19 January 2023

My Brother, My Greatest Teacher

When I was asked to write something in remembrance for my brother, I immediately agreed. 

How hard, I thought, can it possibly be to stand up and say a bunch of great things about one of the best men I’ve ever known? As it turns out the words big enough, important enough or profound enough do not exist to express the love and respect I have for Jason. 

Jason was my big brother. He was my protector, occasional tormentor and possibly the world’s worst babysitter; but most of all, he was my greatest teacher. 

He taught me how to count change when I got my very first job. 

He taught me all the things about guns and how to sharpen a knife in theory if not practice. 

He taught me the meaning of “stewardess” as it applies to drilling holes. 

He sometimes showed me how not to speak to customers when we worked together at Blythe’s. 

He taught me that you can’t limp wrist a revolver. 

On occasion, he would hog tie me with zip ties and leave me alone to figure out how to escape. And so I learned not to be frightened by any potential kidnappers, unless they happened to be carrying real handcuffs rather than zip ties. 

He taught me dozens of ways to take guns away from bad guys while we drank in his kitchen.

He probably taught me a million other small things, but then Jason also taught me the really big things, the ones that end up shaping the person you become. 

He taught me work ethic; to take pride in any task I was doing, even if I was just taking out the trash. He tried to teach me the importance of punctuality. 

I’m quite certain that most of the lessons I learned from Jason weren’t intentionally taught. Throughout my life, he demonstrated that morals are not adjustable or negotiable. He taught me integrity, loyalty, decency and empathy. He showed me that personal feelings aside, to ridicule or humiliate another human being is simply not done; that to stand silently by while others do so is equally unacceptable, and I learned that every human being is deserving of respect and consideration.

During those years that we worked together at Blythe’s, Jason would often speak of our boss in a way that made his respect and admiration for Les evident. And although it was never a conscious thought, I came to realize that I wanted to be the kind of person that my brother would hold in such high regard. In that way, then, Jason taught me to be a better person.

He showed me what friendship should look like; the love that can exist between men, unrelated but recognized as brothers.

Somehow Jason was able to teach me that love can be unconditional, and more importantly that I deserved it. 

We had our moments, our arguments, our knock-down, drag-out actual wars every time my parents went to the grocery store… and there were times he let me know he didn’t agree with my choices, my lifestyle, that he didn’t like my decisions and at times didn’t actually like me. 

Yet I was blessed with the knowledge that nothing I did could ever make him love me less. Which even as a parent isn’t an easy thing to instill, especially in teenage girls, so the fact he was able to do so as a young man is pretty astounding.

Towards the end of his life Jason showed me what it means to truly be a warrior. When he was first diagnosed, when that doctor walked in and said the words “stage four” my heart hit the bottom of my feet. I knew he’s just handed my brother a death sentence. Jason’s response was to simply say, “Well, okay. How do we get rid of it? Let’s kill this thing.” And from that moment until his very last breath, he fought like hell. 

You’ll hear sometimes after a person has died that they’ve “lost their battle with cancer.” 

Jason never did. 

Cancer may have killed him, but not for one single moment did it ever beat him. Even though there must have been times he was scared and in so much pain, he never considered giving up.  

Throughout the entire fight, he never expressed any type of self-pity. He never asked, “why me?” and even though the rest of us said it, over and over again, “this just isn’t fair” there wasn’t a single instance that he even agreed aloud. 

I’m afraid I didn’t offer much in exchange, although I did have the occasion to teach him why we never drink tequila purchased from a clearance section of the liquor store.

The character of a man can be measured not only in the way he treats others, but perhaps more so in the way he is regarded by the people in his life. 

My brother was a man who inspired I don’t know how many people to make a trip to my parents’ home during those last few days to squeeze his hand, give him one last hug or a kiss on the cheek; to say goodbye and to let him know that he was loved.

