Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How I learned to stop worrying and love grocery shopping

Grocery shopping has long been a male ritual in my family. I think my mom has been grocery shopping three or four times, and only because my dad was recovering from surgery each time. Otherwise, my father does it. He has turned the drudgery of grocery shopping into a sweet science. One cart- that's all he needs, no matter how many groceries he is buying. Many a time I've been regaled with tales of his grocery shopping exploits, usually involving the phrase "If I can fit groceries for a family of six into one cart...."

I've always said that if a man wants to eat, he needs to learn to cook. Well, if a man wants to cook, he has to get the groceries. So I took a trip to Wal-Mart today to pick up some things. These are my reflections on the journey.

-Note to all women and men- when shopping for a pair of pants, take special note as to whether your butt crack is visible whilst bending or crouching. There are certain things we don't need to see. "Pervert!", you cry. "If you can't keep your eyes to yourself, you're the one with the problem!" All very true. If a man has to go through head contortions to take a peek, then he has a problem. If your ass chasm is hanging out for even the smallest child to see, the problem is yours.

-Pajamas out in public? Really?

-They call them bras. They keep your breasts from hanging to your belt buckle. Think about that for next time.

-The rules of the aisle way should be just like the rules of the road. Drive on the right, pass on the left. Do not stop your cart in the middle of the aisle and just stand there. I need to purchase soup too, and in order to do so, I need to see what is available. On a related note, if I am obviously perusing the selections of Chunky and Progresso, do not pull right in front of me and stop. Simply say "excuse me", and I will move out of your way. My life will not end if I can't grab that delicious can of Hearty Tomato in the next 60 seconds. Neither will yours.

-Don't just barrel your way from the end of the aisle into the clearing on your way to the next. Stop, look and listen. That's all I'm saying.

-Pink labels are everywhere. For good cause. Do we even have to ask if people are against breast cancer? Is anyone answering "no" to this survey? But here's some food for thought. Are these companies donating "a portion of" their proceeds from pink-decorated cans out of the goodness of their hearts, or because they are selling more of their products anyway by slapping that pink ribbon on the can so they can be seen to be caring? Why not just make the donation without the pink ribbon? And where are the prostate cancer awareness ribbons? Throw a light blue ribbon on that next can of Pabst Blue Ribbon, heck, "blue ribbon" is in the title!

-There is one aisle I DO NOT DO. It is an aisle that dare not speak its name. I am not going to tell you what it is, but if I was mountain climbing on snow and ice, I might need my crampons. Let he who has ears to hear, let him hear.

-Every grocery shopping excursion ends with the mad checkout hunt. You know you have more than twenty items, but you count anyway to see if you can squeeze through. I have news for you- you aren't the only one who is counting. If you try to slip 35 items past, I can guarantee you more than one person behind you knows how many you have.

-The cashier is a man or a woman simply marking time until they get to go home. They aren't your friend; they aren't your therapist. They don't want to know that pinto beans give you wicked diarrhea; they could care less that you really need those Trojans tonight. And I don't care either. I just want to go home. Remember: you are NOT the only one shopping today.

-In aisle number 6, amidst the Red Lobster gift cards and the Lifesavers, they are selling a product called Soft Lips. The slogan for Soft Lips reads: "Soft Lips... because lips should be soft." Oh boy.

If laughter is the best medicine, then the checkout aisle provides the next cure for cancer in the form of the supermarket tabloid. Let's take a peek at the Pulitzer Prize-winning material on display, shall we?
-"What He Thinks During Sex!" Umm, I think I can answer that for you. We don't. There is only a certain amount of blood in the male body, and not enough to energize the brain and the, umm, other thing at the same time.
-"Foreplay Men Crave! Touch His Secret Erotic Spot (Surprise: It Doesn't Rhyme With Shmenis)" Maybe not. Smart money is on shank, shunk or even schtick.
-"The Crazy, Dirty, Worried and Yes, Sweet Stuff That Goes Through His Mind When You Two Get Naked!"
Crazy- "I wonder if we can do it on the roof this time."
Dirty- "I wonder if we can do it in the mud this time."
Worried- "I wonder why she doesn't want to do it in front of the camera this time."
Sweet- (visions of creative uses of strawberries and whipped cream)
-"The Gosselin Kids To Jon and Kate: Stop Wrecking Our Lives!" The Gosselin viewers to Jon and Kate: Stop wrecking OUR lives!
-"Khloe Kardashian Slams Critics: Stop Calling Me Fat!" Umm... who the hell is this woman?
-And speaking of all things Kardashian, how did these women get famous? What did they do? Did they win an award? Do they run a children's hospital? Or do they just have big boobs? Monty, I go with door number 3.... 

And once my food is paid for, I am on my way out the door. But wait: there's more. Because sandwiched between each set of exit doors is a wall which contains other vendors. A bank. An H&R Block office. Customer Service. And a place where people are getting pedicures. Oh my. Why? When I am hungry and on my way to my car so I can break into the Junior Mints, why, oh why do you want to put your fat, ugly feet on display like that? And I can only peer into the abyss and wonder what those poor workers are thinking. They are probably cursing the events of life that brought them to this point, and praying for the sweet release that only death can bring.

Off to my car I go, visions of the chicken paprikash I will be making for dinner tonight dancing in my head. But wait... there's more. Because inevitably there is at least one stalker waiting for me to pull out of my carefully-obtained parking spot, and if I don't move in three seconds or less, on goes the horn. I have news for you. The parking spot is MINE until I am done with it. Lay on that horn too often and I may just have to go back into the store to get that Snickers bar I forgot about whilst being enthralled with the Cosmopolitan headlines.
And away I go. My Mountain Dew and Beer 'N Brats potato chips await.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The last day of my life (or so it seemed at the time)

Hey, kids, where are you?
Nobody tells you what to do, baby
Hey kids, shake a leg
Maybe you're crazy in the head, baby

Damn those Ativan looked attractive.

They weren't my Ativan. Too many visits to a neurologist who wrote too many prescriptions left my son with a lot of pill bottles he was never going to use. And when Children's Services ripped him from my arms I inherited his stash. One or two Ativan made for a really good night's sleep. Three? Four? Twenty?


