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.


The Impossible

It was during the summer of 2001 that I started to REALLY “branch out” and “discover” more music on my own…I grew up primarily listening to “oldies” and the “oldies” radio station(s) because that’s what my parents would listen to and have on in the car. And I was perfectly content with that. You could say they were verrrrry lucky with me. (That might be a subject for some other time, though)

So it was 2001 that I “officially” “got into” country music. Basically, “contemporary country,” late-90s/early-2000s. Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, Shania Twain, loads of others. Established artists, newer ones, a mix. If it played on CMT or the Toldeo country station (99.9FM?), I considered it country, and that was the stuff I got into.

Skip ahead a year, to Fall of 2002. I came across a Joe Nichols song that hit me pretty hard with its opening verses.

My dad chased monsters from the dark
He checked underneath my bed
And he could lift me with one arm
Way up over top his head

He could loosen rusty bolts
With a quick turn of his wrench
He pulled splinters from his hand
And never even flinched

In 13 years, I’d never seen him cry
But the day that Grandpa died, I realized

Unsinkable ships sink
Unbreakable walls break
Sometimes the things you think will never happen
Happen just like that

Unbendable steel bends
If the fury of the wind is unstoppable
I’ve learned to never underestimate
The impossible…

Well, change that “13 years” to “9 years” and it was basically my story.

I had just turned 9 in early December 1989. As I recall, virtually every Christmas we’d visit Zanesville and Pittsburgh–Dad’s family and Mom’s family–but that year was a bit different. Grandpa–Dad’s Dad–was in the hospital. I don’t recall any WORDS, but I do remember going in WITH Dad, to see Grandpa.

And then before we left Zanesville, we went back to the hospital, and Dad went in alone. I don’t recall for sure, but I have a guilty half-remembered memory of not wanting to go in again. (Thinking as I type this now in 2022, it’s likely I had already come to have an aversion to hospitals). I was Nine, and “a little kid” (compared to now 41) and blissfully ignorant of so much in the world and life and alllll that.

Skip ahead a couple days, and we had some sort of gathering. I don’t recall if it was a “Christmas party” or just some thing for “the kids,” but I remember having at least a couple friends over. Whether I’ve amalgamated memories, blending something in that wasn’t there, I couldn’t swear to in court.

But…December 28, 1989. While we were going about being kids, the house phone rang. I can’t remember if I picked up immediately that “something” was “wrong” or not. I suspect Mom came and got me, probably took me aside to tell me.

That call was from Zanesville, and Grandpa was gone.

Again with 32 years between now and then and the faulty memory of a barely-9-year-old, but I then remember finding Dad in their bedroom to tell him I was sorry about Grandpa, and seeing him in tears.

It was the first time I’d ever seen him cry, and it would be a lotta years after that before I would ever really realize the significance of that moment.

And there’s a LOT of stuff that “hit me” in my college years. I have a vague memory that the first time it really, truly hit ME just what I’d lost, what WE’D lost, with Grandpa, was in my dorm room one night when it kinda crashed into me and I broke down in tears.

But seeing Dad cry, I suppose that was the first time I saw that side of him; saw him hurt, and not the absolute indestructible papa bear that wasn’t afraid of anything or vulnerable to anything.

And back to that song… “Sometimes the things you think will never happen, happen just like that…” How terribly, heartbreakingly true.

Intellectually, you may know something’s gonna happen. Intellectually, logically, statistically, clinically, coldly, simple fact-ly, whatever. But your heart doesn’t necessarily believe it. Your heart may never be ready, however much you tell yourself intellectually that you are, however much you steel your mind for a pending loss, etc.

And thanks to the heart, that way…sometimes the things you feel will never actually happen [to you and/or your loved ones], happenjust like that.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021, Dad was rushed outta here by the EMTs to transport him to the hospital. I say “rushed” because I didn’t get a chance to TALK to Dad before they had him out. I had noticed the clock on the wall said 11:37am somewhere around there. Never realized it’d be so…”significant.”

35 1/2 hours later we got that call. Just short of 39 hours after he was transported from the Cave, from this house…he was gone.

