A Family’s Tragic Loss Felt From Afar

I don’t know where the tears came from; from a faraway collection of broken hearts, I suppose.

But they came this morning, uninvited, when I learned Deven Lee Scott had passed away.

She was beautiful. She was 27. She was family. And now she’s gone.

Like I said, broken hearts feeling the pain of losing a daughter, a mother, a friend; it travels over time and space and, if you let it, it’ll hit you hard.

This morning it hit me as a few tears rolled down my face as I learned the news.

If I’m being honest, though, I never had the pleasure of meeting Deven.

She is my cousin’s husband’s brother’s daughter, so technically there is no direct connection to me, no shared bloodlines that run from me to her.

I never had the chance to meet her, to talk to her, or learn about her, though she is, no doubt, somebody who seemed so special to those who loved her.

I never had the chance to look directly into those sky blue eyes, or see her infectious, radiating smile.

And, I never had the chance to meet her children—Aleigha, Jayce, Natalie—just another limb off a branch on the other side of the extended family tree.

Deven was my cousin’s niece, my second cousins’ cousin. So, as far as I’m concerned, she is part of my family and I mourn her death along with all of them.

Growing up, my cousins were my first closest friends.

So many weeks we would travel from our home in the small town of Orrington, Maine, driving 30 miles over hill and dale, to an even smaller town called Garland.

It was there where my cousin Debbie, the oldest sibling in her family of four children, fell in love with Mike Scott.

Mike Scott had a bevy of brothers—Brent, Reggie, Cecil.

Cecil Scott is Deven’s father.

I don’t remember how old I was when I was asked to be the ring bearer at Mike and Debbie’s wedding. As such, I was in the wedding party along with the Scott brothers.

What I do remember, though, is the band of brothers the Scott family had; many of whom would always be around every time we visited over the years.

Cecil’s pain is immense, unfathomable. To lose a child? As parents, we can’t even think of it.

I know this week, those brothers stand beside him, strong for him, as he buries his daughter.

I haven’t seen Cecil in probably 25 years, perhaps at my aunt’s funeral, but I can’t honestly remember if he was there that day.

But, as distant family members are apt to do, we follow each other on Facebook, so we both know what is going on in each other’s lives.

It wasn’t too long ago that Cecil lost the love of his life, his wife, Bonnie. October 2, 2016, to be exact.

And now Deven, gone at 27, far too soon.

Perhaps the only comfort in this, as many people have pointed out, is that Deven is back in the loving arms of her mother.

We can only hope so.

So who was Deven Lee Scott, my cousin’s husband’s brother’s daughter?

I don’t know. I can’t tell you, though I wish I could.

Instead, I have to let other’s speak for her.

Deven was “a thrill seeker and loved the excitement of life. There was never a dull moment when she was around. She loved her family and children endlessly. She had an enormous heart with so much love to give.”

Those are just some of the words that appeared in her obituary this morning.

But those words are not enough.

Online, the place where so many of us are connected, the tributes began rolling in.

“RIP Deven Lee you will be greatly missed,” wrote one friend, in a Facebook post. “You were a wonderful kind hearted person that would do anything for anyone….You are a mother to three beautiful children. I just can’t believe you are gone. Gone but never forgotten.”

“May you rest at peace Deven Lee Scott and may a smile on your face and peace in your heart be with you always,” wrote another. “What a beautiful smile you had and the biggest heart.”

“I can’t believe my best friend Deven Lee Scott passed away,” was yet one more. “My heart is breaking in millions of pieces.”

Many hearts are broken this week, and as of this morning so is mine.

I send out my love and prayers to my cousins for the loss of their cousin and niece, and to Cecil and his other children, Stephanie and Cecil, two others I also haven’t had the pleasure of meeting.

At least, not yet.

May you forever rest in peace, Deven Lee Scott.

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A Return To The Links: Giving the Game Another Go

The author captured this photo of a golfer hitting an approach shot earlier this spring.

For pretty much all of my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the game of golf.

It has given me many great memories; yet it has cost me dearly, both physically and emotionally.

Today, just two weeks past my 52nd birthday, I’ve made a decision to take the game up again.

