcome IN MY LIFE.

That was part of the lesson I needed to learn. And I learned it. Less X-Box. More Life.

But...I still play, just not to the extreme that I was over the summer. And while the above was about The Lesson, the below is about The Test.

And hey...I know what you're saying. You're saying 'Hey Lilly...what's all this bullshit, huh? What about Halloweek? Yesterday yer promising us that yer gonna Theme Up, that this week is all gonna be about scary stuff related to the most frightening day of the year and now it's all this psycho-babble bullshit about you playing your X-Box and marriage issues? WTF?'

Easy...easy...we're gettin' there. What? You go out on a date and go right for the booby? No, you hold HANDS first. Now, where was I? Oh yeah...Red Dead Redemption...incredible game. Takes place in the old West. Gunfighting. Riding horses. Terrific.

Now...how do you make one of the greatest games of all time about the American West even better?

Just add zombies.


Today, October 26th, Rockstar Games has released the DLC (That's 'Downloadable Content' to you non-gamers) Add-On called Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Pack. It is a brand new Single Player campaign, featuring reformed outlaw John Marsten, the hero from Red Dead Redemption, racing to find a cure to a disease that has unleashed a Zombie Apocalypse across the frontier. There's some new Multi-Player stuff too.

Yes of course I am going to download it, because zombies are awesome and RDR ranks up there in my Top Ten List of All-Time games I have ever played. The KEY is...not allowing myself to get sucked in and remembering the lessons I learned about maintaining a balance, because it would be SO easy to boot it up and then look back up at the clock and see 3 or 4 AM and then KEEP PLAYING.

Damn you Western Zombies, you bastards...if only you weren't so DAMN scary and sexy...




...but I'm not going to let you own me.

Can't. Got way too many things to do on the OUTSIDE.

This is gonna be a REALLY tough fight this week.

But I gotta stay focused.

*sweating*

C'mon man...you quit smoking, you can do THIS.

Just say NO to the Undead, man...JUST SAY NO.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

OUT.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloweek


This is, officially, Halloween Week, even though Halloween is Sunday, but most of the events and activities (at least in our neck of the woods) are this week, and it is the last week in October. So I decided to Theme Up or Shut Up, and this week focuses on subjects related to everyone's favorite Fright Fest.

Leading up to this week, I've been growing restless and uncomfortable, not because I'm afraid of the dark (OK I am a little), but because I know what's coming. I have to write about something that is very difficult for me, a loss suffered this year that was nearly unbearable. I've held off talking about it because it's taken a long time to figure out exactly what I want to say. But, I also knew I wouldn't, I shouldn't, wait beyond this week. That just wouldn't be right.

You'll understand why when I get there.

In the meantime, how's this for scary? Today's topic is about, essentially, being forced to confront one of your fears, as I had to spend my very first weekend with Bennett...by myself.

Well, sort of.

Last week (the week before Weekend Vomitus), Jennifer's sister Mandy had her third baby. They named him Maximo, and this weekend Jen decided to make the pilgrimage to Cleveland to see him and she was gonna take Carter with him. But she decided to leave Bennett.

With me.

Here.

By myself.


Yes...I was scared. But eventually, it had to happen right? It is part of my responsibility as his Dad after all. Truth be told, the thing I was nervous about, and maybe the only thing, was the sleeping part of it.

See, not sure I ever mentioned this but Bennett took my spot in the Master Bedroom a LONG time ago. I sleep in the guest bedroom now. Actually I should correct that. First Carter took my spot. Then Bennett took Carter's spot. Now Bennett keep's that spot because, frankly, Jen is nervous about Bennett wandering off in the middle of the night and hurting himself.

It's a completely legitimate point.

Anyway, so the overnight part worried me the most, because during the daytime hours on the weekend, and on evenings during the week, if we request it, we get help in the form of a Home Health Aide. For a limited amount of hours per week, a person comes here and assists with Bennett. It's a GREAT benefit we get from living where we live. If we lived somewhere else Bennett might not qualify for the Medicaid Waiver that pays for it.

I guess I should thank all of you, dear readers, and myself...that's U.S. tax dollars at work, and I appreciate it. HOWEVER, one of these days I have got to write about the amount of waste and multiple people doing similar/same jobs I see in the programs. But that is another blog entirely.

So I wasn't THAT worried about the daytime hours. I knew I'd have some help for some of the time. And Bennett had not, in this past week leading up to the weekend, been losing it all that much with the exception of what ultimately led to the Stuffed Monkey Incident. So my stress levels have been fairly manageable.