Jason brought dozens of men and women together, to sit, stand, hold his hands, share stories and memories and to ultimately watch over him and wait; no matter how painful we found it; so that my brother, when he left this world, did not leave alone.

He was a man who inspired people to call from places all across the country that last day, so they could tell him they were honored to have known him, and to wish him an easy rest. 

The men that he called brothers made sure that as he left this world for the next, he did so with dignity.

He was a man whose friend’s stayed, hours after he’d died, to help find, count, unload and catalog all of his weapons. Without them we’d still be finding pistols tucked into weird places.

Men who were strangers to us drove from I don’t know how far or from where to help our family navigate our fog of grief and determine which heavy things they needed to help us move. I suppose it was their way of paying respect, or honoring his memory, but ultimately, whatever the term used, it was love. 

There hasn’t been a single day since Jason died that I haven’t felt the pain of his absence. The hold he left in our hearts can never be filled. But I find comfort in the knowledge that as Jason died, he did so with the assurance that every single moment he spent here with us was well-lived and so , so incredibly well-loved.


Kensey was so much more than my best friend. He was my family. He was so much a daily part of my life that I was absolutely lost when he died. 

This is the eulogy I tried to read at his celebration of life. I cried and I talked too fast and no one could actually hear my words. 

I think it might have been the night of the blizzard when Kens told me, “Of course that’s a horrible idea, but if you’re going then so am I.” That's probably when I realized we were the same people. 

He was more than my best friend. We chose each other as family. We spent entirely too much time in bars, especially the one we bought, which he was absolutely giddy to own for the last 7 months or so. 

He was so full of life and had so many stories that its difficult to believe he fit everything into a single lifetime. Anyone who knew Kensey could spend days talking about who and what he was to each of us. 

So, I'm going to talk about what he wasn't. 

He was not, as he claimed, emotionally unavailable. Unexpressive maybe, but not unavailable. He would do anything in his power to help a friend. If Kensey loved you, you knew it, even if he never said so. 

After his retirement he claimed to be allergic to manual labor. He was not. He was the first person to offer to help with lawn work at my brother’s when Jason was unable to do it himself.

He was not lonely. He surrounded himself with interesting people and had more friends than anyone could ever possibly count. 

He was neither bored, nor boring. He despised being bored and was afraid of seeming boring to others. 

No one could ever say that he was boring. He had a million stories to tell, and he did. They were sincere, hilarious or heart-wrenching, depending on the situation of the telling, but they were always fascinating. 

He was not sick. He once told me that if he couldn’t do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it, he’ d be better off dead. I can’t imagine him ever being ill or bedridden. Kensey was far too full of life and any debilitating illness would have been infinitely more tragic than the way he left us.

He was not able to hold his bladder for more than 15 minutes on a road trip, which possibly had something to do with his buying coffee everytime we stopped for him to pee. 

Eric and him made it a point to tell me that we were only stopping for gas on the way home, but that it would be irresponsible not to pee when we were already at the gas station. 

They pumped $1.98.

Several times. 

He was always down for a road trip, even ill-advised ones to New Orleans that started at 4am and ended in some dive bar in Illinois before we came all came to our senses. Yes, yes there was alcohol involved. It took us 14 hours to bar-hop home from Illinois. 

He loved New Orleans, Key West and Arizona, and I doubt any of those places will be the same for any of us without him. 

He was not gay anymore. He told multiple girls this as a pick up line, including the henna tattoo artist in Key West… While she was writing “I’m not gay anymore” on his arm. As far as I know he never got a single date using this pick up method. We’re also pretty sure he was never gay in the first place.

He decided he was not allergic to gluten. In fact he tried to order extra gluten with most of his meals. He enjoyed telling anyone who claimed to be gluten intolerant that they should just decide to not to be.

His life was his own and I’d say he lived it the fullest. He had a damn good time doing so. 

If he were here with us today, he’d pat us all awkwardly on the shoulder and say “I’m sorry kid.” Then he’d buy us shots until we stopped crying.

