🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
The Sad Dad Club 💔
A Toast 🥃🥃
Done Writing? 🖊️
It took me less than 24 hours as a part of the Dad Whose Child Died Club to learn that membership came with a myriad of uncomfortable situations. It was the day after Jacob (AKA Boy The Eldest) was born and died, and, I was waiting for the elevator in a feverish haze (because, as if losing your son isn’t bad enough, the creator of the universe decided that moment was a good time for me to develop a raging case of chicken pox). The doors opened after a ding, and I lumbered in carrying the assortment of stuff we had brought with us to the hospital the day before, back when I was not an official club member but only a club member in waiting.
I can’t say I noticed there was another human being in the elevator with me. For all I know, there may have been 10. What I do know is that a voice brought me back from wherever I was.
“Big day, huh, Dad?” she said.
“Huh? What?” I replied.
“All that stuff. You got on at the maternity award. It’s a big day for you, huh? You’re bringing your child home.”
Whoever this person was, she was drawing a logical conclusion, I’d realize later. I was a young adult male getting on the elevator at the maternity ward carrying a whole bunch of crap. Anyone would come to that conclusion. But at the moment, I hated her for it.
What was I supposed to say? The truth? That in 10 minutes we were going to be driving back the way we came from Cincinnati to our first-ever home in tiny Trenton, Ohio, without the child Wifey Poo had carried for eight months? I would have loved to have said that to her, honestly, because in that moment, I wanted her to pay for the transgression of her assumption, that everyone who leaves the maternity ward with arms full of crap has a child following in his wife’s lap as she’s pushed to the exit in a wheelchair by a smiling nurse.
Thankfully, I couldn’t find my voice.
The elevator dinged again, and the doors open. I raced out of the confining car as fast as the load I was carrying would allow, spotted the exit doors and burst through them into the cold winter morning before dissolving on the ground in a puddle of heaving sobs.
Fast forward 21 years. Well, actually, 21 years minus a day. Yesterday would have been Jacob’s 21st birthday. Every year as this date comes around, I fall into something between a funk and major depression. This notwithstanding my yearly pledge to just accept what happened as the thing that happened and celebrate the life of my boy without sadness or heartache.
This year was no different. I was somewhere closer to the funk end of the spectrum this time around, and because I had one vacation day left to burn, I took the day off ostensibly to finish some last-minute Christmas shopping — though I’ve learned the hard way it’s not a good idea for me to be around too many people on this day. As I was heading out, Wifey Poo asked if I was going to be in the general direction of a place to buy helium-filled balloons. On what would have been Jacob’s first birthday, we released balloons in what we believe is the general direction of heaven and said “Happy Birthday!” to the boy we missed so much. Every year since, we’ve done the same thing from the various places we’ve lived. Sometimes it’s been in the snow. Sometimes we’ve beat back sweat as the rays of the Florida sun withered us.
I was, indeed, headed that direction and said I’d pick up the balloons.
I stood by the counter waiting for the woman to shove in the helium and tie on a ribbon. I was off in my own world.
“So what are we celebrating today?” the woman asked.
“Huh?” I replied.
“The balloons. What are we celebrating today?”
Now, in the past 21 years, I’ve been confronted with dozens of situations like this, and you always have to instantaneously judge what the person wants to hear — or are capable of hearing, anyway. Are they just making conversational small talk or are they actually invested at all in the answer. These situations come in the form of “How many kids do you have?” and things like that.
I made the judgment that this really was just small talk. I didn’t even want to say “My son’s birthday,” because I’ve learned that invites, “Oh, fabulous! How old is he?” and then you’re off to the races with follow-up details I don’t have because he didn’t live. “21! Really? So he lives around here? What does he do for a living?”
So I replied: “Just some holiday cheer.”
And I guess she noticed the tears in my eyes that weren’t doing a good job of staying put, because she got really quiet and we didn’t utter a non-transactional word to each other after that. When she handed me my receipt, I said, “I’m sorry,” and rushed out of the store into air that felt so similar to how it did the day I rushed out of the hospital 21 years minus one day before.