But I was super freakin' out about how Bennett would be when he realized that instead of some silken, golden locks to run his fingers through while he sucked his thumb and slipped into the sweet oblivion of Dreamland, he'd be slapping his palm up against the prickly 5 o'clock stubble on the top of Daddy's bald head. Which, while it fascinates him sometimes in his waking hours, probably does NOT provide a soothing transition from consciousness to Sleepytime.

It wasn't THAT bad.

Yeah, it took a while. And yeah, there were a couple of false starts, so we came back downstairs and I basically decided to just let him hang with me on my lap until he reached Maximum Exhaustion. He was a little weepy for a couple of those evening hours, but he never went nuclear, which really, really surprised me, because it was what I had been waiting for.

Never happened.

Not then, not even the next day.

Ironically, he NEVER went nuclear, not until later the following evening when Jennifer was here. There might be something to that. Only went Nuclear when the two of use were here together. Is it really an Autistic/sensory/behavioral reaction to some stimuli like I have been led to believe or instead is there some intention here? More study required.


Now I didn't get a wink of sleep, but that's because I wasn't used to having Bennett be my complete responsibility. So any movement, any cough, any sound, anything...and I was alert. You could say I dozed my way through the evening.

But I got through the weekend intact, as did the boy, so the ATTABOY Prize belongs to me. It was a very big deal, though it might not seem like it to you. In six years, I've had Carter by myself once. In 3 years, I've had Bennett by myself, well, now...once. Not counting in the hospital on nights when I took shifts.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a good fear to finally face and overcome. It was a good monkey to get off my back. Maybe it marks another turning point in my familial relationships, it certainly opens up some things as far as making Jennifer feel more comfortable with leaving the house overnight.

Though leaving Carter here with me and Bennett is a whole different ballgame, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

And I should point out that in addition to my own Fear overcome, something wonderful has happened between Bennett and me. It happened for the first time about a week ago, at which point I collapsed and cried like a baby, and so I hadn't reported it yet (because I wanted to make sure it 'took', that it was 'real'). But since it happened again this weekend a few times, I think it can now be considered the real deal.

Bennett will now come over to me, with Cheerios or Cracklin' Oat Bran or Mini Wheat or Cracker in hand, say 'Ahhhhhhh' to get me to open my mouth while smiling and looking at my mouth, and when I open wide he will place the food item into my mouth and anxiously await my chewing and gracious 'THANK YOU!'.

He will do this repetitively.

Again.

And again.

And again.


For those of you who do not have kids with communication problems, that is as huge as it gets. It is a MAJOR step in interaction/communication skills. It is something that most kids start doing VERY early in their development, it is a huge building block of communication, like rolling a ball back and forth, and it is a piece of the puzzle in his brain that yes, Heather, gives me a tremendous amount of hope about the possibilities of where he can go, cognitively.

So...let's re-cap, shall we?

Fear conquered, major communicative MILEstone (not INCHstone) reached and (I would say) mastered, father-son bonding in abundance, only slight lack of sleep, no major nukes came falling down, the Baltimore Ravens managed to improve their record to 5-2 and avoid an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills and Jennifer/Carter got to spend some time with Sister/Cousins and 'get away' for a bit.

Sounds like a pretty damn good weekend to me.

OUT.

Friday, October 22, 2010

You Never Forget Your First Time


It's always etched, permanently, in the deepest recesses of your memory. The passion, the power, the rush of adrenaline.

Two nights ago, for the very first time, my wife threw something at me in anger.

Don't worry, it wasn't like a plate or anything breakable.

Nobody got hurt. It was something soft. Some stuffed monkey, thrown without a lot of force at the overstuffed gorilla. (Yes that means me.)

Yes I was lucky...I ducked out of the way pretty quickly. Remember...I have mongoose-like reflexes. Though Jen does have quite an arm, according to her Dad, who told me a very amusing story when I mentioned I was writing this blog. As a kid she threw a softball and accidentally knocked the family dog out cold. The poor thing was never the same after that.


There was no such injury in this case, only some things we needed to talk about. And so we did. We didn't 'go to bed angry' as they say. We both acknowledged that we were pissed off at the 'issues of our lives' and not at each other and all that good stuff. Hell we even talked about a few other General Knowledge type topics before we called it a night.

Normally, Jennifer doesn't lose her temper to that extreme.

But to be honest? She probably should have hit me in the face with a chair.

I deserved it. We were both fried from an hour of Bennett having one of his episodes, and she asked me a simple question to which I gave her an answer that was not at all simple, informative or supportive.

