Tuesday, April 1, 2014

post 729: the annual column! only three months and seven days overdue ...

“You’ve always been a friend of mine!
And that’s the way we’ll be,
Until the day I die.
It’s good to know you’re on my side …

‘Cause now you know she’s leaving me!
And I need your help,
To make her see.
So turn on your charm, and let it shine …

‘Cause you’ve always been the one,
Who could make her stay around.
So when she gets to the city limit sign?
Don’t let me down!

Oh, Laredo!
Don’t let her go!
Just take her by the heart,
And let the wheels turn slow!

Oh, Laredo!
You’re my only hope!

So get her back to the day we met,
‘Cause that’s as far as she needs to get!
Oh, but please – don’t let her go!
Oh Laredo!”


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That, kids, was Ted Mosby’s reaction, at the “end” of his first date with The Mother, in the third to last (and arguably, most phenomenal episode of this final season) of, uuh, “How I Met Your Mother”.

This final ninth season of “HIMYM” concluded last night.  And like another series I loved (brantley gilbert voice) back in the day, its ninth season has been, well … a disaster.  (That series would be the lottery fueled season of “Roseanne”.  For what it’s worth?  I’d stack the first four episodes of that season against anything they ever did, and by the last three, four episodes, it was dialed in back in again. But my God, from about episode six to the indefensible Thanksgiving episode, up to and including the single worst thirty minutes of television to ever air (“Roseambo” … and yes, it is exactly what you think it is), was that season brutal to watch.)

It started out strong.  By episode six, the train was coming off the tracks.  By midseason, even “HIMYM” addict (and Stevo’s Site Numero Dos’ Official Television Critic) Alan Sepinwall had checked out.  I didn’t though.  I kept hoping, believing, that something had to give.  Just like it did nine years ago, when the producers of “Roseanne” backed the Brinks truck up (and then some) to John Goodman’s doorstep, to bribe him back for the final ten episodes.

That something for “HIMYM” was the show’s 200th episode, “How Your Mother Met Me”, told entirely from the perspective of the future Mother.  Ever since then, it’s been one really good episode (“Daisy”), after really, really good episode (“Gary Blauman”), after all-time classic (“The End of the Aisle”).

I’ve found myself thinking about that quote above, for the better part of the last week.

Especially the first part of it.

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I wish I had the motivation to write at this point.  Sadly, I don’t.  I happen to think, at the risk of sounding arrogant, conceited, and utterly incompetent, I’m fairly decent at this.  And if I’m not?  I happen to think you at least get a laugh out of a few things, that pass as sensible writing. Or at least a little fondness and nostalgia, for the look backs at events life has handed me, and by extension, us, since so many of you who read this site, are the close friends and family I care about.

I have literally had no motivation to write, in six months.  Hell, it’s March 25th as I start this post, and “The Annual Column”, which was due literally three months ago, isn’t halfway completed yet.

Because, in my defense … how do you properly do justice, to the worst year of your life?

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Last night, one of only four television shows I make made a point to watch every week, signed off, ironically enough, on the same day my favorite show of all time signed off, nine years ago.  (That would be March 31st.)  For the record, it got a lil’ bit dusty in the room three times: the goodbyes on the balcony after the wedding (because it’s the last time the gang would be together as themselves), the moment the old lady who keeps badgering Ted on the train platform points out The Mother is there …

and the final scene.  Yes, kids, Unca Teve loved how the show ended.  Go figure.  92.45% of America is in a near riot-like state of disgust at the ending, and it moved me to tears.

Which I think is kind of neat, honestly.  Diff’rent Strokes for diff’rent folks.  But it’s more than just that.  It’s what that moment (when Ted shows up outside Robin’s apartment, armed with the Smurf Penis trumpet, which is exactly how the pilot ended) signaled to those of us who loved this show.

It’s final. 

It’s over.

To bastardize a quote from another great show I loved: "we're not going back!"  

To quote legitimately from that great show I loved: “whatever happened?  Happened.”

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“You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever.  That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

I focused too much last year, on what the first part of Ted’s quote, meant to my life last year.  Because, as “company I work for” would note: “change happenz”**.

