That’s What Friends Are For

forceiswithyouI walked through the resort quietly. Maybe not so quietly. It was Wednesday night, and with the accoutrements dangling from my backpack, I jingled around the pathways. I can’t remember if it was 2010 or 2012 that we stayed here for Celebration. I suspect 2010. I suspect it because I remember we were drinking.

I remember where our room was. Sort of. The resort is under major construction now, so I can’t be sure. But I walked by every place I thought it could be. Through the lobby, through the restaurant and to the left. We went to Cocoa Beach first on that trip, and stayed in a cheap hotel in a crappy room. When we arrived at this place on Thursday morning, I remember we just flopped onto the bed which seemed so luxurious. There was a mini fridge, and we packed in the alcohol for the trip. I was raring to get over to the convention center, and Adam was like “Just give me five more minutes in this air-conditioned room on this bed.”

The moon was out as I walked the paths in 2017. The celebrations merge together in my mind, but I remember this one because we annoyed the doormen by choosing our own taxi instead of waiting for them to call up the next one. The taxi driver gave us his number and he drove us anywhere we wanted that trip. That one night it was to the Funky Monkey, where they just happened to have one table left for the Star Wars drag show.

I’m looking at some info now, and I see that Ian McDiarmid’s first celebration was 2012 in Orlando. We would have gotten the Emperor’s autograph. I wonder now, a year after we first realized he was sick, was he already drinking that much again? Were we limiting it? Had I become his mother along with his wife, frightened, but giving “permission”? Am I conflating my memories? I might be.

Without Adam, I didn’t get up at 4:30 a.m. to stand in line for panels now. I suspect that Adam would have agreed with me about that.

On Friday at the con this time, I wandered the Art Show area. Adam and I loved this part of the celebration, and we would wait for a particular limited edition print to jump out at both of us … one we had to have. I remember the last time there weren’t any we both loved.

This year, I was almost through the gallery, disappointed that there were so few Rogue One prints, when I came upon this one. I said to the artist, “I always walk around waiting for the one to jump out at me, and this was it.” He said “Can I ask why?” I said “Do you want to hear a short and sad story?” “He put his pen down and gave me his full attention, as I explained how Rogue One figured in our fight for Adam’s survival, how “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me,” was so important for me.

He cried, he hugged me. He later asked for a selfie so he could remember my story. He said that I was the second person who had come to him sharing that his artwork had meant some sort of survival, or friendship, or gratitude On the poster, he signed “The Force is with you … both.” He asked to hear Adam’s name.

Here is the poster. I dedicate it to all of you as well.

friends are for

It’s a Cruel, Cruel World, and I’m Living In It

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With a couple of the volunteers I worked with at Flavors of Denver; I think that’s a fake smile on me.

I’m going to share something I’m not very proud of. Big surprise, but I’m not perfect. Sometimes, things go through my head that are cruel.

Over four months ago, when I decided to direct memorial contributions for Adam to the American Liver Foundation, I also offered my time as well. The good folks there immediately signed me up for their biggest fundraiser of the year: Flavors of Denver. At the time, it seemed like an awfully long time before that would happen. But happen it did, and I drove up to the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum last Thursday, camera in tow, podcast keeping me company.

I did not realize how difficult this would be. I did not expect the flood of emotions that overwhelmed me during those five hours. Later, someone suggested that maybe it was part of the healing process. I suspect it was.

My first job was as “step and repeat red carpet photographer,” a perfect job for someone who has spent years snapping pictures. I just greeted the guests and invited them to pose in front of a banner. Not difficult. But things started to unravel for me emotionally.

First, the “hero” kid came by. This is the young man they were using as an example of what funds were being used for … to save lives. I didn’t know his story; all I knew at the time was that he was a transplant recipient.

And I hated him. I hated this cute little kid so much it was overwhelming. While I was taking photos, I would sneak looks at him and his family, and I hated all of them, all of their smiles. Why was HE alive?

But then, a familiar face came through the line. I had expected it was possible that doctors from UC Hospital in Denver would be there, but actually face to face with one was different. I didn’t immediately remember her name, but I knew it was the P.A. during the transplant evaluation. She was the one who asked Adam “Is it alcohol abuse or alcohol dependency?” “Is there a difference?” Uh, yes there is, and Adam was dependent.

I introduced myself and briefly jogged her memory. She remembered me, remembered Adam’s mom, and said “That all happened so fast.” I told her (with a couple of tears forming) that I was doing OK, that I had survived. She was happy to see me volunteering.

The night wore on. While everyone ate, I perused the vendor booths, stopping at the UC hospital transplant team’s table. I browsed through their brochures with pictures of their doctors, memorizing their faces, recognizing a few.

