Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Five Days Later


I guess it’s kind of tough to stop thinking about Willie. Strange noises around the house keep reminding me of his little distinctions. Amanda was brushing Emme’s hair last night in such a precise tempo that it exactly matched the speed at which he meandered down the vinyl hallway, tapping all along with his grotesque nails. I still have his collar, and when I picked it up from the floor yesterday because Roofus had chewed it in half, I sniffed it and his distinct bouquet made me well up ever so slightly.

His loss hit me harder than I thought it would, and I thought it would hit me hard. He was such an integral part of life, and for so long he was my wingdog. He had seen my worst and best, and he kept me company when I was alone. It’s been five days since I said goodbye, and I still feel grief. It is subsiding, and I know it will pass, but it might take a little time to adjust.

 

The day before I took him in for his final nap, I visited the McLeod County jail, where I had the opportunity to bring the message of A.A. to people in an all too familiar situation. There were three of us who showed up to share our experience, but sadly, only one inmate signed up for the meeting. I guess it isn’t sad, I was just hoping for a bigger turnout. It only takes two people to have an official meeting, so I suppose we had twice the requirement, which is twice what we have on occasion in my meeting in town. And we spent the hour talking, listening, and sharing our understanding of each other, and discovering the bond we all have, and imparting hope on somebody who may not know freedom for a long time.

I shared that I felt free for the first time in years while incarcerated. I told of how I started going to meetings because of the air conditioning, and I kept hearing things that made sense, and people kept telling stories that I lived, and nobody was shocked by the things I said. People understood me, and wanted to help me. And somehow, I helped them.

It was the first time I walked in and out of a jail without handcuffs. Nobody frisked me, and nobody checked my pockets before I went in or after I left. Nobody did a cavity search even though I offered money for one, and I didn’t have to go through a metal detector. It seems that they have some sort of trust for people in the program.

 

That’s about all I have for this one. I’ll be fine. I’ve been sad before, I’ll be sad again. I know that the only inevitability in life is death, and even though sometimes we know it’s coming, it’s still a shock to the system.

Go Twins.

 

Friday, September 27, 2019

At 4:37 P.M.


Five funerals and a wedding; that about sums up 2019. If it weren’t for the single greatest day of my life, I would say this year has been tragic at the least. Today we lost another friend.

When heard a knock at my door about fifteen years ago, I had no idea who could be there as I had few friends in the area I had just moved to. I descended the steps and opened the door to a coworker holding a little puppy. He was adorable. He had a pink little nose, bright-white fur that was sparsely blotched with grey and black, especially on his head which was highlighted by a white stripe that split his face in two. He couldn’t have weighed five pounds and he was full of energy.

Now, I had no intention of being a dog owner at that point, but my coworker insisted that I at least try, so I did. And I decided to name him Willie. I bought food, dishes, toys, treats, leashes, made vet appointments, and even had his testicles removed by “laser” beam when the time came. He was a little fucker of a dog that shit everywhere, chewed my furniture, ate part of a wall, and whined incessantly. But nevertheless, I grew fond of that little guy. He was my boy.

Through the years Willie saw me evolve from sober, to drunk, to meth-head, to drunk, to sober again. He has been by my side through everything but my stint in prison, and he survived a car accident with me that even I shouldn’t have. He was a real trooper.

Three days ago I noticed some redness in one of his eyes, and I thought I should keep my eyes on it. I also noticed that he was having more trouble walking lately, and that he seemed to be lethargic more often than usual. Two days ago, I had to pick him up from his bed, and help him outside to go potty. His eye was swollen, and he didn’t look good generally. Yesterday, he wouldn’t move at all without assistance. I had to carry him outside, and when he was done peeing, he simply fell over. He wouldn’t eat, and his head was wobbly. His eye was the least of my concerns at this point, but it still looked pretty bad. I decided to take him to see the vet.