What I didn’t realize, until it hit me like a candlestick, in the conservatory, by Miss Scarlett, in that final scene last night …

… is that it’s the second part of Ted’s quote, that I should have focused on last year.

And every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day, of every month, of every year, of every moment, of my thirty seven years, two months, and twenty two days (as of the start of this post), of my existence, on this planet.

Because the second part?

Is what makes life, worth living.

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(**: “company I work for”’s social media policy is to avoid mentioning them in a negative light.  But if you can’t figure out who I work for from the slogan, then you have never watched a commercial during a golf tournament, or a typical Tuesday on (brent musburger voice) CBS!)

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And so, welcome to the 2013 “Annual Column”, in which I single out for individual praise, however great or brief, the people who matter to me in life.  This year, there’s going to be some changes … not the least of which, is that I started this exactly three months after it always posts. 

This thing has always had a traditional format, for the most part: it opens by thanking my parents, then goes to immediate family, then close friends who are family to me, then co-workers, friends, and acquaintances, then extended family, then “oh crap, I forgot to include you earlier”, then closes down by praising “The Family”.

This year, that isn’t going to be the format.  The opening?  Is staying the same.  Come on, not even I’m willing to change the traditional opening, if only because it makes my folks laugh out loud.

But most of the rest of it?  Is changing.  Including, and especially, the ending.

Because it is shocking how easy it is, to remove people from your life forever.

And it is incredible, what you will do, to keep someone around, you don’t want to lose.

And it amazes me ... how often the first, has nothing to do, with the second.

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So … let’s open this, uuh, opus, by thanking the two people whose night of tomfoolery, hijinks, and utter lack of self-control and protection on a crazy Spring Break night in 1976, resulted in me: my mom and my dad.

It’s not been a great year health wise for either of my parents, but especially my dad.  In case you just drunken or stoned stumbled onto this site (in which case?  Welcome!  Light that Swisher up, crack that Coors Light wide open, and enjoy the ride!), my dad passed away on October 6th for about twelve minutes.  Because he went without oxygen for so long, he was for all intents and purposes killed a second time, to try to save his brain.  The next three days were damned near too much.  Then came October 9th, when Dad was brought out of the coma, and thankfully had everything still in working order.

When it comes to my folks, I’m much closer to my dad than my mom.  (Mainly because mom and I are exactly alike.)  But I love them both equally.  Always have, always will.  Here’s to believing I won’t do even once in 2014, what I did do in 2013: prep a eulogy***.

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(***: for the record, that eulogy would have (and, sadly, someday will), consist of just one story: my favorite moment with my dad.  It is a story I will tell once, and only once, and it is a story noone else would possibly have a clue about.  Hell, dad probably doesn’t remember it.  But that moment meant everything to me, especially in the years since that moment.  We came way, way, way too damned close, to having to share that moment, last October.

My way of saying?  I won't make you sit on a couch for nine years, ala Luke and Penny, to get to the point, when that day comes.)

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To my brother: you’re not just family.  You’re on the Mount Rushmore of Friends in my life.  I’d take a bullet for you.

And to my sister in law: you amaze me.  I am so damned jealous of what my brother got in you, that I think a significant part of why I’m single, is that I judge any potential Mrs. Stevo against you … and they can’t stand up against you.  You’re too amazing.

To the A-Man: you’re my “Special Little Guy”, and always will be.

To Fay Fay: you never fail to make your uncle laugh, and you never will.

And to Rey Rey: don’t tell anyone this … but not only can I not figure out how someone in our family is named Reghan ... but you’re Unca Teve’s favorite.  I love your brother, I love your sister ... but I love you?  

Irrationally.

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And now, to the friends, that are family.

To “The Voice of Reason”: folks … hang on.  (Pause).  What?  (Pause).  Yeah, true, Gregg might remove me from his life for what I’m about to do, specifically the politician I’m about to “quote” … but I think he’ll laugh.

Take it away, Joey!

(vice president biden voice) Folks!  Gregg was a rock for Stevo this year, never more so than when dealing with his dad’s issues.  A four letter word – rock!  R O C K, rock!

Thank you sir.  The fact that you’re possibly less than three years away from owning the nuclear launch codes scares me sh*tless, but thank you.