I’m Tiger Woods Redux, only paler and fatter and older and nowhere near as good as he is … left-handed.

 

I went out and low balled the heck out of second golf career, spending $300 for clubs, a bag, a glove, 36 balls, 100 tees, and a pair of Nike Golf Shoes.

Less than a mile from house, there is a nine-hole Par 3 course. The Short Beach Golf Course, it’s called.

It’s only $10 a round, so that’s where I’ll start my comeback.

Hole by hole, I’ll play to the future. Getting better, I hope, while both my weight and my score drop lower and lower.

As I sit here thinking about my next first round, I can’t help but dance with the ghosts of my foursome as I tee off on this thought and making it become a reality.

• • •

Insert wiggly flashback special effects here.

• • •

I was just a boy that day my dad and I went to the golf course in Eddington. Watchoverya, is what I called. Even today, I don’t know how to spell it.

It’s where I first swung a club and even though it’s long gone now–closed, defunct, overgrown, no doubt–it still holds a special place in my heart for that reason.

Father. Son. Bonding over a sport.

Golf is one of my favorite memories with my dad. And that’s where it all started.

• • •

Insert wiggly flashback special effects here.

• • •

In middle school, eighth grade to be exact, I had a student teacher named Mr. Blodgett.

Donald Blodgett from Penobscot, Maine.

Growing up in a small town like Orrington, Maine, most of my teachers were wily and cagey veterans. Too damn old to be cool or to be able to reach students on a certain level. It was there way or the highway.

They wouldn’t put up with much bullshit and—as good old Robert Bradford, a science teacher, showed me that same year—if you dished out you’d get a punch straight to the forehead.

But, I digress. Mr. Blodgett was probably my first “favorite teacher”, even if he was just a student teacher who would be gone by the end of the year. He was cool and it was fun to be in his class.

Once the school year was over, I was saddened to see Mr. Blodgett go. But one of my favorite middle school memories was playing a round of golf with him that following summer at the Pine Hill Golf Club.

I also made one of my all-time great golf shots that day: A long, winding, twisting putt from one end of the green to the other that found nothing but the bottom of the cup.

I knew where my golf had gone after that. I never knew what happened to Mr. Blodgett.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, though, I found out for this post.

Mr. Blodgett lives in Scarborough and retired from the Old Orchard Beach school system.

I wonder how his golf game is. Chances are when I’m out on the course later this week, he’ll surely cross my mind.

And thanks, Mr. Blodgett, for having such an effect on a student before your career truly got off the ground.

• • •

Insert wiggly flashback special effects here.

• • •

I was 19 going on 20 and it was at a time when I loved three things.

My new job as a sports assistant at the Bangor Daily News; my new girlfriend, Jennifer; and the game of golf.

Any chance I got I would tee it up and play. Bangor Muni, Pine Hill, Woodland Terrace. My friends and I would even trek to Portland to play when we could.

That summer I got pretty good, or at least I thought I did.

I shot an 84 at Woodland Terrace, a Par 60 course – my lowest score ever for 18 holes. And I shot a 93 at Bangor Muni, my best-ever score on a real par 72-course.

One day, playing the sixth hole at Bangor Muni, a 169-yard par 3, I struck the ball perfectly. Seven iron, if I remember right.

I watched my shot sail into the sky, reach an apex and fall back to earth.

It was a pinseeker if there ever was one and for the only time in my life I thought I might get a hole-in-one.

The ball landed and skipped slightly left, winding up four inches wide of the hole.

I tapped in for birdie. So close and yet so far.

That’s the thing about golf.

You can stink it up for 17 holes and then hit three perfect shots on the 18th and walk off with a birdie.

And that’s what keeps you coming back.

If you can do it once, why can’t you do it all the time.

And doing it all the time is what cost me my relationship with Jennifer. Instead of walking back, I walked away.

Golf got in the way, she got angry and the eyes of another caught my attention.

That led me down a path where I got away from golf a little bit, playing only from time to time.

Did golf remind me of what I lost too much? Hard to say, even all these years later.

But I never forgave the game for what it cost me.

• • •

Insert wiggly flashback special effects here.

• • •

The last time I played golf was in Somersworth, N.H. The year was 2000? Maybe 2001.

