Friday, July 14, 2017

My Friend Glenn

I haven't felt compelled to write in a little over a year. Mostly because nothing has pulled on my heart as much as the loss of my friend, Glenn. 

I was at his side when he took his final breath. Like a birth it was intense, painful and beautiful. I am less afraid of dying thanks to Glenn and even more determined to live.

Glenn and I met through work. He was sent to assist me with my property management duties and me, being a hard ass, control freak, incapable of taking directions, was convinced he was a spy.

Before knowing Glenn, I decided I loathed him. How dare he give me his opinion or try to curb, correct, or govern me.

My venom was fierce but being a true alpha feline, before inflicting pain on my prey I paused to study him. And when I did I noticed that Glenn was smart and witty, sweet and quirky, kind and compassionate. And on top of all that, he was a HUGE animal lover. It is impossible for me to strike down an animal lover.

I didn’t know Glenn as long as most of his friends, but I was there at the end and endings are very telling.

Glenn was relentless, courageous and unapologetic. Glenn never lost hope. No one, not even his doctors, could convince him that he was nearing the end of his life.

Glenn was a very private person and because of this, most of his friends did not know how gravely ill he was but he shared the reality of his merciless illness with me. I think to Glenn, I represented hope. "This is my friend, Shannon. She's had 5 cancers," he would say when introducing me to the hospital staff.

Glenn never wanted people to feel sorry for him, so he never complained. After a round of chemo I'd ask him how he was feeling and all he'd say was,"Oh well, you know how it is."

Glenn loved his friends. I know this because I heard the stories. There were so many unbelievable stories that I didn’t think most of them were real. They seemed larger than life - a famous Antique Road Show art appraiser, a master chef, a brilliant mathematician, gospel singers, actors, heads of corporations, even a group of nuns. Glenn spoke in great detail about his talented friends. People, he would tell me, that were almost as smart as him.

Glenn held many jobs over his lifetime, but what brought him the most joy was coaching tennis. Glenn spoke often about his students. To Glenn, each of them was special. He had the unique ability to recognize, nurture, uplift and promote the best in them.

During his last hospital stay, he told me about his friends Paul and Tom, and some guy who was the best kayaker on the east coast. He told me how they hiked mountains that straddled the Hudson River in NY. He showed me pictures of some of those hikes including Breakneck Ridge, Anthony's Nose and Storm King. This inspired me to go on a hike of my own. When I told him this he urged me not to go on challenging hikes because of the intense vertical ascent and steep rock escarpment. "I know you think you're in good shape," he told me, "but you're not." This was the kick in the ass that I needed. I sent Glenn pictures of myself and my fearless friend Yvonne on top of Breakneck Ridge - elevation 1,620 feet. With arthritis in my left knee, a grade three meniscus tear on my right, zero core strength due to major abdominal surgery 8 weeks earlier, no upper body strength and minimal aerobic conditioning, clearly I had no business being on a mountain of this magnitude. I never told Glenn he was right.

In the hours before he lost consciousness, I asked if I could stroke his hair and he said yes. Initially, this was an uncomfortable gesture because, despite our closeness, we never touched not even a warm embrace.

Later, I told him I loved him. Initially, these were uncomfortable words because, despite all we shared, we never spoke about our emotions. Despite our holidays together, our simple moments together our sushi dinners, our walks with my dogs, cooking, laughing we never expressed our appreciation for each other. But when I told him I loved him, I fully expected his reply to be… “Yes, Shannon, I love you too. I have loved you since the first moment I set eyes on you…”  Instead, he said, “that’s nice to hear.” 

Glenn never wanted to be a burden to anyone, so he never asked for help. But when he assigned me as his next of kin, he empowered me. In illness, we feel powerless. But when he held out his hand, he allowed me to pull him closer. This is the gift that comes from loving someone worth loving.

While in the ICU, Glenn asked me to steady his hand during his last paracentesis a painful gut draining procedure he endured multiple times during his battle with liver disease and cancer.  I think he asked this of me because he wanted me to witness his bravery. Glenn was very brave.

Glenn’s work ethic never faltered. Despite being in pain, weak and severely jaundice, he attended a board meeting with me on June 27th. Three days later he was admitted to Yale New Haven Hospital.  I was with him when he strutted out a few days later. He had two glorious days at home, one of which he spent at a Fourth of July party where he savored good food and friends. Later that day, liver failure and elevated ammonia levels in his brain caused confusion and he was taken to Bridgeport Hospital where, a week later, he passed away.

