My Funeral

I attended a funeral recently. Young kid. Leukemia. Absolute tragedy. I don’t do well in settings like this because I empathize with people. Dealing with that massive collection of grief can be absolutely overwhelming for me. But it also inevitably turns my thoughts towards my own impending demise, cause to be determined at a later date.

After sitting through my share of funerals, I’ve made some decisions. First of all, I’ve never understood why funeral is spelled with the word fun preceeding it. But after bawling my eyes out on more than one occasion, I’m making the conscious decision to ensure that my funeral will be fun. In fact, cry on your own time.

Public gatherings of crying will be abolished, unless you can prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you’re crying for other reasons. As such, note cards will be provided for you to scrawl your reasons, bullshit as they may be, for crying at my funeral. They will be preprinted with the words, “I’m crying because…” Acceptable answers include, ‘black licorice sucks’ or ‘Adrian Peterson is a dick’. Think of it as my own version of Cards Against Humanity, but on a totally maccabe scale. I’m thinking that these should be collected at the end and read in front of everyone. The winner gets a free McDonald’s quarter pounder. Or perhaps I should have my funeral sponsored by a local bar that can donate free xeroxed coupons. That would be perfect.

It’s not that I wish to cheapen my life and death, don’t misunderstand me. I just think that collectively mourning should be reserved for much more important events than my simple passing. Just because I may have died, you can’t put your emotions through the spin cycle. Save that for when they cure cancer or perfect the technology of punching people via electronic media.

I passed a booth at the memorial center that had pamphlets on how to prearrange your funeral. Being that I’m the prime age for things to go physically haywire, it’s something I really should put some effort to do. So I guess this post is something of a primer.

People who have known me a while know that Eric Idle’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” will be played during my funeral. But it was only recently that I realized this only covers about four minutes. I could ask that it be put on repeat, but that would get annoying. I can’t leave a bunch of time for my friends and family try to maudlinize the service, so I realize now I need to map this out like a Super Bowl halftime show. Ideas are abundant, but I need or organize them somehow.

For instance, I will be enlisting a group of individuals to dress us like monks and reenact the procession the can be seen in The Holy Grail — complete with the smacking of their foreheads with a holy book. (Those who render themselves unconscious should get a free appetizer.) I’ll provide the Latin lyric sheets for authenticity’s sake. If I’m in a casket, when I’m moved to the hearse, the song March of the  Swivel Heads by The Beat, a song more familiar to those who’ve seen the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, will be played.

The Ex had a wonderful idea of opening services to the theme from The Muppet Show. That said, I need to find a place with two funeral directors who can sing the part of Stadler and Waldorf. But since Kermit sings of the special guest star, which would obviously be yours truly, I need to have a Muppet made in my image. Tell me this isn’t genius.

I’m also hoping to employ motion sensors around my coffin. I don’t like to be touched, so if you get too close a voice recording will trigger of me saying, “No touchie.” I also thought of one that is triggered when the coffin is picked up that says, “Hey, what are you trying to do, kill me?”

This is all silly, I admit. But this will be the last gathering that I can ever host, posthumously as the case may be. I want it to be as memorable as possible and not because of how sad my guests were, but how hard I can make them laugh at how positively ridiculous I can be. My friends and family should leave, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes and say, “Damn, that was awesome.” There after, live your lives being your own flavor of awesome.

Postscript: Since there is always at least one young kid who refuses to stay quiet throughout the services, I highly encourage you to listen to how bored that kid is and find something better to do. After all, that kid is still alive and dying to make some of their own memorable moments. So go make them.

Late February and the Coming Spring

I don’t know about you, but I’m just about done with winter. Thank your deity of choice that spring is coming. Days seem to drag slower when you look upon the bleak, grey landscape that is the late winter. Days don’t seem as glorious, work days pass with all the expedience of a methadone trip, and the beer just doesn’t satisfy the way it should. I wonder if this is how it was for our ancient ancestors. To get up from our dry beds of dirt and grass, climb out of our shelters, look up at the sun as it strains in vain to break the clouds, see how it alights to bleak landscape that surrounds us and say, in cavemanish, “Well, fuck…time for breakfast I guess.” Cavemanish, by the way, I assume sounds like grunting; something akin to mornings before coffee. Those poor bastards didn’t even have coffee, either.

