Monday, October 31, 2011

Shit Happens


OK, so I took two weeks off.

Lot of things happened in those two weeks. Bennett had his Quarterly Review at Step-By-Step Academy. I discovered another Ohioan raising money for iPads. Batman: Arkham City came out. Bennett had his IEP meeting. Carter played his final flag football game. Jen's parents returned from their month long trip abroad.

Lots went down.

And I'll be discussing none of it today. Because I am going to try to start taking more of a Corporal Hicks philosophy to at least a PORTION of my blogging. SHORT CONTROLLED BURSTS.


I'll still have the longies. Me loves the longies. But I gotta shorten some of them up. Hell, even this one is going too long already. Eventually I am going to try an exercise of formatting a few 'styles' as a test, just to see if it can work for me, call it pargraphical limiticus. I am going to use those templates as a guide for certain days of the week to simply lash my tongue (or in this case fingers) and eventually I will learn how to tighten up my thoughts.

I will become a leaner writer. Period.

So what WAS my point? Oh yeah. Bennett is taking dumps on the bowl.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT SHIT!?!?

And what is crazier still is that he is basically initiating it mostly on his own.


We started the process, by sitting him down a few times when we saw him sneak off like a cat and get that redness to the face that all you parents recognize immediately. But eventually, I guess he started to dig the feeling, because now he will, if he is 'moved', so to speak, will let us know that the barbarians are at the gate.

Bennett has not pooped in his pants in around 4 days in a row now. All weekend long he asked to go to the bathroom. Not for pee, just for poop. Though he will ask to go for farts too. He seems to favor the words ‘PuhPAY! PuhPAY!’. In Benglish this sounds an awful lot like 'Puppy' sometimes. He also wants me to read the Poop Book every day, multiple times, to him. Though during the read he often stares off into the distance as I read the words, which I do very dramatically by the way, I am a DAMN GOOD children's book reader.

But that's just what he does, and I'm down with it. Cause when it's over he knows, and he cheers.

Like an adolescent rushing FAR too quickly for third base on a first date, we tried underwear with Bennett all of Sunday morning. We took him to the bathroom at intervals for peeing. Worked for around 4-5 hours. But he eventually did tinkle in his undies. But then we came to our senses and realized we were moving too fast.

Guess we got a bit over-excited.

Hell...I thought I'd be changing his diaper at age 16 at one point, but I guess I'll be adjusting my perspective on a LOT of things around here.


NOTE TO SELF...really gotta figure out how to teach him to not stick his head and hands in the toilet AFTER he poops in it.

OUT.

Friday, October 14, 2011

You All, Everybody

(This is Part VI of VI of a series of entries that chronicle my experience of Faith, from my early understanding of it as a kid and my acceptance of it as a teenager, my rejection of it as a young adult and my struggles with it as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, and what I have come to know and appreciate about it through the acts of others.)

Part I of VI: Richard
Part II of VI: Mark
Part III of VI: Meighan
Part IV of VI: Jennifer
Part V of VI: Bennett
Part VI of VI: You All, Everybody


It's no secret how much I, within these pages, lament the fact that LOST is no longer on the air.

It was, in my humble opinion, the 1st and 2nd greatest show on television. Huzzat? Well, I waffle a lot. The Shield sometimes kicks it out of first place, depending on my mood, and then LOST has to sit in the corner, pouting like a scolded adolescent, for a time, in second place, until I get my Mackey out of my system and then LOST comes back to take first chair again.

LOST had a ton of mysterious elements. A ton. From the Pilot episode all the way to The End.

Many of those mysteries were explained, and many of them were explained...enough. You never want answers HANDED to you, right? I mean, you want to have to think for yourself, to draw your own conclusions, and sometimes to keep thinking about things, long after they happen.


Of course, the ONE mystery that has never been or will never be explained, is how that piece of shit song by Charlie Pace's band 'Drive Shaft', You All, Everybody, became a #1 Single all over the bloody globe. In the LOST universe, as far as musical tastes were concerned, I guess people were daft...Brutha!

But at least the song can serve my purposes, because for the longest time, I struggled to figure out what the name of this final entry was going to be. Can you believe that?

I went back and forth a TON. And it changed a few times. IN fact, the entire post changed several times, and was reworked several times. Portions of it got taken out and set aside, to be used in other places, for another time. Other sections got expanded on and used elsewhere.

See, because when my desire to write about this subject started, IN AUGUST, it started here, with this post. The problem was it grew to a length even SingleDad would be envious of, for a change. A length that, even for a blog that Yours Truly was writing, was just too damn long.

SO I decided to stretch it over multiple posts. When I did THAT, those sections grew. When I started expanding there, other thoughts came to me, and the whole thing...well, let's just say that my Mom's desire for me to write a book nearly came to fruition.

Ultimately, I decided that there was no way I could pick one 'name' to close out this mini-series. Because although there is one very special person at the heart of one very critical element of this last section, there isn't only one person, in this Final Act, who I can link to as the main source of overall guidance on my journey. The truth is...there are so many people impacting my life right now.

Somehow...I guess some change happens whether you want it to or not. I've become a lot less closed off than I used to be.


Dammit.

Through my experiences online before, at Palisades and at my own little BS company, and now, in the world of our community with Special Needs, I am surrounded by people who provide me with such an amazing support structure. Digital, yes. But real nonetheless.

And it really is you all, everybody, that have each contributed in some way to my current likeness of being, my preset state of mind, my ability to be more receptive, more open to new ideas, new philosophies, new ways of thinking.

And the lifelines you have given me? Their worth is incalculable.

The best part of these relationships is that they do not always REMAIN digital. And that is something you don't realize about these alliances that you form on the Internet.

Just like meeting my spouse through a keyboard, some of the most astounding representations of human beings have revealed themselves to me in the physical world by first being introduced to me in the world of 1's and 0's.


I dunno, maybe a computer really IS what saves this planet, in the long run. But not by entering 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 and then pressing 'EXECUTE'. Maybe it does so just by continuing to make the world smaller and smaller.

Perhaps I am an idiot to believe in that. But then again, as you've seen, I ain't always the sharpest tool in the shed.

The way I have been living my life for the past couple of years, up until this whole thing happened with this iPad contest, has been so...utterly foolish. But after what happened, I could no longer ignore the fact that I was trapped in a loop of my own design, maybe I had been caught in it for 20 years, maybe longer, stepping out of it on occasion to have some successes in life, I don't know for sure.

I certainly stepped out of it for a while, this much I know, after I met Jennifer and during that period of time where I had many years of things going swimmingly. I had a good career that was taking off where I worked on amazing product and made good money, I fell in love, I got married, bought a home, a car, and I had a son named Carter (despite my initial terror about Fatherhood in the end I managed to make the adjustments I needed to).

Generally I was well-adjusted and although I had to manage some of my lingering anxieties leftover from childhood I did so through therapy and medication. But I attacked them gladly and did not feel ashamed to do so. My career was fantastic, and even when I left Palisades Toys, the place I LOVED working the most in my entire life, I was not daunted because I moved my family back to Ohio for the sake of being closer to Jenifer's family and cutting the distance to my Mom, who lived in St. Louis at the time, by HALF.

I even did something I never dreamed I would have the stones to do. I started my own business. And I did it with a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement.


