A Family Guy

There are storms we cannot weather

My father, a cancer patient.

Me: You know, while Alison was dying, I was watching Family Guy. And while my father’s dying, I’ll be fencing and then seeing a woman for dinner.
Him: What are you going to do? You can’t be in all the time. You were in it long enough. You’re still in it.

My father’s not doing well at all. So badly that my brother flew in on a one-way ticket from California to see him as we figure out what to do next.

I see a great deal of what was going on with Alison in the end with him, and I can’t bear it. Spent 20 minutes with him the past Thursday and I couldn’t stay any longer. He barely registered that I was there.

Took a walk that was longer than the time I spent with him.

The level of grief I deal with is like staring into the sun; you can’t do it or you’ll go blind. It’s more like you glance at it and turn away quickly because it’s so unbearable.

Here, if I’m in the moment too long, I know I’ll die. Because such a large part of me wants to. To rest. But I can’t, cause I got a little human that needs me.

The main fella that teaches my particular form of fencing invited me to a seminar over the weekend. Good buncha like-minded guys. He and another instructor pulled me aside and said some incredibly kind things to me.

Been there once before; the last time I went, Alison was still alive and my dad was fine.

Was only able to go to the first Friday class when I had to come back.

Gradgirl was there when I returned home.

We ended up walking in the park. I’d not been there since Alison passed.

Me: There’s a song in Les Miserables that goes, “There are storms we cannot weather.” Some days I think I can weather this, most nights, I don’t know. (thinking) You know, in the Bible, there’s a story that goes like this: King David’s son was sick. So he refused to eat, cried, and prayed. But his son died. So he picks himself up, gets dressed, and eats. And his servants ask, “What’s the deal? When he was alive you wept and starved. Now that he’s dead, you’re fine.” And David said, “I’m not fine. I thought maybe God would show me some mercy. But he didn’t. My boy can’t come back to me, but I can go to him. Until then, I have to live.” That’s where I am right now. I know I have to live. I just don’t know how.
Her: I wish I could say something. I don’t know what to say.
Me: What can anyone say? The other line from from that song goes, “I prayed that God would be forgiving.” For my family, he wasn’t. He f___ked us. I had my own family once. But it was only for five days. And now, I lose the only other family I ever had.

Location: another goddamn hospital
Mood: dark
Music: we will live the years together. But there are dreams that cannot be
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Constant Daze

Hoping for an empty mailbox

Empty street in Brooklyn

Gradgirl: I’m worried about you being home alone, drinking like this. Is the other girl free?
Me: Funny you bring her up…

My mailbox was empty today. Usually, most days, there’s some new awfulness for me to deal with.

Invoices for things I’d never wish for anyone to pay, letters of condolences from banks, overdue notices – all death-related s___t.

There’s so much death-related s___t that greets you after you lose someone by way of a ceaseless stream of banal horrors: Letters, email, voicemail.

For those new to my blog, prior to Alison getting sick, I don’t think I ever cursed in over a decade here. And now my days and this blog are an endless stream of profanities. Cause it helps deal with the constant pain.

Speaking of constant pain, that’s what my father’s dealing with.

So, while I got an empty mailbox today, I also had to deal with things for him.

I can’t interact with him too long; can’t handle the cumulative sadness of everything. It bears down on my soul, like the sky on Atlas’s shoulders.

Feels weird complaining about anything as my dad lies somewhere out there, nearing his end.

And yet, I just want a break from this misery. Even if it’s only an empty mailbox and a day devoid of just another helping of s__t by way of electronic device.

Summer Street Fair in the Upper West Side

Although I do get some respite here and there.

Artistgirl dropped out of this story but Daisy and Gradgirl are still around; both are sweetly concerned about my well-being and check in on me more than I woulda expected them to.

In addition to the company, they also provide me with some much needed levity along the way.

