Category: Blog


Merry Christmas

Ever since I first moved out and went away to school, I’ve gone back to my old hometown for Christmas. I’ve driven through blizzards, worked 20 hour days, done whatever I needed to ensure I could get back, so that my dad wouldn’t wake up alone in his house on Christmas day. Last year, due to his strokes, I was the one waking up alone in his house.

Many years ago, the only coffee shop in dad’s town started opening up on Christmas for a few hours, with some nice people volunteering their time and the cafe donating coffee and cookies for free, all so anyone that didn’t have anywhere to go, would. Dad and I would go every year for a quick coffee after we’d exchanged presents and got the turkey in the oven. Last year I had no idea what to do alone in dad’s house on Christmas morning, so I put his dog in the car and drove down to the cafe, now being one of those people that didn’t have anywhere to go. I set an extra cup out for my dad and called him in the hospital, maintaining our tradition of going out for that coffee. For a moment it felt comforting, but as I hung up the phone I knew I felt lost, with no idea what was coming next, or where to go; so I did what I always do when I need to think – I went for a drive. I grabbed a treat for the dog and jumped into dad’s car. We drove for a bit, I let the dog out for a walk, we drove some more and before I knew it, I was where I guess I subconsciously knew I was going all along – to visit my brother.

That’s him in the picture.

I never had a chance to get to know him. To the best of my knowledge, I never even spoke to him while he was alive, but I ever since I moved away I try and go talk to him at least once every visit back to my old town. I wonder about him a lot – rarely a day goes by without a thought him. I wonder what he’d be like, who he’d have grown up to be. I wonder what I’d be like as an older brother? Would he be creative as well? What type of career would he have now? What sort of cars would he have been into, and would I have ever let him win a race?

I stood there for quite a while last year, coffee in my hand, freezing my behind off while dad’s dog sat comfortably in the warm car, patiently waiting. I knew I’d been through a lot and times were sure as hell really hard, but visiting him always reminds me to be grateful. I’m still here. I have the opportunity and the ability to go through these hard times, and I get to fight to make it better. My brother never got that chance. Whenever life tries to knock me down, I get back up for both him and me.

This year, for the first time ever, I am not spending Christmas in my old home town. It’s been probably the worst year of my life, and I had no desire to wake up alone on Christmas morning in my dad’s house again. By my choice, I’m spending the day alone (with my two cats, who are scarcely letting me out of their sight). I am choosing to take these days back, for myself, for my mental and spiritual health. Yesterday I got in as much of a workout as my ongoing injuries would allow, did some work and indulged some time with my sketchbook. Today I’ve done a bit of work, cranked up super seasonally inappropriate tunes, poured a healthy shot of Jack Daniel’s into my coffee and enjoyed the moment. I stood in my window, raised my glass and gave a Christmas cheer to my little bro. I hope that wherever he is, whatever he’s up to, he’s happy, healthy, and proud of me. I’m working hard so that one day we both will be.

One Year ago today.

1 Year ago today.

I thought it was a good day. I hit the gym, trained legs. Went to a client event, stayed late and had a great night. I was crushing my fitness goals, I was closer than I’d ever been to my Dream, and life was going well.

1 Year ago today, possibly right around now, my Dad turned off the food cooking on the stove and, while it was cooling, decided to take Molly for a walk. My insomnia woke me up around 3 or 4 am, and I saw that I had a missed call from a hometown phone number. Somehow, I knew it wasn’t good. I checked my voice mail. I called the hospital. My dad’s doctor repeated the news from the message he’d left – dad had had a stroke while he was out walking Molly, and I should probably get back there as soon as possible. He let me speak to my dad for a brief moment, and the voice that I heard terrified me.

I caught the first flight out a few hours later, heading straight to my dad’s side.

In this past year I have become infinitely closer to some family members that I am sorry I didn’t know better sooner – but am grateful for our connections now. Their strength and compassion helped me through moments where I didn’t know what to do.

