When Mickey Rourke is in Your Head

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In Kyoto

“That’s it Johnny, take a good look. No matter how cleverly you sneak up on a mirror, your reflection always looks you straight in the eye.” ^ Angel Heart

I was thinking recently about self-worth.

Then, this morning, I came across a cartoon with a frame that read “I’m depressed because I don’t know who I am.”

And I thought about it some more. I thought about it while eating all of the breakfast sandwiches I had bought for the next three days. I thought while I watched TV, petted the dog and made coffee, and wondered what I would wear to a show tonight.

I’m not breaking any new ground here, but I see why Americans are so depressed because they don’t know who they are. I hear it all the time. I heard it from Adam in many silent and not silent ways. And I didn’t get it with Adam, and that was my failure.

You see, because even if I always didn’t understand who I was, I knew what I wanted to do, which was a product of who I was, even if I didn’t realize it. I shot straightforward out of the cannon until I came to rest like a flopping blue gill ready for slaughter.

First I wanted to be a Dodger.

But then I realized I was a girl and probably wouldn’t ever be good enough (oh god, please don’t rant in the comments on that shit).

Then I wanted to be a sports reporter on ESPN.

But then I realized I wasn’t aggressive enough to be a reporter, and I looked terrible on TV and would always want to eat cheese and bread more than I wanted to look good on TV.

Then I wanted to be in college sports information. So I did it.

Then I got offered a dream job at U.S. Figure Skating. So I did it.

Then I saw my time and purpose ending there, and frankly, I wanted to be more with Adam. So I left.

Every choice I made of what I do was because I have been clearly aware of who I am and what I wanted. (Except for the part where I thought I was an introvert all this time because I liked to watch movies by myself, read alone, and a million other things by myself. Yeah, not an introvert. I don’t need three days to recover from talking to people. I love my introvert friends, and I am here for you when you are ready to face the world. As you know, I will talk.)

I knew I was a writer for as long as I can remember. I always knew I was an overachiever who wasn’t necessarily as smart or as talented on the ball field as others, so I made up for it by working my ass off.

The only question mark is animals. I always thought I was a cat person. I think I’m a dog person.

I think about Adam and his addiction, and I wonder how much he ever knew who he was. I think he did once. I think he did growing up, and in the years we were first together. He loved animals and art and music, and by all accounts he was a creator. He was a fixer and a helper and a traveler. He didn’t want to stay in one place too long.

This was the man I fell in love with. But as he aged, and perhaps as the drinking increased (which comes first, the chicken or the egg?), did he lose who he was? Did he forget? Did he try so hard to keep up with me that he forgot why I was in love with him in the first place … because HE WASN’T ME?

He wasn’t me. He was a sensitive soul. He should have worked with animals. He shouldn’t have tried to work in a cubicle.

Did I not tell him enough that I just wanted him to follow his dreams? That I didn’t care about the money? That the time it was me, Adam, Chance, Patches, Bailey and Meka in 800 square feet was as glorious as I could ever hope for?

Did Adam know who he was?

Did he once? Did he forget? Was it the drinking? Was it me? Was it just this fucked-up world? Did he fake happiness? Was he happy but frustrated? I was with him for 17 years and I don’t feel like I know the answers to these fucking questions anymore.

In one of his rehab journals, he wrote he was “inherently lazy.” Upon reading that, I suppose I realized he had forgotten who he was. “Inherently lazy” wasn’t Adam Curry. But addiction made him something he wasn’t it.

I honestly am not sure if Adam ever knew who he was. But I think he was learning, and it’s never too late.

Except when it is.

 

Farewell, Central City

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The Hord House, as it is known, was the house the Currys lived in while we were together. I loved this place.

Central City, Nebraska.

Who would have thought that a town with a population of 3,000 would become a second home to this girl from Los Angeles?

Well, it did.

Back in 1999, Adam and I had been dating for two weeks when he mentioned to his dad that he had met someone. His dad said “bring her home for Thanksgiving.” Adam jokingly asked if I wanted to come. I had no other plans, so I said “sure.” Now, Adam was really stuck! He didn’t think I’d say yes.