I don’t know what more to say right now. I can say that the rest of the day had some good in it. There’s always been a lot of good surrounding Jacob’s brief life. Other’s lives were positively changed. It created some bonds that can’t be broken. There is actual good that can come from tragedy.
This year it was that Boy The Elder’s girlfriend remembered and texted Wifey Poo and I in the morning to let us know she was thinking about us; it was Boy The Elder recommending we pop open a cold one when we released the balloons and pour it out to mark his big brother’s 21st; that a friend from Ohio did what he’s done every year since we moved away from Jacob’s gravesite — visited it on his birthday to pray and remember; that Wifey Poo and I clung to each other as we have since all of this began.
But now? Now that I’m in the middle of writing this and trying to find some sort of conclusion to draw … I’ve got nothing. It was another year. Next year will be the same, to some degree. Some things just are, no matter how sucky or how much you might wish they were different.
I took a few moments last night to grab a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. I poured an appropriate weekday amount for me, then filled the bottom of a glass for Jacob. I’d like to think that he and I would have shared a moment with his first (legal) drink at some point near his 21st birthday had he lived. I made a quiet toast… “To my son,” and took a sip. It’s good whiskey … for my whiskey budget, anyway. And it was a good feeling … me and my boy.
I’m beginning to wonder if I should just give this whole thing up. By “this,” I mean this blog, this website, this whole writing thing. I started this site because I needed to rebuild my career and find an avenue to release my creativity. But as I sit here today, I’m wondering what the point is. Is this whole thing for me? Is it vanity? Ego? Is it what I’d like to believe it is — a combination of some sort of therapy for me and the hope that something I write might right someone and help them? I don’t know, but as it stands right now, I’m feeling this pull to just walk away and disappear. Maybe words inside me don’t have to be written, don’t have to be shared. Maybe that’s the same truth for the feelings that seem to flood my soul like a gully after a monsoon. Maybe there are other outlets I need to explore. Maybe none of this matters at all. I just don’t know right now.
In Other Writing …
I was in my 40s by the time I realized the average person doesn’t feel things like I do — not even close. Up until then, I always just assumed that when people were around someone who was feeling some sad or angry or even extremely happy, they felt that shit too. I’m not talking…Keep reading
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩No-Phone Sunday 🚫📱Creepy Moles 🐀Doc Talk 📽️ Today was sort of a practice day for something I put on my “Hundred Things” list for 2022. It was a Digital Detox Sunday, which is No. 63 on the list. To me, this meant that I wouldn’t have any sort of device in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Trombones are Loud 🎺Birds Aren’t Real 🐦Death to Gymnastic Judges 🤸 Top 5 things that happened at In-Law Family Christmas, held at our humble country home, today. The realization that the mass of youngins has gotten so large now that our little babies have grown up to various new stages that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hey There, Dorothy 🌪️Christmas Hurts 🎄Bye-Bye, Checks and Balances ✔️⚖️ If you’re ever in need of some entertainment, might I suggest being in a church with a bunch of homeschool parents when tornado sirens go off? That’s where I found myself tonight, accompanied by Boy The Younger at a spring track…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Car Crash 🚗Video Day 🎞️Five No. 2s!? 💩 The Core 4 is headed out on a winter vacation to Memphis and New Orleans soon. The plan was to rent a vehicle through Turo.com, which is kinda like an Airbnb for cars. I had a quality vehicle picked out and reserved, one…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Shirt Stain 👔Score One for the Unabomber💣Oh Canada 🌈🍁 I arrived at work this morning, put my stuff down on my desk and hit the men’s room because evidently a 42-minute drive is too long for a man of 47 years to comfortably hold his bladder. I did what I do,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Baseball God(ess) ⚾Alice in Chains 🎸What About the Golfers!? 🏌🏽♂️ To say that baseball was my life when I was a kid is an understatement. I watched it as much as the scant channels we had at home would allow — the Yankees were on Channel 11 WPIX and the (ugh)…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Detached 💭Intentions for a New Year 📆Red is Deadly 😷 Today sucked. The problem is, I don’t really know what the hell happened. I woke up just after 6, later than I have been recently, and I felt so significantly off that I truly don’t remember much of the first 45…Keep reading