As most of his friends know, Glenn was a devoted son. The care and compassion he showed his mother throughout her life and especially during her decline, speaks to the soul of this man. And for a guy with no living family, no one who was obligated to care for him, he managed to surround himself with love. He was never alone. Whether it was his neighbors, his co-workers, or his amazing friends, no one turned their back on Glenn.

Glenn, you were truly one of a kind. I love you…

Glenn Baron 
8/8/63 to 7/12/17 

A Happy Birthday message to Glenn - Ireland 2016. Even the cows chime in.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy Independence Day

MonkeyME in a tree
Photo by DustBunny

I am focused on my independence.

I am living big - packing as much as I can into each day.

I am making plans - all of them short term, some impulsive, because there is no guarantee of tomorrow.

I am surrounding myself with amazing friends. There is so much laughter. So much to learn. So much to celebrate. So much I would have missed if I continued to isolate myself in my marriage.

I've attended multiple workshops at the Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, NY.

To nurture an ongoing connection with my son, on Memorial Day weekend (the anniversary of his death), I took a four-day workshop with medium,  Lisa Williams. SHE is fabulous. She taught me so much more than the art of mediumship. She showed me how important it is to live for yourself, without apologies. To live without censorship. To trust my inner guidance and to grab as much as I can get.

To nurture my love of self, I took a three-day workshop with Anita Moorjani. SHE is fabulous. Anita survived and thrived after her cancer.  I do not like to associate these words with such a horrific disease, but she is the exception to the rule. Anita, totally debilitated from stage 4 cancer, entered a coma and while her organs were shutting down, traveled to another realm of consciousness. There she discovered her true purpose in life and the importance of self love. And when she agreed to come back, she did so cancer free.

MonkeyMe and Anita Moorjani

On a whim, I flew out west to celebrate a DEAR (Burning Man campmate, chosen family) friends 40th birthday. The time it took me to get there was almost as long as the time I spent there, but it was PACKED with love and all things amazing, and I felt honored to be a part of such a magnificent celebration.

With my Chosen Family celebrating Jelly's 40th Birthday - aka Jelly Burn 2016

I began the practice of Transcendental Meditation back in early June. It was one of many birthday gift to myself. I practice this technique twice a day for 20 minutes. The immediate benefits include a steady stream of intense joy and an appreciation for the perfection that is LIFE, balance with a peacefulness that allows me to digest, without being infected by, the turmoil and turbulence that sometimes bubbles around me.

I revisited Saratoga Springs, NY with family and friends for my 17th year at the Jazz Festival. Regardless of the lineup, it never disappoints. Together we laughed and celebrated and misbehaved. It's all too silly to make sense of to anyone who didn't witness it first hand, but I laugh out loud, still, every time I think of it.


This is where, last year, I met George Clooney. He was back again for round two, but when I asked him if he wanted to take a walk in the woods (a repeat of last years teenage make-out session), he responded that he was too tired. That is when I finally realized our fairytale romance was over.

Friends, Family and Clooney

He was quickly replaced by John Jacob Jingleheimer - a tall, well built, forty-two year old, former naval officer who walked a bit too close to our blanket. After reeling him in and dirty dancing with him, we exchanged numbers and jumped into an intense state of texting. Without warning, he sent me a text of his semi-wrapped, well endowed "package" which I found shocking and offensive (and perhaps a bit too large). After showing his photo to everyone present, and 20 or 30 of my closest friends (and now YOU), I discovered that the only one who found this disrespectful was me. When I expressed my dismay to him, his defense was that my sensuality demanded it.

The package

We played this ping-pong texting game for a total of five days, during which time he described what I consider the BEST first date ever.

I come out to you on a weekend. Early. I take you for a pedicure. We go to lunch. I take you shopping. Multipe boutiques. Try on different outfits. Have fun! Talk. Flirt. Tease. I buy you an outfit to wear for dinner. Mabye shoe shopping to see your sexy feet deliciously decorated for my pleasure.  Cocktails and more conversation and flirting at the bar.  I want all eyes on you. Drinking in your sexual energy. Dinner. Quiet booth. Rub your feet and legs after - softly. Kissing, touching.

He dumped me when I refused to send him anymore pictures of my feet and after declaring that his fetish for feet and older women struck me as "dangerous."

I must confess...This was not my first, post divorce failed attempt at celebrating my sexuality.

When I was dangerously close to overextending my leased mileage, I found Brandon, the Audi salesman. This 6 foot 7, 43 year old, former hip-hop rapper, managed to sell me a car without me realizing I was being sold something. And when he offered to bring a luggage rack to my house and install it himself, I had no idea he meant to install more than a luggage rack.

