Never Enough

Sunday, August 31. 2014

Mistakes I've made:

    1. Going off to college when I was young and unready
    2. Planning a wedding before I knew what marriage meant
    3. Rescheduling a canceled wedding because I had no other plan
    4. Getting married in a re-run performance
    5. Losing the woman I loved and the woman who loved me
    6. Returning to a twice separated marriage 
    7. Staying where I didn't belong
    8. Becoming numb to acts I knew I could never stand
    9. Being reckless and not caring if I lived or died 
    10. Watching like some posed mannequin as the years slid by.
    11. Using others to lessen my own selfish pain
    12. Living a problem I cannot solve 
    13. Finding the woman who loved me too late
    14. Expecting so much and yielding so little
    15. Failing myself and the one I hold dearest
    16. Giving conditional love

 Successes I hope for:

    1. Getting past my mistakes

I am an unreasonable man. 

And it flows

Monday, May 5. 2014

To the memory of Eric Schneckenberger; who I met in 1984 and again in 2013.  He was a friend, a father, a grandpa, and a little brother.

The final scheduled memorial service was last Saturday in Bordentown, NJ.  A wreath was cast on the water in his memory.  As our grief becomes loss and our loss turns to memory some comfort might be found.  Maybe sorrow will disappear like that wreath as it floated out of sight downstream.

Eric was 52. 

More Decorations

Monday, July 29. 2013

After the Biathlon on July 20, Andrew, Tim and I drove out to Monmouth Memorial Park to pay respects to our departed loved ones --specifically their grandfather, my father, who died 25 years ago that day.  We entered the cemetery and turned a familiar left into the section where my mother, father and grandmother are buried.  Tim met my grandmother as an infant but he has no real memory of her, she passed away before he was a year old; he knew my father as a toddler and he has memories helped by the stories of the adventures my father and he had before he was 3 years old. Andrew was born nearly 5 years after my grandmother had passed and nearly 3 years after my father and had only the family stories and our visits to the graveyard to build some sense of who these departed relatives were.  

We turned to walk to the back of the cemetery where my father's mother and father were buried and we could see through the trees in the quiet of that summer morning the flag at the veteran's memorial flying high at full staff.  We stopped at that simple memorial on the way to my grandparent's graves and saw that the flag was fully raised, the lanyard was tied off around the thwart just as it had been before I'd lowered it on Memorial Day.  For the first time in many years of my July 20 visits to the cemetery, I looked at the memorial, walked right past, and visited Edward Benjamin and Marion Coleman's graves.  And thanks to the anonymous flag-raiser of Monmouth Memorial Park, I didn't need to touch a thing.

Changes

Friday, July 12. 2013

I barely remember the soft crescendo of the door swinging closed, but I clearly recall the jarring finality of the bang. My life had changed directions twice in the past two years but, now, this third change just reduced me. There was so little I did, so little I thought I could do.

I couldn't think about it. I told myself that I had to move ahead and not dwell on the past. I told myself anything I could to be convinced that I was better off paying attention to my responsibilities, my family on-the-way and my future. I forced myself to forget about the person on the other side of that door, invisible, who told me to have a nice life before saying a heart-breaking goodbye.

I diverted from a life I'd had rather lived to a new heading and flew with different, but lesser, wings. Three years after that door had locked, that voice helped comfort me when my father died. Two years later her voice warned me I would have my hands full when I chased my escaping red-haired daughter up the stairs from the Rathskeller. Three years later, even while standing in the same yard, I couldn't hear her voice at all.

My children grew and went to school, a business thrived then failed, a marriage flowed and ebbed --ebbing more and flowing less with each succeeding day-- and a small parade of surrogate relationships stumbled with me through the years: bad crutches for the emotionally lame.

By the time my marriage ground to a halt, I was spent. Those surrogate crutches I'd leaned on were thrown away. I'd have rather been completely alone than sleep in that bed I'd made. But while I scrambled to keep from sliding down into my own pity party, I saw a picture, remembered a name and thought about the time in my life before I ever heard that heart-breaking goodbye.

