The “Gift” That Keeps On Giving

The phone rang. It happens. My phone makes Star Wars noises that let me know another human being wishes to talk to me. Typically I don’t answer because talking to humans annoys me. This call, however, was local, and I was expecting some calls from unknown numbers so I answered it.

It was a nurse from the local hospital. She was calling to schedule a test my doctor had ordered. No big deal, right? I can handle this. I think.

She asks if we can do a preregistration over the phone. Sure, I thought, why not?

I verify my date of birth, social security number, blood type, gender, hair color, monthly income, insurance, weight, eye color, sexual orientation, gender identity, laundry detergent preference, and shoe size. She then asks me about my next of kin. For a moment I was puzzled. The test I was scheduling isn’t life-threatening and I wasn’t quite sure why my next-of-kin needed to be verified. Then they told me my existing next-of-kin was my mother.

My whole world stopped for a moment. I lost my voice. I couldn’t respond. I eventually asked if they really needed my next-of-kin or just an emergency contact. The very peppy lady advised me that Baby A was my emergency contact, but helpfully offered to switch them if I so desired.

I momentarily forgot how to speak again. Eventually, I found my voice and told her that my mother had passed away. Her tone turned somber for a moment as she apologized for my loss, but immediately turned peppy again as she advised me she would make Baby A my, well, everything.

I was in a good mood before this phone call. I had had a yummy breakfast and a nice, steaming cup of coffee (with extra caffeine!). This unwitting woman’s mention of my mother’s name derailed all happy thoughts I had and not long after I felt myself on the precipice of tears.

While I was at work last week a 27×40 collage I’d made of my mother fell from my dining room wall and broke. I came home from work and cursed the sight I beheld on the floor. I immediately ordered a replacement frame on Amazon. It arrived on Christmas Eve. I set to work moving my mother’s pictures into this new frame, but the damage had been done. This was my first Christmas without her. The pictures conjured memories of moments I’d never experience again. Her laugh. Her smile. Her ‘look’ she shot towards me any time I purposely said something she’d disapprove of just to get that ‘look’.

I lost myself in tears and pictures.

This has happened more times than I can count in the last few months. A thought. A song. A picture. A memory. The mere mention of someone’s mom. Something, anything, will trigger my memory of her and I’ll end up with tears running down my face as I scroll through pictures of her. I basically have a shrine built for her in my home now. The urn which holds her ashes sits on a bookcase with pictures of her and items from her funeral. These few items mean more to me now than anything else, save my children.

During her last few months mom would sometimes lament what a burden she was on me. I can’t lie: taking care of her in addition to all of my other responsibilities was challenging, but I would gladly face that challenge again if it meant I still was able to speak to her. To hear her laugh. To hug her. To hear her tell me she loves me. Any of those things. All of those things.

I will never forget her, obviously. She was, and still is, mommy. She carried me for almost 10 months. She fed me. Changed my diapers. Taught me how to walk. Washed my clothes. Put her foot down when I was out of line. Most importantly of all, she loved me unconditionally. No matter what idiotic choices I made in my life, she was always supportive.

This sucks. It sucks not having her here any more. However, I know she is now free. She is free from depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

I hope heaven is treating her well. She deserves it.

Interview With a Trooper – Episode VII – The Sarcasm Awakens

It’s been…a weekend. As I was getting dressed yesterday morning, Baby B called me and said a pallet fell on his foot at work and that he was in an ambulance on his way to the ER. Logically, I knew he was okay. He was calm and speaking casually. The voices in my head, however, started conjuring the worst. I rushed to the hospital and stayed with him while they reattached his toenail, stitched him up, and told him how to care for his broken toe.

While I was with B, the foster daughter we’ve had for two and a half years was moving out. Luckily she isn’t going far because she’s being adopted by my brother, but she’s still gone.

Twas a shitty day.

This morning I awoke to Baby C puking his guts out.