Unsinkable ships sink, unbreakable walls break…

In the end, there can be only one…

I’m pretty sure it was Summer 1996 that a friend introduced me to Highlander: The Animated Series. This show followed Quentin MacLeod, and was another in what I retroactively realize was a pile of one-season animated series looking to be the next Ninja Turtles, Batman, or X-Men.

I’m not sure when the show came out–whether it was new then, or in reruns from sometime previous–doesn’t really matter. Point is, it led to me “discovering” the live-action tv series starring Adrian Paul…which had episodes (syndication?) on the USA network, I believe it was.

BUT…there were also other episodes–as I quickly realized, NEW episodes–on another channel (UPN?). Thing is…those aired laaaaate at night, on Saturdays.

I don’t remember any conversations or what specifically or first led to it, but it became a weekly routine for awhile that Dad and I would watch Highlander together Saturday nights. (And sometimes we’d also watch the show that came on after it…some sorta paranormal hunters show or something? Nothing as stand-out to me as Highlander).

I remember Dad enjoying the show, too; or at least, he did not dislike it. Those new episodes would have been Season Five of the series…and while we did miss at least a couple episodes, I remember several of the episodes, including “Comes a Horseman.” That one and its second chapter pair as probably my two favorite episodes of the series. I’ve never given much thought as to why (or not for long enough that I don’t remember thinking much on it). I suspect, though, that it was probably because of the huge import of the episodes and our having gotten to know the characters and such by then.

I do remember tracking down and seeing the three films eventually, somewhere in there. I moreso remember seeing the films than an absolute time-frame. And I’m not sure if Dad would have seen any of them with me…I imagine we at least talked about them. And I vaaaaguely remember some sort of recollection of “Highlander 3: The Final Dimension” as a title, so it’s possible that Dad had seen that or mentioned it; or who-knows-what.

This all would have been my sophomore and junior years of high school. And looking back, something I so totally took for granted in a huge way. In typing this, I also have randomly recalled that we’d watch the show Party of Five, I think also starting sophomore year. And plenty of other shows, but those might be something for another post.

Highlander became a significant property to me, in my life…certainly more than it ever did for Dad. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I don’t even actually have any particularly stand-out things that I think of as “favorites” for him…just that there’ve been loads of shows and such that he certainly enjoyed. Whereas I tend to have fewer like that for myself where I get a lot more involved and explore how deep stuff associated with it goes (like with Highlander–following to the movies, there was a card game, there was a book series, Highlander was the first show I got complete seasons of on DVD, etc).

While perhaps more prominent in the first film, I know Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever?” is used at least once in the show, and I’m pretty sure several times.

Because of Highlander, I’ve also often “contemplated” the nature of “immortality” on this Earth and what it’d mean…and long since determined that I would not want to outlive entire lifetimes’ worth of people.

I’ve also often “thought” of Highlander (for myself) as a sort of analogy to parts of my life. Just as on the show we’d randomly have some other immortal show up and get these flashbacks to where they were Such A Big Deal in Duncan’s life for a time, even though he’s never mentioned them or referenced anything having to do with them from that time until they show up…we often see that essentially, they’ve been compartmentalized. For a 400-year-old man, as significant as even one single year could be, there’s so much experience that he simply carries all these memories and such down through the years, and certain memories come flooding back with the appropriate catalyst–such as that person showing up again for the first time in a (normal human’s) lifetime or more.

As I have “normal” days with my grief over losing Dad…as I feel guilty when I realize it’s been more than one day without “breaking down” or “just crying” or whatever…and as I’m now thinking along these Highlander things while I type…maybe it’s an analogy even now. Even if I seem “normal” or am “capable of functioning ‘as’ normal” around others…it doesn’t mean that these memories aren’t bubbling just below the surface, waiting for someone or something to trigger a “flashback.”

Look at a ninja turtles figure and remember Dad getting it for me. See a game console and think of the games we played. See the van in the driveway and think of all the times helping him in and out of it and such.

No good way to end this piece. Except that, unfortunately, “in the end there can be only one,” and eventually…none.

I am the last Kneeland. The last of my line. Of this branch. There are other Kneelands out there–other branches of the family tree–but of this branch, I am the last.

