Brothers

Things happen in threes, right?

Well, here’s an interesting one for you. The story of how three men — gone from this world, at least physically — continue to make their presence known to those they’ve left behind.

What’s the connection here, you ask? You know, the part of how I mentioned things happen in threes. So, here goes.

As I write this, it’s the fifth anniversary of my brother Tim’s passing. Still so hard in some regard — yet getting better. If that makes sense.

Regular readers know how much this threw me. Absolutely threw me — to the point, really, of needing to talk to someone about it. A professional someone. That really helped.

How do I make sense of it? Well, I stopped doing that. And that’s the key. I don’t understand. I never will. But I’ve stopped trying to understand — because that’s part of what was killing me. Point is, I try to keep his memory alive through my daily life whenever I can — and with the kids through prayers and stories and pictures.

It’s always hard around Erin’s birthday because of the closeness to it all — but it just goes to remind me how incredibly blessed we were to have her at that time — when the world was so dark, there was one little light shining. And, well, she still does.

And so does he.

So that’s one. But that’s the one you’ve know about from before.

A friend of mine lost his brother earlier this week. The good news is the suffering is over. This man battled cancer until it took every bit of his fight. My friend is haivng a hard time — who doesn’t when you lose a big brother?

I tried to share with him the ‘expertise’ I have — but I’m not sure it helped. What has helped, no doubt, is the outpouring of emotion my friend has seen as people have responded to his brother’s death.

I guess you could say he’s somewhat of a local celebrity. He was known by many — respected by them all. So my friend has that going for him — seeing how much his brother has impacted not just him, but — literally — thousands of others.

I tried to tell my friend to enjoy that part of it. To see what an impact his brother had on people. And he certainly did.

I remember when Tim died, how I was completely blown away in learning about his work life — and hearing directly from those people about how he influenced them.

That’s what I hope for my friend. That he continues to see how much his brother influenced so many. And that through that influence, his brother lives on, not just in their lives, but in his.

So, between my brother and my friend’s brother, that’s two death anniversaries within the same week — one ‘fresh’ and one five years.

Here’s the third — also with a death anniversary within just a few days of the other two — yet this person has been dead for 25 years — which is damn near impossible to comprehend.

I didn’t know my friend’s brother that just died, but I certainly knew of him.

This person, who died 25 years ago, I did know. He was a friend. Our familes were close — and always will be, to some extent. That’s what growing up in a small town does.

I remember being at their house plenty of times, playing all sorts of things. And I remember my friend and his sister and brother being at our house and swimming in our pool.

I remember going to high school and being one year behind my friend. I remember how good of a musician he was. And I swear if I think hard enough, I can still remember the sound of his voice. The smile on his face is a given.

He died just before his high school graduation. A sad, sad situation for all involved.

So where, possibly, could be the good in this?

It’s simple, really.

Twenty five years later, he still lives on in the hearts of people who knew him. Who were his friends.

No. Who ARE his friends. Death doesn’t break a friendship.

The younger brother of my friend posted something about the 25th anniversary on facebook. The comments were incredible. Because that’s what happens.

People don’t forget. I’m sorry, but they don’t.

They might not always talk about someone, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about them. And when they do, the stories that are shared are so precious — and always remembered so vividly.

So here we’ve talked about three men who are dead — less than a week, five years ago and 25 years ago.

And, yet, they are alive — and are being kept alive.

And that’s what’s so important in life.

That people who have influenced, continue to influence. Those around them. And those who loved them.

The way to do that? The way to help me and my friends who have lost their brothers?

To share stories, if you have them. To understand that we want to know what you remember — no matter what it is.

We want our brothers to continue influencing those who they were close to. And in these three situations, that’s totally the case.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

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Walt’s Been Right This Entire Time

I’m headed back to Disney World this summer for the first time in, well, a long time. More than 35 years, in fact.

Summer of ’76 — Bob and Jackie packed the four of us up in the station wagon and we headed due south. Next stop, the Magic Kingdom. Since that trip, I’ve done Epcot and Universal, but I’ve never been back to the Magic Kingdom.

