Not only do I not despair but I’m a very blessed guy. Here are a few examples of why:

  • Cindy and Tom and Laura and Adam let me be wing-man to the true chick magnet, Cooper.
  • My sister’s daughter Jessica has just moved to Oregon and I now have a next-gen family member to hang with.
  • My cousin Cheryl’s kid Rachel and her wife share their awesome sons with me.
  • My friend Traci has allowed me to be part of her son’s lives ever since I’ve known her and, in the wake of the tragic early passing of her husband has opened their lives to me daily.
  • My niece, Denise, allowed me to help her when she was young until now when she has a clan of her own. From the days when I could buy her her high school class ring through her wedding day, and into married life, she is among the brightest lights ever.
  • In fact, Denise’s brothers and parents have been among the coolest family of all time.
  • As president of my Synagogue I was given the great privilege of being allows to feel as a parent to dozens of kids.

These are just a few wonderful things I think of every day. These are people who open their lives to me and give me the joy of participating with their children. These are some of the reasons that I feel no despair. I feel shared love.

So… wanna hear my philosophy of life as a dude without kids? It’s this:

  1. You don’t always get what you want. You get dealt cards and you play the hand you are dealt with as much joy, skill, and competence as you can.
  2. You get chances every day to make decisions. You can like or dislike them in retrospect but you must take responsibility for them without looking back.
  3. People have intrinsic value. Children are people. Therefore, children have value.
  4. Being the best human you can be has the highest value. Children are in a process of emerging as fully developed humans. Therefore, raising great children has the highest value.
  5. Sometimes the universe intends for you do do something you did not expect. I don’t have kids but, had I, I might not have been their for Denise when she wanted her class ring, I might not have been able to drop everything to help Traci with the boys when she was dealing with a loss, I might not have been able to serve the kids of my synagogue. Etc. Etc. Etc. So, perhaps my path in life was to help other kids. How could that be anything but a blessing!
  6. Live in the moment. Take the kindness and generosity of others and embrace it with love.
  7. Don’t feel bad about one thing when you can feel good about the million others that surround you.
  8. Ignore any religious doctrine that makes you feel lesser for not being “fruitful and multiplying”. It’s silliness and it just screws with your mind. Remember how shallow the gene pool would be if everyone followed the ancients.
  9. If you want kid-joy then take responsibility for finding kids who need the joy you want to share. Help other’s children grow and take ever second you have to do that as a sacred gift.
  10. Live not for what isn’t; just live for what is.

What all of that means to me is this:

Some people don’t want kids. I did. Things are different than I’d planned. That’s no reason to go crazy. It’s totally cool to have periods of melancholy; I am, after all, human. But, there is no value in looking backward when, living in the moment, I can find someone whose children need exactly what I can share at every turn.

So, to sum it all up…

Yup. I sometimes feel sad when I see other people who have the kids and grandchildren I’d once envisioned. But, that is a normal thing and there are millions of moments when things are just fine. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a few down moments compared to millions of up ones. Every day I look forward and, if my path in life is to help other people’s kids then fine by me, the most important thing is to use the blessings that surround you to keep repairing the sorely damaged world.

Whoever’s kids inhabit that world in the future, if I can make it better for them and make a few of them better for it then I’m a happy guy!

 

We’ve established that the word “despair” blows me away and that you don’t need to feel sorry for me. So, why should you give a shit about me and my lack of grandkids, at all?

The first answer is easy:

Love is not binary. Feelings are not binary. Emotions are not binary. In fact, love, feelings, and emotions are not even discreet. These elements of our life are continuous functions. So, just because I’m not suicidal does not mean you shouldn’t care. I want your love and support.

The second answer is more complex:

To me, a part of examining one’s life in an open forum is to help others learn by sharing experiences. I share many things here and on Facebook and Twitter that are really no one’s business but my own. I choose to share my shit, not so you will feel sorry for me, but so that we can learn from each other.

  • I guarantee you hate some of my posts.
  • I guarantee you smile at at least a few.
  • I guarantee you don’t know why the hell I share some things I do.
  • I guarantee I piss you off.
  • I guarantee that, at least on occasion, you think about the value of compassion, the need for personal responsibility, and the value of integrity. Those are the 3 pillars that support me and…
  • I guarantee it helps ME to get shit out of my system and to embrace your feedback.

As Socrates reminds us, “The unexamined life is not worth living“. I embrace that in a public way both for me and for anyone who cares. So, it’s good for us all if you care.

The fact is that caring about other people, while holding myself accountable for my own actions, is the foundation of my life.

I used to think I was an Objectivist. Then I found how much joy I got from helping other people succeed. I gave up the Objectivist path because if lacked a notion of benevolence. Then my friend Nathaniel Branden (of blessed memory) started speaking of benevolence at Objectivism conferences. I’ll still never be an Objectivist because it conflicts with some of my Reform Jewish values. But, from it, I learned to take responsibility for myself and to recognize that making one’s self the best one can be DOES help others succeed! it does so because one may stand as a role model and because there is nothing wrong with bringing others along for the ride. So, when I paired that with my Jewish notion of benevolence I came up with a value system that works for me.