I don’t even remember the name of the course.

I just remember taking a shot, hearing a pop and feeling a burning sensation in my right shoulder blade.

Just like that, the golf clubs were put in a closet for good.

I haven’t played a round since.

How much will I play in the future?

Who knows?

Will my shoulder handle the wear or tear again?

Who knows?

Will I find the sport a bore, a bad walk spoiled and thus have wasted all this money giving it a go?

Again, I ask, Who knows?

But I’m going to try to comeback. Just like Tiger did.

He has the whole world watching.

I have nobody.

So let’s tee it up, let it fly (in whatever direction it heads) and we’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, “Fore!”

There is no seeing eye-to-eye on anything anymore

Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Joe Kelly fights with New York Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin after hitting him with a pitch along with catcher Christian Vazquez during the seventh inning of the MLB game at Fenway Park on Wednesday, April 11, 2018. (Boston Herald/Matt Stone)

It’s funny how we can’t see eye-to-eye on anything anymore.

If it’s not the unpredictability and unprofessionalism of the alleged world leader I call “45”, then it’s the obviously out-dated historic stand called The Second Amendment.

Or, it’s the Red Sox vs. Yankees.

Forty-five is still doing what “45” does and The Second Amendment is still a hot button topic even as more of our children die (Yes, yes, I agree, there are many other issues, too), but on Wednesday night I realized that one way to understand the non-comprehensible is too look at it from the other side.

It’s the Red Sox vs. the Yankees and it’s not easy.

You hurt Bill Lee’s shoulder, we throw an old man to the ground. You karate chop a ball out of a pitcher’s hands, our catcher beats the crap out of you for disrespecting us.

Ah, baseball. Ah, the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry.

The two teams are at it again this week at Fenway Park, and on Wednesday things boiled over the top once again.

During the game, some kid named Tyler Austin slid into some dyed-haired kid named Brock Holt.

Let’s be honest here: Had anybody from either Nation – Red Sox Nation/Yankee Nation – ever heard of the other player or even cared about either of them before Wednesday?

As all ball players are taught to do, Austin went hard into his slide. He also went in with his spikes high and to the left of the bag, clipping Holt’s lower leg.

Words were exchanged both on the field and on Twitter.

Red Sox Nation knew it was a bad slide.

Yankee Nation knew there was nothing dirty about it.

Everybody watching the game on television got two stories.

Those watching PIX-11, the Yankees broadcast, were preached to about it being a good slide, nothing wrong with it.

Those watching on NESN were told it was the first salvo of a dirty play, the latest moment in a rivalry gone kind of stale in the 21st Century.

As much as it seemed to be a heads-or-tails issue, truth be told and it was a two-headed coin and it all depended upon the eye of the beholder.

Or, what if the spikes were on the other feet?

Austin struck out in his next at-bat, which certainly made Red Sox fans chuckle. Take that, right!

Well, no.

In the seventh inning, the Red Sox got what the infamous unwritten baseball rules cite as revenge, and he got plunked in the back with a 98-mile-per-hour Joe Kelly fastball.

Austin exploded.

Twitter exploded.

And everything else all depended from which eyes you watched.

Red Sox fans embraced Kelly screaming “Let’s go!!!” as Austin charged the mound from the batter’s box.

Yankees fans laughed at how its behemoth batting due of Aaron Judge (6-foot-7, 282 pounds) and Giancarlo Stanton (6-6, 245 pounds without his wallet) “pushed the pile of players” toward the Red Sox dugout.

As though nobody who adores pinstripes has ever heard the law of physics before.

But I digress.

As I perused Twitter, half watching the rest of the game, two things popped into my head—What I thought and what I knew.

What I thought was this: Did Austin intend to hurt Holt with his slide? Probably not, though it wasn’t as innocent a slide as Yankee fans would have you believe. The spikes were high and inside the bag. Period.

What I know is this: Had the tables been turned, had Holt slid into a base in identical fashion, and had his metal spikes clipped the lower leg of Yankees shortstop Didi Gregrious, New York fans would have been saying the same thing Red Sox fans were.

But alas that is likely to ever happen.

You either support 45 or you don’t. You either think it’s OK to have a tank or anti-air defense missile in your basement or you don’t.

