Ten to Eleven Week Rambling

Been a couple weeks since posting. I’ve had a couple of half-typed things but abandoned for lack of direction (and yet here I am coming in with an intent for stream-of-conscious rambling).

Tonight is the midpoint between ten and eleven weeks. And it’s hard to describe exactly how I’m feeling. Sometimes I’m not sure what distresses me MORE: that I’ve made it this far/long, or that the meds I’m on seem to have dried up my tears and left me “existing.”

I still have a lengthy list of isolated “memories” to detail, but felt weird with some of my posts seeming so…I don’t know. Formulaic? Or like I was just filling out some old “writing prompt” from junior high or something.

Another factor of course has been work, and losing myself in some simpler, basic “routines” that do not involve sitting at a non-work computer typing non-work stuff.

And yet…

And yet, I’ve been managing to “write up” posts for more comics than I have in YEARS. Where most of my comics-blog content the last couple years in particular have been sharing photos of “weekly hauls” of new comics or “showing off the shelves” for STUFF I’ve acquired…very little has been actual longform CONTENT–reviews of individual comics or other thoughtful/in-depth posts on some topic.

Over the last few weeks I’ve re-read and written about 8 chapters of the 1992/1993 “Funeral for a Friend” story detailing the aftermath of the death of Superman. I’ve “covered” four comics from the late 1980s–the first four comics that were ever “mine” that Mom bought me. And I’ve got a slight backlog of posts covering a 4-part early-1992 story from “Starman,” and starting into a 20-or-so part run on issues about the villain Eclipso.

And maybe that’s given me a bit of “focus,” on a “project” where I can semi-sorta-kinda-maybe “lose myself” a BIT and not have to overthink my reality, of loss, or what life has become or is becoming. A small, “tangible” “goal” that’s just ME, who and what(ever) I “am,” and “have been.”

Delving back into something that at least in the past had been an enjoyment, and something I just…do. Not to mention that Dad himself often seemed impressed with my writing, and stuff related to keeping that blog up for however many years.

Feels weird to try to say that maybe I’m “honoring” him by doing something for ME. But maybe it’s also a “coping mechanism.”

All these weeks later and I **STILL** have piles of comics to go through in the other room, that I had spread out the afternoon before we lost him. I don’t know what to say on THAT, except that my heart hasn’t been in it.

Despite that, I did recently “discover” that if I attach those stick-on binder tabs to a comic backboard, it makes an EXCELLENT divider-tab for comics, sized quite well for my comic boxes, and thus provides an imminently worthwhile path forward to some of the organization I’ve lacked all these years.

Then there’s the weird week it’s been…with Mom in NY visiting my sister, it’s been just me with the pets–Chloe and Sarah (cats) and Daisey (dog)–juggling them with work and whatnot.

As I sit here typing, I’m in “the Cave” while Daisey’s chilled out on a pillow. She’s been especially “needy” and craving attention…I can’t leave her alone for 30 seconds without her whining, barking, and/or shrieking for me. Though it was pointed out to me the other day that for her point of view, Dad suddenly hasn’t been around, and now suddenly Mom hasn’t, either…so she’s definitely had some major disruption to her “normal” beyond my own (I at least can know what happened, is happening, etc).

This weekend is “spring forward”–the time change overnight–and “Spring” is officially only about a week away. Which lends itself to another range of thought for me…it means that we’re almost through the season (Winter) and into a first full season without Dad. Though Winter was only a few days old when we lost him, so the bulk of the season has been without him as it is.

Guess we’ll see what the coming week actually holds, and whether “plans” work out and how, and all that.

Dad and business trip stuff

I’ve yet to ever work any job where I had to travel FOR work. The closest was when I worked for IDMI and would regularly drive between the main office and the warehouse, but given that was a less than 10 minute drive (maybe 5-7?) that hardly counts.

No, by “travel FOR work” I’m talking “being gone” from “home” at least overnight–traveling further than a return-same-day thing. Where you’re “put up” at least overnight somewhere as a result of the job.

While it was hardly “frequent,” I do remember Dad having to travel for work occasionally.

And largely due to what he brought back, I remember several distinct such trips.

First, there was that trip to Detroit, I believe; in 1989/1990…the dawn of the “Turtles Craze” when the TMNT figures were maybe at their height and NO ONE had the actual turtles themselves in stock. Dad had gone on this trip, and when he came back, he had all 4 turtles, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones for me.

Another was Hawaii either end of 1992 or early 1993 when the “Doomsday!” (Death of Superman) cards were the hot thing. He came back with 2 unopened boxes of the cards for me; this yielded (if I recall) at least 3 full sets of the main cards, and a set of whatever the chase cards were (that I’m currently drawing a blank on in 2022).

Of course, both of these trips I would’ve been 8-12 years old, very much a kid, and so it makes sense, I guess, that what stood out was what he brought back FOR ME. There’s also that as a kid, I simply remember/knew that Dad went off to work every day; that he would bowl or golf some evenings after work, etc.

Those turtle figures were a Really Big Deal at the time. I don’t recall FOR SURE but I have this vague notion that he VAAAAAAAASTLY over-paid for them, GIVEN their “hotness” at the time. As I’m typing this, I’m thinking he may have said something about paying around $20/each…but again, that’s a vague notion and I don’t have a solid, specific memory of the number or such. Whatever he paid for them, it was definitely a premium, even by 2022 pricing (5-6 times retail price in 1989/1990!)

And the Superman trading cards…I remember him at some point disclosing to me that he’d paid $90/box for them…that was $180! ($2.50/pack…each box had 36 packs). And again, that was 1992/1993. Even now in 2022 I’d be really gritting my teeth and thinking hard about having to pay $90 for some cards, EVEN in 2022 buying a now-vintage box of those very same cards!