I don’t have many memories from that trip. And, those that I do have are more centered on the actual trip itself — the stories that a family travelling in a station wagon are destined to have forever.

One of the few memories I have of the actual Magic Kingdom revolve around the “It’s a Small World” ride. I don’t remember it for a great ride. Rather, I remember it for the annoying song that I can still hear in my head — as if I was six-year-old on the ride today.

The point, in case you’re trying to figure this out, is that Walt Disney was right.

It really is a small world.

And, the thing that’s happening now is this — as I get older, the world gets smaller.

At first, I wasn’t a big fan of this notion. Well, both notions, actually – that I’m getting older and that the world is getting smaller.

I can’t fight the age thing, obviously. Though if I could, I certainly would.

But the getting smaller part? I’m a lot more open to this than I would have been just a couple of years ago. Those that know me best, know that I’m actually more shy than social. Hard to believe for some, but 100 percent true.

When I’m in a new situation and/or environment, there are typically two things that help me ‘loosen’ up and become more of my self.

The first usually take the longest. It’s simply a matter of me feeling comfortable in the situation/environment. That could be just becoming more comfortable in the physical space or, more likely, taking my time to get to know new people before letting them know more about me. Before really letting them ‘in.’ Once in, it’s a different story. But it takes a while for me to let someone in. Always has.

The second part of this can get me to my comfort level faster. That’s finding out that, in this new situation/environment, that I actually have a connection with someone there. Usually, you don’t know that connection exists. Maybe it gets discovered in a meeting. Maybe it gets discovered in casual small talk. Either way, when it does, it makes, at least me, anyway, much more comfortable.

Sometimes, that connection is short-term, but it still has a huge impact. One of my previous posts addresses just that situation when I made a deep connection with someone who knew my Dad. I didn’t expect the connection to happen at all — and it came about only through small talk. And thankfully it did, because I still remember that moment fondly. And I know I always will.

Other times, it’s more long-term. And that’s more likely with friends and co-workers. With friends, it’s that no matter how long it’s been since you’ve communicated, you’ve always got some connection. It doesn’t matter how your life has changed, there’s always something there to bring you back — if you wish. For me, there are two situations here that I don’t want to be brought back. I’ve been hurt enough to want that. However, I can acknowledge that if that ever changed, there’s enough in the background (enough of a connection) to at least have a starting point.

With co-workers, it’s a little more challenging — at least for me. But the beauty of this is when you find the connection, the relationship often times goes from colleague to friend. And that’s what’s cool. My workplace employs nearly 3,000 people. I figured it wouldn’t take too long to make some of these connections. And, well, I was right. Start the conversations strictly about work. Get more comfortable. Learn more and discover a connection — whatever it is. It’s a great feeling when it happens. Because it just means you’ve not only gained the trust of a colleague, you’ve gained the trust of a friend.

And, in the grand scheme of things, there aren’t many things that trump the trust of a friend. That’s always been part of my thing, too. While I don’t necessarily hang in big circles, I do hang in tight circles.

The point of this mess is simple. What’s not simple is how I’ve gone on trying to explain it.

As I get older, the world is becoming smaller. There are more connections. And that’s a good thing. Particularly for someone like me, who doesn’t have any easy time otherwise — believe it or not.

Sometimes, those connections are more — and this isn’t the right word — emotional. What I’m trying to say is that you don’t have to make a connection with someone because you know some of the same people. You can make a connection because of a shared experience, for example. Does that make sense? I hope so.

In that sense, the world becomes smaller because you discover you, believe it or not, aren’t the only one going through something.

The other side of it, though, is making a connection because you do know certain people that someone else knows. You find common ground. In other words, the world gets smaller. There are more connections. There are more shared experiences. It makes sense when you think about it. Person A knows 100 people. Person B knows 100 people. Person A doesn’t necessarily know Person B. However, when they do have a chance to meet, they discover common connections — and that gets the ball rolling.

Usually, at least for me, if the ball gets rolling, good things happen. And, when good things happen, it all ties back to what Walt Disney said years go.