Even when Bennett was born prematurely in 2007, I managed to do...OK with it. It was hard, and I have some regrets about how UN-supportive I was to Jennifer in those couple of weeks because of how much I retreated within myself, but I bounced back. WE bounced back. Because after all the worry and the chaos and the scared shitlessness while he was in the PICU, he seemed to be OK when the dust settled. And when he got out and came home, he started developing just like any other boy would.

And even though my business ultimately failed, I didn't come apart like you might think. I took it in stride. Taking the advice of my friend Chris I kept reminding myself 'There are not many people out there who can say to themselves that they actually produced their own product and sold it. YOU did.' That helped a great deal.

And there was something to look forward to on the horizon in 2008, because my old boss at Palisades Toys had something in the hopper with the NFL that he wanted me to be involved with, and so I was in a holding pattern waiting for that job to kick in, and so I managed to make ends meet in the meantime with eBay, because it was a job designing NFL Statuary that was RIGHT in my wheelhouse. And I wanted to do it in a big bad way.


When you look at the scope of my life overall, it was, truly, a Golden Age for me. There is no denying it was the single greatest chunk of 'problem-free' time in my entire existence.

It was only after Bennett's initial diagnosis of Infantile Spasms, and the reality of what followed, that I found myself to be completely engulfed by this new feeling. No...scratch that. That is not correct. Because I have gone back and looked. And read. I always had hope, some hope, before the surgery.

I looked at the surgery like I looked at taking my Toyota GasHogger to the shop. I truly believed that when I took Bennett to see the fine folks at the Cleveland Clinic, after all the fucked-up bullshit we went through prior to that with his initial mis-diagnosis at the local Hellspital and a summer of unforgiving daily seizures, that once that fucking tumor was excised, everything would be OK.

You take the truck in. Hood gets opened. Mechanic leans in. Buttcrack revealed. Ewww. Engine gets fixed. Car comes out. Drive home. Wash eyes.


And they lived happily ever after.

Didn't work that way.

And when I realized that? THAT is when I found myself on this path. This path I once equated to the film The Road. Very bleak. Very stark. Very little hope.

So consumed by negativity was I that I was only existing. I've talked about this state of being before, a sort of 'Walking Dead' way of meandering through life. But I wasn't doing anything to change it. Not REALLY.


I was talking to a friend of mine, actually the same man who was that former 'boss' at Palisades, trying to explain this experience, and he keyed me in to the best quote to explain what it is that I was trying to say. Brought to you from the man who also brought you universal Armageddon.

'Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.'
— Albert Einstein

No wonder the guy was such a mufuggin' genius.

That defined my existence, for such a long, long time.

And it defines my responses to so many of the things I described above, so many of the negative things that would come to me in my life after Bennett's reaction to the DTaP Vaccination on February 12th, 2009. Oh sure, you can go back and read about them yourself...I TALKED a big enough TALK...but I never did jack shit about ANYTHING. Well, that's not entirely true...there were rumblings of change...making some strides with the Reflux lifestyle stuff, and some other things like quitting smoking, but these were baby steps, not the global revisions I required.

I simply ghosted my way through each day, giving myself just enough strength to make it through until my face hit the pillow.

And nothing more.

That is not living. It's waiting to die.


And where was God during all of this? You ever wonder why I never bothered to ask myself that question? I often did. It isn't like I didn't think about it. It isn't like I didn't talk about it. It isn't like I didn't BLOG about it.

Faith, and my lack of it, is something that I would often discuss. I found it to be something I was very envious of, as so many Mom's and Dad's in this community had it, in spades, and it provided them with such a foundation of strength to get them through the darkness.

The only God I prayed to was my X-Box. The only Halo in my life involved Master Chief.


Even if I were to pray, officially, I'm not sure who it would be to. Like I said WAY back in Part I of this thing, my belief system was VERY wacky. I don't think God is separate from Us anymore. I don't think Demons or Devils or Angels or any of that kind of thing is. See, I think all of that stuff WAS God, or a part of whatever He/She/It was.

We're talking about a being that is so high concept that even in the Modern Age there aren't really words that can adequately describe Him, so you gotta forgive me as I muddle through this. I ain't no mufuggin' Theologian.

But to WAY over-simplify what I believe, here goes. God existed as a separate Entity from Man at some point. Sees just how messed up Man really becomes (free will...D'OH!!!), and knows the only way to give Man any hope at all is to join with Man. So he does, via Sacrifice. This Sacrifice is sort of Multi-Layered. On the one hand, it results in the creation of Jesus Christ. On the other, it essentially eliminates God's separateness from Man.

Of course, Man at the time was really dumb (scientifically speaking), and scared shitless of, well, everything, and we couldn't handle how nifty all that really was, so we did what came naturally.

We killed Christ.

Man sucks.


But God is cool with it for the most part, that's how He rolls, and because of that whole experience we are now, forever, joined. Through Him, with Him, in Him? Ring any bells?

Anyway, a soul is a soul is a soul, so somewhere God's original 'soul' exists, and I think this is what we pray to, but where does it exist? Heaven? Or does it also exist within each of us? A sort of collective soul-conscious?

How should I know? Hey did I just start my own religion?

My point is that we all believe what we believe, and whatever gets you through the day is what gets you through the day. And that may sound wacky as all get out, but is it any wackier than The Force? Or a bush that talks? I don't think so, RICHARD. ;)

My problem was, that despite the wack-factor, I wasn't embracing anything other than football on Sundays. There simply had not been anything, over the last couple of years, that could convince me to open my heart to the idea of peeking out the door and seeing if anything resembling Faith within myself was still on the other side of it.

And without Faith? Hope was really just something I did not have. Not at all. And so why change anything?


Something has to happen to wake you up to the point where I guess you have no choice but to HAVE to change things. That's the only explanation I can think of, because for some reason, I reacted differently when the latest bad thing occurred earlier in the year, and that was when the Marissa's Bunny iPad Contest went belly up. I wanted to be involved in something positive for a change in the aftermath of what went down in this debacle, a giveaway in which Bennett was a 'finalist' which hopefully, if you are reading this, you know everything there is to know about.

A dear friend from way, WAY back, contacted me recently, to offer congratulations on the success of the first goal of this Mission: iPossible! thing, this charity effort. What struck me about her message was how much it summed up how much this experience has transformed me. Particularly since, sadly, she often bore the brunt of some of the worst aspects of the creature that used to lurk around inside me.

'You should feel really good...Funny to think of you as a save-the-day kinda guy, when I recall many conversations when you promoted a 'fuck 'em' attitude. But of course that was eons ago and none of us are the same now. I'm proud of you...'

When I sit back and think about it, and I mean really think about it, it is so difficult to wrap my head around the fact that, 'officially', we've only been doing any real fund-raising since sometime around July 12th when that blog went live.

Unofficially there was activity in its various forms prior to that of course, with what was going on as far as the behind-the-scenes action with people to expose the contest and prove that the iPads were not to be forthcoming, and that was all well underway before I became involved.

My main 'place' in all of this as I entered the picture seemed to be, at least from my perspective, more tied in to my relationship to the community with which I shared a preexisting relationship.

And what a community it is.


You all. Everybody.