I will try not to breathe
I can hold my head still with my hands at my knees
These eyes are the eyes of the old
Shiver in the cold

I will try not to breathe
This decision is mine
I have lived a full life
And these are the eyes that I want you to remember

"It's about my kids, it's about my not being able to find work, it's about people not having faith in me, it's about... well... it's just about not giving a shit anymore."

And the emergency room attendant kept typing away as she tried to distill the desire to end a 50-year-old life into responses on an intake questionnaire. I can't find a reason which can be verbalized, how am I going to be able to communicate it to a woman who just met me today? How does a person get to this point, where the simple joys of life are so out of reach? How is a man supposed to conquer the cloud that threatens to envelop him, a cloud that society won't admit to existing in a man's life? Depression? That's a woman's issue. What the hell do you have to be depressed about? You live that sweet life of privilege, dude. You got no problems.

Or so the voices would have you believe.

It's these little things, they can pull you under
Live your life filled with joy and thunder
Yeah, yeah we were altogether
Lost in our little lives

Funny farm? Don't ever call it a funny farm. It just ain't funny.

The Behavioral Health Unit consists of a certain number of rooms circling a common area where patients come together for meals and group meetings. Other rooms are available for group therapy and late-night television watching. I had a single room, but that wasn't guaranteed; there were single and double rooms, and most of the time they were filled.

So I assumed.

The reality is that some people came out to watch TV, some people came to group therapy, and some people just stayed under the covers, waiting for sleep. That is how I started my stay. I'm on a floor with lesbians hearing voices, rape victims, drug abusers, and people who have committed various and sundry illegal activities, all ostensibly seeking the same thing- peace of mind. Freedom. A sense that no matter what, your life has value. To someone. To yourself at least.

The first day there was a never-ending series of meetings with therapists and nurses, asking me how I was doing. How are you feeling? Are you feeling like you want to hurt yourself? Do you feel like you want to sleep and never wake up?

How am I feeling? I'm on the Behavioral Health Floor, aren't I? How do you think I'm feeling? I feel like I want to disappear. I feel like the past 50 years have been a prelude to a drama that just never seems to hit the stage on time.

Do I feel like I want to hurt myself? Does a cat have four legs?

Do I feel like I want to sleep and never wake up?

Next question, please.

Monty, this seems strange to me
And movies had that movie thing
But nonsense has a welcome ring
And heroes don't come easy

Now nonsense isn't new to me
I know my head, I know my feet
But mischief knocked me in the knees
Said, "Just let go. Just let go."

Day two, and you start to come to the realization that you aren't going home right away. They are going to keep you here until they are convinced that you aren't going to hurt yourself. So now you attempt to leave your room every once in awhile. If you want to get out, you have to play the game. And to win that game, you have to figure out for yourself what exactly there is to live for, and what exactly there was that you wanted to die for. Is life richer for your presence in it? Is life poorer for your absence? Who would miss you? What would you miss?

deserves a quiet night.
I'm not sure all these people understand.
It's not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
replaced by everyday.

Day Three. Between Game 7 and the tiny little bed I slept on, about the size of a washing-machine box with the comfort of concrete, I got about six hours of sleep. I sat in front of my dime-sized pancakes and turkey sausage that will never, ever see the inside of my house (ever), and contemplated my morning nap. I could grab a good hour before morning group therapy, and maybe even after if I skipped art therapy.

I want to sleep. Sleeping allows me time to forget life after the hospital. I wanted to get out, but life "after" would still hold the same challenges, the same roadblocks, and I wasn't sure I was ready to deal with that yet. Really, I wasn't sure if I was ready to deal with that ever, but I was faced with a dilemma- either get ready to leave the hospital and face it, or be prepared to stay awhile and face myself.

If you're on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
Everybody hurts sometimes

So hold on

This is the point where I receive the revelation of the beauty of life, throw off the shackles and exit the hospital a changed man, no longer seeking the exit door. This is the point of the denoument, where all the strings tie together, where I throw my arms to the audience and shout "Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est".

On the fourth day it was decided that I would be going home over the weekend. I had convinced them that I wanted to get better, that I didn't want to kill myself, that I was willing to take the medicinal path to a new outlook. The reality is that I was pretty sure I wanted to get better, that I really didn't want to kill myself, but I couldn't really promise anything, could I? How could I say for certain that I would never again feel depression, that I would never again feel crushed under the weight of life's challenges, that I would never again feel like being dead was a better option than, well, not being dead?

I can't find anyone willing to hire a 50-year-old man who hasn't worked in 10 years because he was caring for severely autistic children who happened to be his own. My children are never coming back home. Our bank account is nearly depleted. So the complexities of life still exist, whether or not I have the energy to say "Look out life, I'm coming for you!" The only thing I can guarantee... is that I will try. For the sake of my children, whom I do want to see again, I will try. For the sake of my wife, whom I love dearly, I will try. I will get up tomorrow morning and try. Some days may be tougher than others. There may be times that I need an emergency call to the psychiatrist. There will likely be times that I cry. But I will keep trying.

Everybody hurts, sometimes.

(all song lyrics are from the Automatic For The People album by R.E.M.)

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Are You There, Daddy? It's Me, Matthew

Daddy? Daddy, it's me, Matthew.

Matthew! I miss you so very much.

Daddy? Why do I have to live here?

(Daddy is silent)

Daddy, did I do something wrong? Do you still love me?

Of course I love you, son. I love you more than my own life. My life is so empty without you and your sister in it. It's just... (here Daddy pauses to wipe away a tear) it's just that things were hard for Mommy and Daddy. You hurt me so much, Matthew, and I couldn't understand why you did it. I was supposed to know the answers, Matthew. That's what Daddy's are for. I tried so hard to figure it out for you, Matthew, because you couldn't tell me.

Daddy, I'm sorry for all the times that I hurt you. I don't know why I did it. And I wish I could have told you how sorry I was. But it was really hard for me too. When I was hurt I couldn't tell you. When I was mad, I couldn't say why. The doctors didn't help me. All that medicine you made me take, it didn't help me. But you did help me, Daddy! I knew that you loved me. You showed me.

