The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Friday, December 17th, 2010, 2:19 am

I had a nervous breakdown the other night. Not a bad nervous breakdown, oh no. It wasn’t one of those shrieking, straitjackety, “Don’t tase me ‘bro!” meltdowns, nothing like that. Just blew a mental gasket and it had me frazzled for a couple of hours. The evening started innocuously enough–I picked up my brother- and sister-in-law and we drove to a bar to do some pre-gaming before a concert. Lindsay was already there and I acquired a Yuengling to set the night right.

Lindsay asked how Morgan the Dog was and I said fine, she’d had an early dinner and I’d let her out to do her business. But as I said this, I froze. I’d let Morgan out…had I let her back in? Of course I had, there was no way I would’ve left the beast outside in the 17-degree night. I even remembered her following me downstairs to the garage as I left. But was I remembering this correctly? Had she followed me downstairs at another time and I was remembering THAT? One thing I did remember was coming down from the bedroom and saying aloud, “Got the keys, turn off the lights, don’t leave Morgan outside…”. I said that last part as a joke, of course I wouldn’t leave Morgan outside. Of course.

Except that I wasn’t sure.

I was 99.99% sure, but that .01% had my stomach churning. I tried to remember letting her back inside but my mind’s eye couldn’t conjure it. “Are you sure you let her in?” Lindsay asked and I couldn’t say yes. We tried calling a few people who live near us and would be heading to the show if they could just stop by and ring the doorbell to see if Morgan barked her head off from inside. But all I got was voice mail.

So I headed out into the cold night and drove home tout de suite. Pulled into the driveway 15 minutes later, jogged up the stairs, and was greeted by a cozy scene indeed. The Christmas tree was lit up, Ernie and Bert were each curled up on the back of the sofa, and there was Morgan, safe and sound and warm, curled up on my old leather chair. Ahh. All that for nothing.

She jogged over and I gave her a pat on the head. I let her outside in case she needed to answer nature’s call and I took the opportunity to do the same. I let Morgan in, gave her a biscuit for her troubles, and jumped in the car to drive back to my impatient pint glass.

But as I turned onto Babcock a worrying thought again creeped into my head–had I let Morgan in THIS time? Of course I had, I’d given her a cookie when she came back in. But, had I given her the cookie when she came back in, or before I put her out? No, I never give Morgan a treat BEFORE she goes out, only when she comes back in. I furrowed the brow and I remembered that Morgan had been following Bert around in the fooz room (which is what we call the front room where our foosball table is located) and that Bert had taken a swing at Morgan. Of course Morgan was inside. This time I was 99.99999999 sure.

But that .00000001% almost made me turn around and drive back home again. When I got back to the bar I couldn’t help thinking that Morgan was outside. Even though I KNEW that wasn’t the case. “What’s wrong with me?” I asked myself several times. My brain kept putting pictures of the poor dog suffering on the deck and I couldn’t fully convince myself that she was fine. I managed to relax, eventually, and had a good time at the show. But it wasn’t until I got home and saw with my own eyes that she was safe and sound that I felt at ease. When I got into bed I was wrung out, and when my eyes closed no dreams colored my sleep. A sure sign that my brain needed a thorough reboot.


This has been a very, very long year. They say time speeds up as you get older but not this year, not 2010. So many good things happened this year–we got engaged, got married, bought a house. But it’s been hard to fully enjoy these happy moments in light of Lindsay’s mom passing away on June 7th. Every time there’s a party, every time Lindsay’s family and friends get together, I keep looking around expecting Jackie to walk through the door. Especially felt that way at her wake.

We’ve marked much of 2010 not by following the calendar but by recalling Jackie’s final days with us. She passed away on a Monday and when that day of the week arrives it reminds Linsday that it’s been 4 weeks, 16 weeks, 27 weeks since her mom died. And that sucks. There’s no other word for it. It sucks.

