Posts tagged “death

There should be music.

“We never touch but at points.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson –

The ghosts are here this evening. They want to talk. So who am I to tell them to go and be silent.

Today I thought much about my father and what he might think of how this all turned out. I thought about a girl I loved and where she might be now. How she smiled and the way we made the world disappear while standing in a supermarket. I thought of my little brother, how he was always there when we were kids and how I figured he always would be. My whole world is sort of spinning off and away, finding it’s trajectory far from me.

I wonder if this happens to everyone as they get older? Is what makes a man go silent and still?

But mostly I remember a few years back. Maybe more than I care to count. About this time of year. When I was “of no fixed address” and I was in a bad, bad way. I had pneumonia and an infection in my sinuses and throat. My stomach was bleeding and I was constantly vomiting. And no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find a place to lay down and let the sickness take it’s course, kill or cure. And at the time I couldn’t have given a damn either way. I wound up being taken to the hospital by a Salvation Army officer. But the hospital gave me medication and turned me out. They didn’t want the likes of me hanging around. And I certainly wasn’t going to take an offer of shelter from the Sally Ann because I had drugs to do and death to taunt.

But the truth is I was exhausted. When I say this I mean truly exhausted. Not like I am at the end of a week at work or the way you might be after a tough day. I was shutting down and I had nothing in reserve. In no heroic way I would have gladly accepted dying.

And to make matters worse, my lying, conning and ripping and running had isolated me from everyone I knew. I was one sorry cowboy. My mule had taken off for the horizon and left me behind.

Somehow I discovered that if you kept your mouth shut, didn’t stick out too much and maybe talked to the priest or holy type that approached you in a polite and respectful way you could sit in most Catholic churches for as long as you’d like. Even take naps. Occasionally a priest would come out and even take pity on me and let come back into the kitchen and get some tea and a rest in a lounge.

Well one night I was sitting in the sanctuary of one of the older downtown churches and I noticed people coming in a praying and lighting candles after dropping coins in a little box affixed to the side of the candle racks. I knew a bit about faith and religious customs and figured they were asking for blessings, grace and indulgences.

In my weak and ill state I searched my pocket and found some change and decided I’d go over and light a candle too. Maybe I’d feel better about being there. And if I was lighting a candle anyway, why not add in a prayer and make it official.

I got up dropped in my change and then prayed and I said what amounts to this “Hey God, listen I figure you got no use for the likes of me. In fact I probably am nothing more than a lesson for others to learn from. One of those cautionary tales. Look out or you’ll wind up like that loser. Well anyhow I got nothing going for me. And I doubt I ever will. But maybe if you could just give me a break and get me out of this, maybe if you could forgive me for all the bad I’ve done. Well maybe that’d be okay. Just you know get me out of this deep dark place I’m in. Amen Goodbye and Farewell.”

I’d like to say the next day it happened. I found some glorious response. And all got better and better, day after day.

But the truth is it didn’t. It got worse. I nearly died. I got more lost. I ended up fucking up in ways that I couldn’t even imagine.

There was no miracle.

Eventually though I did get better. I did get out. I did find a way. And guess what?

I blew it again.

And again.


And again.

Somehow I would pull up and out each time only to fall back again. To make a mess, to hurt someone, to lose it all again. Leaving a trail of good intentions and bad decisions long behind me.

And so I got to where I sort of expect no matter how good it gets, it’ll all fall down once again. If you kick a dog every time you feed him he’ll come to expect it. He’ll take the kick just to eat. But he’ll go mean and squirrely and probably never be the type of dog anyone wants for a pet.

Call me that dog. I ain’t saying it is anyone’s fault but mine. I am my worst enemy.

But I think I am reaching a point where I wonder if maybe I blew it. Maybe I should have never lit that candle, never said that prayer. Or the thousand others after where I said I am sorry and asked for a little help. Maybe I messed up my exit plan. Why the hell would any God or man want to keep giving me the legs to stand up when he knows they’ll just go weak eventually?

I have lost more than I ever had. But I have had more than I ever deserved.

I have seen love like a great big sun in a world where many go through a whole life alone and lonely. Man I have awoken to the soft eyes of a woman beside me, I could see in them that I was perfect.

I have been places and done things only the strongest and bravest can go. And come back to tell the stories. I have contraband and mythology. I have a brilliant vocabulary to tell the stories with.

And my God! I have been there to hear the first cry of my little girl. To hold her with shaking hands and sob with absolute gratitude and joy. When so many never get that chance or never appreciate it.

There is beauty and gifts in the world. I have seen and received that most of the moving things around me never see because they’re just shallow ponds and no great currents there run. I have been struck weak by the beauty of art. Made small by the magnificence of nature and made wise by the words of those before me.

But here it is man. Here’s the small print.