That is why you should care about me and my desire for children. Because my hope is that taking you along for the ride will make us all better people. Helping all of us to become better people is why I see those of you who share your children with me as an extraordinary blessing. It provides both the giver and the receiver the opportunity to help others through responsible action.

More on that is coming soon…

Okay y’all, I said on Facebook that I’d write a post like this and here it is.

A few days ago my very good friend Cindy met me and Patt for coffee. She brought with her, her grandson Cooper. I totally dig the kid, his mom, and yes grandma. I posted on Facebook that I wish I had kids and grandkids. Among my main points was how blessed I am that my friends and family allow me to be part of their families. A few people got that. Some did not.

Let’s start with the folks who feel sorry for poor, melancholy, Steve. I need to clarify something: You don’t make me feel any better by telling me I can adopt kids or be a foster parent.

I’m fucking 56 years old. There is a very important woman in my life (in fact the most important thing in my life) with whom I’d like to spend time before one of us keels over. I can barely stop myself from continually working now. I doubt that putting kids through college at 70 or 80 is a good retirement strategy. One can not change past bad decisions by making present bad decisions. Thanks for the thoughts, though. I know that they come from your heart.

Second, please don’t go overboard in trying to psychologically deconstruct me. I may need a therapist to do that but I’ll forgo the amateur (though clearly, lovingly, well-intentioned) deconstruction. I received an email from someone telling me this:

I waited so long for my children that I was in despair, despair of much the same kind as yours is.

I am NOT in despair. To me the word “despair” is huge. It means something like “I don’t have kids, how horrible! I’ll kill myself if I don’t have kids”. Dudes! That is NOT me!

I have no sense of despair. Sometimes I have a little melancholy but that’s not a bad thing. It certainly is not despair. There are lots of things I wish I had; mostly money related. But I despair over none of it. As long as I have Patt, there will be no proper use of the word “despair” in my life. So, get over that one. I promise to let you know if I’m ever in despair.

Now, though I love them all very deeply, you know what I think about people who feel sorry for me. The more important thing, though, is how I feel about ME.

Stay tuned.

 

Dear American people who are’t white,

For the past year-and-a-half Donald Trump has clearly indicated that he does not like you. 

He has said he would create deportation forces the rid our country of illegal immigrants – especially all you bad Mexican rapists. He has been unwavering in his intent to build a giant wall to keep out all you “bad ones”. 

Now Mr. Trump wants to “work with” illegal immigrants as long as the “pay their back taxes”. 

Before you think Mr. Trump had become sane, please remember that he is trying to win an election. Like all politicians, Mr. Trump will say anything the party tells him to say to win. This is not about truth. It is about winning.

So, I write to you today to say this:

Please don’t think that Donald Trump has changed. If anything, he is more inconsistent now than ever. Don’t trust him any more than you did yesterday.

Yesterday, Mr. Trump did not like you. Today Mr. Trump still doesn’t like you. Dont’t think otherwise.

You friend,

Steve

It’s been about 9 months since I last updated everyone on my brain tumor and, if you think I’m not telling you enough then, all I can say is “have patience“. Hard as that may be, that’s what I’m learning to do.

Since I last bored you with my progress I’ve had 2 MRIs. One was last February and the other was last week. Both were multi-planer multi-sequence imaging studies both with and without Gadavist contrast. In the 6 months between the 2 studies the tumor has not changed in size. My radiation doctor says this is a good thing (yay me!). For a film with extremely high production values and an amazing voiceover see below.

          <<<Check this out: My Schwannoma – The Movie>>>

I’m bummed despite the good news. See, for a small percentage of patients stereotactic radiosurgery on a trigeminal schwannoma will shrink the tumor a little bit. For most of us, simply stopping the growth is all we can expect. So, to the folks who don’t have my brain, this is great news because it’s as expected.

But, I’m not an average “as expected” kinda guy.

I set my personal objectives far above average and I expect any little motherfucker that wants to take up space and hang out in MY brain to do the same. Ya wanna be a piece o’ me ya gotta perform to my standards! My doc says that’s not the way things work. I say my tumor should hire my cousin Caitlin as a life coach!

(Actually… that makes no sense since I want the thing to die and dead tumors don’t need life coaches. – Yet another home run for cognitive dissonance. Damn).

That was where the bit about realistic expectations comes in. Here’s the part about patience.