But I did, and on that eight-hour drive, Adam and I discussed our histories, our past loves, our beliefs, our dreams. When we arrived at the Hord House,  (yes, it has its own Wikipedia page) where Adam’s dad and stepmom, Bev, lived, I was amazed. It was right in the center of this tiny town, a gorgeous house listed as an historic place. It wasn’t the house Adam spent his childhood years in; I don’t think they moved there until late high school/college. We laughed that two weeks into the relationship we were immediately put into the same bedroom. 🙂

Over the next 15 years, we went back for various Thanksgivings, Christmases and fourth of Julys. I was entranced by small town America (as a place to visit, that is). There were ice cream socials, county keg parties (the Fireman’s Ball), and an awesome Christmas parade where they threw candy at the crowd! I was all over this. In fact, one Thanksgiving I was invited to be a float judge for the parade. Adam said he thinks they were a little overwhelmed with how seriously I took it … I mean, I took copious notes and explained my reasoning.

I met amazing people… the Ryans and the Websters come to mind. The house was right next to the Lincoln Manor steak house, where we always ate at least once per trip! At Woody’s Bar, a local once pointed at Adam’s eyebrow ring and said, I quote, “Jesus Christ, did that hurt?” in a country twang.

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I remember seeing the very terrible “The World is Not Enough” at the State theater in Central City.

I went to fireworks at the football stadium, walked in the dry Platte River bed, took Bailey out to the Ryan’s farm, where we learned she was a herding dog as she went after some cattle. Meka used to make himself at home on the nice furniture at the Hord (Curry) House. I slept through the sounds of trains booming through the town nightly. We chowed down on breakfast at Waffles ‘n’ More. Adam and I would sit outside in the twilight so I could watch the fireflies; he would tell me amazing stories of his wild youth growing up in the country. We would crowd in the kitchen as Bev created magnificent meals; Adam and I would stay up late in the TV room hanging out on the recliners and be the last ones up the next day–only aroused by the smell of bacon filtering up through the back staircase. We’d walk the dogs down to the enclosed ballfields to let them run joyously free.

He showed me the schools he went to, the places he hung out. We ran across the highway to the Central City Mall … aka the grocery story, in the freezing cold to get more beer or chips or candy. We bought fireworks, and I had a blast learning how to set them off, always saying “you’ll shoot your eye out!” or “don’t stand so close!”

The long road trips gave us time to talk, to sleep, to listen to audiobooks and music. To stop and have Crisp Pinto Burritos at Amigos, and have my personal discovery of the Runza.

And so it was that the first celebration for Adam was at the United Methodist Church in Central City. It was crowded with people who watched Adam grow up, with friends and family. Ed, the man who married us, led the service. Adam’s high school music director, Clay Blackmore, led a reunion choir of Adam’s classmates to sing “For Good” from Wicked. Ed used three Yoda quotes from our wedding to talk about Adam’s life … that Adam lived without fear and made the most of his life. That he lived “do or do not” as best he could. His pastor from youth, Denny, shared memories of Adam. Adam’s mom read a moving poem she wrote about her darling son.

Ed sang  “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” — a song he said was the only song he could sing when his son died at the young age of 21.

Mary put together a video of Adam’s life … it was beautiful and I hope to share it soon. We let balloons go for him. I got up to speak. I don’t remember what I said exactly because I didn’t prepare it. But it’s the message I have for all of you:

“Don’t let Adam’s life be defined by his addiction. He was such a wonderful man. I don’t know what the answer to addiction is, but I know it starts within each of us … that we have the courage to ask for help, and that we all have the compassion to give that help. I don’t want others to go through this, and I just want to give someone a chance to live, to reach one person.”

I know I also said what I really know now: I would live my life with Adam all over again, even if I knew what the ending would be; even if I knew the pain it would cause; even if I knew my life would be shattered.

Thank you, Central City. I will always remember you with love.

A Well-Loved Man

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Texas sunset

In many ways, this day could be counted as a microcosm of grief.

It started when I went to bed with a slight headache and woke up at 1 a.m. (yes, I had fallen asleep, on purpose, at 10 p.m.) with one of the most astounding headaches of my life. I really did wonder if it was a tumor, or the precursor to a stroke, and I couldn’t decide if I cared or not. Was this it? If it was, I was at peace.

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I found some aspirin, I used a cold compress. Alas, I didn’t die.