I don’t know what motivates us apart from the promise of warmer days. There’s something so subliminally depressing about late February. I mean think about it — there’s little else to look forward to, even in these modern times. We just cruised through a few months of feasts involving turkey, ham and beef of all shapes and sizes. We’ve celebrated everything from thankfulness, to peace on earth, the passing of a new year and even a day where we apparently have to love our significant others more than the other 364 days of the year; and what do we have to look forward to at this point? St. Patrick’s Day? Really?! I’m all for a day where we all pretend we’re drunken Irish, but is that really something to look forward to? I thought that’s what Fridays were for, without the assumed lie of being Irish.

For those of you not fortunate enough to have jobs which allow you a standard 5-day work week, my sympathies. Mundane as it is, it makes being a working slob that much more tolerable.

There’s something fundamentally depressing about waiting for warm weather. I think it comes from not having a set date, but rather being dependent upon Mother Nature finally conceding that it’s time for life to return to the world. When that actually happens relies completely upon the whims of a change of weather based upon the atmospheric patterns set in place by the position of the earth in relation to the star in which it orbits. Dress it up in whatever anthropomorphic deity of rebirth and renewal you wish, it’s still a pain in the ass for folks who like the certainty of nine to five schedules and the coming income tax deadlines. Even drunken fans of sports have more defined dates than the seasons. Ask a baseball fan when opening day is, and they’ll tell you with little trouble — ask them when warm weather will make the flowers bud and blossom and you’ll get a sigh of resignation and a shrug of uncertainty. I think that goes a long way to explain why moods are a bit sour and defeatist.

I’ll just buckle in and ride it out like the rest of you. Just know that you’re not alone in this. The rest of us are suffering right along with you.

Heartbreak and Afterwards

When you’ve had your heart broken…Well, at first, you look at it and question whether or not it’s really worth all the effort. You examine the remains of all that was you and gaze at the torn edges wondering if you could even begin to find how it all fit together in the first place.

After a while, you look around and see that others have done it. Inexplicably, these people have had their hearts torn apart but have somehow cobbled them back together. How did they do that?

So you gather a few pieces and compare the edges. Tears gather in your eyes as you view the complexity of it all. You knew your heart when it was whole, but somehow its completed shape, which you had taken for granted, escapes you. Even so, if you were somehow able to get it back together somehow, why would you ever put yourself in a place where it could so easily be shattered again?

But eventually, the pieces start to come together. Bit by bit it starts to take shape once more. You show it to others in an effort to see if they can give you a hint of how it’s supposed to look. Sometimes they give you hints and even offer to help. Sometimes they swat it away and now the pieces that once fit together don’t seem to fit anymore. You begin to understand why some artists never share their work until it’s been completed.

At some point, you’ve put together most of the pieces and something resembling a heart has taken shape. You shake your head at it because it’s nothing like what you remember. Somehow the lines are more jagged and the color from one piece to the next doesn’t match quite right. But it fits. At least you think it does. You feel better for the most part. So you start showing your heart again to other people.

Once, in what seems like ages ago, this was a simple thing. But now, as you hold your heart out, you are now acutely aware of the claws, sandpaper and thorns that some people have on their hands. You recoil, wondering how you had missed that before. Everyone has them, it seems. In horror, you hold your reassembled heart tightly to yourself. As you glance at the now sharpened world wondering how you could ever consider sharing it with anyone ever again.

You hear a soft crack and your eyes go wide. You look down and discover that your heart was beginning to break again. You loosen your grip and examine it. Small tears in the seams and cracks in the new exterior appear to you. As you struggle to understand how it happened, you look at your own hands. You see it now and you don’t understand how you didn’t see it before. Your hands have small thorns…patches of sandpaper…and even claws.

That’s when you begin to understand.

How else pieces stay together without the holes for the screws to hold everything together? How else could the rough exterior have been smoothed unless you had the sandpaper to do so? These imperfections are tools that you used to reassemble your heart. They aren’t so horrifying to you anymore as you accept that they are as much a part of you as your heart — indeed, they ensure that you can repair your heart when it needs it.