But these were a couple things where they were stuff I was VERRRRRRY much wanting at the time, and they were sold out/unable to be found locally, but when he found them while he was traveling for work, he splurged on ’em, to be able to make his son happy. As an adult, I’ll regularly travel certain distances “hunting” some particular figure or such; though these last couple months ESPECIALLY that particular interest has been sorely dimmed. I definitely do not remember Dad ever doing that for anything for himself (not the way I do, anyway!); so his going out of his way and looking for stuff while traveling was that much more significant to me and my memories.

And while it wasn’t so much bringing something back for ME; another “travel for work” I remember was his going to Washington, DC for a few weeks in 2001 or so. I don’t recall what FOR; but it was a few weeks, and I was working at the summer camp in Michigan that summer; so the only real impact for ME (since I myself was gone most of 10 weeks!) was one weekend that I did drive back to Eastlake to ‘visit’ and Dad was gone at the time. I don’t recall the full context, but I remember that summer being when he started using a cane.

As I think about that now, I realize that means it was about 16 years–more than 1/3 of my life–that he had/used canes; though on THAT I don’t really recall it being quite so prominent a thing until years later when he got more reliant on the cane. And of course after he fell in 2017 and was in the nursing homes, the rest of the time it was the powerchair, wheelchair, or walker(s) rather than a cane.

I know he likely traveled for work more than that, but those stand out most to me in MY memories. And these do not get into the fact of his military service and being stationed around the world (like Guam). I was born on Guam; he was restationed to the Detroit area and then Cleveland before retiring. So all the world-traveling was before I was born. I suppose that stuff would be fitting for another post, where I’ll need to talk more to Mom for details!

The Lion King…and seeing myself in Simba

I remember seeing The Great Mouse Detective as a kid. Whether accurate or not, the memory I have of it is seeing it in the theater, with Mom and Dad.

Then there’s The Land Before Time…the first movie I remember knowing about in advance and looking forward TO. While I associate that with Mom taking me and such…I do recall it was Dad who bought that first VHS (which I still have around here somewhere!) and thus wound up getting a VHS machine to play it so I could actually watch the thing (he’d been a Betamax person).

1989 gave us The Little Mermaid which I don’t really associate with either parent…I remember seeing something on tv as a kid about it and behind the scenes stuff with the animation and how many drawings it took to animate a single second, though.

I remember being taken to the original TMNT film; while I think both parents were there, it’s Dad I most remember and associate with that one…particularly an entertaining-to-me story he told of quoting the movie at work afterward. I also associate him with TMNT II; with being excited that day at school to go see it.

Then there’s 1992’s Aladdin. While I remember both parents present for that first time in the theater, there’s something to it that I now–as I type/think/remember–associate with Dad. I think it may have been a “double header” movie night; one of those “see THIS film, then catch the premiere of Aladdin” deals or some such. (Could have been some other films, but hey…) And maybe it’s the work of years-later memories and stuff mashing up in my mind…especially Robin Williams’ bit about the creation of Golf…that gives me another association with Dad and the film. While he definitely had a sense of humor, it was never the almost manic energy of Williams or the Genie.

But The Lion King…1994. That one was another big one for me; maybe the biggest of my Disney-Four. Seeing the film itself. Seeing stuff on tv about it. Reading stuff in the newspaper about it. Hearing the Elton John versions of a couple of the main songs on the radio regularly.

And whether it was immediate, or came about more gradually over repeat viewings, memories, etc…I’m pretty sure The Lion King was the first time I may have ever contemplated actually losing Dad. While it may have been more during college that stuff particularly sank in on it for me, even that was half a lifetime ago or more, so I can only really–and only really CARE TO now–speak on it as it hits me right now in 2022.

There are scenes from that film burned into my mind, and memories of being moved to tears, or almost to tears, at different times. The early scenes between Mufasa and Simba; the way Simba looked up to Mufasa, was excited to learn from him, eager to be like him. That scene where Simba steps into a paw print from Mufasa. Saying he wanted to be like Mufasa. Their bonding even after Mufasa gives Simba the extremely stern talking-to. That idea of hearing one’s father say they were disappointed…learning from it, not wanting to disappoint, etc.

I remember seeing a live production of the show in Toronto in 2001. Getting a copy of that version of the soundtrack. Some of the extra songs and such on that that were not part of the animated soundtrack or film. One of the tracks’ titles that as I’m typing now I can’t remember for sure–maybe “Remember Who You Are” or such; and more of the Simba/Mufasa thing. I also remember being impacted by the show itself, one of the Mufasa/Simba scenes where the actors actually take off the masks and you just see them…father and son. Powerful.

And even now as I’m typing, I’m tearing up as I gather my thoughts and try to find the words I want.

“He Lives in You” is probably that track, not “Remember Who You Are.”

Rafiki and Simba. Simba asking “You knew my father?” And Rafiki ‘correcting’ him. “I KNOW your father. You see…he lives in you!” And Simba seeing his reflection and how very much he looked like Mufasa. (forget the fact that to humans, lions probably mostly look the same and stuff like that).

“The clouds.” Simba “seeing” Mufasa. That voice, telling him to “Remember…who you are…” That such a huge part of Simba IS Mufasa, and their relationship. Mufasa’s example. Simba striving to match his father, follow in his footsteps, that his father is….was…his hero, someone to be looked up to.

And the part the echoes all too authentically, that became all too real, that has “broken” me a number of times in the last 7 1/2 weeks, that even now leaves me having to collect myself to even type about it.

Founded or not, Simba’s guilt…hurt…anger…disappointment…loss.

“You said you’d always BE there for me!”

“But you’re not. And it’s because of me.”

And my mind wants to leap to splicing a bit from an old Batman audiocomic. “…so many ghosts. So many memories…”

Nothing super about this Sunday

I’ve barely even NOTICED the run up to the Superbowl this year.