And you showed me too, Matthew. I loved taking you to the store, I loved buying you your cookies, I went to your Pinewood Derbies... I didn't care who looked at us, or what they thought of us. You were my son, and your sister was my daughter. End of story. Nothing else mattered to me.


Yes, son?

Why do we have to live here?

(Daddy pauses for a long while)

I tried as hard as I could to be a good Daddy, but I'm just... I failed you, son. I couldn't do it anymore. You and your sister were my life and my joy. I was and still am so proud of both of you. But it was just too hard. I wish I was like other Daddys, Matthew. But I'm not. Parenthood was the only thing I enjoyed in life, but it turned out to be above my pay grade.


Yes, son?

You have to be happy. You have to find joy in something.

How, son? The things I once cared about mean nothing to me now. The things that people deem to be important... they just don't matter, son. To them, maybe. To me, not anymore.

(Daddy is openly weeping now. Matthew hands him a tissue. And another one. And then the whole box.)

You have to find something. Even if the thing you find is the smallest of small. Grab ahold of it, Daddy. Hold on to it as if you were holding on to me or Rebecca. It doesn't matter what it is, and it doesn't matter what other people think of it. Hold on as if your very life depended on it. I don't know why I did the things I did, Daddy. And I don't know why I have to live here. But you have to survive, Daddy. I need you. I need my Daddy!

You are very wise, son.

You taught me well. You're my Daddy.


Monday, July 11, 2016

One Hundred Fifty-Three Days Later

The world turned upside down
Down, down, down...
I am not like I was before
I thought that nothing would change me
I was not listening anymore
Still you continued to affect me
I was not thinking anymore
Although I said I still was
I'd said "I don't want anymore"
Because of bad experience
But now I feel so different 
 Each of these
My babies
Have brought you closer to me
No longer mad like a horse
I'm still wild but not lost
From the thing that I've chosen to be
And it's `cause you've thrilled me
Silenced me
Stilled me
Proved things I never believed
The face on you
The smell of you
Will always be with me
Each of these
My babies
I will carry with me
For myself
I ask no one else will be
Father to these
It's been so lonely without u here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong 
I never said I was tough
That was everyone else
So you're a fool to attack me
For the image that you built yourself
Just sounds more vicious
Than I actually mean
I really am soft
Yes, I'm tender and sweet

Knockin' down everything I tried to build
Buyin' up everything I tried to sell
Changin' my heaven to hell

Sometimes, I wanna crash and burn my little world
Cross me once and I'll forgive you
Cross me twice and it gets hard
Cross me three times and just remember I'm no Christ

I see nothin' but darkness over my bow
I've got nothin' but reef under my frame

I try to come about, I try to move around
This siren keeps callin' my name
Someone shine a light
Shine a light so I can see
Someone shine a light
Someone give me sight
And the world turns upside down....


(Lyric credits to Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sinead O'Connor, and Michael Knott)


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Father's Lament

Suitcase- check. Extra bag of clothes- check. Three boxes of diapers- check.


I can't do this, I thought, as I stuffed Elmo in the suitcase and sat on it to close it again. We have a long day ahead. Can't afford to cry now.

"OK, Matthew, get your coat on." I tossed it to him, he picked it up off the floor since his daddy's aim isn't that great and put it on. I heard a honk outside. Our ride was ready. It was now or never. I took one last selfie and turned towards the door. It was go time. And February 9th would never be the same.

Car rides were never that successful, especially long ones. I was expecting Matthew to take a shot at me at any time. He didn't understand what was going on. For all he knew we were headed to the neurologist again, a ride that never went that smoothly. I buckled him into the van. Off to Toledo.

The Toledo ride went calmly. He hit himself in the head numerous times, but never hard enough to injure himself; it was almost as if the routine was programmed. Head hit to knee, head hit to window, hand to head twice, repeat. He didn't exhibit any acts of aggression to anyone in the car, although to be honest, had he belted certain people I wouldn't have stopped him. Do it, son. Commit acts of aggression that I could only get away with in my dreams.

He was a good boy. My good boy.

When we got to Toledo we had a meeting with accompanying paperwork. Matthew sat next to me, not crying, not getting upset, just holding my hand, trusting me. Don't trust me, son. Not this time. I don't even trust myself on this one. A dad doesn't abandon his son. I changed my mind, Matthew. If you want to come home and beat me up again I don't mind. I'll make it work, Matthew. We can go to Walmart again. I'll buy you your favorite cookies again. Just don't leave me, buddy.

We walked over to the building that would be his new home, and as we stood in his bedroom he took my hand and stretched it towards the door. He looked at me with a look that spoke volumes. Let's go home, Daddy. I'm ready to go now. I want to watch Elmo, Daddy. I want to have my ramen noodles. I want to go home.

I'm sorry, son.

I turned around to walk back to the van.

And when I returned to Elyria I wept bitterly.

We didn't have time to grieve the departure of our 16-year-old son. Our 13-year-old daughter was moving to Canton two days later, and we had to get ready. There would be time for weeping later. Oh Lord would there be time.

The process was similar. There would be a long car ride. And a long meeting, with paperwork. Rebecca didn't sit still for her meeting; instead, she walked around the table, smiling at everyone. She explored the house while we signed her away to the group home.

But there was one experience that remained the same. We showed her the room in which she would be sleeping, and when her back was turned so was ours. We left the house without looking back, got in the car, and cried.

This was our new normal. From two kids with autism, or two autistic kids, or however you want to phrase it, we now had no kids with autism, no autistic kids, no children with a disability which really wasn't a disability but a "different ability", just a different way of viewing life which didn't need a cure. Or so the blogs say.

I didn't care what social media said. I didn't care what the blogs said. They could go home and have their kids with them, bragging about them on Instagram, tweeting those little statements that were funny as hell, although as responsible parents your official response couldn't include laughter. They could celebrate their children's accomplishments, as well they should. A good parent should brag on their children. A good parent should post pictures of high school graduations and athletic events and every possible way in which that child made that parent proud.

I just wouldn't be invited to that party anymore.