As much as I hate to admit it, to myself or anyone else, I have a very sarcastic trait my mother reminded me about on the phone when I was telling her about The Incident. 'You can be such an ass.' (Ya THINK?) And by the way, don't be alarmed. I personally find it beautiful that I have this type of relationship with my Mother. She and I are open and honest with each other, more than many mothers and sons I know. I TOTALLY dig that she said that. Because she was honest. I respect that about her.

See, I picked up this alarmingly awful and amazingly shitty personality characteristic from the Evil Step-Father. Have I ever shown a picture of him? I don't think I have. Here ya go.


She, my Mom I mean, can't stand it when I pull out Mr. Sarcasm, Jen can't stand it, and I don't really care that much for the guy either. Usually, I can keep him stuffed way down in one of my socks. But what happens is, and this is a lesson for any of you folks who have never had to deal with 'childhood issues', so take notes, if you have an aspect of yourself that you know is a sort of 'flaw' that you work to improve but is kind of deeply pressed into you because you grew up seeing it all the time, you need strength of will to manage it properly.

When your strength is diminished, when you are at your weakest, this is when you are the most vulnerable to attack from those things that you can usually keep away from your purer self, that You That You Want To Be. So you try to stay focused, manage your strength and not allow yourself to be in a weakened state of mind. Most of that takes place on a subconscious level, it isn't something you think about until you HAVE to think about it. The way you don't HAVE to think about breathing in and out until you don't have access to air.

So, you go about your day, living your life, keeping some of these negative personality traits at bay but occasionally your guard gets let down and that aspect of yourself, your Inner Demon, Mr. Sarcasm, whatever you want/like to call it, gets in a sucker-punch which, like a grenade, spreads its shrapnel to everyone in the room.


Make sense?

Anyway, the real issue here isn't that. The real issue is that for Jennifer to be at that level of Condition Red, it shows me that we need to be more in sync with each other's states of mind than ever before, requiring even more work than ever before. More work.

As you would expect but don't think much about until it is YOU...the stress levels that you reach after you have a personal life-altering event like a death or a severe disability or whatever in your life...it is just plain astounding.

Unlike anything you could have ever, EVER imagined.

It's why that movie The Road frightened me so much.

Because I saw so many parallels between the possibility of falling into and getting trapped inside that kind of 'reality', if you are not careful, when something like this happens. Because The Road is a movie about The End of The World. And, to simplify matters, a Brain Tumor/Infantile Spasms/Temporal Lobectomy/PDD-NOS/ASD event occurring to your beloved child is, essentially, The End of Your World as You Believed It Would Be.


Now don't get me wrong. I get that there might be a Holland somewhere, waiting for us. If we choose to go there. If we can find the means. If we can keep moving forward, walk the right path, maintain hope, get used to the taste of Gouda cheese, stay focused and most importantly...STAY TOGETHER.

But it isn't easy.

Nothing worthwhile is. Isn't that what they say?

I'll ask Jennifer if she's cool with me posting this before I hit 'Publish'. She's not always totally understood why I am compelled to do this blogging thing, but she's also a good woman in the sense that she doesn't stop me from doing it. She's only ever asked me a couple of times to 'not blog about this or that' and I have respected it.

And hell, I really respect that about her. Sometimes I wish she was more 'into' it, but then again sometimes she wishes I was more into some of the things she was into. That's just marriage. Bottom line is we have plenty of things we are both into, and that we both enjoy, and we do love each other, and we both have two kids that we would gladly burn for. What else do you need really?

She's my best friend, I still think she's hot and I wouldn't want anybody else as the mother of my boys. If that doesn't say it all right there, I don't know what does.

A few months ago we came very close to the big 'S'. Separation. Yes, she actually said the words. And for a time she may have meant it. But in the end she didn't feel it. Her initial decision to leave was based entirely on my behavior, and the spiral I was in, the depression I was not dealing with, the bubble I was creating around everyone and everything, especially her. In the end, she listened to an appeal by me and decided not to go through with it.

I don't hold it against her at all. She was right to be at that point. I put her there. There is a lot to that story, and it's a good story, with a positive outcome, and she's probably fine with me telling it, though I may not even talk about all the details. (Yes I will, who am I kidding?)

What's important, to me, is that WE are working on US, and I am working on ME. And you know what, I'd be lying if she hasn't said that she is working on her. She knows she's as much a part of US as I am, and she bleeds over Bennett as much as I do.


It's hard.

And we have good days and bad days. And it just so happens that one day, the other night as a matter of fact, I got a stuffed animal thrown at my face.

