Gene's Story


I went to Los Angeles to visit a friend. I got robbed. I had absolutely nothing left and so to make some money I remodeled my friend’s house. We rented the house to a young woman named Patti. If I could find the guy who robbed me, I would probably kiss him. That was the beginning of the greatest chapter of my life.

I was married to Patti for almost 30 years. She was my best friend. We would finish each other’s sentences. We used to laugh and say the sex was so great, even the neighbors would have a cigarette. Then one day she went to the doctor and came home diagnosed with terminal cancer. Four months later she was gone. It was just that fast.

I don’t know how to describe that time, really. I kept trying to get adjusted to the idea, to get “used to it” or wrap my head around it, but you really can’t. It just happened so fast.

After she died I was numb. I kept thinking that there was something wrong with me - I wasn’t grieving enough; I wasn’t feeling it like I should. But the truth is, you are just numb. I would tell anyone going through that to take advantage of that time to get anything done you need to get done because three or four months down the road numb is gone. And then it hits. The grief comes in like an unexpected tidal wave.

I went crazy to some extent. They tell you not to do anything major in the first year. Don’t make any major changes in your life. Don’t do this, don’t do that. I pretty much did everything they told me not to do. I think on some levels I felt like I was invincible. I felt she was watching over me, running the show from afar (so to speak) and therefore I could do anything I wanted and it would work out.

This applied to quitting my long-time job, starting a new business, not-too-brilliant financial dealings, not-too-brilliant personal dealings and really, really stupid shit like just going to the bar, drinking half the bar and driving home. Some of it worked, and lots of it did not work. I will say I lived through it, and I did take chances on some good things I might not have ever done before which did work, but lots of it was just plain insane and I just plain got lucky.

Loosing someone is a restless undertaking in more ways than one. It was like my mind was just running. I couldn’t stay in one place for too long. I would go here, there, see a friend for a few minutes and then split. Running, running. Just keep moving. I did not try to kill myself directly. I didn’t go toying with a gun or a noose, but I can honestly say that I didn’t give a damn if I lived or died. If I ran into a tree and the car blew up? So what? If I got blasted drunk and drove off a cliff; so what? (I guess I was looking at death by car. At least one of my friend’s thinks so.)

The anger stage is rolled into that. I was mad at my wife. It’s irrational as hell to be mad at someone for developing lymph node cancer, but rationality isn’t part of the equation at that point. I was mad at myself because I couldn’t save her. And just forget God. Really mad at God.

Then one day I decided I needed to put on a seat belt because I knew my grandkids needed me. They were having a very difficult time in their own lives about then – more than just losing their grandmother, and I knew in my heart of hearts that they needed me. My friends were there, my neighbors were there, my family, my music, all of that was a big part of helping me through, but I think all in all, it was realizing that my grandkids needed me that saved me.

If I could say anything to someone who is in the throes of it, I would say this – find someone who needs you. Somebody out there needs you; needs your help. Find that person and focus on that for a while. It may not solve your problem, but it certainly will give you a reason to live and if you continue to live, your problem will eventually go away. Sometimes in life we become so swallowed up by our own pain that we cannot see outside it. Look outside yourself for awhile. There are reasons to be here and there are people who will love you for staying.

Eventually you, too, will love yourself and your life again.


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