Now you rise and look upon the others and see that they are just as flawed as you are. They’re also doing the best that they can with their own tools. Many don’t know they exist, but some do. Some do use them to hurt other people, but others use them to comfort and console those that cannot do it for themselves.

I want to be one of those people.

I can be one of those people.

Let me show you.

Too Much

For a long time, I’ve struggled with posting here. I used to think that it was because I’ve had writer’s block. But the truth is that I’ve had far too much to say, and the pipeline that I have is far too narrow to allow me to fully convey all that I want to say. I’ve struggled with it for so long. There is a veritble fire hose of words, a Niagara Falls of my thought process, that is stifled by my ability to convey it into text. Not to mention just a hint of self doubt that you’d even read my words and understand what I mean.

On The Middle East

I know where I stand in the world. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s where I stand. Take note.

Hamas is a bunch idiot cowards. I say that because only idiot cowards stockpile their arms in what is usually the refuge of innocents; hospitals and schools that, by and large, house those unable to defend themselves. Only when destruction rains down upon you can you parade those innocents in front of the cameras. Only then can you complain that you are the victims. Shame on you.

Israel is in no better position. Hamas fires rockets upon you, targeting civilians to inflict maximum damage upon innocent people to propel their own missive agenda. So, in return, you seek and destroy targets that you know house the ammunition of your demise, only to kill children. Defending yourself has become a public spectacle of mass murder of the innocent. But when it all boils down, you made that choice. You launched the weapons that ended the lives of children too young to understand that they’re being used a human propaganda to be paraded to cell phone cameras to be tweeted and posted for the world to see. Sick? Yes. But you fired those shots in retaliation. To make a stand.

You should all be ashamed. No god, no matter how twisted or sick, would see this as anything but killing for the wrong reasons. Hamas, Isrealis — you’re all sick. It is long overdue that you recognize that. Stop judging those who support or decry you and instead look long and hard into a mirror. Face that horror that you have become.

I hope you, dear reader, understand the point I’m trying to make. I take no sides. I see only death and destruction for absolutely idiotic reasons. I see those that call out one side or the other as weak-minded, sociopathic fools. You want death to “the other guy”, regardless of the cost. Fuck you entirely. And fuck you for calling out those that would try to make sense of senseless killing as somehow traitors against you.

Fuck you both for targeting innocent children. You’re both a disgrace to humanity. You are both a dark chapter in the greater volume of human history. You will both be judged by history writ large for the murder you commit today. Not by one another — but by those who bear witness and weep for the innocent blood spilled over absolutely meaningless violence with no outcome but generations of sorrow and regret.

You will both bear the shame. Make no fucking mistake about it.

Full-Time, Full-Life Job

I heard a story on MPR that was done by a 17-year-old father. He was recounting how his life had changed since the birth of his daughter a year ago, as well as that of his family. His father took off after three of his own sons became fathers around 16 years old. He had a brief telephone interview with his dad, who said that he was always a phone call away and if they felt he wasn’t around enough that it was their own fault for not contacting him. It also briefly touched upon the young mother’s life, who was 19 at the time of the child’s birth. She cried as she told of how her father was never there as she grew up. She spoke of how jealous she was of friends whose fathers picked them up from places and gave them hugs when they needed them.

Overall, the story was good. This kid, who initially had no clue how to be a father, is making steps towards being a real part of his daughter’s life. Good on him. But the real lesson, I feel, needs to be underscored — and it goes for both sexes.

Your job as a parent never ends; It changes, it evolves, but never truly ends. Even when you’ve successfully allowed your child to live for 18 years and get a diploma, you’re not done. If you end up walking away and leaving your children to effectively fend for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice beyond measure. This world can really suck — everyone knows that. But when you have a family you can turn to, it sucks a lot less.

Being a parent is no easier, nor is it any harder when your kid is 8 months or 18 years or any span between. The challenges are just different and you’ve got to learn how to adapt. You need to find a way to look at the world through those young eyes once more, when you were young, terrified, invincible and stupid. Remember that feeling of being utterly confused yet completely convinced of how right you were? Guess who’s going through that now. They need you to be their conscience, their sounding block, their occasional verbal punching bag and the arms that hold them close in understanding when they feel like the world is against them.

