Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy 2011!

Happy new year, everyone!

As you probably didn’t notice, I decided to take the rest of 2010 off from blogging. There were several reasons for this, including the generally negative tone of the comics internet discourse over the last few months of the year (this is supposed to be fun, right?), but really, it boils down to one main reason.

In the last week of July, my wife got the call that her brother Danny had gone missing. My wife is the oldest of four kids, and has three younger brothers. Danny, her oldest brother, had suffered for nearly two decades with severe bipolar disorder. There is an entire book that could be written about Danny’s struggles, but after 18 years, there was something different about this time. First of all, although Danny had spent most of his life in Kansas City, where my in-laws still live, he had in the last three years, settled in Rutland, Vermont, a very small town in the Northeast, which is home to the Spring Lake Ranch, a facility designed to help people with severe mental illness rehabilitate themselves.

Without going into all of the personal details, Danny, who was 34, had gone off his meds once again, and gotten into drugs again, a potent combination that never ends well. However, unlike all of his previous episodes, there was no one there to help him as he cycled downward, or to even recognize the warning signs, so when we got the word that Danny had gone missing, we didn’t realize at first how bad things had gotten.

Over the next month, our family literally went through hell trying to locate Danny. We did everything we could think of to find him, including offering a reward, coordinating a multi-state manhunt, constant media coverage, frequent trips to Vermont, and a whole bunch of other incredibly stressful stuff. This, all while trying to raise our three-year-old son, hold down our jobs and care for my in-laws, who had basically taken up residence in New York for the duration.

In early September, a body was found by a dog search team not two miles from Danny’s house. Since it was over Labor Day weekend, we had to endure an excruciating wait while the state coroner performed their autopsy to determine whether or not this body was in fact Danny’s.

Unfortunately, it was.

While processing this incredible tragedy, we also had to pull together funeral arrangements in a small town, and get the word out to everyone who knew Danny. The outpouring of support and love that Danny received was a wonderful tribute to the kind of loving person he was, and the memorial service was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced, and I can only imagine how much harder it was for his parents and my wife.

The real tragedy is that Danny was such a wonderful guy, although he was so sick he rarely believed it. He was one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever personally known, and were he able to get himself consistently stable, may have been able to work as a professional musician. He had the rare ability to hear a song once and play it on the guitar, note perfect. He was also an incredibly talented poet and visual artist. This is a YouTube recording he made with some friends at the Ranch that shows his incredible talent:

All of this completely transformed my life. One day we were on vacation, happily enjoying life, the next we were plunged into a darkness that still hasn’t fully passed.

I won’t pretend that the grief I feel is anywhere near what my wife and her family are going through, it’s not. I knew Danny and loved him like a brother, but we rarely saw each other. Still, I miss him, and it saddens me that my son will never get to see his Uncle again.

At any rate, my will to write, blog or even read comics, disappeared over night and I’m still not totally sure I’m ready to jump back in. Of course, I still love comics, and always will, but suddenly all of my stacks and longboxes and shelves full of graphic novels felt like silly distractions from the important things in life. Not that silly distractions aren’t important, but there are times when they feel that way.

With the new year, I am starting to feel the itch to blog again, but I think I’ll just post stuff here, in this relatively quiet corner of the internet for awhile. I have a bunch of ideas for various posts and other comics-type stuff that I'm excited about, so please check back from time to time.

Anyway, best wishes to all of you for a healthy and safe 2011. And make sure to hug your loved ones. You just never know.

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