Tuesday, March 31, 2015

April Fool for Love

Tandem bike ride (underrated)

You're 30 and find yourself in the unexpected position of falling in love w/ a 22 year old...a 22 year old that happens to live 800+ miles away in a foreign land known as Texas.

The love stick hit you both so hard that you decide to pick up your life and move south to be w/ this 'kid' fresh out of college, the college you work(ed) at.

You settle into the heat and humidity as best you can.  But, admittedly, you both know Texas doesn't fit as well for you as it does others.  But, as long as you're together, you shine.

Shine.  You know what else shines?  That small, but mighty symbol of commitment that glimmers on the ring finger of your left hand.

But, no matter how often you look, your finger remains empty.

If this guy doesn't commit soon, what are we doing here?  What am I doing here?

This is very much a nutshell of the position Jilly found herself in when she uprooted her life and moved it to be w/ me in Houston.

In short, Jill was eager (not pushy) to move into marriage.

Did I mention I was 22?

Slow down, old lady.  We'll get there.  We've got time.  I uttered variations of this sentiment to Jilly over the course of her first year and a half in Houston.

Ultimately (as you know), I stepped up.

Hot air balloon ride (overrated)

A The ring design already hovering in my mind, I dug into research books, spoke w/ various jewelers,  and ultimately made my decision.

The entire process was a highly charged experience.  I guess you can attempt to strip the emotion away from such a life-altering decision; but, no matter how you slice it, it's a freaking milestone.

So, I had the ring.

Next up, permission.

I called Jill's dad.  Always great to speak w/, he simply, but thoughtfully asked that I treat her well.  If I promise to do that, I had his blessing.  I reiterated my devotion to his daughter and he was in.

Ring.  Check.

Permission.  Check.


I wrote a song.  ~5 verses accompanied by a very simple chord progression on the guitar.  (I know Jill kept the original draft of the song; but I haven't stumbled upon it in awhile.)

A bold move given I don't can't sing and my guitar skills are mediocre at best.

I just needed the right space to (loosely) perform it for her.

At that time, I was working with multiple music venues in town.  And b/c of these connections and my strong lean toward live music, I often yanked Jill w/ me to attend shows.  More often than not Jilly didn't know the act.  I'd summarize/spin them in such a way that Jill would will herself to go w/ me.  Sometimes she liked what she heard/saw.  Other Most times she tolerated it.

The general manager at a theatre downtown agreed to help me get this proposal off the ground.  I just needed to convince Jill to go to one more show (for now).

Bob Dylan.

I needed to be proactive in my efforts.  "It's Bob.  Say what you will about his voice - and I know you will - but he's a cultural icon.  Just check the box and join me for this one," I nearly begged.

"Alright, but maybe we don't have stay the whole time..?"  Jill attempted to negotiate.


'Little (bit of) Italy' Valentine's Day 2014

That Tuesday evening rolled in and my anxiety was hitting a high note.  But, I couldn't show it.  (I thought I was going to implode...or maybe just pee a little.)

We parked in the theatre's loading dock and entered the backstage door.

"It's quiet.  Where's Bob?" Jill whispered as we walked thru side stage.  She could see a strip of the stage thru the curtains, pointing out the acoustic guitar and candlelit front edge of the stage.

I pulled back the side stage curtain for Jill to enter the main music hall.

Except for a single table w/ a single chair under a spotlight, the room was empty.  Empty and silent.

Jill quickly turned and looked at me, clearly confused.

"Oh look, there's your seat," I pushed out of my mouth as nonchalant as I could.

I walked Jill to her seat.  "I'll be right back."

I went back behind the side stage curtain where I proceeded to run a slideshow of our time together on the video screens flanking the main stage.  This was my opening act while I had a couple minutes to throw on the suit I had planted in the dressing room earlier that day.

The slideshow concluded and I worked my wobbly legs up onto the stage.

I remember looking at Jill as I crossed the stage to my guitar.  She was clearly in the moment.  Beaming.  Utterly beside herself w/ joy.  It was everything I wanted for her.

Then I 'sang.'

I think the important part to note is that I got thru it (maybe slightly rushed b/c of nerves).

No matter my performance level, my audience of one clearly approved.

I jumped down off the front of the stage (careful not to tip any lit votives) and floated to my girlfriend.  I don't recall exactly what I said in that moment.  It was intentionally unscripted.

What I can say w/ great certainty and pride is that Jill's response gifted me 10 more years by her side.

That was Tuesday, April 1, 2003.  April Fool's Day.  I got her.

I got her.

All love,

J, J, & r

Friday, March 27, 2015

Unmentionables Mentioned

In most cases, the way I approach these posts is very simple.  A memory strikes me and I either put myself in front of the computer at that moment.  Or, I try to hold onto that memory and attempt to rehash it when time permits.  It's all a stream of consciousness.  Nothing contrived before I open the blank page.