I am here alone again. I am not even sure if this time I chose it or it was thrust upon me. And I am living a life I don’t want any part of anymore.

I’m looking for an out. To take back my prayer.

And I think maybe this is all some crazy self-indulgent crap. So I will just shut up now. I said my piece. Silence is better used.

Be well.

Ghosts of Christmas past and the gifts they give.

– Ghost of Christmas past… –

I have not been writing here as much as I’d like. I have been working a lot and am up early and really tired by the time I get home. The joys of being a blue-collar semi-skilled worker. I’m glad to have found a job and do it to the best of my ability. But I sure am not overly stimulated in it.

And this time of year really is tough for me too. I feel the falling apart of my relationships and my past most acutely at Christmas time. And I really want to make it special for my child but it seems like it’s only making due. And I get sad that I can’t be there for the whole thing or her mom cannot either.

But it was also my Dad’s favorite time of year was Christmas. He went all out and genuinely enjoyed himself and got such a kick from gift giving and being together. So I associate much of this time of year with him. This is only the third since he died. The first one was so soon after the death that we were all in shock and sort of numb and it hadn’t really sunk in. The second one I spent away from everyone. So this one is sort of the first one where I am present and feeling. It’s hard. I know my Dad would have been so happy with his grandkids and seeing them get big and he would have got them all kinds of silly gifts and probably had more fun than them playing with them. The loss just feels so much bigger right now.

I am feeling pretty okay with my life right now. I just feel lonesome and I am missing people who aren’t here.

Hope your life is doing you well right now and giving you all the joy Christmas can.

Be well. Be love.

10 things, pieces if you may

“Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir I have tried in my way to be free.”
– Leonard Cohen –

I figure by now if you have been reading my blog you know some of me. But there are other parts worth knowing about. So here’s a list of stuff worth knowing about me.

1. When I was 19 I tried to form a good old-fashioned Blue Eyed Soul band. Don’t know what Blue Eyed Soul is…Think The Rascals, Righteous Brothers, The Box Tops, The Faces or very early Rod Stewart. White boys with gritty voices singing black boys music. I would have sung, I have a great Blue Eyed Soul voice. I couldn’t find enough enthusiastic musicians who really knew the music. So it never got off the ground.

2. I’ve got a great voice for honky-tonk music too.

3. When I was a kid I’d sit up till the small hours of the night after everyone had passed out and listen to music and to my dad telling me all about his life and who he was. While he was too drunk and too high. Sure it was a crazy thing but it was a father son thing. And I can say I know my dad better than anyone else on this planet.

4. I saw my first dead body at about 10 years old and it never gets easier. And in the case of my father it was one of the hardest things ever. It made a mess of me.

5. I was once a pallbearer for a little baby who was stillborn. That was the hardest.

6.On a lighter note at various times in my life I have been a strict follower of Coronation Street. As a matter of fact it was through Corrie that I met my daughter’s mother.

7. That reminds me. I am a serial monogamist. I have been in long-term monogamous relationships since I was about 16. I just find that security and knowing someone far more interesting and attractive than chasing a new skirt every week.

8. I have been engaged three times, married once and divorced.

9. In my own way I love every one of my exes still. And I never really understood killing that love because it’s no longer right there in front of me. Love when it’s true and real lives forever.

10. I am kind of shy and grumpy in person. Until I am comfortable with you and then I can talk your ears sore. Sometimes I think my stream of consciousness babbling makes people think I am weird or burnt out. But the truth is that I have an anxiety disorder (PTSD) and I am trying to connect my  wires and rhythms to what you are. If this is strange I am sorry, I am socially awkward and probably a little intense and I can only imagine that you are sort of fascinated or afraid of me. I just want to make a connection. I am curmudgeonly and wounded. So I tend to be hard to understand. But mostly I like you. I’m harmless. I just don’t operate with people well.

Hey this was an exercise in self-aggrandizement if ever there was…My little light, gonna let it shine.

Be well, be love

O Captain! my Captain!




O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;  
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;  
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,  
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:  
    But O heart! heart! heart!         
      O the bleeding drops of red,  
        Where on the deck my Captain lies,  
          Fallen cold and dead.  
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;  
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;   
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;  
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;  
    Here Captain! dear father!  
      This arm beneath your head;  
        It is some dream that on the deck,   
          You’ve fallen cold and dead.  
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;  
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;  
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;  
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;   
    Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!  
      But I, with mournful tread,  
        Walk the deck my Captain lies,  
          Fallen cold and dead.  

– Walt Whitman –

This world is very much not a good place for me right now.


I have nothing much else to say.



A prayer for a troubled soul.