But she wasn't throwing a stuffed animal. She was throwing me a reminder. A reminder that the only fighting that should be going on in this house is she and I fighting FOR Bennett and Carter and the things they need, and that's about it.

Message received, sweetheart.

And you were absolutely right.

OUT.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bucket List


As it turns out, I'm guessing that Bennett had some sort of Flu last Thursday and Friday, and since he enjoys drinking out of Daddy's water bottle, guess who spent Saturday and Sunday with a bucket at the ready?

Yeah...that would be me.

I don't get adults though.

Why do some of us try SO hard not to blow chunks?

We hang on to our own vomit like its made of gold. All day Saturday I was about as nauseous as I have ever been in my life and yet I never once threw up. Came close a few times, but I fought it off like I was a Spartan at the Battle of Thermopylae. Even though I KNEW I would probably feel better if I just let it fly.

Finally, in an ironic twist, later that evening I decided to Hell with this, I'm gonna just do it already. I put on some gloves, went to the bathroom and tried to make myself...and I couldn't.

For some reason, I find this to be incredibly funny.

I have ZERO idea why. But I'm also nucking futs.

And hey...here's a bit of advice to anybody else who gets sick as this virus makes its way across the nation. Use caution when picking your Sick Movies. Jen didn't feel well either, but we both wanted to watch a movie. For a while I had told her I wanted to see, but didn't know much about, a movie called The Road. The only reason I wanted to see it is because I love Viggo Mortensen, and would watch anything he was in.


And don't get me wrong, it was a great film. Fantastically acted, grimly and beautifully directed, the subject matter was handled just as it should have been and it was a brilliant adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by Cormac McCarthy, whom you might also know as the writer of the book No Country for Old Men.

But it is dark as shit, and not the kind of thing you need when you are laying around sick and pondering the fact that your life, as you know it, will never be the same again. Something my wife and I had been conversing about this weekend.

This past week we could not figure out why Bennett was having such a rough time. He was not running that high of a fever at all but he was still vomiting and was constantly moaning/screeching. We tried so many things to make him feel better and we couldn't find anything that worked.

This particular flu virus gave very unusual symptoms. Severe body aches. SEVERE. Felt like your bones had bug-like exo-skeletal properties, so every movement you made resulted in your muscles scraping against your bones. Intense headache, severe nausea (and the vomiting only really came if you ATE, which of course we forced him to do), cramping in the stomach, weakness, temperature fluctuations but not severe enough to cause intense fever.


Many of the things we tried to make him feel better flew in the face of these facts.

We tried distracting him by PLAY, which probably caused him pain. If only we could have talked to him about it more, if he could have told us his tummy ached we might have tried to alleviate that symptom with something. We might have wrapped him in blankets, cause chances are he probably felt SUPER cold. I know I did all day Saturday, and I am the one generally bitching about how hot I am. My folks bring EXTRA LAYERS of clothing to my house when they visit, we keep it like a Morgue in here. But there was no way for him to tell us.

Anyway, it prompted a conversation between Jen and I about our family and our future. An admission of sorts, one we have always hinted at, but have never actually spoken aloud, at least not with the grimness of reality we did this weekend.


We admitted that our lives are essentially, from now on, never going to be the same ever again for our family. Not for any event. Not for any holiday. Not for even the simplest of functions. Our family isn't like other families. We don't fit in with the other 'normal' families anymore.

Now, in order for Carter to do something that other kids do, for the most part if things don't change from where they are we have to split the family up, etc., etc. It was one of those harsh reality conversations, a 'Why him?' conversation. A 'Why does Carter have to get all the shrapnel?' conversation. A 'What are we doing wrong?' conversation. A 'What happens if this?' and a 'What happens if that?' conversation.

I freakin' hate those.

We were just in a bad state of mind. Bad flu. Depressing movie. Ravens lost to the Patriots because of shitty, conservative play-calling...AGAIN. Cameron, you suck. Rough couple of weeks. Tough quarterly review from Bennett's school showing a fairly big swing and a miss on many of his goals.

Oh, and I know I said last week that I was gonna read up on ABA and Friday I was gonna tell you what I learned. I did read up, and I did learn some things, but now I am more confused than ever (And Friday I was dealing with a sick boy so I couldn't do a write-up...shit happens). And the eval makes me even MORE confused. More study is needed and I need to do an observation day at Bennett's school. To be continued.

I do have quite a bit more to say about The Road also, which is still on my mind, days later, and how it relates to a lot of things that I think parents who experience any kind of disaster with their child go through, but that's gonna have to wait for another time.

OUT.