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When I was a boy, my grandfather was everything to me (grandfather is the name of God on the lips and hearts of little children). He was wise, he knew everything, and he told me stories. Sometimes they were fables, sometimes they were the tales of my folk and family, and (most) times they were things he made up on the spot to entertain me. He can remember the days of my youth listening to him hammer nails into something he'd just made (he was a master carpenter), the smell of sawdust tangy and sweet on my tongue, all the while a smooth-toned tenor told me stories.

"What would you like to hear today, Peter Rabbit?" he's say. "Tell me one of your stories" I'd say. Peter Rabbit being my grandfather's nickname for me as a boy because I was always getting into trouble or being somewhere I wasn't supposed to - but never underfoot. Children were meant to be near so they could learn. My granddaddy never once told his grandchildren to leave. Instead he'd say something like "Sit down and learn something" or "Go get my hammer." He was always inclusive. And though the two dozen or so other grandchildren would love to say otherwise - it was just never true. I didn't realize until much later how much I actually learned from him in those lazy days in his woodshop. I can still hear his voice now if I listen hard enough. The taps of a steady hammering rhythm coming from the back yard. The smell of pine dust in the air. And the cursing of a old man when he accidently hit his thumb with a hammer. I live in the house that belonged to my grandfather and grandmother. It's my mother's home. One day it may be mine (I hope I'm old and grey before that happens). I work constantly to keep it in the hands of its rightful heir. I bled for this place. I still bleed for it. I welcome the pain the battle brings and I'll happily go through worse. It's not just wood, stone, and paint. This house crawls with the ghosts of my family. It's a place whose corners are occupied with the memories of those who've come before. The walls may bear many coats of paint, but the walls are still the walls. Well worn and well-loved. Dented from excitable grandchildren and not-so-careful children moving furniture. The sounds of laughter echo in this place more than those of weeping. As I sit here navel gazing, I look out my window, from where I can see the whole front yard and the street below. Where the back door is a few feet away in the opposite direction. I see the fireflies. I always think of my grandfather on days like this. I never got a chance to know him as a man (he died when I was 17), but those memories, like treasured photos of the past linger in my mind - drawing a landscape with his voice. I can feel his calloused fingers scruffing up my hair, the soft sound of him humming or whistling a tune of his own making, and the love that he had for me. He used to tell me that fireflies were the eyes of God. I never really got what that means (I still don't), but on nights like tonight. Nights where the fireflies wink in and out like tiny supernovas in some vast and endless dark, I remember his words. "Fireflies are the eyes of God, Peter Rabbit, remember that." I don't believe in God anymore. After he died faith became this poisonous thing to me. It gave me no comfort and only made me bitter and resentful. But I remember those words. And I remember how much he loved me, how much he loved all of us. How when he was told it would be months and he'd be dead from cancer - how he hung on for two years. How he fought, that titan of a man, how he gave no quarter to the Reaper. How he said "Not Today" every day for so long that in the end, what took him was the thing that wasn't killing him. So as I look out on my lawn and sit in my room and think about him and wondering if he'd be proud of me. Seeing the wink of fireflies going in and out. All I that comes to mind is "Fireflies are the eyes of God." And that comforts me.

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So I've been trying not to think about it for a day now...but it's not working. I couldn't sleep last night and I was restless all day yesterday. My grandma Judi died yesterday. I didn't get to really say goodbye, she was convalescing from several injures she sustained after falling and I couldn't seem to get to see her. She always told me she loved me, and every time I saw her I told her the same. She wasn't my grandmother by birth mind you - but I loved her like she was. In the last three years every single one of my remaining grandparents have died. You may remember me talking about my grandpa Hesh in 2012, Judi was his wife, I'll miss the hell out of her. I'm going to go do what I always do when the grief tries to set in - work. I love you Judi - may you find rest in death and go to whatever god you believed in.