Sunday night after errands

[ I initially typed the unedited version of this as a private message to a groupchat with a couple of friends Sunday night, and realized it’s the sort of thing weighing on me more frequently lately, AND I haven’t posted in this blog in awhile, so with some small edits, sharing here. For better or worse…]

I keep seeing Dad in the edge of my mind. Like I always did…before. I want to get the iced coffee he loved. I want to get the lemonade he drank. I want to call him to see if he wants hard boiled eggs or chips or ANYthing/whatever.

Or call to see if he had dinner yet–should I get an extra thing of salmon for him, too?

I want to go into the house and step out to the cave to let him know I’m home, after greeting mom in the living room. Or holler out to the cave “DAISEY!! It’s JUST me!!!” and then make my way out there.

Tell him some of the groceries I got, some thoughts for meals for the week.

He’d ask what else I bought. Did I get that ice cream he was wanting? What about olives? Tomatoes?

And maybe I’d have remembered, maybe not.

He’d inquire if I bought any “figures”–toys/etc.

Tell him yup, or nope, as would be the case.

Then he’d grab his phone–he might have something saved to show me he’s looking at on eBay. Tee shirt for himself, or a vest for the dog; maybe something he thought was best that I might like cuz it’s got Superman on it or some other comic-y thing.

Or he saw a shirt I might like, or shoes.

Or ask me if a package came yet? Was it for him, or something if mine?

Fill me in on what he was up to while I was out. Dave called, or he called Lynn, or talked to Janice or Becky or Sue. Fill me in on “news” from Zanesville–extended family.

I’d relish the conversation, the little things. But eventually I’d have to go put groceries away. Cold stuff.

TOO OFTEN he’d ask if I wanted to watch Blue Bloods, or 911. Always thought there’d be “later.” Figured we’d all three of us (him, me, mom) catch up over Christmas.

Now I have all the nights I could want to do whatever, but never gonna get to catch up on Blue Bloods with him. Or 911.

And I’m typing all this on the phone in the car cuz I don’t wanna go in.

It’s not that I AM pretending, but it’s like if I’m out here, it’s like any other time getting home from a grocery run and such. I’m out in the car, he’s inside unware of my being back yet. When I go in, Daisey’s gonna bark, but it’ll be WITHOUT Dad, and nothing I can do can change that or fix that.

2014: My “movie year” with Dad…

Back in late 2013 into early 2015, Dad and I had a DEFFFFFINITE “year of movies.”

See, I was in visiting MOST weekends. And there was a redbox outside a gas station a couple of blocks from my parents’ house…along my route to GET there. So it was literally a matter of pull in one driveway, pull up to the machine, pick a movie or two, swipe my card, get the discs, hop back in the car, and be at the house.

And for basically ALL of 2014, MANY Friday nights were “redbox nights” with Dad. Also had movies that I flat-out BOUGHT, whether “new” or cheapo-bin stuff; or already had; or Netflix, or something from the library. Some nights, we’d end up getting through TWO movies in one sitting. Most often, though, it was at least one movie per weekend, if not a couple.

I realized I still had a LIST of those movies that I kept in 2014. I can’t remember for CERTAIN on all of them which ones Dad and I for sure watched together, but I’ve got the entire list below, and marked with an asterisk the ones that are pretty likely we watched together (and some of them included Mom watching, but she often wasn’t a fan of much of what we’d watch).

And that’s another thing I’ve had in my mind lately: trying to think of “favorite movies” that Dad had. And I feel horrible and rotten and all that that I really can’t think of any. Like…no singular movie that I knew of, KNOW of, can recall offhand that he considered any particular “favorite.”

I know that he watched TONS of movies, especially the last few years, that he’d randomly check out on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming apps…not to mention random stuff he’d DVR from tv. And even with all our Redbox nights, he always vastly PREFERRED high-action flicks; not necessarily VIOLENT, but stuff that was exciting to watch with plenty of action, stunts, etc.

And that would be my criteria a lot of times: “just some action-looking flick.” Or back then, we’d have some idea of stuff that had been in theaters that would be “coming soon to home media” that we’d LOOK FORWARD TO watching together. There were movies that I specifically passed on seeing in the theater, so that I could see them with him. (Other times, even if I had seen a film in the theater, I would enjoy watching it AGAIN with him!) And there were times that it’d turn out HE had already seen a movie, but he’d be glad to watch it again with ME.