But really, is that much harder than waking up every 45 minutes to change a diaper and rock a baby back to sleep?

Is it any harder than trying to clean crayon scribbles all over your brand new painted walls?

Is it any harder than sending them outside to play and trust they don’t pull up your flowerbed but end up tracking mud all over the house?

Is it any harder than wiping their tears away when they’ve fallen and scraped up their elbows really bad?

Is it any harder than trying to get them to just sit down and do their spelling words for the umpteenth time?

Not really. It’s just different.

Even if your folks weren’t there for you, you can be better than them and be there for these young adults. Yes, they can grow up and be “adults” at different times. But that’s why I call it adapting — there is no manual for this.

If there is, it’s a simple one-line instruction: Be there for them.

Mad Libs

I loved Mad Libs when I was a kid. You know, those silly books of paragraphs that encourage others to find nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc, that are to be placed is deliberate spots so that the paragraphs take on ridiculous but mostly humorous resolutions. I think they’re great because most adults I know don’t even know what an adverb is, and these books actually force you to figure it out. All in good fun.

I brought this up because I use these to help illustrate my problem with religion. I know — quite the analogy. But follow me on this. Continue reading Mad Libs

Hello Soldier

To fully appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made, I fear that my only chance at understanding would have been if I had donned the fatigues, picked up a weapon and fought alongside you. Had I come to know the horrors of war through your eyes, only then would truly identify with what you feel. I want to understand. A small part of me needs to understand, but it can never be so.

It would be all too easy for me to get on my podium and speak of the injustices that you suffered upon returning home in the tone of pointed shame and anger of a country and a government that seems to forget you the moment you return home. But we’ve all read the stories in the news by now. I feel it would almost be self serving to recount stories of battles with the VA, the feelings of rage, the emotional isolation, and the struggles of finding a way back to normalcy. Or even to sullenly recount the lives ended too quickly on foreign soils.

Just know that the vast majority of the people you fought for are so grateful to you. Wars in all corners of the world, spanning decades of history, and seemingly endless attitudes towards the very meaning of the act itself that covers the broadest of spectrums. Your sacrifice meant something to us. It meant everything to us. Even if we didn’t understand or agree on the premise of why you left us in the first place, it meant something priceless. You fought for those who, for a myriad of reasons, did not or could not fight for themselves.

Thank you, soldier. Thank you for laying down your life.

Mad Plans?

As I get older, I’m continually amazed at how quickly time passes. I just realized yesterday that I passed the two year anniversary of my divorce. (Divorcinnary?) It really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long as the actual 17-month divorce  process seemed to have taken much longer. But here it is, 2014, and my daughter is graduating high school, and my boys will be juniors next year.

What’s coming down the pipe is apparently momentous; My 40th birthday is less than two months away. I use the term momentous because, by all accounts, it’s all downhill from here. Truth be told, I never really expected to live beyond 40. I’ve been saying that since I was a teenager, much to the objections of certain family members who don’t like envisioning the concept. Not that I blame them, but even since seeing Monty Python’s Meaning of Life as a teenager, my own mortality has been somewhat of dark joke to me. (As a reminder to those who’ve known me for a while: I do expect to have Always Look on the Bright Side of Life played at my funeral. Don’t make me come back and kick your ass.)

But now I’m almost at that imaginary finish line. Forty is staring me down, waiting for me to flinch. I can see why folks get worked about this admittedly arbitrary number. It looks hungry, yet twitchy.

Regardless, I figured that I should make an event out of this. It isn’t often that I go out of my way to aggrandize anything about me — probably never. I figure this is as good of a time as any. So I took the week of my birthday off from work. My plan is to fill every day with something that I wouldn’t regularly do or have otherwise been putting off for some idiotic reason or another. For one, I’m getting a tattoo. This isn’t exactly an odd choice for the four decade mark; my Ex did the very same thing upon hitting the same birthday. But this isn’t so much about originality as it is new and fun experiences for me. (Not that being jabbed repeatedly with a needle should be in any way considered fun, but I digress.)

After that, I’m rather befuddled at what else to do. Call it a lack of original thought. If anyone has any interesting suggestions, I’d be delighted to hear them.