Friday, January 6, 2012

So very much has happened in the year and a half since I've written on this blog.

Most recently, my father passed away 10 days before Christmas and I spent the first ever Jan. 4 wishing happy birthday to a deceased parent. I've known his early death was inevitable for the past 20 years, and I've known it was even more so in the last 2 years since he slipped and fell and never really recovered from it. The Huntington's disease really took its toll on Dad, until all he could really do was grunt and smile. But at least he was still smiling.

I was so happy to see so much family at the funeral in Cincinnati, and to see some unexpected friends as well. Being an atheist, it was odd to take part in a church service to help everyone else mourn, and not only to be present there, but to participate. Things not to think about when you're carrying your father's urn down the aisle of a church: Damn, this is heavier than I thought. Don't drop it. Don't trip up the stairs to the alter. You'll never get to walk down another aisle with Dad again. Everyone is watching you. Some of these people probably haven't seen you since you hit puberty. They probably wonder who you are. You are a fraud. You shouldn't be here in this place with these priests and those alter girls leading you up this aisle. Dad isn't in heaven. Or hell. He just isn't anymore. He's in this bronze jar, in your hands.

That was probably the hardest thing I've done in life. Recognize the weight of my father's ashes and his absence at a moment of spectacle that I really didn't want to be a part of. But I did it for my family. Performed my mourning when all I really wanted was to curl up in a ball and cry. And my Uncle Den, who has been the one to take care of all the nasty things that need taking care of (money, paperwork, funeral arrangements), he performed as he has too many times before, for father Richard, mother Anna, and brother Rick before this time, with humor and tears:



Thoughts on Tim
December 29, 2011
First of all, I want to thank all of you for being here today to celebrate Tim’s life.  Certainly, those of us who loved him will miss him dearly, but the way Tim lived is deserving of celebration.

I know that I cannot do justice to what Tim’s life meant. But hopefully with a few comments and stories I can remind those of us that knew him why we loved him, and with those same comments and stories introduce Tim to those of you who did not know him.

The first impression everyone had of Tim was, “What a nice guy!”  As you got to know him, you realized he wasn’t just being polite.  He actually was that nice guy—a genuinely pleasant man you wanted to be around.

In the interest of a truthful story, however, I need to admit that eventually you did find out Tim wasn’t a soft, push over kind of a guy because he did inherit equal parts of Dad’s Irish temper and Mom’s German righteousness.  If he disagreed with you, he would let you know. 

When I would take him to the St. X basketball games, I would set him up in his own chair at the front of the bleachers on the stage.  He needed the chair because his back could no longer deal with sitting on those bleachers.  It wouldn’t take long for that Irish temper and German righteousness to show itself when he expressed his opinions about the officials’ calls—those around him knew he was there.

You didn’t have to be with Tim long to hear him express his pride in his daughters. Whenever I would take him to the many appointments he had, the small talk from nurses and others would eventually include questions about his family.  Immediately he would comment on his two daughters, Alysa and Amy.  He took pride in the college educations of both. Tim would be sure to describe both Alysa’s family and her independence as well as Amy’s professional skills and advancement. His comments were obviously brimming with pride. 

When the grandchildren came along he loved to talk about them.  He enjoyed being the grandfather, and his collection of grandchildren pictures in his condo showed that pride.

Tim lived independently for a long time.  Those of you familiar with the hazards of Huntington’s disease realize how much of an accomplishment that can be.  He valued that independence tremendously.  Being the worry wart that I am, I asked him at one point, “Tim, will you tell me when you can’t do this by yourself.”  Tim was honest with me about most things, but sadly on this topic he held back.  The results of his holding back were not good.

Tim loved golf.  During his healthy years he became a very good golfer.  Certainly one of the things Tim liked most about living in Hilton Head for the years he lived there was that he could play golf practically year round.  I remember on a visit there driving him to “his golf course.”  Everyone there knew him and greeted him as the regular he was, “Hello, Mr. Martin, glad to see you here today.”  After he moved back to Cincinnati, I would take him golfing.  By this time the effects of the HD were obvious.  His gait was unsure and his balance was suspect.  On the tee area he would bend over to place the ball on the tee and you would want to grab hold of him because you knew he couldn’t possibly keep himself upright.  But somehow he would get the ball on the tee.  Then he would address the ball, and you still couldn’t believe he could possibly stand still long enough to hit the ball.  But somewhere on that backswing I swear an angel breathed stillness into that shaking body and the ball would take flight as if all was right with the world.  Then he would stagger back to the golf cart, and I would secretly wonder at what he had just done.  When my schedule didn’t allow me to go with him, I would drop him off at Miami Whitewater Golf Course before I went to work. He would spend all day at the golf course, and then I would pick him up later on my way home. I think, being on a golf course was Tim’s preview of heaven. Eventually though, the swing would leave him, as it must, and he quietly stopped asking to go golfing.

