Death’s Knocking

08 Feb

No, this isn’t going to be as morbid as the title might make it out to be. At least I hope not.

I don’t know if it’s a function of getting older or if it’s someting else, but “Death” seems to be trying to get me to notice him a bit more. Funny, because I used to think about him all the time when I was younger. But let me backtrack a bit.

As it’s starting out, 2016 doesn’t appear to be a great year to be a rock star. So far, in just the first month and a couple of days, we’ve lost musical icons like David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner and Maurice White, to recognize the big names. If you’re of my generation, they’ve probably had some personal impact on you – after all, their music formed the tapestry that became our individual “life soundtracks”, so to speak.

Some of their songs are associated with specific memories of mine.  Of places and people. I can’t hear Glenn Frey’s “Smuggler’s Blues” without thinking about my former brother-in-law, who went through a “Miami Vice” period when his wardrobe was based on whatever Don Johnson wore the previous Friday night. I can’t hear “Under Pressure” without thinking about John Cusack’s epiphany in “Grosse Pointe Blank”, and from there thinking about my first date with my last significant other.

Sometimes their music takes me to places I don’t really want to go. The last memory I mentioned used to be a very tough one to deal with, but nowadays the sting of an important relationship ending has toned down a bit … enough where I can watch that movie for the 845th time and enjoy it once again (or mention it in a blog post without feeling overwhelmed with sadness).

But those musicians are just one of the ways that Death has recently knocked on the door and said, “Hello!”

I’m on Facebook a lot. It’s a way to keep in touch with friends and has become a bit more important to me now that I’m so detached from everyone. every now and then, I’ll see people post about losing a parent. There have been a few of those recently. For me, my parents’ deaths meant virtually nothing.

My father died two days after I got a letter in the mail from him. I guess he knew he was going and wanted to get one more dig in beore he left – he told me what an incredible disappointment I had been to him all his life and how it pissed him off that I hadn’t turned out the way he had hoped.

Now here his son had become a CFO of a publicly-held company at one point, followed by a pretty successful 10-year consulting career. He was even aware that I had just landed a job with WebMD a couple of weeks earlier after making a career transition. But because I was fighting depression, had two failed marriages and was trying to figure out where I was going with my life, that’s the way he chose to end things with me. I guess he really wasn’t to blame, though … I felt pretty much the same way about me, too! But it left me angry as hell, to read that letter and then get a call less than 48 hours later that he was gone.  I didn’t even get a chance to tell him to screw off!

When I didn’t fly from San Jose to Boston to attend the funeral, it caused a big rift between my sister and me. That rift resulted in further estrangement from her and my mother and ultimately led to us not talking for the last five years of my mother’s life … I found out she died when I happened to enter her name on the social security death index page (I can’t remember why I was there in the first place) and discovered that she had died about 8 months earlier. I said something out loud like, “Wow, my mother’s dead. Go figure.” A co-worker came running over with concern and I told her, “Don’t sweat it. It’s just not a big deal.” And it wasn’t. In reality, I think I grieved the loss of my parents thirty years or so before their physical deaths. Some of us experience “loss” in different ways, I guess.

(I still haven’t spoken to my sister after nearly 14 years. Sent her an email shortly after that, telling her that I was sorry for my role in our estrangement. That I wasn’t looking for anything … I just wanted her to know that. I received a two word reply, the second word being “you”. I won’t try to contact her again.)

Anyhow, getting back to Facebook: on a couple of occasions I’ve seen people post about losing a parent, or remembrances of their parents who passed years earlier. Depending on who they are and the situation, I’ve told some that they’re lucky to have had such a wonderful relationship, where they actually “miss” them. It means they have a boatload of good memories that they can focus on to help assuage their grief.

I don’t say any of this to get pity. I’ve reconciled that part of me to a large degree. I think I bring it up so that readers might appreciate their own situation a bit more, and so that those of you who still have your folks (and had a good relationship with them) can take heed and perhaps better appreciate the time you have left with them.  But I have to say  my “grieving” process hasn’t completely finished out because I feel somewhat jealous of people who miss their fathers and mothers.