"You're still their father", my friends told me. "They are still your children." And that's true... but life still wouldn't be the same anymore.

It has been three months this week since Matthew and Rebecca went to live in group homes. In that time Matthew's behavior has changed so much that he has moved into a less restrictive group home. He doesn't assault anyone. He occasionally hurts himself, but not to the degree that he needs medical attention. Rebecca has lost a lot of weight. She looks beautiful. They both cooperate with those who oversee their care.

This has been the most difficult experience of my life. Being a father was that one thing I looked forward to being, the one thing I thought I would be good at. And I tried, I tried, oh Lord how I did try. I did my best, but I guess my best wasn't good enough. Cause here I am back where I was before.

My daughter should be on the couch right next to me, playing the same games on her Kindle over and over again, taking pictures of her legs, looking straight into my eyes with a smile on her lips and sunshine in her eyes. My son should be pulling on my hand, telling me that whatever I have to type can't compare to the importance of pouring that next round of Kool-Aid.

Instead, I type through blurry eyes, wondering if I could have done something differently. Yeah, probably not.

My depression is very real. The tears I shed are real. The hole in my heart, the hole in my life, the emptiness....

All too real.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Peace I give to you

(this one will win me some friends and lose me some others. So you've been warned.)

To Robin;

You don't know who I am. I only know who you are because you are Twitter followers with one of my friends on Twitter. I wanted to wish you peace. But first, a story.

I am a 49-year-old man. I come from a generation where men were "men", and women were "women". The quotation marks are there for a reason, because in my generation people generally lived according to the stereotypes of what men were and what women were. Sure, there were people who attempted to break out of the box, but there were far more people ready with weapons to shove them back in.

I grew up as a boy, and later a man, who identified with the gender I was born biologically with. I still do. But I struggled with the stereotypes of what a man was supposed to like and not like; how a man was supposed to act and not act. I wasn't a fan of race cars; I didn't care about weapons and who went to war with who; as I grew older I was more comfortable in the company of other women than I ever was with most guys. I still am.

It's a struggle to want to live a certain way yet be expected to act in ways that make people more "comfortable". I have two children, and damn do I love those two children. I would lay down my life for them. I've wanted children from my earliest high school years. Yet in my generation growing up it wasn't "cool" for guys to love children and want a family. A little more accepted now. But not too much or society look upon you as a perv.

It's a struggle emotionally to feel things that a guy isn't supposed to feel. My two children live in group homes now for developmentally disabled individuals. I regularly weep from the depths of my being for those two children. I feel a bond with those two children that most people think only exists between a mother and child. Yet I feel it. Deeply.

I can identify with struggle, but not with the struggles you may be having. But you are expressing yourself. You are living the way you feel inside, and I respect the hell out of that. I respect you, and I wish you peace. Please, live the way you feel. It is going to be hard, and there will be assholes to "set you straight". But ultimately you have to be comfortable with you.

I apologize for those of my generation who don't get it. But you are one up on me in that you have resources, and people around you who understand.

Robin, I wish you peace.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Whatsoever I've feared has
Come to life
Whatsoever I've fought off
Became my life
Just when everyday
Seemed to greet
Me with a smile
Sunspots have faded
And now I'm doing time
Cause I fell on
Black days

---"Fell On Black Days"

We see you laugh
We see you dance
We take that away
Every day

We see you cry
We turn your head
Then we slap your face

We see you try
We see you fail
Some things never change

---"Head Down"

In my shoes
A walking sleep
And my youth
I pray to keep
Heaven send
Hell away
No one sings
Like you anymore

Black hole sun
Won't you come
And wash away the rain?
Black hole sun
Won't you come?
Won't you come?

---"Black Hole Sun"

If this doesn't make you free
It doesn't mean you're tied
If this doesn't take you down
It doesn't mean you're high
If this doesn't make you smile
You don't have to cry
If this isn't making sense
It doesn't make it lies

Alive in the superunknown
First it steals your mind
And then it steals your soul


And that's all I have to say, because there doesn't seem much that can be said that will make any sense, does there? They are making us put our kids in group homes, because while everyone around me marveled at my parenting skills in the face of special needs, it turns out that I have no parenting skills; apparently I'm pretty bad at it. At least, that's what Children's Services say, and they are always right. Right? (Wink, wink)

So Taneesha, Christina, Holly, Elizabeth, and every other joker in the CPS deck of cards, thank you. Thank you for enlightening me as to my parenting failures. Thank you for making me see the light.

(And my thanks to Soundgarden for providing the soundtrack to my 2016 so far.)

Saturday, December 26, 2015


subtitled: "Get a Mammogram, Man!"

In the past year I have gotten to know several breast cancer fighters and survivors quite well. I sent Bible verses and jokes to a friend during every chemo appt. she had. When she had radiation treatments, a group of us on Twitter dubbed ourselves the #pocketfulloffriends and sent her encouraging tweets every day of her treatments. Melissa is cancer free now. Thank God, or Shakespeare, or whoever floats your boat. She fought, and she won.

But the experience of knowing breast cancer fighters made me determined to encourage my wife to not postpone her regular mammogram. Hey, I get it. They aren't comfortable and most women do not care for them. My colonoscopy wasn't a piece of cake either, but it's a different experience. In any event, I requested that my wife get one. It's just routine. You go in, get squished, and then get a letter a week later saying "Yippee! All you have in your breast is breast." Nothing to it.

Have you ever been to the breast center, guys? This is a similar experience to taking your wife to the gynecologist. You know why people are there, they know why they are there, and you go out of your way to not look at anyone lest they assume you are thinking about why they are there. And at the breast center the women aren't even looking at each other. It's routine, they tell you. They don't tell you how to respond if the mammogram shows something going rogue. It's routine, they tell you. Nothing to worry about. Unless there really is something to worry about. That's all you can think about.

I took my wife to lunch after her mammogram. She earned it. Now all we had to do was wait for the "all clear", and I could quit thinking about breasts. Except for certain times of the night.

Five days later we got an envelope in the mail from University Hospital Elyria. I ripped it open.

"Your recent mammography examination showed a finding that requires additional imaging studies for a complete evaluation. Most such findings are benign."

