Saturday, December 8, 2007

Daniel, you're a star...

Daniel's service was Thursday. He would have been 16 on Sunday.

The courage my aunt continues to show is amazing. In addition to personally greeting just about every single guest that made an appearance, she stood up in front of us all and gave one of the most moving, eloquent, and emotional speeches I've ever witnessed. There wasn't a dry eye in the place when she was done. She thanked Daniel for holding on as long as he could, so that she could share those final few days with him. I was floored...we all were.

My aunt would make a great character for a coming-of-age novel. Maybe I should write it someday. She has lived with a capital L. She's made more than her share of mistakes, and has had some amazing triumphs as well. My family is full of fantastic people, but I have to say, as this whole ordeal has come to a close, my aunt has been absolutely brilliant. I'm sure some might feel otherwise, but I defy any of them to stand and deliver like she did on Thursday night.

Megan (my cousin, not Meg-my girlfriend) has also been a rock through all of this. I like to think that I could be as strong as they have been. I said a few words in eulogy as well; I wanted to recognize my aunt and cousin's bravery, and to acknowledge the warm sentiments that his friends, many of whom showed up despite knowing Daniel for mere months (he had just transferred to Norristown this year), had left on his Myspace and how comforting reading those little notes are for his family. I also wanted to speak my goodbyes to Daniel by thanking him for bringing us all just a little closer together. I made a lousy joke about his hair, and ended with the cheesy "footprints on our hearts" line from my previous blog about him. Afterwards I immediately wished that I had taken the time to prepare something formally; like my cousin Laura, who gave a great speech centered around the decision to donate his organs. But I'm glad I spoke, because I think it meant something to my aunt and Megan. I've left too many funerals wishing I'd had something to say about the deceased; we all had plenty to say about Daniel.

The only time I got really emotional at the service (aside from my aunt's speech, of course) was when I began picturing myself up there in his place. Not that I am afraid of dying; I firmly believe that when your time comes, it is inevitable, and it is important for those you've left behind to remember the good you've brought to their lives. But I pictured Meg up there, hysterical, inconsolable, feeling lost and alone, and I immediately felt guilty. If she never fell in love with me, she wouldn't have to feel that pain someday. Am I fucked in the head or what? When is her love ever going to be good enough for me to be beyond justification?

I've resolved to be closer to my family in the coming year, especially the ones who have shown me nothing but love and support over the years. My aunt and cousin need that support more than ever right now. By the way, I should also recognize Alicia, who always seems to be at her best when tragedy strikes. She and Megan have always been really close, I know she's doing everything she can to make things easier on her.

I hope I've learned whatever it is I was supposed to learn from all of this. I can't shake the feeling that I'm still standing on the edge of that cliff somewhere out there, poised to either tumble into oblivion, or turn around and embrace the opportunities that life has left sitting there for me.



Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Priority Puzzle

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker the other night. In a nutshell, he said that I'm wasting my time and energy at work, and that I am losing track of my dreams and the people and things that are important to me in the process.

This guy is a bit of an enigma. He has all the talent, skill, and intelligence in the world; he is a likeable, worldly guy who I have a lot of respect for. He is also lazy, disrespectful to authority, and completely incapable of showing up to work on time. He's the kind of guy that, while you want him at your side when the shit hits the fan, you can't necessarily be sure that he's going to be there to come to your aid. He's brilliant, but his brilliance is diluted by a complete lack of effort...he is very jaded and unhappy, but either he doesn't think that he can change things for the better, or he just isn't willing to try.

Anyway, I was taken aback by his comment. Not offended; I've always welcomed and encouraged everyone's input since my promotion, because when I was in their position, I wished that my thoughts and opinions had counted for something. Though it may not be the most professional way to go, I really think it makes me a better, more approachable boss. I'd like to be the kind of boss that people want to go to battle for; that requires a lot of support from the people working for you. I don't know that I am there yet, but I'm working on it.

I set the bar really high for myself at work, and I struggle to accept it when people don't make the same effort that I'd expect of myself. I've always taken work very seriously; perhaps seeing my mother work herself to the bone growing up rubbed off on me. I have a real distaste for people who aren't willing to work, and I can't stand the people who have that "the company is lucky to have me" attitude. I'm halfway through The Grapes of Wrath; those people would have done ANYTHING for work, and I know that times have changed, but what's the point ot taking a job like ours (I work with kids) if you're going to half-ass it? The kids deserve more than that.

But I do see his point. I have big dreams. I want to teach, I want to write, I want to get married and have a family. If I get too caught up in today, am I losing track of tomorrow? Hasn't that always been my problem? What's a little ice cream today gonna hurt in the long run? I'll just throw that Playstation on my credit card, because I want it today. I'll worry about paying for it tomorrow. Maybe.

Is the place I'm at worth my effort? In light of recent company events, I'm not so sure anymore. But I'm also not so sure he has it right, either. Would he be working nights in a thankless, entry-level position if his life had turned out the way he wanted it to?