So, I find it funny that in a thrilling Friday night of (sub mediocre) laundry folding, I feel compelled to talk (type) underwear.

Mine.  Not Jill's.  (Sorry, guys.)

First, a brief, but honest history...

As is the case w/ most purchases in my life - big (vehicles) and small (pens) - I tend not to replace a product until said product ceases to deliver what it was originally intended to do.

If the car runs, she will be mine until she runs no more...(unless my wife tells me we have to replace her w/ a larger vehicle to house our rapidly growing toddler-baby).

If the pen writes, an upgrade will not occur until the ink runs dry.

This resolute tenacity is a trait I hold w/ great pride...w/ a modicum of embarrassment...

B/c this mindset also holds true when it comes to my underwear.

As a result, it can be said (w/ some hesitancy) that I own and continue to wear boxers that were purchased as I entered my freshman year of college.

(Take a moment.  Do the math.)

Yes, Jill was aware.  And she often tried to do something about it.

We'd be out for a run in Houston and she'd see me reaching inside my shorts.  The visual could not have been good for anyone out in the neighborhood that day.  "Tommy, take your sister and go inside to play.  Now."

We're moving at a decent clip and I'm nearly elbow deep in my shorts trying to pull up boxers that have finally failed me (mid run).  Well, to be specific, the elastic failed me.  That's always the first to go.

We'd come home and Jill would point to the trash can, "That underwear goes in here after you shower.  If I find them in the laundry, I'm throwing them out."  And she would.  And she did.

But, despite Jill's best efforts, I hung onto a good lot of them as we made our way back to STL.  Sure, they were disintegrating before my eyes.  But, as long as the elastic was elastic'ing and the material was covering my good parts, the boxers were serving their original purpose.  Carry on.

On occasion we'd be out shopping and Jill would try to convince me to pick up some new underwear.
"I don't need any.  I have them on.  They fit.  I'm good."

"I can see through them," she'd retort, sometimes correctly.

"That's why I wear pants in public," I'd toss back proudly.

She'd roll her eyes and we'd roll on, me dodging one more bullet.

At some point, though, my stash was beginning to run low and a purchase was imminent.  We both knew it.  But, Jill was the first to act on it.

She comes home from Target one day, beaming.  "I picked something up for you," she smiled.

(What a fucking smile.  No other like it on this planet.)

Jill pulls the pack out of the bag and puts it in my hand - Hanes Premium boxer briefs.

"They're premium," she exclaims w/ glee.

I didn't want to tell her that 'Hanes Premium' is likely an oxymoron.  Instead, I simply told her I didn't need them.  She 'politely' reminded me that I did.

I proceeded to see what premium feels like around my junk.  Upon first use, I liked.  Jill approved.

Then we washed them.  And I no liked anymore.

A gentle junk hug is fine.  But, this post wash wear felt more like one of those uncomfortably close, firm hugs you get from an acquaintance (that lasts too long)...on your goods.

Jill recognized my...discomfort.  "Just take 'em off and pitch 'em."

"I'm not throwing them away.  They're serving their purpose.  I just need to work them in a bit."

"Jas, if they're uncomfortable, we'll get you something else," Jilly responded, making complete sense to a normal person.

"Nah, I don't want them to go to waste. I'll wear 'em in."

Jill just stared at me.  If interpreted correctly, a stare mixed w/ amazement, bewilderment, and love.

She had herself a winner.

So, when I come across these 'premium' unmentionables (years after the 'sell by' date) in the laundry this evening, I'm moved to mention the story behind them.

Your turn.

All love,

J, J, & r

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Off Balance

Rory's getting lippy.  It's not malicious; but it is disrespectful nonetheless.  And lately it's occurring w/ more frequency.  There's almost an automation to it.

(When she's old enough to read these posts, she's going to love that I'm sharing this.  Let's be honest, this is probably the tip of the emotional iceberg.)

Historically this tone, this attitude was pointed at Mommy.  Their feuds were almost like performance art...performance art no one in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to.  I was granted a front row seat most days...whether I wanted to see the show or not.

Well, with a new target in Rory's crosshairs, we're both finding the dynamic...I'll say, different.

I tend to bypass the round after round of sparring.  And instead, I absorb the hits until I erupt.

To be clear, an eruption from me is simply - but clearly - raising my voice to ensure that I am heard, heard well, and understood.  It's probably just under a yell...certainly nowhere near a scream.

This doesn't happen often.  But, as Rory pointed out to me tonight, it has happened w/ greater frequency over the last week or so...which coincidentally coincides w/ her increased lippy'ness.

So, before bed tonight, we talked it out.

Ultimately, I believe we came to an understanding about where we're at (Rude'ville) and what needs to be done to get (back) to where we want to be (Respect Town).

The reality is that we're fine.  We're better than fine.  Our bond is solid.  Unbreakable.

It's just a growing pains' bump that needed to be addressed tonight.  Daddy-daughter shit.

But, that's my point here.  It's only Daddy and daughter.

When Jill and Rory went at it, I could swoop in and smooth out the situation, often consoling Rory (first).  There was balance, an equilibrium among three.

When - on the rare occasion - Rory and I went at it, Jilly could put on her cape and save the day for Ro.  Again, balance.

Well, this family of two is now off-fucking-balance.

This was made abundantly clear to me tonight as I attempted to console my crying daughter after having been the one that caused the tears in the first place.  Thru the tears she pushes out, "I miss Mommy."

Utterly heartbreaking.  Almost nauseating.

The kid wants her fucking mommy.  I want her fucking mommy.

When one parent comes down hard, the other provides the balance.  This is how it worked for J, J, & r.

So, now when I 'nearly yell' at Ro, I'm (at the same time?) supposed to soften the blow?  How does this happen?  How do I strike this much needed balance?

I think my point is that even among the arguments, the disease, all of it; our trio operated on a high level.  We had our moments.  But, we rebounded like champs that we were.  Together.

B/c we were balanced.

Well, Rory and I are on (what appears to be) a quest to find a new balance.  One fit for two.

All love,

J, J, & r

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Misery Loves Company

A couple months after Jill passed I received a letter, an invitation in the mail from the organization that managed our hospice care.  It was for a grief group.

This core group would meet for 90 minutes every Tuesday for four weeks.  If interested, a broader group then convened once a month after that.

To my surprise, I quickly jumped at the opportunity to join the circle.  (I think Jill'd be proud.)

The meetings were held in a church.

I have an odd aversion to churches.  They tend to make me feel uneasy.  Maybe I'll chalk it up to watching the Exorcist one too many times.

I remember my first visit w/ Jill's family in Dubuque, Iowa.  They generously offered the full experience, capped off w/ an evening of bingo at one of the local churches.  Upon entering the church, my soon-to-be brother-in-law followed me thru the doorway, quickly, but covertly making an alarm sound.

I turned back to him.  "What is that?"

"It must be the Jew alarm.  They know you're here."

And so my discomfort w/ churches continues.


The grief group consisted of eight widow(er)s, five folding chairs, four well-worn cushioned chairs, one social worker, one dimly lit candle. and no bad coffee.

Black.  White.  Female.  Male.  Young.  Old.  We've got 'em all.

Unfortunately the common thread that bonded us was the fact that we'd all lost a spouse w/in the last year (minus the social worker).

Each week our moderator would tee up a topic or two for us to bat around.

Once again, I surprised myself w/ my willingness - almost eagerness - to be open with everyone in the room.  Why not?  I thought to myself.  Can't hurt, right?  Maybe my experience and interpretation of it will even help someone.

(I think b/c I no longer have Jilly to spill to, I find myself spewing personal reflections in the direction of anyone that is pointing an ear in my direction.  Sorry...and thanks for listening.)

Not unlike these posts, the tone I struck in the room was one of raw, (IMO) constructive honesty, often peppered with humor to dilute some of the drama.  In other words, I felt I was able to be myself (whatever that is at any given moment).

One of the aspects of these meetings that I seem to revert back to is the tears.  Not from me.  In fact, just the opposite.  The tears of most everyone else in the group.  They appeared to flow freely.  The tissue box zigzagging across the circle, making its way from one melancholic lap to the next.  And I couldn't - can't - help thinking to myself, Why aren't you crying, Jason?  Get in there.  Show them, show yourself how deeply and utterly morose you are right now.


On the one hand, I can justify this absence of tears.  Everyone grieves differently.  Personal sadness manifests itself in different ways.  Tears for you.  Extreme exhaustion for me.

But, I don't focus on that hand.  I look at the other hand.

On the other hand, where are the fucking tears?  Am I all dried up?  Did I deplete my allotment at that moment Jill passed?  (It's possible.  I don't recall ever crying like that before in my life.)

Honestly, I think I just want to be sure I'm doing it right.  That I'm properly grieving.  I don't want to avoid it.  I don't want to elongate it.  I just want it to happen as it is supposed to naturally happen w/in me.  B/c (selfishly) I believe that's the only way I'll get closer to healing.

I wonder if anyone else questions their personal grieving process.  Do they wonder if they're doing it right?  Are they checking the box next to each stage of grief?

Maybe I'll bring this question up at next month's meeting.

All love,

J, J, & r

Monday, March 23, 2015

Coffee v Tea

When Jill and I collided, we were already avid coffee drinkers.  W/in this delightfully caffeinated category, Jill leaned more toward the light, flavored blends.  I favored the darker, single origins.  Jill picked up Southern Pecan, while I sipped the smooth Guatemalan roast.

As both Jill and I have noted in previous posts (and conversations), when diagnosis struck, I landed on exercise and nutrition as the two main areas I intended to optimize to help defeat this disease.  No fucking way was I going to sit on my hands and just let advanced medicine run its course.  (B/c while medicine is (arguably) advanced, it ain't advanced to the appropriate levels.)

So, what we ingested as a family became a paramount concern of mine.

Hence veganism.

And while going vegan tended to grab the household headline, much of what we consumed was in effort to minimize the acidity inside our bodies.  B/c where acid lives, so to can disease.  Eradicate the acid; manage the disease.

Coffee is acidic.

So I cut out coffee and glommed onto green tea, verbally praising it's naturally nutritious and alkalizing qualities, hoping my girls would jump on the tea train.

Early on, Jill would raise her cup of coffee in my direction, supporting the decision I'd made for myself...just not willing to take the plunge herself.

But, after my relentless harping caring encouragement, Jill decided to give tea a try.  She wasn't going to give up the good stuff.  But, she was willing to let both battle it out in her system.  Maybe a cup of get-up-and-go in the morning, chased by tea leaves in the afternoon and evening.

Holy shit did we go thru multiple teas for Jilly.

We explored innumerable flavored teas from Teavana, the Mighty Leaf, Bombay, freaking Celestial Seasoning.  It was often one cup and done for Jilly.

"Ew, this tastes bitter," she'd squeeze out of her contorted face as if she were a three year old that just licked a lemon.

"Just drink it.  It's good for you.  It helps neutralize your body," I'd huff back at her.

"Fine.  But just this one cup," she'd concede.

Miraculously Jill found a tea that she liked.  But then she'd brew it, pour it, and proceed to leave that full tea mug somewhere in the house...untouched.

It's like she was fucking w/ me.

"Are you just messing w/ me w/ this?" I'd say to her, pointing accusingly at the mug.

"No.  Why?" Jill'd respond flatly.

"B/c it's like you're toying w/ me.  'I'll buy the tea, brew the tea, and maybe put it up to my lips. But, I won't drink the tea.  That'll show him.'"  (Yeah, I know.  I'm a lunatic.)

"Yes, Jason, that's what I'm doing," she'd calmly, but sarcastically throw back at me.

(Silver lining alert: Meanwhile, Ro picked up the tea drinking habit.  To this day, I often wake to her having already brewed a pot of green tea, sipping from a mug, and burning thru her book of choice.  It's as if she's practicing for old lady'hood.  It's the best.)

The bottom line is that Jill made the effort to the right thing.  Always.

Jill did the best she could.  In every situation.

And so I find it ironic that I've (very hesitantly) picked up coffee again in recent weeks.

Not unlike Jilly's argument back to me, I find I'm drinking it out of necessity.

The reality is that my energy is shot.  Ever since November 12, 2014, it's as if my body is trying to move thru water, but on land.  It all requires extra effort.  All of it.  All the time.

If I don't ingest some liquid fuel, I'm dragging (at best) thru the day.  And I cannot afford to drag.  I don't get to drag.  No drag.

So, w/ some reluctance and immense guilt, I find myself back on the coffee carousel.

I only hope Jill understands.  I'm also doing the best I can.

All love,

J, J, & r

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Girl Talk

When growing up, Jill told me she loved to go on walks w/ her dad.  It was a comfortable, uninterrupted experience the two of them could share just catching up on anything.  Free-flowing conversation.

Jill mentioned this to me after I had expressed to her my great appreciation for my walks w/ Rory.

Over the last several years, weather permitting, Ro and I will often head out after dinner for a relaxed stroll around the neighborhood.  I see it as a time for both of us to unwind...and for me to hear Ro's stream of consciousness about that day's happenings.

I've learned that if you literally set Rory in motion, she'll spill.

And I'm a dad that wants to know.  Honestly, even when I don't want to know I want to know.

Oftentimes Jilly and I would walk up to school in the afternoon to pick Rory up.  Two birds, one stone in my mind.  Jilly was getting in some exercise/activity.  And we got the inside school scoop from Ro as we worked our way back home.

In fact, I have a recording on my phone of one such experience.  It was early last year (spring semester second grade) and Rory was giving us the play-by-play of that day's recess drama.  And while she was certainly sharing the details w/ both of us, I have to be honest w/ myself and admit that she was leaning her mouth in Mommy's direction.  So, I decided to hit record and capture some of the post school back-and-forth.  Rory serving up a plate full of social situations and Jilly casually, yet constructively lobbing advice back to her daughter.

Rory has a great ability to get fixated on a certain situation, verbally analyzing it from all possible angles until she's likely exhausted her audience (Jill and/or me) before running out of steam herself.  She beats that dead horse to oblivion.  (Who the fuck beats a dead horse?  Gross.)

