Celebration Bookends

fettIn 1999, on a rainy April Friday afternoon, I packed up my things to leave my cubicle at U.S. Figure Skating. I had been working there for a little more than a month; just three days earlier I had celebrated my 30th birthday, and my new co-workers (who are my friends to this day), plastered my office with “30 things of 30” to show how old I was getting. This included 30 Q-tips because I would need to clean my ears more as I got older.

I jumped in my 1997 Geo Prizm and headed to Denver for the weekend. I had no one to be accountable to. I had yet to retain ownership of Patches, the 11-year-old cat who would become my buddy, and I was still slightly melancholy after being dumped about seven months earlier (lame, I know, seven months for a 2.5 year relationship).

I was on my way to Wings Over the Rockies Museum for the first-ever Star Wars Celebration. Although in its infancy, the celebration was still glorious. We had serious rain; it was a mud pile with wooden planks, not unlike the village in the move “The Piano” (without a naked Harvey Keitel). There were giant tents holding vendor areas and the panels. We saw the premiere of the Duel of the Fates video, excited about the scenes and music from the yet-to-be-released Phantom Menace (we didn’t know…). Ray Park made an appearance and did his Darth Maul stunt demonstration. Anthony Daniels was the host. I posed in front of a life-size Jabba the Hutt, played video games, took photos with a REAL camera because we had no phones or social media. I ordered takeout and stayed in a hotel renting science fiction movies.

It was perfect.

Six months later, Adam and I started dating, and from then, I was no longer “solo” at Celebrations. We attended every one from then on except Celebration II in 2002. In 2005, we chose our wedding date based on when Celebration was expected to be held.

It’s possible that 2005 (Celebration III, Adam’s first) was our favorite. The con was in Indianapolis, and to save money we rented a hotel room on the outskirts. It was completely gross and had bullet holes in the walls, so we checked out, splurged and found expensive rooms right across from the convention center. It was worth it. One night, we met some random guy in a speakeasy type of place, and we walked the streets to dinner with him. We were terribly drunk, the guy fell in love with Adam, and we even invited him to our wedding. Of course, we never saw him again.

At Celebration IV in Los Angeles, we bought the Tsuneo Sanda poster that became our autograph poster. We participated in our first Bounty Hunt, winning a prize as Geeks Who Drink, because we were WAY into quiz back then. We stayed at the Bonaventure Hotel, the iconic landmark in downtown L.A., and spent two days at my parents’ home to save money.

Celebrations V and VI were in Orlando, where we started a taxi war, found a great drag show, went on the Last Tour to Endor at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It was so hot at night we would sit in concession areas just for the A/C.

At one of these events, we renewed our vows with the greatest Star Wars fan ever, Steve Sansweet. We spent time with Margie, waited hours for Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher autographs, and always spent time in Cocoa Beach.

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Meeting Chewie (Peter Mayhew) was a highlight.

Celebration VII was in Anaheim, coincidentally a few minutes from where my mom was doing rehab for a broken hip. This was 2015, and the cracks in Adam were beginning to show. He had just quit a miserable job and was dealing with low self-esteem. He was struggling trying to limit alcohol. But it was amazing. We arose early early one morning to wait in line for The Force Awakens event, and we cried when we saw the trailer with “Chewie, we’re home.” We gave a commemorative poster to a guy on the shuttle who could only go for one day and couldn’t believe there was anything this amazing. We bought ONE random souvenir (by then we were experts at what to wait in line for and what not to waste our money on).

In all those times, we met our Star Wars heroes, from Captain (Admiral) Piett, to young Boba Fett, to R2D2 and even Major Derlin (John Ratzenberger from Cheers). We struck up a conversation with one of the droid builders behind BB-8.

In April 2016, I purchased passes for Celebration VIII, back in Orlando again. I reserved a room. Because, of course we were going.

As he grew sicker and transplant was on the horizon, I told Adam that we were probably going to miss it. He said “why?” I said, “Well, you will have a new liver and we will need to be focusing on your health.”