I headed out to the floor where I would help with the live auction. I recognized those doctors there now, and I silently judged them if they had wine on the table. “Who are you?” I thought, “You judged my husband for drinking yet you sit there drinking. At a fucking event to support the liver.”

And then this family went up on stage to share the kid’s story. I listened, and I cried. I was still angry. I was angry because even if my husband had survived to get a liver transplant, do you think he would ever have been held up as a “hero?” Would he have been set up as a success story? No. Because there are people out there who think he had no right to be on the list in the first place.

Doctors of the world … make a decision. Alcohol-use disorder is either a disease (which is CLEARLY FUCKING OUTLINED in medical journals) or it’s not. If it is, stop the fucking judgment.

And then the P.A. stopped me again. She said, “The doctors who worked on your husband aren’t here tonight [a hepatologist and a GI dude], but would you mind if I told them that you were here, and you were OK?” I agreed. I said “Please do because I was certainly up their asses during that whole time.” Yes, I’m pretty sure I said that. Part of me wanted to say “Sure, tell them I’m OK, no thanks to them, and I fucking hate them and all of you.”

But I didn’t. Because I don’t.

I am having trouble with forgiving the transplant group. I really am. I’m working through it now that I have acknowledged it. But it’s hard. They aren’t responsible for Adam dying. They were just the last spoke in a large wheel, the very last one.

During the live auction, I was floored about the amount of money NOT being raised. I wanted to grab the microphone and scream “What the fuck is wrong with you people? You’re at a fundraiser! You just heard the success story, now hear the sad story … the story of the people who are dying because we haven’t found the answer yet.” Would that have helped, I wonder?

At the end of the night I introduced myself to the mom of the hero kid and the kid himself. I cried and said “My husband died before he was listed.” I told the kid how happy I was to see him alive, that he got this chance, that his life is going to be amazing.

And I meant it.

Someone Else’s Story

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This meme has nothing to do with this post. But I wanted to share it. Because it’s funny.

Tomorrow, April 3, means it’s been five months since I lost Adam. Five months. I’ve been thinking about it, and for the most part I think it seems unreal. Not unreal in the sense that I’m denying it happened. The shock has worn off. Now, it more or less feels like I’m walking around in a life that isn’t my own. That I go through the motions of the life, no different from before, but it’s a fake life.

It’s a life that’s sort of in a holding pattern. I’ve gone from “I can’t do these things” to “I don’t want to do these things.” I don’t want to make any big changes. I don’t want to empty his suitcase. I don’t want to change up the house.

It’s like I’m standing still while the world rushes around me. I don’t want to make any plans. I don’t want to think of my future.

While walking today, an old musical song ran through my head…one that Elizabeth and I used to sing loudly together. The song, from “Chess” isn’t about death; it’s about the break-up of a relationship. But as I analyzed the song while walking the Bix, I took it as my own. With the words, for me it was that feeling of caught between two different lives and wondering how Adam would feel if I started, I don’t know, just doing things that closed the book on our chapter. The thing is, he won’t care.

Here it is, if you don’t know it, sung by the magnificent Judy Kuhn.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDUraEPF8IU

I took Adam to see “Chess” once, in a small theater in Denver. It was always one of my favorites, and I know I was taking a risk by going to see it in a local theater, but it turned out OK. Adam even liked it and wished it was still around on a big stage. That was one of my theater success stories with him. We loved sharing the story of one of our first dates, which was to a show. Although he sang in musical theater in high school, beyond Les Miz, I’m not sure he actually saw all that many. After all, he WAS from small-town Nebraska.

And I was from L.A., and my parents raised my sister and I going to big shows. Dad believed in the best tickets, of course. We saw Yul Brynner in The King and I on Broadway, and back in L.A. saw lots of first-run shows, plus excellent productions from local colleges.

I took Adam to see Cats at the Pikes Peak Center in 1999; it was like our second or third date. I loved Cats (I’m not ashamed!), but this would be the seventh time I’d seen it, and damn, the show had toured so many times, I didn’t know the troupe coming through town would be that bad. There were bad dancing cats and bad singing cats.

Needless to say, I was surprised Adam still trusted me again to ever go to a musical. But I purchased tickets to shows and he went along. Sometimes, he even liked them … I have to say he saw Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for the first time at the Colorado FAC and fell in love with the show. But he HATED Oklahoma … almost as much as he hated basketball. Or vice versa.

I just went on a tangent, I know.

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At Coors Field for Rockies vs. Dodgers

But if you are still with me, maybe you will keep reading. Tomorrow, baseball season opens for me as the Dodgers play their first game. If you don’t love baseball, I don’t expect you to ever love it. Maybe it’s something you get or something you don’t. But the beauty of baseball lives with me. From the moment of heartbreak I had when I realized I could never be a Dodger, to the happiness of the Cubs fans last year.