Just the other day I was in Walmart, and kinda muddled along and found myself in the movie section…looking for a movie that we might watch together.

And I’m increasingly regretful of allllll the evenings the past several years that I was “content” to just watch “whatever” on my own. That I didn’t MAKE more time, put in MORE EFFORT, to just grab something, and go watch a movie with him.

While I got to share SOME of the earlier Marvel Cinematic Universe films with him, I had wanted/intended to make a point of sharing the ALL. Especially after a new medical scare back in 2018 that I’ll forever associate with my seeing The Meg by myself in a theater and crying; I’d had these grand intentions of “subjecting” him to the entirety of the Marvel films, in order.

We got through Iron Man.

I think we’d started Iron Man 2, but he wasn’t feeling wonderful that night or something, or it just wasn’t grabbing him, and he was falling asleep and…we just never finished it.

I THINK I got to watch Spider-Man: Homecoming with him; as I think about it, I remember some scene with Spidey and the (Washington Monument?) that we both agreed was rather spectacular (and not something we’d actually want to watch in “3-D”). I also know he and Mom actually (with zero prompting from ME!) watched Spider-Man: Far From Home one time without me!

Even as recently as the afternoon of the 29th, I was “planning” to–once he was back home–giving the whole run of films another go with him (and Mom).

Regretting that I let the “project” slip off into taking-time-for-granted-land for so very long…far longer than intended.

But now I’m headed down a mental path I need to leave alone; so gonna just end this post with the aforementioned list of 2014 films that I myself saw–and WordPress seems to have transformed my asterisks to bullets, next to the ones I’m reasonably confident Dad also saw (with me).

  • 2014:
    Cars 2
  • Red 2
    The Day After Tomorrow
    We Bought a Zoo
    Firefly: The Complete Series
    Man of Steel
    Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  • Taken
  • Captain Phillips
  • Escape Plan
  • 42
    The Terminator
    Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Taken 2
    The Croods
    Patch Adams
    As Good as It Gets
  • The Trouble With the Curve
    The Sound of Music
    Saving Mr. Banks
  • Paranoia
  • It Could Happen To You
  • Gravity
  • Old Boy (2013)
  • Saving Mr. Banks
    The Vow
    Life as We Know It
    Just Go With It
    Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Reasonable Doubt
    Something Borrowed
    The Spectacular Now
    Failure to Launch
    Drinking Buddies
    The Notebook
    Facing the Giants
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness
    Easy A
  • Grudge Match
    Dear John
    40 Days and 40 Nights
    This Means War
    Mean Girls
    The Change-Up
  • The Switch
  • The Island
    Mary Poppins
  • Fast and Furious 6
    Grumpy Old Men
  • Blitz
    Grumpier Old Men
    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • 12 Years a Slave
    X-Men: Days of Future Past
    The Contract
  • Wanted
  • The Takers
    Cop Out
    30 Days of Night
  • Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
  • Poseidon Rex
    Independence Day
    Starship Troopers 3: Marauder
    Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Red Dawn
    Jurassic Park III
    The Lost World: Jurassic Park (2)
  • Non-Stop
  • Primeval
    Saving Mr. Banks
    Pulp Fiction
    Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    The Lego Movie
  • 3 Days to Kill
    Guardians of the Galaxy
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
    Batman: Assault on Arkham
  • Rage
  • God’s Not Dead
  • Transcendence
    The Fisher King
    Amazing Spider-Man 2
    The Iron Giant
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze
    Enough Said
  • Need For Speed
  • In the Blood
  • Draft Day
    The Big Lebowski
    Mrs. Doubtfire
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Avengers (2012)
    Friday Night Lights
  • Walking Tall: The Revenge
  • Godzilla (2014)
    TMNT: Turtles Forever
  • Limitless
    Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • Contraband
  • Bullet to the Head
  • The Bank Job
    The Fault in Our Stars
    Brick Mansions
    Mortal Kombat: Legacy
    Fire With Fire
  • Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow
    Mortal Kombat
    Mortal Kombat II
    Expendables 3
    The Giver
    Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever
    Country Strong
    Into the Storm
    Turtle Power: The Definitive History of the TMNT
    The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies
  • Argo
    When the Game Stands Tall
  • Jersey Boys
  • Left Behind (2014)
  • Erased
  • Hercules (2014)
    Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
    Now You See Me

Even bonus time…runs out

As horrible as the last couple weeks have been, and as much as I may not be able to get my HEART to truly FEEL it right now, there’s something that I see in my mind’s eye, that seems to fit coldly, “logically,” etc.