He believed we could go anyway.

But it’s just me this time.

I’ll see you soon, fellow Solos.

 

Look at How Happy I Was…

cheerleading
I’m going out on a limb here and saying this is the best picture of me ever taken. Also, I’m going to pretend I was thinking “The fucking things I do to pad my resume for college.”

“When everybody is running in the big race
And having a good time
Who am I to cast a shadow
Who am I?
I looked Death in the face last night
I saw him in a mirror
And he simply smiled
He told me not to worry
He told me just to take my time”  ~ Oingo Boingo

Apparently, I need to put disclaimers on my posts—this is not a suicide note.

However, I know Karen reads this so I’m giving her this song because it’s been my earworm today … this first verse especially. She also put it on one of my favorite mix tapes when we graduated high school. Here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF2F88q0YDc  I’m pretty sure we thought this was a fun, bouncy song and that’s about it. Because we were 18. We had the world ahead of us.

So, high school has been in my head a lot. One, I’ve decided to go to my 30-year Reunion (shit!). Two, it’s been astonishingly beautiful to recognize the support I have received online from “friends from home” — meaning Tujunga. I won’t say “friends from high school” because some of us were closer in elementary school or junior high. Three, I posted 24 FVS Faculty Funky Facts today for work, and mine was “I collected NHL autographs in high school.” Karen will know this is code for “We stalked famous hockey players to their bus, paid off ushers to get into the tunnels and meet these dudes, um, and sometimes kiss them.”

Then, this song gets in my head, and I think of how lucky I was to grow up in L.A. in the 1980s. Here me out. Sure, we had fabulous bangs, and Karen had fabulous airplane earrings, but shit, we grew up with KROQ—the best era of KROQ I have to say. I mean, we knew the bands first before anyone else did, right? L.A. was practically home for Depeche Mode… who else was at the Concert for the Masses in what, 1988? Thomas Dolby, OMD and some other group… help me here.

I certainly had lots going for me and a golden future, so it seemed.

softball
I feel it’s only fair to post this picture of me … terrible form.

That’s what I always found so interesting about falling for Adam. We could not have grown up in more different environments. He used to say “I would have had a crush on you, and you wouldn’t have given me the time of day.” Maybe. His hometown had 2,000 people, and his options for fun that didn’t involve alcohol were probably limited (hey, I’m not naive enough to think that many of you were drinking during our school years, I just know that Karen and I weren’t… like I said, too busy stalking famous athletes.) Adam was a free spirit and artist in a conservative town; I was more conservative in a big town … I don’t mean conservative politically, but let’s just say I was the opposite of a free spirit. Never been me whatsoever. #typeA

But I went on to my perfect life. And now, recently, I’m finding out how much people around me are/were struggling. I talked to someone today who has been down a mighty dark path, and it’s not the first time in the last two months I’ve heard similar stories. What I find interesting is none of these dark times involve death for them. They feel fucking awful and want to kill themselves and nobody even actually died to make them feel that way. I lived in a bubble.

That’s right, I had no idea how lucky I was; how Adam and I, despite having problems in the last year due to his addiction, were pretty fucking happy. When we we lived in the 800 square foot house with two dogs and two cats and one bathroom, we were happy; we were happy in the big house when we had to scrape by when money was tight.

Anyway, so looking back at life. You can have it all and it’s gone in an instant. You can have all the breaks in the world, and it crashes down.

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Karen, why are you holding a pumpkin?

I grew used to success. But with Adam’s death it feels like none of it mattered. You can take back all the success, I’ll just take him back. Now, a success is getting a check for the money that was mine anyway.

Except for the part when I talked to the bank teller, the woman who was there when I first went in December. She sought me out to see how I was doing.

I said: “It’s going to happen to every one of us. I’m here to tell you it’s survivable.”

Survivable. That’s where I am now.

A far cry from success.