It’s a small world, after all.

 


Four Years

Dear Tim,

There’s so much irony in this post — before even getting to our issue. First, here it is June 16 — the anniversary of your passing four years ago — and the last post on the blog is from the anniversary of Dad’s passing.

Nothing in between.

Not because I don’t have anything to say. I have a lot to say, actually. Just haven’t really been ready. Or maybe willing.

Which, as you know, is a bit weird — because I’m always willing to talk about stuff. Especially this stuff.  And the thing is, my focus has changed — and that’s a good thing. As I wrote in the past to you, I was completely and utterly consumed by your death and all things around it. I just let myself get buried in it, and I could never dig out.

But I’ve done that now. Besides, I’ve got a lot of other good stuff going on. The new job is fabulous, and I’m actually taking an interest in exercise and diet — at the same time. I know, right?

I’ve even thought, Tim, of changing the name of this blog. I love “I Got Nothin’.” Heck, I invented the damn saying. But I don’t have nothin’.

I’ve got a lot, actually — and I’m really starting to understand that. Not that I haven’t in the past. It’s just different now. I’m not really sure how to explain it, but I think you understand.

I’ve got family that loves me, friends that would do anything for me (and vice versa) and a great job. Even though the meaning of I Got Nothin’ isn’t negative, it can easily be implied that it is.

And, well, I’ve got somethin’.

Thankfully, Tim, I’ve got you. And what became an obsessiveness over your death has now been turned into something much more focused and positive.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always easy. I mean, I’m sad today. I’m just not pissed. That’s what I used to be — but I’ve gone about a year not being that way.

And I’m proud of myself for that.

I don’t want to be negative anymore. I can’t.

We think about you all the time. The kids say a prayer for you every night. And, the prayer card from your funeral is Aidan’s bookmark. He asked me about you the other night, and I told him about you and how you passed. And then we read the prayer on the card — Bridge of Love (so good!).

And, when it thunders, it’s you and Dad up in heaven who are bowling strikes. I’ve got Aidan convinced that you are a better bowler than Dad — even though you and I both know that’s not the case.

There will be some awkward moments this week, I’m sure. Danielle, if you can believe it, graduates high school Friday night. We’re getting together Sunday — Father’s Day — to celebrate. No doubt we’ll all have you and Dad on our minds. But, the good thing is, we’ll be together that day. And you know we won’t say anything to each other (nothing has changed since you left!), but being with each other will help. There’s no doubt about that.

If we do say anything, it’ll probably be some of the classic family stories that we’ve told time and time again. And that’s a good thing. It helps. Especially because you did such goofy stuff, there’s no way you can’t laugh at some of these.

That’s the other part of this, Tim.

Stories.

Before, it was stories about what happened when you collapsed, what happened in the hospital, what songs were on, what we did or didn’t do…and just feeling sorry for myself because of the timing of you and Erin.

Now, the stories — and/or the thoughts — serve a different purpose. Holding key ones close to my heart helps to keep you there.

Where you should be.

And where you’ll always be.

And the thing is — it’s there, Tim, that you’re having an even greater impact on my life then when you were actually here. Go figure. I can’t explain it. I can try, like I have here. I just know it doesn’t always make a lot of sense.

But I also know it’s true.

So, four years later — will you accept my thanks for what you’ve done for me?

I hope so.

Love you.

Mike

 


The Birthday Girl

 

Dear Erin,

As you celebrate your third birthday on June 10, I owe you two things — my thanks and, most importantly, an apology.

First, Erin, my thanks.

One day, sweetie,  you’ll truly understand what a gift you were to not just mom and me, but the rest of your family. You’ll learn, Erin, that your arrival into this world came during one of the most difficult times we as a family have ever had to endure. That’s because you were born the day before your Uncle Tim collapsed and a few days before he died.

I’m so sorry, Erin, that you’ll never get to meet your Uncle Tim, but I am so grateful that you are aware of him. Afterall, every time we hear thunder, you know Uncle Tim is up there with Papa O and they are ‘bowling strikes’ whenever the thunder claps.