Like a bird on the wire,
Like a drunk in a midnight choir,
I have tried in my way to be free.
– Leonard Cohen –

I am feeling like I am standing on the platform as a train pulls from the station. And I see these faces and scenes in the windows. As the train builds momentum the windows blur one into another and I only catch the suggestion of a face or an image. All of them memories, hopes and beliefs. And then the caboose finally clears the station and there on the back platform stands someone I know or knew, the amalgamation of people and loves and hurts and beauty. And it’s waving goodbye. I find myself weeping alone as the big steel wheels pull it farther and farther away. Hoarsely whispering “Come back, come back, I am not ready to say goodbye”.

Is it not such a stretch to see that the train has been used in deep spiritual metaphors. Old Negro spirituals and workmen’s chants and backwoods picker’s hymns. The power of hearing about a train that carry’s salvation or carries away the devil is enhanced by the sounds of the steady hum of the boilers and the thud of the steel on steel. Metaphorically it’s a powerful image.

Of course writing about trains and God and imagery I see in my mind is simply an avoidance. See today or possibly very early into tomorrow is the second anniversary of my father’s death by overdose. And I am one of those that is just so affected by echos and ghosts that the reminder is making me feel all that confusion again. Sadness, grief and anger. But mostly I feel lost. Just like I am a little boy again, searching a crowd of people for his face, for his voice, for his presence. Just so I know I am safe, that I have not been left behind. I look and scan this great big crowd and I never see him and I never hear “Jeffery, come on boy. Over here. You’re okay, stay close.” And I just feel so much like I am standing alone and I am not ready to be alone.

I never expected this. I never planned for it. And now it is my life. A single man, with a small child, a family that is fractured and for all intent and purpose gone. Lonely, sad and shell-shocked. I am a strange amalgamation of clockwork gears, animal skin, rusty motors and greasy servos, man fingers, child eyes and all the screws, string and staples it takes to keep it together. I build altars to the distractions and fancies of a sorrowed mind and I cradle the icons of a cluttered heart. And in me somewhere a kernel of faith and a tiny electrical spark of truth jumps from terminal to terminal, raw wires smoldering and smoking with a plastic and ozone smell. I creak and squeak as I move. Long rusted parts that need to be tended constantly. There I am…I am.

Can you hear me? Does anyone really know? I know one person did, but two years ago he died laying on the floor of a shitty two bedroom apartment in a state of drug induced numbness. All his love, his anger and his life of rejection, fear and hate all come tumbling down all over the room around him. And he left it all right there for his lost little boy to come in and pick it all up and carry on the burden, some sad legacy.

I just hope he has peace, please God if you can hear, if you are there. Give my father the peace he could never find here. If you can do that, that would be enough. Enough for me.

Anybody want a drink before the war?



I know I probably shouldn’t and I know it’s probably not good for me. And I am prone to fear and anxiety but I am sitting here trying to not have the significance of this coming week come crashing down on me and I am letting it. Not on purpose of course, but I can’t avoid it or maybe I don’t know how.

It was 2 years ago next week that my father died. And the weather, the sun and the way the season of autumn all combine to put me back in those sad, terrible days.

Only this time around it feels sharper, more acute and striking. Because I am alone now. Back then I was still with my daughter’s mother (who was wonderful and strong for me and I’ll never be able to properly show my gratitude) and I was still in the midst of my addiction. So I could numb it down. Pack more insulation on the machine so to speak.

Death takes so much from us. But I think the thing it does most is it irrevocably changes us. Rewires us and alters our chemistry. I have been through death before and they were less immediate and less the stark hammer my father’s death was. After all he died of a drug over-dose. And even they sort of turned my dials and tuned me different. But my father, he went and tore down the whole thing and left me to pick up each piece and put it back together. No instructions, no blue prints and no experience. So I am this little lone man standing before the great machine and I am trying fit one piece into the next to see if they fit. To see if I can get the machine to run again. And it is so lonely and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to help. I need to take each rusty, greasy piece in my hands and feel them out, roll them around and stick them back on the chassis.

I do what I can I guess. Some days I feel more than others. And I am willing to give more. And oh my Lord! I am healing, I give this to my faith and the slow gentle love of some friends  and my church. I was so broken down after my Dad died I ended up having a breakdown and being hospitalized for my own good about two weeks after.

God has been good enough to give me the space and time to come together slowly and honestly. I am never going to be one that grieves in a sudden burst and never again or at least never again visibly. My face and heart are so out in the open. There is nothing I can do to hide. And were I to act alright, if I told you it’s okay I’d be lying. And you’d know. Even those who only ever read my words. You’d know.

So today I get my little girl for a bunch of days and I try to stay here in the world of the living. And I experience her vitality and her exuberance. And I try to keep the ghosts at bay. And I try not to lose too much ground in the war.

Telling truth and waiting naked for an echo.