So much for a relaxing weekend. Namaste…or something…

  1. Pick one, monopoly or chess? Chess. Monopoly sucks and never ends.
  2. Pick one, Nike or Adidas? Nike, FTW!
  3. Pick one, Pepsi or Coca-Cola? Didn’t I answer this before? Pepsi tastes like Coke’s feces.
  4. Pick one, stripes or Polka dot? No, you can’t make me.
  5. Pick one, summer or winter? Winter! Let it snow!
  6. Pick one, texting or phone calls? Texting. Talking to humans sucks.
  7. Pick one, vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate. Tis the yummy. Then for something almost orgasmic, add peanut butter. You’ll thank me later.
  8. To what extent do you trust people? I don’t trust anyone, really. Not even myself.
  9. What about religion has changed for you as you’ve aged? That depends. I haven’t really believed since I was in 7th grade, and that hasn’t changed. However, I’ve become more and more jaded by religion as I’ve gotten older simply because of how judgmental and hypocritical people of religion are. People of any religion.
  10. What app do you use most? Email, probably.
  11. What are books on your shelf that are begging to be read? I got rid of my physical books years ago. I read ebooks now.
  12. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life? Retail, security guard, fast food, customer service rep, manager, warehouse worker, and IT dude.
  13. What are some of your bad habits? Drinking, eating too much, cursing, staying up too late, procrastinating…I think that’s enough for now.
  14. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new? Humor, sarcasm, and intelligence.
  15. What are you reading now? This question….
  16. What are your best characteristics? I have no clue. It’s not for me to judge.
  17. What are your best physical features? Idk, I’m fairly strong, I guess.
  18. What are your favorite things about yourself? I think I’m funny.
  19. What are your nicknames? What do you prefer to be called? Um, I don’t know.
  20. What artistic endeavors have you tried & decided you were bad at? All of them.
  21. What aspect of your life needs tremendous improvement? Um, all of them.
  22. What book are you reading at the moment? The Stolen Throne.
  23. What book do you remember as being important to you? I don’t know that any book is important to me, but there are a few that I quite enjoyed. Timeline is my favorite.
  24. What color is your bedroom carpet? Tan
  25. What current world events are really troubling to you? All of them…

That’s all the time we have for today, folks. Tell me how you’re doing. Tell me something good. Tell me it’s all going to be okay…

Interview With a Trooper – Episode V

It’s the weekend! It’s time for another 25 questions with me! Lucky you! Or something…

  1. How old were you when you found out that Santa wasn’t real? 9 or 10, I think.
  2. How old were you when you learned how to ride a bike? 7ish? All I know is my first attempt did NOT go well. I ended up hitting a fire hydrant and flying across someone’s front yard.
  3. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy? A house. And a truckload of peanut butter.
    The only REAL peanut butter.
  4. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do? I’d eliminate hatred.
  5. If you could change something about your home, without worry about expense or mess, what would you do? I’d make it clean itself…
  6. If you could choose only one, would you rather go to Paris or London? London. At least I’d be able to communicate with people there. Plus I’d get to visit a certain Brit I know and possibly throw some decomposed fruit at Boris Johnson.
  7. If you could eat lunch with one famous person, who would it be? I don’t know. I don’t really care about famous people. Nor do I care what they have to say.
  8. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be? My lack of willpower. As yummy as they are I need to be able to walk by on unopened Reese’s without tearing off the wrapper and shoving it down my throat.
  9. If you could give your younger self any advice what would it be? I wouldn’t. If one tiny thing changed it could affect my entire future. I’d never do anything to jeopardize the chance at having my children.
  10. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation where would you go? Either Canada or Alaska.
  11. If you could have any job, what would you want to do/be? Powerball winner.
  12. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Canada. I’ve always said Alaska, but the US political climate is getting a bit too stupid and intense for my liking.
  13. If you could live forever, would you rather stay one age forever or get older? Why would anyone choose “get older”?
  14. If you could meet any one person (from history or currently alive), who would it be? My mommy.
  15. If you could pick one, would you rather have infinite money or unending love? Infinite money. Love hurts and I’m tired of it assaulting me.
  16. If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be? One I’ll keep to myself.
  17. If you could save just one, would you rather save Humanity or the Earth? The Earth. I have no particular affection for humanity. Humans are stupid.
    See? Case in point.
  18. If you don’t have any, have you ever thought of getting one Uh….any what? I’m mean, I’ve probably thought about getting one, but then I realized I didn’t know which one to get so I stopped thinking altogether.
  19. If you had 1 year left to live, what would you do for you? No clue. I’d probably cry a lot at first, then wing it from there.
  20. If you had A Big Win in the Lottery, how long would you wait to tell people? .00000000000001 seconds.
  21. If you had a day left to live and you could spend it with anyone you choose, who would it be? I wouldn’t and couldn’t choose just one person. I’d spend it with everyone I love.
  22. If you had more courage what would you do differently in your life now? Idk, exercise more? I can’t think of anything radical I’d change.
  23. If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? I’ve never been a fan of my name, but I’ve also never taken the time to contemplate choosing a new one. I have the name I have and that’s that.
  24. If you have a nickname, what is it? Daddy (and I love it)
  25. If you inherited $100,000 right now, how would you spend it? I’d pay off my bills and buy a house. I’m sure this is the wild answer you were looking for.

