Saturday, January 29, 2011

#9: Chapter 2: "Hallelujah!"

When I was 6 months old, my parents had their differences and ended up getting divorced. My mother then found herself as a single 25 year old with a 4 year old and a 6 month old. What choice did she have but to move back in with her mother. 4 years later she met the man that would be my common law Step-Father (they've yet to get married but they might as well be). Needless to say, my grandmother was pretty much a major part of my life. When my mom ended up moving out, my brother and I stayed since we were in the best School district in Colorado. My brother left when he was 17, so it was just me and her. But in all honesty, I've never known a better person.

My grandmother grew up during the great depression in a house of 4 kids. She had 2 brothers and a sister. The 3 of them, plus her father all ended up being alcoholics. My grandmother was very much against drinking as a result, and believed that a majority of the country's problems were because of FDR making alcohol legal again. That's where the majority of my never having a desire to drink comes from, her constant hatred of what alcohol does to people. She married my grandfather who got polio in WWII. They had 2 daughters, my mom and my aunt. They didn't exactly have the most happy of marriages. I heard many times the story of the day it ended. My grandfather had fallen in love with his nurse at the VA hospital. He left a note on the kitchen table one day telling my grandmother that he had left to go be with her. As she would always tell the story her reaction was that she raised her hands in the air and yelled, "Hallelujah!"

My family pretty much consisted of 2 sides. I never met her older brother, and the other one died when I was young. Her sister though was the other side of the family. She had 4 boys who between them had I think 8 kids, give or take. Even though my great aunt had the most kids and grand kids, my grandmother was still the matriarch of the family. She was the strongest of all of us. No one ever met her that didn't like her.

I'm going to be honest right now. I have no idea where I'm going with this blog. I came up with this idea last week, but really didn't think it all through. I wanted to talk about my Grandmother, and what a huge influence she was on my life. About how she was really the most important person to me growing up, and how she was the strongest person I've ever known. But sadly, all of that is hard for me to remember. You see, all of that is very unfortunately overshadowed by one of the worst things that exists in this world. Something that I truly hope someday is cured.

It started slowly. In the 90's it seemed innocent enough. She would forget little things here and there. I was in high school by this time, so I wasn't as dependent on her as I had been. She was long retired by this point and was living off of social security and retirement benefits. She would go to all of my band competitions with my mom, and a lot of the football games at my school as I didn't get a car until I was 18 (my mom wouldn't let me until I had a good enough GPA for an insurance discount, and as I said in my last blog, not the best student). Slowly it seemed like more and more little things would slip her mind.

Once I graduated I had no idea what I was going to do. The summer after that I ended up spending a year at the Art Institute of Colorado in hopes of becoming a computer animator. One day in my Color Theory class (yes, that is a thing) when we all turned in a project we'd been working like a month on is when that all ended. I looked at my project, this weird pipe cleaner creature thing. Then I looked at everyone else's. There were paintings and sculptures and just all these amazing pieces of art. It was at that time I realized that I would be competing for jobs with these people, and I wasn't the artist I thought I was. I dropped out, and just kind of concentrated on working at Blockbuster.

My grandmother had always said that when she died, I would get her house, the house I had lived my entire life in. Since this was pretty much the plan, we all decided that I would just stay there, especially since it was becoming obvious that she needed someone to be there. Well, I say it was decided, but really, non of this ever came up because at no point did I ever consider moving out.

As the years went on, her memory got worse and worse. In the early 2000's it started to reach the point where she would repeat questions minutes apart from each other because she didn't remember asking them. In 2002, the most devastating event in my families history occurred (we'll be getting to that 2 blogs from now) and we all just went numb for a while. 13 months and 4 funerals later, we had finally leveled out for a while. We really didn't want to deal with much more. Luckily we got a little break from sorrow. My grandmother had basically stayed at the point she was at for a while now. It was frustrating yes, but you kind of get used to it after a while, and you just have to be patient. She didn't know she had a problem and she was happy.