It took every ounce of strength I had, to simply hold it together that painful week in October.  I leaned on Gregg like I never have before, and damn, did he step up to the challenge.  He made sure all our good friends were kept in the loop constantly, so that instead of me having to call 25 different people, I only had to call one.  He called or emailed the other 24.  Words cannot express how thankful I am, not just for your support and kindness and friendship of that week, but for the last twenty something years.

Oh, yeah – and we’re NEVER going back to Don Chilito’s****.  Only over my dead body.  Which, given that it’s Don Chilitos, might get ground up and used as the mystery meat in Tuesday’s Taqueria special at that “fine dining establishment”.

And to your wife and kids: you’ve got one amazing husband, and one incredible father.  Oh, and folks!  If you’ve never had one of Ashley’s breakfast burritos, you have missed out on one of the great things in life.

To my brother’s best friend, and a good friend of mine, our buddy Neeck: it isn’t Christmas until the Cube pulls up, and you emerge with some reinforcement bottles of whatever was on sale at Royal Liquors.  Never question that you’re family dude.  You are.

To my buddy Jasson: thank you for everything.  You are the only true friend of mine in my age bracket, who knows what I felt on October 6th.  Your support that day, meant everything.  It kept me sane.  You knew exactly what to say, and exactly when to say it.  I can never repay you for that.  Although I’m going to try.  That $12 for the double header day in 2003, that I said “you don’t have to pay for, until Jesus returns”?

You’re off the hook.  Debt repaid. 


To “The Perpetual Intern”, my buddy Anthony: there are very, very, very few people in life, I truly respect.  Hell, I don’t even respect myself, if I’m being honest.  You sir, have my respect.  All the best for you, your wife, and your adorable son, in this year to come.

And to “My Second Parents”, otherwise known as Russ and Mona: thank you for your kindness, thank you for your support, thank you for simply being you.  You’ve always been there for me, no matter what.  That counts for everything, in my book.

Our trip to Indy?  If I’m gonna use a “HIMYM” theme? 

Was (wait for it …) legen … dary.

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(****: which of the following did not occur within a week of our visit to Don Chilito’s: (a) Gregg’s car was in an accident, (b) I had the most violent bout of diarrhea I believe I’ve ever had, (c) dad’s health issues, or (d) I screwed up month and quarter end so badly, the word “termination” was used more than once, to describe my immediate future.  The answer: all of those occurred, within a week of visiting Don Chilito’s.  Never again.)

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Next up: co-workers: present, and past.

Heath, you never fail to make me laugh.  We’re definitely doing at least one Sunday Funday tailgate for the Royals this year, and I’ll bring the case of Bud.  (Both kinds?  (verne lundquist voice) Yes sir!))  All the best to you and your wife, and your kids … and quite frankly, you procreate so often, my brother is jealous, of your, uuh, potency.  And last time I checked, my brother could fill an ark, with his kids.

To Mary, my former “boss” in every sense of the word, I will simply say this: I should have listened to you nine years ago, when I walked away from TA.  And I should have definitely listened to you, when it came to a certain boss in our department, I deal with to this day.  It only took me nine years, but I get it now.  I’d take a bullet for you.  The highest praise I can give someone, I think.

Especially since (brantley gilbert voice) back in the day, if given the chance, you might have fired said bullet at me.

To Brett, and Shannon (who still probably believes I don’t exist*****), and to your kids: you amaze me in ways I cannot put into words.  I love the fact that even though we never schedule anything, we somehow always run into each other in a “what are the “bleeping” odds” moment, at least once a year.  (And to think, people question why I don’t believe in coincidence.)  I miss you the most of all, from TA.

To your brother Scott, to Rachelle, to the kids: keep being you.  What is it about a Hiser, that never fails to make me laugh?  I guess the genuine goodness and decency, you all are.

To Phil and Lacey and family: I think Heath will back me up on this – it ain’t summer until we’re getting ridiculously drunk in the parking lot for a day game.  We’re definitely doing that at least once this year.  All the best, then and now.