Circles are interesting things. They have no beginning and no end. They just keep going around and around and around. And yet we set Jan. 1 as the day to mark the start of our journey around the sun, a journey we measure so incredibly poorly that we have to add an entire extra day…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ice Violence ⛸️Movie Night! 📽️Most Popular Dog Names 🐶 Today was date day for Wifey Poo and I. We’ve been trying to do a date a week since, oh, back in 2018. That was interrupted for awhile by a certain African host child this year, but we’re back at it. Today…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Top Songs of 2021 🎶Where’s the Snow? ❄️Thunder Struck ⛈️🏀 Because I didn’t already feel incredibly old and out of touch, I looked at the list of top 100 songs from 2021. It wasn’t until song No. 65 that I even thought I knew one of the songs, “Go Your Own…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Redemption 😊Spice-Lovin’ Tree Shrew 🌶️Mark The Freaking Elf 🧝 I spent the morning in a hotel conference room down in STL learning from a man named Jeff Glover about 21 ways to get 21 listing of homes to sell. Glover is a big fish in the real estate industry. He runs…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Maria and The Chickens 🐔Strange Cyber Monday Offers 🧪Bloody Gift 🩸🎁 I hate wasting time. I hate it hate it hate it. Everything about my life centers on efficiency — the routes I take when I drive, how I go about getting ready for the day, how I organize my work…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Paul 🧙♂️Slowest Speeder Ever 🐢Another School Shooting 🏫🔫 I found myself tonight in a dark jail cell surrounded by four zombies, some kind of wizard, and my son. This is not what I expected for my Tuesday evening. After a months-long absence, I returned tonight to the Dungeons & Dragons game…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Canadian Oil 🍁Freaking Covid 😷Namaste, Yo 🧘🏿 Monday started out with the news that the Bosslady has Covid. This whole “living through The Great Plague” thing somehow has been incorporated into our lives to the point where we don’t really even realize that thousands of people are dying from it daily.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Disconnected 🔌Worst Mom Ever 🦘Death to Autoplay 💀 Internet outage, Day 2. I’m sending this message via carrier pigeon. Or maybe it’s just some bird I caught with my greasy-fast speed. Things are looking bleak. We’ve been without internet service for more than 24 hours now. The weather outside is cold,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Family Rituals 👨👩👦👦The Grinch Rocks ❤️Churros and Poke Bowls 🤤 It’s interesting to think about how family rituals actually become family rituals. There are some that are very intentional. You had something done for you as a child, so you do the same thing for your kid. Others just sort of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Stable Family 👪Armed America 🔫🦅Good or Nickelback? 🎶 Thanksgiving was a quiet affair for the Core Four — my nickname for the entity that is Wifey Poo, Boys The Elder and Younger, and me. We had no family visit, and none of us left the house until BTE traveled to his…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Coffee With Wifey ☕👱♀️Armadillo Lepers 😳Choice Cigar 🚬 To say Wifey Poo and I have been through some shit is an understatement. When we said “I do” back in March of 1997 as freaking twenty-two-year-olds (!!!!), neither of us had a clue how challenging the “or for worse” part of a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Self-Teaching 👨🏫Beer Flood 🍺🌊Space Mission 🚀 When I left the newspaper industry in 2009, I knew how to write, take decent photos, design pages and copy edit. I landed a job in which the mandate was, “Go make our communications program better,” something I’d assured those who interviewed me I knew…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beard Trim 🧔🏽Grunge Shopping 🛒Funny Animals 🐒 When you find yourself with a straight razor poised a millimeter from your neck, you realize this is probably what was going on when the Almighty said “Be still and know that I am God.” I found myself in this situation