You are going to be SO happy you came to my blog today, because nothing says “entertainment” like grief and sorrow and mourning, am I right?

You know how sometimes you and your spouse make plans to get it on after the kids go to bed, and you spend the day flirting with each other, building the anticipation, fantasizing about the delightful 7.5 minutes that will unfold later that evening, and then you finally put the kids down, and you’re just about to get your groove on when, suddenly, you hear a noise that, upon further investigation, turns out to be the sound of your child spewing forth the contents of his or her stomach, and instead of knocking boots with your spouse, you spend the night cleaning vomit and holding a bowl under your child’s chin every 15 minutes so he or she can hurl without soiling the bed again, and there’s no nookie in sight, and you wonder what you did to deserve this sort of punishment?

OK, now imagine that, instead of spending the day flirting with your spouse about getting lucky tonight, you spent months psyching up your entire family (not to mention yourself) for a long-contemplated move to the state in which your spouse’s family lives, and instead of 7.5 minutes of carnal bliss, you were all fantasizing about the many fun times you’d be spending together in the years to come after you relocated to your new home, which is five miles from your in-laws’ house, and instead of being about to get your groove on with your honey, you were about to finally have your spouse’s parents be a part of your life on a regular basis, something you’d envisioned for years — and six hours after you arrived at your in-laws’ house to begin a weeklong vacation that would serve as the segue to your subsequent relocation, your 67-year-old father-in-law, who largely was the cornerstone around which all of your own personal idyllic visions of life in a different state revolved, went to the gym and died of a heart attack.

And suddenly, the sick-kid-and-sexual-frustration scenario I described back in that first paragraph seems like a trip to Club Med during Glitter & Cocaine Week.

But I’m fine, thanks. And you?

I don’t want to write this entry. Writing this entry means further embracing a truth that I still can’t wrap my head around … but I won’t be able to write anything else until I write this entry, so I’m going to write it, and it’s probably going to be a fucking train wreck (if it isn’t already), and I don’t care, because I just want to get this shit over with.

My wife and I spent years — YEARS — debating about whether we should move to Pennsylvania to be near her family. Like, a full decade. And we finally decided to go for it, for a number of reasons (not the least of which was 10-years’-worth of talking with her folks about all of the fun things they’d like to do with us if we lived here; we figured it was time to take the plunge while they were still relatively young).

But the main reason why, after years of waffling, I chose to go all in, and uproot our entire world, and leave behind my extended family, and start a new life 350 miles away was this: I knew that it had hurt my wife to be so far away from her family for all these years. She never made an issue out of it, and never complained about it, and never pressured me to move … but I knew that, despite her best efforts to suppress her longing for home, the simple fact was that she was unhappy. And once I realized that, I knew that there was only one way to give her the happiness that she had struggled so mightily to live without.

Now, before you all go, “Awwwww…” and gush about what a great guy I am, let me be clear: Ever hear the expression, “When Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy”? Well, let’s just say that my motives weren’t entirely benevolent; I knew that providing my wife with the key to her happiness would mean more sunshine and rainbows for the rest of us, too … and by “the rest of us,” I mostly mean “me.”

Of course, a few months after we’d made the decision to move, I started wondering what the fuck I had done, because our old house wasn’t selling, and I had gotten laid off in the midst of an economic crisis that laughs in the face of those seeking employment, which threatened our plans to buy a new home (a misnomer, really, since there was nothing “new” about the homes that were within our price range … that is, unless someone recently changed the definition of “new” to mean “totally shitty”).

And then, all of a sudden, things started clicking like you would not believe. First, our home sold for more than we anticipated. Then, we found a home that we fell in love with but couldn’t afford … until the sellers miraculously settled for our insultingly lowball offer. And, finally, on the eve of our planned annual vacation in Delaware, I accepted a full-time gig located a short drive from our new house, the salary for which is a five-figure improvement over that of my previous job.

So now I’m thinking, “Hot damn! This huge leap of faith I took is paying off! It’s all coming together! This is what our life is supposed to be! A great house, an excellent job, a happy wife, and an extended forecast of joyful times ahead with my in-laws, who are beyond-elated about our move!”

