12/19/06

Don't read this post. It's not going to be funny. Seriously.

Currently, I have three posts in the works. The first is about what makes something funny. I have been poking and probing at this question like a six-year-old pokes and prods the hole in his gums when he loses a tooth. I'm not sure I have any answers, but it will be an interesting discussion, as I'm sure you're going to recognize a few of my observations in those around you. I envision that post will be a semi-serious look at the different types of "funny" that exist, and why some people and things are funny and some aren't. It will also include some truly effed-up pictures of our company's nativity set as an example.

The second post is about living in rural America and how there is absolutely no controls on what your mailbox has to look like. You would not believe some of the shit around here that passes for a U.S. Mail receptacle.

The third post is this one, and it's about this particular on-going holiday season. And since that's the one I chose to open with, that's the reason this post isn't going to be funny. It's going to be sad, and maybe a little bit angry, and I'm going to say some stuff in it that I need to get off my chest. It seems to be the thing lately to use your blog as an outlet for something that it's not usually used for; to break out of the mold a bit and change up the format. Maybe it's something in the air, I'm not sure. So this post, while probably not appropriate for a humor blog (as I've come to call it - your opinion may differ) also might be a little hopeful in the end, and help me to sort out a few things. At the very least, maybe it'll help you guys who are reading this who are currently in or have been in a similar situation. Maybe, in some way, it'll help to know that you're not alone, and JV is out here pullin' for ya.

To lay it on the table, I have two people in my life who are currently dying. One I care about deeply, the other, well...not so much. That being said, however, both have impacted my life, and continue to do so. As a result, I'm having a hard time finding humor in things, and I'm afraid I've been phoning in my last month's posts in a (misguided?) effort to inject some levity into my life in spite of everything that's going on.

The weird thing is, I find it actually does help, but I'm not sure I'm doing you any service, since I presume that you come here to be entertained, and if I'm doing my job at all, you get a smile out of whatever it is that I wrote. So --If after this post I continue to be unfunny, well, I apologize in advance.

I was never really sure about this whole blogging thing anyway. People I work with (Special Dark, you bastard) have told me that I'm not as funny in person. While my first reaction was a sincere "eff you" -- I have to say that I actually agree with him (that bastard).

I thought about why that is, and it comes down to one thing: I'm pretty introverted and quiet, and as a result, when I am with a group of people I mostly don't ever say what I'm thinking. At any rate, that's part of my current dilemma. As a bona-fide introvert, I have a tendency to go into hibernation mode when I'm in a funk or under stress, and not want to socialize or be as supportive as I could be under more normal circumstances, which even then takes a lot out of me. I'll get to why that's an issue in a moment.

It's been over five years since my mother died, and the first time around for every holiday was incredibly tough. The first Mother's Day. The first Thanksgiving. The first Christmas. The first time her birthday came and went, and I wasn't able to call her up. My friend shop dungs is going through that now, and I know how difficult and incredibly sad this Christmas will be for him. I wish there was something I could do, but I know that there really isn't. Telling him that it "gets better with time" sounds incredibly trite, even though it's mostly true. The wounds are still too raw for any of that crap advice to have any meaning. It only means something when you discover it for yourself; when you've had the time to get used to the pain, and then begin to heal.

Right now, it's my wife's turn to feel raw inside and mad at life. It's her grandmother who is lying in a nursing home, unresponsive and being fed through a tube in her stomach wall, a result of a stroke almost a month ago. Her father had been battling skin cancer, which last week he found out has spread to his lungs, liver, stomach and adrenal glands. The doctors say he has maybe 6 months. My wife's grandmother is everything to her, and practically raised her. Their bond is one of friendship, mutual respect and an immense love.

Her father means almost nothing to her. He has basically ignored her all his life unless he needed something, and he's the most cold-hearted, self-centered person I've ever met in my life. His dying might not seem like an issue unless you know my wife, who is one of the most caring people I know. It causes her no end of guilt that she feels very little for her own dying father. He's not helping the situation in the slightest, which is typical for him. I didn't think it was possible to dislike someone as much as I have learned to dislike him over the years. He's a taker who has a sense of entitlement that makes me want to smash his face. The only saving grace in this whole debacle is that her grandmother doesn't have to watch her only son die -- If you can call that a grace of any sort.

Therein lies my problem. I feel like I have to be upbeat and supportive for her, yet all I want to do is go into lock-down hibernation mode. I don't want to be funny. I want to sit in my office and write shit like this. I want to forget about the hard choices that I'm sure she and her grandfather are going to have to make. I want to wish myself into next year, and maybe bypass all the heartache that is bearing down on us. Mostly, I want to sit in a corner near the woodstove and lick my wounds like a hurt animal.

But I can't.