Daisy: You gave me “Daisy” as a name?! Why “Daisy?”
Me: Well, you said that New York puts you in a constant daze so…
Her: Oh. My. God. You’re a writer and that’s the best you could come up with for me?
Me: OK, maybe not my best work…
Her: (goes to fridge pulls out two of three remaining beers, putting one into her bag) I’m taking these.
Me: You know, the other girl brings me vodka and you take my beer.
Her: (mouth agape, glares) So rude! You never compare a girl to another girl, Logan!
Me: Man, I’m….
Her: (opens fridge again, takes last beer) Well, you just lost your last beer.
Me: Dammit!

My son chasing after a ball

And I did have a moment of pure joy today, too. My son came back from a week away.

Me: Hey! Gimme a hug, you!
Son: (laughs, hugs me)
Me: God, I’ve missed you so much, kid. (kisses him, sighs) I’ve missed you.

Location: home, with the boy again
Mood: just…bad
Music: It seems a heavy choice to make
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So, I’m not ready for weddings

Especially not her wedding

Rose: So, did you clean up at the wedding?
Me: No, not even close. I *grossly* underestimated how emotional it would be to (a) go to any wedding, let alone (b) the wedding of the woman that came every Wednesday to give Alison food.

My goal has been to cry less than five times a day. Most days, manage to keep it under three. Some days it’s just once. Those’re rare but welcome.

Cause a body gets tired of crying all the goddamn time.

A few months ago, told you about a woman named Annabel that cooked for us every Wednesday for over a year. Well, she just got married this past weekend.

It started pretty well. Hopped on the metro and sat next to a young lady wearing all white. I’ve been wearing all black since the day Alison passed.

Asked her to take a picture with me.

Lady in White, Man in Black

Then I got to the place in pretty good time and pretty good spirits.

But promptly lost it when Annabel saw me and gave me a hug. She looked beautiful, of course.

Reminded me of Alison on our wedding day.

Lemme tell you: I coulda died the day I saw I Alison on our wedding day and woulda died a happy man.

Wedding ceremony in Brooklyn

But I digress. Annabel sees me in the middle of taking pictures at the front of the ceremony and gives me a hug.

So there’s Annabel in her wedding gown – and she’s like the only soul I know there – hugging me in the middle of everything and I lose it.

Like I’m 10 and someone took my security blanket away. Which, I suppose, is kinda what happened.

Anywho, her entire family came over to try and console me.

Her mom: We pray for you.
He: I don’t believe he listens.

Turns out that, my max for not crying was about 30 minutes at a time. And I didn’t think to bring tissues so I’m running to the bathroom every half-hour.

Pretty sure some attendees thought I had food poisoning. (Food was great, BTW – I may have cleaned off an entire tray of steak myself)

After all that, I needed a drink. But it was a dry wedding. So I went with two people I met there for a beer around the way.

Beer at a Biergarten

Later on, another woman, who caught me during cry number six or so, told me she had whiskey in a flask and gave me some of that.

Told the bride and groom that I wished them every good thing, which I did and do.

Me: (to groom) My married life was the happiest time in my life. (choking) I hope it is for you too.

Jon, Annabel, and Logan

Left early and made it home by 11PM.

The next day, a friend of mine – who just got married herself not that long ago and knows about my single life – asked me how it went so I told her, per the convo above.

Rose: You need to meet some old family-money type girls. Like trust fund babies.
Me: Yeah, these looks aren’t gonna last forever – especially in my advanced old age. I’m time limited.
Her: (laughing) Botox.
Me: I’ll have to botox my entire head. 

Wedding arch in daytime in Brooklyn

The truth is that that’s not the entire story of the night.

And Gradgirl stopped by over the weekend but these are other stories for other times, I suppose.

Waitress: Do you want to start with some drinks?
Me: Oh, yes.

Picture of a Polaroid
That’s sweet tea and whiskey, courtesy of a prepared young woman.

