Forty Four Years
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Comfortably Numb
Put your hands in the air and don't try anything funny--I'm not afraid to use these

Click on thumbnails with light blue borders for full-size photos

You can't discuss 2009 without December 12, 2008. Amy and I had just purchased our marriage license, and while making reservations for the wedding guests, I shot this photo of us in the Holiday Inn, which turned out to be the last photo ever taken of us. The wedding was moving ahead, full steam, and we were down to the final 50 days.

January 1, 2009: I spent the day finishing a video for the wedding. Then I moved a sleeper sofa, dresser, mirror, end tables, coffee table, and large easy chair from my back bedroom into my garage by Amy's request, tearing chunks out of my hallway, being trapped for half an hour under the sofa, and causing a lingering knee injury. It was worth it, because my love was returning from vacation with her family. Click on right thumbnail for full 26 minute video (turn up your sound).

Meanwhile, on her family vacation, Amy's baby brother Steve, and his wife of three months, Keri, my so-called friends, with their wealth of marriage experience, (I was married 8 1/2 years, but what do I know?) gnawed at Amy on how big a step marriage is, and how much she'd have to give up. Amy returned that night a different woman, demanding proof that our marriage was God's will.

Friends, some of whom had known her for 20 years, told me she was different, and it was obvious we were in love long before we knew it ourselves. Amy made me more civilized, I showed her how to be silly, and we laughed a lot--we'd go to parties and Amy would tell funny stories of our adventures the entire time, because we had so freakin' many! Our values were 100% identical, and it's interesting that from 1974 to 1978, we lived on the same street, had the same friends, were in the same grade, and her best friend lived across the street, but we never met because Amy was afraid of boys, and I was afraid of girls (still am). We were different, but it worked, like pieces of a puzzle. We we in love. Still, it wasn't enough, so on January 2nd at 7:15am, she told me she loved me, returned the ring and house key, and walked out of my life, citing how much she loved her life and her potted plants on the front porch of her apartment. After 1440 days, 3000+ emails, over 1000 phone calls, sharing every part of our lives, except that reserved only for husband and wife, the best she could give me was our families were too different--we were too different. Nobody saw it coming, not her mother (who was very upset), her friends, and least of all, me. I was devastated.

Amy wanted zero contact (again, her brother's idea), and although we had the same friends, our families were in regular contact, we both attended Westwood General Baptist Church on Boehne Camp Road with my sister and her children, belonged to the same groups, I lived 1 1/2 miles from her mother and my mother, and our dogs were dating (in sin, I might add), she expected this to go smoothly. All it did was increase tensions. I went from being Amy's future husband (29 days from the wedding) and most important person in her life, to being the only person in the world forbidden to talk to her. I was being kicked out of my family, and watching them with their new kids.

I loved Amy's family, my family loved Amy, and she hurt each of us deeply. Amy was family. My mother would've done anything for her. She was a sister to my sister, a sister to my brother, aunt to my nephews, a daughter to my mother. Her mother was for the marriage, but her brother hardly knew me (he lived in Iowa!), so she took his opinion over

Dec 12, 2008:
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Jan 1--Video
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Apr 18--Gizmo meets Moo
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Feeding Horses
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Apr 29--Lunch & Moo
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May 10:
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Jun 7:
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Jun 12--Please no haircut!
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Jun 18--Master in Training
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Jun 20--Family
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her mother's, who had witnessed Amy and I first-hand from day one. Although I found our friends, Kevin and Renee so-called church 'leaders', had warned Amy in private that I'd "wear her out" on our wedding night, which was very insulting. Anyway, daily phone calls and emails abruptly stopped after four years, and I wandered around the big house I'd built for us, alone. It was a very cold winter.

I grew tired of watching my mother cry, tired of hearing my family upset to tears, and tired of emotional melt-downs every time I'd go to church and face her, the woman who supposedly loved me. Pastor Dave ordered me to seek counseling, I was back on anti-depressants (I kicked them when I met Amy in 2005), and eventually alienated from my church family. I was losing my mind. I didn't even get to see her in her wedding dress, although Kevin and Renee and most everyone else did.

The three counselors I saw for my issues strongly urged me to get Amy into counseling, after I explained the details of the situation and our backgrounds. They felt she had serious issues that needed to be dealt with. They said that Amy had already made up her mind and only chose to listen to those who confirmed her fears--her brother. Amy smiled and said she was fine, told me she didn't need counseling, even told me I was doing fine too (how would she know? She only spoke to me when she needed to exchange something), but I knew her well and she didn't look fine. In the few private conversations we had, she wasn't.