I have to be there for my wife and her grandfather, who is one of the nicest, bravest, most inspiring men I've ever known. I'll tell his story some day. In the meantime, all I can do is watch, and offer support where and when I can. I'm not always good at it, I admit. I'm not perfect, and so I sometimes take the easy way out. It's a constant fight between what I feel I should do and what I have the strength to actually do. So hit me with the good mojo, because I'm going to need it. We all are.

The reason I'm writing this now is because I got blindsided in a Toastmaster's meeting today. I'm shitty at public speaking because of that whole "introvert" thing -- so I decided that even though the thought made me physically sick, I was going to join Toastmaster's. It's about nerdy as you'd think it would be, but it does get you speaking in front of a group. For those of you who don't know, at every Toastmaster's meeting there's a thing called "Table Topics" which basically means that they ask a random question on a random subject, and then choose someone to talk about it for 30 seconds. I got picked. The question was, "If you had the chance, and money and power were no object, what would you give to someone you care about as a Christmas present?" Before I even knew what I was saying, I said, "I'd make my wife's dad not have terminal cancer and I'd take away her grandmother's stroke." You could have heard a pin drop. In a room full of people I barely know, I blurted this out for no good reason other than it was what was on my mind.

I thought I was handling things pretty well until that exact moment, when I sat there in stunned silence with tears in my eyes. It was then that I realized that I had to write some of this down, just to get it out and maybe try to make some sense of what I was feeling. Unfortunately for you, I followed through with that, and this gibberish is the result.

I guess if there's a message to this post, it has to be one of hope and healing. Hope that the future holds joys and contentment that you might find it hard to imagine now. Whether you're dealing with loss, impending loss or just plain loneliness, remember this: You can plan for tomorrow, but don't do it at the expense of the present. As crappy as it may have been, take some time out to look at today, and the people you shared it with. Call your friends. E-mail or IM them if you have to. Call your parents, and your grandparents, if you're lucky enough to still have them around. Tell them how thankful you are that they're in your life, even if they're a giant pain in the ass most of the time. Tell them how much they mean to you, and tell them why. Or if that's too hard, just tell them that you love them, because you never know when a conversation you're having with someone you care about will be the last one you ever have. I can't remember the last thing my mother and I talked about before she died, and that still bothers me. Knowing her, I'm sure it was something that made me laugh, which makes it even more difficult.

It can all go away in an instant, and if it does, you don't want regrets. Talk about the good times you've had with the people you love, because those memories may be the only thing that gets you through the bad times.

As my father always tells me, you have to do what you can for the people in your life.

Then he usually adds, "Unless they're an asshole."

Advice to live by, my friends.

I'll be back with something funnier later this week. I promise.

(Like that will be tough, right? Hey I warned you in the subject line. You just never listen.)

31 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:12 PM

    Not much one can say to ease the pain, worries and heartache, but I will say that my prayers will be with you and your wife....I've been there..lost my mom 8 years ago and my dad followed her 30 days later. This will sound just as trite, but stay strong and help her to remember the good times....
    bless you both
    Deb

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  2. Anonymous10:01 PM

    i'm really sorry you guys are going through this. i wish there was something i could offer to help soothe. you're craving time to hide in your cave for good reason. i'm out here if you need anything.

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  3. Sorry about your troubles. YOu don't have to be afraid that we won't like your serious side, we like all of you and enjoy reading your blog immensely.

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  4. thanks everyone. I thought about not posting it, but figured what the hell. It's my blog, right?

    Danielle -- my cave! That's it exactly. I am calling my office that from now on. And thanks.

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  5. My prayers are with you and your family. xo

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  6. Upstate Broad8:04 AM

    Five years ago, we sat by my 35-year-old brother-in-law's bedside and held his hand on Christmas. He was marginally aware for only a few moments, and he passed the next day. I'll tell you what I tell my husband every year. Spend some time on every holiday thinking of the people you've lost. They would be honored by that. Then move on and enjoy your day, because that's what they would want for you.

    And as for what makes something funny, someone (I think it was Charlie Chaplin) once said that Pain plus Time equals Comedy. I think there's a subtle difference between comedy and humor, but it's still mostly true.

    Our prayers are with you and your wife.

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  7. Anonymous8:54 AM

    Miriam got it right, and so did you. This IS your blog, and if it in any way can help you cope then you should darn well go for it.
    Of course we love reading your funny posts, your hilarious, but thats not the only reason I come and check this post every morning. It's also because you are so sincere in what you write about your family. The stories about your brothers and your Mom and your Dad are always so genuine, and in their own right beautiful.
    Lord knows you don't need to apologize to us for not being funny. For heavens sake we come here to read for FREE ! You do whatever you can to get through.
    I'm kind of a crappy Christian, but I will pray for you and definetly your wife. I might suck, but God has to listen to my prayers for other people. No offense if your not into the God thing, but I'll pray anyway, it can't hurt.
    Lindystar

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  8. I am really sorry for everything you and your wife are going through. It is hard being the one who has to be comforting. I'm going through it now, and it's wearing me down (no way near as serious a situation as you are dealing with). You are a good man, and I am thinking about you and your wife and will be thinking about you both on Christmas and beyond-not just because of this but also because you are my friend!

