Sunday, July 30, 2023

Hey there!

 Hey. Its Eric.

I know... its been a while.

Life has been weird, but I think I am turning the corner. I was heading down a path, and that path abruptly
ended. It took a little to find the next path, but I think I have it.

I bought a new car. I got fitted for new suits. I am starting a new job in a couple of weeks. I am golfing again, and doing it better than I have in years. 

I am taking my life back and I am going to kick ass till the wheels fall off. 

- Eric

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Vacation Season - Hawaii and Florida Part One

 A friend said I should blog about my experience in Hawaii... so as you are reading this and laughing at my skill for making poor decisions you can thank Rachel.

As many of you are aware, I make an effort to raise funds for LLS (Leukemia Lymphoma Society). In the fall last year I got a message advertising an opportunity to raise money for LLS by participating in the Lavaman Triathlon in Hawaii. So in true Eric, I didn't think this through, fashion I signed up.

Now signing up for this even meant I committed to raising $4000, and committed meant I gave them my credit card number and gave them permission to take whatever I was short. Now I wasn't overly concerned about the fund raising. I cheated a little bit and used my company match. So I donated $2000 and my company matched the 2K and boom... I was in.

I committed to this event several months before it, so I had plenty of time to train and get ready. But a funny thing happened on my to train for the triathlon, it involved me not training at all. In fact, I did quite the opposite. I had spent the last few months trying to get as big and strong as possible, which for a 46 year old means I got really fat. I had gained nearly 40 pounds over the summer and fall. Still, I had plenty of time to train. 

Oh look... its March. I haven't trained for this at all.  I don't own a bike good enough to ride in this event, and I am not able to rent a bike, there are none available. I haven't been in the water since September and I haven't swam in open water in years. I haven't even ran farther than 6 miles. 

I am sure it will be fine.

My cycling outfit shows up at the house the week before the event. It is so tight, I can barely zip it. I look like a sausage bursting out of its casing.

Two weeks before the event, I go to the bike store to buy a fancy bike. I spend a small fortune on this thing. But I have to ship it to Hawaii. I look into shipping the bike, it is $700. Screw that. I talked to Delta and they said I can check the bike, I just need a bike case. I buy a case. I decide that the Sunday before the event, I will practice taking the bike apart and putting it back together. I will need to be able to do this to travel. An hour in, I give up. I can't get this fucking thing apart. Out of sheer frustration, I get on line and the same bike shop that was out of bikes, suddenly has bikes. YES! I rent a bike. One problem has been solved. Side note... you had to bring your own pedals for the bike rental, it literally took me an hour to get them off my bike.

So where are we. It is now the week of the event. I am too fat to fit into my suit. I have a rental bike, that I have never ridden. I will be wearing bike shoes for only the second time in my life, and that is going to be a problem unto itself.  Did I mention, I haven't swam in open water in years.

Just two days before the event and we get an e-mail. A swimmer was bitten by a shark in the bay where we are going to be swimming. This is my chance to opt out of the swim and not look like a complete wussy. 

It is now the day of, time to board the plane. It will take three planes and roughly 12 hours in the air to get to Hawaii. But I make it.

I get to Hawaii, I am exhausted but so excited. It looks like some sort of alien planet. A two lane road takes me from the airport to the hotel. We are surrounded on both sides by lava fields of black rock. Mana Kea in the distance. I don't do much the night I arrive. I grab a beer at the hotel bar and head to bed.

Jet lag sucks... I am up at 3 AM. Might as well go start the day. There is a practice swim in the bay at 8 AM. I sat around and waited till the coffee shop opened up at 6, and then I jumped in the pool for a little early morning swim. 

I make my way down to the lobby to meet the group to head out to the swim. It is a mile walk down the beach which does not have a single grain of sand, all rocks. I learn we will be crossing this same beach on the event.

I didn't get in the water for the practice swim, I was still pretty sure I was going to opt out. The only problem is there is no where to tell anyone that I am going to opt out. I go to packet pickup, they don't care.

Now, I needed to get my rental bike and it was 35 miles away. A taxi ride to the city was 100 dollars. I ask the event staff what is the best way to get my bike. "Let me introduce you to Frank, he has a car".