I’ve never been much of a football person; even with 3 years of going to just about all of the high school games–home AND away–sophomore through senior years. THOSE were because of being in the marching band. What games I went to DURING college were basically strictly TO see the marching band, or just to spend time with friends.

I remember going to one game in the fall after I’d graduated from BG; I’d been to a comic shop before meeting up with friends; and wound up reading a few comics, not even caring for the game. Another game, visited a friend and saw the game with her on TV.

At least a handful of times in grad school, went to game-watching gatherings; for the big rivalry games and at least a couple of Superbowl parties.

WHICH leads to a newly re-found regret is that I never made the time or effort to go to a college game with Dad. He’d talked about wanting to; strongly hinted, and at one point in grad school I think I’d even actually gotten tickets for a BASKETBALL game…but I was so disinterested in the idea of attending a live sporting event like that that we never ended up going.

(For that matter, he never got to SEE me graduate from college OR grad school…I was so uninterested in the ceremony of it all that I just wanted nothing to do with either graduation. But that’s maybe a subject for another post sometime).

Even into recent years, though, Dad was the football fan. Far from “die-hard” and such, but he would frequently watch the OSU games on Saturdays or the Browns on Sundays…or whatever day their game(s) would be on. He’d watch (or at least have on) the Cleveland baseball and basketball games as well; though I’d usually do the best I could to “ignore” the games (if I have a superstition, it’s that Cleveland ALWAYS LOSES if I happen to be consciously aware of the score at any point DURING the game).

I do remember some baseball games with Dad; going to downtown Cleveland and the stadium there. I remember frustrating him once with my rooting for the opposing team because I was bored/uninterested in the game in front of me. Another time I had a book with me and read during most of the game. I do remember one time with Cub Scouts or early Boy Scouts, someone had provided tickets and Dad took a bunch of us to a game where we got to watch from a Lodge. Dad had bought a “team set” of one of the trading card series for that year.

(I also remember him buying some of the sports cards other times…other than a very BRIEF, only-remembered-just-now-while-I’m-typing-this stint with baseball cards and (Ozzie Smith? Being my favorite player for a bit just because I recognized him from his card), I never really cared for or stuck with sports cards. My thing was non-sports trading cards (Superman: Doomsday, Marvel Series IV, Marvel Masterworks, X-Men Fleer Ultra, Marvel Fleer Flair, Return of Superman, some Spider-Man set, Ultraverse, etc)

But just as he almost always wanted to get “party appetizers” and such for New Year’s Eve…he was also big on doing stuff like that for Superbowl Sundays. If not some big thing, then at LEAST this chips-and-dip with spicy sausage and melted Velveeta.

I remember a number of times going to Sam’s or BJ’s with him and getting a bunch of finger foods…often way more than we’d actually eat, or even prepare…because he was always so enthusiastic about the IDEA of it all.

I do recall a scant handful of Superbowls; I’d watch “for the commercials” and such; maybe the halftime show. I know Mom watched more of those with him than I ever did. I actually sat through the game itself the year of the Janet Jackson thing, but had been out of the room and never saw the so-called “malfunction.”

And while I’ve not been a particular sports person, we do have this Browns blanket that’s been around since at least the early 1990s; I think I even wound up taking it to college with me at one point and might have absconded with it for one of the apartments I lived in; but he’d made some use of it in the past year or so, I think. He also had this other one that I think was essentially just a length of Browns-patterned material that served as a good blanket.

So this is the first Superbowl I’ve been aware of, that Dad’s not here to even talk about watching it. If not Saturday, then today I should’ve been out getting stuff for him–whether some kind of wings, or stuff for a dip, making sure there were chips; etc.

He’d be talking about trying to have a bunch of people over for the game; something I ALSO always resisted (because I’d have to work Monday morning, among other things). But whether or not he’d get to have people over, HE would have the game on.

Now it’s another bittersweet (if that’s even the word I want…I don’t think it is, but it’ll have to do) milestone here learning what life is without him. It’s an event I’ve only been VAGUELY aware of approaching, and in part FOR not having him, it’s all the more something I want little to nothing to do with. I have no intention of watching the game, or the commercials. No intention of any of that.

But I miss him, and his enthusiasm for it, and THAT he’d be gearing up for the thing.

Dad and comics

It’s amazing the little things–or seemingly-little–that stick with a person. For one thing, back in kindergarten, I was in Mrs. Greenlee’s class (how I remember that name, I don’t know). She introduced us to a secondary way of learning the alphabet: “The Letter People.” For some reason I wound up completely enamored with the “Mr. S” character. His “theme song” in particular. And I don’t know now if it’s my 41-year-old-brain with flimsy memories from being 6 or 7 years old, but I have this vague notion of Dad having borrowed that RECORD with the Letter People theme songs and being able to take it to work with him to use something there to record stuff to an audio cassette. Whether that’s what REALLY happened or not, in my memories it makes sense; and I “remember” this sense of picturing some mythical huge MACHINE that would have a record put in and transfer a copy to a cassette. Of course, as an adult, I realize it had to have simply been some stereo system that had both record player and cassette deck that allowed one to record to the cassette while a record was playing. And while I loved having all those Letter People songs, it was absolutely the Mr. S one that most held me.

Flash forward a year or two or few (surely what seemed like a REALLY LONG time to a kid could’ve been just a few months) and we’d moved to Eastlake. It was Fall, October, and the elementary school was doing some sort of wear-your-costume-to-school day thing. Well…7-year-old me had to be Mr. S for Halloween. Of course…a mostly blue costume, a cape (albeit yellow), a BIG RED “S” on the front…people kept thinking I was “Superman,” whoever the heck THAT was.

