So as I left off in the previous post, I tried to rebuild myself in Kentucky following cancer, the ex-wife, and my family (I needed therapy honestly). I was even set up with a woman (another blonde), I should have freaking known, but NOOOOOO!!! She had two kids, and lived in Spottsville, Kentucky. It was good for about six months, but no way in the world was I ready for kids, let alone a relationship. Wasn’t fair to them, her, nor myself. I’ve always found that you must be comfortable with yourself, before you can be that way with someone else. I wasn’t, and wouldn’t be for a VERY long time. So in September 2005, I was on a Greyhound bus to St. Louis. Not just heading west, but I was heading to find who I was, what I was looking for, and MOST importantly; what in the Hell is my purpose in Life now that I beat cancer. Why didn’t I die? Why am I still here? And just for insight, I’m listening to “Danger Zone,” as I write this…That says it all.
The idea was move back to St. Louis, and stay with my buddy Jesse’s family for a little bit once I returned. We’d then go from there. I had stayed with his family briefly when the girl I was with in high school decided to run around. We’ve really graduated language and terminology in seven hours, haven’t we? So that’s just what I did. Got back in St. Louis on a rainy, Sunday, September night, and the first thing I did; I picked up the phone to call back home. Why? Wasn’t I supposed to leave that, and move on? I was confused. My heart hurt, I had no flipping idea of what I was supposed to do. The week progressed and I started working with Jesse, and his side exterior business. We made good money, we were good at it (who knew I could landscape, not me!). One Friday night, everything kinda shifted. Jesse and I had been close through high school, and stayed in touch through my battle with cancer; but he was married, had a little boy (Christian, I remember the false starts at the hospital; I am his Godfather, I HAD to be there), so the dynamic had changed a bit. Anyway, that Friday night, Jesse says let’s go out to Wild Country. Now if you aren’t familiar Friday night’s at Wild Country are just that…Wild. So I run into my high school buddy Mike, and low and behold my good friend J.G….Josh Gillison. He had many nicknames, but I preferred J.G. So while I still worked with Jesse, my nights and weekends were Josh and James times, or as Josh will tell you Maverick and Goose. Times had changed, and I knew it.
Things had changed for Josh as well. Josh and I had a lot in common at home, family dynamic wise. His father had moved to Springfield, and Josh lived with his mom. Needless to say, Josh and I spent a ton of time together. Now in the meantime, I wasn’t rebuilding anything. I was kinda tearing down the rest of the car, and looking for replacement parts. In all honesty, this rebuild was going to be like restoring a 1969 Ford Fairlane…This was about having fun, and my goodness, did we! This wasn’t conducive to being successful, but I was 24, almost 25, and I was letting loose. Josh would crash with me overnight (or sometimes we wouldn’t come in until the Sun came up), or we’d just get a hotel room. It was a crazy month or so after I moved back. Then the other shoe fell.
Staying at Jesse’s parent’s house was good, for a while. I paid rent while I was there, but things just begin to fall apart inside the house and the last thing I needed was more drama. Remember what I had just left. Constant arguing and because I am the problem solver, they would often come to me for advice. Well when that advice wouldn’t work, there’d be another excuse. It was always something, ALWAYS! At this point, Josh and I had a little disagreement…Look it was stupid, not important, but again more drama. Josh was on his way to living in Springfield after things at home didn’t work out, and I had been hanging out with my high school friend Mandy; whom I had warmed up to, because I needed stability and she offered it. So one night, things really went south at home, and it was time to clean house. Mandy came to pick me up, grab my things, and here we go again. Let’s start over, when I hadn’t really even gotten to that point. Get to Mandy’s and pick up the phone, and call Josh. Now the distance from Springfield, Missouri to Granite City, Illinois, is roughly 225 miles. How many people do you know that at 9 p.m. at night, will say “Hang on Goose, the calvary’s coming…” Hang up the phone, get in the car, drive 225 miles on a Monday night, and make it in two and a half hours? One of the most memorable nights of my life. I’d say this was the beginning of the rebuild. We sang car kareoke that night, before it was even popular…(We should sue for copyright infringement)…But that night changed a lot of things. There was a bond there, a trust, and a friend.
