My first employer passed away last week.
This post may come as a surprise, seeing as how I haven't kept in even distant contact with the man in about 20 years, but his passing has effected me somewhat and I felt compelled to say a few things about Hal Miller.
To me, there's some irony in the timing of his passing. Just a week before, I had the impression to check in on him. I've been connected with his son, Preston, on Facebook and LinkedIn for a couple years now. Even when we first connected there, I couldn't help but search through his page for any indication that his father was still alive. But last week, I needed to check. I actually found some information on Hal's wife's Facbook page which led me to believe he hadn't passed away. In some way, I knew I might be discovering his passing the next time I checked. A week later, Preston had posted that he was gone.
I've never believed in the kind of coincidence that led me to check for him. In reading some of the Miller family posts online, it seems that he'd needed hospice care about the same time I thought to check. It seems to me that his passing was only a matter of time.
The first time I met Mr. Miller (as I always knew him) was in February of 1993. I was there for a job interview with the manager, and he was standing in the store's service desk, deep into whatever he was doing. I'd been in the store many times as a kid, going with my dad to the hardware store. I had always seen older men there, so the man I was talking to was no different to me. Despite his tall and thick build, I didn't think he was anyone other than another employee. It was only after getting the job that he was introduced to me as the CEO of the business (I don't think he ever liked the term "owner"). I found it remarkably strange that the man in charge of the business wouldn't look or act any different than any other employee.
As I recall (and from piecing things together), it was around that time that he had given up some of the daily management of the store to his son, Preston. I believe it had something to do with his health and the stress of the business. In the years before I got that job, they'd gone from what I always assumed to be minor partners in the store to the majority owners, even warranting a change in the name of the store to Miller's Ace Hardware (it had previously been Ace Town & Country). Also, the Miller's had owned a competing hardware store within ten miles of the one I was going to work at, and had recently closed it in consolidation of the business (I will always remember the letter signs that had been put in storage from the old store). So if Hal Miller had been stressed about about his business, I could believe it.
Not long after I started working at the store, I realized that Mr. Miller effectively ran two businesses: Miller's Ace Hardware on the back end (bookkeeping, finances, etc), and Hal Miller's Hardware on the front end. Not to say that he ran another business, but that he ran the business of his own world. Mr. Miller had apparently moved from the daily operation of the business to his own special projects. The biggest part of that special project in his own world was in window blinds. In little time, that seemed to be almost his entire function at his own hardware store. He'd order blinds for people or for the store, he'd customize blinds for people, and he'd install them on-site for customers. He came to wear what I always knew had his trademark look: khakis, a tan shirt, and a straw hat. Often, he'd be wearing sunglasses over his glasses. He drove an older, dark late 80s / early 90s style Cadillac. And he usually wore the look of a man who lived in his own world, and not the one the rest of us lived in. I don't mean this in a negative way, because it would be that look that I'd recognize on my own face only a few years later. He had a formidable purpose in life that didn't always include the daily goings of the business he worked for and which provided his family with income, and as such he disassociated with many of his employees. It was a rare thing to have a conversation with Mr. Miller, and even rarer to feel like he cared to.
The last time I saw Hal Miller was the last weekend the store was open for business. I'd long since moved to another hardware store and made a new path, but Miller's Ace Hardware was always in my heart. Every hardware store since working there was compared to it. I'd started as a high school kid who knew nothing about the business to one of their managers. I'd implanted myself into their service business, and likely would have been just like Mr. Miller, focused on the tasks of his own world, had I not left for other opportunities. Seeing Hal on that day, as I had started to think of him, he seemed shorter and less bulky to me. Where he'd been focused, seemingly unaware of what was going on around him, he was now cordial, friendly, and talkative. Preston had already begun to move away from the business, dealing with back issues, worrying about a new degree. I got the tiniest sense that Hal was falling on his own sword to spare his son, wife, and other sons from the closing of the business. Something had pulled him back to the world around him.
I never saw him again, aside from the stray photo on Facebook or online (he continued a lot of his volunteer work with Wake Technical Community College, for instance). These past couple years, I could tell from photos that he was again in his own world. I learned this week that he had Alzheimer's, which would explain that impression. I can't imagine what it was like to live with him the last ten years, having worked with him for several years myself. I hope that somewhere, the best parts of him were happily spending time was family, hanging mini-blinds, or reminiscing about his life before the hardware business.