There was this day back in April 2017–the 6th, specifically–that I got off work, went about my usual routine of doing whatever and winding up back home, eventually. Only that evening, when I walked in the door, I saw through the ‘passthrough’ that Dad was laying on the floor near the fridge.

He was alive, he was EMBARRASSED, but he was alive. He thought he may have blacked out for a moment; found himself on the floor. I tried to help him up to no avail…and we wound up calling 911.

He refused transportation to any hospital–he FELT fine, he’d claimed, etc. The EMTs had managed to get him up and helped him to his chair out in the cave, and that was kinda that. And not a “great” thing to spring on Mom when she got home.

Plenty of other “details” rolling around in my head as I let them, but they’re not necessarily relevant here.

Long story short, though, that Sunday morning–the 9th–with Mom here, too, 911 was called to transport Dad to the hospital. And we spent the vaaaaast majority of the day in the ER, and they finally admitted him. During the wait, he was insistent that I still go to work the next day, that he was fine, etc. Even then, he didn’t want me overly worrying about him.

And so I did. I went to work that next day, and the day after. Even after a terrified moment with crossed signals with Mom and getting into the hospital to “visit,” I somehow managed to work that week. And the situation had felt personal in a way that I never actually shared it with any coworkers.

Then Dad was transferred to a nursing home in Mentor for physical rehab. I still remember when Mom referenced he might be there a couple WEEKS how shocked I felt, at how SIGNIFICANT that seemed. That Dad would be out of this house more than a couple DAYS had already been a long time. Thinking of a couple WEEKS?!?

And the situation continued to…continue, and we had those couple weeks of the hallucinations and such, and whatever else….but he came back to us. Mentally, anyway, at first.

And those couple WEEKS stretched on. Into MONTHS. The doctors never were able to figure out what happened, what caused him to black out or fall or whatever. Nothing was ever determined as to how he got to where he could barely even move. It was some “perfect storm” was what we were told–of a number of things including a UTI that had raged–unknowingly to us all–for weeks before he fell.

Medicare decided he wasn’t getting better, up to their standards ON PAPER, fast enough. They were going to stop covering his stay at the nursing home. Fortunately, the VA came through, and while there were a couple weeks there that he was stuck basically “just” in a bed–with Mom and me visiting every single day (though he had me skip weekends, he wanted me to “have a life”)–ultimately, he wound up at Eliza Bryant in Cleveland, paid for by the VA…the first week or so in July.

Mom would visit him every day during the day…and every day after work, I would stop by. Sometimes we’d talk more than others; sometimes it’d be more of a quick greeting, pleasantries, and he’d send me on my way. He was always so worried about ME and MY “having a life of my own” and I always just kinda let him…though none of it was more important to me than him.

And then in November, the medical folks (and us, of course!) thought things were well enough and we’d get him back home. But shortly after I’d gotten home that night, he fell in the bathroom and we had to have EMTs out again to get him up. And the next day, he was back to a nursing home for about a month.

Just a few days after MY BIRTHDAY, we had to put Ziggy to sleep. That was a Thursday. The following Tuesday, Dad came home, and we had him here–excepting several hospitalizations, including for pneumonia and the cancer–for just over 4 years.

And maybe I’m just rambling here at this point; sooooo many more memories tied up in all that time; so many “moments” at least from the specific visits. But I think what I’m driving at, from the start of this post…

That day that I walked in and “found” him, he was alive.

And as challenging as the 8 months after that were, as taxing as allllll his “health issues” have been, and as much as all three of our lives changed that night and in the years since…

We GOT those years.

It’s very possible, very likely, that every single time I got to see him, talk to him, help him with anything…that every single time since April 6, 2017 was “bonus,” a gift from God.