Church friends seemed afraid to approach me or confront Amy, the priority being to keep appearances and protect reputations. However, in private, some members of the church confided that there was a growing number of 'spinsters' in church who had an unhealthy view of men, Amy being one of them, and one in particular, John, had spoken to the former pastor on this almost 30 years ago, who turned a deaf ear to his concern. Many whom I'd contacted said Amy hadn't even mentioned what was going on--they just 'heard' the wedding was postponed. Some started a rumor that I'd ended the relationship. Our friends gathered around her, comforted her, asked how she was doing, asked if she needed anything. Nothing changed in her life, except the eccentric Air Force veteran who was so nice and ridiculously funny was ejected.

So in April, Mom and I visited my ex-cat Moo, shooting photos of her and step-brother Gizmo. Moo died on April 29th at the age of 18 years, one month, and six days, 14 months after her sister, Lunch, passed away at the same age. In my former married life, Lunch and Moo were the center of our lives.

Working from home, I was able to ride my bicycle at lunch, once my knee injury healed. My boss, Kate, caught wind of this and asked me about my days of racing, and as I gave a brief synopsis, my nostrils flared, I started sweating, and probably knocked over her soda, wet my pants and stumbled through the second story plate glass window. I got very excited. So she made me promise to enter a race in 2009. I was riding 13 miles during my hour lunch, including preparation, riding, showering, panting, and getting back on the phone in under and hour. When Kate seemed impressed, I thought,"You ain't seen nothing yet boss lady". Over the next few weeks, I pushed myself until I exceeded 21 miles in the same time slot.

I was doing in excess of 200 miles a week, and on one particular work day I rode 85 miles after working a full eight-hour shift. My resting pulse was 38 beats per minute. I was very fit. So I entered the race to the top of Mt. Evans in Denver, the same one I raced in 2001. I needed adventure. I travelled on Gizmo's seventh birthday, but he seemed to enjoy sniffing Colorado, and the altitude had our doofus meters tracking along with each other. Here he is, sitting on my lap like a belly bag with teeth, as I sped down Interstate 70, lovingly admiring his best friend. Get a good look at that face--that's what love looks like. It's irrelevant that he was probably wanting to mark his territory on me.

I never stopped loving Amy. Still, I needed enough distance from her to live a normal life, and the one sticking point was the gorgeous sapphire/diamond ring set sitting in my house. Amy called them her dream rings, and visited them many times before I proposed to her. I loved the childlike sparkle in her eyes, knowing we could never afford them, and the even bigger sparkle when I fell to my knees and tried to place the ring on her finger. I'd never move on without finding a home for them. It would've broken my heart to pawn such beautiful rings that reminded me so much of her. A month before the Denver race, I emailed Amy. I wanted her to have the ring set.

Surprisingly, she replied. I waited a day to read her response, afraid of how badly it would hurt. I was on a delicate routine of heavy training, and an emotional slam from Amy could kill my drive. She asked me to give the rings to Jerry. I wanted to keep it secret, because I feared it would make Amy look bad to those who knew the truth about the break-up. I told her I'd mail them--no reply.

You are so beautiful, to me...I think I need to pee on you as soon as possible

However, she forwarded my email to church leaders, so our secret was out. Since I couldn't give them to her before the race, I wore them to the top of Mt. Evans, to honor her. I was eight years older and hadn't raced seriously in six years, nursing a stiff leg from a dog bite, but was 37 seconds faster than in 2001. Amy was wrapped around my finger the whole way. It was an eye opener--I found that I still loved cycling, and could still kick it up. I made a tracfone call to Amy from the mountain--so overcome by the thrill of being there. I left a voicemail. Click on July 18 thumbnail for detailed, hopefully entertaining story of my Denver vacation, complete with fabulous photos and videos!

When I returned home, my challenge was seeing Amy on Sundays and not being allowed to speak to her, terrified she'd show up with a boyfriend. Westwood left me out on major news, and I found that an elder had died three weeks earlier, one I'd helped build a wheelchair ramp for in March. No one told me. I went to church and rarely got more than a smile anymore. I saw car-loads of church friends--they didn't wave.

I never mailed the rings--never took time to visit my post office, but I knew when Amy practiced for praise team, 2 1/2 miles away. I emailed her and said I'd drop them on her car during my bicycle ride. She didn't reply--her usual practice in her new life of freedom, so I carefully, as inconspicuously as possible, dropped a bag with the ring set and a race number from Mt. Evans, on her car. I was shortly called to my pastor's office where it was implied that I was stalking Amy and when I explained, they implied that I was lying. They told me where to sit in church, when I was allowed to go there, whom I could speak to or email, ordered me to take photos of Amy off my website (to this day she has photos I shot at her brother's wedding on hers). If I didn't follow their rules, they'd take 'legal action'. Amy could sit anywhere and speak to anyone she wanted to (including my family). They made Amy look a victim--when did I ever have the power? I eventually lost all my friends, my church, quite a lot of money, and my entire post-Air Force life was based on my relationship with Amy--all gone. She lost nothing, and kept her precious reputation. I quickly told them in perfect accent,"I can't go here anymore". What stalker drops $3800 of jewelry on your car? Apparently when I dropped the rings off, everyone in praise team practice stopped, wondering what I was doing (Amy probably never spoke up). That didn't go well, because the pianist was the wife of the elder conducting the pastor's meeting, and his sister-in-law was the head of praise team.