Umm... what the hell?

This was supposed to be routine. Get squished, get the "all clear", move on.

Umm... what the hell?

The two friends I told about this told me not to worry. My own wife told me not to worry. They probably just missed something. It could be that the findings were unclear. That ever-present word "routine" made its presence known.

Sorry, but I'm going to be concerned just a little bit. If I wasn't concerned at all then I should just turn my husband card in. The letter said "Most such findings are benign", which means they saw something there. Benign would be great. I had a benign tumor removed earlier this year, and I would love for my wife to join the club.

"Most such findings are benign." Which means that some such findings could change your life.

[MAMMOGRAM DIAGNOSTIC- LEFT] Need cone down film and ultrasound to complete evaluation of left breast

January 7, 2016, 9:30AM.

To be continued....

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The 49 Club

Birth Date: November 19, 1831
Death Date: September 19, 1881, age 49

It was August 7, 1962 when the seminary professor turned 49, He had three children, a son and two daughters; the daughters still lived at home while the son had joined the military the year before. He had a college degree, a master's degree, a doctorate; his students may have addressed him as "Doctor", but his first grandchild, scheduled to arrive in the fall of 1966, would just call him Grandpa. From the days in which I became aware of the world around me, my Grandpa Mac was always loved, but always old. What did I know, I was a kid at the time.

Birth Date: May 19, 1951
Death Date: April 15, 2001, age 49

My mother turned 49 on April 21, 1990. She had four children, two grandchildren; all four of her children were out of high school, and her oldest son was mere months from graduating Bowling Green State University with a (useless) degree in secondary education, ironically named a B.S. If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you my mother was old. I was 23.

Birth Date: September 24, 1948
Death Date: May 28, 1998, age 49

My father turned 49 on February 7, 1992. He had four children, three grandchildren; his oldest son was working at a pizza restaurant, mere months away from losing his job after an argument with his manager. If you had asked me I would have said yeah, my father was old. I was 25.

Birth Date: February 8, 1958
Death Date: June 15, 2007, age 49

The day was April 6, 2001. I remember it only too well. I came home from my job at a local chocolate factory to be the recipient of a call from my mother to the effect that my beloved friend, confidante, and sister to my father, Evelyn, had suffered two heart attacks. Did I get the email? I hung up with her quickly in order to engage the dial-up modem on my computer, only to realize that Evelyn was always the one who sent the emails.

I received another call not long after, again from my mother. Evelyn was being taken off life-support. She was gone.

I sat on the end of my bed and my wife of two years laid her head on my shoulder. My emotions swirled as a funnel cloud swirls and bears down on the flat Kansas farmland. Evelyn was gone. Damn. But she wasn't that old! I was 34. Evelyn was 49.

And now.... I am 49 years old. When I graduated from college 25 years ago, 49 was still old. Now? People my age have children out of college, they have grandchildren, some of those people my age have even died.

I am the father of two teenagers, 15 and 13, although the parenting experience is a little different for me due to my children's autism. I walk slower, my knees usually hurt like hell, two fingers on my right hand don't even bend all the way until I've been awake for a couple of hours. I have a couple of lumps on my body that I'm afraid to get checked out for fear that the doctor could tell me... "the news". I'm not expecting to die any time soon, but it could happen; the idea has suddenly become much more real. It could happen.

Or maybe not.

After all, I'm only 49.

(Italicized birth and death dates are, in order, President James Garfield, musician Joey Ramone, entertainer Phil Hartman, and wrestler Sherri Martel.)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Anna Renee Duggar and the Freedom of Choice

Pro-Choice, Anti-Choice, freedom of choice… these are the hills that people choose to die on in the culture wars of today. What is being chosen or not chosen usually depends upon the age, gender, beliefs and sexual orientation of the person doing the choosing; and what defines a “good choice” or not depends upon those same characteristics in the people watching the choosing from afar.

Joshua James Duggar sure made some solid choices, didn’t he? He chose to tell people what choices they shouldn’t make, going as far as to pursue the enacting of legislation which would outlaw certain choices. Those who strove to protect the right to make said choices labelled him “anti-choice”, all the while condemning Josh and his wife Anna Renee for the choice they made to have four children. Josh has now exercised his freedom of choice right into the political graveyard, choosing to enjoy the sexual fruits of numerous women not named Anna Renee Duggar, all the while ignoring a beautiful woman choosing to live her life faithful to her marriage vows and raising Mackynzie, Michael, Marcus and Meredith at home.

choice - /CHois/
noun: choice; plural noun: choices
1. an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.

Anna Duggar- you need to run like hell sweetie

If Anna Duggar ever decided to crowdfund a divorce from Josh Duggar, I would consider donating. Seriously girl, GoFundMe yourself a lawyer!

Hey @Anna_Duggar, the Bible says infidelity is grounds for divorce. You have a free ticket to leave Josh even fundies can't deny!

Anyone else think Anna Duggar should flip Josh the bird, throw on some pants & go start her new life already?

I feel like we need to rescue Anna Duggar and set her up a NYC apartment with a caring, African-American, gay man.

God bless, Twitter, huh? Social media knows what choices everyone should make.
But what if Anna Renee Duggar should choose to stay with her cheating, lying perv of a husband, and even… (gasp)… forgive him?

Wrong question.

carolinehilding564: (from Instagram) Anna is absolutely pathetic!! Her husband is a cheating adulterous piece of shit! ! And, now Anna is going to accept part of the blame!!! What the Hell is wrong w her!!! So I guess in her head she's partly to blame, why?? Cuz she wasn't "putting out" enough?? And, that's makes it ok for him to screw around. Anna needs to grow some balls pack it up and move on. But we all know she'd never do she's just goona stick by his lying cheating side....and will ALWAYS wonder if he's still cheating, it will always be right there just in the back of her mind buzzing around like a gnat after rotten fruit.

So what choice should Anna Duggar make?

A) She should leave that lying, cheating SOB. Start your life anew, girl! Go get yours!
B) She should stay faithful to Josh, regardless of how unfaithful he was to her, and express the love Christ has for the lost sheep. After all, Christ did not come to seek the healthy, but the sick; he leaves the 99 sheep to bring the one lost sheep home.