Adam learned to appreciate it through me. He learned to appreciate it because of Vin Scully, because of the way he wove such a story when calling the game. Adam had no team, no love for baseball, but it was hard for him not to be part of the crowd and cheer for the Rockies when I dragged him to Coors Field when my boys in blue were in town. We actually got in a fight once over this. I told him it hurt that he didn’t give a shit about baseball but then would root against the Dodgers… MY TEAM, MY BOYS… just because he lived in Colorado. I told him I didn’t care if he rooted for the Rockies any time they didn’t play the Dodgers, but rooting against the Dodgers was too much for me to handle from my husband.

He never openly cheered for them again. I think he also began to realize that the Dodgers also represented my Dad and I. Taking that away, even a little, was painful.

Year after year, as the Dodgers would make the playoffs and fail, he would tell me he was sorry, and he actually really meant it! Once, the Dodgers were playing the rubber match i the playoffs on Nerd Night. Everyone was going out, and we were trying to find a place that would show the game. The nerds settled on that brewery that was in the church downtown for awhile. They didn’t have a TV, but they had cable and a projector. Adam had them set it up just for me so I could watch the game and be with the nerds. I wouldn’t even leave the car listening to it on the radio till it was connected. Kershaw was pitching, and it was a disaster for him, and the Dodgers lost the series. I couldn’t be in the room half the time I was so nervous. I was jumpy and agitated. And Adam consoled me.

Every year at this time, I would say “This is it, this is the year we win the World Series!”

And, I’ve been wrong every year.

Adam died the day after the Cubs won the Series. We cheered for the Cubs even though they had beaten Dodgers in the NLCS. Because, you sorta had to, right?

A friend acknowledged that she knew I was coming up on some hard times. The time of “anniversaries” is here. This is about the time things began to fall apart. This month ahead of me has “Adam falling down and his body being bruised everywhere,” “Adam not answering the phone when I was in D.C. and me having to call friends to find out if he was alive,” and “Adam gets an intervention” and “Adam has his first seizure in a hospital” and “Adam goes to rehab.” It has my second birthday without him.

Shit on the month of April.

I love you guys. Thanks for reading.

“I’d give the world for that moment with you
When we thought we knew
That our love would last
But the moment passed
With no warning, far too fast

You and I
We’ve seen it all
Chasing our hearts’ desire
But we go on pretending
Stories like ours
Have happy endings”

 

 

No, I Haven’t Had a Drink Today

1lnvolI have previously said that over the last four months, my life has pretty much been exactly the same: except for this giant gaping hole-in my heart, on the red chair, in the kitchen, in his office, in the bed-where Adam used to be.

But, I’m not sure it’s really true. Because I am in “opposite land.” I’m sure that just means I’m grieving.

I used to be content being home with Adam, watching TV, cooking, laughing at things on the computer, playing with the Bix (or before that, Bailey, Meka, Chance, Patches). We turned down invitations to do things just to be with each other. Now, I accept almost every invitation (almost).

I can’t remember if that’s the way it used to be before Adam first got sick in 2011. I think we were out all the time, but the stress of his disease and his mental health perhaps created a shell around us. We protected ourselves and made choices to protect him. Ultimately, it failed. But maybe it gave him more time. Maybe it gave US more time.

I drink more than I should now. I’m spending more than I should. I have more free time than I ever had, and I can’t get the things done I should. You’re probably thinking “oh, but that’s everyone.” But it wasn’t me. I know what I should be doing: I should be going through the paperwork for taxes. Instead I’m watching a bad horror movie, eating shitty food and thinking about drinking. Damn, I haven’t even brushed my teeth.

This may be your idea of Saturday, but it isn’t mine. But I’m in opposite land. Three months ago, when I did this it was out of sheer inability to process my entire existence. Now, I’ve processed that existence and I’m faced with a fear of doing shit, because doing shit just seems like another step in putting a previous life behind me.

I have to gather those medical bills, but I don’t want to be reminded of the X-rays, the ultrasounds, the blood tests, the hospitalizations, the five-minute trips to Memorial Hospital, the names of the doctors, the cafeteria food … and the hope.

I used to get on Adam about how he would never clean his bathroom. Now that’s me. Fuck the bathroom. I would rather live in filth and drink Saturday afternoon Cape Cods than get out the scrub brush. I washed my comforter a week ago, but I haven’t put it back on the bed. Putting the duvet cover back on by myself, without Adam helping, just is fucking overwhelming. Still. I mean, four months later. Pathetic.

I realize I have to just start doing these things. I get it. I can’t go running to friends and asking them to fill this hole. It seems like a lifetime since I had Adam, and it’s only been four months. I don’t know which is worse.

I’ve been a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never been pathetic. That’s how I view myself now even when I put on clothes besides the black jeans, curl my hair, do my job.

I hope that feeling goes away soon.

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…

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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.

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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.