I give you my thanks, Erin, because nothing ever bothers you — particularly how you came to be in this world. How could you be bothered by something you don’t even know about? You can’t. But what you can be — and what you’ve become to me — is an angel.

Because, Erin, I’ve been affected by the way you came in this world. And, Bipper, that’s why I owe you a heartfelt apology.

Just this week, sweetie, I realized that I never truly celebrated your birth and your arrival into our family. So much was going on at the time. So much that has continued to affect me. At that time, Erin, my emotions were all over the place.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to feel. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know where to be. I didn’t know anything — except that within 24 hours, my world completely changed — twice. There is no manual for what I (and others) went through. I did the best I could at the time. And while I’m not sure I would change anything about what I did, I’ve realized now that in some cases, it just wasn’t good enough.

While I know that you brought joy at a time of true sorrow, I know that I didn’t embrace enough of that joy. And, honestly, Erin, it’s something I’m just now comfortable saying and understanding.

It hurts me to say, Bop, that I didn’t give you enough of my attention. I could easily write here, “How could I?” But that’s not the point. The point is, you were a gift to us and I didn’t accept it well enough at the time.

Worse, though, Erin, is that for two years, I have focused more on the negative than I have on the positive. And for that I owe you more of an apology.

Whenever thinking about your birthday, my mind has drifted — far too often — to the death of your uncle. You will always be linked, Erin, but what I have to do is turn that into a positive, not a negative. And I’m sorry that it’s taken me this long to realize that. But, here I am.

This truly hit me the other day, Erin, when someone asked me to tell them about your birth. Nobody had ever asked that question before. And, for a minute, I’m so sorry to say, that I didn’t know how to answer it. It’s like I’ve been programmed to hear your birthday and think of Tim’s death.

But this question, Erin, this simple question was such a good thing for me. And as I told the story, more memories came back in to my head. Memories I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

Simple things like Mom and I calling Miss Deb to come over early in the morning so we could go to the hospital and leave Aidan sleeping in his bed.

Simple things like how much ‘easier’ you were for Mom than your brother was.

Simple things like when Aidan first came to meet you that he was more interested in the rocks on the hospital roof than his new baby sister.

Simple things like cutting your cord and how I felt guilty cutting yours because I didn’t cut Aidan’s.

Simple things like falling asleep with you in the chair in the hospital room.

Those first memories have been blocked for a long time, Erin. I’m so glad I was able to unlock them and remember the joy that was there — before everything changed.

And now, I love the memories we are making.

I love coming home and hearing you come running from the other room to welcome me home.

I love sitting on the couch with you, watching the performance parts of that one GLEE episode and singing Poker Face together.

I love making up songs about you.

I love when you make me one of your many ‘projects.’

I love when you ask me to do ‘beep beeps’ when I drop you off in the morning.

I love your willingness to explore, to learn, to love.

That one question about when you were born, Erin, brought a flood of good memories — memories that help focus on the good. And that’s what I need to do — focus on the good.

You have my word, sweetie, that I will try so hard to do that. I will do it for me — but more importantly, I will do it for you. Afterall, you deserve nothing less.

Happy 3rd Birthday to my princess.

Love,

Daddy

Happy Birthday, Erin. And thank you.


A New Perspective?

Those that know me the best will tell you — it’s hard for me to look at something differently.

I like comfort. I like routine. I like tradition. That’s not to say I can’t be spontaneous, because I can. In fact, I probably need that more than I need comfort, routine and tradition — but that’s an entire separate entry.

Today, I looked at something that I know all to well with a completely new perspective.

And, are you ready?

It helped. A lot.

I went to a funeral today. Yes, I know. Here we go, more death and dying. Well, look, if you read me, you know that’s an area I’m well-versed in. It’s also an area I’m sort of fascinated with. So, um, there.

The grandfather of a dear friend passed away last week. I never met this man, but I feel like I know him from all the stories my friend has told me — and especially after all I’ve learned about him since his passing.