this morning, in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Wifey Poo’s Laughter 🤣Expensive Turkey 🦃🍗My Boys 👨👦 Walking back to my car last night from The Funny Bone comedy club in St. Charles, I got to thinking. This comes as a surprise to no one who knows me (not many people, as I’ve recently discussed) and no one who reads…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Drinking on the Job 🍷The Land of the Giants 🏀Joseph McCarthy Returns 🏴 It the past week, my job has taken me from a chocolate factory to a wine bar — all in the name of business, of course. Last week, Big Bosslady and I visited Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Itchy Foot 🦶Pay Cuts ❌💰The Best Pen Ever 🖊️ Wifey Poo woke up around 4 a.m. itching, itching, itching her recently repaired foot. Underneath the Ace bandage and the gauze and the padding to keep it safe, she’s got a rash of some sort, and the foot is swollen. Doc says…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Warm November 🌡️The Jaguar People 🐆Squid Game 🦑 I’ll take a 70 degree day in the middle of November, thank you very much. I spent part of my workday on my back deck doing the things I do for my real estate team — social media ads, flyers to promote open…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Year of Hell 😷Where’s Ben? 💔Profiting From Pollution 🏭 Happy Covidaversary to me. On this day one year ago, I had a Q-tip shoved up my nose to confirm what I already knew. Wifey Poo’s sister had been diagnosed with it. Wifey Poo’s mother had been diagnosed with it. Wifey…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Oh Deer 🦌The Thought Gap 🧠Unplugged 🔌 I was sitting in my as-yet-to-be-named home office this morning when this big boy ☝️☝️☝️ walked out of the woods into my yard. It’s the opening day of deer season in Missourah, a day of significance for many local inhabitants on par with their…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Picnic in November 🥶Happy Wife 👩Pour-Over Coffee ☕ Scheduling a picnic outside in Missouri in November seemed to me to be a very gutsy call. That’s until I stopped to realize who was scheduling it — Boy The Younger’s cross country team. These folks run everywhere, and, thus, I assume are…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hoops at Twain’s House 🏀Lunch With The Big Bosslady 🥪Breaking Up Is Efficient 💔 After a long week of work, I traveled north this evening with Boy The Younger for his second hoops game of the season. I missed the first because of an early start time, but this one was…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Gross Photos 📷Sand? Sand!? ⏳Sleeping With Cheese 🛏️🧀 I had major ankle surgery back in 2008 to essentially reconstruct my left foot, which had a nasty propensity to roll over without the rest of my leg accompanying it on the journey. After a four-hour operation and two weeks, I went back…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Pizza Visit 🍕French Fry Vodka 🍟🥃Let’s All Move to Portugal ✈️ We were surprised at dinner time last night with the sight of a kid who’s really no longer much of a kid. Matthew, who’s been Boy The Elder’s friend since the two weren’t even toddling, stopped by, pizzas in hand.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Death List ☠️Doctor Day 🩺Stay Calm, Be Confident 🧘 Sometimes the internet does something useful. For example, in the early days, there was the site that was nothing but The Hamster Dance. I’m not making that up, kiddos. The only thing this website had was The Hamster Dance. Don’t believe me?…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩What Makes a Sloth a Sloth? 🦥Launch Day is Nigh 🚀Talkin’ Free Speech 🎙️ I find myself going down some interesting rabbit holes lately. For example, tonight I wondered why exactly sloths are so slow and how exactly such a creature could survive in a survival-of-the-fittest world, especially when they live…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Good Morning, Bank of America, How Are Ya? 🎮Woods Walk 🌲🌲🌲Big Bird’s a Commie ☭ I awoke this morning to a text from Bank of America about potentially fraudulent charges on my debit card. “Pshaw,” thought I. “Probably just a scam.” So I stumbled into the kitchen, made my coffee and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cute Pic, Dumb Response 📷A Musical Connection 🎵A Time-Change Analogy ⌚ My first solo venture into Costco today did not end up in familial bankruptcy, surprisingly. Oh, it could have. It just didn’t. I walked right past the $40 slabs of ribs and steered clear of the $2,000 monster TV that…Keep reading