 

Location: home, drinking again
Mood: back to being heartbroken
Music: all out of love, I’m so lost without you
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Alison Music: Oh, I’d better learn how to face it

The light has gone out

Friend: Sorry to call. We’re all just worried about you. (pause) Ridiculous question but: How are you?
Me: Drunk and heartbroken. You?
Him: It’s 10AM.
Me: I like to get an early start on things.

Teddy Roosevelt made a few appearances in this blog in the past. The entry I wrote about Xenophen wanting to die with his feet facing home, is one of my favourites and that picture is a statue of Roosevelt.

And I wrote another entry with a quote from him about daring greatly.

Always had an affinity for Teddy, but I’m hoping that it’s not because we will share similar fates.

See, Roosevelt was a New Yorker, like me. He lived walking distance to my pad, not too far from where I went to law school.

He was 25 and in Albany when he heard that his wife Alice gave birth to his daughter. So he rushed home – partly to see his daughter, and partly because his mom was sick.

By the time he got home to 6 West 57th Street, it was too late. His mom had died.

But the sick twist is that his wife died just 11 hours later from a completely unforeseen kidney issue. She was only 22.

Teddy kept a diary where he simply wrote a large black X and a single sentence: The light has gone out of my life.

I remember hearing that story as a kid and it affected me enough that I remembered it. But not so much that I truly appreciated what it must have meant to Teddy.

He couldn’t handle it. He gave his daughter to his sister to raise, put away everything that reminded him of Alice, and moved to North Dakota.

And he never spoke of Alice again and wouldn’t allow those around him to mention her name again. She didn’t even appear in his autobiography.

While that’s a bit much, I understand it.

After seeing my dad, spent the last week putting away as much of her things as possible; donating and tossing what I can. There are pictures and reminders of her everywhere.

They’re like constant papercuts over my shattered self.

Soon, everything will have been put away. And at some point, I’ll have to put Alison away.

Partly because, in the back of my mind, I worry that my other atomic bomb will go off. Mainly because my kid and my dad need me. Won’t be able to function if I don’t and they need me to function.

But, unlike Teddy, I’d never put Alison away completely.

Because, she was the best part of me and I need to give Nate the best of me. So that means keeping her here for him.

I just need a little time.

\’ FOR NATE

Location: in front of some rum
Mood: the same
Music: Now I can see love’s taken her toll on me
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No rest

You’re kidding me, right?

Me: Hi, dad. How’re you feeling?
Him: (tearing up) I’m so, so sorry.

Alison’s mother finally went home the other day. She came here with such joy, expecting to stay only a few days. She left heartbroken almost two years later. I grieve for myself, for Alison, for Nate, for her family, and for her.

I just grieve in general. But I don’t even have time to do that properly.

See, she took Nate with her for a week because I needed to attend to a completely new catastrophe.

It’s about time to tell you about one of the other two atomic bombs in my life: My father has Stage 4 Lung Cancer.

Do you read me and think: You’re kidding me, right?

Cause that’s pretty much how I’ve been going through life the past five years. Wake up and think: You’re kidding me, right?

The kicker’s that he’s never smoked a day in his life. Just like Alison didn’t fit the profile of a glioblastoma. These two tragedies hit us from far outta nowhere.

And there was a third atomic bomb I’ve still not told you about.

In any case, it was him I went to see in the ER last week while Alison lay dying. Saw him again yesterday.

My heart gets no rest.

Couldn’t stay long. Can’t bear being in hospitals anymore. Spent too many goddamn days and nights in them these past two years.

It’s a good thing that my brother’s in town – he came to see my dad and check in on Alison. He was here when she passed.

He’s here right now and staying over most nights, I suspect to keep an eye on me. Don’t blame him. If I were in his shoes, I’d do the same.

Then again, life seems determined to break me. I won’t let it. Can’t let it.

At least my brother provides some much-needed levity from time-to-time.

Mom: For Nate, you need to find help you can trust.
Him: (to me) Well, all that time you spent looking for untrustworthy help was a complete waste.