C) She should reflect upon the situation, seek counsel from those she trusts, and when she feels that she has enough information at her disposal, make the choice that feels right for her and leaves her at peace.

If you answered C, you would be correct.

How can I do this? How can I encourage a victim to stay in the situation in which she has suffered? How can I perpetuate the culture that blames women for the failings of their husbands/boyfriends/significant other males in her life?
I’m not doing any such thing, of course. What I am suggesting is that to stay or not to stay is her choice and not anyone else’s. The choice doesn’t belong to Twitter, they can’t even decide what boy band is worthy of our devotion. The choice doesn’t belong to Facebook, they have a hard enough time discerning which memes are true and which are false. The choice doesn’t belong to the Duggar Huggers who hang on every word the family says, trailing them from speaking engagement to speaking engagement as if they were Deadheads, writing fan fiction in which Joseph always marries them, and photoshopping themselves into Duggar family photographs. The choice doesn’t belong to the Duggar haters, who knew from the very beginning that this family was shady as f—k, who KNOW that Josh is still copping a feel when Jana and Jinger are asleep, who KNOW that the family is involved in a cult regardless of whether they can even define the term “cult” or not.

There are certainly choices that are healthier than other choices. If Anna was being physically abused then yeah, the best choice would be to get the hell out. We have no evidence of that; and before you say “Oh, I’ll bet it’s true”, don’t put money down, because I’ll bet you would lose. If I were Anna I would make Josh submit to an HIV test, that would be a wise decision; but the last time I checked, I’m not Anna. My butt is too big.
The choice belongs to Anna. No one is asking you. I wouldn’t stay up by the phone waiting.

Choice. Everyone has it. No one wants the other guy to exercise it without asking them.

Ain’t freedom of choice a marvelous thing?





Sunday, March 08, 2015

Dr. Arthur Stanley MacNair, Jr., M.Div., D.D.

March 13th is the first of a triumvirate of sad death anniversaries for me- the 19th anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, known to some as Dr. Arthur Stanley MacNair, MDiv, DD, known to others as Stan, known to me simply as Grandpa Mac. Never Grandpa MacNair, never Grandpa Stan, just Grandpa Mac.

I have stared at this screen for the past ten minutes, a myriad of thoughts filling my head, none of which seem a good starting place for my thoughts. How do you summarize the life of an 82-year-old man who is simply the one person you most respect out of any you have known in your life? Well... you don't. You can't. There aren't enough books in the world to explain the unexplainable.

There is a story about three blind men who come across an elephant in the forest. One of the men feels the tusk and believes he has found a sword; another feels the legs of the elephant and believes he has come across a tree; the third feels the trunk and proclaims he has discovered a sword. The truth is that to attempt to define someone or something as the sole properties of just one of their parts is to do an injustice to that person or that thing. My Aunt Barb would have one view of her father; my friend Barbara would have another view of her pastor, teacher and mentor; as his grandson I only knew him for 30 of his 82 years, but my view of Grandpa Mac would differ entirely. All of these views, of course, would not be the final definition of the man but would be him all the same.

I am confident that friends of mine reading this would have loved the man, as he would have loved them. Lisa, you would have met a man committed to women's rights, equality, inclusiveness, and justice. Kate and Jason, you would have met a man whose answer to the problems of autism wouldn't have been an answer but an embrace and a willingness to be a support for you, as well as a willingness to shake the trees to find others to continue that support. Skip, my grandfather would have looked at your efforts to deal with bullying, smiled, and encouraged you to never give up. Melissa and Bill, my grandfather would have wept with you, laughed with you, and I would bet he even would have been willing to put on that pink wig for a quick picture. He was that kind of man.

In 1993 my father and I took a Greyhound bus out west to visit my grandparents in California. My grandmother, in typical fashion, had the whole week planned out for us- Alcatraz one day, Chinatown another day, and family dinners all around. Chinatown didn't happen because my father was sick, so I went to Berkeley by myself for a day, and my experiences in encountering different types of people blew my mind.

One night, after my father and grandmother retired for the evening, my grandfather sat in his chair and I sat in one opposite him, and we talked, not grandfather to child, but man to man. We discussed the Reformation, we discussed my frustration with the organization called "church", we discussed... well, a lot of everything. And as we got on the bus to return to real life, he put a hand on my shoulder and said "You came a boy, you're returning a man." Meaning, at least to me, that my relationship with my grandfather, and by extension my grandmother and aunts, was no longer higher and lower but eye to eye.

In 1995 my battles with mental health issues got the better of me and I was admitted to the hospital for three days. That year I wasn't real enthused about writing the annual Christmas thank-you notes; beyond "thank you" I never knew what to write to pad out the prose to make an acceptable letter. So I postponed them, and postponed them, and soon it was the end of January and I knew if I didn't get those thank-you notes out right quick then I would find myself shamed in the annual newsletter next year. So I thanked them for gifts whose identities are long since lost to the sands of time, told them that 1995 included a stay in the hospital for my depression, and sent them off.

At the time my grandfather was sick and didn't talk much. But when my grandparents received my letter Grandpa Mac got on the phone to me, and in a halting voice which still carried a certain authority he told me that he loved me.

And that was the last time I talked to him.

One morning he woke up unable to walk, so he was taken to the hospital, and then to the assisted medical wing of the complex my grandparents were living in. Three weeks later he decided that was it, he had lived a full life but it was time to move on. He refused food, and on March 13th he died.

March 13, 1996. April 6, 2001. May 4, 2004. The whole family dynamic changed after those three dates.

And yet, when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit. Grandpa Mac is gone, yet the ideals he lived for are ideals many still strive for.

Goodbye, Grandpa Mac. I came into this life a boy; hopefully when it is my time I leave a better man.

Thank you.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Miracle (of Matthew MacNair)

I was chasing down the days of fear
Chasing down a dream before it disappeared
I was aching to be somewhere new
Your voice was all I heard

It was April of 1999 when it started, the call. The call to riches and glory. The call to something greater than myself. The call to be the official father of the new millennium.