Frank was a 60 something guy, he was cool. I met his wife, a former collegiate swimmer. Frank was nice enough to drive me 70 miles round trip to pick up my rental bike.

It is the evening the night before the event. I ate dinner and I went to bed early. I still didn't know if I was going to swim or not. A friend said "What is the worst that can happen?".

I got up early again on Sunday morning. I packed my bag, grabbed my bike and headed down to the start. It was still dark, we had to walk our bikes down the road because there aren't enough lights to see. 

I am at the event, we are setting up our station changes. I still have not decided if I am going to swim or not. I gear up in my cycling gear. I see most people are going to swim in their cycling gear, those not wearing wet suits. I think to myself one last time... "what is the worst that can happen?". I headed down to the water to get ready for the start.

There is lots of nervous conversation in the starting pen. We are laughing about how we just want to finish. I am surrounded by people that you would not describe as athletes, they calm my nerves. If they can do this... I can do this.

As the pen starts to move forward, the nerves build. I am about to try to swim a MILE in open water. I clip my nose clip on and lock my goggles in place. I stepped on the start line and waited for the signal. 


Into the water. It is cool but not cold. The waves are mild, the water moves up and down about a foot or two feet with each passing wave. I start swimming. I was reading about swimming techniques last night in bed and I am trying to put what I read into practice. I am failing. The clip gets knocked off my nose. I am getting mouthfuls of water as I turn to breath. I am maybe 50 yards into the mile. I have made a terrible mistake.

I switch to swimming breast stroke. I am slow, but I am moving. I am in a pack of self-described slow swimmers and I am keeping up with the group. My nerves begin to settle. I am the only person swimming breast stroke. The lifeguard rides a jet ski over to me to make sure I am OK.

Just keep swimming...

The swim is a big upside U. We swim out, over, and back. I just keep thinking, just make it to the first marker. My shoulders and neck are starting to ache, but I am swimming well and keeping up with my group.

Just keep swimming...

Once I got to the first marker, I decided I was not going to quit. I just kept swimming. Nice and slow. I switch to side stroke and free style to give my neck a break and go right back to breast stroke. On the way back the waves are pushing us in and making the glide part of the stroke go farther. I can see the shore and I just keep thinking to myself don't quit.

I swam for 40 minutes. As I climbed up on the beach, my legs did not work. I could barely walk. They were so tired from that swim. 

I was so fucking proud of myself at that moment.

To the bike.

As I get on the bike I distinctly remember thinking to myself, OK... now you show them what you got.

Yeah... I got nothing.

The bike is my best part of the event by a long shot, and I am getting passed by everyone as they come out of the water. I keep thinking... "how are they going so fast?"

I put my head down and keep going. My neck is killing me from the swim, I can barely hold my head up, so I find myself just staring at the road. But I keep pedaling, I keep going. I am slow but steady. I manage to pass a couple of people, moral victory. But I spend the most of the next two hours mostly along on the highway. I am well behind the pack but I can at least see other participants.

The ride is long and tiring, my legs are exhausted. But the view is amazing!

I finished the ride after nearly 2 hours. I am well in the back of the pack. As I park my bike, I throw on a long sleeve shirt because I am cooked by the sun. Frank's wife sees me in the pen. 

"Hey... what was your time?"

She has finished you see, I still have 6 miles to go.

I start the run, and who am I kidding. I can't run. I try to jog and walk, alternating my gait. Nope. I am too tired. I walk. But I walk as fast as I can. I jog down the hills, but I can barely move my feet. I have blisters on my toes and heels. I found a woman moving at a reasonable pace and I just got behind her. She was in her 60s, a cancer survivor, a badass. She paced me for the next 5 miles.

I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 40 minutes. 10 minutes after the course was supposed to close, but thankfully they did not pull me off the course. I would have fought them.

I got my medal and took my obligatory selfie. I sat down on a rock, and I don't think I moved for 30 minutes. Several people walked by and handed me bottles of water. A few folks even checked on me, to make sure I was OK. I have never been so tired. 

