Anger, Forgiveness and Goodbyes

Allan at Eagles Training Camp, July 2016

I first met Allan Feather during that awkward time we call high school. Of course, when I say “met” it might be a bit of an exaggeration. Although I was aware of Allan and he of me, it wasn’t like we were friends. We knew each other in that way you know pretty much everyone you go to high school with, some more than others.

That said, it’s safe to say that everyone did want to know Allan. He was gregarious, funny and incredibly talented on numerous levels. He was the Ferris Bueller of our high school. The guy everyone wanted to hang out with and get to know. He seemed to be on good terms with everyone regardless of who they were or who they associated with.

Allan was just that kind of guy.

Once we graduated and moved on into the “real world” I never heard from Allan again. This same statement could be applied to 99% of the people I graduated with. For some reason I had decided to move on and with the exception of one or two people, I had no desire to remain in contact with any of them. The reasons why have been lost to time, but until a few years ago I was perfectly happy with the situation as it was.

What happened a few years ago to change things? Facebook.

I was very late to the party when it came to joining Facebook, and when I finally did I was careful to avoid connecting with the folks I went to high school with. Again, I don’t remember why but it seemed like a prudent course of action at the time.

That was until I got a friend request from Allan Feather.

I accepted because I figured why not? Allan was a good guy and it seemed like we had a shared interest in the Philly sports scene. I was just launching a Philadelphia sports blog and figured he might be interested in contributing.

However, thanks to Allan I slowly reconnected with a ton of people from high school and quickly realized I had been acting like a fool. Now, years later I consider some of these former classmates actual, real friends. Something I never thought would happen in a million years.

When my wife Lisa got sick and I needed someplace to go to vent or complain or just needed a shoulder to cry on, these same people I had avoided became the backbone for a group that helped me through some of the worst times of my life. Without them I’m not sure I would have made it.

Without Allan and that initial friend request, I don’t think any of that would have happened.

In addition to Facebook, Allan and I reconnected in the real world. He wrote for my sports blog and did some amazing work covering the Phillies. We went to a couple Phillies games and thanks to our work on the site got free tickets to a Flyers game as well as the chance to attend Eagles Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex.

I’ll never forget that day at Training Camp. Allan drove and we talked nonstop the entire way down to South Philly. We discussed our shared love of the city of Philadelphia, writing, sports and life in general. We watched training camp, got autographs and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience neither of us would ever forget.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday I texted Allan to see if he wanted to go to a Phillies game. I had gotten free tickets again and was looking for someone to go with. He texted back that he had to pass, that he had a lot going on and couldn’t get away. I told him if he needed help to reach out and I would be there in a flash.

Three days later I found out that Allan had stepped in front of a Septa train and killed himself.

Even now, weeks later, I’m still incredibly angry at Allan. That he would do this and leave all the people who cared about him behind to pick up the pieces. Because believe me, all Allan had to say was that he needed help and a small army of friends would have moved Heaven and Earth to get him whatever help he needed.

Obviously Allan was dealing with a lot of demons that no one was aware of. When he decided to do what he did, he probably thought it was for the best, that he was helping those that he loved. Even though that was the furthest thing from the truth.

What really upsets me more than anything is that Allan knew what I had gone through the past year. He was fully aware of the hurdles and difficulties I had to deal with as my wife’s illness progressed. I could have helped him. I could have given advice or just helped him getting the assistance he and his wife needed. All he had to do was ask.

Instead, I’m left asking why.

This Saturday is Allan’s funeral and I can’t bring myself to attend. Other than the fact it’s only been seven months since my wife’s, I just haven’t found it in my heart to forgive Allan for what he’s done. I realize that may be incredibly selfish of me but that’s just the way I feel. I’m still beyond furious at him for what he did.

My hope is that those feelings will slowly recede, and that eventually I’ll just be left with the good memories. Of the two of us at Training Camp on a beautiful July day watching the Eagles prepare for the upcoming season. Of watching the Phillies play while talking about Star Wars. Of grabbing breakfast and talking about comic book movies.

Goodbye Allan. You will be missed.

A Thank You to Kelly Clarkson

I have always been a music fan. From the time I was little I remember my mother playing records nonstop on weekends. The Carpenters, Anne Murray and John Denver were staples on the turntable at our house. Later, when I wanted to something to listen to on my little toy record player, my Mom introduced me to The Beatles by giving me her copy of A Hard Days Night to play. I must have listened to the title track a dozen times that day as I fell in love with the Fab Four.

Over the decades my musical tastes have become ridiculously eclectic. My iTunes library is a mess of bebop, 80s hair metal, R&B, progressive rock, hip hop and anything and everything else. It can take my 10 minutes just to decide what I want to listen to.

I mean, right now I’m listening to a playlist that includes The Ramones followed by Dokken and then Cher.

I love music. I love the way it can bring back memories that have been long buried. I love the fact I can tell you exactly where I was the first time I heard Joe Satriani or Pink Floyd or the B-52s and why I happened to be listening to that particular artist at that particular time.

(There’s a whole sad tale about why I love the B-52’s that is so funny and yet pathetic at the same time that it will make you cry. Another time perhaps.)

My wife Lisa and I spent countless hours listening to tapes on her small portable cassette player in the earliest days of our relationship. We’d spread a blanket on the floor and just listen to music, whether that be Kenny G or Bread or just the local smooth jazz radio station. Later we would go to Penn’s Landing for their smooth jazz free concerts or go see bands we loved down at the casinos in Atlantic City or in Philadelphia.

So when the Alzheimer’s that was slowly taking Lisa from me progressed to the point that she had to be placed in an Alzheimer’s facility, it made perfect sense that I would retreat into music in a big way, even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

Lisa and I had lived together for years and being alone in our home for the first time was incredibly rough. Because I knew that she wasn’t on a trip to see family or that she was just out doing some shopping and that she would be home later. I knew that she wasn’t coming home ever again due to the Alzheimer’s and what it had done to her.

I used to think I enjoyed being alone. Turns out that isn’t the case.

Most evenings, I would sit at my Mac and listen to music for hours. Some nights I wouldn’t even bother to turn on the television. I would just sit at the computer, listening to the songs that made up the soundtrack of our lives. The songs that brought back the good memories of what life was like before Lisa got sick.

Which brings us to Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson had released a greatest hits album back in 2012 titled Chapter One. It included all the monster hits she had recorded since winning American Idol as well as a new song titled “Catch My Breath.”

For some reason I will never be able to explain, “Catch My Breath” connected with me and made me feel better. The lyrics didn’t really apply to what I was going through at the time and it’s not like it spoke to me on some emotional level, but the song took a small amount of the pain that I was going through away.

I must have listened to that song hundreds of times. Watched the music video more times than I can count. I still listen to it on a fairly regular basis.

Is it possible to connect with a piece of music so deeply and not know why? To know that it makes you feel like you can go on but have no clue why it does that?

It’s isn’t an exaggeration to say that Kelly Clarkson got me through some of the worst days of my life. That one song and a multitude of others made it possible for me to get past those first lonely nights at home.

In the months since Lisa passed I still listen to a lot of music. I’ve taken to finding the music videos I loved watching on MTV as a teenager and keeping a playlist of them on YouTube. I’ve made countless playlists on iTunes that cover the entire musical spectrum.

My favorite? The one titled “Lisa” that includes “Catch My Breath” about midway through.