I'm a numbers guy, so I did the math. I knew that the first baby born in the year 2000 was going to have publicity (and free stuff) thrust upon them, and by golly I wanted a piece of that action. The end of March-beginning of April 1999 was when things would have to begin. So... my wife went off the pill, and, well, just use your imagination. Or maybe not. It could get ugly.

God saw through my materialistic desires, however, and conception did not take place in March. Or April. Maybe May? Because at the beginning of June, when my wife's body behaved as a broken typewriter would, we went to the drugstore. Not having any experience with such things, my wife asked the female employee who asked us how she could help us which one she would buy. After a short discussion about the merits of various devices designed to be, well, you know... we walked out with two of them, went home, and underwent the process.

Plus sign. Yeah, we were pregnant all right.

I was young, not dumb
Just wishing to be blinded
By you, brand new
And we were pilgrims on our way

Laura is a small woman, but man, was this baby getting big. I thought it would be cool if the baby was 10 pounds when it was born. I mean, bragging rights, man! 10-pound baby! Not many people are awarded this honor! My wife did not see things my way, however, and let me know in no uncertain terms that a 10-pound baby was not passing through, well, "there".

On January 31, 2000, the ob-gyn decided that enough was enough, and that this baby was coming out now. My wife was admitted to the hospital, and the next morning was administered a drug designed to speed up the process.

Speed up the process. Yeah. Famous last words. February 1st came and went... the first day.

(By the way, ladies, I tip my hat to you. This process is not designed to spare any shred of dignity. Get in bed- undressed- wear a robe that was designed for someone three sizes smaller than you- have it all hanging out while total strangers come and go and poke and prod, I mean. Good God, man, if guys had to give birth the human race would be dead. I thought my colonoscopy was bad....)

February 2nd came, and still, 3cm, that's it. Finally the doctor said the words both scary and magic- "C-Section". The baby was coming that afternoon. It's getting real up in this hiz-ouse.

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
Heard a song that made some sense out of the world
Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

I was going to miss having the baby be born the old-fashioned way, but coming through a window instead of the door? Cool, man! They had her spread out in what amounted to a crucifix position, a curtain blocking her view, and her belly cut open all the way across with the flap of skin stretched up. I saw her guts, man! You think you know your spouse, but you don't really know her until you see her guts.

And with a little pulling, a miracle occurred. There was a human being in there, a little purple thing bleating like a sheep. The most beautiful sound I ever heard. Matthew Stanley MacNair, the fourth of five generations of MacNair men to have the name Stanley, named after my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and my dad.

Everything I ever lost, now has been returned
In the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard.

We can hear you
We can hear you
We can hear you

That day seems so far away now, but the anniversary of that day approaches for the 15th time on February 2nd, a Monday this year, so he'll get the big celebration at school. Not that it matters that much. He doesn't understand birthdays, he doesn't understand celebrations such as these. Autism has robbed us of so many things parents get to enjoy.

But fatherhood has given me oh, so much.

He likely doesn't even understand what I mean when I say "I love you, son."

I say it anyway. I love you, son. Happy Birthday. And many, many more.

I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred
I get so many things I don’t deserve
All the stolen voices will someday be returned
The most beautiful sound I’d ever heard

Your voices will be heard
Your voices will be heard

all song lyrics from The Miracle (of Joey Ramone) by U2

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Blogger: Stanley MacNair

My grandfather was a minister with the American Baptist denomination from 1939 until his death in 1996. One of his practices in his various pastorates was to write a column for the church's bulletin, which he titled "Monday Morning Minister's Musings". After his death my uncle, Mark Leibenow, put together a compilation of the "4 M's", giving one per calendar day, and distributed copies to the family.

Except for a few. This particular one wasn't in the book; Uncle Mark typed it out and gave it to me. It didn't have a title, he just named it "Sean" because, well, it mentioned me. It wasn't about me, it was more about the unity of the family and the unity of God's family, the oneness amidst many unique parts.

And away we go.

In the eight generations that Sean's ancestors (that's what he calls us all!) have lived in this country he can lay claim to 256 grand-parents. Blood lines and genes of 250 people are a part of his makeup. His features are half MacNair, half Finch, but along what pathway came each of those attributes? Why is heinterested in spelling and his brother all wrapped up in dinosaurs? Rhinos I could understand, but why the allosaurus? Something of all that mob of progenitors continues in my grandchildren, and I have no way of knowing who contributed what. But I do know my grandson. He is Sean Lawrence and there is not another like him anywhere. He has, as do you and l, a sense of self as utterly differentiated from any other self.

I, the mob, but I the person. I, eating the bread of communion last week in concert with all of you because we are a part of all whom we have met, of all who contributed to our selves. I, taking the cup alone last week because it is in my solitariness that I meet my Maker, who is my Judge and my Lover. To be the one I know myself to be is to exist as an integer, a whole number, a one. Regardless of what lines meet and cross in me from the ancestors, they do cross in me and I stand by myself.

But I can never escape, nor do I want to, the sense of the presence of all the others, and the workings of the processes of living. I am accompanied along my road by those I never knew and those I did. From my mother who is dead, and from my father who still lives, I am never wholly apart. Absent, they are present. And not these alone. Though I walk through the valley of the dark shadow, fear does not conquer me, because Another walks by my side. There is, as the two mountaineers said after a harrowing climb, a third man on the rope.

A. Stanley MacNair
 est. late 1970s 

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Dear Sophie

Dear Sophie;

This is your friend Sean here. Not sure how much you get on the Internet, or if you get on at all; but sometimes you can meet some really nice people on the Internet. I met some really nice people that are good friends, ladies like Kate and Lisa and Skip and your mom.

Even though I've never met you, we have some things in common. You live in Ohio, and I live in Ohio. Sad things make me cry, and sad things make you cry. It's OK to cry, Sophie. Sometimes when I just don't know the words to tell people how I feel inside, I cry. Sometimes when I'm afraid, I cry. When there are a lot of bad things happening at once, and it feels like it is just too much, I cry.