So Springfield, Missouri, here I come. It was almost like a Big and Rich song. We’re coming to your city. Stayed with Josh, his dad, and his dad’s girlfriend. I was beginning to feel like a pack of Energizer batteries, I’m good for about six months to a year; and then after used up, throw out and replace. We both got a job at Auto Magic detailing cars, and as the song goes; we were working for the weekend. I even bought a belt buckle and a cowboy hat. I was changing EVERYTHING. If you’ve never been to Springfield, it’s cowboy central. These folks are as country as country can get. Spent Christmas that year with Josh and his family; his sister joined us before the end of the year. Shortly after New Year’s, I received a call from my mom saying she had thyroid cancer. I had a decision to make. If you read the previous piece, then you know how that relationship was; non-existent. How is this happening now? I’m trying to rebuild myself, and now as the oldest child; I have to figure this out? I did. I was on a bus to Owensboro, Kentucky.
January 2006, here I am. Owensboro, Kentucky. A 25 year old, who is about as lost as a blind man in a darkroom, and now I’m back in the place I left. Why? Because I’m that kind of person. Not the first, nor the last time I have been burnt for being a nice guy. So the first month was just trying to settle back in. My brother was a Sophomore in high school, my sister was living elsewhere, and I didn’t want to be there; but I saw that I had a responsibility. A month in, I decided to go back to school. Spent a semester at Daymar College. A semester. Trust me that was more than enough. While there, I met a girl. Dated for six months, thought it could have been serious; but she cheated on me as well. That’s two Amandas, two cheaters…Damn James. Really? Pick another name would ya? During the time, I started umpiring. Met some really good people, including Tom DeJarnatt. More about him later…He became my Mentor, Friend, Umpiring partner, and Father Figure…So during 2006, I got a job bagging groceries. Trying to help at home, fix myself, and figure out WHAT IN THE HELL IS MY LIFE’S PURPOSE!!!
2007 was a better year. Two years after remission. Getting into a groove with work, umpiring, and making friends; I was doing okay. Was focusing on me, as much as I could. Mom made that hard. If the focus wasn’t on her, then she made life absolute Hell on you. I mean that. It was her, or nothing. Many times I felt more like her bitch, than her son; and when she was done with you, she wanted you to go away…so I did. Well kinda, between Tom and my buddy Alex, enter my weekend umpire trips. Alex and I did baseball together, and Tom and I did softball. Tom and I, our trips were always fun. We’d go out to dinner, and Tom was the kind of guy that could make you pee your pants laughing with his comments. For Tom and I, causal business trips is what I’d call them. Alex and I, well these were weekend parties with umpiring on the side. Alex and I were like the guys on “A Night at The Roxbury.” Many Sundays we’d be sweating out booze from the night before, but we always did the job and we did it well! Met a girl in 2007, Heather (Yay, not an Amanda!). We hit it off really well, and she had a little boy named Mason. We were perfect for a long time. In July of 2007, I hurt my knee on the ballfield, and that kind of put a strain on the relationship. Surgery #1 on my knee, meniscus surgery. She was a radiologist, funny huh? Anyway, it wasn’t just the meniscus that was torn. We tried to make it work, but we both agreed…Just end it. So let’s start over AGAIN!!! It’s like just erase it all, but the hard drive of my heart was just creating another layer…What in the HELL am I supposed to do? How do I fix myself? A lot of this was on me…It just was. Again, I’m not fixed. Not comfortable. How do I move on?