28 August 2018

What Cancer Really Is

Cancer is an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells which results in disease, says Google.

Google can't feel.

Cancer is so much more.

It's regret for every harsh word spoken, for everything left unspoken and for every moment taken for granted, or worse, not taken at all.

It's hope and fear all swirled together in a strange black hole that settles somewhere between my stomach and spine.

It's a tightness in my chest that forces my shoulders inward.

It's pride and faith that forces them back out again.

It's prayer to a God I don't even think I believe in, and to several others I know I don't, just in case.

It's blinding love.

It's an odd mixture of hope, fear and adrenaline.

A sort of fucked up fight or flight response to someone's pain. A compulsion to help do anything, everything, because cancer isn't a problem I can fix.

It's a need for more time together.

It's agony, seeing his pain.

It's immeasurable happiness, seeing his joy.

It's overwhelming, heartbreaking and  heartwarming in terms of the support received.

It's treatment and doctors and side effects and pain.

It's a realization of just how little time we all have together.

It's the time taken to notice all the stupid little things that actually matter.

I'll never call it anything but evil but it has changed my view of life and understanding of family and priority in ways that nothing else ever has.

I love you Big Brother. You're the strongest person I've ever known.

31 December 2015

My Grandfather's Wife

My grandfather sat in a chair near her bed, resting his head on their joined hands. After some time he stood. He smoothed the hair from her forehead and kissed it gently. He just stood there then,  for  what seemed like a long while. 

I could tell he didn’t want to leave her and I felt a bit guilty for witnessing such a private moment. When he finally did leave the hospital room, he came out holding her single shoe as if it were a child. It is a picture of grief I will never forget.

What does someone say in that moment, when they are saying goodbye to the person they’ve shared their life with? I love you. Thank you for loving me, for our sons, for everything. I’m not ready to lose you. I’m sorry.

My own thoughts reflected the selfish side of grief. 
I’m not ready either. I still need you. Are you proud of me? 
Later, standing in a department store, trying to pick out shoes through a haze of tears, I can’t do this Grandma. You aren’t here to tell me whether these are appropriate for a funeral or not.

Sitting at the funeral home and watching people come to pay their respects; I thought about how much of our lives belong to other people. Carolyn was a cherished, long-awaited only child. 
For a time, she belonged only to her parents. Later she was a student, a friend, an employee, a neighbor. For many years, as a mother, she belonged to her four sons. As a grandmother, she belonged to us. She was a great grandmother and dozens of other different things to dozens of other people who each have a claim to pieces of the years she spent on Earth.

 I watched my grandfather, bent over Carolyn's recently closed casket with his head in his hands and I was struck by the realization that for everything she was to everyone else, the biggest part of her had belonged to him. I was humbled and more than a bit ashamed that I’d never considered the life she had before it included me, aside from a vague understanding that she’d had one. 

That day though, I imagined my grandparents when they were young. I pictured them bringing home their first baby; buying their first home; building the family and life we all claim as our own now. I’d never before thought of them as being the same people that they’d been when they started their life together. I only truly understood the enormity of my grandfather’s loss then, when I realized that for everything she was to others, she’d spent the largest portion of her life, 58 of her 76 years, being his wife.

It was a strange moment of understanding. Not unlike the first time a child realizes that teachers are real people and have lives outside of school. When I looked at my grandmother in her casket, I saw the woman I’d always seen. 

I imagine that my grandfather saw much more. I’d imagine he saw his high school sweetheart, the girl he married, the mother of his children, the woman who made a home and life with him. I’d guess that when my grandfather looked at my grandmother
in her casket, he saw his whole world.

18 April 2014

Dear New York, Much Safer Now

Dear New York,

I'm writing to express my heartfelt appreciation of the knee-jerk legislation you passed back in January of 2013.

I appreciate your efforts to define the term "assault rifle." You seem to have narrowed it down, once again, to firearms that either look scary, or have certain features that absolutely in no way affect the mechanical aspect of a firearm. Congrats, probably it'll work this time.