    Also you're a fantastic and engaging writer-funny or not. Please write a book. And dedicate it to me so I can brag.

    P.S. I think you are really funny live and in person, too.

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  9. A wife12:07 PM

    Wow- this post totally hits home, so thanks for writing it, despite it's lack of funny. My husband is dealing with the impending loss of his father, with whom he has had many rocky times, but in the past 3 years they have healed all wounds. Its really hard to be the upbeat one, the joker, the distractor, whatever. And all the while this is bringing back the pain of the loss of my father many years ago.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble on your blog, especially being a first timer, but just wanted to say that i feel ya, man. I wish you the best holiday season and hope things go just as they should.

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  10. wow, SD is right, it's like someone blew a load of boring all over the funny cake...

    OK, not really, i'm being inappropriately not funny. But it's what I do.

    The best part of your blog is that its you, so whatever you put down, except for racy lumberjack pictures, is cool with me. Sorry again to hear about your wife's dad, didn't know about the intricate back story, so thanks for sharing.

    You can always make a snow cave too, if the office one doesn't work out. Just remember flannel knickers.

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  11. That wasn't gibberish Johnny, it was beautiful. Thank you for sharing what's going on and for thinking of us - offering us encouragement and hope for when we inevitably have to go through it.

    One of my favorite quotes of all time may give you a little comfort.

    Life is mostly froth and bubble;
    Two things stand like stone.
    Kindness in another's trouble,
    Courage in your own.
    ---Adam Lindsay Gordon

    Hugs & prayers to you and Mrs. JV and her grandma & grandpa.

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  12. Anonymous1:19 PM

    Awww, that is really shitty for you all.

    Doesn't matter how inadequate you may feel your help and support is to your wife if she feels better and supported. I think hardly anyone feels adequate to situations like this, all you can do is try.

    I will be thinking of you all.

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  13. Jennifer2:03 PM

    Wow...I just wrote this page long comment full of well wishes and un-solicited advise. But instead of junking up your comments page, I will just say I am sorry for the tough spot you & your wife are going through. I am glad for you that you have this blog you can use as an outlet for your anger and grief. Maybe you can be that outlet for your wife. In my experience, just being a good listener is the best way to help.

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  14. That British Lady4:21 PM

    I feel for you, JV. My mantra through the hard times is "this too shall pass, and then I will smile at the memories of the good times".

    Keep your chin up.

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  15. I've been wanting to email you, but I lost your addy when my HD crashed. I'm sending lots of Splenda your way (inside joke).

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  16. Thank you for this post. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you.

    Oh, and your dad seems to be a very wise guy. And I mean that both ways :)

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  17. First, I can't say I know what your going through.
    I am an adoptee and after 30+ years, finally met most of my family
    I'll never meet my Mother as she passed long before I knew who she even was.
    My birth father, and I will never refer to him as father, I don't like and never will. He is a loud, foul mouthed boor who no sense of right and wrong and is very self centered and self serving.
    My adoptive father beat the living shit out of my twin and I and guaranteed that no a tear will be shed for him.
    My adoptive Mother I will miss but not near as much as one would think, she allowed the beatings and never lifted a finger to stop it.
    There are but four people who will remain in my thoughts and prayers always. My twin bother, my two sons and my daughter.

    The only wisdom I can offer, as one lady I talked to this year told me, and I am the farthest from being a religious man as you will ever find, God gives you no more than you can handle. It is the only thing that gets me through some days.

    This blog is your outlet and you will survive. That is a fact.

    Good luck to both you and your wife, may life get easier down the road...

    Thoughts

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  18. Thanks JV. I'm sorry about A's dad and grandma. One thing that's probably dumb but that makes it tough for me to write stuff like this in my blog is that I never feel like my problems are worthy of sharing. Like I think everyone has problems so why do they need to hear about mine. But then I think sometimes it's just nice to know that other people feel the same way you do, especially people you like.

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  19. You are great, no matter what you post. I think this is one of your best posts. Keep on muddling through it however you can..

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  20. Obviously, I'm sorry to hear about what you and your wife are going through. My husband's grandfather just died. That's a mixed bag because the man has been estranged from his family for a long time, but they all came together to say goodbye and it was emotional for all the wrong reasons. Or maybe they weren't the wrong reasons.