I sent a simple message, I said I was surprised I had stumbled across her --the surprise was real, the stumble wasn't. I typed a few short keyclicks of the beginning of her name and a link was displayed. One more click and there was the face I hadn't seen in 23 years. I crumbled.

She sent me a pleasant reply, I sent one back. Despite the history --our breakup nearly 28 years before-- I was comfortable and relaxed sending her a sentence here and a sentence there then poring over every word she wrote back to me.

A few deep breaths after I parked the car I was moving quickly towards the entrance door. Once inside, before my eyes adjusted to the light inside, I saw her waving a few steps from where I stood. I hurried to her and we hugged; and in that moment the warm, gentle embrace of the woman I still loved surrounded us both and the only thing I could think of was, "Uh Oh." More changes...

The Decorations

Monday, May 27. 2013

About noon today my youngest son, Andrew, and I made our annual Memorial Day trip to the local cemetery where my closest (though sometimes distant) relatives are buried. Near the southwest front of the cemetery are the three graves of my maternal grandmother, my father and my mother.  Set back along the trees at the western edge are the graves of my paternal grandfather and grandmother. Between those 2 groupings of graves and surrounded by graves of servicemen (and women) stands a small military memorial.

That memorial was established after my grandfather died in 1962, but it had been there over a decade by the time my grandmother died in 1977.  A simple memorial, it is made of a small concrete patio with a WWII  era mortar and an American flag flying from a pole. But on Memorial Day, the flag is supposed to be raised (then lowered) to half staff in honor of all who lost their lives in the service of this country. And on this Memorial Day, like on so many other Memorial Days before, the flag remained at full staff.

After Andrew and I had paid our respects to our departed family members, I walked up on the patio by the American flag, unhooked the lanyard, and lowered the flag to half staff.  I don't remember, anymore, the number of years I've performed that simple act of respect for the fallen.

When I visit my father's grave again on July 20, I'm fairly certain that I'll reverse that simple act of respect, and raise to full staff the flag that I lowered, today.  Seven weeks is a long time for any flag to remain at half staff, but it is better than it never having been lowered on Memorial Day.  

Maybe this year someone will notice and raise the flag before my next visit, but i wouldn't bet my life on it. 

T plus 57

Saturday, January 19. 2013

Edgar Allen Poe, or what was left of him, turned 146 the day my wife was born. Rather than be grimly focused on their shared affliction, I thought I'd see who else has that birthday and whether those January 19th'rs share life's intersections, or if their paths are disjoint and skew.

I'm not a fan of Astrology.  I don't pay any attention to the signs (I don't even think I know them all); I'm not interested in augury, the flights of birds or the auspices, but that birthdate produced an interesting list to sample

Mark Messier

Janis Joplin (uh-oh)

Phil Everly

Paul Cézanne (another uh-oh)

Robert E. Lee (worked for my Uncle Jeff)

Ottis Anderson

Minnesota Fats

Dolly Parton

Junior Seau (yipe)

The full(er) list is here

I don't see a Cause and Effect thread that might stitch those lives together.  I didn't have a eureka moment that brought me any clarity from any shared experiences.

 From Mr Venn's perspective: it looks like my Union became an Intersection and traveled on to Skew. The Universe is more vacant than it was.

The Camel's Back

Saturday, January 12. 2013

Ed Keegan, my father-in-law, after a 2 month hospital stay and a 10 day hospice stay, died January 5, 2013 at 7:11 PM.  My wife, Kathleen Marie Keegan Kellers, and I along with Gene Somma, a deacon at St Michaels church, were with him when the end came.  What was the end for Ed, became other beginnings for his family and one last trip on the merry-go-round for me.

I wasn't angry or astonished when I came home from work on Monday night and realized, once again, that my wife --Ed's daughter-- drank herself into some sort of organizational delusion and through that drunken fog was planning how the family would advance towards the funeral and the next  two days.  I've been angry many times before.  I even used to be astonished at some of the scary circumstances that would arise while she was too drunk to deal with anything --her work, our children, our life together... anything.  This time, though, as I was about to get angry, I felt a slight cracking sensation at the back of my neck; my load-bearing ability had been breached.