 
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Celebrity deaths rarely affect me as deeply and profoundly as the death of Harold Ramis has today. I actually learned about it from John Kovalic's tweetstream and I swore that it had to be a joke. I mean, come on guys, he's Harold Fucking Ramis - he's immortal. I have to say that I was disabused of that notion this morning and really - I couldn't be more miserable. Besides the amazing work, he's done over the years in just about every medium you could think of one thing he's done means something very special to me in particular. If you frequent my blog often you know that I suffer from the peculiar combination of night terrors and insomnia. I'm pretty sure one stems from the other somehow - but I and my legion of doctors over the years have never been able to figure out how or why. There are days when I can't go to sleep because I'm too scared of what will be waiting for me on the other side of the Gates of Horn and Ivory. Having nearly three decades to deal with this, I've come to gripes with the fact that my dreams cannot hurt me. But as a boy, I didn't know that. I thought I was being visited by the literal forces of Hell whenever I slept. I remember the first time I saw Ghostbusters. I stayed over at my aunt D's house and had a night terror. I woke up screaming. She didn't know what to do because I'd not be around her often. So she sat up with me, and we watched Ghostbusters on sparkling bright VHS. I didn't get all the humor right then. I couldn't. I was maybe four or five years old. But the one thing I saw was the Ghostbusters fighting back at things that scared them. Seeing this helped me. It helped me so much that my aunt gave me the coveted VHS tape when I went home (I wore out two more tapes and a DVD since then - I'm all digital now). I know it sounds corny, but in my child's mind, I knew that no demon, ghost, or monster could hurt me because the Ghostbusters were out there. Hell, they were ready to believe me. They said so. They knew that the demons came at night and tore away the covers and scared me -  but if I had the Ghostbusters move playing, they couldn't hurt me. They couldn't sacred me. But they couldn't hurt me. That movie, more than anything (other than my doctor getting me to journal about my dreams) might have saved my life. And I mean this in a very real, very literal way. I vividly recall wondering if I could kill myself, and if I did would it make the nightmares stop. I was a fucking kid, and I wondered if death was the answer to a pain and torment that I just could not understand. So losing Harold Ramis has hit me in the gut like few celebrity deaths could. It's like losing a favorite uncle you never see - you know he's out there and doing things - but he's busy. Maybe it's a little weird, but the Ghostbusters have given me comfort over the years like few things ever could. Even now when I need a laugh, or I'm feeling outting of sorts I put on the movie and play it on repeat. I could recite the entire thing backwards, forewards, or whatever I've seen it so much. So Mr, Ramis thank you for your work, your humor, and being there (along with three other kooks) when a child was too scared to sleep. May you find whatever peace you can.



RIP Harold Ramis, The Man Who Gave us Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day




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A got a letter in the mail yesterday. It was from someone I hadn’t heard from in a long time. Let’s call him Josh. Josh and I meet when we both transferred into the same high school. He was a small guy with a huge brain, quick wit, and a set of morals that were unbendable. We became friends after both he and I we played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in our schools production of Hamlet. We played our lines so well, that the teacher asked if we’d headline Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. It is by far one of the best memories of my high school years. It was also soon after that, that one of my worst memories in high school was made. That was when we meet…let’s call her Ophelia. Ophelia was one of those rare people you meet in your life who you instantly want to protect. She was all sweetness and light. Josh was in love from the first moment he met her. I played Cyrano to the two and within a few weeks, they were dating. I of course was still pining for @sigynlocke at the time (I do the watch from afar and pine thing very well) and they were a welcome distraction. That was when it happened. I’ve talked about it before but I’m going to repeat the relevant bit.


“The other was a good friend I had meet while going to my fourth high school (in as many years). Her mother asked me to come over and talk to her as she would not come out of her room. After about 4 hours of talking through her room’s door she came out and collapsed on me in tears in the hallway. For the next 19 hours she alternatively cried and went completely still (catatonic). I held her all those hours, I didn’t let her go, and I didn’t move. I put her to bed and slept in her parents living room. When she woke me up she told me what happened. And I am not ashamed to say that I cried with her and I held her. I held her tight and promised it was going to be alright. Eventually it was alright, her rapist was arrested, I took her to counseling sessions with the school-appointed psychologist, and I walked her to and from the school bus stop every day.  Eventually she moved away to live with her extended family and I left to go to my fifth and final high school. I tell you this because to me rape is a violation that cannot be healed on its own, it is the sucking-chest wound of the soul. It will kill you slowly if you don’t get help, and it will do it without you even knowing.”


