Dealing With Death In High School

For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body.  Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new.  What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.

During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself.  We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset.  (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.)  Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy.  On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?

A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house.   There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.

When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat.  Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here?  In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.

Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer.  Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.

For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media.  I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island.  One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.

Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.

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Savor and Appreciate

death of a friendFor a couple of weeks now a story that many of my friends know about has haunted me – but I really haven’t talked about its impact on me.  (For anyone who knows me, they know that is not a surprise at all).  One of the reasons I have not spoken much about the sudden death of a friend from my childhood is because I could not figure out what was so upsetting to me about it – then I realized that doesn’t matter.  The take away is to savor and appreciate what we have because it all goes by quickly.

Gabe Selig and I were never super close.  We were friends through grade school and into high school.  He grew up for the most part across the street from my grandmother’s house.  We shared many classes together, had mutual friends and later in life at a few chance meetings in the city shared some beers.

Gabe collapsed and died playing ultimate frisbee with a team he belonged to about two weeks ago.

When I first saw the postings on Facebook I thought it was a joke of sorts – Gabe announcing his retirement from frisbee.  Then as the tributes to Gabe rolled in, I realized it was not a joke – someone my age in relatively good (at least appearance wise) health suddenly dropped dead.

There are lots of images from my past of those exact moments – maybe this conjured some of those up.  Maybe the fact that I’m closer to 50 than anything else has me wondering about what my life will be like in five or 10 years.  Or maybe its a sign to savor and appreciate what you have now – and focus on the good things in life because there’s no telling what tomorrow holds.

I wasn’t there that Sunday when Gabe collapsed on a field – and it took more than a week before I was able to find details to what occurred that day.  I was watching the pictures Gabe shared from the frisbee event that weekend as they flipped by on my Facebook timeline.

I know all too well – from my father, to my grandfather, to my brother, to my wife that life moves at its own pace and its own path – maybe the lesson though is to savor and appreciate the moment….

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Camp Good Grief – Another Year

Camp Good GriefWith just one more day left in summer for the girls, school here starts Wednesday, they spent last week on the east end of Long Island at their fourth year of Camp Good Grief.  If you want me to save you the click (although I would suggest taking the journey), Camp Good Grief is a week-long program for kids who have lost a close relative (think parent, sibling or grandparent).  This year at Camp Good Grief 15.0 was a counselor and 12.5 was a fourth year camper (normally it’s only three years).

Over the years I’ve used Camp Good Grief as a check in point to the emotional status of the girls.  They spend time in art therapy and group therapy – and on the last day of camp I can get feedback from both.  This year I’ll admit my level of concern was a little lower than normal, and with good reason according to the therapists – 12.5 is doing more than OK.

The broader experience this year though was both girls (although 15.0 more) got the feeling of giving back to the micro-community they belong to – children who have lost a loved one.  It happens.  It happened to me.  It’s part of life.  But there is a sense of peace that comes with knowing you’re not alone (at least that is what my girls have told me).

15.0 had such a great experience, she’s ready to sign up for another year as a counselor.  12.5 will be eligible to be a counselor next year – and it looks like she’ll apply as well.

Three out of the four years my girls have gone to Camp Good Grief, it’s been at the Peconic Dunes Camp Grounds closer to the end of the North Fork of Long Island than anything else.  It’s about an hour from our door to drop off – so it’s a long week of driving and logistics for me as the girls continue with soccer (15.0) and softball (12.5), and getting ready for school and catching up with friends.

For me though, it really has been time well spent.  Sure, the year it was only 20 minutes from our house (at a different camp grounds) it was even easier.  But to borrow (and butcher) Teddy Roosevelt, no one is saying it’s going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

Camp Good Grief – another year in the books and it looks like another year ahead.  And it’s OK.  I’ll put the time in.  I’ve tried to teach the girls about giving back to their community and family – so how could I complain when they are giving back to their micro-community?

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8765 times 2

8765 – the number of hours in a year.  In two years its 17,531.  Sometimes it feels like there are hundreds of minutes in those hours.  Other times, it feels like only seconds go by as the hours tick off.  Either way though, two years ago today my wife passed away and time is the constant to measure just how we are doing two years later.

When applying time to the lives of my girls and I, on the whole we are doing OK.  And that’s a good thing.

Sure we miss out on a lot-but we also share in some very unique things and we have memories that allow us to keep Risa’s spirit alive.  As I was telling a friend who lost her sister recently it doesn’t get easier, it really doesn’t.  What happens though is life and we manage to wake up and make today a better day than yesterday and hold out hope that tomorrow will be better than today.

Sure, I’d love for 10.0 to take school more seriously.  And yeah, I wish I could have been there to keep 12.5 from turning her ankle last weekend.  But by and large, those are small issues that we will over come-one day at a time one moment at a time.

So, into the next block of 8765 hours we will go.  We’ll share milestones this year, heartaches this year and good times this year.  We know we are keeping Risa’s spirit alive by simply doing the best we can and fighting for all we want-which is how she lead her life and we honor her that way.

I am not a huge believer in fate as a driver for all things that happen today.  A friend was telling me over the weekend that she believes if life had turned left instead of right, if I didn’t run that stop light this morning on the way to the train things would be different.  Perhaps they would be.  I really don’t have that answer, and I’m pretty happy with my life so I don’t have to worry about the zigs and zags it takes.  Instead, I’ll enjoy the ride, and hope there are fewer 180-minute hours in the next 8765.

And don’t forget, Dad the Single Guy’s new book “The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning” available now on Nook and Kindle.