The Last Words

Over the last couple of years my mom and I had several disagreements, mainly regarding my youngest brother, who bled her dry financially. I explained to her several times that by continuing to give him money she was enabling his behavior and that she was going to have to cut the cord and force him to grow up.

I was trying to convince mom to put herself first and that she couldn’t help him anymore. He couldn’t just randomly show up and leave his kids with her. She couldn’t just hand over cash any time he needed it. She was on a fixed income. She had to focus on herself to survive.

These were words my mother couldn’t comprehend. She was the mom and not helping her baby was breaking her.

Of all the ways our final conversation could have gone wrong, it ended up being hilariously typical. 

Mom had surrendered her license 18 months ago due to her failing health. I had been driving her everywhere she needed to go. Picking up her medication. Picking up random things she needed from the store.

I received a text that day saying she had a prescription ready. I stopped at CVS after work and picked up her insulin. I then stopped by her place and dropped it off. Normally I would hang out for a couple of minutes and talk to her, and she would usually have a few things she needed me to do.

But not on this night.

This night I tucked the insulin into its shelf in the fridge before she told me she couldn’t talk because, “I need to go to the bathroom.” This is funny because so many stories involving my mother revolve around her being in the bathroom. Well, that’s not true. Just this one. But it counts as many.

“Okay. Love you, mommy,” I said as she hurried toward her bathroom.

“Love you, too,” she replied as she disappeared behind the painted drywall.

And that was the last time I saw her alive.

There are millions of words in the English language, but if I’d have known those would be the last words I would ever get to say to her those are the exact words I would have chosen. Because mommy.

I had to go to CVS today to pick up my own medicine. And on the drive home I cruised by her apartment where I’d sometimes see her on the sidewalk taking a stroll. She wasn’t there, but I still saw her there in my mind’s eye. 

Love you, mommy. Miss you. So, so sorry I couldn’t help you.

Coffee in Florida Tastes the Same

If we were having coffee I’d (again) apologize for the gaping hole between our visits. Life has been…busy. It has been hectic in both good and bad ways.

If we were having coffee I’d first talk about how relieved, and absolutely terrified, I am that the twins are now high school graduates. It was a close call for Baby B, who struggled through his senior year with mental illness and trying to deal with feelings he wasn’t quite sure what to do with. In the end, though, he took care of his business and graduated.

The boys are both planning the next steps in their lives and the most uncomfortable part of this whole process for me is no longer being in control. They are both intelligent young men, but inexperienced. They will need to learn from their own mistakes and no amount of “I’ve been in your shoes” from me will teach them life-lessons like the consequences of mistakes made. I’ve stepped back, told them both to please, please, PLEASE let me know if they need help, and figuratively chewed every nail from my finger tips.

They both also have their licenses now, and there have been some close calls.

If we were having coffee I’d definitely have to update you on my mother’s health, which spiralled out of control for several months, culminating with a late-nate ER visit in which she had to slowly be brought back from a diabetic coma. I spent the entire night by her side wondering if the end was neigh. I watched as a team of nurses slowly, but diligently worked to stabilize her blood sugar and raise her body temperature from 93 back to its normal range. I spent an insane amount of time on the phone the next week talking with social workers to find a rehab facility for her to recover in while the hospital re-evaluated her medications. I found her a new PCP and she has been staying with me while she gets back into he habit of caring for herself and waits for for an apartment to become available at the senior living center just down the road from me. She is doing MUCH better now. Her latest labs were fantastic. She still has some physical recovery to do, and in the past two weeks began physical therapy.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you how I can’t believe my little C is another year older and ready to move on to 2nd grade. His 1st grade teacher was amazing and I could never thank her enough for her patience and strength in guiding C over the 180 school days in which she was his teacher. He has come a looooooooooong way behaviorally in the year-and-a-half since I enrolled him in this school and I couldn’t be happier with that decision.

If we were having coffee I’d definitely tell you about the amazing woman who has stood by me during all the hardships I’ve endured the last few months without offering anything but support and love. She has been amazing and fits me like a puzzle piece I didn’t realize I was missing. And she’d want me to tell you she’s awesome, because she’s somewhat delusional. It’s kinda why we get along so well.

If we were having coffee I’d obviously have to mention that I’m writing this on my phone in Palm Beach, Florida. This is the first real vacation I’ve taken in over 10 years, and, even though I didn’t feel like I should “abandon” my mother or my job, it has been sorely needed. Between being a father, a son, a boyfriend, and an IT support specialist working way more than 40 hours a week, I haven’t taken much time for myself and the respite has been nice.