After a thorough exam, the veterinarian told me that the eye was the least concerning. What was terminal were the two large tumors growing on his upper hind legs that had cut off blood supply, and likely caused irreversible nerve damage. She said that if he lived a month, it would be a blessing, and he would be in pain, and completely out of it.

Today I made the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. I called and made an appointment to end his suffering. I left work early to spend some time with him, and Amanda went in late so we could both bring him in together. I’ve never had to do anything so incredibly sad. I sat on the floor next to him on a little doggie blanket for twenty minutes before the vet walked into the room, shook our hands, and went to it. I lost it. Over and over I lost it. I cried and cried, and then the vet said he couldn’t find a vein so he went to get a general anesthetic, which he administered.

Slowly, he lost his movements. I realized then that I had witnessed his last meal, his last step, and he had felt his last scratch behind the ears. He had seen his last sight, heard his last sound. I held my hand on his body, waiting for the vet to come back to give him the final shot. I tried to breathe with him. I told him I loved him so many times. I cried. I said I was sorry. I kissed him on his head.

The vet came back in and found his vein and slowly injected the pink death. He took a stethoscope out of a drawer, and listened for a heartbeat. There was none. He was gone forever. It was 4:37pm.

We stayed next to him for several minutes and I said I loved him and I would miss him forever. We wrapped him up in his little doggie blanket—only his cute little face poked out, and we left him for the last time.

I’ve never been hit so hard. I just can’t stop. I want to pet him again. I want him to go get the ball. I want to hear his whine and smell his stinky breath. But it’s over now. He’s gone but certainly not forgotten.

Many of you, who are my friends, have known Willie for years. He was loved by so many, and I know he is better off now. He was my buddy. He was my friend. For over fifteen years, he was a good boy. I will never forget him and the love he showed us all.

Willie in his late teens.
Willie at the wedding.

 
Willie soaking up the summer sun on our honeymoon.


His last picture, and the last time he stood up. I had to prop him up. He isn't happy.



I know I made the right decision, but it still hurt. 

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Goats. It's Always Goats.


It’s been tough finding time to write. My days off seem to be filled with responsible-parent stuff, and both of the girls are in full-swing in their respective grades in school. Ella has dance and Girl Scouts, and Emme is into mischief and shenanigans. Our home is rarely quiet, and I’ve grown to love the moments when the noise is almost overbearing. Currently they are both laughing and screaming and splashing around in the tub, which leaves me little peace to write in silence. But no matter, I love the noise because it was gone for a few days.

Ella was sick last week. And I mean an entire week. She had a headache, some nausea, and she wouldn’t eat. Most concerning to me was that she didn’t laugh at my hilarious jokes. On Tuesday I made the call to keep her at home and bring her into urgent care whey punched holes in her veins and took all of the other samples you might want a doctor to look through if you wanted to find bacteria or poison or whatever makes a child sick. We waited and waited, and each test proved nothing to me. The nurses and doctors told me of elevated something levels and high something counts but it was all gibberish to me. It took a few days to find E. coli in her urine which still—as far as we know—might not be the end of it, but it’s all we have for now.

Today is day nine of her sickness but she is all but back to normal. She’s laughing, yelling, fighting with her sister, and eating. I think we’re in the clear, but I’d rather hear it from a doctor tomorrow morning which we likely will.

Last Saturday we took a trip to a cool apple orchard in the middle of nowhere where they had chickens, kittens, geese, goats, cows, and apples. All of these things must be touched by children, and there’s a possibility something transferred from butt to stomach even with hand sanitizer available to use everywhere.
I recall ten years ago, helping a friend move hay bales, I saw a goat standing alone in a field. Naturally, I went over to pet it, and I recoiled when I realized it was covered in its own feces. Truly, I never thought of washing my hands after that and simply wiped my hands off on my tattered jeans. The next two weeks I was as close to death as I had ever been until that point. I never threw up after the first day, but for seven straight days, I couldn’t fart, and I could only poop in tablespoon-amount increments, sometimes thirty times a day. I had severe cramping, and couldn’t sleep. I ate one pack of Ramen every day, and I spaced it out throughout the day. I rapidly lost weight, and I couldn’t drink my usual 24-pack of beer. It was a mess, but by the time I went to the hospital and was diagnosed, it had run its course and I was on the mend, and right back to drinking canned beer and whisky from a bottle.