It was in 2005 when things took a turn. He memory really seemed to be slipping worse. Then one night, well, I can't write about it. It's a very private and sad moment in my life that shouldn't be shared in a blog like this. I'll just say that dementia started to set in. I called my mom hysterical. I didn't know what to do. She ended up eventually calling my aunt, who was living in Florida at the time and told her that she couldn't deal with it on her own anymore. Since my aunt had had her world destroyed in Florida (that is part of 2 blogs from now also) she decided to move back to Colorado to help out. (By the way, these are the events as I had understood them to take place. That may or may not be exactly how things occurred, but the end result is all the same.)

In November of 2005, things really started to take a turn. My grandmother started spending a lot of time in the bathroom. I mean a lot. I probably shouldn't talk about this part, but it's kind of important because it was the catalyst for the end of this story. For some reason, in her mind she seemed to think she had to go to the bathroom, however she'd forget that she was already in there all day. This went on for 2 days before I said something to my mom about it, (I know, maybe to long). My aunt ended up coming over and trying to figure things out. Finally at the beginning of December they took her to the hospital to get things figured out. They ran tests on her, did a few procedures on her, and for whatever reason, this ended up being too much. The next day when I went to see her, her mind was pretty much gone. No longer was the strong matriarch of my family in front of me. She had finally been fully claimed by the disease that had been eating away at her for 10 years. Essentially what had happened was her body started forgetting how to work properly.

It was then we all decided it was best to put her in a hospice care facility, and take her off any life support. It wouldn't be fair to her to live in this condition. I believe she was there for less then a day when, on December 7th, she passed away.

I was, for the first time in my life, left all alone in the house I loved. I knew however, I was by no means ready to be a home owner, and it didn't really matter anyway, as the house was owned by not just my grandmother, but my mom and aunt as well. It was shortly after this that I came to the decision that I wanted to move to California (the reason for which is next blogs topic). My aunt wanted to move in, so she bought me out of the share of the house that I theoretically owned.

I try to remember my grandmother as the woman who was always there for me when I was growing up. As the woman who, really is most responsible for raising me. As the woman who was so strong and was the head of our family. But it is very hard to do at times. Alzheimer's Disease is a horrible thing to watch someone die from, because it takes a very long time. By the time they finally do pass, it becomes a blessing. The person you loved died years before that. If I were to ever become wealthy, that's the charity I would donate to the most, for no one should ever have to experience that. Alzheimer's is unfortunately one of the few diseases that in the long run effects the people who love and care about the person who has it more then it does the person themselves. It is a psychologically traumatic thing to witness, and I fear everyday that it might be hereditary. I do not want to see the same thing happen to my mom or my aunt, because they have all the best qualities of my grandmother, and to see them slowly wither away like she did will be so heartbreaking. I strongly hope that anyone who is reading this never has to go through that, and that someday a cure can be found.

Ok, I don't know how to end this one. It is a little different because I didn't post any pictures. I don't really have any that would fit this blog. As I was writing the blog last week I just got this urge to write about her. Once I sat down to actually do it, it didn't turn out exactly how I thought it would, but it came out how it needed to.

Next time we will get into a roller coaster of a relationship in my life that might end up being hard to publish. If I end up writing it as well as it needs to be though, it shouldn't end up being awkward at all...Oh just wait and see.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#8: Chapter 1: "Then I'll play Clarinet."

I am going to spend the next few weeks writing blogs about 3 of the most important people in my life's history. However, today I'm going to write about the statement that completely shaped almost all aspects of my future from that point forward. There isn't a day that goes by that isn't touched by the path that was set fourth when I made this statement. If I had never uttered this phrase, there is no doubt in my mind that my life would be completely different. Friends, experiences, future decisions, careers, every aspect of my being stems from one four word answer.