After that happened to Ophelia…I was so mad. I have a problem with my temper. I freely admit it. When I lose it – sometimes people get hurt. I’ve never caused any harm to someone outside of a physical altercation, but the fights I was in when I did lose my temper, I was… brutal. I knew I had to do something about it. I knew Josh wouldn’t, he’s the turn the other cheek sort. That was okay. I'm not. O wouldn't even see Josh. I guess she thought she wasn't worthy anymore. I don't know. She wouldn't really talk to me or anyone else.


I spent the time to find out who had done this awful thing to her. The bastard was bragging about what he had done, so it didn't take long. What I did to him was not kind. What I did to him was terrible. What I did almost landed me in prison. It was, and remains, worth it. Eventually, I ended up getting anger management courses that didn’t help. All charges were mysteriously dropped after Ophelia’s mom convinced her daughter to go to the police about what happened. The jackass was arrested, sentenced, and put in jail. Apparently, rapists have a really hard time not getting raped in jail, especially when they have casts on an arm and a leg. Ophelia moved away to her Aunt and Uncle’s and we hoped she would recover. She never did. Not really. Turned out she was pregnant with her rapist's child. Her Uncle wanted her to have the child. And O, being O, did what her guardians told her. Several months later she gave birth to a stillborn boy. She was okay for a while but started self-medicating. Eventually, her guardians put her in rehab and she stayed clean for a while. It didn’t last long and then she stopped answering my letters and calls. Josh had gone to be with her a few months out of high school and was going to college. I thought she’d be okay. I thought everything would work out. So I put it out of my mind. I wish… I wish I had not. Eventually, it was just too much for her to deal with and she died of an overdose. That was a couple of months ago. I didn’t know until just now. I just feel so damn guilty. I know, in my head, that there was nothing I could really do. In my heart… in my heart, it feels like I was the one who extinguished that sweetness and light. I feel so old, I'm only 30 and I've dealt with so much. You could span out the events of my life over double my years and it would still seem to full.


O is one of the reasons I’m so draconian when it comes to sexual predators and rapists. Why I believe that a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body is her own. So, I’m going to pull out a glass of chocolate milk (O loved chocolate milk) and drink it in her honor. A life cut too short is a tragedy, but a life cut too short and filled with pain is a horror.

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Occasionally, I write poetry. Well, compose anyways. I don't do it often because in order for me to compose I need to be feeling a extreme emotion. Extreme emotions are something I try to avoid. I try to remain as level-headed as possible at all times. No, I won't tell you why. It's just usually better if I don't go to high or to low. Anyways, I wrote this about my grandmother. Her passing has left me...off kilter. She was a pillar of strength that I drew on in both good times and bad. I miss her. This poem is about her:

 