Until tomorrow,


Friday, November 30, 2007

A cheeseburger a day...


I went to the doctor today for the first time in over a year (not including work-related physicals). I decided to try yet another new doctor, because I've never been a doctor-going kind of guy, and since I'm staring 30 in the face it's probably time for me to start taking care of myself.

There was some good news and some bad news. The good: I'm not 30 yet. The bad: just about everything else.

I have spent the past 20-odd years methodically destroying my body. I am SEVERELY overweight; more than 200 pounds. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, my hands hurt, my chest hurts, and perhaps worst of all, my pride hurts too. I have a terrible food addiction, and though I've had intermittent spurts of motivation here and there over the years, on the whole I'm about as driven as a hibernating bear to change my poor diet & exercise habits, and my lifestyle as a whole.

The dangerous part: Meg, who should have been my inspiration to change, has grown accustomed to living with me, and I fear that my poor influence is beginning to affect her health as well.

So where does it end?

The doctor's visit was actually quite refreshing; he was honest with me, but he was also very upbeat. I didn't feel judged at all. We had a very frank discussion about my goals and dreams, and I think he was satisfied with my perception of my own reality. I know I'm dangerously fat, and I know that I need to do something about it. Like many fat people, I also know alot about how to do it, but I've never been motivated enough to avoid those little traps that have always led to failure for me. We discussed my family's health history in detail, and I was pleased that he seemed to feel strongly that bariatric surgery is not the solution I should be searching for. While I'm not about to blame my father's problems on his surgery (I believe wholeheartedly that he probably ignored most of the advice that his doctors have given him..his willingness to throw the advice of the doctors who saved his life-they wanted him to lose more weight-out the window because he feels he knows better than them is all the proof I need), I've never felt that it would be the right solution for me. I like to exercise; I always feel great leaving the gym, exhausted, muscles pulsing and heart racing. I just never seem to get around to it.

Food is the bigger problem. I've come to rely on fast food and takeout for the majority of my meals (no wonder I'm broke), to the point where I'm actually bored with eating out altogether. Meg and I are probably some of Vince's best customers @ Dominick's. I'll spare the gory details; the bottom line: I eat to excess on a regular basis, and I am sick of it.

So the plan is to start slow. The doctor ordered some bloodwork (cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid) and referred me to a nutritionist and a sleep specialist. I'm going to spend December increasing my activity bit-by-bit, starting with walking the streets around here and maybe the trails @ work in the morning. Come January, I plan to join Brandon's gym so that he can help motivate me to go. My next appointment with the doctor is in March.

I've known for a long time that I need to do something. Honestly, if I don't do it now, than I probably never will, and my family will have another funeral to go to before much longer...

Wish me luck.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Learning from loss

As I sit down to write, my 15 year old cousin is laying on an operating table at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia while surgeons attempt to harvest his usable organs. From what I've heard, part of his liver is going to an 11-month-old baby.

I like to think that Daniel would smile knowing that in death he is helping save other people's lives. He was a good kid who grew up in an environment that was tough and unfair; for the sake of my aunt in her time of loss I'll refrain from commenting further or passing judgment on a situation that I was too far removed from to truly understand.

This hurts though. Seeing him in that bed, so young and so strong and so full of potential...I don't think I'll ever really get over that. Not that I should either. How fair is it that my father, who has done everything to throw his life away over the past five decades, manages to pull through his life-and-death situation, only to revert to his same selfish, disgusting, "who can I blame for my problems today?" ways; while Daniel, feeling trapped in a life that was never fair to him, makes a mistake that he can't recover from?

Of course, everyone's living with tons of regret in the aftermath. I'm worried about my aunt and my cousin-daniel's sister. I feel bad for not playing a bigger role in his life. I wish he would have called me.

I've learned from this though, and I won't make the same mistake with Aaron. On the night Daniel was being flown to CHOP, Aaron and I were in Philadelphia; I took him to his first concert (Avenged Sevenfold @ the Electric Factory) as a reward for his awesome report card. I'm pretty sure he had a great time; I know I did. He's a good kid too, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure he doesn't make the same mistake that Daniel did. When you're fifteen every little curveball that life throws at you feels like the end of the world; it's my responsibility as Aaron's big brother to teach him how to hit those pitches out of the park too, or at least foul them off...

On Thanksgiving I had a lot to think about, and among the many wonderful blessings that I have in my life, I should probably be most thankful that my mother was strong enough to make sure that we didn't make the same kind of mistakes that Daniel did. Believe me, I thought about it more than once. Mom is far from perfect, as we all are, but she gave us the tools to overcome our lives and the dark cloud of our father, and we're all doing okay. If I can have that kind of influence on Aaron, whose mother isn't even 1% of the woman that my mother is, then he'll have a fighting chance.

We miss you Daniel. You'll always be the good kid whose footprints on our hearts will never fade.