To my former immediate boss Lucy: thank you for being a friend, thank you for having my back, and thank you for the ability to realize that moving on to another step in life, doesn’t have to be taken personally, when you own that choice, to move on.  Man, how I wish certain people in my life, understood that basic concept of life, you should learn by the 2nd grade.

Ditto to my former co-workers Brad, Courtney, Pat (note: you were ALWAYS my favorite), Janet, Donna, Colette, Dee, Vinita, and Teresa K.  Love you all.  All the best.

To our lunch group – my former boss Belk, Carol, Teresa W, Ute, Mary, and (welcome back kotter voice) welcome back, welcome back, welcome back! Dusti: I love our monthly “meetings”.  Let’s keep this thing going.

To the people in my immediate area – Joe, you single handedly make this department work.  Dale, your sense of humor is beyond legendary -- it's high infinity.  Kimberly, you’ve been a great addition, and (sneeze!) bless you.  (It’s an inside baseball joke.)  Kathy, you were put in an impossible situation, and have made it almost tolerable.  Thank you for having my back.  And Heather.  Oh Heather.  As Principle Jacobs noted when she retired in “Mr. Holland’s Opus”: “of all the people (in our area of the department)?  You’re my favorite.”

And to my favorite people, the group POS staff: I miss sitting by you all.  Deneece, Geoff, Shannon?  We are why we can’t have nice things.

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(*****: true story – my buddy Brett’s wife did not believe I was a real person, the first three years I knew her husband.  She simply didn’t believe someone this awesome could exist, apparently.  So in October 2005, I headed down to the ‘Ville after work, because we were going to go to the races at Adrian, only they got rained out.  Brett convinced me to stick around until Shannon got home because “she doesn’t believe you’re a real person”.  Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em?  Good Times!)

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Next up: the “special section”, people I forgot to include in the “family” portion of these prepared remarks.

To Damien: the extra ticket is always yours, any Chiefs game you want it.  Always fun to have you around.  You have a level of character and integrity about you, I wish I had.

To Megan, aka “The Crush”: good God girl, you look better every time I see you.  You’ll always be the first round pick of Team Stevo for the summer pool volleyball team.  Hopefully we get a few good games in this summer.

To my bowling league teammates, Penny and “That DeHart Guy”: I’m the only guy in the league nobody wanted as a teammate, and you had to ask twice, for me to sign up to be a Slave.  (Pause).  Yeah, that team name is changing next year.  In all seriousness, thank you for your friendship, your generosity, your kindness, and allow me to say on behalf of every employee not in a position of management in “company I work for”: it is not the same here without you, girl.  It sucks.

To Susan: hang in there.  Last year was a blast.  This year will be even funner.

To Donnie: noone other than Gregg was there for me as much last year, as you.  Thank you so damned much, for your friendship, your kindness, and just being an ear to hear, and a shoulder to cry on.

To Anthony and Jaimmie: April 19th is gonna be one amazing evening.  I trust there will be a beer pong table at the reception.  It’s only fitting.  In all seriousness, congrats on prepping to tie the knot, and you’re making every game next year, even if I have to buy the damned ticket(s).  All I know is, we win when you’re there, we lose when you aren’t.

To Will and Robin: all the best, as always.  Don’t be strangers.  And Max is welcome anytime too.  Even if he’s the only dog in the world, that doesn’t like to get in the water.  Good grief, even Priest loved getting in the lake at Shawnee Mission Park, to say nothing of kicking Duke and Thor to the grass, to have the kiddie pool filled with water all to himself, on those hot days back in 2007 and 2008.  (Pause).  I miss my Special Little Rufus sometimes.

To Joyce and Jerry, and Ray and Anna: enjoy what life is about to hand you.  You’ve always got the guest rooms when you come back to the neighborhood.

To Tyler: I respect the hell out of you.  The work you do, changes lives, and this world, for the better.  Even if it’s been four years since you went out for the damned pizza after the … wait … pi-zza … piece-of … hey, I finally got it!  High infinity (rimshot!)

To Ron and Michelle: glad we finally merged tailgates.  Ditto Roger and Diane and their crew.  Had a blast with you all in Indy, even if the outcome left me vomiting in the alleyway on the way back to the car.  (Note: the approximately 27 vodka tonics I consumed during the collapse, may have had something to do with that.  Lucas Oil Stadium: where 4th Quarter liquor sales happen!)