Being sick isn’t fun, and getting poked with needles doesn’t make anything more fun. I remember being upset that they took my blood and didn’t find anything out from it. That’s my blood. They took four tubes of Ella’s blood and I don’t know if it helped anything, and I had to hold her while the needle was in. It seemed like an eternity to me, I can’t imagine how she felt. But she’s a trooper, she survived. She’s alive. Back to school tomorrow. Back to being a kid.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

And Just Like That


Everything is back to square one. After three months of planning, spending, spending, and spending, the wedding of our dreams came true, and I am now a married man. Me: a married man. Just four years ago, almost to the day, I left prison with little hope of becoming anything. With a lot of hard work, some serious dedication, and a lot of help from a lot of people, I somehow landed in a normal life.

I talk a lot in meetings about what comes to people in recovery when they manage to stay sober and work the steps. I realize every time I speak, that all of these things are common for most people, and sometimes I wonder if I have the right to be proud of my accomplishments so late in life. If I had stayed the traditional course in life, my house could have been paid off by now. I would have a significant chunk in savings and retirement. And my children could be nearing college age. But I diverted from the norm and experimented—for 15 years—with a bad habit or twelve, and here I am. Do I regret my past? No, nor do I want to forget it, for it is my history that makes me valuable to others. I have had a unique learning experience, and I can use my story to divert others from my path, and I use my work in sobriety to better function around those in my life who have not had similar experiences.

Working the steps doesn’t just create value for the sober community; it guides me through life with everybody. Love and tolerance of others is my code, it says so on page 84 of the Big Book, in-between the promises of steps nine and ten. It means I have to be kind, loving, patient—in any combination—to all those I encounter no matter where I am. It doesn’t mean I am, it just means I try to be. It also means I can’t be upset when other people aren’t kind and tolerant of me. That part kind of sucks sometimes, but nevertheless I keep at it. I see value—or die trying—in everybody. I apologize when I’m wrong. And I try really hard not to complain when things don’t go my way.


There are a lot of things to do to make marriage official. Amanda has to change her name. She decided on Periwinkle Poops Tutu-Maertz. She has to get a new driver’s license, but to do that, she has to get a new Social Security card. To do that, we had to mail a copy of our marriage license to the Social Security office in Minneapolis, and then wait. It still hasn’t come. We are having her name added to the deed to the house. I am insuring all of us medically, and I’ve changed my beneficiaries (thanks Word for correcting my butchery of that word) to my ladies, so that if I die soon, they stand to make several thousand dollars. Maybe like two. Amanda is officially giving me parental authority over the girls, which is surprisingly easy when one parent has no parenting time. I did ask him for his consent, but we actually don’t need it. And there is a litany of other forms, documents, and delegations that we are figuring out after our wedding. It’s a lot, but I’m good with this stuff so we will be okay.

Life keeps moving at an incredible speed. I can’t imagine having to figure out how to include alcohol or drugs in my day, so I won’t. I keep going to meetings to keep my head straight. I’ll miss one or two once in a while, but I can always tell when it’s been too long, and I’m sure my family can tell, too. 

Here is just one of so many beautiful shots taken on our wedding day. If you were there, I hope you had a memorable day. And if you weren’t, I love and tolerate you anyhow.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Honeymoon 3




 

 
This is my wife. This picture is also a symbol of her new freedom. Amanda, much like me, has a dark past. Our former lives are similar although on opposite ends of alcoholism. Many of my readers know that we met at work, but she reached out to me as a result of finding this blog, and wanting to know about the disease. She was hurt, and had been for years.