The Cold Cold Ground


I was there when she ceased to be,

We were crowded around as she was set free,

And when she was gone,

And that thought I did dwell on,


When they laid her down,

In the cold cold ground,

The others began to cry

But my eyes remained dry,


I shook the hands of friend and foe the same,

I spoke politely to all who came,

They didn’t deserve to be with her there,

But who am I to decide what’s fair,


They wreathed her in roses of white,

On her neck were pearls so bright,

Her clothing was pressed and clean,

In her blue blue coffin she looked like a queen,


When they laid her down,

In the cold cold ground,

The others began to cry

But my eyes remained dry,


And that was the last of my grandmother I saw,

As the earth opened beneath her like a maw,

I miss her every day,

But life is for the living or so they say,


By C. R. Rice

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One of the many many MANY obstacles that had to be overcome making the preparations for my grandmother’s funeral was the insistence of the funeral director at having a DVD memorial slideshow/video footage. The director’s insistence was enough that my mother came home from her 4th visit to the funeral home in tears. She didn’t know how to do it. Neither did I nor anyone else. But if you follow my blog or my Twitter you know I cannot stand a woman to cry – much less my mother. It makes my caveman instincts go wacky and I do anything I can to protect them or silence the tears. In this case I spent nearly 72 hours of which I ate and drank little and slept none at all. But I taught myself how to cut footage together, animate captions, etc. A good chunk of that was going through pictures and finding appropriate ones and wracking my brains for good quotes or sayings. The quotes, sayings, and proverbs in this video represent nearly twenty years of reading, learning, and questioning those around me but a quite a few come from the internet. From poetry to Yiddish sayings my friends Zayde (grandfather) would tell me. I spent many hours sitting on the floor of my room surrounded by stacks of boxes of pictures with books by Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Shakespeare, Dante Alighieri, and many others scattered about me.  I hope I did my grandmother proud trying to represent such a full and rich life with so little to work with. I’ve reposted the link from my YouTube channel. Enjoy.

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My grandmother died Thursday May 30th 2013 at 1357 hours. The death was expected but sudden. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost a year ago my family thought we would have time. Time enough for love. Time enough for memories. Time enough for goodbyes. One of the things that my grandmother’s death taught me is there is never enough time. Time is fleeting. Time is a liar. Time…time is the only true currency and our wages are paid in death. I miss her. I’ve not been able to grieve. She practically raised me when I was a boy. I was always with her or my grandfather. I’m calling this feeling I have pain but what it really is numbness. A numbness of the soul. An unfeeling part of my spirit. I think I hurt so much that my mind and body have colluded with one another to anesthetize the wound that her passing has left in my heart. I’ll be the first to say that my grandmother and I didn’t always get along – we fought often and long − but in the end one of us would say sorry and it would be like it never happened. I still haven’t cried. I might not. The day she died I went into the bathroom to shower and found that I couldn’t look at my long hair any more. When she was better she’d run her hands through my hair, brush it, braid it, and twirl it around her fingers. I’d sit at her feet and we’d stay like that for hours. Looking in the mirror I just…it had to go. I shaved my head and sideburns. It freaked my family out but my mother calmed them. “Greif does different things to different people. Christopher is okay. You’ll know when he’s not okay.” I might grow out my hair again. But no time soon. I suppose that’s enough rambling. The following is the eulogy I wrote and spoke during her burial. I felt I had to share.


 


I’m not here to tell you about how my grandmother struggled to survive right up until her final moments. I’m not here to tell you about how courageous and stalwart her last days were. In short, I’m not here to talk about her death. Death is so final. It has a ring of the eternal and unknown. A place of morbid mystery that all human beings are drawn at one point and time in their life. That stuff is boring. My grandmother was anything but boring. No, I’m here to talk about her life. I’m here to speak of how she lived – and believe me, she lived. She wasn’t afraid to try new things. She wasn’t afraid to meet new people. She laughed loudly. Cried when she had to. And forgave easily – not because she was weak but because she was kind. She held tight to those who reached for her. This is, I always thought, the core element of who she was. She never gave up on anyone. She was stubborn like that. You could be mad at Nana one week and the next you could come back to her and tell her you were sorry and she’d forgot that last week and ask what you were doing the next. My grandmother was many things but if I had one word to describe her. Just one? It would be merciful. She always gave second chances (and in my case, third, fourth, fifth… well, you get the idea). She was always there when I needed her. She gave me a place to go when I had nowhere else to go. She fed me. She clothed me. She did all of this, expecting nothing other than for me to try to make something of myself – and I wasn’t the only one. She helped all her children and grandchildren that came to her. If she had it and you needed it, she gave it. In life, she offered you her mercy; maybe in her death you’ll receive her absolution. You don’t need to be religious or spiritual to receive absolution – the very root of the Latin word absolvere means “to set free.” So when you go and say your goodbyes, when you look at her face for one last time before she is buried, remember that not only is she free now from all earthly pain and worldly problems, but so are you. One last little gift from a magnanimous soul. One last hurrah. One last offer of shelter for your heart, one last tidbit for your mind, and one last gift of clothing for your soul. So wrap yourself in the clothing she offers, shelter your heart from the pain of her loss, and eat the last bit of food she serves for your thoughts.