In 76 days, this community of bloggers, and their friends and their families, pooled their resources, worked together, and raised ELEVEN-THOUSAND DOLLARS. Think about that for a second. Eleven grand. That's a car. That's a boat. That's...that's...ELEVEN THOUSAND cheeseburgers!!!!

I've brushed over the subject about how daunting the task was of getting that project coordinated and launched, for everyone who was originally involved, and some of the expense that it incurred to our everyday lives.

And I don't mean expense as in dollars and cents.

I don't dwell much on these matters because I don't feel that it is necessary or appropriate to go into all the minutiae of some of the day-to-day grind of setting up what is, in many ways, a small business.

Though I will admit the phrases of full disclosure and full transparency often play themselves back in my head as if a record is skipping.

Realistically? Those kinds of things are not entirely possible.

Especially when your end goal is not just the fulfillment of 20 iPads, but a restoration of trust and security to a community who has had its foundations shaken and then to move beyond that into setting up a legitimate charitable foundation that lasts. Those disclosure ideals are almost possible.

You can get, oh, let's say 92-94% disclosure and 89-91% transparency. Not 100%. But hey, that's still pretty good in today's world, don't you think?

Many of the things I did not disclose were those things of a personal nature. Particularly because there were many times I felt very conflicted about it. Do I blog about my LIFE over there or over here? Do I set limits? What kind of limits?


I still haven't worked it all out. I need to, certainly. Or maybe not. I might be over-thinking it.

I will say that along the way, during the time it took to do my part of the co-founding of that group, I began to take note of certain things happening around me.

Certain...coincidences.

At first, they were small in intensity and frequency, but as time went on they grew on both counts, and I began to start to ask myself questions I had not asked myself in a long time.

But I remain very practical and somewhat cynical, and I had not, as yet, felt anything resembling a spiritual 'touch' since Bennett's surgery, and then it was merely an echo, and while I was moved quite a lot during the experience of all that I was seeing and feeling with Mission: iPossible I was not ready to make any kind of formal announcement of a spiritual nature or any other, either to myself or to anyone else.


But there certainly were signs.

Signs that I could not deny. BUT...I always had the ability, just as I did throughout the last twenty years, to explain them away very easily. Or shrug them off. Or simply refuse to acknowledge them.

Anger is a powerful weapon. So is hate. When you take them away from yourself, and stop using them against...well, yourself, you do find that you can go a lot farther than you ever thought you could.

I would speak about these things often with my new adopted sister Heather, who is a Catholic. And she would listen. Heather was one of the people who spearheaded putting all of this together. She was one of its focal points. Like I said...I may be driving the boat a lot of the time, but I did not put it in the water.

She found my lack of Faith...disturbing.


Not in a Darth Vader, judgmental, Force-Choke-You-The-Fuck-Out kind of way. More of a Damn...I see the kind of pain you're in, and this would really help you heal kind of way. It is her nature. But she believed, deep down, that I did have Faith, I just hadn't found my way back to it yet.

But she believed it was only a matter of time.

Remember when I said that there were parts of all of this that got chopped up and moved around? Well, this is one of them. There's a lot more to say about Heather, Zoey's Mom, but I'm saving it for...something else. You're just going to have to trust me.

Anyway...where was I? Oh yeah...ignorant bliss.

On Monday, August 1, I was supposed to take Bennett to Cleveland Clinic for his Psychological Evaluation. This was his 2 year follow-up to his surgery. My super gigantic tonsil stones were kicking my ass, so Jen took him instead. She called me from the road, driving back, around 2 in the afternoon, and gave me the news.

The Jim-Kirk-Flying-Leap-Kick-In-The-Chest-News.


'Maybe it wasn't such a good idea for you to have taken him up here after all,' she had told me. 'It was brutal. You need to be ready for the results. It isn't very good at all.'

Not that this isn't something that you don't already know as a parent. You KNOW that your multiply disabled son is seriously delayed. You know that he is seriously screwed. But it is during these times when you are given evaluations, and even more so when you are given pieces of paper that have words clinically stating just how bad shit is really hitting the fan that it gets to you.

Still don't really know why this is. Haven't figured out the why yet. If I do I will let you know.

Bennett tests out at an IQ of less then 48. He is nearing 4, and yet is really only developmentally measured at somewhere between 14-18 months. He was a mess...cognitively speaking. I won't go into the details about some of the specifics of the test elements, but to tell you of some of the things he cannot do? They are beyond unreal.


Another piece of soul-shattering news. But I should be OK with it now, though, right? I mean, after all...this is The New and Improved Ken of 2011, yeah?

The New and Improved Ken of 2011, after hanging up the phone with my wife, was on the living room floor, sobbing, totally overwhelmed with guilt and emotion. I found myself wondering...I was so consumed by this Mission, this contest fulfillment, it never once occurred to me, EVER, to try to consider Bennett's needs first.

Was this thing somehow linked back to being my fault?

Did I screw him over in my short-sightedness? Did my lack of awareness make him score worse on the test because I did not think of my own family before becoming consumed by this other thing? Could he have done better if I had tried harder to get him an iPad months ago?


You know, they say on the plane, when it is going down, that you put that margarine cup over YOUR mouth securely and THEN you put the margarine cup over the mouth of the person in need next to you.

I didn't do that.

Now granted, I was pretty tired...and in hindsight that kind of thinking is just plain silly, but emotions can do that to you. But I had not been sleeping. I was a wreck.

And then, for some reason, I know not why because I have not done this in far WORSE situations, for the first time in twenty years I got on my knees, dropped my head, shut my eyes, and prayed.

I said I was sorry, and asked God to forgive me for turning my back on the Church and for walking away at Meighan's funeral. No matter what I had done throughout my life, no matter what fate lay ahead for me, my son deserved better than this. Don't let him be punished for what I've done. I asked for strength, for guidance, and although I would never ask for any physical object outright, I did ask for something specifically...'When this is all over, when these 20 iPads get shipped, please help me find a way to figure out how to get an iPad for Bennett. I don't expect it for free, I'll do whatever I need to do to get it. Just help me figure out how. Please'.


To show my commitment, I went to my Facebook page. It was, I don't know, 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I changed my Religion field from a rather snarky 'Recovering Catholic' to 'Catholic', and said 'OK...I'm back. Let's see how this goes. I'll do the best I can.'

Yeah I know...I was talking out loud. Felt weird then, too. Feels weirder telling people about it. It's so...personal. Even for me.

And then, truthfully, I just went back to work. No clouds parted. No lightning. No choirs singing. The President didn't call.

Pretty uneventful afternoon really.

That night, after dinner, sometime around 7 or 8 o'clock, I can't remember exactly when, I heard a knock at the front door. At first I thought it was my older son, Carter, because he often tries to prank me into going to the door by knocking at the wall.

But I glanced outside, and there was somebody there.

I opened the door. There was a woman standing there. She looked at me, with a smile and a somewhat inquisitive look on her face.

'Ken? Hi. This may seem a little strange, I'm...'

I had already recognized her, and cut her off in mid-sentence. '...Joyce?'

She confirmed it. Indeed it was Joyce, the mother of the Sarah from My Name is Sarah, a fellow blogger and Special Needs parent. She lives in Cleveland, 2+ hours north of Columbus. We have always meant to meet in person, but circumstances never materialized. When I was in Cleveland Clinic for the surgery, I know she had wanted to come up, but at the time she did not want to intrude. Things were just too raw for me.