You either support the Yankees or the Red Sox.

Or you watched Netflix last night and none of this makes any sense to you.

Fate brings old friends together again

The author, right, and his best friend growing up, stumbled upon each other at JFK Airport on a random day in March 2018.

 

The ghosts, when they come to dance, usually do so in a fleeting flash; a memory spurned by an image, a smell, a song.

This one came via a text message.

“Hey where are you right now?” it read.

It was sent by Jody Norton, one of my best friend’s growing up; a kid I met on a bus when I was in the third grade and we were essentially inseparable until college.

Jody and I talked about once a year, maybe texted a couple of other times if the need had arisen.

I might have seen him just once in the past two decades, on one of my rare sojourns home to my native Maine.

I glanced at my phone and started to reply.

“JFK Airport in NYC. You?” I wrote.

After college, Jody had left Maine to prepare for his future. But he came home, returning to Maine to become a chiropractor in Blue Hill, a small coastal town maybe a half hour drive from the even smaller community where we grew up.

He had married a girl named Laurie Cox – I was the best man at their wedding – and had a child and made a great life for himself both personally and professionally.

Me?

I was divorced, broken, a 21st century loner waiting to fly to Florida to kick off a nine-day vacation that would take me from one end of the country to the other and back again.

Why Jody would be texting me out of the blue with such a question was beyond me. I assumed maybe he was hanging out at one of our former haunts – the Brewer High tennis courts, John Bapst High School, Garland Street Field, Center Drive School.

My phone vibrated and I glanced at the incoming message.

“Dude you just walked by me.”

I looked up and urgently glanced about the terminal.

There he stood – Jody James Norton – looking much like he did in high school. Same height (not so tall); same weight (still skinny, damn him).

Just like that, the years of absence were gone.

I abandoned my bags – perhaps not the best thing to do in a New York City airport – and walked across the terminal to give my old friend a hug.

As I did, the memories … the ghosts … kicked the door in and came flooding back in a rush.

Girls. Sports. Dreams. Goals. Girls. Sports. School. Friends. Girls. Sports. Moments.

Did I mention girls and sports?

This was more than just running into an old friend, mind you.

Jody is literally my brother from another mother.

It takes a village, they say? Well, Jody’s family – his brother and three sisters – were my secondary tribe and just as responsible for raising me as my own family was.

Of all the gin joints in the world, though, we run into each other in a place where 136,000-plus people travel through on a daily basis.

What are the odds?

Only fate can answer that.

For the better part of two hours, as we waited for our flight to Florida we sat and talked.

Jody and Laurie, now married for nearly 30 years, were heading on a cruise with friends from Wisconsin.

I was heading to the next day of my life with no baggage, save for that checked suitcase being shoved into the cargo hold of the plane.

We sat and talked -– throwing memories and names back and forth, reliving the past with both smiles and twinges of heartache.

When you’re young and have a best friend, you don’t realize they won’t be there forever.

Time – the transition of life — is what finally separates you. Different times, different families, different pathways.

Sure, they’ll be a phone call away; a text message; maybe an e-mail.

But it’s not the same.

Adult friendship is a far cry from young friendship.

But Jody Norton, from the day he walked into my life, had become my best friend growing up – an ideal role model for me to follow.

Looking back on it, he played an important part in the person I am today.

A couple of hours in an airport does not do our friendship justice.

After landing in Orlando and going our separate ways, I realized I missed him already.

The ghosts remained for a bit until life got back in the way.

But, days later, this I still know: Damn, it was nice seeing him again.

Literally broken-hearted, I wait for what’s next

I always thought I’d die of a broken heart.

I know her name, but never got her number. But she’s the one who told me in that special, emotionless way only doctors can.

“Incomplete right bundle branch block and left axis-anterior fascicular block … ABNORMAL … Have a nice day.”

Let me catch you up.

On Wednesday morning, I had a physical. Just the usual yearly exam because I’m old and I’m fat, and by the law of doctors who buy boats – lots of boats – we should have a yearly physical exam.

So I did. I slapped down my donation to the SS Stupid Patient and walked into the exam room.