Since, obviously, no one in your government has ever seen a firearm before, I'll take the time to explain:

Folding and telescoping stocks are designed to allow the weapon to be fired from a car. Or one-handed, from the hip probably. This is especially true of those semi-auto shotguns. I've found that 12 gauge wounds are far more lethal when fired from a shotgun with a folding stock. 

The same is true of weapons with thumbhole stocks. I believe the act of placing one's thumb through a hole in the stock of a weapon creates less wind-drag, which increases the velocity of a round exponentially, or something like that.
Don't push me bro. I'll extend my stock and assault the shit right out of you.

And of course, the danger of having a bayonet lug on a weapon. I mean shit, if I'm going to be shot, I certainly don't want to know that the shooter had the capability of attaching a knife to the gun.  I'm also reasonably sure that the presence of a bayonet lug allows the firearm to be fired more quickly. Cuz, science that's why. 

Thank goodness you've solved the flash suppressor issue as well.  I can't even tell you the horror of being shot with a rifle and not having the burning gases displaced. At least I'll have died knowing that the shooter was seeing spots for a few minutes.
You see, much safer now. This rifle is practically incapable of hurting anyone. 

I could go on and discuss the grenade launchers and pistol grips, but I'm running out of time and I certainly wanted to give you an "atta boy" over your decision to require these assault weapons be registered. Passing useless and unenforceable laws makes everyone much safer. 

Perhaps next time you pass some sort of gun reform, you could consider banning slings as well, especially the military style ones. And maybe require AR-15 style rifles to be painted in bright, happy colors as they'd be less lethal if they weren't so scary looking. Just a thought.

In closing, I'd like to thank you, once again, for responding to an awful tragedy with this totally useless, panicked legislation. I'd also like to thank you for not knowing a rifle from a fucking cupcake, and banning totally inconsequential features. You should be proud, or, um, something like proud. Embarrassed by your total and utter ignorance, maybe?

Someone Who Knows What Makes Guns Go Pew-Pew

06 February 2014

Cracked.com Rewrite: 7 Female Behaviors That Baffle Men: Explained by Krissy

I came across this article on Cracked.com, 7 Female Behaviors That Baffle Men(Explained!) Now, admittedly, the author is probably right about most of them, I'm not a doctor so I can't say for sure...but. I can think of a few more realistic explanations for female behaviors.

1. Going to the bathroom in groups.
The author says something about all the girls going pee at the same time because a lull in conversation is sort of like a commercial break or something. She says women don't want to miss anything important or entertaining.

If a bunch of girls are going into the restroom together? 


Alternately, one of them needed a tampon. Or they want to talk about you where you can't hear them. You are welcome.

2. Why are women's restroom so much more disgusting than men's?
The author says something about women fearing filth, which triggers a fight or flight response. So obviously, women run in terror from the floating shit in the toilet and forget to flush their own.

I suppose that's a good theory.

I'd prefer to think it has more to do with the fact women have so much more STUFF at their disposal to be disgusting with. Men's rooms contain urinals, toilets, probably toilet paper and one of those condom vending things.

Women's rooms... they contain mostly the same thing, except the urinals of course. They also contain little garbage can things for women to dispose of their used sanitary items in. Tampons and maxi-pads... all covered with uterus lining and other gross shit.

Say you're a woman, taking a piss and you accidentally kick over one of those things? Are you going to pick that shit up and put it back? Fuck no you aren't. Unless there is something seriously, seriously wrong with you, and I don't even need to be a doctor to say that.

3. Why do girls take so long to get ready?
The author says something about changing clothes and make up. Which is probably true. I can't speak for all women, but sometimes, when I feel like dressing like a girl, I do the whole dress, shoe thing and then look in the mirror... And realize that while I may look like a girl, I feel like an absolute fucking moron. So, then I have to put on the jeans and tank top combo that makes me feel normal again.