Joyce was in Columbus for a meeting for her business, and she decided that this was as good a time as any to finally do what we always meant to.

I invited her in, of course reminding her to watch her step, as the last thing I wanted was to have her fall through the floor. (We have, since, managed to rig a temporary repair until we can get the cash together to do the more significantly expensive full replacement of the entire entryway.)


When she came in, she revealed a package that was in her hands.

It was an iPad.

And it was for my son.

Joyce explained that she wanted to thank me for everything that was happening with the Mission: iPossible group. She thought it was a real shame that Heather and I had taken ourselves off of the Recipient List, but she understood the reasons. But she didn't want to think of Zoey or Bennett having to miss out on a chance to have a learning tool as unique and game-changing as the iPad. And since the company she and her husband have built was doing well despite the economy being so bad, some of the money they had already earmarked for 2011 for charity purposes they wanted to donate to this cause.

And she wanted to, because she was so close, deliver this particular one in person.

I was...almost speechless.

'I can't accept this.'

And although Joyce informed me that she already knew that I was going to say that, I don't believe she had any idea WHY I was saying it. Because while there was one part of me that did not feel that I could actually take the iPad before the rest of the Twenty on the list had received theirs, the part of me that spoke the words was the part that did not want to accept what was happening, because to do so meant that I had to do something I was not sure I was ready for.


I couldn't explain any of this G-Man stuff at the time to Joyce, because I was fairly dumbstruck after all. Though I did say that I would need to put it into the hopper for people on the List, and she said I couldn't. And that I needed to understand the reasons why. That those iPads would happen, and soon. I just had to believe they would.

But I had to make sure I didn't forget about Bennett.

Eerie.

It's not just a lake up there by Cleveland. Though that's spelled Erie, anyway.

So I accepted the iPad on Bennett's behalf. Joyce told me she planned to send one to Zoey, and I had to tell Joyce something that I had known for a few days already, that one of Heather's friends had just given an iPad to Zoey, and Heather had a similar experience to my own. At first a reluctance to accept, followed by guilt, then an acceptance of the device, but also a request that she not forward the iPad to the Mission. Heather and I had, even then, decided to keep that quiet until after the 20 had been shipped. It did not feel right to talk about it. It felt...weird.

So Joyce skipped that one, and went on to buy another down the road, which was Jaxson's, and then she donated even more to the Mission later on. She and her family were amazingly generous. It was overwhelming.

That night, as we sat and talked, she tried to take some photos of us and of Bennett, but one of the things that she learned first hand about Bennett is that he has a very odd aversion to red light. So with red light cameras, he tends to flip out a little. I bought a green light focal camera for that very reason, because when the green light shines on him he does just fine.

But there was no way Joyce could know that, and it is one of those things you just don't think about...until it happens. So Bennett at first was very engaging with her, until the camera thing, and then it got a little dicey for about 15 minutes.


But he calmed down. And you know what? It was a great visit. iPad aside, it was nice to finally meet Joyce after all this time.

Of course, I couldn't tell her about what I had experienced earlier that day, I was just too shell-shocked, and I wasn't quite sure how she would react to it. I didn't even know how to react to it.

Eventually, we said goodnight and she got in her car and started the trek back up to Cleveland.

When the door closed, I went back into the living room and sank into the sofa. I was wiped out. What a draining day I'd had. Felt like a week. Between bouts of tears, I told Jennifer what had happened earlier in the day. She couldn't believe it. I couldn't either.

But there it was.

What happened that day? That's a very heavy duty question, isn't it?

And whenever I have questions of a deep, spiritual nature, the first stop on my quest for answers is a very special place. It is the holiest of holy's, so to speak. And for quite a while now, whenever your soul is in need of enrichment, there is only one source that you can turn to for the TRUTH that you so desperately seek.

Pulp Fiction.


Jules: Man, I just been sitting here thinking.
Vincent: About what?
Jules: About the miracle we just witnessed.
Vincent: The miracle you witnessed. I witnessed a freak occurrence.
Jules: What is a miracle, Vincent?
Vincent: An act of God.
Jules: And what's an act of God?
Vincent: When God makes the impossible possible. But this morning I don't think it qualifies.
Jules: Hey, Vincent, don't you see? That shit don't matter. You're judging this shit the wrong way. I mean, it could be that God stopped the bullets, or He changed Coke to Pepsi, He found my fucking car keys. You don't judge shit like this based on merit. Now, whether or not what we experienced was an "according to Hoyle" miracle is insignificant. What is significant is that I felt the touch of God. God got involved.
Vincent: But why?
Jules: Well, that's what's fucking with me. I don't know why, but I can't go back to sleep.
Vincent: You serious? You're really thinking about quitting?
Jules: The life?
Vincent: Yeah.
Jules: Most definitely.
Vincent: Oh, fuck. What'cha gonna do, man?
Jules: Well, that's what I've been sitting here contemplating. First, I'm going to deliver this case to Marcellus, then, basically, I'm just going to walk the Earth.
Vincent: What'cha mean, "walk the earth"?
Jules: You know, like Caine in Kung Fu: walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.
Vincent: And how long do you intend to walk the earth?
Jules: Until God puts me where he wants me to be.
Vincent: And what if he don't do that?
Jules: If it takes forever, then I'll walk forever.
Vincent: So you decided to be a bum?
Jules: I'll just be Jules, Vincent; no more, no less.
Vincent: Let me ask you something, when did you make this decision? When you were sitting there eating that muffin?
Jules: Yeah, I was sitting here, eating my muffin and drinking my coffee, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.

Do I believe that this experience with the iPad was a bonafide 'according to Hoyle' miracle? A prayer answered?

No.

First of all, the timing is already way off. The entire act of Joyce getting the iPad for Bennett was already in motion before I ever uttered a single word of prayer, before I changed my Facebook page, before I made any kind of commitment and decided to open any kind of door back to Faith.

Remember when Neo is talking to the Oracle in The Matrix: Reloaded and she tells him that he has already made his choice of whether or not he will save Trinity's life? Neo is confused by this. (Hey, it's Keanu Reeves, confusion is his single best acted emotion...NO WAY!!!)

So Neo asks her 'But if you already know, how can I make a choice?'


And the Oracle responds by saying, 'Because you didn't come here to make the choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to understand WHY you made it. I thought you'd have figured that out by now.'

Funny thing, Time, and you could argue that when it comes to Oracles, or The One, or God...that Time is like that. That what I am talking about right there is just Super-Crap. I would not tell you that you are full of it, either. There's room for all KINDS of theories in these here parts.

BUT (there's always one of those)...like I've said so many times before, I do not believe that direct intervention of any kind is how it works. Time manipulation not withstanding.

And the truth of it is? I can't afford to.

Here's why.

If I do, if I choose to believe that God exists as a totally and completely separate entity from Man and that He actually makes conscious choices about what happens here on Earth with all of us, then this WHOLE thing doesn't work for me. This whole thing can NEVER work for me.

Because to believe that is to believe that God had a chance to keep a tumor out of my son's head and didn't, and I can't accept that. Or He put it there, and I can't accept that. Or He decided to stand by and let me get the shit kicked out of me for years and He did nothing to stop it. I can't accept that, either.