As I remember it, that afternoon after school, back at home, I flat-out asked Mom: “WHO is ‘Superman’?” She’d tried to describe him, I’m sure, but I didn’t really “get” it. (LATER I’d eventually remember that my friend Jason in the Base Housing had had the original Superman movie on, and had told me some guy “turns INTO” Superman, but it was boring to me…all he did was catch some lady and a helicopter!). From that question/etc, Mom had talked to Grandpa and when he and Grandma next visited, he brought with him a stack of comic books. While there may have been others, I definitely remember the (I know now they were ‘Silver Age’) DCs, particularly Superman stuff; though also Batman (and Robin) in the mix.

Further, it was Mom who–the next spring/summer–bought me my first four comics at a Waldenbooks. (Superman #31/Adventures of Superman #453/Batman #439/Detective Comics #604).

But while she STARTED me on the path into comics…

It was Dad who kept me going.

Whether it was getting that Superman issue with the split cover and skier on the cover; that issue with the brick statue of Jimmy Olsen; the issue with the “ex pal” stuff; I associate Dad with a lot of those early issues. (Mom for my first issue of Action Comics–#653–though). It was also Dad who bought me that issue of Secret Origins (#46?) with the blue cover, the Justice League story, and I believe it even turned out it was one of Grant Morrison’s earliest DC stories.

There was also that issue of TMNT Adventures–#25–that he got me (I remember he had us kids at the mall for something, along with our friends that he was watching at the time). I remember him buying me the thick (turns out it was 3 issues in 1!) Mighty Mutanimals issue that was published as a TMNT Special.

And then he became my primary driver for going to get comics. Whether it was Capp’s Comics or Comics and Collectibles.

It was at Comics & Collectibles that he pre-paid $25 or so for 100 25-cent comics, figuring that’d last me quite awhile on that “credit.” I remember him being rather surprised when I blew through all 100 in a very short time!

I also remember one day before school, he and Mom called me out to see something on a news segment on tv…where I found out about the then-upcoming “Death of Superman” that was going to happen.

On one of our visits to Capp’s, we found out that for The Death of Superman, you could order a copy of the story IN ADVANCE to know you’d GET it. Apparently buying into some of the speculation stuff of the time…Dad ordered 3 copies. And since we had the choice to get the issues as they came out, or wait til the end, we (Dad?) elected to wait for the whole story.

WHILE that story was coming out, I’d separately gotten a copy of Justice League America (no “of”) #69 that also had the character Superman was going to be fighting. Whether I read that issue at the time or “saved” it, I don’t recall…but that comes into play in a moment.

The day Capp’s was to have Superman #75–the final issue of The Death of Superman–I got sick at school. I don’t remember being overly bothered by THAT so much as I was upset and worried that I couldn’t get the comics that day because of being sent home from school. Dad went WITHOUT me, and picked them up, though! And so that evening, I got to read The Death of Superman story. And what has ALSO stuck with me big-time through the 29+ years since…DAD READ THEM, TOO! He let me read “first,” so after I read Man of Steel #18, I gave it to him to read, while I went and dug out that Justice League issue. And so we went–I finished an issue, then handed it to him. While he read that, I was on to the next chapter. Until we’d both read the story.

And then, for the next 8 weeks…he took me to the comic shop every week for each new chapter of Funeral for a Friend as it came out. Not long after that, he even let me get the collected volume of the story, even though we already had the individual issues. But regarding the single issues…I remember that he read those, too. I don’t think he ever read any of my comics AFTER Doomsday! (The Death of Superman) and Funeral for a Friend. But those 15 issues across 9 or so weeks…I got to “do comics” with my Dad. And I’ve never forgotten that.

Even though he didn’t continue READING comics with me…he was still my go-to for getting new comics. Being driven to the comic shops. I was far more likely to get him to take me than Mom…and thinking back, he probably let me go beyond my “allowance” a number of times. I also remember him picking up/buying an issue of Kid Eternity and being warned that it was an “adult” comic. And Dad was the one who discovered X-O Manowar #0 for me. I think I remember that HE was taken in by its shiny cover, so chances are, he probably got that FOR me because of his own curiosity. He was also the one to notice the shiny foil cover of a catalogue–the July 1993 edition of Advance Comics. (Yeah, back in the ’90s, cover gimmicks were such that even a freaking catalogue did it!).

While I have no actual/conscious memory of it myself, he long swore that he had seen the ad for Magic: The Gathering in one of those and that I wasn’t interested, so he didn’t pursue it. So there’s the possibility that–had I shown interest–he might’ve gotten me into MTG in its infancy, at least with “Unlimited” if not “Alpha” or “Beta.” (I would eventually get into the game in 1995 a year and a half or so later, at the end of Revised Edition and Fallen Empires). And there again, Dad was often the one that would get me Magic cards.

There was also that August we were delivering phone books and happened across some random-seeming comic shop, and he got me that week’s Superman issue (Action Comics #692, I think?).

And so it went.

I also remember that it was Dad who picked up Marvels #1 (for me). I would not have gotten the issue/series otherwise.

Dad was the one that took me to Capp’s I think the actual day he and Mom also took me off to college. Or the night before.

And then throughout college, it was primarily Dad who would go to Capp’s for me (though Mom was the one who went and got Wolverine #145 for me). He’d occasionally flat-out CLEAR my pull-box for me, and I was always astounded when he had.

When I got interested in The Sandman, it was Dad (with Mom) who got me the entire 10-volume series for Christmas 2001. One of the very few times they ever got me actual comics for Christmas or such.

AFTER college, he wasn’t nearly as “involved” in comics with or for me; cuz I was able to drive myself, I was working and so had my own money to buy comics myself.

But he was always amazed at how I kept on with comics. He’d often ask me about them; listen when I’d ramble about them; etc. The comics, the toys, etc.