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The last couple of weeks have been rough. February 18th L.A.’s mother went into the hospital because she was incoherent and her blood sugar was insanely high (600 or thereabouts). They stabilized her and took her to Depaul Medical Center. My grandmother had to go to the ER on the 20th but they released her – she was mildly dehydrated but otherwise in good order. I am thankful for that. The next day my Great-Aunt Judi was admitted to Maryveiw with severe stomach pain. Turns out she had acute pancreatic and a swollen liver. When it rains, it pours. It seems lately I am living in Seattle and no one told me.


Pain is life. Only the living feel pain but the scars the dead leave on the living are bitter things. Like memories burned in flesh.


I talked to L.A. today and she is doing as okay as someone in her position can. She has to be the most well adjusted person on the planet. I always knew she was one helluva a woman but it always surprised me when she shows me the steel in her spine. I still don’t know why. “Nobody wants to lose their parents.” She said to me on the phone while sorting through her mother’s things “They’re our life line. Our connection to where we come from. The only way anyone can really be immortal is through their children.”


See what I’m talking about? Solid. Fucking. Steel. I again told her I loved her, hung up, and went to get something to eat. I hate being diabetic. I can’t eat whatever I want and I sure as hell can’t skip meals. I did not want to eat. However, not eating invites unpleasant circumstances. I finished off some leftover’s earning my mother’s nickname for me “The Great Garbage Disposal” and came back to my computer to do the only thing I can do when I’m upset. I wrote.

The following is a mostly accurate rendition of what happened Friday night/Saturday morning.


 


I heard the phone ringing; I had gone to sleep early because I had damned near exhausted myself working on a car that day. Her ringtone, Sting’s Shape of my heart, played sullenly as I answered. The digital clock burning a red 11:41 into my cornea.


“She’s gone.” She said through a voice choked with tears.


Oh god, I thought. “Breathe love. Just breathe.” I whispered. As usual, my words failed me when I needed them most. She cried some more and I wanted to cry with her. “It’s okay.” I said knowing it was hollow when I said it.


“I have to go say goodbye. They’re expecting me.”


“At Maryveiw?” I asked.


“Yeah. But I think they are only letting in family. I’ll call you later.” She said.


“I love you.” I whispered into the receiver. Meaning it with every part of my being - we are soul mates she and I. When she cries, I cry. When she hurts, I hurt. When she’s happy, I’m happy. When she’s angry, I’m angry.


“I love you too.” She said and then hung up.


Turning on the light I felt numb. I got up and walked to the living room where my sister and aunt were watching TV. I sat in the recliner and just stared off into the dark TV-lit room. I heard a voice distantly asking what was wrong and I remember saying “Laurie’s mom just died.” The next thing I know my aunt is shaking me, crying, and holding me. “I have to get to her.”


“Oh thank God you’re okay Christopher. You weren’t talking or anything. You were just staring. I shook you and you didn’t say anything.”


“I have to get to her.” I repeated and stood shakily. I went back to my room, put on the old clothing from the day, and grabbed some food, water, and medicine. I knew Maryveiw was a long way from the house but that didn’t matter. I had to figure out how to get to her before she got to her mother. She was going to need me. I started walking. Every step was like fire. I went into a daze and just kept moving. Thirty minutes into it, I knew I would need to speed up to get to her. I started running. The agony I felt in my lungs and legs, especially my right leg, was like sticking a body part into a fire and keeping it there. I pulled out my asthma inhaler and stuck it in my mouth and continued running pushing a dose every five minutes or so.


I got to the hospital some time later. The security guard instantly looked at me suspiciously. I must have given him my “Don’t Fuck With Me” face because he flinched and took a step back. I went over to the water machine and downed a small river before going to the bathroom and toweling the sweat off my face and neck. Coming out composed, I went over to an attending nurse.