Now, to reach the point in my life where I made this life changing event, we need to talk about something I had when I was in grade school, a brother (VIP #3) who was in high school. When you have an older brother in high school, they tend to start changing their wants. They have things they will have bought on impulsive whims, but later decide they want money for it. This happened quite a few times, and I would always end up buying things from him, with my mothers help of course as I was 11. One of the things I bought from him was a large keyboard. We had had a 17 key one made by Casio for years, but this one was much larger then that. I always wanted to learn how to play piano as a result of it. In the 5th grade my Elementary School had a band. I went to the audition or try out or interest meeting, whatever it was, and asked if I could play piano. They said they don't do piano but the instructor gave me the number of a woman that teaches piano. Nothing ever came of it.

The one from when we were kids was a step below this.

The next year I entered Middle School. We were given a choice of what music class to take, band or choir. I once again wanted to sign up for band in hopes of learning piano. My grandmother (VIP #1) asked, "well what if they don't teach piano like in grade school?" We had an instrument sitting on the top shelf of the closet in the living room that had been played in school by my mom, my aunt, and my brother. So, not realizing what I was about to do to my life I said something.

At that moment, 2 new realities were created. In one I said, "I guess I'll do choir then." I was in choir for 3 years of middle school, had no friends the day my social structure came tumbling down, had no where to fit in once I got to high school, never made any new friends, became a complete and total loner and ended up committing an act of violence that wouldn't even be overshadowed by the horrible massacre that occurred a few years later in the same state of Colorado... I am of course just taking wild and dramatic guesses as to what happened in that reality, because it's not the one we live in. All of this of course is only believed if you accept Einsteins theory of multiple realities caused by every decision made. I do because I've watched "Sliders".

Jerry O'Connell at his best!

No, my response to the question was, "Then I'll play Clarinet". This didn't really do anything major to my life until the second year of middle school, but we'll get to that in a moment. First we have to talk about the aforementioned crumbling of my social structure, as that really did happen in this reality. My best friend growing up was a kid that lived on the corner of my block. We hung out a lot at school and sometimes outside of school. It was really a friendship of convenience. When we got in the first grade, 2 sets of twins moved into our neighborhood and started riding our bus. We all ended up becoming friends. By the fourth grade, the two twins I was more friendly with ended up moving to Florida. The remaining twins ended up becoming close friends with a kid I really didn't get along to well with. I didn't know that things were starting to change.

As I've heard it called, "The Wooden Penis".

I had always been kind of an outsider. I was a painfully shy child and didn't talk to much until I got to know people, I still do that. Since I got glasses in Kindergarten, everyone assumed I was some kind of book worm. Actually that couldn't be further from the truth. I hated homework, and never really cared about school work. I was always an average student because I just really didn't care...I'm really getting side tracked here. Where was I? Ah yes, the day the Angry Birds hit the Pig fortress that was my social structure. One day at lunch during my first year of Middle School I walked up to my "friends" at recess. As I approached them, they all turned to me and said in unison, "Shawn, Fuck off". I questioned what they meant, they told me to get away from them, followed by the kid I didn't get along with mocking me. OK, so how does a sensitive shy 12 year old process this? By briefly trying to attack the kid, then running to a teacher in tears. This was actually the second time I had run to a teacher in tears as the first time involved a little incident.

Ya, that's exactly what happened.

It's actually kind of hard to explain but what it basically boils down to is my "friends" were spitting on this other guy for whatever reason, I don't know cause I came to the party late. Then I walked away from them because I really didn't want anything to do with it. It was at this point that the kid ran up to me, grabbed me, and spit directly in my face. Again, tears, run, teacher, dean. That's probably what made them not like me anymore.

Don't ever Google image search "Spitting face" with safe search turned off...Trust me.