So for me to have Faith, for me to have a relationship with God again, for me to have any kind of spiritual life of any kind, this is the way I have to manage it, despite some of its obvious contradictions which I'd be happy to address some other time. But if I try to go some other way with this, and I am back where I started. Placing blame, being pissed off all the time and walking away from a coffin that holds the cold body of someone I love.

Can you understand that?

Besides, when all is said and done, everyone has a different perspective, a different viewpoint, of what they believe and how they choose to believe it. And that's not only OK, it is GOOD. It is what I love about the Human condition. Makes things interesting.

As long as we aren't blowing each other up because we don't agree on how each others God does His or Her thing, then the ONLY things that matter are that you live your life the best that you can and you don't treat other people like garbage. Imagine how great things would be if everyone followed those two simple rules in life?

This Mission, Joyce showing up at my door with an iPad, and everything surrounding it...all the other acts of generosity and courage and sacrifice I have been the beneficiary of and that I have witnessed...all staggering. I can say that in many ways they are not unlike Richard being there for me when Bennett had his surgery, or Mark offering me salvation from self-destruction when he opened the door to his basement, or when anyone else in my life through acts of kindness and giving and spirituality have helped nourish my soul along the way to...wherever it is that I am now.

And that is what is of paramount importance to me. Right here. Right now.

Because at least where issues of the spirit are concerned, I am walking the path again. I am asking myself questions again. Revisiting some old ones, and finding new ones to seek answers to. And to think it all started because of an act of malevolence. That is what really makes me...well, it actually makes me smile, to be honest with you.

There's something...just perfect...about that.

So then what was it, this 'iPad Incident'? I don't know. I have attempted, ever since, to try to figure out what to call it, and I have no real name, no real explanation, no real words for it.

And I have decided that maybe, just maybe, it doesn't really need a label.

Struggle as I have for some kind of an explanation or rationalization for what happened, or any of the events that continued beyond it, and there have been many still, I think that, ultimately, it is the end result that is worthy of celebrating, explanation or no.

Because the end result is that after 20 years, my Faith has finally been restored. THAT is the treasure I take with me from you all.

Everybody.

AMEN.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bennett

(This is Part V of VI of a series of entries that chronicle my experience of Faith, from my early understanding of it as a kid and my acceptance of it as a teenager, my rejection of it as a young adult and my struggles with it as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, and what I have come to know and appreciate about it through the acts of others.)

Part I of VI: Richard
Part II of VI: Mark
Part III of VI: Meighan
Part IV of VI: Jennifer
Part V of VI: Bennett
Part VI of VI: You All, Everybody


On the darkest days, the sun always shines behind the clouds.

I don't know who actually said that 'for real', but whoever did needs some kind of a statue, somewhere. Because with as much darkness as I have known in my life, and as much as I talk about how bad things can get, I can also say this with absolute, unwavering certainty.

Ever since the very first day that Bennett started having seizures, there were little things that were happening around me to remind me that I was never alone.

But as is my nature, and as consumed as I often am by anger, by guilt, by rage, by all things negative...it is so easy...so very, VERY easy to fail to see those things. It is also easy to simply refuse to, when you are constantly bombarded with Life.

It's like when you train to do something in a controlled environment, like maybe Karate or something. Everything is groovy. You're learning form, technique, movement, how to punch, how to kick, how to defend, etc. And you feel terrific as you do all this training and you look great doing it.


But everything changes when you are actually fighting another human being.

Because they throw all kinds of variables at you, just like Life does, and suddenly you don't look as graceful anymore do you? And 99 times out of 100 that first match finds you flat on your ass.

That's why martial arts also teaches things like mental preparation and focus.

Centering oneself.

Balance.

Things that allow you to remove all of the distractions that might make it more difficult to zero in on that which you need to be thinking about. Things that make it more difficult to 'see the remote'.

Yeah...George Lucas really wasn't an asshole, after all, was he? Despite what you may think about Jar-Jar Binks, The Force is a nice blend of East meets West spirituality, and we ALL can learn a thing or two from Yoda.


Spiritual Adviser? Jedi Master? What's the difference?

Yes, it is easy to get distracted, and miss the signs. But thankfully, like I have been saying over and over, the right people in your life become signposts...again and again and again.

I'm walking down the streets of Cleveland, on my way back from one of the stores near the Cleveland Clinic.

It is Tuesday afternoon.

August 25, 2009.


In two days, Bennett will have a serious surgery that will remove a tumor in his brain that, we hope, will stop his catastrophic epilepsy (so inadequately named Infantile Spasms) and won't cause him to lose any of the skills he has actually managed to gain.

And oh yeah...obviously we hope that the surgery won't kill him.

The outpouring of support from my friends, both online and off?

Staggers me.

E-mails, messages and phone calls are mind-boggling. I am a pack-rat, I save everything. This is why I have two multiple Terabyte towers of storage for my computer crap, as it is often fun to go back and read this kind of stuff.


Sadly, the one friend who is absent with any messages at all during surgery week is Mike W. I don't hear from him. I figure he must be busy with his daughter. I heard from him days before, and I hear from him after regarding some Questcor stuff and Infantile Spasms Awareness Week and a television appearance that never materializes that Danielle is copied on, but not a single thing about Bennett's surgery while he is having it.

It stings. More than I thought it would. Especially since he was one of the first few people to reach out a hand to me when I was drowning in sorrow those first few weeks, looking to anyone for answers about what might save my son.

As I round the corner about to hit the doors of the Inter-Continental Hotel, my cell phone rings. I do not recognize the number. But that is common this week.

I answer.

It is Richard, my old friend. We have not spoken in a long, long time.


He tells me that he is boarding a plane tomorrow and that he will be arriving in Cleveland. He wants me to know that he will be there for Bennett's surgery. I have not seen Richard for probably 20 years, give or take. We've spoken a few times since then mind you, but I haven't been in his presence in at least two decades. I thank him, tell him I am looking forward to it and we say goodnight.

I figure, for him to take this trip he must have a damn good reason, but I was not really looking forward to the extra worry of him being there. My Hulk was in rare form. I was angry. My son was seizing like a Mufugga all day and all night, and I was not sure that I could also look out for someone else's needs.

You might think that thought process harsh, and you would be right. It never occurred to me that anybody could be so...completely and utterly selfless. But Richard is a good man, and I have never considered myself to be one, and it was hard for me to wrap my head around his actions and motivations.

I always considered Richard to be a good friend, don't get me wrong, but to fly to Cleveland when he is not made of money to be here for my son's surgery, when we haven't actually seen each other in 20 years?

THAT'S above and beyond the call.


As the cool rush of conditioned hotel air blasts me in the face and I near the elevators I figure this must have something to do with his Mom. Though I do not know the particulars I am vaguely aware, and only vaguely (this is what a shitty friend I have been to him and why I am even MORE puzzled as to why he wants to be here) but I am aware that his Mother died of a brain tumor, but as far as the details of it? I didn't know them. Not as much as I should have.

But I figured it must have something to do with this, and that his intimate connection to this condition is what is driving Richard to get on a plane and be here with me at what could very well be one of the darkest hours of my entire life.

The next day Richard arrives and after a few moments of awkwardness it was as if the years melted away, as if no time has passed at all. In fact, his presence there makes the experience so much easier for me. He is at my side the entire time, anchoring me any way that he can. He is, in essence, everything you would expect a good friend to be and even more. He was taking care of every conceivable detail, and then some.