My next MRI will not be for a YEAR. In that time, unless my symptoms change, I won’t see the doctor again. Schwann cells are not very radio-sensitive. So, even if the tumor does shrink somewhat, it will be over the course of a couple of years. When you have a numb eyeball, a couple years is a long fucking time. But, dead schwann cells are like a fine wine (strike that…. it’d be a mixed metaphor unless I find a way to tie life coaching and wine drinking together and I’m too lazy to do that right now even if it is pretty easy.) Anyway…

… But dead Schwann cells take a long time to result after radiation exposure. So, what I really should be doing is to be grateful that this thing grew slowly and happy that my doctor says the treatment is working as planned. But that’s hard.

What I think I learned today is that gratitude is easy to forget and patience is difficult to remember. But, both are keys to getting through any bout with adversity. So, over the course of the next year those are  the skills I need to cultivate.

See… the little bastard taught me something again🙂

Cheers.

 

Every year on Tisha B’Av I write a little essay here. This year I’m not sure what to say. The Ninth day of Av is traditionally the day that we mourn the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Since we Reform Jews don’t want the temple cult to come back we have, in recent years, used the day to mourn all of the tragedy of the Jewish people. Every year I think that the Jewish people and the state of Israel are so far better off then we once were. Every year that dream seems to be unfulfilled, or shattered, or at least kicked in the balls a bit. This year is no exception. But, instead of telling you all the reasons why we have a long, long way to go, I will just sum it up with one example. Today an Israeli Olympic athlete beat an Egyptian athlete in a Judo match in Rio. The Egyptian would not only not shake hands but even refused to bow to the Israeli. When an Israeli can’t even get the courtesy of a bow that is mandatory by international Judo rules, let alone a handshake, at an event founded on good sportsmanship between countries, just because of his nationality, the Jewish people have plenty still to mourn. That’s all I have to say.

I read a post on Facebook the other day that I found nearly too poignant to bear. It was the final post before leaving this world, by someone who I do not know.

It is a post by a woman whose way of communicating with her family and friends, before succumbing to a cancer that lay in remission for nearly 2 decades before metastasizing with a vengeance, demonstrates strength, bravery, and a commitment to loved  ones that I deeply admire.

I will not tell you who the writer is. She passed away this week and it is not for me to say whether she would allow it. Her sister, who is a friend of mine, said it was fine to post the message here. So I’ll share it with minor redaction to preserve privacy. I hope, if I am ever in the position of the woman who posted this, that I will handle my last hours with 1/100 of the dignity with which she did.

What follows are not my words. I share them in the hope that you will find their grace inspiring.


“I don’t know where to start. Normally, these updates would start out with some light humor, as I always try to look on the bright side of a situation. At least, the view from the 14th floor of <…> is fabulous. I get to look out over the city every day, as the fog lifts, and see the breeze swaying through the eucalyptus trees.

As you know, this cancer was under control for so long (18 years), but started to mutate and get out of control in just a matter of a few months. The treatments that I’ve tried since January have all failed. I have decided to go into hospice care now. I’ve received hundreds of well wishes, light, love and energy and that is invaluable to me. I will never be able to thank you all personally, but know that from the bottom of my heart, I do love each and every one of you dearly. There is no predicting when this will happen, and as I require more pain and comfort meds, it will be harder for me to communicate with you all.

The year 2016 has been an utter shit show, and the worst in my memory. Friends’ parents dying, my husband’s father dying, pets dying, violence in the world we know (the violence that is acknowledged and the violence that no one talks about). It saddens me.

I will be sad to miss <…> and bowling (although it is the company more than the activity itself I will miss). I will miss sitting in repose in my beautiful house that <…> and I worked so hard for, or on the back deck taking in the beauty of the backyard, which we transformed into an oasis. I will miss the beautiful evolution that has been happening since <…> and I moved to Vallejo and for which we’ve been a huge part of since moving there.

I feel I have lived my life as fully as possible, with as much joy, and filled with many places visited, and much scenery enjoyed. It is fitting that I am looking out over the city that I love, the city that drew <…> and I to the West Coast.

I am an unabashed feminist, and I must admit that there have been many women in my life who have given me inspiration and courage. I won’t be able to acknowledge them all, but I wanted to give a special acknowledgement to three of them:

<…>

The idea of community has always been an integral part of who I am. Communities that have formed me, as much as I hoped I have had an influence on them:
<…>

I hope that I have been able to support them as much as they have supported me through good times and bad.

If you want to do something nice for me, please honor me by doing something nice for someone else, or a cause that is important to me. Here are two that I have thought a lot about and are causes I care about: Planned Parenthood and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

If I had any final wishes, or thoughts, it would be this. Seeing the sameness in each other. We need to be easier on ourselves and easier on this world we live in. I feel like we are all just atoms, passing through space and time and we are trading them with each other all the time. So when I leave this body behind, we already share these things, so you will never be without me.”


To you guys, who know who you are, and who are experiencing this time of grief: thanks for letting me share these words. Please know that I do so with love for you and gratitude for our continuing friendship.

“Seeing the sameness in each other. We need to be easier on ourselves and easier on this world we live in.” Damn, I wish I’d said that.