As I mentioned in a previous post, he was just tickled at how he had HIS Man-Cave; and my once referring to the basement as my “Comic Cave.” That stuck with him more than me; but the way he was, I know that had to mean a lot to him. And he was always wanting pictures of “the comic cave,” since he physically couldn’t come down here himself.

And I’d intended to do some re-arranging and organizing and neatening up, that week between Christmas and New Year 2021. I was gonna get everything properly situated, and do a nice VIDEO walk-through for him, to show him all my then-latest changes to the space, some shelves I’d added, etc.

Obviously never got to do THAT for him.

Throughout last year, he even offered a number of extra times to make a point of having Mom swing by Comic Heaven for me if I wanted, since they’d be out shopping or going to appointments or such. Toward Fall I kinda shifted to taking him up on that when they’d be over there anyway for his blood tests ahead of Chemo every 3 weeks. And several times he insisted Mom use his card to buy them rather than mine.

I lost him just before 2am that Thursday morning…but never having made it to bed or such, it was really Wednesday night. Just hours earlier I’d been to Comic Heaven, gotten my usual stuff for the week; and because he would only be allowed ONE visitor ONE time per day…because it was supposed to be like any of the too-many-other-times he’s been in the hospital the last few years, etc…we’d decided that Mom would be his visitor, at least that first day. Wednesday.

But I was RIGHT THERE; drove past the hospital each way. And far more important than “that week’s new comics,” I would’ve been there visiting him. But if I went in, Mom wouldn’t be able to. And it was supposed to be “normal.” Just another hospitalization. But I didn’t get to visit him there.

So New Comic Day…Wednesdays…now have this other “feel” to them. Guilt? Hurt, for sure. A “shadow” over them?

Dad was there and part of my beginning with comics. With the catalyst of the Letter People to my earliest days getting my own comics in 1989…through all the years to and including December 2021. He’s been there, been part of it all. Except for these last six weeks.

The Cave

When my parents were house-hunting in 2015, they liked this house. From pictures, they thought what we came to call “The Cave” (or to Dad, his “Man-Cave”) WAS the basement. Turned out that it was actually an extension on the house, and a whole additional space.

It’s this huge, open room…probably more square feet in that room alone than some entire houses.

But it was very much Dad’s from the start.

And he filled it.

It “came with” a full-size pool table as ell as a full-size foosball table, and a dartboard/darts with lighting. He added a mini air hockey table, a huge arcade-style basketball game, and a full-size arcade skiball machine. The old treadmill and a small exercise bike kinda rounded stuff out as far as “equipment.” But he also had this large hotdog cart (that never got fully assembled or tried). A full size popcorn maker (that worked but didn’t get used enough). Some sort of slushie machine (flavored ice).

And he was always planning on having a full-size poker table, as well as a full-size slot machine. There’s some sort of “Plinko” game somewhere in stuff as well.

Definitely a difference between him and me on that stuff. He relished these larger, “physical” games and such.

Whereas I far prefer videogames and card games and miniaatures games. Between the BOTH of us we could definitely have had an “arcade” in that cave. But I sometimes told him rather than the big machines, I’d rather we get some of these video arcade machines.

I own two as it is: a TMNT one with the original arcade game and a sequel; and a Mortal Kombat one with the first three MK games. And prior to the covid price-spikes I was highly intending to get Dad the Ms. Pac-Man one!

Even before losing him, I was already “plotting” to find time to lug these two Arcade-1-Up machines upstairs to show him and to “place” in the Cave. Especially as he’d already decided to get rid of the skiball and basketball; I’d been figuring move these games upstairs to his Cave, put them on furniture sliders, and then be able to easily slide them around to where-ever would be best; his lift-chair, or where he could get at them with the power chair or scooter.

All this stuff, though? This is BEHIND the “living area” of the Cave. The “front” of the Cave is a living area–lift chairs on both ends of a couch; a couple other large chairs; a wall-mounted 80(-ish?)-inch tv; a fireplace, floor to ceiling windows out to the patio, etc.

I’m not 100% positive at this point, but I think I might actually have been a big reason for the setup like that. Figuring the sitting furniture could be lined up like being against a wall to be around for the tv, but leaving room to get around and to the rest of the space for everything else. Then when you’re sitting on the couch or a chair, you can watch tv as if that’s the extent of the room. But it’s wide-open and not just some small little tv room or something.

The previous owner had the walls COVERED in “beer lights,” apparently. Neon signs and such for various beer brands and whatnot. Lacking those, Dad had a bunch of “pictures” or “paintings” hung around the cave. I put those in quotes cuz for the most part, none of them were specific. They’re “art pieces” he got from some wholesale thing, and mostly are there for the sake of being art on a wall, as opposed to anything of significant personal resonance.

In the “foyer” between the Cave restroom and the laundry room, though, there are (at least as of this typing) two 11″ x 17″ Green Lantern prints: the covers from the 1990s’ series issue #100, both signed by artist Daryl Banks. Soon after my parents moved in, I hung them, figuring they “paired” well, and also was curious if or how long it would take for them to be “noticed.” (Not long, but they remained there.)

Particularly after 2017 and Dad’s health issues from then, he basically “lived” in the Cave. I can only remember a handful of times his actually going back to the bedroom; mostly “bad nights” when stuff was going on and he couldn’t get comfortable.

So while his “stuff” made it HIS “Cave,” it also is the part of the house I most associate with him, personally. This house is full of his presence, but the Cave was HIS.

(And while the term “cave” might sound negative, for me it certainly is not…I just never cared for the term “Man-Cave” since it was also the main tv-watching space for him and Mom (and sometimes me) and so was a different connotation). And along the way the term just stuck.