There were a lot of great times with Jackie this past year. Having a great dinner with my folks, me getting shitfaced on boxed wine up at Conneault, Jackie dealing with the cops when the big end-of-summer bash at the lake got a bit out of hand. She got to see her first grandchild born, got to see Lindsay and me and Mike and Meghan get married. Even after she was told that her cancer had gotten much worse and that she just had days left, there were good times. Once she came home from the hospital she got better, not worse, and for awhile we started to hope that her doctors had screwed up her diagnosis. It was on a Thursday when she got a checkup that let us hope that she might not be as gravely ill as we thought. Monday, she passed away. She died at home, peacefully, the house filled with friends and family. It’s how we’d all like to go. We just wanted this to happen 30 or so years in the future. And it sucks that she had to die now. It sucks.

Jackie did accompany us on the Gruber clan’s yearly trip to Ocean City, which was her favorite place in the world. We all scattered her ashes in the ocean and I got this photo of Linds and her dad rather by accident, I didn’t have the camera on the correct setting and the flash gave the shot an otherworldly feel.

Throwing ashes


Lindsay only moved into the house after her mom passed away and not long after that I went to Vegas for the WSOP. And I really didn’t want to be there, it wasn’t a good time to be away from our new home for 3 weeks. If I’d been there for the whole Series I wouldn’t have been there when Jackie passed away and that would’ve been really, really hard.

The WSOP is also the last time I posted anything here. It used to be that the blog was my outlet for stress, but I guess after writing all day I didn’t have the same enthusiasm for writing here. I did start about a half-dozen posts about Jackie that I never could quite finish, and when I didn’t finish those I never got around to writing anything else. Self-imposed writer’s block, not good. The few people who still check my blog get on me for not writing. I know Jackie liked my more nonsensical ravings.

So with 2010 coming to an end I’m getting a head-start on my New Year’s Resolution and posting the first of what I hope will be more than a handful of entries over the next 12 months. Like I said, it’s been a long, stressful year,one that finally scrambled my brain, and we’re all hoping 2011 will be more serene. Not that the holidays are usually a quiet time, especially as Lindsay decided months ago that we’d be hosting an Ugly Christmas Sweater party on Friday, which is gonna be something of a blowout. I got my sweater, and it is a horror.

But that’s tomorrow. For now, the cats are sleeping on there perches atop the couches, Morgan is inside, for sure, and sleeping on her favorite chair. My brain feels like it’s operating on all cylinders. No excuses, time to start writing more.

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16 Responses to “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times”

  1. Darcy Says:

    I’m so delighted that you might start posting again (no pressure 🙂 ). I’m sending huge virtual hugs and quiet acknowledgement of the supreme depth of the suck of Jackie’s passing. It might never get better, but it will get a little less bad.

  2. Ten Mile Says:

    Good to see the post in the reader, Gene. Life, whether good or bad, in the coming year to you and yours. Look forward to more posts.

  3. Noreen Says:

    That’s not a nervous breakdown, Gene. That’s normal behavior based on our genetics. It’s also why, I think, the depth of things gets to us so much…unfortunately when things suck they suck pretty severely! Plus I don’t know about you but when the people I care about are hurting I hurt too and can’t do anything about it other than just feel it. (And sometimes that happens to me before I even know that anyone I know is hurting. The worst example of that is the Stanton Heights police shooting…and later finding out the Sciullos lost Paul.)
    But I think our plus side of all of this is that we really know to *be* there for people when they’re hurting. And maybe, just maybe, we’re better at living in the moment than most? And that the good things are even better for us?
    And panicking about things like the dog being in or not–that’s normal for us too. I do that all of the time. And so do my downstairs duplex housemates–we’re always asking each other to go check on things, and we have keys to each other’s places in part so if we forget our keys we know we’ve got backup.
    I’m planning on making pizzelles for Christmas to share with you and Linsday…thinking about both of you a lot lately. Hang in there.

  4. Amy L. Says:

    Great post, Gene. Looking forward to seeing what HAPPINESS 2011 has in store for you and Lindsay. Hope you survived the Ugly Sweater Party (and let Morgan back in the house last night). Enjoy the holidays and hope you two find some time to relax. : )

  5. Brad Says:

    Your return makes me happy.

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