But I still have Karen to lav …. and we close our eyes, and the world has turned around again.

When I die…

When I die, remember 2925877672_568486ec5c_bthat I tried my very best. I wasn’t always perfect; in fact, far from it. But I made my decisions with the information I had at the time.

When I die, remember that I had to leave home. I missed so much life with my mom, my dad and my sister, but I had to wander. I had to see what was out there. Remember that I never thought I would be in Colorado this long. I just happened to meet Adam.

When I die, remember that I am sorry for all the times I was self-absorbed. I didn’t get it. I was too lucky. I was young. I had no idea what life had in store for me.

When I die, remember that I was almost never “at a loss.” I knew who I was, I knew where I was going, I knew what I was doing. I never thought “what do I want to do with my life?”

When I die, remember that I traveled the world, that my regrets will be never getting to those places I always wanted to.

When I die, remember that I gave everything I had to Adam. When I stumbled, it was out of fear.

When I die, remember I always knew I was cranky. Remember I was sorry every time I snapped at my mom or my dad. Remember that I loved them with everything; that I’m aware they gave me everything.

When I die, remember I don’t have any regrets about not having children. But I do regret not being around my nieces more.

When I die, remember I don’t like cartoons because Dad didn’t. And he was my first idol.

When I die, remember that I don’t look as good as my Mom because I was too lazy to wash my face at night.

When I die, remember that I did everything I wanted. Remember that I had fear, and I just walked over it. I just didn’t think anything could be this hard.

When I die, remember that the reason I love my dog so much is because of Adam… he got me to take a chance on a pittie… twice.

When I die, remember it’s not “live” music I hate, it’s “loud” music. My ears are sensitive.

When I die, remember that my favorite place in the entire world is wherever Adam is.

When I die, remember that I was never on the Dark Side. I was lawful good. Remember that I just wanted to help. I just wanted to love.

When I die, remember that I never read books twice. I kept them for the memories of a certain time in my life.

When I die, remember I don’t regret a single drink I had with Adam.

When I die, remember that was nothing I liked more than a good haunted house, with Adam at my side; when I would be so juked by the time I entered that a whisper would send me off the edge.

 

When I die, remember how good my bean and cheese burritos were. They key is more cheese than beans.

When I die, remember I fought for Adam. If they has asked, I would have died for him. Because that’s not worse than this.

When I die, remember I never figured anything out. I never saw anything that made me believe in a god. I never figured out a purpose in life. I never figured out why. I just lived. Because I woke up one day and was conscious.

When I die, remember I’ve already held the hands of two people who have died.

When I die, remember I wasn’t afraid.

Hate

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Penis bushes in France. I know that’s why we have photos of them. We didn’t hate the penis bushes. We loved them. 

I’m on my couch, the Bix at my side, the premiere of the series “Taken” on TV, working on the #FVS24 campaign… a day in the life for Duke the Dane. I stayed home from work sick (actually sick, guys, not faking it!), eating food from the local health food store that really tastes like crap but I didn’t want to go to the big store, so I chose the “emotionless pit” store.

But weirdly, I can only think one thing.

I hate you.

I hate you all in the world. I hate that this didn’t happen to you. I hate you when you fight with the person you love. I hate when you take it all for granted.

This is who I am today. I’m full of hate.

I went to therapy and was positive. I love the social media plan we’re doing at work. But the undercurrent is hate.

I hate that you don’t have to go through this.

Yesterday, I said I am glad to take this burden for you. That I would hold it for you so you could be happy and love. All of you.

Today, I hate.

That is grief.

I cannot explain it. I don’t even try.

I look at pictures of Adam and remember every detail. What his earlobes felt like. That’s what I’m stuck on today. His earlobes with the hoop earrings. He only took them out this year because of the CT scans and shit. No metal.

His earlobes.

That is weird. I don’t hate his earlobes. I love them.

I hate you.

I Crashed. But Adam is Still Talking.