My anger wasn't gone; it was demoted.  In the second that I realized what was happening, again, would never not happen again, I also realized that this was the last trip around that merry-go-round I could ever take.  I don't not love my wife and I don't have plans to run off with some other woman --I may not ever get over _this_ woman.  In the second that it took that straw to fall firmly on my back, I realized that I just can't do it anymore.  

I can't put up with or gloss over those drunk and deluded nights any longer.  My drunk-tank needle is pointing way past FULL.  I used to be able to cope by thinking to myself that I'm no picnic at times, either, and that marriages are unequal gives and takes.  There is no scorekeeping in a marriage: but the timekeeping has run out.  It isn't like I don't want to talk to her about it, but,  those fruitless conversations sailed on sinking ships years ago.  I can't even speak a word to her and I don't have much to say to anyone else.  I have no appetite for food or drink and about the only thing I can do to relieve some of my grief about another ending happening so quickly after Ed's, is to go outside and run for miles.

I'm afraid to find out what happens next. 

Final Disposition --on the Anniversary

Saturday, December 17. 2011
On January 1, 2011, Donald F. Kellers, my father's youngest brother and my uncle, passed away. His death was reported to the world on the web and to none of his remaining family by any marginally responsible party.  

Mainly left alone by most of his relatives since his sister-in-law Lesley died in October 2006, Donald was denied family contact except by his nephew, Richard, denied commemoration of his passing by his friends and acquaintances, denied the dignity of a funeral and a grave marker and was cleaned up like embarrassing clutter by a third-world support system.  Had not his landlord, six weeks after Donald's passing,  found my phone number in rental papers and called me on February 13, 2011, Donald's death and disposal would be even more largely unknown.

Kimberly McCurnin, disagreeable government agent and de facto money-changer of dead bodies for the Monmouth County Surrogate, inflicted further indignity on my late uncle by denying the execution of  his last will and testament.  This unfortunate woman was far too bothered by the needs of the impoverished deceased to offer any helpful service that could grant Donald's wishes as described in his will -- living proof of how arrogance trumps skill.  She was just another link in the dysfunctional chain that drove the local police, the hospital where he died,  or the incompetent attorney who was appointed  to ostensibly protect Donald's living rights (but who showed up at his apartment after his death to assess his financial worth and, believing there was not to be a penny made, dropped the assignment in favor of more lucrative senior citizen targets).  Even the funeral home assigned to dispose of Donald's remains made no contact with any surviving relatives and buried him, quite accidentally, several yards away from the graves of his aunts and uncles who had died in the early part of the twentieth century.

Donald Kellers:  born January 23, 1928.  Never married, he  served his country in the Air Force in Florida and his family by the lifelong care he provided for his mother (my grandmother) who died in 1978.  He worked for Bendix Industries in Eatontown, NJ retiring in 1993.  He loved trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas, the New York Mets and almost anything that was on his big screen TV.

Donald was predeceased by his parents, Marion and Edward Benjamin Kellers, and his three bothers: Robert, Kenneth and Richard.  He is survived by his brother John, in Florida.  Donald is also survived by several nieces and nephews scattered about the country.

Dee Dee's Day

Wednesday, August 10. 2011

Happy birthday Diana Dee Anderson.  

43 years ago, today, I complained about missing a Yankees ballgame while I visited you and your mother in Fitkin Hospital.  I've not missed that ballgame much since that day, but I sure have missed you.

A few days after you were born, I began to visit my father who was admitted to a hospital near Princeton --he spent a month there but didn't really recover until March of 1969.  You were his absolute joy.

To the Memory of

Saturday, October 25. 2008

61 years ago my parents married; 60 years ago my sister was born. Nearly 53 years ago I was born.  20 years ago my father died, 12 years ago the family unit dissolved, and 2 years ago, yesterday, my mother died.

The obituary pages in the local newspaper include several memorial tributes to people who have passed.  Addressed to the deceased, the tributes express a deep sense of loss over simple pleasures missed.  Laughs unheard, conversations missed, empty chairs -- the moments when everything  about the person remains but not the person, all implied in those simple notes, are sad celebrations in the public eye.