Managed to eat half my breakfast at Denny’s; managed to not cry when leaving Steve and Bev; managed to successfully avoid all three FVS students on my flight until I got to baggage claim when I inadvertently stood right next to one. Quick small talk escalated into me saying “my husband died three weeks ago” with tears starting. I don’t know what I was thinking; it just came out. I feel like an asshole … like this kid deserved my grief.

My evening got worse. I keep telling myself that when I am driving, I have to “be driving.” I didn’t make 100 yards before I wasn’t driving but thinking and I crashed into a curb, destroying a front tire. My first thought was to call Adam, who would have then told me to “call AAA.” I skipped the first step, but you know what, I told both the dispatcher and the tow truck driver that my husband died. I just wanted to give them an excuse for why I crashed into a curb in the daylight on my own. I am assured this is normal behavior and that eventually I won’t tell every Tom, Dick or Harry that my husband just died. It’s not going to work as an excuse for stupid behavior in six months anyway. Though, it should.

So, on my donut wheel, I went off to continue my new tradition of Chipotle for dinner, but I couldn’t find a parking place. Settled for Wooglin’s. I’m wondering how long I will be going out for dinner. I hear there are “Cooking for One” books out there.

The mail was a mixture of good and bad—a book from my college friend and softball buddy Christy, who has been down this road as well; a letter of condolence from a nurse at UC Health; and Adam’s autopsy results.

I had thought when I received the autopsy results I would throw them in a pile and never look. But I opened them. It was clear to me that Adam was probably out of luck the minute he took his first drink (his first relapse), after rehab. Scarring was present … and the results said it was probably scarring from five years or more (we knew this). His pancreas showed damage, his spleen was enlarged, and of course, he had enlarged veins in his stomach and esophagus. He was living on borrowed time. We didn’t know it.

But what annoyed me the most was that whoever wrote the letter spelled it “scaring” and not “scarring.” Grammar counts, folks.

Stephanie was our last nurse who mattered at Anschutz. She wasn’t the nurse who was there when he died, but I think she was with us for two days, and is the one who let Bixby in. She sent a card. I wanted to share what she wrote because I think Adam would be proud.

“To the family and friends of Adam Curry… I wanted to personally express my sorrow for your loss. It was a privilege to care for Adam as well as all of you during this difficult time. He was a very lucky and well-loved man as shown by the love, care and support I saw from you. He left an impression here, too (and not just the dog prints on the bed).”

Yes, he was very well-loved. Forever.

P.S. It’s the little things that are sad, like realizing you don’t get to watch the new Top Chef with Adam. He loved the show. He loved crazy food.

What you’ve missed…

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Mystery Machine selfie at Starfest 2015 in Denver

Hi Adam,

It’s been just more than three weeks since you died, and I miss you very much. Just as expected, the world went on. It’s a sad fact. The world went on, and I hate every single fucking person who is happy right now. How dare they go on with life?

The irrationality and truth in grief is right there.

I must pause to say that I just found the Shawshank Redemption on TV. “Oh damn, Shawshank is on.” “Did you find Shawshank?” “Of course Shawshank is on.” Because everything right now in my life is done for you, I’m leaving it on.

Here’s what you have missed.

  1. I was wrong. Donald Trump became president. This would have horrified you, but I won’t say “I’m glad you aren’t here to see it.” I wish you were here to see it, so we you could hold me like you did on Naboo.
  2. I have spent the last five days with your family. I wish you had been here for:
    1. The fire pit at the Cagles. We would have stayed by that fire for hours
    2. Rob suggesting that maybe cream cheese doesn’t go with pad Thai. Do you think I should try this? Because you were insistent that cream cheese makes everything better.
    3. I finished third in poker the first night; did poorly the second night as I lost it all to Benny. BENNY!
    4. Football and fire on the deck with the big TV
    5. You would have told me to bring a swimsuit for the pool. Even if I didn’t want to swim, I know you would have been in the pool.
    6. Walking through the neighborhood to look at the lights
    7. Bacon
    8. Prime rib
    9. Green bean casserole
  3. I know this would have been hard for you … a Thanksgiving without drinking. But we would have done it. I did it, and I would have been there to support you.
  4. I flew first class just because…
  5. I can’t sleep at all. I read that this is normal in grief. Sleep, eating and other patterns are completely thrown off. I roll around crying wishing you were here.
  6. I didn’t realize how much I just liked to be near you. Sitting around in the kitchen, I would always find away to hold your hand, play with your hair, caress your back, give you kisses. That was definitely me.
  7. Bixby is having a good time with Alea. We found a great person to take care of him while we are gone.
  8. Tickets for Rogue One go on sale Monday. I don’t know if I will have the heart to wait in line without you.
  9. I’m volunteering with the American Liver Foundation. I don’t know what I’ll do yet, but we’ve connected.
  10. I can’t find enthusiasm for just about anything. I did enjoy poker though.
  11. If I could, I would spend all day writing about you.