If we were having coffee you’d probably have noticed on your own, and when asked I would reply, “I’ve lost 60 pounds.” I weigh less now than I did when I graduated high school. While I still have some ways to go, I’m extremely happy with the progress I’ve made, even though I’ve had to purchase two new wardrobes in the past 6 months.

It’s your turn!

How has everyone been? How’s your coffee? Is anyone still here? Is this thing still on? Tell me all the things.

If We Were Having Coffee

So, this used to be a thing. I kinda wanted to hang out with you guys, but didn’t know what else to say here so I’m gonna say we’re having coffee, because, well, coffee.

It’s been some time since I’ve had coffee with you all (or y’all to use the local vernacular). When we last saw me ’round these parts I was trippin’ ’cause my kids had just been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was feeling pretty down on myself because I hadn’t noticed what had been going on inside their minds.

I’m happy to say that they’ve been on medication for close to two months now and both boys have reported the medicine has helped them cope with their anxieties. Baby B still has some trouble finding motivation, but I’ve discussed with him that no medication is going to give him that. He’ll have to manufacture his own motivation, unfortunately.

If we were having coffee you’d probably comment on my weight loss, which would make me incredibly uncomfortable and I’d sheepishly thank you for noticing. I’ve lost a little over 50lbs in the last few months. I’ve hit a plateau, so I’m taking a little break from my regimen, while still maintaining a somewhat healthy diet. I’ll get back to it soon, as I have a few dozen more pounds I want to lose.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you how uncomfortable it makes me that people keep complimenting me on how good I look or how much weight I’ve lost. People keep referring to me as skinny, or tell me there’ll soon be nothing of me left. I’m sure they all mean well, but it all makes me want to hide. I just want to be me. I don’t want to be noticed for what I do or don’t look like. Although, a little part of me is a bit ecstatic that I can fit into clothing sizes I haven’t fit into since I was in high school…

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that the twins just turned 18 about a month ago, and that I just can’t even. It’s a bit fucked up to know that I’ve been their guardian for their entire lives and now if I want to talk to their doctor the boys will need to sign a release form stating that their PHI can be discussed with me. I mean, they are legally adults. I have no legal say-so over them any more and it’s an odd feeling. It’s like a part of who I am has been stripped away.

If we were having coffee I’d tell you that I met someone. Despite having a thick wall up this person drilled her way through and nuzzled right up to my heart. It has been a long process as it was an extremely thick wall, but inch by inch she made her way in. She has been extremely understanding and patient with how slowly I want things to go and respectful of how scared I am of putting myself out there again. She has just been amazing.

If we were having coffee I’d admit to you that I’m afraid to tell people that I’m seeing someone, because that makes it real. I’m afraid of it being real, because every real thing I’ve had before has blown up in the most spectacular of ways. I’ve learned, though, that as I’m admitting it most people had surmised as much anyhow, so I was really just hiding it from myself.

If we were having coffee I’d ask how you’re doing, of course, and listen as you told me all the things.

Maybe we’d play a game as we slowly sipped on our brew and talked shit about our moronic president. Maybe we’d watch cat videos on YouTube. Or maybe, just maybe, we’d enjoy each other’s company in silence like a couple of old friends are wont to do.

I hope everyone is doing well and that 2018 doesn’t bring nuclear winter (I wish that were a joke). I hope Santa dropped more than just coal in your stocking and that your children (if applicable) are doing well.

Happy New Year, bitches.

Faded Blue Genes

I walked into the dining room and saw a Wendy’s cup sitting on the table where my twins sat eating. I hadn’t been to Wendy’s that day, and Baby A had been with me all day. Baby B had just gotten home from an 8-hour shift at work, so I was a bit perplexed to find it there.

“Where did the Wendy’s cup come from?” I inquired.

“Wendy’s,” Baby B deadpanned.

My face automatically twisted into the parental look one gets when one’s child is being a smartass. The boys laughed, relishing that they had gotten ol’ dad. “It’s like talking to yourself, isn’t it?” Baby B joked.

“Oh, shut up,” I snapped. But B was right. That is exactly something I would say. My boys are a lot like me and in most ways that pleases me. But not all.


The boys worked with me again this summer. Though working with your children can sometimes be infuriating, I loved it. I got to spend a lot of time with them and observe how they interact with others and teach them new skills. Being able to guide them in a professional environment and not just at home has been a gratifying experience.

For years I’ve worried that some of the demons who lurk in my genes may have slipped away 18 years ago and hidden inside my boys. Afterall, I inherited my demons from my mother, who in turn inherited them from someone further up her family tree. I’ve also worried that their mother had passed on some of her struggles to my boys. I don’t know that their mom has ever officially been diagnosed, but there was a period in time when she was extremely suicidal and made at least one attempt.

