How are you doing?

How are you doing?

“Fine,” I say.


“uh… alright I guess.”

I try to listen to the voices inside… but sometimes they don’t speak clearly. I try to see… to watch… to understand. And sometimes there is nothing but a void, a dip in my heart rate… a struggle to catch my breath. And sometimes just for that moment, there is nothing at all… not sadness or anger… distance. I want people to keep asking, but I may not want to answer.

I don’t want to be a drag. I don’t want to explain or bring you down. It is complicated. And it may just be that right now the answer is not only complicated, it is unclear to me how I am doing. I know I have written this before. It isn’t that it bears repeating. I’m working it out and it is the question I keep going back to. So please, ask me.

Yesterday and the day before I felt a little crappy. I know that is vague. I guess if I had to describe it… sad and empty and maybe a little angry. It feels physically like I am tired. A bit overwhelmed. And sometimes in the next moment, I really do feel fine.

They shut off the power in my neighborhood at 9:30 last night… so I went to bed early. I slept well. I usually sleep well. I usually don’t recall my dreams, but I think because the power came on just after 3 AM… and all the little hums and blips that were made as stuff clicked on woke me up, I remembered that I was dreaming of playing clarinet… a cheap clarinet with a big chip out of the bell.

I went back to sleep. And about 20 minutes before my alarm was supposed to get me up, I woke up… feeling very very sad. I was thinking of a moment with Ethan… and like him, in an instant it was suddenly gone and I was left with nothing, in the dark, in the quiet of the pre dawn morning… nothing but my thoughts and shadows and cool air, and a deep sense of loss.

How am I doing?

Driving alone is another time when sometimes grief hits me. Arbitrary tears. A moment, without a trigger… and I can go from sadness to pounding the steering wheel in anger. I speak to God. I strain to hear him… or I just turn the radio up and drown everything out.

How am I doing?

Just over seven months ago, my youngest son who was living in Fresno, Ethan, started his dinner and then walked into his garage and strangled himself to death with the excess rope that held up his punching bag. It was one of my old retired climbing ropes, and once when I was there, I helped him tie the bag up better- higher with the weight distributed across more boards… and I coiled the dozens of feet that was left over and placed it up on the rafter.

He gave no obvious warning signs. He left no note. There wasn’t any huge indication. He just killed himself that day. A mistake. An accident. Fate. End of chapter. End of story.

So I have had seven months to think about this… the emotional fall out of loss and grief in the minutes, hours, days and weeks after learning that my son is forever dead. I have looked at different angles and tried to figure things out, and tried to work it through… come to terms with something no parent really ever comes to terms with.

So… How am I doing?

I have gained 15 pounds. My blood pressure and blood sugar are up… pretty much into that borderline zone before they become “high”. I need to exercise, but I don’t feel like it. I know I need to eat right. I know I need to go to the gym. To karate. But I feel like eating chocolate. Like ditching work. Like going to the movies. Like sitting and watching the sun rise, make its way across the sky and then set.

And I am supposed to go to work?

I like to write. I like to talk. I like to paint. I like to read. I’ve been putting myself together this way… one piece at a time. I think about music… about playing again. Guitar? Ten years ago I broke my left ring finger and I haven’t been any good since. The finger is better… but kinda loose and wiggly on the fret board. And that whole flow seems gone. Maybe clarinet again.

How am I doing? I am glad you asked. Because that means you are here… and I like that. I am doing better after seven months then I thought I would ever be doing in years and years. I have survived devastation- a loss of the worst kind. Love is strong. Faith is amazing. My family, with one missing, is intact. I am alive and looking forward to tomorrow and the next day. I am taking one step at a time and discovering in myself a new me… and something strong and gentle and worth talking about, In short, since you asked…
I am fine.



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