In the showroom, Brandon was a refined gentleman, but after-hours he was a man on a mission, determined to introduce me to his side of the hood.

I invited him to lunch on a weekend when my grandson, Jackson was with me. After a few beers and an extra large pizza, he let his intentions be known.

"I think you're grandmother is fine," said Brandon.
"Thanks," said Jackson, totally in awe of his grandeur.
"When I showed her how to work her new car, my dick got hard," said Brandon

When I erupted in embarrassment Jackson, cool as a can be said, "It's okay Nanny, sometimes that happens. He's just keeping it real."

I sent Brandon out the door before he had a chance to install my rack, but later rethought my decision. Despite his abruptness, there was something undeniably alluring about being with someone who was the total opposite of my X-husband - tall, black and bold vs small, white and withdrawn.

The next time, I cooked him dinner while entertaining him with reasons why we were not a good match.  For one, his age. And second, his late night texts and a past that changed its stripes every time he spoke about it.

Somewhere after the grilled salmon but before the dessert he argued, "but look at my dick," and then he took it out of his pants.

I don't have a picture of it. I would have had to be in the next room to fit it into one frame.

MonkeyME and the Wolf Cub

I still dream about my night with the Wolf Cub, and wonder if there is a man out there with the perfect balance of youth and wisdom. Someone who can entice and entertain me. Someone who doesn't need an afternoon nap, or a little blue pill, or a toupee, or a man bra, or a mommy, or a .....

Until then, I'll keep having fun.

XO, MonkeyME

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Saturday Night Take-Out

It is 7:30 on a Saturday night. I walk to the local Asian restaurant wearing bedroom slippers and no makeup. I used to order take-out for two so that the host wouldn't know I was alone.

Nowadays, I don't care what the host thinks. Besides, he will probably gobble down his dinner while hunched over a sink stacked with half empty rice bowls and greasy woks.

As I reach for the front door, a couple exits. I recognize them immediately. Our daughters went to school together. Her name is Barbara and I never knew her tall, attentive, wildly successful, handsome husband's name.

They don't recognize me immediately. She calls me Nancy.
"No," I say, "it's Shannon."

I think about telling them that Nancy is the name of my daughter's, father's, first wife, and coincidentally, his girlfriend, but quickly realize how ridiculous the truth sounds.

I politely ask how they are doing and how their children are doing. I even ask how their dog, Buddy the beagle, is doing. Everyone is doing well. Very, very well.

I seem to remember everything about this happy family. Mainly, I remember that Barbara was the only mothers from my daughter's class who attended my son's funeral.

It is their turn to ask how I am doing but they say nothing. They just stand there smiling and I wonder if they are afraid to ask.

I think about blurting out, "I've had cancer, all sorts of horrible cancer. And I'm divorced, again."

Instead, I tell them how proud I am of my daughter. How happy she is and how, at this very moment, she is in Colorado with the man she loves, volunteering at a camp for autistic children.

I stop short of saying, "Last Saturday we had dinner together. I wasn't alone, like I am now."

"Name please?" asks the host.
"Shannon," I tell him.
He hands me a small, brown paper bag marked, SHAMOO. I think about telling him that my name is not Shamoo. Instead, I decide that the next time I order take-out I will say my name is Nancy.

I come home with my take-out for one and find a neighbor's party in full swing. She recently moved into the condo directly below me. She seems like a lovely woman. She keeps to herself. She is quiet, except for tonight.

My plan was to eat my sushi-for-one beside a roaring fire while listening to jazz trumpeter, Theo Crocker. But all I can hear is their gayety so I eat my sushi over the sink, with the water running to drown the sound of their laughter.

It is 9:00 by the time I crawl into bed with a cup of green tea, my knitting, and an audiobook.

In my stretch of singleness between marriage number 2 and 3, I would line up Saturday night dates  by Wednesday. I had a collection of suiters to choose from. It didn't really matter what I thought of them as long as they were wild about me. My self-worth was measured by male approval.

I remind myself that I am here, alone in my bed, by choice. I would have preferred to stay married to a man I loved if I could have controlled his actions. And I would have preferred to avoided multiple cancer diagnoses, and treatments, and scars and ongoing healing, if I had control over my genetics.

But I do have control over how I respond to life's disappointments. I have responded with courage and conviction. This is how I now measure my self-worth.

I awake Sunday morning feeling refreshed. After a leisurely walk in the park with the dogs, I retreat to the loft with a large mug of french pressed coffee. I savor my solitude. And I write.

xo, MonkeyME

“Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loath to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving toward the summit of fulfillment.” 

― John O'DonohueAnam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison