The Fall of Man

They found him. Gunshot wound to the chest on his birthday. Although, it makes sense, his heart was what hurt the most. His wife passed away four years ago in a car accident. He was the one driving the car… He had sold his house two weeks before he took his life. He wanted to move out of the city and on with his life. But, with no job prospects and no real friends anywhere else, he must have lost all hope. Deep down, we all knew this day would come; we just thought it would have happened shortly after she died, not now.

My uncle Steve is was an introverted, angry man. He didn’t like the outside world. When he met and married my aunt, his second wife, new life was pumped into his veins. He turned himself around, started going to parties, meeting people, and he even thought about having children! He said and did things he, and we, never thought he would do. But, when he accidently hit the other car that caused her death; he also died. The spark she implanted in him was gone; he went back to his old ways, hating the world and everyone in it. Each year that he remained alive, we considered ourselves lucky.

The last time I saw him was the day before his birthday. We were at a family gathering at my grandmothers. It was to celebrate her birthday, as well as his. He retreated to the living room for most of his time there, and when he was in the kitchen, he wouldn’t talk to anyone. All he wanted to do was play with his smart phone. When my grandmother talked to him, he answered her with a strong tongue and boiling anger in his eyes. No one could say or do anything to please him at this point.

I didn’t even bother trying to talk to him for fear that he would lash out at me. In fact, in all the years that we’ve been family, I’ve never said more than a few sentences to him. He wasn’t the type of uncle to show up at your high school play, take you out for ice cream, or make small talk. He was a man who just wanted to be left alone.

Sure, I could cry my heart out, take off of work for a few weeks, and preach to everyone about how you need to, “hold you loved ones close.” But, I can’t. I’ve never loved this man. To me, this isn’t a heartbreaking loss.

In fact, this isn’t a loss at all. My uncle did not die; he’s very much alive. Today he turns another year older…and colder, that is true. And, as I sat near him the other day, not speaking a word, I was reminded of how awful of a person I truly am. I realized in that moment that the man sitting near me is a man I’ve known my whole life; but he’s been nothing but a stranger. I realized that if he died tomorrow, even from suicide, it would not have a major impact on me. Sure, I would feel awful. No one deserves to die, no matter what the cause! And, no one deserves to feel alone. But, to me, it wouldn’t feel like a major loss. I can honestly say that it would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away.

Four years ago, this was where my family found themselves; on suicide watch for my uncle. It’s awful to admit that someone who is supposed to be such a huge part of your life doesn’t matter to you. Writing those words, “It would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away” makes me feel like a terrible person, but I know deep down that I’m being true to myself. Although, sometimes, we have to admit that even those people in our lives who are supposed to be family and the closest humans to us, mean zilch. That is why we all must create our own “families.” “Families” that are made up of blood relations, friends, acquaintances, dogs, cats, etc. “Plant your own seeds and grown your own garden because you have the power to choose who you become and who is allowed to influence you along the way.”

Granny Smith – over and out

Text, Call, FREAK OUT, Repeat

Image

I’m a worrier by nature. And every time I worry about something, I think of the worst case scenario, and then I start to believe that that’s actually going to happen.

For example, about a week ago, I made plans with my boyfriend, Matt, and a few friends to go to the beach. I told Matt the previous day (via text) that we were all going to meet up at the beach at 1, but that I would stop by his place first to drop off my stuff. That morning came, and I decided to call Matt at 10:30 to let him know when I would be leaving…no answer. At this point, I was fine, he’d probably call me back within an hour. An hour later, no call from Matt, so I called him back…no answer. Finally, it was 12:30. Still not having heard from him, I called again. Nothing! By this point, I was starting to freak out a little because he hadn’t responded the previous day when I texted him our plans…so, that meant I hadn’t heard anything in 24 hours. Who knows what could’ve happened in 24 hours time? My head was racing. Did he even make it home last night? What if someone high jacked his car? What if someone came into his place of work with a gun and everyone at his office was waiting for a hero?

I did the next logical thing and packed my bags and jumped in my car on a quest to find him. I couldn’t help it. Matt is usually really great a communicating with me, so I felt funky when he hadn’t even texted me back. I searched the area around his apartment and couldn’t find him or his car. So, he’s somewhere with his car or someone stole his car and he’s wandering hopelessly on the street, was my thought. Then, I checked the beach, thinking that maybe he’d lost his phone and was waiting for us there. There were so many cars and people as there happened to be multiple festivals going on near the lakefront that day…just my luck. After spending what seemed like years in traffic, I headed to one of his friend’s homes, nope, not there. Then, I texted a few of his other friends, no one had heard from him. I stopped at the mall, and lastly, his office. Nothing. It was almost 4pm.

I called my father and told him that I couldn’t find Matt. I stated that I was coming home and we were going to have to call the police, his parents, or form a search party…something, anything to make sure there wasn’t another wasted second that went by without having others know of his absence. As I drove home, I started crying my eyes out and I screamed at God, “Please let me find him!! He’s my everything! You might as well take me too! Where did you hide him? Why are you doing this? This isn’t ok.” Then, I began to think of what my life would become once he’d been pronounced dead, what I would say at his funeral; and I asked myself how I would feel if we never found the body. Would I be able to move on? No, probably never. Yes, I would take the oath to never date again and live the rest of my life as a spinster. Hell, my grandmother was a widow for 40 plus years before she died and she never dated, remarried, or showed interest in anyone after my grandfather passed away. If she could do it, so can I.

Then, the call came through. It was Matt’s face that showed up on my phone. But, I didn’t even rejoice at first. I thought, what if it’s the police calling to tell me they found him dead, or that he’s at the hospital and probably won’t make it? I picked up the phone and screamed, “HELLO?”

“Hi, what’s going on?” the other end answered back. It was Matt, he was alive…for now!

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?…” I went off. I’ve known Matt for almost 9 years now, and in all of those years I’ve NEVER, NOT ONCE, yelled at him. Unfortunately, that streak has been broken.

In the end, I went back to Matt’s apartment and we talked it over, but sweet Jesus did he scare me. It turns out that he was participating in one of his weekly activities, sailing down at the yacht club. He left his phone in one of the club’s lockers, thinking he would be back by noon. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case.

I spent the next few hours being as close to him as I could, hugging him, smelling him, cuddling with him. Good God, if you don’t know if you love someone, try thinking about what your life would be like without them, then you’ll know if you want them to stick around. It sounds stupid, but I realized that losing him would mean losing myself.

I also learned a few other things during that crazy day:
-Communication is so important, especially when you’re in a relationship: Terrible communication has got to be my number one pet peeve…and it’s probably why so many people piss me off! If you have plans and forget, that’s one thing, but if you deliberately ignore people because “you don’t feel like it,” then we can’t be friends anymore. I have a friend who gets invited to many things and just doesn’t respond. She figures, if she’s available that day, she’ll come, if she can’t, whatever. I’m sorry honey, but with that attitude, I can’t invite you to a big event… like my wedding. I understand if it’s just a bonfire where you don’t really need to RSVP, but if you NEVER respond to ANY event and you still won’t respond when people personally text you and ask, “hey, you comin?” Inappropriate. People have actually stopped inviting her to things because of her attitude. Be polite and at least give someone some sort of a response. Even if you don’t know right then, say it. Don’t make people assume! In the working world, shit like that doesn’t fly, and it shouldn’t in real life either.

-Worrying is interest paid on something that hasn’t happened: My dad literally says this to me all the time, but I don’t listen because it’s a part of my personality to freak out over just about everything. This is the part of me that I can’t stand. I work at a radio station part-time, and if you’ve ever worked in broadcast media, you know that those guys and gals are some of the calmest people on the planet. They have to be! There are hundreds of factors that can make everything NOT go as planned, and you have to have a plan B while being calm about it. You just need to take things one week at a time, one day at a time, and then one moment at a time. And just remember, if there is a lack of preparation on someone else’s behalf, then there should not be any case of urgency on yours. Try your best to live in the moment, sniff out danger, but it is OK to let some things fall by the wayside.