They knew me! They knew I was a cyclist, mixed errands and workouts, and Amy knew I was coming. They were friends, or so I thought. I've never raised a hand to a woman in my adult life (I beat the crap out of my sister as a kid), but I was in suspicion from people I gladly called family, people I comforted in death, led classes for, raised money for, campaigned for, authored popular newsletters for, and babysitted for. I never ate a child. I was upset with Amy (who wouldn't be?) and my emails weren't always totally nice, so they felt she was in danger. Their implications of stalking were baseless. I never went by her house (or her mother's), and except for the mountain top voicemail, hadn't phoned her after she said she wanted a clean break in February, the few times I did email her, she didn't ask me to stop, and on one occasion told me she'd do whatever it took to help me heal(evidently she didn't mean it). I removed her from my internet 'friends' lists before she removed me. I sat near the front of church, as I had for over 16 years--it's not my fault that she sang in praise team up on the stage. Did I look at her during services? Of course--everyone did. Stalking? For a woman who said her family would be mean to me (this was one of her reasons for a break-up), she seemed afraid to say anything directly to me, but she and her family hid behind a church from a threat that was in their head. As far as my few emails, Amy knows I'm flexible with the English language. I mean, when she read my poem "Pigs with machine guns", did she think I was arming livestock? Of course not--they have no opposable thumbs! Those were private conversations, private emails between two people who were extremely close. The thought that I would physically hurt Amy is insanity. I'd die for her. I was always her protector. It blew me away how people I trusted so completely, loved so honestly, could treat me so cruelly.

August 22: The counselor I'd seen for four months, Lori Roe (Lion of Judah)recommended by Focus on the Family, accused me of stalking her. I'd sit securely across the room, professing how I hated touching people, while she went nuts over beautiful Gizmo, bought him treats, toys, and admitted that she and a client had decided to get dogs because of him. She shot the June 17 photo of Gizmo holding a balloon in one of our sessions (the photo was her idea), so you can see we had a good time. When I'd see her other clients in the lobby, I'd tell them I was there for Gizmo--he thought he was a dog. She also gave the most ridiculous reaction to me being pushed out of my church,"Well, Amy was there first". Outside of counseling, we had no contact. She'd told me in counseling that my actions with Amy were a normal part of the grieving process, and now I'm a stalker? Had the entire world gone mad?

Jun 17--Lori's photo
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Jun 25--80 Years!
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Jul 18--Denver!
Mt Evans Full Story
Sep 14--Anniversary
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Aug 8--5K race
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Oct 11--Half Marathon
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Nov 7:
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Nov 28:
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Dec 12--Reeds Gap
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Dec 12--Last kilometer
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I'd described my church incident to her, so when strange things happened around her house, of course, it must be Mike! I planned to end our sessions anyway, because I simply couldn't afford a $50/week social call. I needed results, but after a probing call from the sheriff (he asked if I drove an 18-wheeler!), it wasn't necessary. He told me not to contact Lori(deja vu). He had nothing to worry about. Days later, Lori sent a poorly written evaluation, scribbled on a piece of paper in blue ink. She disappeared from the Focus on the Family referral. My cousin, a counselor herself, knew exactly who I was speaking of when I mentioned 'Lori', before I even gave her name! She said,"Lori has issues--she always thinks people are doing things to her and her family, putting curses on them". Yet, I now have a record with the Warrick County Sheriff which they refuse to destroy. Why do I even leave home?

I retired from the Air Force in 2005, with honor, thinking I was coming home. Evansville is a grave, and I grow tired of being thanked for my service then treated like excrement. So after watching my mother cry again, I went back to the rest of my life, alone. I'd planned a wedding for five months in 2008, put aside personal goals and spent thousands of dollars. I lost my best friend, companion, lover, my family, my church. There was nothing to move on to. In our last conversation on February 22, Amy raved for 30 minutes on how thoughtful, attentive, and loving I was, how I tried so hard to grow as a companion, how her mother knew I'd always take care of her (and her mother), but most of all, how much fun we had. She said I'd make a wonderful husband. I said,"Are you listening to yourself? I think you're just afraid of marriage". She said,"Maybe you're right". Amy never knew what she wanted, and even her mother told her she sent 'mixed signals'. I was dealt a brutal, cold, cruel blow of which, to this day, I suffer serious mental and emotional scars of which I don't know I'll ever recover. Love? What's that? I don't know anymore.