Rest in peace, Mr. Miller.
Today was Epilepsy Awareness Day in the US and Canada.
By March of 2014, my son had been diagnosed with epilepsy.
My son had his first seizure in January, at only ten months old.
I'd experienced an infant seizure once before, with my oldest daughter. It was a febrile seizure (caused by fever). I'd never heard of such a thing, so when it happened I was rather freaked out. 911 was called, and the EMTs weren't all too phased by the event. A bit shaken up, I moved forward and it became a story that popped up once in a while.
So when my youngest son had a seizure at ten months, I initially recalled my experience with his sister more than a dozen years ago. We took him to the emergency room, and spent the next few hours worried about him. He slept for a while, but when he came back around he was quite aggitated. They ran blood tests and a CT scan, but found nothing wrong. No fever, no cause. We were told that it could be a one-off seizure - a single random event. We went home and tried to sleep it off, wondering what happened. His pediatrician told us it could be nothing, or it could be cause for concern. Ultimately, it would take a second seizure to know if something was wrong.
It happened a month later. Once again, we found ourselves in the same ER room for the same reason. Something wasn't right.
Since then, he's been seeing a pediatric neurologist, had has a handfull of expensive medications prescribed to him (some for rescue, others for control, one that made him psychotic for 24 hours), an MRI, two separate EEG tests (one of which lasted about four days), and more than 100 seizures. My wife and I have made record of every tremor that we've known about, witnessing at least a half dozen seizure types with varying characteristics. We've tweaked and adjusted his meds, watching insurance decide which ones to cover and how much to cover of them. My wife and I have held him in our arms as his brain drifts into an existence of electrical thunderstorms. "Time," has become code for seizure in my home, an indication that someone needs to track his latest episode. Five minutes means call 911, inject his rescue medication into his body, and pray he's ok. Ten minutes... well, we don't think about that. You come to fear clusters of seizures... one, two, four, seven... you start to wonder if he's had three or one that just took six hours with a lot of sleeping between flare ups. I've seen the terror on his face as it hits him, and I've seen the anguish in his eyes as he tried to understand what just happened to him. I've known what it's like to hold a limp little man in my arms while I wait for his brain to reboot as if he were a faulty computer.
You've never experienced the slowing of time until you've experienced something traumatic happening to your child. And you've ever experienced agony until you've dealt with that trauma over and over and over again.
In the midst of this, his brain sits on reset. We have no idea if a seizure will wipe his mind clean of the day. The little baby boy who was shouting the beginnings of "mommy" and "daddy" became silent, if not more primal with his sounds. His development went on pause, and it would be most of a year before we would see him walk. Hell, it took him almost two months to crawl on his hands and knees. As of March of 2015, he's finally eating finger foods. He hasn't mastered a sippy cup or a straw, but knows how a regular cup should work (even if he merely wants to dump everything out of the cup). He's learning to run now, and has figured out how to climb up on the couch. He doesn't comprehend depth very well, and scares the crap out of us at the top of the stairs. He still doesn't talk. He makes a plethora of sounds, noises, and grunts, but no words. Not yet. My son is getting developmental help, and I am not embarrased to say it.
He's a sweet, playful little boy. Despite the things which have set him back, he has a wisdom in his eyes that you can't mistake except during his moments of mischeif. If you leave a room ungated, he'll not only crawl up the stairs, he'll wait until you're watching him do it so you can try and stop him. His little sister's bottle is fair game if it's within reach of finger tips on tippie-toes, as is any cup, diaper, box of wipes, bowl of cereal, or otherwise. He loves his family. He loves mirrors, and exploring rooms for interesting things he can pick up. Any room that's not kid-proofed is his playland, and even kid-proofed ones will be converted to his liking. And don't ever let him have your smartphone... you'll be lucky if you ever see it again.
My little boy is a lot of things. Epileptic is merely one of them.
Epilepsy will carve and shape his life. It will become part of him, defining part of his existence. And I believe he will fight it every time. He won't let something beyond his control take control of his life.