Tonight, one year after his stroke, my dad called me from his hospital bed to have a talk. Nothing big, nothing important, nothing really to say other than to talk for a while, and it was great. We talked cars, he told me how his recovery is coming, some of his plans for when he does get out of the hospital, and he may have even let slip a little bit of good news that not many people know yet. Our phone call went on for maybe an hour, and if I closed my eyes and imagined hard enough I could ignore the background hospital sounds and think that maybe he was calling me from his house. He told me that he’s doing his best to make that happen.

In this past year, I’ve struggled. I did the best I could but I know I could and can be dealing with my dad’s situation better. I got hit by a truck, which I may have mentioned a couple times. I’m still in pain every day from that, but I’m fighting through. I yelled at my grandma for the first (and hopefully only) time in my life. One of my biggest clients, someone who told me I was “like family”, shut their doors while I was back home dealing with my dad, leaving me with many months of unpaid invoices and no answers. I didn’t go after contracts I knew I could have got, if I wasn’t dealing with post-concussion nonsense. I sacrificed a car for no good reason. Had the biggest fight of my life with my dad – even bigger than the time he kicked me out of his house at age 16. I haven’t been able to work out, or even work as much as I used to, nor as much as I’d like.

But, fuck it. There’s no complaining here. I’m still breathing, and my dad’s still kicking. We can make the best out of today, and an even better tomorrow. I realize now that maybe dealing with dad’s mental condition due to the stroke can help me as I approach my post-concussion brain fogs – when I remember it! (You know me – if I’m not joking about things, I’m probably going to punch holes in walls.)

It’s crazy how much life can change in a year, a day, or in the time it takes you to take your dog for a walk. I can promise every one of you though, that some things will never change: I’m stubborn, I’m determined, and I’ll bloody well achieve every goal I set my mind to. My goal right now? Better than I was a year ago. Better than I’ll be tomorrow. Always growing, always improving. And as for my Grumpy Dad? Well, we all know he’s a stubborn such and such – and he tells me he’s going to drive again. I told him that if he wants to do that, he’s got to get through me first, and he laughed, and said it’s on.

We’re Tomas. We’ve got this.

Not better yet.

I’d like to thank Spotify for recommending Emo playlists for me the last two nights. It’s fitting.

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Well, frak.

It’s never ending. The hospital dad is at for his stroke rehab called me again this morning, because he’s being difficult, uncooperative and even more grumpy than usual, again. He doesn’t want to do the rehab, doesn’t want to do the work, doesn’t want to help himself. All he wants to do is lay in bed and have the nursing staff help him with everything.

Today, he yelled at me again because sitting in a chair for 5 minutes was bothering him and he wanted to lay down. I reminded him that he can’t lay down his whole life, and that he needs to teach himself a way that he can sit in a chair, or stand up that doesn’t bother him. More yelling. When he finished that, he asked me to come help him, again.

I can’t.

I am beyond burnt out after spending 3 months in my old home town looking after him and our family. I’m broke after not being able to work much during that time; AND, the icing on this caca-cake, I’m still dealing with whiplash and concussion symptoms from the car crash. I asked him, what does he expect me to do if I came out there? He said I could help him, I could push him to recover.

Frak.

I’ve told him, he needs to push himself. I can’t be there all the time. He needs to do this for himself, and he won’t. The staff at his hospital have been incredible; patient beyond belief with him. They explained to me that he’s dealing with a brain injury because of how his stroke affected him, and that this isn’t necessarily him right now. Knowing that made it a bit easier to process, but also a bit harder for me, too.

I’m going to try working out again today. Not going to push myself, but I need to move some iron – even if it’s only an iron feather. Ordinarily, if I need to de-stress or think, my go-to is working out, driving, or talking with my dad. None of those are an option right now.

The rest of today will be better. I’ll make it happen.

Slowly.

It’s been a hard time lately. From dad’s stroke to the car crash to other personal struggles and this damned concussion that won’t leave me alone; it’s been a challenge to get out of bed some days.

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