I said “ahhh” and went through the usual rigmarole. Temperature was good, blood pressure was good enough. Eyes. Ears. Reflexes. Finger up the butt (My mother always wanted me to date a doctor!) Everything was fine.

The EKG was the one that did me in. For now.

It came back abnormal. Another word for broken, as far as I’m concerned.

My sense of humor? That’s abnormal!

My devotion to my work life over my social life? That’s abnormal!

The fact I listen to Lorde and think Niall Horan’s “This Town” is a good song. That’s abnormal, too.

But my heart?

Oh boy.

The end is near.

Maybe. (Or not really.)

I don’t know.

Like I said it’s hard to tell with these doctors, many of whom come off as if they don’t really give a shit if you live or die because, well, let’s face it… the next sick person – ka-ching, ka-ching — is sitting out in the waiting room.

I turned to Dr. Google for my second opinion and found the medical words that were on my EKG are also known as Bifascicular Blocks.

After that, it’s a whole bunch of medical jargon about the electrical system of the heart. It might as well have been geometry to me, that’s how far it was over my head.

But I did learn, it could be very serious.

Or it may not be.

But since it’s heart related it is definitely kind of important.

After all, there are 525,600 minutes in a year. And if my average resting heart beat is 75 beats per minute … well, you do the math.

Like I said, it’s pretty important.

The one thing the doctor did say to me that shocked me was that it showed up on my last EKG, only that doctor – a different doctor – never said anything to me about it.

That was more than three years ago.

I’ve been walking around with a broken heart for more than three years and a doctor knew about it and refused to tell me?

I want to be so angry, I’d explode, but I’m trying to keep my heart rate down … you know, just in case.

So I’m getting referred to a cardiologist.

That’s the next step.

Broken-hearted, I’ll try to get through another day until I learn more.

 

Happy 2017-Plus One (at least for now)

Let’s not flush 2018 away just yet, eh?

It took approximately two and half hours to fully realize that the peace-and-love salutations of the New Year were long gone.

From the time “Auld Lang Syne” ended to when the last party favor was sounded, peace and love took a back seat to an inebriated asshole pounding on his hotel room door.

And yelling. Loudly.

“Let me in! Quit being a bitch! What the fuck?!”

On the other side of his door – which just happened to be on the other side of my paper thin New York City hotel room wall – I could hear her crying as she yelled back incoherently.

She let him in – finally – but that didn’t stop the clamoring.

What was I listening to exactly?

A domestic situation? A lovers spat? A brother and sister disagreeing on who gets the family portrait and/or cat after the funeral? A guy downgrading a hooker because he didn’t get what he wanted for his $100?

It was 2:45 in the morning in New York City, but if it had been Atlantic City it’d be 1 to 5 to pick ‘em.

Part of me kept waiting for a gunshot, and for Detectives Briscoe and Green to show up at my door as the Law & Order music played.

Alas, neither came.

Finally, after a while, there was just silence. And sleep came again.

When I left the city for the trip home to Connecticut this morning, there was a note slid into the door-jam of the offending room.

I wondered who the author was.

Was it from him?

“I’m sorry, baby … Come back to me … I’m downstairs in the lobby, waiting for you … You’re my life, baby … I love you … They’re just words, baby …  You’re not really all those things I called you. It was the booze talkin’, baby … I’ll see you soon. Don’t forget my wallet. It’s on the dresser. Love, Man Who Yells A lot.”

Or, was it from her?

“Go to hell you rotten no good piece of shit … You know what you did last night and the fact you were still carrying on about it at two forty-five in the morning proves you don’t belong with somebody like me, so bite me! Sincerely, A Women Who Cries A lot. PS. I flushed your wallet down the toilet.”

As much as my curiosity wanted to get the best of me, and as much I as I had every right to read that note since they opted to be so loud as to include me in the early morning brouhaha, I opted to leave it all behind.

I pressed the elevator button and went down, hoping there wasn’t a dead person behind that closed door. Try explaining that finger print on the note to Detectives Briscoe and Green, as the Law & Order music plays.

Detectives Briscoe and Green (Courtesy of NBC)

I bring you this story because on my train ride home from the city that never sleeps, yet often brings the fight right to your doorstep, I realized that 2018 is simply the end of 2017, only a day later.