Probably unfairly, I've often complained about the hopeless nature of those public laments.  Scale the Taj Mahal to the obituary column and it becomes a Post-It note to someone's dead wife.  (Does anyone remember her name?)  Squeeze the roster of the Valley of the Kings between the funeral home ads and you'll produce a list of unknowns just as obscure and forgotten as their royal unmarked graves.  I'm unsure of the purpose of those grief advertisements and suspicious of any benefit they might bring.  Were the lives of the departed so lacking in connection to their family that their family has to contrive publicly to mourn the loss? Maybe there is a catharsis -- a substitution of grief for a public spectacle-- that makes lingering grief easier to bear or avoid.

My own losses have always been, and still remain, inconsolable.  No public tribute to my parents, no public expression of grief, could ever address the disconsolate tangle of memories that advocate both rage and tears. My losses have been so severed from my daily life that they seem to have been incurred by someone else at some other time. And while the hopeless and incomplete dump their private miseries in a newspaper to relieve their burden, I continue to tilt against the forces that betrayed and abandoned me.  And if I can ever reconcile the rage and the tears, I'll put my pen and my sword away.

And I'll never advertise it in the newspaper.

Mostly Avuncular

Sunday, October 19. 2008
Two weeks ago I had an overdue and pleasant conversation with my uncle that lasted well over an hour on the telephone.  Considering that, last month, I used 19  minutes (out of about 700 minutes allowed) on my phone, we played about 4 months worth of catch-up.

Bill asked me to remove this blog, or at least its content, from public view.  I think the toxic nature of some of the early posts along with the public airing of family laundry, embarrassed him. Once the surprise at the tone of my early posts wore off, the realization that  my ranting about  (and recounting of) events that lead to the dissolution of my former family had found  a permanent archive in the internet cloud, began to trouble him.  I respect his opinion and his feelings; I've taken his objection seriously and I've been thinking about it ever since our conversation.

In the first few weeks after my mother's death Bill encouraged me to write a correction to her obituary and submit it to the local paper. He encouraged me to correct the spiteful inaccuracies not only to provide a corrected record for some future generation's possible genealogical inquiry into the family tree, but to make a public statement to my estranged relatives that the intentional errors would not stand.  While I did think about correcting the obituary, briefly, I rejected that idea.  The obituary page is even less the place to engage in private family disagreements than the internet.  An obituary is a sad and solemn notification  of a person's death, a brief listing of the people most personally impacted by the passing, memorial arrangements, and a brief summary of the path the person travelled from their first day to their last.

Of course I was angry when I wrote some of the entries to which my uncle objected.  Of course I was angry when I listed some of my sister's personal catastrophes and, of course, I was angry when I listed failings of my own.  Although I often cast a very harsh light on some of the player's roles in this family tragedy, I've never once altered the script.  The events I described are not based on my opinion; they are the events as they occurred. 

Facts are the fodder for intrigue and deception when made a part of someone's agenda.  The clear division of fact and fiction can disappear in an agenda and, yes, I admit that I have an agenda and a purpose in continuing this blog. The goal I've been trying to achieve is the establishment of a permanent record of the events that lead to the destruction of my family.  The purpose of maintaining this ongoing chronicle is less clear.  While the goal is producing a finished product as a tangible result, the purpose may be simply the path that is followed on the way to that finish.

Perhaps the lesson that I'll  have learned when this record is finished (or I am finished) is that its purpose is more important than its result and, since its purpose is still driving through gain and loss --sometimes nearer and sometimes further from the goal-- the time to remove the record from public view hasn't, yet, arrived.

Another Mothers Day

Sunday, May 11. 2008

The calendar still spins and the little metal ball has hopped onto May 11th --this time its Mothers Day. There is no fanfare or Queen for a Day celebration, here. There is no ancestral worship of our maternal antecedents and little recognition of the current title-holders.

I've never held any holidays in very high esteem and I've held some in lower esteem than others, but Mothers Day seems pointless and thin --a contrivance I could do without. Anyone who wants to honor someone should do it by daily actions, not by red-tag sale events.