I’m having a REALLY hard time with it right now; as I type this Sunday evening it’s been 10 days. I want him back. I was already scared as heck that Tuesday, and Wednesday, and while I was not looking forward to the prospect of more months of a nursing home…it was ALL supposed to be in context of his being alive. That we’d still have him. I would still have him.

I have moments that I’d swear he’s just in the other room. I found myself in the movie section of Walmart actually scanning the movies for something that he and I could watch together. This afternoon at Meijer, I was heading for where they have the iced coffee so I could get at least a couple of those for him.

But our “bonus” ran out, and I had NO IDEA it would happen so soon. WHEN it did. I didn’t know the finite size of the gift, and I missed so much. Took so much for granted.

He always came home.

I can’t begin to know what it was truly like for him, on his end; and I know he went through more than I can even imagine as he was the one actually going through the medical stuff. As hard as any of it was on me or Mom…we were “outside” and it was all stuff he was directly facing head-on.

But he always came home.

When he had bad days or week, always had that morning that he’d seemingly “suddenly” be back to normal. I’d go out to the cave and he’d be awake, alert, smiling, greeting ME cheerfully, and the relief that would hit me.

He’d BEATEN the cancer. He was technically in REMISSION. He was here with us. Christmas was supposed to be low key. When he wasn’t feeling well…fine, we were gonna do our “Christmas meal” a few days later when he WAS feeling better. We were supposed to have New Year’s Eve together, as always. Cross the threshold of the years, and be in 2022, him, Mom, me, Daisey, Chloe, Sarah. Just be together, and thankful we’d all made it through another year.

But our bonus ran out.

And I’m writing these words instead, trying to focus thoughts, trying to keep my mind from going back to that hospital room. Trying to hold myself together because my life is now missing something huge, and I’m just…lost.

Broken mold

One of my earliest “regular memories” when I was little is this song Dad made up for me, that he’d sing to me, and get me to sing along with him.

I’m W. W. 3
Yessir, look at me
I’m rough ‘n tough
And mean ‘n bold
And when I was born
They broke the mold
I’m W. W. 3

I definitely have a hint of that bedroom in Michigan associated with it, so I had to have been at least 4-ish.

I don’t know…maybe I don’t have so much to SAY about it. But this is what kinda “stuck” to me this morning as I contemplated what–or if–to write a post here today. (I’d done a post that went live at the comics blog today).

So even MORE “stream of consciousness” than usual, I guess.

It’s “interesting” to look at those words written out. It’s always JUST been this little “tune” in my head. 36-37 years. And surely over 30 since the last time he sang it to me.


I’m vaguely recalling–and this could be wishful thinking, or what-if, or deja-vu, or who-knows-what–but I feel like it had come up “recently,” like I can “hear” him in my mind that he’d asked me if I remembered “that song.” Can’t remember what the context might’ve been, what brought it up or to mind.

And jumping back to when I was a kid again, I do remember asking what it meant “they broke the mold.”

And that’s what I think has prompted me to go ahead and write on this.

Grandpa was the first.

Dad was the second (II).

And me? I’m the third (III).

I’m 41 years old, single, no prospects, and while I’ve never NOT wanted kids, simple fact is that I HAVE NO kids.

I’m the last of this branch of the family.

I didn’t follow Dad into the military. Grandpa was born in 1920. Dad was born in 1950. I was born in 1980. I have no child, and 2010 is now 12 years ago.

So many other things.

When I was born, they sure did break the mold.

Flew a flag out in our yard ’til the day that he died

There’s a Toby Keith song that opens with the following:

American girls…and American guys
We’ll always stand up and salute
We’ll always recognize
When we see Old Glory flyin’
There’s a lot of men dead
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our head

My daddy served in the Army
Where he lost his right eye
But he flew a flag out in our yard
‘Til the day that he died
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me
To grow up and live happy
In the land of the free…

I remember the first time I heard this song back in probably 2002 (nearly 20 years ago!) the resonance it had for me. Back THEN it was more in seeing the various use of symbols, and personification of stuff…there’s words for it that I don’t recall at the moment, being so far removed from academia.

But the song came to mind to me yesterday for these opening two parts.

Moreso the second, but the first holds well in my eyes.

Cuz see…Dad was a veteran. He was in the US Navy for 21 years. He served on a ship in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange, which contributed to so much of his health decline in recent years.