    So I read your blog because, well, it's entertaining and well written. It's funny. I laugh, etc. You do observational humor exceedingly well.

    Lesser writers would post something like: I had to fly to Cleveland and I had to get up early and then I had to to go home late. Or lessers writers would write, "Some shit is going down in my life and I'm sad." But you suck us into your day and we, the readers, came completely relate to everything that you're saying because we've all been there. We've had crappy days. We've had good days. We all deal with the millions of people in this world. And those millions of people? Fodder. Just good, clean fodder.

    I get what you're saying about the introvert thing and being a better writer than speaker.I'm much more organized on paper than I am in person. Or, hell, maybe I'm not.

    Anyway. Thank you for your post. I hope things even out. They will.

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  21. JV, I have nothing to say other than I'm pushing for you and the Mrs. Your readers will always be here and no matter what you post we shall enjoy (This post was particularly heartfelt however, and also very beautiful).

    ~Much Love
    Corbs

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  22. Eh fuck. Everything I start to write sounds trite or inconsiderate. Sorry if this still comes out that way. JV - My father died a few years ago. He and I never really got along, he was a raging alcoholic and bi-polar, (which really ought to mean something about sexual orientation and bears instead of what it means), and I was an overly-conscientious, snide little kid even at age 6. But we never had it out, either. The last year of his life he got sober and tried to be a better father but the relationship was awkward to say the least. Him quitting drinking was at that point a Herculean effort and to succeed was huge, but I never really believed in him, and I felt guilty for not feeling the way I thought I should.

    A month or so before he died he sent me an email in which he told me that he really liked my fiance, and he wanted me to tell my fiance not to make the same mistakes that he had. It was the first time he ever acknowledged the things that had happened during my childhood; the things he had done. I never answered the email.

    Losing someone is awful. And yes, your wife needs you. And yes, that's impossibly hard on you and anyone would want to curl in on themselves and protect their vulnerable parts. Do what you can for her, and take what time you can for you, and if you're able to strike a balance there then you're ahead of the game. And, as a piece of completely unsolicited advice - if she wakes you up in the middle of the night sobbing hysterically and can't tell you why, don't fall back asleep on her until she's okay. I speak from experience. (he's STILL apologizing for that one). If there's anything I can do, just ask.

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  23. Anonymous8:16 AM

    Right now, I know you feel inadequate in the support that you are giving your wife. I know this because my husband felt helpless when I hit a bad time in my life. And she may not be making a show of letting you know that she knows you only want things to be ok for her, but it's only because right at this moment, she doesn't know it herself. When things change, and she looks back, her thoughts will be somewhere along the lines of thank God you were in her life to get her through it.

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  24. Anonymous9:36 AM

    JV-
    My prayers are with your wife, your family, and you.

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  25. Anonymous6:17 AM

    JV, I'm so sorry.

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  26. fuzzhead8:47 AM

    As somesone who knows your wife, I know you have always been the one thing that always makes things better for her. I don' think there is a day that I haven't heard her say how lucky she is to have you in her life and even after all the time you've been together she still can't wait to come home. WELL.... there are those days that she's not sure what you will be in the woods taking pictures of for your blog and that can be scarey as we all know. Anyway....I just wanted you to know that you are doing a great job with the support thing. You are an amazing person who is loved very much.
    xoxo

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  27. Oh jeez, what a double whammy your wife must be going through! I know I'm a bit late as I'm behind in my reading due to working and the holidays but I wanted to tell you you're both in my thoughts.

    I hope you had a good Christmas.

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  28. Anonymous5:03 PM

    Sorry for your loss. Love your blog. I just started writing and wanted to share something with you.

    WHAT DO WE SEE:

    Sometimes we look in the mirror and aren't sure what we see. We imagine being taller or thinner or just someting different.

    WhO is that image starring back at us? Something we created or something we have just become.

    Sometimes we wonder if others see that image or something completely different. Maybe the real image is locked up inside and the key hasn't been found yet. Sometimes we just need the right image starring back at us to find that key.

    Every image we see is special we just need to see the value and beauty in each image. There is always time for change but we have to be grateful for what we see and accept that others may not see our beauty.

    Find an image you love and enjoy all that it is and not what it isn't.

    Smile when you look at that image and it will smile back at you.

    Enjoy your life and who you are.

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  29. I'm not really sure what that means, but thanks. And keep writing.

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  30. JV,

    I've been playing "catch-up" on reading of your blog - I've laughed my ass off...and now again, you've made me cry. I'm sure these events are long past, but I'm not gonna skip ahead, dammit. So, belated or not, my good thoughts and prayers are coming your way (of course for Mrs. JV even more so). This may well be part of my own healing process - thank you again for sharing your life's observations - be they funny, gritty, hee-freakin-larious, sad or whatever - just keep writing.

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