Here is my random memory about you: Two years ago we were here for Thanksgiving. We went to the Cagles on Friday or Saturday, I can’t remember. But you decided I needed a new computer, and it was Black Friday or Cyber Monday coming up. So you delighted in searching for the best deal for me. We were in the living room with football on, and you were just overjoyed to say “I got your computer for you!” Gadgets were your thing. Now I have to figure out how every fucking one of them works: where you kept all our photos (is there a hard drive somewhere? on the Cloud?), the Tile, the Nest, Find my iPhone. Shit all of them. You loved the big Mac announcements, giggled with excitement when the new gadgets were announced, or the new iPhone features. The giggles! You would totally giggle!

I miss you.

About alcohol…

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The wedding (photo by Amy Balbirer Windham)

The alcohol question.

I think about this question often. What is my relationship with alcohol now? What will it be in the future?

It’s difficult to separate alcohol from Adam’s addiction and illness. Certainly, alcohol destroyed his liver. But equally as certain, so many of my best memories with Adam involve alcohol. Was alcohol the center of these memories? No. But we enjoyed sitting on the beach with a beer; wine tasting; finding new breweries; tasting crazy concoctions. We liked a lazy Sunday morning on a downtown porch, talking about politics, gossiping, people-watching and eating breakfast with coffee, a mimosa and a Bloody Mary. Certainly, here in Texas, as I sit on the porch watching Air Force football while writing this, Adam and I would have had a beer in hand by now. It’s vacation, it’s football, it was us.

Truth is, I didn’t drink nearly as much before Adam. I drank shitty beer with the occasional tequila shot. True story… Adam probably fell in love with me when we are at McAllister’s downtown (remember that place?) and I ordered tequila shots (right before Jen and I headed to see the Monkees at Pikes Peak Center). They offered training wheels, and I scoffed. Only rookies need the lime and salt. Adam eventually introduced me to “sipping tequila” and I generally left Cuervo behind. McAllister’s was the place we could never leave on a Sunday, drinking beer and playing Golden Tee (that game was like crack) with friends.

We liked the Manitou Springs Wine Festival and Swirl Wine Bar (we were one of the first regulars); the new breweries that popped up in the Springs, camping with cocktail hour; Disa’s gin and tonics at school, blue-cheese stuffed olives in martinis along with carpaccio at the Chop House, collecting 17 plastic cups from Coconuts by the Beach in Florida; pre-made screwdrivers in our backpack at Starfest. The discovery of sour beers … a sour for me and an IPA for him. The Warp Core Breach at Star Trek Experience in Vegas with Paul and Michelle; a glass of wine with Adam’s scallops and linguine while watching the Walking Dead. Wandering up and down side streets in Heidelberg and finding the off the beaten path absinthe bar where we were the only tourists, where we communicated haphazardly through the language barrier with the bartender. Sitting in a square in Cologne, Germany, watching the Germans celebrate because their team had just won a friendly over some other country. Going from place to place in Bruges because I had a giant spider bite that itched so badly I could only sit for about 30 minutes before needing to move to get my mind off of it. Sipping wine on the banks of a river in Germany with a baguette and cheese. Wine in Paris, beer in Amsterdam, and all sorts of weird stuff in Japan.

Lots of alcohol, eh? I didn’t think we drank any more or less than our friends. But of course, I was oblivious to what Adam might have been drinking at home while I wasn’t there. I didn’t know the pain and anxiety he must have felt with the deceit and the lying to me. When he would swear he would never drink again, and a week later I would find the hidden bottle of gin.