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SHHHH Can You Keep A Secret?

Big news, but its a secret OK?

My next book is about to be available on any and all e-readers.

UPDATE: You can now download the full book on your Kindle.  Support for all other readers is pending.

UPDATED (AGAIN): You can now also download the full book on your Nook.  Support still pending for iPad and others.

Almost two years in the making, The Beginning of the Middle of the End of the Beginning is the title of my book and also a blog I posted on December 4, 2010-the day Risa passed away.  From a pure marketing perspective for a blog, that title is awful.  For me though it was very descriptive of what I felt at the time and how things have unfolded over the 24 months since that day.

So, if you just can’t wait, feel free to get a preview here.  Expect me to be nauseatingly in your face once the book is fully available.

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Live Life When You Can

While I am not completely sure I needed the reminder, I got one today:  Live life while you can.

In a back to back kind of way today, I heard of the fates of two people I consider a friend-meaning more than just knowing them professionally that has really played with my inner self a bit.

First is a meteorologist named Rich Hoffman at the News 12 Networks in New York.  Rich is a contemporary of mine, maybe a few years younger, but he’s been through the wringer of local television and moving station to station, market to market and he’s someone during my second Cablevision career who I could talk to about that.

Now, Rich is a runner and athletic.  He’s done a triathlon and as of earlier this month he’s had open heart surgery to replace a valve.  I am not sharing anything at this point that Rich has not shared on his Facebook, so I think I am OK. Today, via Rich’s Facebook, he is going back in for another procedure.

Take a pause.

Today, I also learned of another friend (via professional circumstance) Ken Reeves from AccuWeather.  So, Ken went out with a friend (and a friend of mine) on Sunday and played two hours of racquetball and by what was described to me had a good time.  He went home and decided to take his Christmas lights down-and tragically fell.  Ken was only 50 years old and married less than a year.

Take another pause.

I have never had the belief I could actually understand the way life works.  In my life-from the passing of my father, to the death of my younger brother to the long battle with cancer of my wife-and all of the other “course of life and death” events in between have seen a lot.  And I wish I could understand any of it.  I readily admit I don’t.

Still today-this juxtaposition of life and death is a lot, and I don’t mind saying has kind of messed with me some.

Life can’t be as random as it seems can it? Yet it is.

I have a second (I think second) cousin who at around age three had faced more in life than most people ever do-and yet he is a survivor now.  And frankly an inspiration.  When the alarm goes off at 4:15 and I am off to the gym, I think about people like my cousin who fight for their life and it makes it easier to do what I have to do to be alive longer….

But still, as Ken found out, and as I can only imagine Rich is wondering, there are no guarantees.  Do all of the right things and then it’s random.

Life isn’t easy for sure.  But it can’t be this complicated, can it?


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My Weekend to Ponder

So heading into a Friday night I’ve spent most of my day turning over in my mind a conversation I had last night while driving home from New Jersey.  Now, I know full well what a bad idea it is for me to put this out there-but it’s kind of what this blog is, so in for a dime-in for a dollar I guess.

Twice this week, once on Wednesday and once on Thursday in very different ways and very different circumstance my ability to sustain my side of a relationship was certainly questioned and perhaps even doubted.  Now the first one was not one that would make you stop and think all that much and I won’t dwell on it all that much.  But taken with the second event, it makes you think a little.  Enter my weekend to ponder.

So far, I’ve realized that during the last 20 years or so my direct inter-personal relationship was with my wife who was my wife who was in a pretty steadily deteriorating state dealing with a brain tumor.  In looking back, as she slipped away first intellectually and then physically I retreated inward.  I dealt with a lot of pressure between her care, child care, nurturing my career.  There was not a lot of time for me to sustain the social tool box that I had at one point.

Now professionally I am a different person.  Even with a group of people who are good friends who I would go to bat for and watch a back for any day of the week, it’s a different setting.

When it comes to opening up and being just me, guard down, planning turned off-I feel clumsy even if I’m not I still feel that way.  And there in lies the rub for me.  There are inter-personal settings where that kind of encounter is expected, and this week I learned at least once and probably twice I have a long way to go.

When I stand in front of the mirror shaving in the morning I know the person looking back at me is doing all he can and really pushing hard to be better at it.  Still, there is a nagging sense that I could be doing better.  Now to ponder how?

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Those Crazy Kids (of mine)

One of the upcoming events I have been struggling a lot with lately is marking one-year since my wife died.  Following some level of Jewish tradition I am trying to do the unveiling of the grave stone at that time.  For a lot of reasons that has not been a straight line to completion but it will get done.

But the broader problem I have here is that I really am not comfortable at the cemetery.  I have never been at ease with it.  From even before my father’s death when I was young-there are some vivid memories.

The scope of the task I had before me became clear at the end of the summer-when I went to my uncle’s unveiling.  I wrote about it then, and I have been uncomfortable with even broaching the subject with the girls since.

However, with roughly six-weeks to go it was time.  So I pulled it together and ran through in my mind a loose script and answers to questions I thought would be asked.  To my recollection, the only unveiling the girls had been to was their maternal grandfather’s and that was more than three years ago-and since most of the time they can’t remember what was said to them five minutes ago, I figured I was at square one.

Much to my surprise though, they vividly remembered the event.  The unveiling, placing rocks on the headstone, etc.  Made my conversation a lot easier-won’t make the day easier for me.  Kind of pulling it together long enough to get through and get them home.  We’ll see how all that goes in a month or so.

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