I’ve kept a steady eye out for symptoms, but up ’til now hadn’t seen any. My boys are surprisingly well-adjust for all they’ve been through. Of course, a lot of the shit they endured happened before they were seven, so they’ve had ample time to recover. Plus, they may not even remember a lot of the things that happened since they were so young.

This summer, I noticed the first signs of what might be depression in Baby B. His moods were a bit erratic. Some days he’d be extremely irritable. Others he’d be in a fantastic mood. Sometimes the slightest thing would set him off. Sometimes he’d make self-depreciating jokes. I’d wonder about those jokes. Does he truly think so little of himself or is he just trying to make us laugh? When I do it it’s a combination of both.

I went back and forth about saying something to him about it. We’d had talks about mental health in the past. I’d told the boys about my struggles with depression. I had my mom talk with them about her struggles with bipolar disorder. Their mom never told them about her struggles (other than to tell them she takes an antidepressant) so I told them about her suicide attempt, and that of their aunt – not to hurt them or belittle their loved ones, but so they know the consequences of mental illness left untreated.

About a month ago my brother and his family came over to the house. As we sat in the living room talking, Baby B began to tell a story (about what I can no longer recall), but he stuttered a bit as he conveyed it. In my family that’s grounds for ridicule. We laugh at each other often. If you fuck up you better be prepared to be crucified. It’s all done with love, of course.

So as B stuttered over his story my brother and his wife gave B a hard time about it. B knows how this goes. He typically takes it as well as he gives it out, but not on this day. He snapped at my brother, which is extremely out of character for him. I told B to calm down and that he should be used to how these types of family gatherings unfold. I also decided at that point that the next time B and I were alone we were going to have a talk about depression.

When I finally fell low enough to seek out assistance from my doctor for my mental issues five years ago I learned that mood swings and irritability were the most common symptoms of depression in men. Of course, I haven’t actually fact-checked that, but that’s what my doctor told me. I had no clue otherwise I’d have probably sought help much sooner. Anyhow, it was these symptoms I’d been witnessing in my sweet boy. I was seeing in him the same things with which I struggle. And the next time he and I were alone, I told him so.

“Have you noticed these things about yourself?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

I informed him we were going to talk to his doctor about this the next time we were in for an appointment, which coincidentally, was only a few weeks away as the twins’ annual checkup was scheduled already.

Last Saturday we went for the boy’s checkup. After their physical, the doctor asked if I had any concerns, and that’s when I laid them out for him. I told the doctor what I’d noticed in B and that there were mental health diagnoses on both sides of the family tree.

“So you’re only noticing these things in Baby B, right? Baby A isn’t showing any symptoms?” their doctor asked.

“Correct,” I answered, absolutely sure of my answer.

“Actually, that’s not true,” Baby A interrupted.

I turned to him, shocked. Baby A continued.

“I deal with anxiety a lot. I’m nervous all the time,” A explained.

I was baffled. I’d never, ever noticed this behavior in Baby A. He’s always so calm and easy-going. His feathers never seem to get ruffled. Though he seems somewhat apathetic at times, he’s usually in a fairly good mood.

Their doctor told me he’d send home some surveys for both anxiety and depression that we’d need to fill out and return to the office. That night the three of us sat at the kitchen table and answered the surveys their doctor had provided.

We were quite busy that weekend, as the annual Out of the Darkness walk was Sunday, so I didn’t get to review the self-surveys the boys had filled out until Monday night. What I read, quite frankly, broke my heart. It also showed me I don’t know them as well as I thought I did.

It appears that both of my boys struggle with self-worth. They both spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if they’re good enough, though Baby A seems to have a bit of a bigger issue with it. They both just…struggle. It’s very clear by their answers that depression and anxiety have snuck into their minds and made themselves at home. Though it looks like Baby A has more of an issue with anxiety than B does, and B has more of an issue with depression than A does.

I sat there for a few minutes fighting back tears, which might seem a bit melodramatic to some. Depression is not a death sentence. Neither is anxiety. However, the fact that I had not noticed these things about my children made me feel like a failure. That they hide these things about themselves didn’t matter; I still felt like shit for not knowing. Of course, they learned from the best. I am a master at cloaking my emotions. I could be on the edge of losing it all and most people would never know. In fact, when I confessed to a coworker recently that I’d spent much of the past two years medicating myself with alcohol he was shocked. He’d not been able to tell anything was awry.