 

\’

Location: in bed for the first time in over a year-and-a-half
Mood: heartbroken
Music: Hopped on the metro and I make my way home
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Why she was my person

She was perfect for me

This is probably my favorite picture of her.

It was taken the day we got married. That’s what she wore. It perfectly encapsulates what our marriage was all about.

She didn’t wear white. There was no ceremony, we just got hitched in the local courthouse. She’s holding her phone because there was some last-minute thing at work she had to answer. She was always helping others.

We took the money that her parents and my parents gave us for the wedding and invested it in Facebook instead.

Similarly, when we got engaged, I bought her an engagement ring but it wasn’t a diamond. Instead, she told me to put the money I woulda spent on a diamond towards our mortgage.

I never wore my wedding band but she never had a problem with that.

Said it before, love is two people looking at the world the same way.

She was my person and I was hers because we were always more interested in doing stuff that was actually important to us rather than all the stuff that was supposed to be important to us.

What was important to us was each other and each other’s happiness. That was it. It was us versus the world.

Me: We’re team McCarthy-Lo – see, I gave you top billing.
Her: (laughing) You and me against the world.

As an aside, that investment in Facebook and mortgage payment came in handy when everything went to hell.

In any case, we had dinner together almost every night the entire time we were together. I think that’s why she never cared about the wedding band.

Because she knew that, at the end of the day, there was no place I’d rather be and no one I’d rather be with than at the dinner table with her. And I knew the same was true of her.

We didn’t care about any symbols or metaphors about relationships, we only cared about the relationship itself.

That’s the truth and the truth is a powerful thing.

The only thing missing from our idyllic life was the kid. When he came, we thought it was finally our time. But it never was.

At some point, I know that I’ll have dinner every night with only 2/3 of my family once again.

She’ll never have dinner with us again.

The thought of it is almost too much to bear.

Son: (smiles)
Me: (gently) It’s you and me, man. Us versus the world. We gotta take care of each other.
Him: (laughs)

 

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: agony
Music: say why don’t you and I get together? Fly to the moon and straight on to heaven
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I’m here

Our first date, revisited


We went on our first date together almost nine years ago today.

Went on other dates that week, but I don’t remember them. I remember Alison’s in particular because she was late.

She emailed me to tell me she was going to be late because she was working to get a generator for a village in Africa – which wasn’t an excuse I’d ever heard before.

She worked at Helen Keller, you see. She spent almost her entire professional career trying to help other people.

She set herself apart from the beginning.

With her education, she coulda gone anywhere. But instead she worked long hours for little pay trying to help others. She was always flying to Africa or Washington to try and make a difference.

She made such a difference in my life as well.

Just one of a million reasons why the world and I are better because she was in it.

That night…

Her: Hey, I’m here.
Me: (laughing) You were getting a generator?
Her: Yes – I was waiting for the donor to confirm.
Me: Did you get it?
Her: (beaming) Yep!
Me: Great, let’s drink to that.
Her: You’ll drink to anything.
Me: (nodding) This is true.

Last week…

Me: (waking up in the dark) Are you ok?
Her: (weakly opens and closes her right hand)
Me: (takes her right hand and sits beside her) I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand)
Me: I’m here.
Her: (squeezes my hand again)

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: numb
Music: Don’t like reality, it’s way too clear to me
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Fancy meeting you here

It was supposed to be someone else

When I ran into my wife outside years ago and asked if I could take her picture.

Years ago…

Her: (smiling) Hey!
Me: Hey, pretty lady! Fancy meeting you here.

Every once in a while, I’ll see someone that looks a little like Alison walking outside. She was always perfectly put together.

Some of the happiest moments in my entire life was when I bumped into her and she’d smile the most beautiful smile at me.

That that will never happen again is enough to make me cry in a subway station by my lonesome. It’s so goddamn painful.


Alison’s been sleeping all day and night. She’s only awake for a few minutes a day now.