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-11-47-28-amI’ve crashed since my family and friends from across the country left. Yesterday I ended up in full “November grief” mode. I ate a can of bean dip (thanks, Karen!), ate au gratin potatoes for dinner (the whole box, Adam would have said “that’s a great dinner!”), and watched movies. I slept in even though I didn’t sleep. I took a nap. I went to bed early. I didn’t pay my bills this week (please forgive me, I know I owe you, friends). I didn’t check my email, didn’t check in on my friends online who are hurting. I cried. I have a friend who lost her mother (and her dad lost his wife), and somewhere out there Bill Paxton’s wife is having her version of my November 2016.

So, I’m posting the below  letter because my head is too full to speak. Adam has not given me permission to post this, but I do know if he thought it could help anyone, he would be OK with it. He wrote this in rehab. He was trying. He was getting it. This is Adam’s gift to all of you who are struggling, whether it’s with addiction or loneliness or mental illness. He was trying. We can, too.

Also, I edited for a couple spelling errors, because…it’s me.

Dear Alcohol,

When we first met, I really didn’t care for you much. Even though my friends all thought you were great, I still felt that we were incompatible, but you stuck with me anyway and eventually won me over. 

We’ve had so many good times together. You helped me meet people, and even showed me that I had a sense of humor. However, the longer we knew each other, you became more pushy…and instead of helping me out, you began to urge me to do more obnoxious things, and sometimes pushed so hard that I wouldn’t even remember our fun time the next day.

Then you took it way too far. I thought you were my friend when all the while you were killing me from the inside out. Of course, I couldn’t see this…you kept your facade of ‘best friend,’ the one who makes me happy and more interesting.

So I had to break away from you five years ago. I thought that this distance would make it possible to remain friends. I just wasn’t going to let you bully me around anymore. And you played nice for a while. But then you started to sneak up on me and convince me to hang out for just a while longer until I stopped caring when you would leave.

Once you had your toe-hold back, you started up again with more fervor than ever. You didn’t even care about helping me have fun. You just concentrated on destroying me. I even knew you were doing it, but I didn’t have the energy to fight you off. You let me shrink away from everything I loved, and pushed me even more violently into an isolated, dark closet… telling me there was no way to leave, but that you would stick with me and it would be OK. I now know that you are a liar. You are insidious, cruel and poisonous and it’s time for you to go. I am so disappointed in you…and you made me hate myself, then stole all of my most prized possessions and sold them for your own profit. Now I have to track them all back down and try to buy them back (for a loss, no less).

There may have been a time when we could have reconciled, but you have burned that bridge, and I am paying for it.

I have changed the locks, and I will never respond to you again. I’m walking away now. I have real problems to solve now, and you caused most of them. Your ‘help’ was a ‘hindrance’ and I don’t want you around anymore. Goodbye.

Regards,
Your latest victim

Grief is the Cockroach

1jqrojGrief is becoming one of my closest friends. Luckily (or unluckily?), this is a friend I will never lose. Forty years from now, he will still be sitting on my shoulder, poking me with a stick. Sometimes I won’t feel that stick, but other times he will hoist Gandalf’s staff, screaming “You shall not pass!” every time I try to move forward.

Grief is the Babadook. Sometimes, even though I feel I have managed to tie him up in the basement, he screams so loudly I can hear him all the way to the tri-cities of Fountain-Security-Widefield. As I know, that’s 21 minutes away.

Grief will follow me around waiting to strike. It hides. It’s like a cockroach on the wall of my apartment in Atlanta. Most of the time, when you turn on the lights, the cockroaches scurry away … that’s what my Southern friends taught me so I didn’t have to see them. But, sometimes, the big one just stays there over your bed. That’s grief. And when you go to hit him with a shoe, it doesn’t kill him. Instead, he flies at your face. Then, you’ll see that cockroach come from a hole in the bathroom and you will stuff the hole with paper towels thinking it will solve the problem. But cockroaches find a way in through other cracks.