My friend was close — very close — to her grampa. I knew this wasn’t going to be easy for her. And I knew that fact combined with my own funeral issues wouldn’t make this easy for me. But, where else was I supposed to be? Nowhere except paying tribute to this man by supporting my friend. So, off I went.

The thing is, it was a much different funeral experience than I’ve ever had. First, it was in the funeral home. I’ve only been to a funeral that is part of a church service. So, that’s all I knew. Anything else would be compared to that. Sorry, but that’s what I do.

So part of my nervousness was wondering what would be different and how it would make me feel. The last funeral I was at, well, wasn’t pretty. And the last thing I wanted to do was get emotional today that others took notice. This wasn’t about me, after all.

The celebrant — and that is the perfect word in this case — stood in front of the gathered crowd and said that while there is obvious sadness, that this day would be a celebration of this man’s life.

A celebration? What’s to celebrate? Well, I can’t help but asking those questions. I mean, he’s dead. Why are we celebrating that? We didn’t celebrat that, obviously. We celebrated his life. And it was pretty cool to see. The celebrant told stories about his life that touched many that were gathered. Then, she opened the floor for anyone to say a few words and share a story. A handful of people did — often drawing laughs.

Laughs. At a funeral. Can you imagine? I couldn’t. (At least before today I couldn’t.)

It was a pretty incredible thing. There was still a scripture reading. There were still songs. There was just one huge difference — this didn’t have the ‘seriousness’ of a Catholic funeral, an occasion, which, in my opinion, is more focused on sorrow than joy.

Don’t get me wrong, there was sorrow today, but the over-arching theme was joy and celebration. And that came through.

So it got me thinking. Surprise, surprise.

How would things have been different in my own life if the two biggest funerals I’ve been to were more celebratory in nature? It also made me question my faith — again.

What slays me at a Catholic funeral in particular is the same thing that I like — the traditional elements. I love funeral hymns. Crazy, I know. But there are some pretty phenomenal songs out there that can be sang at a funeral. I love that element. I love the mass aspect of things and preparing for the next life in heaven. I’m all for that. Truly. But at the same point, those are the things, too, that kill me emotionally about a funeral.

There wasn’t a great religious feel to today — but it was definitely spiritual.

And again, that made me think. It made me open my eyes. It made me take a new perspective on something I’ve had such strong feelings about in the past.

I believe the overall service and how it was done and how it was focused made things much easier for me to deal with — in terms of my own emotions. There were elements I missed, but there were elements I never would have imagined that were so fabulous.

The fact is, I learned a lot today. Not just about the person being ‘celebrated’ but about myself.

I learned that things don’t have to be as I expect them to be. Just because something may be right for me doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

And, after seeing today and how it all played out, I’m not even sure I know what’s right for me.

Plenty of time, though, left to figure that out. Just good to know that this might be a good starting point for me to look at a lot of things — not just this — in a  new perspective.

Thank you, Mr. C. While we never met, I feel like I know you. And, that’s even more evident by the lesson you taught me today. It’s one I hope I can learn from again and again.


I’m Back…Again

Well, well, well. It’s been a long time.

No excuses, no reasons. Though maybe some of the reasons may come out in time.

It’s not like nothing has been going on. Lots has been going on. Some good. Some confusing. Such is life. I suppose.

I’ve come to realize that I do need this space. I just need to commit to it. Again.

I’ve had a number of moments where I’ve been, yeah, I should write about that. Came this close a few times, but never made it. Not sure why I didn’t.

Maybe there’s a part of me that didn’t want  you to realize that,  you know, I’m human, too.

Maybe I didn’t want to come here and profess my love for GLEE. Wait, was that outloud?

Whatever the reason(s), I’m here for now. And, essentially, I’m starting the blog over — hoping to build up to the readership I had before. I won’t lie. I liked it.

More importantly, I hope I can begin to use this as a tool again for myself.

Afterall, that’s why I started it in the first place.


New Beginnings

Aidan started kindergarten today.

Take a look for yourself.

He's ready for the challenge. (We hope.)

He's ready for the challenge. (We hope.)

Proud!

Proud!

Ready to go!

Ready to go!