On the other hand, I’ve not been getting any sleep. The unfairness of it all keeps me up.

The thing is that horrifies me is what should horrify you: It wasn’t supposed to be us.

It’s never supposed to be us. It’s always supposed to be someone else.

  • I wanted three kids, she wanted two.
  • I wanted to stay in Manhattan, she wanted to live with green grass and shade.

That was pretty much the extent of our major disagreements.

We were supposed to have time to work those things out, to have a life together. She was supposed to finally be able to have her own family.

She was athletic. She ran almost every day. Played soccer for years. She ate healthfully. Took care of herself. Didn’t smoke. Rarely drank.

It’s never supposed to be us.

It’s always supposed to be someone else.

And now – like that story Button, Button – we’ve become your someone else.

Me: (quietly, by her bed) Hey, pretty lady. Fancy meeting you here.
Her: …
Me: (nodding)

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: still broken
Music: been searching a long time for someone exactly like you
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Mother’s Day 2017

Thank you Mrs. McCarthy


Went to yet another hospital ER room this past weekend – and it wasn’t even for Alison. One of my other two atomic bombs went off again.

This was on top of another indescribable weekend. There’s not much to do but bear it.

I’d like to say that this was Alison’s second Mother’s Day as a mother but it really wasn’t. She barely registered anything.

Bought her this card months ago, hoping to give it to her. Never got a chance to. Doesn’t make it any less true though.

Alison is nothing if not extra-ordinary. Sometimes, though, I wish she was just ordinary. Perhaps then, she’d be able to stay with me.

I’d give anything if she could just stay.

Speaking of extra-ordinary – I haven’t really mentioned it because I try to keep as much of the lives of those around me as private as possible – I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you that, during the past 18 months, Alison’s mother has been here with me almost every single day and night to take care of her and the kid.

She came here with four days worth of clothes right when Alison gave birth so that she could help out for the first few days. And then everything went to hell.

And she just stayed. There is no way that I could have possibly taken care of Alison and Nate without her. And she has been far stronger than I, which humbles me.

Whereas my pain is deep, I cannot imagine the pain of a mother watching his/her child go through what Alison has gone through. Wouldn’t want to. But she has, somehow. Stoically.

Alison’s parents are a major reason I married her.

Cause, when you marry someone, you don’t just marry them, you marry their family. And these are people I’m truly honored to call family.

Despite my losing so much money and being as old and broken as I am, they have never been anything but wonderful to me.

While this may reflect badly on their own parenting skills, I’ll take what I can get.

When Alison and I got married, I promised them that she would be safe. Part of why I’m so heartbroken is because I feel I’ve failed them. Yet they never say anything negative about anything I’ve done, even though I constantly doubt every decision I’ve made.

Alison’s mother asked if I would keep them in Nate’s life in the future, a question I found very strange.

Me: Are you serious? You’re the only family he’s known for the past 18 months.
Her mother: Things change over time.
Me: (shaking head) I want Nate to know his mother. By knowing you two, he’ll know her. That’s what she’d want. That’s what I want.

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: so very broken
Music: I’m fragile. I try not to be
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Alison Music: Her Diamonds

Can’t take no more


Essentially, the entirety of this song lays out what last month has been like.

Can usually make it to the part that goes: “She tried her best and now she can’t win” before I have to stop playing it.

Everything we do now, we do with the goals of (a) providing Alison some comfort and (b) fulfilling what she would want most if she couldn’t make it.

For the latter, it’s to make sure that Nate is going to be ok.

As I mentioned to you in the last entry, between the theft, the fertility treatments, and the past 18 months of expenses, the donations you’ve provided for her will also help me raise him the way she would have wanted.

That’s all we can do now.

She’s been sleeping almost all day these days. So we – her mother and I – sit and wait with her.

\’

Location: at the foot of her bed
Mood: dazed
Music: I sit down and I cry too, but don’t let her see
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