The song lyrics–and I’ve never researched to see if these are Keith’s words or some songwriter; whether they’re autobiographical or “just” the narrator; etc–reference the fact of someone’s father serving in the Army; my Dad served int he Navy.

My dad did not lose an eye or limb, but had that AO exposure over there. But despite that, and despite all his medical conditions these past few years in particular…he always considered himself so very blessed. To be here, to be alive. For Mom (oh, how he would go on about how he loved her and was so blessed by her!), for me (and he would “embarrass” me telling me how proud he was of me, to be my father, to have seen the man I’ve become, etc), my sister (I can’t/won’t speak in her stead); for all that he’d come through. Never “why me, Lord?” He was thankful for the opportunities it gave him to share of his faith; the opportunities he had to GIVE, to help others; and so on.

And he had a flag out in the yard all he could. Flagpole(s) in the yard, or mounted on the house and/or mailbox. It was always so important to him to see that flag flying. Even when his son had no clue the depth of its meaning to him.

Three of the four flags in the front yard. Photo by Walt Kneeland 1/5/2022

In recent years, Dad had these huge flagpoles installed in the front yard, with solar lights mounted to them, to fly the flags. The US Flag; our Ohio state flag; the US Navy flag; and a POW flag.

He also has the US flag flying on a pole in the back yard, where he could see it from his main chair in “the cave.”

So that line about flying the flag out in the yard until the day that he died….oh, how that is 100% true here!

There’s a lotta stuff around this house; and mini statues and such out amidst the flowerbed and such…the word I feel Mom and I have most used to “categorize” the is “Patriotic.”

That was Dad.

Whatever politics, he loved this country, and seemed glad to have served; especially to see the life he was able to give my Mom, sister, and me, HAVING served.

I feel like there should be so much more for me to say, here, now. But I also feel like a lot of it would be presumptuous of me; trying to speak FOR him. Or putting words into his mouth. Or whatever other sayings fit. I wish I had talked to him more about this kinda stuff. I wish I’d talked SOOOO much more with him despite all the time and times we did spend talking.

But I can only speak for my impressions gotten from him, and my observations, and what I knew. And I am confident that for him, it was all so much deeper and complex than words I can find on a Thursday morning continuing to mourn losing Dad just hours over one week ago.

Tagging along with Dad: Bowling

Wayyyyyy back, when my sister and I were too young to be just left at home, parents had to make arrangements for ensuring we were cared for, amidst anything else they were doing.

Both worked, and we were old enough for school, so that covered a large part of the day. But Mom worked some evenings at the library, and…Dad was in a bowling league.

So while I do not recall the specific logistics of it, I do recall plenty of evenings at the bowling alley. Plenty of folks I didn’t know, and off the top of my head as I write this, I don’t even remember names for any of the other adults that were there; in this case, they’re maybe not the important part, though if any of you who would have been there happen to read this, please feel free to let me know…I’d love any memories to build onto these old ones I’ve carried!

I remember Dad would give us a couple/few dollars each, to play the various arcade games. I vaguely recall that I often blew through my coins pretty darned quick, and then would wander around and watch the demo screens and such. Looking back on that, maybe it sounds “sad” or something, but I remember genuinely enjoying that. (and I’ve “always” enjoyed WATCHING certain video games more than actively playing).

I especially remember frequently watching the cycle of demo screens for Street Fighter. I think I would look at it like a mini tv show or some such; with the repetetive intro and then different characters fighting each other. I’m pretty sure it was Street Fighter and NOT Street Fighter II.

I also remember Ms. Pac-Man. I feel like I recall both the “standard” arcade cabinet, but also the “lounge table” version, whatever those are called (“shame” on me for blanking, but stream of conscious writing here, you get what you get). I was never all that good at the game, as I recall…but it was fun. And I ALSO remember Dad enjoying it; whether I’m recalling that from the bowling alley or other arcade experiences.