When you are waiting for your kid to be wheeled off to have his head cut into, there is a feeling that comes over you that I can't easily put into words. Maybe the best phrase I can use to describe it is 'absolute dread'. Your mind goes to dark places, it wonders if you will ever see his face again.

I wondered much more than that, sitting there, my chest heavy, my head hurting, my heart so burdened with pain, a pain that I had never known before, and I knew pain. What if he doesn't know who I am anymore? What if the part of the brain they cut out is the part that has 'Daddy' in it?

When you are in that small room, you almost have an instinct to run. To just GET OUT. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I looked at the door a couple of times and did not have the thought flash through my mind. You start to feel a rush of anxiety, or at least I did, and I. Just. Wanted. Air.

Or you just want to start screaming, as you are making a small video and you see that Bennett is having a cluster of seizures, again. You can only hope that this is, maybe, the last time. The last cluster. I stopped making the video and hung my head, I didn't really have any tears left in me that particular week.


I felt the firmness of a steady hand on my shoulder.

Richard's hand.

He must have seen my body language change.

When Bennett was about to be taken away, Richard wanted to say a prayer. He'd been doing that a lot since he arrived. It was welcomed. It is, after all, one of his defining characteristics. Always has been.

For every previous prayer, I did what I always did during prayer since I walked out of the Church. I politely bowed my head, looked around at my shoes, noticed how dirty they were, took a look at the floor tile and other mundane things.

During this one, at this particular moment, I allowed my shields to drop for a moment. I closed my eyes. And while I did not actually join in, I did not force it away either. I did not push against it with all of my hate. And for the briefest of fleeting moments, almost like the soft flutter of hair across my face, I felt an echo of that 'touch' in the room, a sense that, somehow, Bennett was going to be OK.

I can't explain it. There is no rational reason for it. There never is.

I just somehow knew it.

I left and went out to the waiting area feeling...less afraid.


Later in the morning I finally asked Richard, point blank, why he came. I thanked him, of course, for being there, it was a huge relief, even though at first I was very nervous and worried and worked up about it, a fact that I did confess to him. I never did keep secrets from my bud. And I asked him if it was because of his Mom.

And he was honest, as he always is.

He said that a lot of the motivation about his being here was related to his Mom, he had to admit to that, and certainly because he has always valued our friendship, despite the distance, despite the length of time that has passed between actual visits or phone calls. But each of those things were secondary to the primary reason he felt it of utmost importance for him to be here.

He wanted to be here to pray for Bennett, because he knew, because of the way my relationship had turned out with God, that I would not be able to.

I was, frankly, stunned.


Not in a bad way. Just not the answer I expected.

I considered it to be a very noble, very selfless, very...Christian thing to do. And extremely non-judgmental, exactly the way Richard had always been with me. Even when we disagree about things of a spiritual nature (and we do, even to this day, often respectfully disagree), he never judges. A point which was brought up even that morning, by me, when one of the Techs came in and drew a mark on Bennett's left side of his head with a black Sharpie.

'Why did he do that?' Richard asked.

'I'm guessing so that when he is in there the surgeons know what side of the head they are supposed to cut open,' I replied. 'Old School, don'tcha know.'

I looked at the mark, a giant 'X', marking the spot, though it was slightly skewed, and it could almost be a 't' or a '+'.

'You know, I'll bet when you look at that, you see a cross, don't you?' I asked him.

'Yeah...why?

'I see an 'X', that's all.'

'That figures.' He smiled.


And that was that. He knew.

I was struggling. That was why he was there.

And even after the surgery, stuff just kept right on going on just as it always had been, like a roller coaster ride from Hell.

And if you've been a reader of this blog for any length of that time, you know the ups and downs we faced between then and now. I got a great job and then got laid off again, the financial ups and downs we've faced, my mother's illness, the issues that come along with Bennett's multiple disabilities and all of the fallout with his behavioral difficulties, self-injuries, his learning problems, etc.

Carter's scare with his kidneys, the Ohio government cutting disability benefits, the death of Eddie, of John, our miscarriage, my Mom's house getting robbed, the screwdriver through my hand, Jennifer and I nearly getting a divorce, the GI issue that sent me to the ER, the anxiety and depression, the house beginning to fall apart around us, the tonsil stones, the Ulnar Neuropathy on and on and on...

Oh and let's not forget...the TV show LOST ended.

That REALLY sucked.

And of course, the entire reason for this small mini-novel...the Marissa's Bunny iPad Contest.


Because it is here, at this point, when I realized that I had put someone who I considered to be a trusted friend into a position that allowed him to take advantage not only of my disabled son, but of my vulnerability as a Special Needs father and blogger. I was shocked and in disbelief. In all my years I had never known such a fierce and bitter betrayal and I think it is safe to say I will probably never know its like again.

And yet, for reasons that are totally beyond my ability to explain, this time something was different about the way I responded to this latest nasty turn of events.


I did not feel anger, or hatred. If I did, they were fleeting and temporary reactions. They did not consume me. If anything, my emotional state was mostly that of sympathy, or pity. But I did not want to dwell in the negative. I couldn't. Not anymore.

This time, things had to be...different.

And just like that, something inside me simply came apart...and was remade.

It was the first and only time that I can remember having a very specific reaction to something negative in my life that was 100% different to the reactions I had to most of the negative things in my life. I made a conscious decision to respond with dignity, to live my life differently, to control my emotions more effectively, to focus on the positives. To do something good.

And then? Everything changed.

OUT.

To Be Continued...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jennifer

(This is Part IV of VI of a series of entries that chronicle my experience of Faith, from my early understanding of it as a kid and my acceptance of it as a teenager, my rejection of it as a young adult and my struggles with it as a parent of a child with multiple disabilities, and what I have come to know and appreciate about it through the acts of others.)

Part I of VI: Richard
Part II of VI: Mark
Part III of VI: Meighan
Part IV of VI: Jennifer
Part V of VI: Bennett
Part VI of VI: You All, Everybody


FINALLY coming back to this. Sorry. Got a bit...well, you get the idea.

It's weird when some of your friends read these posts and comment on events that took place when you were but a young lad, trying to make your way through life as best as you could.

I was not always as, what's the word I'm lookin' for... 'enlightened', as I am today.

Mark, my aforementioned friend, was talking on the phone with me a while back and reminding me of a few of our crazier nights and some of my crazier actions that I used to take to express much of the rage I wrote about in the last entry of this little journey. And although we laughed a lot about those days, I think about some of what I did and I see myself through a mirror very, VERY darkly.


He reminded me, among other things, of the destruction I used to wreak upon the mailboxes of complete strangers.

I'll pause for a moment while you try to figure out why in the Hell I would even bother to do something so juvenile...IN MY EARLY TWENTIES.

I would be out with Mark, his brother, and a bunch of friends, and many times on the way home from whatever function we happened to be attending one of the main attractions was watching Yours Truly do his best Godzilla impression on any of the mailboxes that happened to be between the door I exited and the automobile I happened to be getting into.


Automobile antennae, miscellaneous lawn ornamentation and shrubbery were not off the Menu, either.