We have been through a lot together, but by herself, she has climbed mountains and become an individual capable of anything. She is free to make her own choices, be her own person, and trust unequivocally. She knows I am here when she needs me, and I know she is there for me. We are free.

This picture is worth 565 words. It tells a story of liberation, love, and triumph. It shows transformation, courage, and hope for women who have overcome (or still need to) fear of harm. This picture is the epitome of courage. Watch out world, here she comes.

Image result for binomial theorem

This is the binomial theorem. I have not a clue what it means (although I am positive the answer is 42), but as I was searching the tool bar for those three little asterisks that separate ideas in a chapter (or post), I came across several equations and thought it was nice. It’s nice.

On the fourth day of our familymoon, the weather was perfect. Amanda, her mother, and the girls all spent hours playing in the water. I stayed a fair distance away from the lake as many of you may know I don’t care for water having nearly drowned in the Cayman Islands fifteen years ago. I don’t even like taking baths. In public pools I will go in, but even when I go under just briefly I get extreme anxiety and I gasp for air and want to leave immediately. Enough about that.

Yesterday, we grilled pork chops, sipped exquisite coffee, the ladies indulged in leftover wine from the wedding, and we had another campfire.  I’ve really enjoyed my mornings writing with coffee on the screened-in porch. It’s a little chilly, and I only brought clothing with short sleeves and legs, but I’m a man of the woods now and cold don’t bother me none.

Today is our last full day at the cabin, already. Time moves too quickly for my taste, but it seems to have slowed ever so slightly out here in the country. Two nights ago, Amanda and I went out by ourselves to dinner to a quaint little cabin-restaurant overlooking Webb Lake. We sat out on the patio and watched the sun go down, basking in silence and photons. When she and I first started meeting, we would sit at a coffee shop and talk, or not talk. Even in the beginning, we could just sit and enjoy the moment. We could talk for hours, or just watch the people, but it was never awkward or uncomfortable. We enjoyed each other’s company, and still do. Now I get to spend the rest of my life with the one I love and have grown to understand and appreciate. She’s unique, funny, intelligent, and caring. She’s a little crazy, unbelievably annoying, and perfect. She’s my life. We are the light.

It was you all along, my love.  Be you. I love you forever.   

 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Honeymoon 2


There’s something stunning about nothing. I mean the nothing that happens when you get up before light; before the birds first chirp, the frogs croak, and the children scream. I recall just six years ago this was a regular occurrence.

It was different then. I would stay up all night doing meth, and every morning just before the sun came up, nature would warn me that soon enough, reality would be alive again. It was a devastating feeling, especially when I actually held a job and I knew at some point I would have to put down the pipe and take a shower. Toward the end of my run, it didn’t matter much because I didn’t work and rarely showered and I was headed into prison.

Today is different. Just in writing these two paragraphs, the world around me has begun to sing its song. Aside from a woodpecker close by, it is all rather soothing, and I find comfort in its harmony. Perhaps to them, the rhythmic stroking of my keyboard is music to their ears. Perhaps.

It’s time to stop writing for the day. My grandmother, who has joined us with some other family members, is awake and looking for coffee. So, I will spend some time with her and write more tomorrow.

 

It’s tomorrow, which is today. The sun is at my back and it’s early morning here in the Wisconsin Northwoods. The idea of having a family honeymoon has worked out. The girls are with us, and family from both sides of the new tribe is here to spend our vacation with us. Yesterday I toured the lake a couple times in my uncle’s duck boat—very likely not used for hunting—exploring the new cabins and watching the loons swim peacefully and slowly, occasionally calling for their mate, or maybe just screaming because they are crazy. This area has been developed extensively since my uncle and I first started coming up here some 30 years ago.