“Hi. My…spouse’s mother has died I need to be directed to her room please.”


“Name?” she replied absently.


I told them her name and the guards face went from go-go suspicious mode to instantly (and genuinely) sympathetic. His nametag read “Fulton”


“Are you here to claim the body?” the nurse asked. I shook my head.


“Her daughter, L.A. isn’t here yet?” I asked


“No. No one has come yet. Do you want to claim the body?” the nurse asked again.


“No. That is neither my burden nor my right. I’m here for what comes before and after that.” I sat down in the waiting room. Across from me an older gentlemen wheezed in a wheelchair on oxygen. He looked at me with eyes that said he knew he was dying. A young girl and her mother sat across from me. I must have kept the “Don’t Fuck With Me” face on because the guard came over and asked me to go with him. I did. He said I had been scaring some of those waiting for treatment and took me to their “Quiet Room” to sit.


I stared off into the distance. The guard brought me a huge cup of water and I thanked him. He stood there for a minute unsure what to do and then left. I sat down in a chair and stared at my hands, which still shook from the sheer exertion I had put on my body. I have never been a runner or even a long-distance walker. I hated doing it to be honest. But I would climb out of Hell itself for L.A.


Minutes later a chaplain came in. “Hi! I’m Chaplin Beatrix.” Her nametag said. She sat in a chair to my right and I nodded my head as she came in. She started asking me questions and I did my best to shoe her away but she persisted. Finally, I told her I’m more-or-less an atheist and she nodded and said it didn’t matter. I wished there were more clergy like her. She continued to talk to me for several minutes. Nurses and doctors passed me. I stared off into space still numb. I didn’t know how L.A. was going to take this.


“She’s the strongest woman I’ve ever met you know.” I said to the chaplain.


“Who? Your spouse?” she said. I nodded.


“If she can survive the loss of her mother she’ll become indestructible. I’ve always feared that one thing for her.” We sat in silence, the chaplain trying hard to assure me it would be okay.


“This way?” I heard L.A.’s voice say and I stood going to the doorway. Her eyes rounded in surprise when she saw me and she grabbed me hugging me close.


“You’re here?” she mumbled against my ear.


“Where else would I be?” I replied giving her a handkerchief for her tears. She hugged me harder and I moved out of the way to let her in. Her uncle and my best friend, C.G. were there. I hugged her uncle because the old man looked like he was about to burst into tears. Then he did. I gave him a handkerchief too because one always carries a spare.


“How did you get here?” C.G. asked.


“I walked.” I replied. “She needed me. I came running. Literally.” He nodded as if to say he would have done the same. I knew he would have if he had needed too.


The chaplain began talking to L.A. and I sat quietly. She handed her this TARDIS blue folder full of information and then she lead us through the confusing labyrinth of passages that makes up the ground floor of Maryveiw Hospital. I ignored the pain in my legs and kept walking. I could suffer tomorrow. She needed me now. We eventually made our way to the ICU and her uncle stopped before actually going in. He stayed in the waiting room. It was too much for him. The nurses staring at us like meerkats as we passed by. The chaplain stopped at a room and then waited for us to enter. L.A. went first removing her messenger bag and coat, then C.G. did the same with his coat, and then I removed my jean jacket and bag. Past the curtain, lay P.S. L.A. started crying and went to kiss her dead mothers brow while the rest of us stood around looking useless. She sat down in a nearby chair and cried some more. I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. I felt helpless. I hate that feeling. Behind me, C.G. teared up and I tried to hide my own tears as I forced myself to look. P.S. body was there but whatever animating force that powered it was gone. It was the first body I had seen since my father died. I felt sick and numb again. L.A. said her goodbyes.


“I guess I should go.” She said.


“Are you ready too?”I asked.


“No.”


“Then sit back down until you are.” She plopped back into the chair again and sat there crying softly. I hate those tears. The way she looked when she cried…it broke me a little inside.


She stood up again after a few minutes hugged her dead mother and then left. C.G. helped her get her coat on and I leaned over P.S.’s body and whispered into her ear.