We don't need to cultivate hypocrisy; it grows all by itself everywhere we look. I might even support a holiday that gave the hypocrites a day off.

Dates

Sunday, April 13. 2008

My uncle sent me a text message today and asked if he had missed my daughter's birthday. My daughter turned 20 on February 24th and my youngest son turned 17 just a few days ago. My uncle was the only relative of my children outside of my house that mentioned those events. Even their surviving grandparents, excused for their oversight by their age and infirmity, had not remembered the dates.

On February 18th, Dianne Nungesser and Thomas Nungesser, by some sarcastic accident of history, passed the milestone of their 35th wedding anniversary. I remember that month and day because it is also the date, nine years earlier in 1964, that my childhood dog was hit by a car on Green Grove Road.

Dianne Nungesser's children --Diana and Steven-- turn 40 and 34 respectively this year. Diana turns 40 in August, Steven turns 34 later this month. Both have children I have never met and have names I'll never know.

My uncle has a son and a daughter. John will turn 22 on May 10th; Anna turned 25 last November 15th. The anniversary of my uncle's first marriage is May 22nd, 37 years ago, and that is the same day, this year, that my sister will turn 60.

Hurry sundown.


A different Christmas

Wednesday, December 26. 2007

Christmas, despite my seasonal grumblings, arrived and left this year without leaving its usual blanket of sadness for me tucked under the tree. Despite it being the birthday of my abandoned and deceased mother and a reminder of all those family gatherings that, as a youth, were so magical and, as an adult became such an ordeal, this year's difficulty was different.

The Christmas shopping didn't oppress me --lots of online purchases from Christmas lists made shopping quite easy. Gifts arrived in time and in good shape and were stowed away, wrapped and opened on Christmas morning with the usual love and anticipation. Christmas dinner was a thoroughly enjoyable meal with good company and good conversation --I ate so much I had to take a nap before I even attempted dessert.

But then came the most difficult thing I have ever done on a Christmas day. I drove my daughter back to her place.

My daughter and a couple of her girlfriends took a winter rental in October and she has been living in another house. It isn't far away; its just the other side of town. But just the act of packing up her presents and taking them to someplace that was under a roof not my own, was a very hard thing to do.

I helped her bring her things inside her new home, said Merry Christmas and quickly left. I wanted to grab her and give her a big hug, but I would have surely burst into tears.

I have so little family left, its torture leting go of any part. I love you, Jaye.


From the Law Offices of...

Saturday, December 8. 2007

When a return address begins that way, you know the contents of the envelope contain codified dung. As the passage of time petrifies, ossifies and fossilizes once-living beings, the Law forces all facts and figures and human experiences into its great granite mold and traps it until it becomes a concrete accounting of the past that reflects experience about as well as our fuel gauges, after a petroleum fill-up, reflect the experiences of life in the Jurassic Era.

My youngest son received his 41 cents-worth of dung in the mail, yesterday, from an attorney making inquiries into his grandmother's estate.  Though he and his brother and sister were left $5000 each in the will, the attorney reported that there were no earthly assets left except for a 1990 Mercury Sable (which was valued at $2000)

The will's Executor, Dianne Nungesser, my children's Aunt by accident of birth, claims that all the assets were spent on Final Expenses, and I imagine, from her perspective, they were.

After the questionable sale and/or transfer of everything that Jaye Lesley Kellers owned, Dianne and her conspiratorial family (her son Steven Nungesser, and her pathetic husband Thomas Nungesser), were certain no physical assets remained. But Lesley left some spiritual assets that couldn't be co-opted by that greedy, low-class bunch.

My children all loved their grandmother and, despite the 10 years of silence that existed between her and me, she seemed to love them all right back. That love connected them in a way that is unknown to their mean-spirited aunt. They want to share in the connection to their grandmother; and that is no connection supported by money or goods or any of the material swill on which Dianne and her group choke themselves. It is a connection born from a simple need not to forget or be forgotten by loved ones.

And in a horrible sense it demands that my children fling more 41 cents-worth of dung filled envelopes back at the awful perpetrators.