What about you? Are you a worrier? How do you deal with your worries?

Granny Smith – over and out

Special Treatment for Those with Special Needs?

Image

Now, before you think this post is going to be some hateful rant, calm yourself and read on. My brother was diagnosed in 1995 at the age of 3 with Autism, and I’ve been an advocate for the rights of special needs children ever since. However, about a week ago I found myself re-evaluating how I react to those with special needs.

Long story short, my brother has been participating in the Special Olympics for the past couple of years, and every year I try to attend his regional competition, which is located at one of our local high schools. This year, as my family and I sat down in the school’s cafeteria to relax before heading to the gym, a young, special needs athlete named Cole from one of the other teams walked up to our table, introduced himself, and started carrying on a conversation with me and my parents. Cole was hilarious, but at the same time he was very nosy and kept apologizing for asking questions. After awhile, he began to solely ask me personal questions, and it seemed he wanted to be friends (or something more) and know every detail of my life. I can’t lie, even though I spend a lot of my time around individuals with special needs, I was uncomfortable around Cole. Hell, I’m uncomfortable around all strangers! Finally, Cole’s dad realized that his son was talking our ears off and came over to our table to introduce himself and redirected his son to the gym.

The weird and sad part of all this was I felt a sense of relief and a burden lifted off my shoulders when he walked away. Phew, don’t have to deal with him again, I thought. But, I was actually wrong…Turns out, as luck would have it, Cole’s group ended up sitting next to my brothers, so I had to pass him on my way into the gym. Once Cole saw me, he immediately stood up and rushed to my side.

“How are you doing, ma’am?” he said as wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
“Great!” I said, mustering up every ounce of pep I had.
“Would you mind if I sat with you for awhile?” he proceeded.
“Um, I think we’re supposed to sit with our teams,” I replied.
“Well, I don’t have to sit with mine, that’s the point I’m trying to make,” he shot back.

Thankfully, before the moment got any more awkward, one of Cole’s coaches called him over to sit with his team. And, of course, the fun didn’t stop there. After the opening ceremonies, I noticed Cole coming over to my brother’s team. To avoid another uncomfortable encounter, I used my brother’s larger build as a barricade and hid behind him until Cole was finished talking to my brother’s teammates. Seriously, this kid would not let up. He seemed to be doing everything to try and get my attention.

And, of course, once I thought I was free of him, it turned out he was competing against my brother under the same division…that meant I was going to have to run into him again at the awards ceremony after the competition.

Flash forward to the awards ceremony and my brother took first place (of course he did, we’re related). So, after all of the pictures are taken and everyone disappears, Cole came running up to my family, and that’s when I decided to make a break for it. I grabbed my things and briskly walked down the hall to hide in the women’s restroom. Cole saw that I was busting my ass to getaway and yelled after me, “DON’T YOU WALK AWAY FROM ME YOUNG LADY!” And then..he proceeded to ask my dad what my name was. Of course, my father thought this whole thing was hilarious and told Cole…who ended up screaming my name down the hallway until I disappeared.

Just at the point where I thought I had gotten rid of him, I realized that the exit door was at the other end of the building, which meant I would have to walk past the cafeteria where I last saw Cole. After a few minutes, I stuck my head out of the bathroom only to find him talking to someone right outside of the cafeteria. Well, eventually Cole’s new found friend decided to head back towards the gym and get some popcorn, which prompted Cole to follow him. I realized then and there that it was now or never. I swiped up my stuff and RAN towards the exit. FREEDOM! I thought as I reached the parking lot. And as my family and I drove away, all I could think was, I’m safe now

As I reflect back on the day that I had with Cole at regionals, of course I feel awful, but I’ve realized that even if he didn’t have special needs, I would have treated him the same way. With this situation, I’m reminded of the VERY FEW TIMES I’ve ever been “hit on” at bars while I was in college by guys that I had absolutely no interest in getting to know. And, what did I do in those situations? I politely blew them off, just like I did with Cole. I had no interest in hanging out with Cole that day. I was there to watch my brother kick ass and take names. And, I have a boyfriend. I’m not looking for any more male companions. And, did Cole suffer? Of course not! Being the friendly guy that he is, when I wasn’t around him he ended up talking to so many more people who were willing to engage in a bit of a conversation with him.