“I’ll protect and care for her. We (C.G.) both will. I promise. We promise.” I got my jacket back on and then we left. Another trip through the confusing hallways and myriad doors and we were back in the ER. I didn’t have to walk back home thankfully; C.G. has borrowed his mother’s minivan. The ride back is quiet and the march back up my driveway is a slow one. The adrenaline is gone and my willpower is exhausted. I cannot hold the pain back anymore as I limp to my room. I drop a couple of Tylenol and pull out my bottle of aged whiskey. Since I started taking insulin, I rarely drank anymore. I downed some of it, went to the kitchen, and made a sandwich. I ate and drank in darkness before I went back to my room. I sat for a long time just thinking. Finally, I lay down in my bed and began to scream into my pillow. I let the tears come. I welcomed the pain. After calming down I finished off the bottle and looked at the spare I kept in my sock drawer. It was unopened. Not going down this road again, I said to myself and shut the drawer. I started reading a book on my phone but between the medicine, alcohol, and exhaustion I was quickly falling asleep. My phone chirped out the instrumental beginning of Shape of my Heart letting me know I had a text message from L.A. “Just home.” It read.


I texted back “Get some sleep.”


“Not going to try yet.”


“Well I love you. Nighties (Daysies?)” I texted, the old joke from my teenage years.


“Either or.” She replied. Like always.


I passed out then preferring the night terror that I knew was coming to being awake. Sometimes you just got to run in the dark.


L.A.'s mother at DePaul

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A friend of mine died, I’d say a good friend but the truth is he and I haven’t talked in years, but once when we were both just another geek in a gaming shop I’d like to think we were good friends. Jonathan Bartlett is someone I grew up with, his father ran DnD games I played in and for a long time his brother Neal was in my own gaming group. I guess what I am trying to convey here is that sometimes you can grow close to someone without really trying  or meaning too. You become family, and like all members of your family you expect them to be there when you go to call or see them and its shock when you can’t. You know how I found out about this? I called up my friend @Troythulu (who also wrote his own feelings on the matter here) and was going to discuss the continued evolution of his character in my ongoing GURPS campaign, he said ‘I’m not in the frame of mind to talk about that’ (yeah, that’s how he speaks, how cool is that?) when I asked why he told me ‘Jon-Jon killed himself


I was in shock, no it was more than that, I was numb. It took me almost half a minute to even say anything and I fumbled on my end of the phone for almost five minutes before I somehow told him I’d talk to him later and hung up. I sat down at my computer determined to write a blog post and put it up immediately. It took me more than four hours as I stared at the blinking cursor wondering what I could possibly write or say that would remotely sum up the entirety of my feelings. I opened my bottle of whiskey, I took a drink I shouldn’t have (insulin and alcohol don’t mix well) and stared some more. I called L.A. my lovely and beautiful other half, and I told her about Jon-Jon, whom she had actually known far longer than I had, she was shopping at the time. I probably should have asked where she was, before I said anything, but that’s me, Idiot-Who-Speak-Thinks. She was as shocked as I was when I told her he had killed himself, maybe more so because she remembers seeing him as a little boy running around in the store playing with his daddy’s gaming miniatures. So I went back to my computer and I stared at the screen some more, I called my brother and left a message on his phone because right now he’s decided to ignore me, but that’s neither here nor there. I took another shot of whisky and I stared some more at the screen. I visited Jon-Jon’s Facebook page and put the bottle away, otherwise I might have tried to finish it. And that’s when this stupid idea entered my head, what happens to our online profiles when we die? The effect isn’t readily apparent yet, it probably won’t be for another twenty years but the thought still lingers in my grey matter. Will we have cyber cemeteries in the future? Eternal monuments of zero’s and one’s to forever show that once, this person had lived, and even allow a small peek into their lives. Social Networking beyond the grave, how morbid is that?