Tim also liked to fish.  For twenty years a group of us, family and friends, made a trip to Lake Erie to go walleye fishing. More than once Tim would win the prize for the biggest fish.  But one of my memories of Tim on Lake Erie involved Tim and sunscreen.  Tim was very fair skinned and would sunburn easily.  One year, as big brother, I warned him he better put on that sunscreen because he was turning red.  His Irish came up and he told me he didn’t need his mother taking care of him.  Well, as things would go on that same trip Tim became sea sick from the rocking of the boat.  Within minutes his red complexion turned green. I told him he had cured his sunburn even though he had to hang his head over the side of the boat. He didn’t see the humor at the time.

Tim was the main character in the all-time funniest home video never recorded.  This story involved a softball game.  A bunch of family put together a softball team to play in a small weekend tournament, and we needed Tim to play.  He would be the tenth player.  Tim was a very good softball outfielder with a rifle of an arm.  By this time though he was past his prime, and he was told by his family, “Tim, you can’t play. You will get hurt.”  Well, the competitive male pride took over and Tim said, “Don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen. I’m going to play.” 

You guessed it; you know exactly what happened.  Playing the outfield, Tim pulled a hamstring and couldn’t run.  We had no subs, so we convinced Tim he could trade places with the catcher.  We told him, “Catchers never run. There’s nothing to do. You will be fine.”  Again, you guessed it. At a crucial time there was a play at the plate with a throw coming from the outfield to Tim. Tim, standing stiff and straight because he couldn’t bend his leg, stepped out on the plate to catch the ball as the base runner approached from third.  The throw from the outfield was a one bounce throw to Tim. The ball bounced at just the wrong angle and bounced up to hit Tim in a place that we really shouldn’t name here in church.  When the ball hit Tim, he let out a loud “oomph” and doubled up forward just a split second before the runner slammed directly into him causing Tim to let out another loud “oomph,” followed by Tim rolling over backwards in a somersault and ending up on his seat leaning up against the back stop.  The rest of us watching all of this used all of our self-control to stifle our reaction.

Let me end by highlighting the most important aspect of Tim’s life—his courage.  When a person is told of his diagnosis of Huntington’s disease, he knows what he is facing.  There is not going to be a happy ending. Tim knew the future. He knew there was no stopping the inevitable decline in his physical abilities and the unstoppable degeneration of his mental faculties. He did his part for HD by signing up for the local HD research studies.  But more importantly than that, he told me that he saw Dad become angry and mean as Dad spiraled downward with his HD, but he would not do that.  He said to me as long as I have a choice to be nice to people and a choice to be happy I am going to do that.  And even though Tim had his bad moments when that Irish and German temperament came out, but he held true to that promise to the end.  He smiled at his nurses when a smile was about the only movement he could muster.  His example of dealing with the tough hand he was dealt is an inspiration to me and a life’s lesson we can all take with us as we leave this celebration of his life.

Tim is now in a place where all of his drives are in the fairway, and all of his approach shots roll to the cup, and all of his putts fall no matter the contour of the green.

Look at the back of the program.  Look at those smiles. That is the Tim we celebrate today.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Socially Working Out

I've joined SocialWorkout.com recently, and I'm taking part in the Million Minute Month. I'm enjoying the sense of community, the positive feedback on workout posts both short and long, and the immediate goals that the MMM challenge presents. If you are looking for motivation, I'd recommend you join, too.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

HDSA Hoop-A-Thon

When I was younger, my family and I would participate every year in a fundraising event for the Huntington's Disease Society of American Ohio Valley Chapter. We would collect pledges from friends and family, help setup tables, cones, balloons, etc., and shoot free throws until we dropped (or for 10 minutes, whichever came first).

I am no longer in Ohio, and therefore cannot participate in this event, but I just thought I would share with all of my friends a bit about it. It is taking place this year at the Mercy Healthplex on Saturday, April 17th. So, if you are in Cincinnati, and you'd like to stop by and show some support, it would be greatly appreciated.

I would also like to share with you this letter that I received from my uncle, Den Martin, who is participating in the event this year, like every year. He has been a great support to my family in our time of need (the brother he Tim he mentions in his letter is my dad), and I'm wishing him the great luck in shooting his heart out during his 10 minutes at this year's event.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dear Friend,

As you are probably aware, I have worked for many years to support the search for a cure or treatment for Huntington's Disease, an hereditary disease that affects my family. One of the ways that I have done this is by working each spring as one of the co-chairs of the Huntington Disease Association, Ohio Valley Chapter Hoop-a-thon. The Hoop-a-thon is a free throw shooting fund raiser in which shooters gather pledges from donors for the free throws that they make. In addition to organizing the Hoop-a-thon, I have participated in the Hoop-a-thon as a shooter.