I've had people tell me that boys don't cry, but you know what? I don't believe that. I don't know if your mom and dad talk to you about God, or if you even understand about God, but let me tell you something. I believe God made us to feel things on the inside. Sometimes we feel really happy, and we laugh, or we just jump up and down and smile. Sometimes we get afraid, or we get sad, and we have this feeling inside like we don't want to do anything. And we cry. But it doesn't last; pretty soon I listen to the Beatles or you watch Frozen and we are happy again. God made us this way. We are allowed to feel things inside.

I'm your friend, and I don't want your mom or your dad or you to be sad. But sometimes things happen that make us really sad, or really mad, and we don't know why they happen. They just happen. And it really stinks, Sophie, it really does. But when those times happen, Sophie, here's what you should try to do. Go ahead and cry. But when you're done, go up to your mom and dad and tell them that you love them, and give them hugs, and then give them more hugs. And they will tell you that they love you, and they will give you hugs, and then they'll give you more hugs.

Because let me tell you, Sophie, you might not believe it, but moms and dads get scared too. And moms and dads cry. But there is always something about smiles and hugs from their children that can help them get up and keep on going until the next time.

You can do this, Sophie, I know you can.

I hope someday I can come to where you live and meet you. Save a hug for me and I'll save one for you. Until then, Sophie, remember: you got this.

Peace and love,
your friend,

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bang your head, mental health will drive you mad

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

Yesterday was Christmas. We were awoken at 7AM to the sound of my daughter crying and my son headbanging in his room. My wife and I put the battleplan into action- I tended to my son, she tended to my daughter. I wiped his butt and changed his diaper. While my daughter was now laughing and kissing my wife, my son kicked me and threw himself down on the floor, screaming and crying.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

8AM rolls around, and my son has plastered psoriasis cream all over his head. Bath time. I start up the water and tell him to get into the tub. He bangs his head on the wall and kicks me. Then hits me. Then kicks me again. I finally get him into the tub and wash the cream from his hair.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

While parents were watching their kids laugh with glee at the arrival of the Lego set they desperately pleaded with Paul Blart, Mall Santa for, I watched my son start to move towards his bedroom, stop abruptly, and then move just as quickly towards my wife in order to rain blows upon her head. I was reclining in the easy chair at the time, so in the time it took me to get my fat ass out of that chair my wife took ten shots to the head. He was sent to his room. 9:30AM.

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

After my son administered my fourth beating of the day, I crashed into the recliner and wept hard. Is this life? Is this all that I have to look forward to? When will it be our turn to see our children enjoy Christmas morning, with the smiles and hugs that accompany such an event for families all over the country? Will it ever be our turn? Will this ever end? Or will the end only come when my son is sent to a group home, or I just die?


Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

"You need to get some help. You can't go on like this."

Well no shit, Sherlock. I'm not at the end of my rope, I'm hanging from a frayed loose end that is hanging from the end of the rope. I sat in my chair, and wept hard. What can I do? I can't go on like this... but I have to keep going on. I have no choice. There are waiting lists for group homes, and they barely move. To get an emergency exemption isn't as easy as saying "here, look at my bruises". There are forms, and committees, and assessments, and excuses. A group home isn't happening any time soon.

How about therapy? I am ahead of you on that one. I have been seeing a therapist for 9 years. She recently moved on, so I have been assigned to another therapist in the same organization. He already cancelled and rescheduled on me once. Not real excited about switching. Really not excited about seeing a guy.

"Sexist much?" Yeah, it sure looks that way. I will confess to you one thing that will either make me look sexist, or sensitive, or just a guy on the make. As a rule I prefer the company of women to men. I don't like talking to guys. Women tend to have more conversations of substance than men. The majority of my Twitter friends are women, women whom I refer to as my "Twitter sisters" because I feel that strongly about the relationships we have established. Canadian Mom, Tel Aviv Mom, Boston Mom, Washington Mom, Ciarra the UK Gamer, LL Cool Reverend whose state I can never remember, and others whose names I won't give but whose presence is just as strong. You read my last blog entry, did you not? (If you didn't, go do so.) When Eminem told me she had breast cancer it crushed me harder than it probably should have. But what can I say? These people mean a lot to me.

They probably mean more to me than they should, I realize that. They all have lives that include husbands and children with various special needs. (Except for one, who is autistic herself). When I have a crisis I can't expect anyone to drop whatever she or he is doing and dig me out of my latest hole. I need to take my medicine, and keep my psychiatrist appointments, and talk to my wife, and pray, and listen to AC/DC loudly.... And being a man, I usually can expect to hear "buck up and be a man!" from someone.

And all of these things I do. I pray... although usually much more for others than myself. I take my medicine, even when it seems to be doing no damn good. I even take extra when I think I should. Yeah, not cool. I keep the psychiatry appointments... which can only take place once a month, otherwise insurance won't cover them. I listen to AC/DC... oh hell yeah I listen to AC/DC, Back In Black is a rock classic. I talk to my wife...

Let's unpack that last one a little, shall we? I will try not to be crass, I will respect the privacy of our relationship, but I will be honest. You go into marriage with certain expectations and dare I say fantasies, and often those expectations are derailed. By the third year and/or the first kid there are no more long conversations about the meaning of love and life over wine and a nighttime fire; there is no hot romance three times a week, or once a week, or even once a month for that matter; special needs children relegate the weekly date night to the "Gee, remember when...?" file of our brains. I love my wife and I am devoted to her. We've been married for 16 years. But let's be honest, our relationship often takes the form of two people who can barely keep their heads above the water. Who can make time for... well, you know,.. when fighting for survival takes all the time and energy you have?

Someone please message me tomorrow to make sure I didn't do something stupid.

And so, Twitter sisters (who will likely be the only ones who read this), this is where my life is now. In order to survive somehow I have to admit honestly that I am no fatherhood superhero, I am often not a "great guy", I am not a traditional strong male, I hate that shit. I am a mess who is currently fighting for survival. This is where the life of an autism father has left me- proud of my children, fiercely protective of my children, loving my children with an incredible love that I never thought I was capable of... but dying on the vine at the same time.

So every once in awhile, could someone just message me to make sure I'm not doing something stupid? I promise, I won't become a life-draining leech. I also promise that when the tough time comes I will have your back.