All that maudlin shit aside I will always remember Jonathan ‘Jon-Jon’ Bartlett as an excitable fellow, with a good nature and someone willing to stand up to anyone for a cause he thought was right. I remember this one time that he stood up to one of the older gamers in our store who was picking on another younger kid, despite the fact that this guy outweighed him by a hundred and fifty odd pounds he not only stood up to the guy he got him to back down. I lost touch with him after he became a solider but talked to his brother, father, and mother off and on. I heard of his injuries in Iraq, I heard of him taking it in stride as he always did. I guess the pain was just too much to handle, sometimes that’s how it is, I know firsthand that lesson. Sometimes saving yourself from pain has only one option. And while I hate that he did what he did, and I will mourn the loss of someone who was like a favorite cousin to me and miss him. I will respect his decision, because in the end the only thing a man really has is his free will.

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My Grandma died this morning, she finally lost the battle she’d been fighting with pneumonia. I feel guilty as hell, I didn’t call her enough, I didn’t see her enough, I just didn’t do anything enough. I kept telling myself once she had gotten out of rehab that I’d go spend some time with her. I guess I don’t have that now, still, as bad as I feel about her death she had started having real issues towards the end, unable to walk or navigate properly and seemingly always falling. I’m in no way glad to see her gone, and I always hate when people say ‘[Blank] is in a better place’ because really, we can’t be sure of that. It’s a fools hope to believe otherwise. Right now though, as raw as my emotions are I want to be that fool. I want to have that hope. At least for a little while, it’s better than diving into a bottle and not coming out (which would be dangerous anyways given the fact that alcohol and insulin don’t mix). My Grandma’s was Elvira Tonning and I’m going to miss her.


As a aside, it appears a F-18 crashed into a apartment complex in Virginia Beach, what next, a freaking earthquake?


C.R. Rice

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Last night my brother texted me and told me I needed to call him when I got the message. Now my brother knows that I have a hard time sleeping and typically doesn’t like to call me after I go to bed unless it’s a dire emergency. I had been up reading when I got the text and decided to go ahead and call him to see what was wrong. I was not prepared at all for what he told me. A little something about me you should know is I am really good in a crisis or immediate emergency, I stay calm, I think any options I have through and almost never freeze up. I guess I make up for this with the fact that I just fall apart when I get really bad news. Last night I fell apart and broke into a thousand different pieces when my brother told me Grandpa Hesh had died, that currently the reasons were unknown. He had been falling down a lot and worse had fainted several times leading to numerous bruises and contusions. I cried until the tears ran dry and I shook like a leaf in the wind. I could not get a hold of myself, I just could not stop weeping, I was up till almost 0400 trying to go back to sleep once I had no more tears to shed. Finally I did sleep but my dreams were like a slide show of every single memory I had of Hesh. Some good, some bad and I miss that funny old man already. After I woke up I sat in front of the television, numb, feeling sorry for myself. I had not seen Grandpa Hesh in about a year and a half and I felt guilty as hell about it; he had retired to Florida several years before and could only come visit once or twice a year. I treasured those visits, Hesh had been seemingly everywhere and was very wise, I loved to listen to him tell stories about him diving in many of the bodies of water and oceans around the world, how he used an underwater camera he had himself invented to take pictures of the things he saw, he had lived. He had served in the military during WWII, got a metal plate on the back of his skull for the trouble, but that never really slowed him down.


It was in that brooding silence this morning while drinking my fourth cup of coffee that I realized he had a good run. Had a damn good run, that his declining health over the past few years (due to a nasty combination of Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s) was doing nothing but making him miserable, making his wife, Grandma Judy miserable because there was simply nothing she could do. You always hear others tell you ‘It’s better she/he passed now, she/he’s not in pain anymore’ but when your own thoughts venture that way without any guidance or influence from others you know it has to have some truth in it. Yes I’ll miss him, and worse, I’ll not be able to go to his funeral due to prior obligations that I really can’t get out of (I am house-sitting at the moment and his funeral will be held in Florida), but I’ll say goodbye to him in my own way.


I love ya Gramps


 


Harry Kollmer


RIP May 5th, 1922 ‒ January 26th 2012


 

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C. R. Rice

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