With Dad gone, though…the cave has such a different FEEL now. And part of me hates the idea of “getting rid” of so much from it…even as I’m comforted by the fact that he had already agreed to–and was somewhat actively attempting to–get rid of the basketball and skiball. We never really USED the air hockey, so I don’t have much “associated” with THAT to keep it. The exercise bike thing does’t work properly (but it was perfectly fine for his physical therapy use!). The hotdog card, slushee machine, and popcorn Mom and I just are not gonna use, or certainly not enough to justify ’em…especially when microwave popcorn is just as good and so much more convenient.

And while I’ve crammed soooo much “stuff” into this basement–I’d made the “mistake” once of referring to it as my “Comic(s?) Cave, and that’s what stuck with Dad, so this was always my comics cave to him–Mom and I have pretty much decided that I’m going to largely “take over” The Cave.

I struggle with guilt over that on the one hand, cuz there’s that part of me that’s almost “excited” for the space, to see what I can do with the space, to have MY collection out and open and such. While on the other hand, the fact that I “get” that space is because Dad is gone, and that price is absolutely NOT worth it ONE LITTLE BIT.

So I balance that with the notion that it’ll be “sharing” Dad’s space. Dad’s “Cave.” And where he was always so interested in what I’d done with the space here in the basement, moving a lot of stuff up to the Cave, he would have been able to see it, too, rather than just photos.

Because of trouble with his knees, and then losing the ability to walk in 2017, Dad was only ever IN this basement once or twice…BEFORE moving in. So everything I’ve crammed in down HERE, he ONLY ever got to see as photos or videos; or hear about from friends who’d been down here (or Mom, the handful of times she’s been down).

But as much as I wish I could change the past, as much as I wish he could still be here…there’s that cold, clinical fact that he’s not and can’t be and so the space is there, and rather than leave stuff around that he was already going to get rid of or that needed to be gotten rid of and having a huge, gaping hole in the house (so to speak)…it “should” be used.

Dad and his plants

I recently recalled “the cabinet place” and a couple of Dad’s major “projects” at the old house. In thinking about some of his ongoing projects and such, I realized another topic to write about was his love of landscaping and such. Not so much DOING it, but the looks that could be had.

And he lovvvvvved his potted plants. He was always bringing home potted plants to have around (mainly outside). Just in 2021 he got this “arch” that is based by a couple of square planters for rosebushes…the idea being that they’ll grow up around/through the arch and create this (eventual) rose arch.

A couple years ago while he was out with Daisey, he found where someone was getting rid of a bunch of old wooden planters, and insisted that Mom get the van and pull around and load them up to bring over here. Those are now adorning the walls of the back patio.

And though Mom and I both resisted him, he still managed to get loads of plants for these. He also got several “raised flower beds”–that HE could reach and tend to once situated. And he loved having tomato plants in those! He loved having fresh home-grown tomatoes..! While I “got” it, part of me never “understood” it. All that hassle and having to have me or (mostly) Mom deal with watering the things…I’d rather drop the $2-$3 and buy him a case of cherry tomatoes or a couple full size tomatoes.

Ditto with the flowers and such: they were a hassle to water. I didn’t like that. Cuz I’m not a gardener or a plant-grower; I do not have a “green thumb.” I would get stressed out trying to fight against nature (I don’t even like having to have the lawn mowed!)

I often suggested that we go and get FAKE plants instead. No real problem with the idea of having hanging flowerpots, ground planters, etc with flowers and such around…I just don’t care to have to worry about having to water them and take care of them. PLUS…the DEER probably won’t try to EAT fake plants! And then they’d be fully in bloom all the time, pretty to look at, decorative…but for the most part, place ’em and forget. Maintenance-free.

Dad wouldn’t have it. He said he knew where I was coming from, but it wouldn’t be the same.

And as I type this and think of how MUCH resistence I gave, and his disappointment all those times he asked if I’d take him to Lowe’s for plants, I want to crumble in sheer guilt.

So MUCH in the last few years I so absolutely would have done, made time for, put above everything else, if I had KNOWN how precious little time we had left! How many things would be “lasts” that we wouldn’t get to try to deal with in 2022, or onward.

At the old house, one of the first plant projects I remember was when he decided to tear out the “rock garden” to have an actual plant-garden. When we moved in, the sides of the driveway had these “rock gardens” of decorative stones cemented in place. Well, the nice, clean look of those was quickly spoiled by his kids (his son especially) always wanting to “shortcut” to the driveway stepping on the rocks and–as it turned out–eventually breaking stuff up enough for weeds to start growing in and such.

There was also the flowerbed in front of the house up against the window for the basement. There originally were a couple of wide bushes there. One year we even found a full-grown pumpkin in there, grown from a seed of the previous year’s pumpkins that had been too long on the front stoop.

One year he REALLY went all-in on tulips. Tulips in that front flowerbed, tulips in the sides of the driveway, tulips at the sides of the house, tulips around the apple tree in the front yard, tulips around the front lightpost. I especially remember “helping” him with tulips around the apple tree–instructions called for the bulbs to be planted and “manure” added. Well, someone’s dog had left some poo there, so Dad being the smartass essentialy just shrugged and scooped that into the hole with a tulip bulb.

Then there was the row of hedge bushes. They got to be a pain to maintain so he ultimately got rid of those to replace with rose bushes. Those weren’t great to maintain, either, but I could at least mow between them.

I don’t remember what was originally at the one side of the house, but he wound up getting some long edge boards and created a huge flower/plantbed there as well…though by 2014 it was mostly weeds and I could pretty much just mow over what WAS there, minus several specific/significant plants against the house.

He would often cite that he wouldn’t ask me to do anything he wouldn’t do if he could…and I feel guilty in the number of times I thought to myself (but rarely mentioned out loud) that it wasn’t JUST about capability, but that I just did. not. like. gardening. And such. But I know that especially in recent years, as resistent as I was to it and such, some part of me (retroactively?) knew it wasn’t like there was an endless amount of time in front of us and that since he so loved the stuff, surely I could at least do SOME.