Also, make up. Shit yes. Not because make up typically takes all that long, but generally because I cannot seem to apply mascara without getting that shit all over my cheeks and eyelids at least once. Which means I have to wipe it off and try again. Which means I have to reapply eyeshadow. Because I really do suck at the girl thing.

4. Why are women's fashions so complicated?
I've never actually met a man that has been baffled by this, however... The author says something about seasons and dressing either slutty or conservative based on the occasion or something like that.

I'd go with something much simpler. For example, women  care. We care what you think, we care what other women think, we care whether our grandparents are going to hang their heads in shame if they are seen out with us. Why we care is perhaps even more of a baffling female behavior. Except for the grandparents thing. Obviously.

5. Why do women smell nice?
The author blames pheremones and shampoo and shit. Possible I guess.

Alternately? We bathe. We also tend to use shit like fabric softener, dryer sheets and girly smelling soaps. Because we like that shit.

6. Why do women have so many shoes?
The author blames something about matching shoes and  dresses and outfits and shit. Which essentially is the correct answer. Mostly. Because I know women that own infinite amounts of shoes(ahem, Grandma). I own three. Two pairs of gym shoes and a pair of ballet flat things, because as my youngest daughter pointed out, I look ridiculous in a dress and Nikes.

7. Why do women get so upset about the toilet seat thing?
The author says something about how men not having the courtesy to place the lid in the down position illustrates how little he thinks about his girlfriend. Which is baffling in itself, really, because why the fuck are you thinking about her while you urinate. Nevermind, don't answer that.

Anyhow, aside from falling into the toilet in the middle of the night, which is easily avoidable by, I don't know, flipping a fucking light switch, men are sloppy pissers. They just are, it biological or something.

 I don't get upset by lifted lids... I can certainly say that the bottom of the toilet seat often contains really gross shit. And the toilet rim itself? Fucking gross. Piss, pubic hair, sometimes, inexplicably, feces.

I don't know, but if your girlfriend is continuously bitching about the toilet lid? Maybe try cleaning your toilet.

Feel free to ignore everything I just said, I'm not even a girl most of the time.

13 December 2013

Animal Planet Producers Hate You

I've discussed Animal Planet programming before. The following 7 examples offer proof of the sadistic nature of the programmers:

Let’s say you’re a bartender or a cab driver or drug dealer or something, working the night shift. You come home exhausted and fall into bed. Since you aren’t interested in falling asleep to the lull of Proactive infomercials, you locate the remote and flip to the Animal Planet channel, since they play regular programming 24 hours a day.

You expect to drift off to a peaceful sleep quickly, but of course you have to get up to pee, because that’s just what happens when you finally relax enough to sleep. You figure you’ve got ten minutes, tops, before exhaustion claims your consciousness and you drift into sweet, sweet… Holy Mother of God! What the fuck is that hyena doing with its head up an elephant’s ass?

1.   Eating Giants

The Animal Planet wants to know if you’ve ever wondered what happens to animals after they die in the wild. Instead of telling us some pretty lie about Elephant Heaven they figured they’d show us in stomach turning detail the aftermath of death. Hyenas and insects and maggots and crocodiles feed on the dead elephant for your viewing pleasure. Since sleep is now out of your reach for the night, or maybe for the rest of your life, you don’t change the channel when the dead hippo episode comes on next.

For the love of God. You realize a number of things quite suddenly, really. First of all, you are watching this animal being eaten from the inside. Why in the name of everything sacred did they shove a camera inside of the carcass? How did they nominate the camera shover? Is that legal? 

You also realize that hyenas are probably the most disgusting animals to ever walk the earth. For some reason, they appear to enjoy smelling like dead things, or they simply like to cuddle with their meals before they tear into them. You aren’t even sad as you remember the clip that shows some maggots somehow move from the carcass of the elephant to feed on the anus of a hyena. Karma. 

You vomit and almost fall asleep. 