As a result, at least 2-3 times a week, I'd get exasperated side comments from Jilly like, "If I hear anymore about how so-and-so didn't keep her promise on the playground today, I'm going to snap on this kid."

We both knew we couldn't attempt to turn Rory off.  Because turning her off would mean turning her away.  And we want nothing more than for our child to come to us for everything.

Bring it.  Bring it all.

And as Rory continues to grow up, this policy remains intact.  You want to talk about something - anything - you come to me and I'll listen.  I may not want to deal w/ it.  But, this is part of the parental package.  Step up and step in.  And I like to think that I do.

But while the 'open door, open ears' policy continues, the topics are (d)evolving.  Boys are starting to creep into the conversations.  Boys and makeup.  Boys and makeup and more 'complex' girl issues.

And while I remain fully engaged, I fear Rory is starting to (maybe naturally) readjust her dad lens, realizing girl talk is (slightly) out of focus w/ Dad.

I imagine it can be difficult to attempt to have girl talk w/ a guy...and will only become more so...and I think we're both picking up on this inevitability.

It's not that I'm not hearing her or offering sound advice.  It's just simply that I'm a dude.  And it ain't the same.  And Rory freaking knows it.  And it kills me.

Rory needs that prominent girl figure in her life that she can turn to and lean on now and in the future.  And while I think she has several high quality options, none of them are w/in arms reach.

None of them are in the bedroom next door reading a book.

None of them are in the kitchen cooking dinner.

None of them are on the couch in the living room, playing Hay Day, teed up for their daughter to come to them w/ all the juicy girl talk details.

I can, do, and will continue to disguise myself as the dad that can hold his own in the girl talk tank.  But, slowly I believe my disguise is beginning to unravel.  And when it's gone, and Rory finds she's standing in front of her dad, I hope to G-d she has the right person to turn to for constructive, respectful, and supremely meaningful guidance.

Where are you, Jilly?

All love,

J, J, & r

Friday, March 20, 2015

Our Home

I was in between client meetings when Jill lit up my phone.

"Do you have a sec?  I think I just found the house for us."

Since leaving Stage 2 breast cancer in the rear view, we were back on solid footing and on the hunt for a new place.  Our place.  

We had walked in and out of many houses, but nothing really stuck.  

Initially we were both leaning for an urban setting, something 'cultural.' However, that vision quickly grew hazy as we realized city living meant shitty public or expensive private schooling.  And while we agreed that education was a top priority for us/Rory, we also knew some of the best public schools existed in STL county.  

So, we pulled back and started looking at suburbia.  That was much more difficult for me than Jilly.  I think because I grew up here, I felt a strong need to differentiate our life from my upbringing.  Which in a way is absolutely ridiculous because I was given an excellent - some would say ideal - upbringing.  So, why try to shake it?  

For me, I think I just wanted to create my own path.  And now that I was living under the same sky that hung over me during my youth, I felt this internal urge to create a stark difference from the suburbia of my youth and my family's/daughter's suburban experience.  

Jill played along, willingly seeking homes outside of my childhood school district, yet staying close enough to fall inside the two or three other districts that offered fantastic public education.

"It's got hardwoods throughout, in an excellent school district, and is in our price range.  Are you near a computer?  I sent you a link.  We can look at the pictures right now."  Jilly spit out these words with such gusto that I had no choice but to play along.  

I pulled up the pics and Jilly narrated thru my clicks.  

"That's the main living room, perfect for..." blah blah blah.  She had ideas.  I listened.

"That's the master bath.  I know.  Horribly decorated.  We'll redo it."  

"It's got a great big yard."

"Is that a good thing?" I responded flatly.  Yard work is a life distraction.

"It's a great thing.  Rory will have so much space to play and run around.  And I'll do all the mowing.  You know I love it.  I got it.  No problem."  (She did love to cut the grass.)

"You don't need to do all the mowing.  We'll share that one."  I heard myself negotiating tasks against a house we did not (yet) own.

I jumped ahead in the Jilly narrated slide show.  "Wait, what color is the outside of this place?"

A slight pause, "Grey'ish...blue'ish..."

"That's fucking blue.  I mean, not bright blue.  But, it's a fucking blue house."  

"So, we'll repaint it," she retorted cheerfully.  

"We'll have to."  I paused again...maybe for effect.  "It's fucking blue."  

"We'll take care of it."  She was moving on...

Strike one was the blue.  

Strike two was the fact that it was a ranch.

The next week we did a walk-thru.  Jill's enthusiasm permeated the place.  There was no stopping her.

And thus there was no strike three.  

This was it.  This house would be our home.  

This house is our home.  

Five years later and this house remains our home. 

Ro and I got back last night from a much needed spring break getaway to California.  It was our first true two-person vacation.  I was a bit anxious about how it would play out.  Would Mommy's absence be more pronounced when seeing and experiencing new things in a new land?  

(Un)Fortunately that was not the case.  We made what we wanted to make of the vacation.  And we loved it.

My dad scooped us up at the airport and dumped us at home around 930 last night.  While Ro showered off the airplane/port grime, I emptied suitcases and started laundry.  

Unbeknownst to me, it was starting to set in.  This feeling that we were back.  Back at home.  Our home.  

I think the fact that this house remains the home that J, J, & r built still weighs heavy on me.  

Every turn, every view, every thing is ours.  

Yes, new memories are being built (like this week's trip to San Diego).  But, the majority of what makes our house a home is the love, laughter, and real life experiences that were generated by Jilly, Rory, and Jason.  It's a constant presence.  A constant reminder.  

And that's okay.  I just need to turn that corner that will allow me to channel these reminders - these feelings - into something constructive and beautiful.  Because at this phase, it still tastes bitter.  

There ain't no sweet aftertaste.  Not yet.

I'm grateful that it doesn't appear to impact Ro in the same way it does me.  She's rolling, loving life, and also missing Mommy.  But, that internal flame of positivity continues to burn inside of her.  Thankfully it does not appear to be in danger of burning out.  And that gives me hope for myself.  

And while I don't intend to forget any of the memories we've made in this house, I look forward to making new ones...starting w/ changing the fucking exterior paint color.  

All love,

J, J, & r

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Earning a Brownie

Throughout our 6+ years of on-again, off-again treatments, we were introduced to various methods of injecting the cocktail du jour.  From gamma radiation to port-accessed chemotherapy drips, we explored many (and no way near all) avenues to administer the goods.

One drug, in particular, required two syringes, a thick syrupy substance that filled said syringes, and Jill's "hips."

At least that's what the medical professionals want you to believe...until the moment of truth.

"Jill, because we have to inject this in your hips, we're going to give you a private room today to administer the shots."

That's right.  Plural.  Shots.

But, because this med has a tendency to burn as it goes in, the nursing staff doubles up and they inject it into both "hips" at the same time.

Double the burn in half the time.  (It's like a fucking infomercial tagline for something no one wants...like anything being sold via infomercial.)

So we roll into our special, private room.  We're a bit apprehensive, which is often the case when Jill and Jason are entering an(other) unknown.

Jill's instructed to lie on the hospital bed on her stomach and roll her pants down just enough for the nursing duo to access her "hips."

As they begin to sterilize the areas for injection, we notice it ain't her hips.  These needles are going in her ass.  Well, not in her ass...but on the outer sides of her ass...at the same time.

And it's going to burn.

And it's going to be slow.

Oh, and she has to be very still.  Which means - damn it, DAMN IT - I can't make her laugh.

But, that's what I do.  That's what I have to do.  That's what helps her.  That's what helps me.  That's what diffuses the intensity that is often packaged with a team of medical professionals wielding needles and pointing them at your ass.

Nope.  No funny.

Be calm.  Be serious.  Be still.

So I was.  We were.

The simultaneous injections commenced and immediately I could see the discomfort in Jilly's face.  Propped on her forearms, face forward, Jill's breathing was very even, focused, and intense.

The injections were very slow, but sometimes not slow enough.

"Can you please go a bit slower on this side?" Jill'd politely exhale to nurse Speed Racer.

This ain't a race, fuck face, I'd think to myself.

 Jill needed to prolong the burn to withstand the burn.

What a fucking situation to find ourselves in.

We're halfway thru her first round of this double trouble when Jill says to me, "I've so earned a brownie when this is over."

Two things here...

  1. Those of us in this private room have been doing nothing but stare at Jilly's ass for the past five minutes while this cocktail is injected.  The only person not visually familiar w/ Jilly's ass at this moment is Jilly.
  2. I'm not permitted to 'crack' a joke, make a funny, or do anything that may make Jilly move during this procedure.  
Now, I don't know what goes thru the nursing team when they hear Jill utter this line.  I only know what goes thru my six year old little boy brain.  The last thing I want to eat after something like this procedure is anything that resembles shit.  A brownie, for instance...

Poop humor.  Cheap, but often effective.

And I can't say it...because I know it will yield a solid chuckle from Jilly.  

So, I have to hold it.  I have to hold onto it until the syringes are empty and the pants are up and hope that with a delayed response the staring-at-ass-brownie-looks-like-poop line will still warrant an audible laugh from my target audience.  

I mean, this is it.  I live for the laugh.  For Jill's laugh.

As soon as pants are buttoned, I spit out the line.  

Laughs and eye rolls all around at the 30-something's potty humor.  Well played, dip shit.

We packed up, paid the parking attendant, and put Siteman in the rearview for another day...

...and headed straight to Whole Foods...where Jill got her brownie...with a fucking smile.

All love,

J, J & r
Jill after one such treatment

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Truth About Snuggling

"First we'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse Cookie-dough as fast as we can, and then we'll snuggle."

-- Buddy the Elf

When Jill moved down to Houston in 2002, obviously all of her stuff moved w/ her.  This included her green and white wide-striped couch.

It was a comfy, casual couch, w/ a pullout bed.  It was in no way formal, but sturdy and well taken care of.  It did the job.  Long w/ deep seating.  

I was never fond of the style, but you couldn't beat its comfort.  

The only other piece of living room furniture that welcomed your ass was an oversized, overstuffed leather arm chair.  It didn't do much for me.

(Both now reside in our basement.)

But, when we wanted to curl up and watch the "O.C.," "Queer Eye," or "Most Extreme Elimination Challenge" (yes, all high brow television), we always found ourselves sharing the couch.  

And it worked for us.  It worked really well.  

We both had more than enough room.  And, to be honest, at that stage in our relationship, being snuggled up together wasn't all that bad.  

I mean, I get it.  I'm a guy.  I am supposed to be repelled by any sniff of an impending snuggle.

But, let's be real.  There's a point - a stretch - in every relationship where snuggling is equally welcomed by both parties.  

That's right.  I said it.

The green and white striped couch was complicit in our snuggling.

Thanks, couch.  (I name my cars...not my furniture.)

Then we bought our first house, and w/ it, new furniture.  

Now, not unlike the car situation, I wasn't convinced we needed a new couch.  This one was functional.  No need to fix what ain't broke.  

Jill, on the other hand, wanted to update, upgrade.  

"We have a new house.  I've had this couch longer than I've had you.  I want something new."  

"Why don't we just get one of those couch covers to make it look new?" I wished at her.

G-d bless her.  Jilly played along and attempted to find that couch cover.  But, nothing worked.

So, I gave in and quickly found our living room furnished w/ a new sofa, love seat, coffee table, end tables, and lamps.  

(BTW, who uses sofa v couch?  Is it appropriate to use one over the other?  If so, why?  Educate me.)

The new furniture was great - material, color, functionality.  All good...

...until the day Jill and I attempted to share the couch.

This new couch (sofa?) wasn't as deep as good ol' wide stripes.  

Sooooo, the snuggl'ability took a big hit.  

We tried to rectify it.

"Just take off the back cushions," fix-it Jill suggested to me.

"They don't come off."  


So, we tried to make do.  We crammed our bodies into that couch as best we could.  But, the reality was that it was a force fit.  It wasn't comfortable.  Two was a crowd.

While our relationship was strong, our ability to share a couch - our couch - was being extinguished.

And soon we made a dramatic move.  One of us claimed the couch.  The other, the love seat.  

That's right.  There might as well have been an ocean between us.  (And Jill doesn't like the water.)

I didn't like it.  Jilly didn't like it.  

But, like many things, time passed and we acclimated to this new, disconnected lounging.  

Each of us w/ our own plot of living room land, we read books, watched "24," and fed Rory.

It was a brave new world.  

And all the while, the striped couch sat dormant in our guest room.  

Sometimes, at night, I thought I could hear it calling to us, "Come back...I'll make you happy again..."

I wanted to.

Fear not.  While living room snuggle moments became few and far between, snuggling itself was not obliterated from our relationship.  

More often than I care to admit, this would occur...

At the end of the day, Jill and I would get into bed.  I'd take my .2 seconds to get comfortable and begin drifting off when Jill would start infringing on my territory.  It was a snuggle invasion.  

And that's all good...as long as you don't act like a fish out of water when you're going to bed or "getting settled" as Jill would put it.  The woman could not find a place for herself that lasted longer than three seconds.

Invariably, one of two things would occur...
  1. Jill would constantly readjust herself to get comfortable, while, in the process, making me extremely uncomfortable.  "Lay in one place or go over to your side," I'd huff.
  2. Jill would get too hot and exclaim in an exasperated tone, "I'm hot!" and then proceed to roll to her cooler side of the bed.
Still, to be honest, even if I presented a frustrated front to her, Jill knew - and I knew - that I welcomed the closeness.  Always.  No matter the conditions.

That said, Jilly's snuggle business didn't start and end w/ me. 

Rory and Jill were made to snuggle w/ one another.  Born snuggle buddies.

The two of them could and would curl up anywhere - a bedroom, the living room, even the kitchen at times.  They had this ability to melt into one another, providing comfort, protection, and a feeling of home all at the same time.

At bedtime, after reading w/ Ro for a bit, I'd kiss her goodnight and check out.  Mommy, who had already positioned herself under the covers w/ Rory, would stay put.  As I expressed to Rory recently, I never knew if Mommy was coming out to hang w/ me for the evening or, if she was going to conk out, snuggled up beside Ro.  It was often a toss-up.  