To hate alcohol is to hate my 17 years with Adam, and I won’t do it. Whatever you may think an alcoholic is, you might be wrong. Adam was a light in this world; he wasn’t drunk all the time, he wasn’t abusive, he didn’t pass out at bars or say rude things. He wasn’t an obnoxious drunk. He was perfect in my eyes. A perfect man with a perfect illness. An insidious illness we are just beginning to understand.

It was scary for us, more so for him, to think of a future without alcohol. Does that sound weird to you? Everything we did pretty much included alcohol. We had 12 years together before we realized this was bad for him. I could stop after two beers; he could not. He “knew” he shouldn’t be drinking, but at 40, how do you really think you are going to die from liver disease? You just don’t. It’s not happening to any of your friends, so why you?

I haven’t had a drink in about 95 days. That’s the longest for me probably since I went to college. Last night, playing poker, with drinks everywhere, it was hard for me to not join in the drinking fun, get a little buzz. And I’m definitely not an alcoholic. How difficult must it have been for Adam? He said “I’m fine if you drink, I’m fine if my friends drink.” The fact is, he wasn’t. He was terrified of “ruining” other people’s good times, of changing my life so drastically.

That is where my biggest guilt comes in. Why didn’t I realize how hard it was for him? I would have quit along with him. But I guess part of me was mourning the loss of our lifestyle, too. I worried about a lifestyle; instead I lost a whole life.

I would like to toast to Adam again. To taste a new IPA and scrunch up my nose and say, “ewww” and go back to a saison. To sip a great bubbly and say “you would have liked this, Adam.” I might be hypocritical. Fuck you if you think I am. I’m just trying to deal with the loss of my husband in any way I can. My entire life has been ripped from me and I don’t know what to do.

So just try to smile with me and enjoy that IPA.

 

 

Is This the First of the Year of Firsts?

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Random photo from summer 2015 after a day at Water World with Ava and Olwyn. I actually outdid Adam. He was D-O-N-E near the end of the day, and I was like “we have 45 minutes! I’m going on some more slides!” This was also one of his favorite T-shirts: Barcode Jesus

Well, I did it. I packed (thanks to Amy who walked me through it via text), I locked the house, left instructions for the house sitter, made it to the airport, got on the plane and successfully made it down to Texas.

It’s Thanksgiving at the Curry home!

I’ve traveled around the world a few times, been on more planes than I can count, but this was the hardest … it was like I couldn’t remember how to be a traveler. Luckily, I wasn’t “that guy” in the security line. I still managed to do everything correctly but without a smile and in some kind of fog. Yes, I did upgrade because it was only $75, but I really only wanted that for comfort. I wasn’t going to take a free glass of bubbly anyway, and I slept through the snacks. I suffered a couple bouts of airsickness, and not having Adam there to feel sorry for me was hard. He would just always pat me on the back as I doubled over, saying “breathe.” This is good advice right now for everything. Probably, eating this morning and not drinking all that coffee would have been a good idea before getting on a plane.

This is my first time at the new Curry house, and it’s beautiful. Adam was here briefly in April and June, but we were never here together. It’s 9:15 p.m., and I can tell you right now if he were here we would be on the deck with the fire and the huge TV on (yes, you read that right … an outdoor deck with a fire AND a TV!). Ten years ago we would have had beer or wine in our hands. This year we would have just had some soda. I would have put my arms around him as we looked up at the stars.

Adam, you should know that Bev and your dad cooked the prime rib to perfection! So nice and rare. But Kay said next time we’ll get a small prime rib for just her and me, and we’ll just walk it by a warm oven briefly and it will be done. There was extra garlicky bread, green beans, some delicious potato product and creamed spinach. Also … they will make green bean casserole in your honor tomorrow.

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Stolen from Mary’s Instagram page: Benny reads Quincy a story on the deck (yes, THAT deck with the fire pit AND TV).

Everyone is here: Mary, Dan, Beatrice, Quincy, Marjorie, Danielle, Jed, Kevin, Benny, Rob, Nigel, Fred, Kay (and Todd tomorrow). This would have been the best with you here. We’d sleep on an air mattress until you would say “fuck it, I’m sleeping on the couch.” We just never were cuddly sleepers! Give me some space!!!!

It was overwhelming to be with so many people, so the first thing I did was nap. Then, I got up from the nap and proceeded to cry, thus being the white elephant in the room for awhile. But the tears pass. You know what the worse thing is? Every time I smile or get distracted for just an instance I feel guilty for not thinking of you, for not being sad. I’ve learned that this is normal and a part of grief. Doesn’t make it any easier.