“I hate graveyards and old pawn shops, for they always bring me tears, I can’t forgive the way they robbed me of my childhood souvenirs.”
-John Prine-

Parenthood was something I never really had sussed out till I was a parent. I mean as a wise old 20 something I had it expected and almost wanted. I had all my rules and lines set in store. There were things my parents done and things your parents were doing that I wasn’t going to and the things I was going to do because it just seemed like the right thing to do. So many unfounded ideas and thoughts but brother let me tell you I was sure of them. And don’t you argue me when I am sure. Because man can I speak in the definitive and I can throw in some arcane and vague fact, figure and trivia. I got me a shovel and I know how to dig down into that great big pile of bullshit I call my intellect.

But then along come August 2007, and a nurse handed me this tiny little girl we called Ruby. And boy oh boy! All that empty wisdom flew out the window. Here was the most beautiful thing I ever saw and the scariest. I remember looking at my hands as I held her and thought ‘What am I going to do? I still feel like a kid myself.’ And it was then that it all sank in. I guess I am going to do the best I can. I will do as I can whenever I could. And I am going to try to always make the best choice. I knew I already loved her, loved her like I never have loved anything before. I knew that from the moment I knew of her existence swimming around in her mommies’ tummy. That can ever be questioned. And it’s the only part of this whole crazy ride that I am absolutely sure. But all the other stuff. Man I had no clue…I was flying blind.

And as life does I got spun hard. Eleven weeks later my father died of a drug overdose and it broke it all apart. Or at least started a big crack in the foundation and the rest of the house started to come crumbling down. I was devastated. Because it seemed like things were just starting. My old man was a grandpa, something he always wanted to be. And he was already showing that he would do just fine. The last time he saw Ruby he leaned over as I held her in my arms and kissed her and said “I love you baby, I’ll see you again real soon” and I could see that the angry young man who raised me and filled me with fear, the breaking machine that drove me half insane was gone and here was just another man, an old man who’d lived too hard and was softened by it. He’d seen enough miles to know it’s a long trip to go and it wasn’t worth the pain and rage anymore. And I was so hopeful. That maybe I wouldn’t have to do this father thing all by myself and I could call him and he’d always be there and he’d laugh at the good and talk me through the hard. I could see him fussing over a pretty new dress that she was wearing and teaching her silly songs. He would take her in his lap and tickle her. It was as it should be. At least that’s what I thought.

Life being the puzzle I never could solve threw that all across time and told me it had other plans. Grandpa died, I went a little crazy and lost my way for a while. A couple hospital stays and some poor choices for myself took me out. And recovering took some time. In fact it still is taking time. My mother made some choices for herself, my brother too. And suddenly all I had known was gone. I had no real family. You ever want to know how people feel about you and how they stack up? Throw death into the mix. People just scattered. No one called, no one seemed to care and only were there when I came to them and then it felt mostly like they were responding to some obligation that remained unspoken. I don’t blame them. Who wants a hurting and grieving machine firing on two bad pistons sitting in their living room. And I felt more alone…Even more then before.

My relationship with my daughter’s mother went to hell. I became insane, possessive and panicked. I got hit by a bad case of the “hostage taker’s blues”, that’s where you take someone emotionally hostage and become so demanding and determined that it crushes the life from the relationship. And before it’s done you wonder why there’s love at all anymore. Making you even more blue than before. Ultimately it ended. I can say I take responsibility for my part in that. I do completely, I feel guilt and I feel shame and I feel hurt. I regret the hurt I caused and the shame I gave. I don’t blame her for running. Man I would maybe have run too. Maybe even sooner than she did. And so where once there was love there is now distance and contention. Grief is a bitch and it gets in everything.

I have been trying to pull an even keel and get myself together. I have searched out God. Because I know there are questions in my heart only he can answer. I got sober. See I was just like my Dad. An addict with a heart and a mind to want better. But I made a lot of really bad moves in the process. Things I may never atone for and things I owe so much in apology for. To everyone I know. And to me. I live with things I cannot forget and I fight to forgive, mostly I done to myself. I have become a Daddy on alternating weekends and agreed upon days between. I do the best I can. Just like any parent does. Or any good parent. Because more than anything else in this life, that is the definition of being a good parent. Did you do the best you could with what you had? Because I swear here and now, there is no perfect score in this dance.

But man what I wouldn’t give to turn back the clock. To when it was all still there in front of me. Back to when I took it all for granted and made myself a deserving fool. Just to sit down again and see something other than ghosts, hurt and goodbyes staring back at me. When lonely was just something I felt for an hour at a time. Back to another life I sometimes can’t remember anymore.

My father died two years ago this month. And I am scared to go outside because sometimes the weather feels just like it did the day I laid him to rest. The day it all began to come apart. Good or bad, change for the better or not…It started there. And now I live this everyday.

And I miss my old man.