And then The Universe, of whom I had historically been greatly mistrustful, but who had lulled me into a false sense of unbridled optimism and security by doing everything short of blowing me, bared its blood-stained fangs and hit me in the back of the skull with a lead pipe.

And the joyful light I had briefly seen emanating from my wife in recent weeks, whose glow fueled my giddily child-like visions of the new and improved life about to unfold before us, was snuffed right the fuck out. In its place is a black hole caused by the awful pain of losing her father — on the very day she returned to her parents’ house to start that new life, no less.

And now she’ll never know how happy she could have been, and I’ll never know what it’s like to be with my wife during a period of such happiness, and the entire complexion of our relocation has changed, because instead of the joyful event we were sure it would be, it is bittersweet, with a tremendous emphasis on “bitter,” and a barely audible “sweet.”

And, yes, I’m still very glad we moved, and I love the house, and I’m happy to be here, and I think it was the right decision for us regardless. And there is definitely some relief in the fact that I was able to take my mother-in-law in my arms on the day her husband died and remind her that we’d be living right down the street from her in a matter of days, and I’m glad the decision was made before he died, because now she doesn’t have to feel like we did it for her, which she herself has said would have caused her tremendous guilt. And, sure, I can’t help but look at the timing of our move as having been somehow predestined for reasons we could never have foreseen … but, as moderately comforting as that theory may be, believing it implies accepting that everything happens for a reason, which I’m having trouble buying, because I can’t think of a single fucking meaningful reason why my father-in-law died when he did.

Quite simply, I’m heartbroken. Heartbroken for my wife, who doesn’t deserve the unbelievably cruel timing of this loss. Heartbroken for my mother-in-law, who, instead of having years left to enjoy with her husband the wonderful life they worked so hard to build for themselves and the family with whom they so generously shared it, is now a widow. Heartbroken for my brothers-in-law, who always knew just how lucky they were to have such an amazing father, and who never dreamed he’d leave them so soon. Heartbroken for my children, who have been absolutely robbed of a grandparent who loved them both more than they’ll ever know, and who had so much more to offer. Heartbroken for myself, a guy who always felt beyond blessed to have found in my father-in-law not only a bona fide second father, but one who expanded my world in ways I never thought possible, who loved me like I was his own blood, and who guided me in a gentle and soft-spoken way that changed my life.

I thought that the time I’d spent with him while living so far away all these years was the appetizer, and I was positively thrilled about finally getting to the main course. I can’t tell you how much it hurts to realize that the meal’s already over.

Bethany Beach, 2009

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Last night, I drove my family to my in-laws’ house in Pennsylvania, where we planned to spend the next two days before continuing on to Delaware for our much-anticipated annual vacation in Bethany Beach. It was to be our fourth consecutive summer spending a week in a beautiful beach-side house with my wife’s family; the previous three vacations there had easily been my favorite one-week period in each of the respective years during which they took place.

My in-laws were sound asleep when we arrived at around 1:30 this morning, and we were all sound asleep when my father-in-law headed to the gym at around 5:30, before going to work. Shortly after 7 o’clock, my mother-in-law brought the children into the room where I was sleeping, woke me, and asked that I watch them while she and my wife tried to find out what was going on with my father-in-law, who, according to the phone call my wife received, apparently had collapsed while at the gym. My wife and mother-in-law left the house a short while later and headed to the hospital to which my father-in-law had been taken.

“Is Popop going to die, Daddy?” my children asked me.

“No, guys, I don’t think so,” I answered, and I meant it. I was sure everything was going to be fine. “Everybody dies eventually, but I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen, OK? We’ll just wait to hear from Mommy.”

I love my father-in-law. He has been such a huge influence on me (and countless other people), a true mentor, and one of the things I’ve been most looking forward to about moving to Pennsylvania is getting to spend more time with him on a regular basis.

My wife texted me from the emergency room at 9:15 a.m. The first sentence said, “He’s gone, Jon.”

After sobbing uncontrollably in a back room of the house, then vomiting, I pulled myself together, gathered my children in my arms, and told them I had some sad news that I had to share with them.