And to Ryan: man, that week dealing with this defeat is gonna be fun this summer.  You bring the boat, I got the beer (for you), and the whiskey (for me).  In all seriousness, you might be the best thing to happen to my life in the last year.  And in that previous sentence, you all reading this, can figure out why it’s taken me four months to write this damned post.

To Phil and Jenny: congrats on the new arrival, congrats on making it another year, and we’ll definitely have at least one “Rich and Rare” experience this summer.

And to the sister I never had, Jenni: congrats on the move, congrats on finding happiness and success.  God has someone amazing lined up for you someday.  Hang in there until he arrives.

To my college roommates, “Cocoa” Vineet and “Tony Gonzalez”, and the two unofficial college roommates, Mike and Niko: it’s been FIFTEEN freaking years since we graduated!  Fifteen years!  Sweet merciful Jesus!  Fifteen years!  The fall of 1998 is without question – (allard baird voice) without question! – THE best 120 some odd days of my life.  As the great Ronnie Milsap would say, “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world”.  And man, what I wouldn’t give to go back, even if just for one day.

To Ammie: thank you for being the one Panda, to never make me feel unwelcome or unwanted, in your presence.

To Cam and Ashley: congrats on what you’re about to have happen to your lives.  I love the name, for what it’s worth.  And thank you for the kind words of friendship and gratitude this fall and winter.  I tried, guys.  It’s all I can do.  Because you can't make someone do, what they don't want to do ... unless there's like Nazi SS storm troopers or something, holding a gun to your head.  Thanks for recognizing that.

To the Hoxsie’s and Mark: our night is my favorite in this league.  That it only happens twice a year, is grouse.  It’s Zues in nature.  Thank you so much for your support for me these last few months, dealing with my folks health issues.  And hang in there with yours.  Group therapy: it works!

To Brent, and Ashley, and new baby girl: congrats. I wish you nothing but the best: then, now, and always.

And to Luke: it's you, I respect the most.

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Next up, the non-immediate family:

To my cousin Brooke and Craig: you’re my favorites in this family.  Even if your love of all things Obama drives me bat sh*t crazy sometimes.  Congrats on the new job, the new city, and I’m definitely making a Wizards game next winter, if only to visit you ... and Mister Bradley Beal, and Mister John Wall.

To my cousin Kristin and Bryan: congrats on another year.  We’ll have to meet up when I come down for the Chiefs / Dolphins game this fall.

To my cousin Jordan: hang in there man.  It does get better.  You ever need someone to vent to that’s (luke bryan voice) been there, done that, give me a shout.  I’ll listen.

To my cousin Spencer and Sam: congrats on welcoming yet another member of our family into this world!  Hope to see y’all on that Florida trip this fall.

To my favorite aunt Gail and Mike: you have no idea how much dad appreciated you going out of your way to come here in October.  From one family funeral, to almost a second one.  Love ya both.  Ditto to my uncle Bruce and aunt Marsha – thanks for the trip up and the words of support.

To my favorite uncle, Bill, and aunt Sandy: you were there every day, and I cannot thank you enough.  Plus, the one moment of levity in that week from hell, go figure, uncle Bill gave it.  In case I haven’t shared it … it’s (I believe) Tuesday morning.  My brother, my uncle and I head downstairs at Shawnee Mission to the coffee cart (I think it’s called Scooters?).  Anyway, the barista asks my brother and I how many shots (of espresso) we want in our beverage, and my uncle looks at the guy and goes “what the hell kind of a nutty hospital is this?  Serving shots at eight in the morning?  Hell, I’ll take five!”  He genuinely thought they were pouring whiskey shots into the coffee, to make it Irish style.  I love that guy irrationally.

To my cousins from him, Brad and family, Brent and family, and Brian: thanks for being who you are, and it ain’t the holidays until I fail to show up for a family dinner, because a Chiefs game interferes with the plans.  (Kids?  This is why you make sure, everyone in the family knows you’re an addict of (insert team here) come holiday season, so you have built in excuses to avoid the family.  You’re welcome.)

