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My heart is breaking, it must be late October

Late October in New England is really the sweet spot for why people live here. Fall colors are on display, the air is crisp, but not frigid. Our menu shifts from light summer fare to heartier comfort food like soups, stews, and chilis. You can go apple picking or get fresh apple cider. It’s stunning, tasty, and it’s when New England turns the awesome up to 11.

But if you ask me, October sucked.

I wanted to say that I hate this season, time of year, and it might even be true. But it isn’t really October’s fault, per se, so I can’t bring myself to hate a season that has so much good in it. And there are some really, really great things about October.

And yet, on October 26, 2010, my Uncle Jeff died.

Seriously, October blows

People who spend a lot of face-to-face time with me know that late October brings out “shadow Bill” – a grumpy, emotional version of me that struggles to be present. Call it depression, call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, call it the blues, call it whatever you want; Jeff’s death had a big enough impact on me that I still physically react every October. I want to sleep more. I spend a lot of time looking for distractions – movies, TV shows, websites, games. I lose my temper more frequently. I feel overwhelmed.

This was most pronounced in the 3-4 years immediately following Jeff’s passing. And I don’t want any friends who may read this to worry too much, but now that October is over, my heart and soul are still a bit raw. This landmark date erodes me – it nibbles at my edges until I finally break and spend some time just remembering. I wonder how much better life would be if Jeff were still with us. I wonder if he and I would be working together on web projects. I wonder if he would be disappointed with how little things have changed with me, or excited about the small changes that have happened.

Striving to be Jeff 2.0

My strategy for dealing with Jeff’s death, initially, was to try and be his legacy. Like Jeff, I would carry the torch of nerds with both right and left brain tendencies and go and do all of the amazing things that Jeff did. Jeff brewed beer, so I shall brew beer. Jeff was a baker, so I too would learn the craft. Jeff was a photographer … and he grew award winning dahlias …

Thinking about that now, Jeff would probably have laughed at this plan.

He wouldn’t have laughed because he didn’t think I had the ability, or that I wasn’t somehow worthy. He would have laughed because I am not Jeff. Jeff loved his gardening — I am an angel of death in a greenhouse. Jeff liked to bake, where I have fallen in love with cooking. Jeff had a better ear for sound than I do, which is why I don’t have monster speakers hooked up to a traditional stereo at my house. I have different passions and fascinations and Jeff would have encouraged me to pursue those, cheering me on and sometimes taking notes, I’m sure. If Jeff were here today, and he found out that I had been trying to become his “mini-me”, I imagine that he would have pulled me aside and encouraged me to stop wasting my energy like that and work on being me.

I can almost hear him now, saying “screw the dahlias, write man!”

And so here I am, writing again on a neglected blog; Because October sucks and I need a place to let some of that out; because writing is a deep part of who I am that I neglect and push aside; because my uncle Jeff would have asked me how the blog was going at every opportunity; because I still miss him enough to be weeping over my keyboard.

Looking down the road, November is a roller coaster ride … the days around thanksgiving are when my wife and I both lost family members. The holiday is a reminder of those who are no longer with us. And then a few days later, we celebrate our wedding anniversary. (20 years this year!)

I thought about joining NaNoWriMo this year, but instead I am focusing on writing for the blog instead. I have some things I want to think through “on paper” and, frankly, I just don’t feel like I have a novel in me right now. So this is what I am doing, because this is who I am.

I think Jeff would approve.

If you never knew Jeff, the stuff I wrote about him in 2010 is some of the writing I am most proud of.

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