It wasn't always complete destruction on the mailboxes. It was usually bending the 'tongue' forward and the flag outward, or punching the mailbox askew on a weak post. For wooden sheathed boxes that looked like miniature versions of homes, I just ripped off the roof. For the very stubborn, stronger models I would put all of my weight into them and tilt them forward into the street as best as I could. During some of the my darker nights, mailboxes were completely ripped out of the ground and hurled into the streets. It was not uncommon for me to comer home at night with scratches and cuts that needed tending.

Mark and I laugh about it now, and we did a mere few years later, when I began to calm down a little. We jokingly named it 'Mai Rage' on one of our computer baseball teams one year...enough time had passed I guess. But we also recognize how dangerously close to the edge I really was.

At the time, Mark just knew and accepted that he had to sort of have my back and allow this to be my safety valve, my pressure release. I think he surmised that if I could let it out, in controlled circumstances like that, I'd figure out how to work through this. That somehow, things would eventually be OK.


And they were OK, sort of. I got by at least.

I wonder how many people from those years who follow this blog are reading this and saying 'Hmm...I always knew that about him.', or others who might be saying 'Wow...now that explains a LOT.'. Because though rage and anger were the fuel that sustained me, for a very long time, they almost rarely ever were exposed to anyone. I kept it very well hidden. Very tightly contained. In fact, so much so that to some I may have even seemed reserved, almost quiet.

In fact, when I think of that second Incredible Hulk film, where the 'Days Without Incident' text would appear on the screen, it reminded me of the reason why that Marvel character is the one I always identified the most with.


Child abuse. Father issues. Fueled by anger. Lost. Bouncing around from place to place, person to person. Always feeling isolated and alone. Bruce in his natural state was a fairly quiet, soft spoken, fairly relaxed appearing individual. Occasionally turning into something uncontrollable. Something ugly. Something out of control. But never trying to hurt anyone intentionally. And nobody ever seeing it because you never did it around anyone who really knew you.

That's primarily the reason why I spent all of my 20's with one failed relationship after another, and started my 30's out the exact same way. Nothing would stick, because I couldn't stick. How could it?

And through all that time, I never once, not ever, not for a second, thought of looking to my Faith for an answer. I kept that tightly locked away, and I would not, for any reason, whatsoever, open that up. Not after what happened to Meighan.

I outright refused.


Some would argue that if I had chosen to do so, things might have gone better for me through those years.

Maybe. I don't believe that God would have stepped in and altered the course of my life, changed Coke to Pepsi or anything like that. But I certainly could have used the community of the Church, the people in it, and no doubt some of the words of Christ as a guiding light through all of that bitterness. All of that chaos and darkness.

But I chose not to.

I blame no one but myself, mind you. Not my childhood. Not others. It is my responsibility alone. I was a grown man, capable of making the decision to either live a life according to a certain set of guidelines and principles and ethics...or not.


Near the end of the 20th Century I was living in Savannah, Georgia, screwing up yet another relationship and going nowhere fast in my career, this after having just spent a small fortune on a Masters Degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in order to wait tables.

I was struggling to pay rent and I was having a terrible time finding a job in my chosen career field. I had, very foolishly, picked the absolute WORST time in the world to break into the field of comic book illustration, because even though my work was probably strong enough to get me into the business and get a career going, the industry itself was imploding.

I was choking on debt, drowning in it. I was mired in an unreal depression from what was going down in my personal life. I really thought that I was going to just keep heading down this path of going nowhere, I felt so hopeless. Mailboxes were starting to look REALLY good to me again.

Finally my friend Mark reached out to me and offered me a chance to move to Ohio and live in his basement for a while. I could get away from Savannah, start fresh, get a clean outlook on things, not worry about rent or any other expenses, and try to sort out how I was going to fix my life and start putting all the pieces together.


Mark saw his friend struggling and he decided to do something about it... BUT...he knows I will waver, I will hesitate, because I did, very much, love this woman I was living with, even though things had been going badly. So what does he do? He buys a One-Way plane ticket that would have him land in Atlanta at a certain time, on a certain day. Basically saying 'If you are not at the airport with your shit en route to Ohio from Savannah to pick me up, I will be super pissed.'

What choice did I have, really, but to honor my friend? I couldn't leave him hanging in the breeze like that? But you gotta hand it to him, yeah? A very smart play on his part.

So I met him at the airport, with all of my, um, stuff, picked him up, and lived in his basement for an ENTIRE YEAR. I filed bankruptcy to get out from the debt that I could, bought the first Apple Macintosh computer (sniff) I ever owned of my very own (with money I borrowed from my Mom and took YEARS to pay back), used that time to buy to teach myself how to use it, and started hitting the pavement looking for a 'real' job, all with no expenses to tie me down while I searched.

See, this is one of those things I try to explain to people all the time as far as how the whole God thing actually works here. Here in this place. On this Earth.


Mark didn't have to do something like that.

You may be saying...'Well that's not that big of a deal, he just let you come stay at his house.' and you'd be WAY off base. It was the HUGEST of HUGE deals in the HUGIVERSE. Why? Because the selfless act of making the offer of doing that, despite the fact that it ends up putting on him and his family the burden of expense and all the other strains it places on them, it essentially puts in motion all the series of events the lead me to right here, right now.

And I don't think I can say that about any OTHER single thing in my life, specifically. At least as far as the later part of my life is concerned.

Because moving here, to this state of Ohio, is what opened the door on a career for me, finally. It is what opened the door for me to finally let go of so much of my rage and my anguish as I, after spending one year in Mark's basement, finally moved out and got my own place, got on my feet, and during the course of the next two to three years as I started working full-time and spent time focusing on that and on making new friendships and on building something great at ReSaurus as a toy designer and ultimately a Product Manager I found a fulfillment I had never known before. And it did not hurt at all to be around Mark again on a regular basis. Not one bit.

I had rounded a corner in my life at last, one of experience and maturity I think. And perhaps, after almost ten years, I was starting to heal from what had happened when Meighan died.

And the thing is that all of this, the entire experience of coming to Ohio and making this transition, both physically and emotionally, is what ultimately led me to Jennifer.


What are the ODDS...???

You had an attractive young professional woman, a nurse, who was 26, who somehow happened to dodge the marriage bullet when almost none of the rest of the women her age had. She lived here, in Columbus, Ohio, a place I had heard of and only driven past once in my life when I drove my friend Mark from Baltimore to Lima to move there for law school.

You had a man, who was 31 years old, just about to turn 32, who has dodged the same bullet because...well, have you seen any photographs of me? And have you been reading this thing? I got problems. And by all accounts, I should have ended up either staying in Savannah, or going back to Baltimore, the place I considered 'Home', or going to St. Louis, where my Mom was then residing.

What are the ODDS...???


That instead, I ended up in Columbus, Ohio because my best friend from High School just happened to go to a Law School in Lima and get a job in Columbus since he passed the Ohio BAR. And while I am in Columbus with my friend I end up LUCKILY finding a job there, just in the nick of time before I wear out my welcome, and I had to sort of lie to get it. (A whole nutha blog people!)

So I settled down there, and started my life over, essentially. And I made strides, and I got some shit together. And at some point I was ready to start dating. But I had ZERO time to really 'meet' people. So I did something that really was not chic at the time, I went the 'online dating' route.