Yes, grief is a cockroach in Atlanta.

But there are good things around grief. Because there were cockroaches in Atlanta, but there was also Amy and Carolyn, my first working Olympic Games, Georgia State, Burritoville, Jocks and Jills, having dinner and drinks with Darth Vader, and watching Georgia Tech upset Duke after paying some dude $50 apiece to sneak us in the VIP entrance.

Grief is the cockroach. Grief is the Babadook. Grief is the hidden man on my shoulder with the very long stick. He is scary, he drowns me, he takes away hope and meaning. He forces me into the corner to cry and to miss the man I love. He sometimes doesn’t let go, and no matter how many times I stomp on him, his shell is too hard to crack.

Sometimes, when you are all around, he falls asleep. His naps get longer for awhile, but then they get shorter, and I feel like I’m starting all over again.

To all of you with me this weekend, this special weekend when we celebrate Adam, I ask you this:

Bring sleeping pills.

Rehab Diaries

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Adam’s proudest moment.

The perils of this numb slog are unavoidable and deadly.

Today, I decide to take a stab at “things around the house.” By that, I mean “Adam’s office.” I took pictures of it. I wanted a remembrance of what it was, even though it’s nothing without Adam in it.

First I went through the trash and recycling bin in his office … just to make sure. Just to make sure there wasn’t one scrap of paper that I couldn’t part with. I pulled stuff off the floor; packed programming and design books into a box for the Arc — maybe some young artist or tech person will benefit. I recycled a hundred empty pads of paper, read every scrap of note with his writing on it, weighing the decision for each one: keep or let it go.

I recycled sign-in sheets from classes he taught at PPCC; threw away anything related to the horrible last job he held. I emptied the bookcase, cleaned it, moved it to the basement, then vacuumed.

I cried the whole time. I talked to Adam, asking for his forgiveness; asking him to understand. Of course he didn’t hear me. He’s gone.

Then I came across his notebook from rehab. I knew it was there somewhere, and I have avoided it. It might now be the most precious thing in this house (shit, am I going to need to carry that with me in the backpack everywhere now?) It was filled with the eloquent journal entries of a man trying to find himself; trying to deal with depression and a lack of self-worth. A man who realized alcohol and depression took his art and his music from him. That he wasn’t the same person he was.

I came to a page that had a number of nouns listed on it … an exercise of sorts. He was supposed to write something small about each. This is what I saw:

Relationship: Challenging … but worth it.

And I feel terrible now, that I made things challenging. I can’t even focus on the “worth it” part because all I see is the “challenging” part. I don’t want to admit that even I felt the last couple of years were challenging as he fell deeper into depression and struggled more with anxiety. That I became a different person as I lived in constant dread of him drinking.

I read his words about how my “honey-do” lists or “boundaries I set” were stressing him out more. We were failing in communication there. After all those years of having this perfect life, we were breaking down in communication. I thought I was helping focus him, helping  show him little things he could do. I knew he was suffering from depression, wasn’t getting help, and I know the enormity of feeling like you couldn’t do anything. I thought I was nudging him. Instead I was stressing.

So I fall right back into wondering what I did wrong; how responsible I was for everything. I’m ignoring everything else he wrote … about the devastation of being laid off twice, about his fear of failure with his business. I gave him every encouragement I could think of … I would support him with anything he wanted to do, I was with him… probably neither one of use realized exactly how much the alcohol was affecting him.

He was ready to conquer alcohol … his writings showed it. But the real world was more than he could handle.

If you read this, and if he ever told you that he loved me and he cared, please tell me. Because I feel so responsible for everything again right now.

I told him once during the last year that it was OK, that if it was me that was causing the stress, I would go, because I wanted him to live more than I wanted anything else, even if that meant we were apart. He told me something like “absolutely not. It’s not you, you are the one thing it’s definitely not.”

But I continue to focus too much on the negative right now.

Fuck.