And to my cousin Zach: it’s down to you and me for the next wedding.  I’m betting on you.  No, really – I am betting on you.  Because I’m not ready to settle down yet.  Plus, we all like this girl.  Hell, even my mom liked her.  I haven’t brought a girl home my mom cared for since … uuh … high school?  (Although, to be fair, Mom has never met "The Crush".)  So that has to count for something.

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And with the niceties out of the way … it’s time for the Finale.

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This is where normally, I’d thank each member of “The Family”*, for who they are, and what they mean to me.  And our present ugliness aside, my feelings and care for each of you three, has not changed whatsoever.  But if I’m being fair, not a single one of you did even one thing in this last year, I’d deem to be an act of friendship, let alone of respect.  There’s nothing any of you did, I want to recognize, reward, point out, or remember.

So I choose to pass, on honoring “The Family”, because there’s nothing there to honor, from last year.

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(*: "The Family" would consist of Dusty ("The Champ"), Kellie ("The Chica" or "Boasheao" -- you pick one, because I can't), and Katie ("The Ex").  Our last great moment is detailed via this link, and yes, it was that long ago.

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Instead, I choose to close this … in a way I never imagined I’d ever do.

Those of you who know me best, know that I am not a religious person.  It’s not that I don’t believe in God; I do.  It’s not that I am so arrogant and conceited that I think there isn’t a higher power; there is.

I just have never thought God gives a sh*t about me.  I’ve got a decade of hurt and disappointment and failure, to build that belief on.

Sunday, October 6th, my dad died.  Then somehow was revived, only to medically be killed a second time.

I had no doubt, despite every doctor, nurse, and even a few friends of my folks who had survived what dad was about to go through assuring me otherwise, I had no doubt it wouldn’t work.

Because nothing in my life has been what any unbiased third party neutral observer would deem to be a success, save for the fact that all of you recognized above, care enough about me, to warrant a quick mention.  I fault no human being for that other than myself … but I do have a deep distrust of the Almighty, because at some point, it’d be nice to get out from under, and it just seems at times, like no matter what I do, I fail.  No matter how I try, it doesn’t work. 

That Sunday, I stepped outside at halftime of the Cowboys / broncos epic regular season showdown.  (denver won 51-48; hands down the best game of the NFL season, other than the Super Bowl.  THAT, was the best game of the season.  The lesson?  As always.  (BLEEP!) denver!)  

I called Gregg to pull him into the loop, because I felt so overwhelmed, I didn’t know what to do, who to turn to.  I just was done, I was spent.

And more to the point?  I was pissed. 

The EMT’s didn’t bother to call anyone but me.  You want to know what fear is, Champ?  Fear is not being too cowardly, to own a bowling league decision.  Fear is looking your mom in the eye, and telling her the guy she’s been with for the last 47 years has dropped dead, and it’s a 50/50 coin flip she’ll never talk to him again, where he’ll hear the conversation, or be capable of responding.  Fear is having to call your brother, your sister in law, your dad’s brother and sister, and let them know what has happened.  Fear is calling the family up in Chicago, where Dad and I were supposed to go that October week for our favorite relative my parent's age funeral; fear is letting them know that not only was noone from KC coming up, they should start prepping to come down, for a funeral a week later.

Fear is having to look your five year old nephew in the eye, when he hears that Papa “went to the doctor”, and freaks out … because two days earlier, the family dog “went to the doctor” and not only never came home, a “new Major” showed up instead.  (Note: this was the hardest part of the week, believe it or not.  The twins were clueless … but Ayden was TERRIFIED when he heard that dad was “at the doctor”.  He only equated “doctor” with disappearance, and never seeing you again.  Seeing how frightened he was, when we finally brought him up on Saturday to see dad and confirm that “doctor” isn’t necessarily a bad thing to go see, is a look and a feeling I will never forget.) 

Fear is knowing the decision on that Wednesday, to pull the plug or not, lies in your hands.  Because it did lie in my hands.  Just as the decision if it ever came to my mom, lies in my brother’s.

Fear was the only word I recognized that week.  Absolute terror.  I truly hope noone reading this, ever has to deal with a week, like the week of October 6th, was for me.