Love@AOL.com was VERY new, and one of the few places you could actually do the online dating thing in 1999. I had been doing it since 1998, with mixed results and nothing I would consider successful but it did provide a handful of incredibly funny stories and a few interesting evenings, but Jennifer happened to give it a BRIEF shot late in the summer of 1999 just as a fluke using her roommate's account since she did not even have one of her own at the time. But get this...I had become so frustrated by my lack of real success with it? I was about ONE WEEK AWAY from closing my AOL account.

I simply had not done it because I had been too busy at work.

What are the ODDS...???

And what are the odds that she just happened to miss the line I had on there that I smoked? Because she DETESTED smoking! And had she known I did it she would never have even opened a line of communication. And what are the odds that at that particular time, that exact month that we happened to start communicating, I had actually started to quit smoking for a while using a Nicotine patch so I was only really smoking a single cigarette in a day anyway so when we DID meet the smoking thing never even came up?


Weird right? Maybe not. Maybe odds don't have anything to do with it at all.

She was, however, the first person I ever got to know by speaking a great deal to before meeting face to face.

So when we finally did meet, in the parking lot of the Meijer on Route 23 at 7:30 PM on August 27th, 1999 I had a very unusual experience, one I have never had previously.

I wasn't blown away by her.

I wasn't swept off my feet.

I didn't have that mad rush of emotion, that feeling in the pit of your stomach feeling that always sort of sends you in to the Stratosphere when you first get hooked up with a woman.


Don't misunderstand me. I thought she was attractive. I mean look at her. And I liked her. But I thought those things already. I had seen photographs and I had been speaking to her at length for weeks leading up to this date. I guess what I am trying to say is that if you were expecting me to say I saw Jennifer and I felt like the clouds parted and Angels were singing, that isn't really how I felt at all.

I had a very simple and extremely under-stated reaction on that first date.

But I had a great time. We went to Bravo, a fantastic Italian restaurant and then finished off the evening with some coffee and dessert at an outdoor coffee house that has long since closed down, sadly. We talked the entire time, laughed, it was awesome.

There was an incredibly awkward goodnight hug. I think she thought I was going to go in for a kiss, but I would never do that. It's policy for me. I don't typically go for kisses on a first date unless I'm given a green light by She Who Is To Be Kissed. I usually don't get those, though I have on occasion.

As I drove home, I pondered the whole thing. Like I said, I did have a great time, and I did like her, but I thought something was...missing. I just wasn't sure what it was. Couldn't put my finger on it.

Could it be that I just wasn't all that into her after all? Could it be that I didn't REALLY find her attractive now that I met her face to face? I mean, someone can BE attractive and you can just not be attracted TO them. It's possible, right?

Nah...really? Are you serious, Lilly? Are you high? She's HOT.


This was wracking my pea-brain, and I could not for the life of me come up with an answer. No way, no how. I had every intention of seeing her again, and she had said as much as well when we parted ways, I just hoped that by the time I saw her the next time I might be able to figure out just what in the Hell was wrong with me.

We went out again, a few days later, and between the first and second dates we spoke on the phone as we always did. Long conversations. Deep conversations. About all kinds of topics. It was sort of defining for us. And totally new for her. She wasn't used to someone who would talk about...well, about everything. I do. She found it kind of liberating, and I think refreshing, to meet someone who wanted to talk about things that were off the beaten path, but who also wanted to hear what SHE thought about those things.

On the second date, I became officially freaked out.

Again, I was having this strange, un-definable reaction inside my head that I could not figure out. What the HELL!?! Outwardly nobody would be able to notice a thing, and she certainly did not, but inside it was like a room full of Congressman arguing about the National Debt. Why in the Hell was I having such a...pedestrian response to this woman? What does it MEAN?

At the end of the date, she invited me in to show me her apartment. I understood what that meant. A goodnight kiss was forthcoming. I wasn't even sure I WANTED to by this point I was so freaking confused by what was going on inside me. Here was this attractive, down to Earth, charming, intelligent, professional woman with a strong family background and no real drama in her life and my response is almost to turn and run.

When she turned to 'present the opportunity' (You know what I mean, ladies!), I kissed her.


You know in movies like, say, The Matrix, when they have that thing called 'Bullet Time', when everything slows down to a crawl until time seemingly stands still? When objects stop in mid-flight, like bullets or even rain-drops, suspended, and you can reach out and pluck them from the air, effortlessly?

Kissing Jennifer for the first time was like that.

The power and potency of it nearly took my breath away. It rattled me. It might have lasted no more than 60 seconds but it lasted a lifetime. And as I stepped back, I could see in her eyes that she had experienced something similar. Though I am still not sure who among us was more surprised.

But I knew the answer to what was plaguing me.

I loved her.

I had for weeks. The problem was that I had been in a self-imposed emotional lockdown, unable to express it. You simply can't say that to someone you have just met. It isn't workable, not if you want them to stick around. The fact is, we had been talking for so long, every night, every day, for hours at a time, leading up to that first meeting, that I had developed feelings for her long before we had ever stepped within physical proximity of one another.

That's why I was so flat. I was protecting myself. I thought it was crucial to suppress any feelings I might have out of fear that I might somehow screw the whole thing up.

But it all made perfect sense now, holding her in my arms. I had fallen in love with her BECAUSE she was an attractive, down to Earth, charming, intelligent, professional woman with a strong family background and no real drama in her life. She was exactly the type of woman I wanted and needed. Exactly the kind of woman I always used to run from.


Exactly the opposite.

Of me.

What are the ODDS...???

This computer age we're in, and we were at the dawn of a new era of it then when it comes to 'Social Media'...it is one crazy thing. It makes the world so much smaller. It changes things.

Today, meeting someone on the Internet is commonplace, and falling in love with someone you meet online, but have never met in person before, is not something that you have to explain to people as much as you had to back then.

It happens. Much more frequently now.

But then? Things were so different. Rules for this kind of thing hadn't really been defined yet, because online dating and meeting was still in its early stages. I didn't have a regular 'e-mail' address that I used all the time, or a website. I didn't use eBay to make ends meet. I did not blog. I didn't check my computer every single day. And there were no iPads, Wi-Fi, 3G and all that shit.

I did not even have a cell phone.

Ultimately, like most people, the circumstances surrounding how I met the woman who would become my wife were as unique as I was. As unique as she was. As unusual and perfect and wonderful as all of the circumstances that had to align in the universe to bring the two of to that moment in time, to that place in the universe.


For me, she was my Betty Ross, a sort of foundational rock to the beast I had always carried inside me. Though I had tamed much of him on my own, she was the last piece of the puzzle that I required in my life to finally feel as if I was healed. Finding her at this time in my life could not have been a more perfect blessing.

For her, I was a man cut from an entirely different piece of material than any she had known before, and this intrigued her, and she saw in me hidden strengths I would never believe I had within myself. She had a way of bringing them to the surface like no other.

For us, there were no real guidelines, no rules as to how to proceed, because every aspect of how our relationship began was not at all 'by the book', and not just because we met online. A couple months into the relationship I had to travel to China for 5 weeks, then a few months later I was laid off, then I had to take a job out of state, and through it ALL?


We stayed together.

What are the ODDS...???

So in order to survive, to adapt, we just had to roll with quite a lot, Jennifer and I, from the very beginning, writing our own rules along the way.

OUT.

To Be Continued...