Knowing this didn’t ease my guilt at all. And what cut the deepest is knowing that two of the people I love most in this world see no value in themselves. In my mind, I know that no matter what I do nothing will change that. In my mind, I know that that is the nature of this illness. I know that no matter how much I tell them or show them I love them there will still be a voice in their heads whispering into their soul that they’re not good enough. But my heart didn’t care. It was broken all the same.

I reached out to my sons. I told them I had reviewed their surveys. I apologized to them that they’d inherited my weakness. I implored them to talk to me if they ever found themselves in a desolate place. I assured them that they are not alone. I assured them that no matter where they find themselves that I have been there before and could readily understand. I also assured them that I love them and that I would get these surveys to the doctor as quickly as I could so that we could get them treated as quickly as possible.

I’ve struggled all week. Friends have assured me that I’d done a great job by having them evaluated and catching it now. It’s great that you’re getting them treated. You’re a great father.

I can’t hear any of that bullshit. I’m still beating myself up about not knowing. If not for B’s moodiness I’d still be none-the-wiser. And though I know that my boys can, and hopefully will, live long, fulfilling lives despite struggling with depression and anxiety, I still am a bit heartbroken that they’ll fight a war inside themselves for the rest of their lives. Depression doesn’t go away. It may take an occasional break. It may offer brief respites. But it always, always comes back. And this makes me sad. I didn’t want this for them. I wanted them to have a better life than I’ve had. They still can, but it’ll be a challenge.

Their doctor called me yesterday afternoon and said we need to come back in to talk about the surveys. He wants to sit down with both of the boys and discuss their answers. The earliest appointment he had was Tuesday. I’ve already told my boss I won’t be in.

We’ll see where we go from here.

 

21 Years

I didn’t know what I wanted to do after I graduated high school. I knew what I was supposed to do, though. I was to pick a college, bury myself in student loans, and get a degree. But I didn’t know what for. Furthermore, my self-confidence was shaken. I almost flunked a couple of classes my senior year while trying to do school and a full-time job. How was I going to successfully juggle college and a job if I couldn’t manage that?

As I struggled with the decision of what to do with the rest of my life time kept ticking on. I got a job at Walmart to help pay the bills and distractions ensued.

I was initially hired on as an unloader. I spent my nights tossing boxes onto a freight line, sorting them by department, and then taking pallets full of merchandise out to the sales floor where my cheerful coworkers eagerly waited like kids parked around the fireplace waiting for Santa to appear. (Editor’s note: That was sarcasm. No one who works for Walmart is cheerful. Suffer no delusions in that regard.)

One night I was in the truck heaving boxes of all shapes, sizes, and mass onto the line. I was lost in the groove of the music pumping from the radio. I was in a zone and not paying careful attention to what I was doing. You know how it is when you’re droning through some mindless task. Your body just goes on autopilot while your mind goes to another place. Or perhaps another dimension. Or maybe just to sleep.

In my zombie-like state of mindlessness I tossed an extremely thin, but almost 6-foot tall box, onto the line with a little less force than was needed. Thus, only the front half of the box made it on to the line. The back half of the box folded downward and the end result was a box pointing, with 3-feet of its girth, one direction, and the other 3-feet of it at a 45 degree angle.

As the box folded neatly along its mid-section the unmistakable sound of glass breaking escaped from within.

Oops.

I walked over to the deformed box to see what damage I had wrought only to find that I had inadvertently turned three 6-foot long door mirrors into six 3-foot miniature door mirrors.

“Well, shit. 21 years bad luck,” I deadpanned. Little did I know just how scarily accurate my one-liner would turn out to be.

Now I’m not really a superstitious person. I’ve stepped on plenty of cracks and never once broken my momma’s back (I’m pretty sure I did break her sanity, though. Sorry, Mom.). I’ve spilled salt and never once tossed any over my shoulder (I just wiped it off the table and onto the floor to be swept up later). I’ve never once hesitated to walk under a ladder (unless I needed to duck to save my head (and sometimes not even then – ow!)). I’ve picked up many a penny who was face down, ass up. I sometimes think the only color cats come in is black. On more than one occasion I ordered lunch and it totaled up to a devilish $6.66.

I didn’t truly believe that one small act of negligence would actually curse the next 21 years of my life, but now I’m not so sure. Since that one careless act I’ve had a lot of bad luck. I’ve been married, and divorced, twice. I’ve had to declare bankruptcy. Twice. I was held hostage in a relationship I wanted no part of with threats, and at least one attempt, of suicide. That “relationship,” and the children I inherited with it, prevented me from going to college. I’ve been subjected to verbal, physical, and emotional abuse. I suffered through a 5-year-long cycle of depression catalyzed by losing half of my life with the twins only to begin a new one catalyzed by my second divorce. My then-stepson violated my then-stepdaughter under my roof and I had no clue. I’ve been accused of things so despicable I can’t even bring myself to articulate the words. I took part in a two-year-long battle with infertility, in which we prevailed, but at great emotional cost.  I spent most of the last three years adrift in a sea of isolation and empty bottles.