I started to panic thinking about next week at work and then going back to Central City for his celebration of life. I remembered some wise words heard from fellow widows: “Stop right now. Don’t think of next week or even tomorrow. Just get through this very minute.” I have to say, this did help.

I’m now on my third book of dealing with grief. The second one I read last night while I couldn’t sleep. It was supposed to be humorous, but honestly I think I am much funnier. I know Lisa Johnson Belesky agrees with me. She hasn’t even read the book, but I know she would say “I guarantee you are way more hilarious.” Then, I will remind her she is right because who else would use rolled up placemats for a fan dance in college … just to get her attention because she was ignoring me!

You guys, because I never throw my clothes away, you should know I found an old pair of black jeans that fit. I will wear them every day for the rest of my life like Zuckerberg. Or like Brenna … she says she has a uniform, too.

Enjoy Thanksgiving. Hug your loved ones.

 

Why did we work?

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We loved the beach. Cocoa Beach 2009

I don’t know why we worked. Adam and I were, in many ways, quite opposite.

I was an L.A. Valley girl. He was a small-town Nebraska boy who once worked de-tassling corn. I used to call him my “juvenile delinquent.”

I grew up loving sports. I WAS sports. I wanted to work in sports. I WAS working in sports when we met. Adam once held the high school pole vault record in Central City and did gymnastics as a youngster, but he was an artist at heart. He was a singer, a musician, a sketcher, a potter, a designer. I always said “of course he likes sports, he just likes hippie sports: boarding, hiking, frisbee, hacky sack.” I think I got him to like sports … we became Olympic junkies, he was starting to appreciate the beauty of baseball (but NEVER basketball), and he was becoming a soccer groupie sort of.

I was goal-driven, ambitious, knew what I wanted; I ticked off my accomplishments one by one. Adam was a free spirit. He buckled under bureaucracy and flow charts, where I thrived. He liked to be his own boss. I preferred working in the office environment. He searched for meaning, what he wanted to do; I had it all planned out.

He loved lizards and snakes and all reptiles. I was ambivalent, but thankfully not terrified.

I remember he invited me to a party at his place before our official first date. This is where I meet this incredible group of friends (many who visited in the hospital and have guided me through this grief) … they were all totally unlike me, it seemed. They had long hair, smoked pot … they were just SO COOL. I showed up from an Air Force volleyball game with a ponytail and bangs, wearing a windbreaker with a plate of brownies (just the normal kind!). I felt so out of place.

Adam had on his red jeans (did I ever love those!); he was the long-haired artist I was fascinated with… earrings in both ears, a tattoo (!) and an eyebrow ring. This was not me.

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We loved Kevin Smith movies, as evidenced by our first movie together: Dogma. Years ago, we were a great Jay and Silent Bob for Halloween.

Later, it was just the two of us, and we talked for hours. I said goodnight at the door to his apartment, and he awkwardly said “I would kiss you, but I’ve had a cold, so uh…” and he shook my hand. He would kill me for publicizing that story. But he stole my heart forever with that.

I used to be irritated with people who would insinuate that I “wore the pants” in the relationship. I felt that to be a misunderstanding of our relationship and what worked for the two of us. I was just the “out there, demanding, difficult” person (Cal Poly softball friends would call this “moody, snippy and opinionated”). Adam went with the flow. I was not in charge of the relationship nor of him. I wish I had been because maybe I wouldn’t be here writing this.

Adam loved music. He was way more hip than I could ever hope to be. He loved the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl (he was thrilled I went to see the Foo with him last year!). About two years ago I surprised him with tickets to Fitz and the Tantrums in Breckenridge. I didn’t know anything about them; I just knew he would want to go. I listen to 80s music, the Monkees, Garth Brooks and Broadway musicals – he could name all the modern, cool bands.

He’s the one who got me to try sushi and ethnic food of all kind, though a bean and cheese burrito is still my No. 1; he introduced me to beer beyond Bud, he convinced me to watch Starship Troopers, which is the ultimate cult bad movie. He got me on skis and a snowboard, though I never got the hang of it. He got me to love car camping and hiking, even though more than three days without a shower was too much for me.

He introduced me to so much … and I miss him more than I can say.