The Cabinet Place

I don’t recall now what started it–whether dad saw an ad in the paper, or (more likely) someone told him about a place with cheap cabinets. I think it was a KraftMaid. It was some sort of factory/warehouse or some such. But the main thing was…cheap cabinets!

As I recall it, you’d get there, be in line (and there’d be quite a line!) and when you got in, it was first-come/first-serve on the cabinets. And they were all some flat price. $50 or $75 or something ridiculously cheap compared to say, Home Depot or Lowe’s.

So Dad had gone there at least once, and got some high quality/high end cabinet for cheap. He decided that wasn’t enough, and “dragged” his son along the next time they had an open ‘sale’.

I remember at least a couple way-early-morning trips to the place; and even one essentially all-nighter with a rented box truck. At the time–1997ish I think this was–I certainly did NOT “appreciate” the experience. Who wanted to spend a Friday night or wee hours Saturday morning somewhere for CABINETS?

Of course, now, nearly two and a half decades later and missing him, I realize that whatever I thought of the cabinets and remodeling and such…it was something that he involved me with, for the shared experience. Something to do, but rather than do it on his own, he wanted me, his son, with him.

And I know a LOT of stuff he got me involved in was stuff that he wished he could have done with Grandpa/vice versa; and wanting to pass stuff along to me.

ANYway…”the cabinet place” as I dubbed it–not knowing, not caring the brand name/etc; at the house, if we said “the cabinet place,” everyone knew what was being referred to.

And one time when he’d gone without me (I’d probably resisted enough that he didn’t want to fight me on going?) he ended up helping with “crowd control” and a situation that threatened to turn ugly…and wound up one of the guys that worked there in turn would let him in some other time rather than a Saturday morning, which meant no more “camping in a parking lot” to get in.

Back in 1997/1998/1999, thanks to getting these cabinets and such, huge parts of the house got redone. It started out as a floor-to-ceiling cabinet housing the microwave. Then on to a couple pantry cabinets for either side of the fridge. Then wall cabinets, and new base cabinets…eventually a new countertop and the entire kitchen was redone.

He also built up this huge “entertainment center” for the living room. Originally, the stairs were “open” and there was a maybe waist-high “wall” that you could simply look over and see to the front door, landing, stairs, etc. A couple of tall cabinets for the ends, a couple of base cabinets, a couple of wall cabinets, connect them all, add in a couple of packing blocks that worked as shelves, and paneling on both sides and the living room side was an entertainment center while the other side was a wall when you first walked in the fron tdoor.

While the kitchen and entertainment center were the primary “big projects,” we wound up with plenty of other cabinets. Come to think of it, several base cabinets, a board, and some edging made a base in the computer room; another board and a couple of smaller cabinets made a computer desk. A pair of large cabinets became “the twins” and–not being turned into permanent fixtures–came over to the current house in the 2015 move. There’s also a cabinet in the bedroom I currently use that is a remanant from this time.

All this without even talking about the fact that as 16/17/18-year-olds, Dad often recruited me along with my friend Jim to help with (often DO) the “heavy lifting” and such. Getting some of these cabinets into the house to begin with was very much a challenge, with several being wider than the stairs such that we had to lift the cabinet up over the banister and walk it up the stairs…while ALSO making sure to NOT tear up the wall and its wallpaper.

And that’s another thing: at one point, I don’t think there was a white wall left in that house. Must’ve been particularly around 1991 with having bought the house AND his being freshly retired from the Navy but not yet with DFAS, he wallpapered the bulk of the house. Also got paneling and redid several rooms with paneling at the bottom, new paint for the upper half.

Heck, even the basement/computer room had stuff done to it…having begun with him taking out the “fake wall” that split the main room into two to make it one large, open room; with the computer stuff and that new base setup in one part, the huge stereo cabinet on the other side, with the piano, treadmill, and a huge recliner opposite.

Dad always had to have some sort of “project” going on. He often cited some story or proverb or such about the man that had this huge patchwork house, because he kept adding onto it, because he couldn’t die if he still had projects unfinished or something (I’m probably oversimplifying).

Even now…there’s stuff in The Cave that Mom and I have to deal with from ongoing changes/projects that never got finished. He had plans for adding more shelves for his cookie jars, and to get a full-sized casino slot machine (or multiple). There’s a fountain in pieces in the back yard and a replacement for a broken piece on a pallet in the driveway where it was delivered in November but too cold/wet to be dealt with. He wanted to have more lights installed throughout the house (there’s a surprising lack of overhead fixtures).

Even into mid December he was focused on “working on the garage,” going through stuff and getting things cleaned up, reorganized, organized, other stuff gotten rid of, etc. Project…after project…after project.

And I never much appreciated them. Not the way he did. But then, he was more of a “doer,” the physical/tangible…where I’m more of a “writer” or “virtual” or whatever. Not to mention “collector,” though what I collect tends to be much much smaller than what he collected.

But that probably gets into what ought to be some other posts, eventually.

One Month

While someone is here, it’s easy to take them for granted. We may put special notice on a handful of days toward that person–their birthday, for sure; and then “shared” days like particular holidays and observances. And as I’m told/as I’ve “read,” etc, and as I’ve already experienced numerous times…”everything” is a “first.” The “first SINCE…”

And it’s almost astonishing to see all the “lasts.” The “lasts” none of us KNEW were “lasts.” Last time I’d buy those olives. The last time I’d buy his lemonade. The last time I’d buy iced coffee for him. That last bunch of bananas I got. The last jello cups. The last thing of Flan. The last time buying straws for his drinks. That last peanutbutter jar. That last thing of dog treats he requested for Daisey. Etc. and so on and so forth.