Having said that …

I sat down on the bench outside the main entrance to Shawnee Mission after getting off the phone with Gregg, and I started crying.  I could not stop the tears.  I can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve cried uncontrollably in my life – (1) in the bathroom stall at Sandstone, when my buddy James’ death finally truly dawned on me, (2) after passing my friend Randy’s body for the final time at his funeral, and (3) the night I had decided to take my own life, as Randy and James did, only I failed to do so.

(Pause).

You will notice, in every paragraph of this section, the word “I” has been invoked.

Enter my parents’ neighbor up the street.

She had arrived, to offer support and see if there was anything she could do, to help keep things at the house together.  She saw me sobbing on that bench, and came up and just hugged me. 

And then she did what I deemed to be the strangest thing, given who I am.

She asked me to join her in the chapel, to say a prayer for Dad.

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“You will be shocked, kids, when you discover how easy it is in life to part ways with people forever.  That’s why when you find someone you want to keep around, you do something about it.”

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I choose to close the Annual Column, by thanking the one, and ultimately the only, reason my dad is still with us.

I choose to thank God.

My parents’ neighbor (and for those of you knew me growing up, she is the wife of a pastor we all knew quite well, who sadly passed away a couple years ago, and yes, it’s “that guy”) held my hand, prayed for my dad and my family, and then simply said “Psalm 56:9.  That is what God wants me to tell you.  Psalm 56:9.”

I am not a religious person, even after all of this.  The hurt of the last ten, eleven years, is just too much still for me to set aside and let go of.  Especially the hurt of the last two.

But I chose to look up what this verse was.  

“This one thing I know – God is for me.”

Like with most things affiliated with religion, there is a dependent clause, in front of those nine words.  But that clause, is not what I expected to read.

“The very day I call for help, the tide of battle turns.  My enemies flee!”

Nowhere in that dependent clause, does it say “you have to believe I’ll come through for you”.  Nowhere does it say you have to repent of whatever wrong you’ve done.  Nowhere does it say you have to believe a certain way, act a certain way, have a level of faith or hope or belief so high it’s insane.  That isn’t what the verse says.  That isn’t what God asks us mere mortals to do, when we’re in over our head, and cannot fathom how we’re going to handle, what life demands we deal with.

It just simply asks you, to make the request, for His help.

And He’ll grant it, in the way that works best for not just Him ...

... but for you.

God gave myself and my family (as of this posting) 167 days with my dad, we did nothing to deserve.  167 days, of happiness, of joy, of laughter, of tears, of simply living life, we did nothing to deserve.

167 days, of greatness.

If I've learned anything in 2013?

It's that God is amazing ... all the time.

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Ultimately, what 2013 taught me is this: you don’t have to be perfect.  Everyone (bleeps) up.  People fail you.  You, fail you.

It's how you react, and deal, with that failure, that defines who you are.

I botched that definition royally, for most of 2013, with way too many of you, most especially "The Family".  So be it.  Whatever happened, happened.

But the past, doesn't have to define the future.

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You will be shocked, to see how easy it is for people to disappear from your life forever.  Friendships referred to as “family” will collapse.  People you depend on will fail you.  Friends you believe in will disappoint you, will hurt you, will … well, they’ll be me, the last few years: a trainwreck of Thomas and Friends proportions.

Which is why, when you meet someone you want to stick around, you do whatever it takes, to keep them at the table.

If you’re in this post?

I want you at the damned table. 

Even if I have nothing positive, to say about you, in this post.

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And if you’re not?

Give me a reason to reconsider your exclusion.

The 2013 “Annual Column” is fourteen pages shorter in Word, than 2012’s.  Part of that is because I tried to ramble less.  But mostly, it’s because I chose to focus on those who truly matter to me.


It’s an inner circle, that always is accepting and approving, applications.

Because if you read this?

You matter.

It's a lesson that if this ultimately worthless blog can impart to even one person ... makes everything posted on it, worth it.

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also, apologies on the layout ...

Something went bat sh*t crazy when I tried to upload the previous post.  I'll work on fixing it Tuesday.  I didn't change a thing; t...