As I walked out of Ro's room, Jill would look at me, "I'll be out in a minute"...which I think we all translated into "I may just fall asleep snuggled here w/ Ro.  If I do, just wake me before you go to bed."

This time they spent w/ one another, this silent time, was clearly cherished by the both of them.  Here's two people that are never short of words - w/ one another or anyone else.  Yet, after they'd catch up on the day's highlights, they would cuddle up and just be.  Together.

I never liked interrupting it or breaking it up.  Let it be, I thought to myself.  They both need this.

As oxymoronic as it may read, this was a relaxing way for each of them to recharge.

I think this is why evenings remain the most difficult time of day for Rory.  This is why, in the quiet before I kiss her goodnight and exit her room, she almost always jabs two lines at me.

"I miss Mommy."

"Why did she have to die?"

I hear these two cutting lines nearly every single night.  Each time it reopens the wound.  Keeps it fresh, raw, exposed.

And you know why?  Because if I ever start to feel like we're doing okay, we're progressing, we're healing just a bit, these two lines very quickly and abruptly tell me we have a long way to go.

Daddy's not doing everything right.
Daddy's not making all the pain go away.
Daddy's not filling in the abyss left by Mommy.

Last night I made a conscious effort to get under the covers to read before bedtime.  Ro snuggled up w/ me, found a spot, and settled in.  But, not before saying, "This isn't the way Mommy did it."

"I know, babe."

"Mommy always had a plush robe on I could snuggle into."

I hesitated, then..."And you know what else?  Mommy had boobs.  Built in snugglers, right?"

Ro laughed.  That's what we needed at that moment.  Well, that's what I needed at that moment.

"And soon I'll have boobs for snuggling," Ro responded thoughtfully.

Shit.  Backfire.  Abort.  Abort.  Now Daddy's sweaty and wants to make a run for it.

Ah, fuck it.  "Let's get back into this book.  It's pretty interesting so far."

And so we read on.  Snuggled up.  Together.

All love,

J, J, & r

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Soul-searching: an examination of one's conscious especially with regard to motives and values

I don't buy it.

No, already that's not true.  I buy it.  But, I also believe that definition of the term is too narrow, too egocentric.

I may be ignorant here.  But, so what?  Isn't this where bliss resides?

I'm also loopy as I type, hopped up on OTC meds to fight off some virus Ro and I have been sharing for going on a week.  So clarity and stability are not my closest friends right now.

Bear w/ me...this could get bumpy for me...maybe fun for you...

As I lay in bed the last several days, my mind - like many of us in this state - bends in unfamiliar ways...taking me directions that open new areas to contemplate...if I can just hold onto them.  Most slip away, but a few I'm able to grasp.

So, as I lay in bed, unable to sleep, unable to move or shift, my eyes fixated (for no good reason) on the black sleeve of a hoodie on the back of my bathroom door, this idea of soul-searching crept in and stayed in.

What is it again?  Soul-searching?

I mean, I feel like I've done a lot (a lot) of that over the years.  Always inward.  Who am I?  What am I about?  What can I be doing?  Often, for me, it's about personal evolution.

But, yesterday, staring at this sleeve, I realized I'm doing less of the traditional soul-searching these days and more of an Indiana Jones, Daniel Boone, Lewis & Clark expedition or quest-like soul-searching.

I'm literally in search of a soul.

Jill's soul.

I find myself staring w/ great intention at photos of us.  Of her.

I'm paying closer attention to the freaking birds.

For what?  Communication?  A sign?  Comfort?

Probably all of the above..

I've even begun to read books about regression therapy.  In one particular case (that I've read), two souls that had been connected in previous lives are reunited in the present.

Anything's possible, right?  I'm just not willing to close a door yet.

And then one night in this last week, after I had fallen asleep on the couch in the family room the night before (a rare occurrence), I voluntarily put myself back on the same couch, same position, in effort to replicate the same/similar result.

I had dreamt of Jill the night prior.  It may not have been the first time.  I'm not certain.  But, it was - w/o question - the most vivid.  And it was real.  And it was emotional.

I wanted it - or something like it - again.

So I put my eager ass to sleep out there for a second night.

No luck.

But, (very) few of you have mentioned dreaming of Jilly recently; sharing in great detail how she was, how she is.  (Thank you for that.)

So it's these things - the ever-present cardinal, the intoxicating pictures, the lucid dreams, the flowing memories, the many emotions - that all have me on this never-ending search for Jill's soul.

And right now I believe I'll be reunited w/ her.

And yes, once again, this can certainly be chalked up as a guy connecting dots where they're not meant to be connected.

But, even so, maybe I'm connecting them in such a way that an image or a pattern is being created that far exceeds the imagination of any of us (or at least my current self).  After all, these are my dots to connect.

Right now I'm comforted by a level of confidence that our souls will find one another again.

And while I won't use this life to wait for that moment, I will welcome it when it comes.

All love,

J, J, & r