Every “holiday” is a “first without him.” Every special occasion is less special, because it’s without him. Everything that would have been “just another” simple/joyful or whatever event/timepoint/etc is tempered by that “but…” and fact that it’s another experience without him here to share it with, to appreciate it, to tell about it, etc.

Last Tuesday night for “something to do” cuz I couldn’t sit still, I got rid of some stuff that had piled up on a shelf. And before I knew it, I’d tackled cleaning up that whole pile. Sure enough, as Dad often intimated, if I’d have just put in a half-hour here, or an hour there, focus on the little things, then stuff would get done. A little at a time. Of course, I put stuff off cuz it always seemed there’d be a “later,” and other stuff had my attention (even if it was just to “veg out” after work and not “have to” DO anything) and priority.

Layers of memories in that pile. Mostly comics stuff that got stacked and added to and stacked some more. Seeing certain covers, I couldn’t help but think “Great. Yeah. Back when I CARED.” or “Back when that MATTERED.” One issue being the Walking Dead issue where a certain character dies near the end of the series, and seeing their kid dealing with it. The kid’s less than half my age, and had to go through losing their Dad. And then I think of other such character situations. Bruce Wayne lost his parents when he was ~8ish? Hal Jordan lost his Dad young. Peter Parker lost Uncle Ben in high school. Depending on which version, Superman (Superboy) lost his parents both when he was a teenager or (Byrne through 2008ish) lost his Dad early-30s. Surely plenty of other examples but few come to mind of significance off the top of my head.

But getting back toward my (maybe?) point…comics have been a part of my life in some form for 34-some years. And especially going through the ’90s, “stuff” with them largely inform(ed) a lot of my habits. Going to the comic shop weekly, for one. Despite significant “gaps” in that routine in college, it’s mostly been a “constant” for me from late 1992 to present.

Leaving aside more in-depth discussion and feelings about constant reboots/renumbering and “first issues” and such…there’s the simple fact that comics–by their very nature as numbered periodicals–mark the passage of time. The very number on the cover tells you how many issues have been published since the current series didn’t exist. Issue 4? 4 issues now since this didn’t even exist. 135? 135 issues. And with MOST comics TYPICALLY being “monthly,” that translates to MONTHS. 120 issues? 120 months. Ten years. And despite some notorious titles’ lateness and delays in the ’90s, for the most part–especially the Superman books–were like clockwork. X number of issues, X number of months. Even if you don’t translate it to months, they’re at least weeks; and regardless of specific time between, you can “do the math” for the number of issues between one issue(‘s event) and another.

Especially through the ’90s, there seemed a lot of emphasis on “anniversaries” and the passage of time–of a year. A 12th issue was a milestone. A 13th issue was an anniversary. Round numbers divisible by 5–25, 50, 75, 100, etc–were “special occasions” worthy of fancy covers and other gimmickry. By long exposure to such things, and acceptance and perhaps even embracing the reasoning, that’s kinda been imprinted on me and how I think about time in some ways.

Because of, in spite of, or perhaps along with such things, I’ve LONG “marked time” by comics.

My first issue of Action Comics was #651. If you go into a comic shop today, you should find #1039. 388 issues, going back 30+ years. My first issue of Detective Comics was #604. Today you can get #1050. 446 issues! (Meanwhile, my very first issue of Batman was #439, so there have been more issues of Detective Comics published SINCE Mom bought me those first comics than issues of Batman to that point!)

But as mentioned above, my college years were a bit of a disruption on the sheer regularity of my getting comics; and over the years I’ve stopped following certain titles entirely, or for a time; I’ve had gaps of time where for a few weeks or months I may not have bought ANY comics, period.

Presently significant for quantity of issues are the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series from IDW, and Spawn from Image. I’ve bought every single issue of TMNT as it has been published, from #1 in 2011 to #125 a couple weeks ago (thus far). 125 months–just over an entire, solid decade. Month in, month out. Spawn, I started buying monthly with #257 back in 2015. Spawn #326 will be out this week–just about 70 issues! Or “at least” 70 months.

I can mark events in time by particular comics that came out…or recall certain comics came out by real world events. One such thing that’s “always” stuck with me even before the past few eeks is that I can remember that Dad and I were delivering phone books in August 1993, because while we were out, we happened across a comic shop and he bought me that issue of Action Comics that I remember came out IN AUGUST 1993.

When I lost Ziggy in 2017, I marked each week’s passing after with the observation of it having been a week, and sharing some photos of him. Then two weeks…three…four…and so on…for a year. Then “only” monthly. Then eventually “quarterly.” I knew then and know now that for me, it was a coping mechanism. Marking the time, acknowledging that time was passing. That I’d continued that long. That I’d managed to make it another week, another month, another quarter, another YEAR since such a devastating loss.

And now…well, now I’m there with Dad. Each week is a milestone. For me, it’s by NO MEANS a “celebration” of the loss…I wouldn’t even want the word “celebration” associated with my observing the time. But it’s an acknowledgement that another week has gone by, and somehow I’m still here. Somehow I’ve made it another week since losing one of the absolute most important people ever in my life; who until a month ago, was an absolute CONSTANT within my life. No matter what I experienced, no matter what I went through…good OR bad, shared or unshared, etc…He was always there. “At least I have him.” “At least I have both my parents.”

To borrow phrasing from an old song…I breathe in. Breathe out. Put one foot in front of the other. Take one day at a time.

Each moment is a milestone. Every breath, every blink, every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month…is a new milestone of the longest I’ve gone not seeing Dad or talking to Dad or being with Dad. December 30, 2021 is forever burned into me, and the 31 days it has been since that day have been a whole different thing. My life is forever fractured, between the “now,” and “Before.”

And so it goes. One more moment. One more word typed. One more tear. One more step. One more breath. One more hour. One more show. One more comic. One more book. One more task. One more meal. One more day. One more week. One more month.

And someday?

Well…we’ll see.