2008…Oh boy! So I decided it was time to get a different degree. I had my Communications degree, but that’s when I expected to move back and stay in St. Louis. Someone had to die or retire to get a good radio or television job here; Spoiler Alert: IT HASN’T CHANGED!!! I enrolled at Owensboro Community College. Ultimately, I ended up with an Associates in Arts, and then in 2012 one in Science. 2008 was a weird year. Mom seemed to be doing okay, although taking care of her became more and more stressful. If I was gone, I heard about it and being there, well the same thing. I stuck through it, because I’m that guy. I met my buddy Robert (still friends, and umpires), and we became really close. We had class together, and just hit it off. So the Summer of 2008…Well…I…Had a Public Speaking Class…This is where it gets weird. I had been out of a relationship for quite a while, and really focused on myself; and rebuilding this car. We were getting there. Well, first day of the Summer semester; I’m feeling good. I’m happy. Work, umpiring, life (for the most part) was fantastic…I, at this point, just wanted attention…Well….I got it. Those of you who know, well you know. It was a fling, it didn’t last long, ended ugly…Ballgame. But what it did do was hurt. It set me back a long way. I was yesterday’s news. I was empty, I hurt, and just when I thought I had fixed myself or was well on my way; I wasn’t. Square One. Back to when Cherie left me. It undid all of it. That was a cold winter. I had started working at Salsarita’s as a manager at night, after classes. Driving around aimlessly after we closed at 9 p.m. I was in trouble. Home sucked, I sucked, school was great, work was just that…work. I remember New Year’s Eve that year, I was in bed by 8 p.m. I felt helpless.
2009 was not a fond memory either. Mom decided in March that I was useless to her again, and she put my belongings on the front lawn. Thankfully, I had good friends. My friends Courtney and Katie took me in, and it was like “Three’s Company.” I was Jack Tripper…For those of you who are young, look it up! I met my bestest friend in the whole wide world Jordan, when I started working at KWC 90.3 FM. We had the nastiest ice storm ever that year, and the year wasn’t off to a great start. I started doing the morning show with Larry in late January, we were good. That lasted about a month, and then it was all mine for about three months. Things were good. Between the station, baseball, and softball; I was content. Working on myself, doing me, and trying to put life back together; I had my hands full. Tom and I were still going strong, and I’ll never forget his favorite quote to me, “So who is it this season?” I’d always fall into it. “What do you mean?” “Well you have a new girl every season!” He was right. I couldn’t sustain a relationship to save my life. I was literally afraid to get too close. Trust…Not happening. I dated and flirted, but always pulled away before it got serious. No I don’t kiss and tell; forget it! The other problem was, I was turning back into pre-cancer James. And what I mean was, the new James wasn’t working. I was being used and abused. I was thrown out like yesterday’s garbage. I had the mentality “Who in the Hell do you think I am, just to be tossed aside!” That was a problem. I didn’t want to become that person again, but I felt as if I didn’t have a choice. What else could I do? I felt as if I had tried everything…so 2009 came and went, and it did so quickly. I had gotten kinda buddy-buddy with Courtney and Katie’s friend Amanda (Hat-trick), I know…and we started going on dates and got really close. That led into 2010.
Courtney was on her way to getting married, Katie was just on her way, and Amanda and I were, well we just were. I was a manager at a Christian Book Store, and was very happy with work. I umpired occasionally. Jordan and I were still close. Tom and I saw each other on the ballfield, and hung out when we could. I still checked on mom when I could, or she called to say she needed something. I had simmered on the pre-cancer James stuff. I had a little bit of hope, and things were in place. February 2010, brought on another knee surgery, and I was down for quite a while. Amanda and I were okay, until of course her ex came into the picture. Here’s the thing, while I had issues with fixing myself; she did too. Not a great potion for a successful relationship. I screwed things up, as I always seemed to do that May; but it worked out. Ultimately long term. I was on my way to where I needed to be. Then in October 2010, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affect Disorder, and then I realized…Geez, maybe I really am broken…
I wasn’t going to add what “today James” would say to myself back then, but it’s my piece, WHY THE HELL NOT!!! I was an absolute mess back then. I was all over the place. I couldn’t commit to much of anything. The one constant was umpiring, work, and school. Once Jordan, Robert, and Tom came into my life; they were too. It’s a good thing that I had them. A ton of late night phone calls, early breakfasts, and between class cigarettes. I hated myself for a good portion of this time period. I couldn’t figure out who I was, wanted to be, or my potential. As much as I wanted to focus on myself, it was always worrying about everyone else. I’d love to give myself advice on that, but I’m still like that. There’s really a lot of this time period that still affects my life today. Yes, it’s annoying, I can be a pain in the ass from November to March, but again the escape into sports…I can’t give much advice to myself here, I just can’t; because much of it is still a battle…