I lost 20 pounds and ran the Evansville Half Marathon. This time I trained less for running than for endurance, doing heavy miles on the bicycle. I raced the large regional warm-up 5K and 10K races, finishing 3rd and 2nd respectively in my division, and in the top 3% overall, wining the first trophies ever in my home town. Then came the half marathon--at 5K, I was 41 seconds faster than 2007, at 10K, 3:23, at 15K, 6:24 ahead, and although I was slowed by leg cramps in the last four miles, I finished 10:33 faster than 2007, 68th of 2185 finishers. Best of all, running was fun again. Take that you lousy bastards!

On December 12, my 44th birthday, after losing all but two friends, neither capable of driving, I drove to Wintergreen, Virginia with Gizmo and my imaginary friend to bicycle up the Reed's Gap and Vesuvius climbs. One thing about dogs and mountains--you always know where they stand. I spun around a parking lot and everything worked beautifully, but as soon as the road angled upward, I only had two usable gears. My lowest gear worked, but adjoining cogs skipped. If I wanted to gear up, I'd have to leap to a larger chainring, an increase of 42%, not the 8% I would've had with proper shifting. After the worst of the climb, my shifter jammed and I was stuck in one gear for the easier part of the climb, still a quad-burning 15% grade. At the finish, I felt like my legs would melt. I was eight cogs short of a cassette, as a psychiatrist might say.

Although the Vesuvius climb to Tye River Gap has and average grade 40% steeper, it's rated a Category 2 climb, while Reeds Gap is a Category 1, the hardest rated climb. You can feel it--the last two miles of Reeds Gap make you wish you'd passed up those 200 desserts and had that extra organ removed. It's the only climb so steep that I have to position myself far enough forward to not pop a wheelie, and far enough back so my weight doesn't come off my back wheel and cause me to slip over the slightest pebble. It's also the only climb I couldn't conquer on my first attempt without stopping to catch my breath, but on this day, I rode it in record time. Vesuvius, Reeds Gap, Montebello, and Wintergreen, climbs I'd ridden, had been raced by Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong in the 90's Tour DuPont, one of the most prestigious stage races in the world at the time. But on December 12, I only had time for two.

Vesuvius was much colder. The sun had disappeared, and the wind chill was 30 degrees at the bottom, cooling with the increase in altitude. I was coughing from the cold air I'd inhaled on Reeds Gap, and my body temperature was dropping with cold sweat, so I wore my jacket and fingered gloves. I rode around for a few minutes, making tiny adjustments so I could at least use two or three cogs. Vesuvius, though harder on paper, was easier than Reeds Gap, but that's not saying much. From the start, you are climbing, but the switchbacks give enough variation to alternate muscles, so you can stay fresh enough to not crack. I arrived at the top faster than my imaginary friend expected, but still got a photo of myself with my best friend here. Gizmo had no idea what we were doing, he just knew he was with Daddy--that's all that mattered.

Stupidity is not inversely proportional to the intensity of effort
Stupidity is not inversely proportional to the intensity of effort

I'm 44 now, and 2009 was a dark comedy with me as the leading lady. I feel like Dorothy Gale after all the color left and she was no longer in Oz--comfortably numb. One day my world was a brilliant color, and the next day, black and white with that bitchy lady on the bicycle trying to steal my little dog. I've lost interest in the opposite sex now, psychologically castrated. A woman is nice to have around--snuggling, showing affection, having long conversations, thinking of you when you are away and welcoming you with kisses when you come back, but I can teach a dog to do that. They're more loyal, less selfish, and usually prettier. I still enjoy non-sexual thrills--eating, sleeping, taking a dump, scratching, urinating on fire hydrants, watching lots of television with my dog in my lap--all underrated, but not worthy of a thriller or a

best-seller. With Amy, I looked forward to growing old. Now I'm just waiting for death, and trying to get a few thrills before I arrive. I guess that's life for most people.

As far as Amy goes--I'm very angry with you, but if I saw you on the horizon, I'd run to you, I'd kiss you, I'd kill the fatted calf, put rings on your fingers, sing, dance, fall all over myself and lose bladder control--think of what you're missing! Come on over, ring the door bell, knock, whatever, I'll let you in, no questions, no grilling, no talking at all. Lie on the couch with me and watch television. I won't talk, and you don't have to either. Then you can leave if you want. I miss you so much. You are my sunshine.