So anyway, the next day when walking home with my "best friend" of 6 years (he was sick the day before) I got the strong impression that he was taking their side of it. So it was at that moment I was left with no one. I spent the rest of the year eating lunch by myself, and trying to ninja my way into groups I really didn't fit into. I got along with the popular kids and would sit at their tables sometimes, but I was never really part of the group. I was truly alone. Cut to the first day of the seventh grade. I got on the bus and there was a new kid who had just moved from Greece. He had a Fido Dido (remember him) backpack and a Clarinet. I started talking to him and we hit it off pretty good. We sat next to each other in band and eventually I ended up sitting at lunch with the other friends he had made. They were D&D players and were major outcasts. I really didn't feel like I fit in all that well with them as they had a made up god named "Horde Slayer" that they, well, didn't really worship, but they liked. (That is a pretty cool name though now that I think about it. I think I have my next City of Villains character.)

This is Fido Dido, not "Horde Slayer". Although, maybe he's both.

Finally it came to the end of eight grade. The band teacher from the High School came in and talked to us about the band program. It sounded like fun so I signed up. The first half of the year for High School band is devoted to the state marching band competition and various parades. I spent a lot of time dealing with that and getting to know new people. The biggest change though happened one day at lunch. I would eat lunch in the West cafeteria (known as the snootier of the 2) with the popular kids from my Middle School. One day as I was heading there I ran into a band guy (Jon Parker) that I had gotten to know for reasons that aren't important. (Editing for time, figured I should start). He asked where I was going, then said I should go to the other cafateria with him. I did, we sat at a table of other band kids, then did something I didn't know you could do, we went to the band room. It appeared that everyday band kids just went there to eat lunch. In the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth grade, you got to choose where your locker is. 95% of the band kids had their locker right outside the band room so it really was like a clubhouse. It was on that day that I met another guy, Fred Garlington. We started talking and really made each other laugh and liked a lot of the same things, most importantly he was a gamer. He quickly became my best friend. I finally found a place that I fit in.

Now, cut to the beginning of tenth grade. I walked into my first class, World History, and noticed a guy I had seen in band. I sat down next to him, found out his name (Chris Horan) and we started talking about the Simpsons and various other things. Two periods later I walked into Bio-Physical Science, and there he was again. Having two classes sitting next to the same person really bonds you together. So finally I had four close real friends, and a place I belonged, and it was all because I chose to play Clarinet.

This is my senior year band picture I was recently tagged in on Facebook.

Now, lets fast forward out of High School (Someday I may tell some stories from then, but that's really not the point of this blog...I know, "What is?"). Fred and Jon went off to College, and Chris and I spent the summer not sure what our futures held. It was really at this point that he took the title of my bestest best friend. He got a job at Blockbuster Video during the summer. I started working at the Cherry Hills country club answering the phones on the weekend. I hated that job though because it was a lot of pressure. Dealing with people who are paying over $100,000 a year to be a member was a little more then I could take. Plus it was only 2 days a week. I went and applied at Sam Goody, and got the run around with them until finally they said they hired 8 new people and didn't really tell me. I was pissed so I went to Blockbuster to vent. While there, the assistant manager overheard me and asked if I'd like to apply there. I did and about a week later I started my new job. This was in 1999. About a year and a half later, I was an assistant manager myself. It is at this point that I need to put the story on hold, for you see in 2000 a girl started working there that would eventually become VIP #2, so I will have to save it for 2 blogs from now when I get to her.

Needless to say, if not for making my life changing statement, I never would have been in band in High School, thus I never would have met Chris, thus I never would have worked at Blockbuster, thus I never would have met her. You will see how all of this resonates in my everyday existence once I get to her story, but for now I am done with part one of this loose four part blog ark that will culminate in a re-posting of a blog I wrote on February 6th, 2005 on MySpace. It will be an emotional end to this series.

Anyway, next time we will discuss Betty McDonald, my grandmother and VIP #1 in my 3 person VIP bloggy tribute. So until then...Um...I'm gonna go work on a sign off.

P.S. In High School there was a class called Piano Lab, which it never really dawned on me to take. I kind of regret that now what with Rock Band 3 and all.