2.   American Stuffers

Having shown you what happens to dead animals in the wild, the Animal Planet offers this sweet reality show about a taxidermist in Arkansas who specializes in pets because you will never, ever want to leave a dead animal to nature.

This little jewel includes episode titles like “Keep Your Dead Animals Out of my Kitchen”, “How to Stuff a Chihuahua” and “The Woman with the Pet Raccoon”.
And this cute little clip, titled “Freeze Dried Pets” because there is no longer a God.

Since that fucking NONO commercial is on every other channel, you just keep watching Animal Planet, because fuck it, the last few shows have already consumed what you had of a soul and you come across…

3.   Monsters Inside Me
You don’t even attempt to contemplate what could have happened to those daytime puppy shows as you enter the world of parasites. Every episode features people who have been infected with one terrifying and disgusting parasite or another. You watch the shows titled, “Suicide Attackers”, “Feeding Frenzy” and “Cold Blooded Killers” to name a few, as the show explains the terrifyingly simple ways the victims acquired various parasites.

To feed your increasing paranoia, you watch cute little clips on the Animal Planet website called “Brittney Coughs up Worms” and “Attack of the Killer Pea” and the ever-popular “Brain Eating Parasite”. You decide you are never going outside again. Ever.

Now that you’ve quit your job and sealed your air vents to prevent air-born parasites from entering your home, the Animal Planet would like to introduce you to…

Well, that’s fun. Now that you are too paranoid to go outdoors and you wear a nose plug in the shower to keep the brain eating amoeba away, the Animal Planet has produced a t.v. show just to make you feel unsafe in the sanctity of your own home. No matter how many times you bleach everything, you can’t prevent an infestation of the various demons disguised as bugs and shit shown on Infested.

You watch as families across America battle all kinds of infestations, from raccoons to black widows, snakes, cockroaches, and bats. At some point during the bedbug episode, you find the strength to crawl out of the corner you’ve been rocking yourself in and fall into bed. Bedbugs are cool. If the Animal Planet is to be believed, bedbugs are probably the best thing that could ever happen to you.

Thoroughly convinced that you can hear something munching through your brain and that the sound your fridge is making is actually a horde of black widow spiders searching for a way in, sleep eludes you and you can’t help but hear as the Animal Planet decides to fuck with your fragile psyche just a bit more with…

5.   Monsters in my Head

As you cower beneath the bedbug-infested covers, real people tell stories of being terrorized by demons and bugs and other things that are… well, just not human anyway.

After watching Sleeping with the Devil and also the Monsters of the Night episodes, you decide that sleeping is probably the worst idea ever. You sweep the room for mysterious shadows, demons and mosters while shoving amphetamines down your throat in  heart stopping quantities.

Must stay awake.

6.   Freak Encounters

A team of investigators sets out to discover various terrifying creatures. Did that say Mongolian Death Worm? What the fuck is wrong with these people? Who would look for that on purpose?

As the amphetamines eat through the fatigue and fear in your brain you realize that this a some kind of practical joke show. One of the unsuspecting investigators is being set up for a staged run in with a mythical creature.

You relax a little bit, tell yourself you never believed in Mongolian Death Worms any, and even laugh a little as the butt of the joke gets bleeped out repeatedly.

And then, as if the Animal Planet producers can somehow sense your waning paranoia, they throw this one at you,

7.   Killer Outbreaks

They’ve already shown you how a tiny parasite can kill you, now they assumed you want to know how they can also kill EVERYONE. They probably assume that you have some trust issues with the network by now, so they bring in the CDC to explain how a pandemic is waiting to strike anytime. 
Any. Time. To kill everyone. 

The show details real life outbreaks and the implications of new virus strains and as you tuck yourself back into your cozy rocking corner and order a gasmask off your laptop, you get to hear more than you ever wanted to know about Anthrax, SARS and even Salmonella.

Because.. Obviously. The producers have no souls.