There is a radio on a table just by the sliding glass door that leads to the screened-in porch. I recall my late childhood when he and I would listen to twins games while sitting around the fire and eagerly awaiting the early morning when we would cast our lines into the tranquil waters of Pear Lake. Back then, this was just a patch of woods and we slept in tents. Everything changes, but the memories remain. Amanda and I have decided many times in these few short days that we need property; a little getaway from the stressors of real life. We can’t afford to do anything about that at this point in our lives, but it’s nice to have dreams. It’s also a possibility. In my sobriety, I seem to have been able to everything I’ve set out to do with a few exceptions. Nothing about my criminal past can hinder my ability to seek out and purchase a plot of land. Maybe in a few years when we have our own business up and running, we can add on another piece to our lives. I just love the idea of getting away for a bit.

 

Today we (probably not me) will all relax in the lake, floating endlessly, guided only by the wind. Tonight we will assemble and roast—probably not in that order—s’mores around the campfire. Tomorrow we will do the same, or maybe not. It’s nice not to be bound by the thought of having to go to work tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, etc.

Signing off for now,

V

Friday, August 23, 2019

Honeymoon 1


It’s just me and the loons. Or is it the loons and I? Am I a loon? At 6am all is quiet in the middle of the woods, and I’m at peace with the world. My wife is sleeping soundly in our honeymoon suite, and the girls are upstairs in the loft, building up their daily charge. For the second year, we are here in northern Wisconsin at my aunt and uncle’s cabin overlooking beautiful Pear Lake. Nothing is better than this.

To my left is a cup of the best coffee I’ve ever had. It wasn’t the brewing process this time; normally I only give that praise for pour-over. This came from a simple drip machine, but on our way up we stopped at a place called Fresh Start Coffee Roasters in Webster, Wisconsin, where they roast your coffee for you wait, one pound at a time. I chose Tanzania pea berry at a light roast and wish I had time to wait around for more of all they had.

The roasting took about twenty minutes so we all wandered over to a little shop that peddled wares of a local nature, and kids trinkets and whatnot. Right before we went inside, Emme grabbed my attention and asked if she could go to her friend’s house which at this point was well over two hours away. I said yes, and she was excited until she became distracted inside the store. We all found some treasures and made our way back just in time for the roasting to be done. Now, I’m a coffee snob but only in the fact that I like good coffee and like it a certain way, I don’t know how to describe to you the notes or flavors, I just know that this is one phenomenal cup of coffee. But enough about that.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to write about the wedding. We were there, it was beautiful. People kept telling us to soak it up and be in the moment, and that’s what I did. If you were there, you know how special it was, and I thank you for sharing your time and lives with us, and I hope you have fond memories as well.

Amanda and I aren’t gamblers. However, on our way up north, we saw a casino coming up and thought we should give it a try since I had to pee anyhow. I allotted us each a crisp $10 bill, and we went in one at a time. I have had luck the three other times I have gambled in a similar setting, so I went to the penny slot machines and put in the bill. I left the casino about five minutes later up a solid $12.50. When Amanda came back, she was up $40. All-in-all it was a solid 20 minute bathroom break.

 

The loons are calling, the squirrels are playing, and the water is still. It’s a little chilly this morning on the porch, but it’s worth it to be surrounded by tranquility. We had a lovely fire last night during which two eagles passed us overhead a few times. They were just above the treetops—maybe forty feet up—and I could hear the wind passing through their wings and some low grumbling noises they were making. They were playing, and I wondered if maybe they were on their honeymoon, too. We are completely exhausted. We were in bed by 10pm, which is still pretty late for me, but I’ve been up late and up early for several days now and it’s been quite taxing.

So, now it’s time to relax. I’ll share some pictures of the week, and maybe a video of our dance. But for now, I’m going off the grid.

 

Five Days Later

I guess it’s kind of tough to stop thinking about Willie. Strange noises around the house keep reminding me of his little distinctions. ...