On my iPhone I perused my social media walls over and over again; from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, and back again, updating over and over.

I saw so many people saying all the right things about 2018. How we have to be nicer to each other, care about each other more, and do all the right things to make this world a better place.

And then I realized some of them meant they would do so, only after they trashed this person with their words, or relayed/retweeted/shared somebody else’s thoughts on somebody in negative fashion.

Goodbye 2017. Hello 2017-plus one.

The guy I call 45 is still president, the country is still as torn apart as it’s ever been in my lifetime, and people just keep letting me down.

I wasn’t even 12 hours into the New Year when that hit me.

Like dominos falling, though, a second thought hit me soon after.

Why follow the negativity? Why have it as a daily part of my social (media) life? Why let it in?

I have the power to block, or unfollow, or unfriend, or X out people with the click of a mouse … and I don’t have to leave a note in the door to finalize what direction these online relationships are going.

I have the power.

I’ve used it before (after Newtown I unfriended family members and unfollowed long-time friends who made asinine statements) and it made my life better.

Certainly everybody has their First Amendment right to opine in any way they see fit, and I support that 110 percent. But I have my First-Plus One Amendment right to make sure I don’t have to read what I’m tired of reading in the safety of my own living room.

In some cases, I even agree with what’s being said, but if it’s negative, why even say it? I’m just so tired of the negativity. I think back to that lesson I learned as an 8-year-old about if you can’t say something nice.

So I’m going to take my power back.

Maybe I and I alone can make 2017-Plus One feel like 2018, at least to me, personally.

Maybe in my own pathetic little world (yes, that’s a negative, so maybe I’ll just block myself on social media), I can make things a tiny little brighter for me.

And, in doing so, maybe that extra watt of brightness that radiates from me, maybe it might rub off on somebody else.

Just like that the world is a better place. Maybe not a lot, but I’ll take a little these days.

Last week, I read a post about the butterfly effect, about how if somebody goes back in time and does something as insignificant as stepping on a butterfly, it could change the future.

The post asked, if do so something so little today, why can’t we realize we’re changing the future, too?

So here is my note, slid into all of your social-media door jams: Change the future. Think positive. Be positive.

And watch Law & Order. Such a good show.

Happy 2017-Plus One.

The Uninspired Version of Me

So I’m on vacation. Well, not really.

When you’re working two jobs whose hours total 57.5 hours a week — and one of those jobs is journalism-based — you’re never really on vacation.

At least I’m not.

I’m old school and I’m a firm believer in the fact that because I chose this profession, I’m on call 24 hours a day when needed, as needed. Period. No questions asked.

I’ve already checked my e-mail and set up a photo/story to be sent in to us for use this week. I reached out to a freelancer yesterday — Christmas Day — to make sure coverage would be set up this week, so I can work less than normal.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

It dawned on me this morning that I’m at an uninspired point of my life.

I came here to blog this morning — about what, I didn’t know — and I realized my last three posts were all based on the death of somebody — one person close to me, another just a random teammate, one a teacher from my days as a school boy.

That’s my inspiration when I’m in my 50s? Death.

Yikes.

This place a been a potpourri of my words. Some have been read a lot, some have been ready quite little. I feel pride when a lot of people read my words, and I really don’t care when people don’t take the time.

In my very first post in this space, I wrote, “If you’re bored, and wondering what the hell you’re doing here? Well, frankly, I don’t care. I’m writing this one for me, not for anybody else.”

What bugs me, though, is when I don’t write.

What bugs me is when I feel uninspired.

Maybe it’s the exhaustion. The two jobs things is tough at this age. My heart is in one place, my health insurance is another.

Maybe it’s the season. From Thanksgiving through the New Year has never been a time when I shined. Or thrived.

So maybe it’s that.

I don’t feel the tank is on empty. I’m just too uninspired to head to the gas pumps to fill myself up.

I haven’t run out of words. I’m at 360 as of this sentence.

The inspiration to find the best of those words is what is missing.

The spark.

The muse.

As the Moody Blue’s once sang:

“I know you’re out there somewhere
Somewhere, somewhere
I know I’ll find you somehow
Somehow, somehow
And somehow I’ll return again to you”