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It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, though. Some great things have happened to me, as well. For instance, I have three wonderful, beautiful children whom I love with every fiber of my existence. There have been a handful of happy moments, however fleeting they may have been. I fell in love not once, but twice. I mean, I fell in love with the wrong people, but it felt good while it lasted. I have (almost) 18 years of parental memories I’ll cherish as long as I breath. I hand-carved an opportunity for myself to get into a technical school and was able to jump into an IT career.

Mostly, though, life has pretty much sucked and I choose to blame those stupid fucking mirrors, because why not? Mirrors are always giving me bad news, anyhow. Hey, your hair’s messed up. There’s lettuce in your teeth. You’re ugly. That shirt does not look good on you. I mean, I knew mirrors were assholes, but who knew inanimate objects could sway future events?

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Oh, shut up. No one believes you anyhow.

There is good news, though. I was 19 on that fateful day, and I’m 40 now. My sentence has been fully served, and my luck is now free to switch back to the good side. I’d ask you to wish me good luck, but there’s no way I haven’t already used up all my bad luck by now, right?

Right??

Have You Seen Her?

“You gotta new girlfriend?” she asked inquisitively.

“Um, no. Why?” I asked, puzzled.

“Well, you’re losing all that weight I figured you found you a girl,” she replied matter-of-factly.

“Um, no. I’m losing weight because I need to.”


“So what’s her name?” he asked.

“Who’s name?” I replied, once again confused by a question asked from deep left field.

“The girl you’re losing all this weight for,” he replied as if I were playing coy.

“There’s no girl. I’m losing weight because I need to.”


“You’re a hot commodity,” he said. I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or serious. “You should hang out with (single female coworker).” I’m pretty sure he’s being sarcastic.

“Um, no thanks. I’m not trying to get involved with someone with that many kids.” The truth is, I’m not trying to get involved with anyone.


I’ve lost over 30 pounds in the last two months. While I’m very happy with that, I’m not so thrilled with the assumptions people have been making in the process. Evidently the only reason a dude will lose weight is to get in some girl’s pants. It has nothing to do with the fact that there’s a family history of diabetes and heart disease tucked neatly away in my genes. And there’s no possible way it could have anything to do with the fact that playing with my son in the backyard for more than a handful of minutes left me gasping for air. And it certainly didn’t have anything to do with how disgusted I was by the hideous reflection constantly staring back at me from the mirror.

Nope, I obviously had some secret girlfriend. So secret, in fact, that I’ve yet to meet her. I’m that good.


I have occasionally entertained the thought of putting myself out there again, but then I remember what’s happened every time I’ve tried that in the last five years. My heart has been shattered completely and repeatedly. I’ve shattered hearts, and been left astounded I have the power to do so; that someone could care so much about me that not returning their feelings has magnified their fragility.

I would love to have someone to share my life with; someone to do things with when I’m not being a father. I’d love to have someone to laugh with. To confide in. To support and be supported by. But I can’t.

I’m scared.

I’m scared of the potential pain. I’m scared of potential failure. I’m scared that I’ll hurt yet another. I’m scared the next time my heart breaks will be the time it can’t be pieced back together. I’m scared that I’ll fall again for someone who’ll have expectations so lofty I can’t, or won’t want, to meet them.

The truth is I just don’t want the drama right now. I have enough on my plate without adding a relationship to it. I have a high-maintenance six-year-old to raise. I have two almost-18-year-olds I’d like spend time with when both our schedules allow. I need to work on some professional development so I can advance my career and get a damned raise. I need to get myself in a better situation both personally and financially. I know myself. I fall hard and I fall fast. I would neglect to achieve my goals if my focus shifts elsewhere. I also tend to see those I love through rose-colored glasses. I’ll ignore obvious red-flags and assume things will be okay in spite of them. And I’m always fucking wrong. Always.

So, no, I’m not losing weight for some girl. I don’t have a secret girlfriend I’m not telling you about. I’m not going to go hang out with that single coworker no matter how beautiful she is (and she truly is). All I’m trying to do is get my shit together, which, looking back, is something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to claim before. I can truly say I’ve never, not for even a moment, ever had my shit together. I wanna know what that feels like. I want to know what it’s like to be content with life.

The Never-ending Battle

I was a toothpick when I was young. I mean, skin and bones. You could count all my ribs if I had my shirt off. It wasn’t, unlike Baby C, due to being a picky eater. I ate all the time. I was active. I was outside a lot.

My body started to change between 3rd and 4th grade. My belly began to expand. My cheeks got a bit puffy. I didn’t think anything of it because I was a child. Nothing else had changed, though. I was still an active kid. I played soccer in the spring and fall. I played basketball, baseball, and football at home. I rode my bike around the neighborhood and to my friends’ houses. We played kickball at recess every day.

As I got older I continued growing outward as well as upward. I was still active all that time. I continued playing soccer. We eventually had a pool in our backyard and unless it was winter or storming, I could normally be found out back in the pool. My brothers and I would continue playing sports in our yard. My father would pitch us the baseball and we’d all take turns hitting. We played touch football, or sometimes tackle.

After high school I got a job with a retail giant that I’d hold for nearly 13 years. During that time I remained extremely active simply because my job demanded it. I stocked freight. I unloaded trucks. I pushed shopping carts. I was on my feet for 8 hours or more every day. Despite that, my weight continued to balloon and by 2004 I topped out at almost 270 pounds. That may not seem too awfully bad, but for a short dude like me it’s definitely eye-opening.

My then-wife and I went on a diet. I can’t remember for the life of me the name of the diet, but it was effective. within a year I had dropped from 267 pounds down to 208 pounds. I plateaued at around 210 for quite a long time before I just quit following the diet. My weight fluctuated between 210 and 220 for the next few years.

During my second marriage I finally got fed up with working in retail (people are assholes) and went to a technical school to get some Microsoft certifications. Within months I was out of retail and into the complex world of IT.

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With that career change came a life-style change. My job no longer required 8+ hours of physical labor. I sat in a chair  all day taking phone calls and helping end users remotely. The only time I needed to leave my chair was to eat lunch or use the restroom. I was still careful of what I was eating, but because physical activity was almost completely absent from my life I slowly started putting weight back on. I began walking before and after work. I joined a gym for a short while (while I could afford it). Even still, my weight got up to about 240 before my second marriage ended.

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After my wife left me I went through about a month of what my doctor told me was withdrawal. I didn’t know one could be addicted to another person, but that was what he told me. I lost almost 25 pounds in a month because I simply couldn’t eat. Food made me nauseous. The only things I could keep down were coffee and alcohol.

With the help of medication that all slowly went away and I was able to eat again. Although I had been devastated by my divorce I was happy about the weight I’d lost and worked to keep it off. I did my best to control my portions and eat somewhat healthy food. I walked after work and during my breaks at work.

My weight stayed right there until about 2014 when my life just about completely fell apart. Relationships (both intimate and friend) began to fall apart for reasons I still don’t completely understand. I was continually devastated by every new scar on my heart. Instead of seeking professional help or talking to my doctor about how all these things had amped up my depression I sought refuge in a bottle. Multiple bottles. Several times a week. Basically any night I didn’t have my children I was drinking away all the feels overwhelming me. It didn’t make them go away, but it at least made me forget about them until I passed out. When I was at work or with my kids I had something to occupy my mind and my time, but when I was alone there was nothing to keep my demons at bay. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of everything. I gave up on everything but my kids. I drank. And I drank. And I drank.

Weight I’d lost began finding me again. Between all the empty calories in the alcohol I was consuming and all the food I was eating because, hey, being drunk makes me ravenous, I was gaining weight quickly. I began to dislike the reflection in my mirror, but was too apathetic to do anything about it.

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About three weeks ago I finally reached my breaking point. I looked in the mirror and had had enough. My head looked like a balloon someone had just drawn a face on. I was disgusted with myself. I booked an appointment with a weight loss clinic and two weeks ago had my first appointment. I weighed in at 261, which is just short of where I was in 2004 when I first decided to attack my weight problem.

Along with teaching me what things I should and shouldn’t eat (and how often) they prescribed me a medication that would reduce my hunger and speed up my metabolism. It’s amazing how much energy this medication gives me. It’s also a bit disconcerting how quickly I feel full when I eat now. It’s a good thing, but definitely not what I’m used to. I’ve started walking everywhere when possible instead of driving. It’s a small start, but it’s a start.

I know this is not a long-term fix and that it’s up to me to take care of myself and my body, but I feel like I need this to jump-start my journey. I plan on doing this for about a year and then taking care of it myself from there. I just hope I don’t lose my motivation again. Motivation is a hard thing for me to hang on to.