Everything hurt. My toes were blistered. My knees ached. My back and my neck hurt. I was so thirsty.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Epilogue Part 2 - 1 Year

It has been a year. A year without my wife. A year without my kid's mother. A year without my best friend. A year without hearing her voice, kissing her face, holding her hand. A year without watching Hallmark movies. A year without sitting by her at the pool. A year without the thought of our future together. A year without her parenting the shit out of these kids. A year without seeing her hug my kids, calm their nerves, feed their bellies. 

It has been a very tough year.

This is my first experience with any real hardship. Certainly, my first experience with grief and loss. I have learned a lot over this last year. A lot about myself. A lot about my kids. A lot about other people, some good and some not-so-good.

Let's begin with the sad stuff, so we can get that out of the way. For the most part we are getting by really well by this point. As I have said numerous times over the last few months, I usually don't have sad "days". I am generally happy, but life is full of sad little moments. Today, for example, I noticed her mark on our sign we used to measure the growth of the kids. Right there at 5 feet and 4 inches above the ground is a little heart drawn with sharpie next to the word "Mom". The sign sits right outside my office door. I look at it all the time, but for some reason today it just hit a little harder. I leaned my head up against the fabric, as if I were leaning on her head. I hugged the wall as if she were there to hug me back. I spent a minute or two in sadness, and I went back to my office to keep working. These e-mails aren't going to compose themselves.

Cyndi's marker was placed in the cemetery just before Christmas. I stopped by to see her and check the stone. It was much sadder looking at the space and seeing her name carved into marble than it was looking at the space without the marker, as if it were somehow more final. I only stayed a few minutes. I caught her up on my life and the kids, I apologized for my some of my behavior, I kissed the marker, and told her I loved her. I had to get back to the house, that laundry isn't going to fold itself.

OK. Enough sad.

The kids still seem to be good. Carson continues to be in too many clubs, and keeps getting straight A's. He seems happier during the school year when he is with his school friends all the time than during the summer. He works so hard. Beckham is just starting year 2 of high school football, at least offseason training. He continues to exceed expectations in school. It is especially amazing considering his limitations and disdain for school. Grant has really started to come out of his shell, both emotionally and intellectually. He is proving to be a good student in his own right and he is so funny. And Gabe is doing great too. I had a call with his teachers last week and they all had such nice things to say about him. They helped reassure me that he is doing OK at school, when they are out of my sight. He just finished two 1000 piece Lego cars.

I feel like a taxi service driving back and forth from school to school to store to where ever else I said I would go. I feel like the worst cook in the history of humanity. Tonight I made 6 dinners, 6! There is only 5 of us, but sometimes the tacos are too meaty or the noodles are too noodly. I feel like a terrible parent when I order too much pizza or too much takeout. I try to make healthy food, but these kids only eat carbs and cheese. I feel like a piece of shit when I get angry at the kids, even if it is warranted, I still feel terrible. I have little moments where I feel like the stress is building up so high, I am going to pop.

I am proud of us too. I am proud of how we keep battling to get our lives back. I am proud of the fact that we do nearly all of this on our own. I am proud of the fact that I got her book published. I am proud of the fact that we have only been late to school once. I am proud of the fact that my kids are in therapy. I am proud of the fact that I did all the Christmas shopping this year. I am proud of the fact that I raised over $5000 for LLS last year. I am proud of the fact that I have gone on a date. I am proud of these tattoos and the time I have spent in the gym this year, my mental and physical therapy.

I don't want to make an "anniversary" out of Jan 10. I want this date to fade into memory like an arbitrary Tuesday. I won't make a habit out of recognizing it. I will choose to honor and celebrate her on our wedding anniversary, Jan 29. But I wanted to acknowledge this milestone, if nothing more than to note that we made it through this year. We got through all the "firsts", the "nexts" will probably be just as hard though.

Some of you have been so kind to me, to us this past year. Some of you have helped me through some very dark days. You probably didn't know it, but that text or message might have been the thing that got me through a day. Thank you, to all those who put themselves out there to check on me, to check on us. Thank you for the stories, the pictures, the videos, the smiles you shared with me. It has meant so much to me.

Thank you for loving her too. Thank you for continuing to think of her. From time to time, I want you to raise a sangria to the sky and thank the Universe for putting her in your life.

I love you guys. We will be here if you need us, kicking the shit out of tomorrow and the next day. 

Let us know if I can help you in anyway. #ForCyndi

- Eric