Personally, I think there’s this argument out there that we have to treat individuals with special needs as a “special case,” or be nicer to them than we would someone who doesn’t have special needs because they “unfortunately can’t be normal functioning adults in today’s society.” And most days, I think that’s a bunch of crap. With all of the special needs individuals that I’ve gotten to know through my years of volunteering and meeting my brother’s friends, people with special needs don’t want to be treated as “special cases,” they want to be seen and treated as though they don’t have a disability. They want to be treated how we want to be treated…like a human being. So, if you’re not interested in forming a connection with them, don’t! They rather have a genuine connection than put up with something that is forced….and wow, what does that sound like? Hmmmm, how about something that everyone wants, no matter age, race, gender, etc. So, at the end of the day I’m not advocating for everyone to go out there and treat individuals with special needs like shit. Of course not! Treat them as they are, human beings, and form a genuine connection that the both of you will benefit from.

Granny Smith – over and out

Go Ahead, Celebrate!

Image

 

So, now that Valentine’s Day is long gone, I want to bring it back into the realm of conversation…I know, sorry! But, it’s not what you think! Give me a second to explain…

My birthday is August 14th, so Valentine’s Day is a big day for me because…it’s my half birthday. Check: If you’re not rolling on the floor laughing by now, what’s wrong with you? I can only imagine what all of you are thinking, who the hell celebrates their half birthday? Trust me friends, I didn’t come up with this; I was suckered into it by my mother when I was a little girl.

For as long as I can remember, every Valentine’s Day, my mother would sneak into my room before I woke up and leave a few small gifts, candy, a card, and a balloon. And, at the end of the day, my family and I would gather around the kitchen table and enjoy some cake! I was always reminded on February 14th that not only was it a national holiday, but I was exactly 6 months away from my birthday. Now, why did my mother constantly remind me that Valentine’s Day was also my “half birthday?” I secretly think that my mom has always wanted to share her birthday with a holiday and when that dream obviously did not work out in her favor, she hoped and prayed that one of her children, hell, even one of  her pets, would have a birthday on a holiday. When that didn’t work out, she studied the calendar and thought of the next best thing. I mean, we don’t celebrate anyone else’s half birthday in our house ….lucky me!

The point of all of this is that when I told my boyfriend about my family’s crazy Valentine’s Day tradition…he didn’t even flinch. Sure, he thought it was weird. But each Valentine’s Day he makes sure that he treats it like my second birthday. I receive half a cake, half a birthday card (tehehe), flowers, my favorite food, and most importantly, love. The crazy part about all of this is I hate Valentine’s Day and so does he. But, the dumb Hallmark holiday has actually brought us closer together because of my mother’s interesting calendar observation. We don’t look at February 14th as another stupid holiday, but a funny reason to have something to celebrate. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because I get to celebrate two birthdays a year instead of one… and I don’t age twice!

In the end, everyone should have the opportunity to feel like they’re the most important person on the planet! And it doesn’t have to be on Valentine’s Day or just your birthday. It’s important to find someone in your life that wants you to feel amazing about who you are, what you believe in, and everything in between. The fact that my boyfriend picked up this ridiculous tradition of mine and ran with it means wonders, and I don’t have to cringe every time Valentine’s Day rolls around!

But, the main reason why I brought this up is because I want to hear from you guys! Is there anything that you significant other, family members, friends do for you that makes you feel special? Are there any holidays in particular that you love more than the rest because of an awesome tradition you have?  Let me know and be well!

Granny Smith – over and out