(I’d even been planning to try to get him one of those Arcade 1 Up 3/4-scale cabinets of Ms. Pac-Man…but the HUGE increase in price since the MK one I got in 2019 put it off, as I knew he’d have been HORRIFIED at me spending that kinda money on him; as well as me understanding that while he’d CERTAINLY have gotten a kick out of it, it wasn’t something he’d actually USE all that much. Let alone even with the A1U riser, the scale might’ve been a bit of a problem for him)

There was also one of those “claw machines” with all the plushies and such. I always loved those; still do in a way; but probably goes back to that one at the bowling alley. I’d often manage to get SOMEthing if I devoted that night’s “entertainment allowance” to the thing. I vaguely remember this one man–I remember him as “old,” like “Grandpa-old,” and do not recall if he was in the league, or another one; or an employee, or what. I DO recall that Dad at least recognized him/knew of him (Dad let us have “the run” of much of the area, but as much freedom as I felt, I strongly suspect he had a far better eye on us than I was consciously aware of at the time).

And I remember one time watching this man put a single coin into the claw machine (oh, and this was back when you could play ’em for a single coin, none of this two-quarters or $1 or more crap!) and the claw dropped down, closed on something, then rose back up without whatever plush that was…and yet A LOT OF STUFF WAS MOVING. The claw mechanism had managed to close just right on some ribbon on a buried plush, so it hauled this plush rabbit or whatever up out from beneath all the other plushes that were visible–changing the dynamic of the layout–and dropped the thing out for him. I think he gave it to my sister, who I recall being right there watching as well.

And side-memory on the claw machine(s): I don’t recall where Dad had been–bowling alley, golf clubhouse, whatever; but I do remember one time he came home with a huge bundle of these plush puppies. I can’t QUITE visualize them specifically at the moment…I think I’m visualizing “Pound Puppies” toys. But they were all different colors, though the same “style”; especially in retrospect I know darned well they were obviously mass-produced. But he brought a bunch of these in; and it later turned out there were more out in the car in a plastic shopping bag. And I think I managed to get a couple more myself as they showed up in several claw machines or some such. Can’t recall what ever became of all of them, but obviously the memory is still there.

Another specific memory I have from that bowling alley is some little store or such that they had. I don’t so much remember the store itself as I remember there BEING one; because I remember one of the times getting a pack of Ninja Turtles trading cards! Who knows what my recollection has mixed up, but I think it was probably that first set, that came with the stick of bubble gum and had images from the original/first season of the cartoon. I do not recall if I would have spent my “arcade money” on that, or if I maybe begged Dad for extra; but I just have this random memory of carrying 1 pack of the cards in that bowling alley.

I do not recall if it was the same bowling alley or not, but I also remember being in a father/son bowling league for a single “season,” with Dad. I don’t really have any singular/specific memories of any particular moment of him “helping” me, but I’m sure he did; he was my start WITH bowling at all, ever. And whatever MY scores were, his were at least enough that, if I recall correctly, he and I won some first-place trophy from that. I’m not sure if I still HAVE that trophy (it may have been lost with stuff purged in the move from the old house a few years ago), but I had that thing for years, and have always at least “remembered” our sharing that time bowling and such and winning ANY trophy at all.

And while typing the above, I found ANOTHER memory of bowling and Dad: some sorta cub scout thing, most likely. I remember it being him, me, and a number of other boys. And Dad “challenged” us to “beat” him. And to be “sporting,” he stood back by the ball-receiver, adding the space from there to the lane itself to his bowling. Can’t remember if anyone DID beat him; I know I did not; but (if only deja vu of sorts now) I feel like I’ve always remembered that since, any time I’ve BEEN bowling…like just kinda looking at stuff and contemplating rolling the ball from back there without even stepping up to the actual lane.

As a final thought and because I don’t have enough memory of it to be its own post, might as well put it here: I was in a softball league one season as a kid. And I remember disliking it pretty quick…just wasn’t for me. BUT I do remember Dad making me stick with it for the season; combination of I think I was the one who asked to BE in the thing…and teaching some responsibility about finishing what one starts and seeing stuff through.

Deep breath and wistful sigh here, and feeling a hint of a smile and some sorta…satisfaction? Gratefulness? SOMEthing…even as I’m NOW tearing up a bit, but realizing that while many of these memories have been so long internalized and far from surface, conscious thoughts…Dad was always there for me. Always a part of stuff. Even when I was a little kid, he was THERE and present and participated IN my life…