So there’s rock stars and there’s family. Then there are deaths like the one today … when I got on Facebook this morning, the first post I saw was about someone I had met online that had passed the day before. At one point, one of us “friended” the other after communicating through a common friend, Patrick. We’d comment on each other’s posts, but that was pretty much the extent of it. Now I knew Wendy had been sick, but I really didn’t know too much about it. Certainly not that she had stage 4 cancer … you sure couldn’t tell it from the posts she made!  She’d mention treatments every once in a while, but nothing much.  So I was genuinely surprised when I read of her passing.

Wendy was an incredible photographer. I envied her skills. She had an incredible sense of vision; she could see beauty in the most mundane things and was exceptional at capturing that vision in photographs. Her shots of the moon were breathtaking … I think it became something of a focus for her (pun intended), given the number of times she’d post photos of it. There’d be ones she had taken at various places she had visited or at different times of the year and I’m here to tell you that each one was special! I was somewhat in awe of her, given that I have such a hard time taking night shots.

I left a post on her wall, acknowledging that while I didn’t know her in the “real” world, I’d never be able to look at the moon in quite the same way again because of her. What’s odd is that the overwhelming emotion I felt was gratitude that I had been blessed for the short time we knew each other … and that whatever pain she had suffered due to advanced cancer was now behind her. That’s sort of strange for me and I need to think about that a bit more.

So Mr. Death has been showing up quite a bit lately, in subtle ways. As I’ve been writing, I’m wondering if it’s because he’s jealous of the fact that he hasn’t occupied my thought all that much when it comes to my own end!

I’m not thinking “suicide” anymore. The thought hasn’t entered my mind since I drove out of Charleston … except one time when I acknowledged the one year anniversary of when I last planned to end things in November 2014. I didn’t, and this journey that Frank and I are on is pretty much the result of, “If not suicide, then what?”

I can honestly say that I’m glad I didn’t go forward with Plan A.  That’s a big step for me. I have seen a lot of good things on this journey so far, some of it even directed towards me. Hell, a lot of it directed my way!

I’ve had opportunities to do good for others, too, from a guy stranded on the side of a road in Georgia who needed a ride to get gas … to someone in Louisiana who just happened to mention that he couldn’t figure out some Microsoft Excel issue … to a budding guitarist in Colorado that I taught how to play “Blackbird”. I’m doing better with greeting people with a smile and a friendly “hello” instead of being standoffish. Still can’t do big crowds, but maybe someday.

Yep. I’m not thinking about meeting Death myself too much anymore. I think I’ve got quite a bit more to learn about this “life” thing that’s been going on for almost 63 years now. I’ve not been very good at it, but I think I’ll stick around a little while longer and see what happens next!  Besides, Frank’s got me pretty well trained … I don’t want him to have to go through that process again!

By the way – congratulations to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos! I am thrilled he got a second ring. I hope he decides to go out on top and announces his retirement.

Now on to baseball, the best game ever created. New Year’s Day, which for me is the day when Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training, is only 10 days, 10 hours and 42 minutes away. But who’s counting, right?

Trailer update:  your kindness has gotten Frank and me almost to the point of being in new digs.  I’ve also found a used teardrop almost exactly the same as I was wanting to purchase … from the same manufacturer and only one year older.  We’re about $1,200 short, even having saved about $750 by going with the used model.

The timeframe has accelerated, too – I’ll have to make up whatever amount hasn’t been donated by the 10th of February and I accept that.  I’m just exceedingly grateful  … and quite overwhelmed … by the generosity that has been shown to us over the past couple of weeks.  Thank you so very much.  I’ve included a few photos of the used trailer at the bottom of the page, along with a photo of the tent I’d like to get to integrate with the trailer.

Here’s a link to follow if you’re still interested in helping us out –




trailer tent




Posted by on February 8, 2016 in Musings


Tags: , , , , , , ,

2 responses to “Death’s Knocking

  1. jeanie maginness

    February 8, 2016 at 8:34 am

    What an awesome read Jeff. Nice to read first thing on a Monday morning :o)



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