His epilepsy has effected his family. His older siblings know more about seizures and how to help him than most adults. His mom is hyperaware of any uneasiness, tremble, and shake in case it's a seizure about to overtake him. I find myself sporting a lot of purple ribbon pins and talking to people about epilepsy.
His condition is taking it's toll. I have no qualms in admitting that his medications account for thousands of dollars a year. One medication alone is $100 a month - WITH insurance. This year, he will need to be tested for autism, just to rule it out. He'll need another MRI, which he needs to be knocked out for. He'll also undergo genetic testing in hopes that we can fine-tune his diagnosis. Epilepsy is the term we use when we don't know what it is, but there may be a genetic link to common styles of epilepsy, so we have some hope of treating it. The cost of it all has driven me to consider selling purple lapel pins to raise funds. It's also driven me to contemplate starting my own epilepsy foundation to help families transition into condition management and seek out assistance for costs which add up.
So I can't help but think of him on this day, on Epilepsy Awareness Day. And as such, I find it necessary to make others think of people young and old, just like my little blonde-headed tinkerer. If I can get one person to think of him, or anyone with epilepsy, we come one iota closer to solving the mystery of epilepsy. Because people don't think about epilepsy all that much. It's not dramatic, it's not as marketable, and it's not very understood. Until each person had held an epileptic mid-seizure will this condition have a chance of being understood.
If you know anyone with epilepsy, tell them you're thinking of them. Let them know you're there, and maybe even be there for the moment their brain is elsewhere. 1 out of a hundred people is likely epileptic - chances are, you know someone who is.
An Origin Story In the beginning, all humankind lived within the haven, or belly, of Mother Ethernity. They lived, built, grew, and loved within Her. They talked with her as plainly as one person talks to another. She provided guidance, sustenance, and life to all. As her children grew old and died, she took their essence and made them part of her. As each person died, a new one was formed from a soul ready to come forth and live. This was the way it always was, and knew no beginning. As time progressed, Her haven became full, and She knew Her time in this realm was coming to an end. Soon, She would be moving on to the next plane of existence. Mother Eternity decided to form a world and birth her children upon it. When the world was completed, she formed a new haven where her children could continue to come into this existence. Once her task was complete, she flew off into the stars, leaving a red glow upon the moon by which to remember her. While Mother Eternity lives in a new realm, Her influence is still felt today. Before leaving her children to fend for themselves, she gave them a gift: the Twinsoul. So that no person may be truly alone, she bonded each new soul to another. Forever through life would they have a companion to walk beside them, who understands their challenges and helps find each others’ solutions. That is why we symbolize Mother Eternity with the Twinsoul symbol, ∞ ,as she gave us our greatest gift in life. We no longer needed Mother Eternity’s haven for her protection - we now have our Other.
An Origin Story
In the beginning, all humankind lived within the haven, or belly, of Mother Ethernity. They lived, built, grew, and loved within Her. They talked with her as plainly as one person talks to another. She provided guidance, sustenance, and life to all. As her children grew old and died, she took their essence and made them part of her. As each person died, a new one was formed from a soul ready to come forth and live. This was the way it always was, and knew no beginning.
As time progressed, Her haven became full, and She knew Her time in this realm was coming to an end. Soon, She would be moving on to the next plane of existence. Mother Eternity decided to form a world and birth her children upon it. When the world was completed, she formed a new haven where her children could continue to come into this existence. Once her task was complete, she flew off into the stars, leaving a red glow upon the moon by which to remember her.
While Mother Eternity lives in a new realm, Her influence is still felt today. Before leaving her children to fend for themselves, she gave them a gift: the Twinsoul. So that no person may be truly alone, she bonded each new soul to another. Forever through life would they have a companion to walk beside them, who understands their challenges and helps find each others’ solutions. That is why we symbolize Mother Eternity with the Twinsoul symbol, ∞ ,as she gave us our greatest gift in life. We no longer needed Mother Eternity’s haven for her protection - we now have our Other.
The dreary morning
The mountains covered
And lightly rung with fog
I take my children to
And think of the snow
The rain clearing the way
The days grow longer
The days grow short
Watch their youth age
It won't be long before the
snow is gone
But my dreary morn is not
For snow shall come again.