“Did Popop die, Daddy?” asked my 5-year-old daughter.

“He did, guys,” I choked out, hugging them both tightly as all three of us burst into tears. “I’m so sorry.”

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Technically, this is a new blog post … but you would be hard-pressed to find a more lame and sorry-ass excuse of a post than this

So this is what it’s come to: I’m in bed, on the verge of passing out from exhaustion … but, like any obsessive-compulsive iPhone user worth his or her salt, I can’t just climb into bed and go to sleep. Oh no; first, I must check Twitter and email, for you never know when that life-changing tweet or electronic missive is going to show up, am I right?

Back in early 2008, I began working on the first iteration of my Daddy Scratches WordPress theme. Took me about eight months to finish building it. During the two years since then, I’ve half-assed my way thru various WordPress upgrades and placed Band-Aids on as many things as possible, but I finally came to terms last week with the fact that this thing needed to be reconstructed from the inside out. Thus, I have been staying up way too late and sleeping way too little in an effort to reconstruct in the space of just a few short days a blog that took months to build the first time around. This has mostly sucked … but with our annual Delaware vacation just around the corner, and our subsequent move to Pennsylvania taking place just days later, I’m kind of screwed if I don’t bite the bullet and plow through it now. With any luck, I’ll finish it before the future residents of my current home are done unpacking all their shit … at which point, I’m assuming, they’ll want me to leave.

And here’s the thing about spending all your time reconstructing your blog: doesn’t leave much time for getting any actual blogging done. So, instead, you get this whiny little missive, which really is little more than my excuse for experimenting with the WordPress app I just installed on my iPhone. Because what I really need is one more reason to lie awake and type with my thumbs instead of getting the sleep I so sorely need. Thanks, Steve Jobs, for making it possible for me to essentially take my computer to bed with me every night. Because that’s healthy.

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How Grand (which, it turns out, is a headline I’ve already used … but this parenthetical acknowledgement of that fact will distinguish this entry from its predecessor).

How Grand (which, it turns out, is a headline I’ve already used … but this parenthetical acknowledgement of that fact will distinguish this entry from its predecessor).

The family-crisis hurricane that was raging when last I posted…… [read the rest]

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I spent about two seconds looking for some kind of stock image I could use at the beginning of this post — an image that would spruce things up while simultaneously conveying the distress and chaos that have abounded in my life this past week — but I quickly realized that the extent to which things have been distressful and chaotic is such that I can’t even feign having the capacity for the kind of whimsy that the use of such a stock image would require.

The past five days have been fucked. Not just fucked, but FUCKED. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Scary and tragic and horrifying and upsetting above and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.

And the really frustrating part of it as pertains to this blog is: I can’t tell you about it.

As I recently tweeted (god, has there ever been a more ridiculous-sounding, emasculating verb?): the kids are fine, my wife is fine, and I’m fine (aside from the whole unemployed/looking for work/trying to sell a house and move 350 miles away thing). Unfortunately, however, someone in my family is very much not fine. Someone I love and care about a great deal. And I have spent much of the past five or so days trying desperately to do everything I can to help this person, as have a number of other family members. And we are all scared and devastated and hopeful and cautiously optimistic and exhausted and worried beyond any kind of worry we’ve ever experienced.

And I’m sorry I can’t be more specific — not only because I feel like it’s kind of shitty to write such a cryptic entry that mostly leaves you in the dark, but also because writing about the big worries and problems and challenges in my life is often my most effective means of dealing with, and making sense of, such things, so I hate that I don’t currently have the option of processing this incident in that manner.

What I want far more than the freedom to write about this crisis, however, is for this crisis to just be over with already — or, better yet, to have never happened. What I want to write about is my Mexican vacation and my son’s seventh birthday and other things that don’t involve the scariest, most worrisome incident of my entire life.

But I haven’t felt capable of writing about anything else, because there’s an elephant in the room, and I’m not able to write about the other things in the room until I write about the elephant. And although I can’t actually write about the elephant itself in any degree of detail, I’m hoping that by at least acknowledging its presence, I can move on to other subjects.

Sorry for sticking you with such an unsatisfyingly vague entry, but I had to write something.

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