Recently, the need for additional progress in finding the cure for HD has become dramatically more personal. In my immediate family, I have experienced the passing of my younger brother Rick from HD. I have also seen my two brothers, Tim and Steve, and my sister, Mary, diagnosed with HD and begin the physical and mental deterioration that is inevitable with this incurable disease.

Through the years I have seen my father and 3 of his sisters pass on as a result of HD. In addition more than a few cousins have succumbed to HD. Some of you who are family know these stories all too well. For those of you not familiar with HD the path for an HD patient involves a long, slow process of loss of physical control and a deterioration of mental faculties as brain cells deteriorate and die. Physically this process starts with an unsteady gait and lack of fine muscle control. Eventually the process ends with an almost complete loss of muscle control, including the loss of the ability to speak. The patient ends up bedridden and loses even the coordination necessary to swallow when eating. Mentally the HD patient at first notices difficulty in concentrating, but the end stage of HD presents itself in dementia.

Researchers are making progress. They tell HD families that some treatment or cure may be "out there, but it is many years away." My brothers and sister and their sons and daughters need results sooner than that. This can only happen if more and more researchers join the quest for a cure. And this can only happen with financial backing for these researchers.

This is where you come in.

I am asking you to help me in this year's Hoop-a-thon by pledging to support me as I shoot free throws on April 17 at the Hoop-a-thon. I have attached a pledge form for you to use if you think that you can help. Simply fill out your pledge and mail it to me.

You can also help by joining with me on April 17 as a shooter. Men and women of all ages 6 to 65 participate. Gather your own pledges and come to the Mercy Healthplex at 3050 Mack Road in Fairfield on April 17. Perhaps you could bring a group of shooters with you. You can use the attached brochure to gather your own pledges.

Thank you ahead of time for whatever you can do. Even a few kind thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

Sincerely,

Dennis Martin
HDSA, Ohio Valley Chapter
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I would like to reiterate that positive thoughts are very much appreciated as my father goes through a hard time, healing from a very bad fall.

If you would like to learn more about the event happening this coming Saturday, or how you can help out the HDSA in it's efforts, please contact Dan Leugers at dan.leugers@morgankeegan.com or visit http://hdsaohiovalley.org.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alarms Clocks- Overrated?

I woke up to an alarm today for the first time in a few weeks. Now, I really do enjoy being a grad student with a flexible schedule, and I have a 2-year-old nephew as an alarm 2 days a week, but I am almost appalled by this fact. I used to plan on arriving at school by 9am most days to get some work done, or I would try to wake up early enough to go to the gym before getting to school at a reasonable hour. Maybe I would snooze the alarm (a lot!) before waking up, but I appreciated my attempt. The fact that I've given up trying is alarming (pun intended, people).

It's time to start phase 1 of Motivation Control 2010: Taking Control of My Motivation. And I could use your help! What gets you up in the morning? Any tips on how to not hit the snooze button for an hour? And if you really want to help me- give me a call! Yes, I am requesting early morning phone calls to get my butt out of bed. I don't talk on the phone much, so chances are that I haven't talked to you in a while. Let's take this opportunity to catch up- at 7 or 8am! Otherwise, I might just have to start drinking coffee, after 29 years of being coffee free. Keep in mind, coffee is only a last resort.

I'm hoping that any improvement in my early morning wake-up routine will expand to motivation in other things- like exercise, homework, and leaving the house just to be outside in this beautiful weather. I've been able to rest a lot during Spring Break, so it's time to get back in the game.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Viva la karaoke!

Karaoke at the Fat Black Pussycat has become a big part of my life in the last year. I never would have thought that I'd be a karaoke fan, except on the rare occasion when someone got me drunk enough to get up and sing in a group of people. But I started going in January of 2009 with a coworker, Will, and his friend, Justine, (who is now my friend!) who got me drunk and made me sing on my own. Over the course of a couple of months, I drank less and less alcohol each time I went. The end result is that now I can sing a karaoke song completely sober.

From time to time, variations like change in venue or other people that I know joining in on the fun, can make me a bit nervous. I sang karaoke in Ohio last July when I went home for my high school reunion, and I was definitely a little shaky on Oh! Darling. And I must say, when this guy I'm seeing finally comes to the FBPC, I will probably throw down a few drinks before I sing my first song.

Recently, the need for karaoke has apparently reverted to a weekly one. When I started singing with Will and Justine, we went to the Moroccan Lounge about once a week. That tapered off over time, and because of school and work we were recently going about once every six weeks. In the last month, however, we've gone every week, I believe. This is probably due, on Justine's part, to her school being close to the Village and her desire to show off her new boyfriend. On my part, I think the stress of school, babysitting and this new dating experience simply requires that I get together with these friends more frequently to talk about things- since I really don't like talking on the phone. Plus, I like to get my drink on when I'm stressed!