CVIndependent

Wed07082020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

I speak for the vast majority of local small-business owners when I say the last month has been pretty terrible.

(Yeah, I know I speak for the vast majority of everyone when I say that. But bear with me here.)

First, seemingly overnight, a good chunk (or, in some cases, all) of our business just evaporated. Then we went into survival mode—looking for new revenue opportunities if possible, researching grants, applying for grants, feverishly reading news on the stimulus bill and the aid it might provide, and then getting deeply confused and frustrated at the conflicting information we received after the bill passed, and then getting even MORE confused and frustrated when we started to actually apply for the PPP and/or the SBA Disaster Loan, or is it a grant, and should we apply for one, or both, and WHY IS THE BANK NOT TAKING APPLICATIONS YET, and what does “cost of goods sold” EVEN mean, and when will I hear back, and what in the holy bloody frick is happening, and I haven’t gotten any REAL work done between all the applications and Zoom meetings with well-meaning organizations, and AAAAAAAARRRGH?

Yeah. It’s been like that.

Anyway … I am proud to announce that, in our case, all of this lead to something very good: The Coachella Valley Independent is one of 400 local newsrooms around North America that has received a $5,000 grant from the Facebook Journalism Project, in partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and Local Media Association, to help us continue our reporting on the coronavirus crisis. You can read the complete list of recipients here.

We’re honored to be one of the recipients of this grant—and not only is it evidence of the quality work we're doing at the Independent; it’s a testament to all of the support and feedback we have received from you, our readers. I can’t thank all of you who have reached out and offered a kind thought, or words of encouragement, or constructive criticism, in the last month or so. I also want to again thank the dozens of you who have become Supporters of the Independent in recent weeks. This grant and your support will help us continue to do what we do—honest, local, ethical journalism, available to all.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean I get to stop the survival-mode scramble. I’ll still be applying for other grants, and inquiring about the status of the Independent’s SBA Disaster Loan, and wondering if I should apply for the PPP thing, too—because the grant from Facebook, plus the reader support we’ve received (while fantastic and much-appreciated), will only make up for a small fraction of the business we’re going to lose in the months ahead.

And not only are we trying to tread water and keep doing what we’re doing here at the Independent; we want to do more. Our community needs good, local coverage more than ever, because … well, where else can people get it? The Desert Sun’s staff is going through what amounts to a 25 percent staffing decrease due to a loss in revenue, and other local media is suffering as well.

So far, none of my staffers or contributors here at the Independent have been furloughed or asked to take cuts. The goal is not to make any cuts—and, in fact, I have asked my contributors to do more pieces, for pay, if they can. (Hey, that reminds me: If you have writing and reporting skills, and want to help tell the Coachella Valley’s stories, drop me a line. The pay’s not great—but we do pay.)

Again, thank you to Facebook Journalism Project, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Local Media Association and—most of all—you, our readers. It’s just going to take a while, so hang in there—but we’re gonna get through this, as long as we keep supporting each other.

Now, today’s links:

• The Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the heads of three local senior centers about the challenges they’re facing while trying to provide services to the population that’s most at-risk during the pandemic. At a time when they can’t actually offer services in person. And with a sudden, unexpected loss in revenue. This isn’t always an easy read—but it’s a must-read, and it’s also, at times, an inspiring read.

• Yesterday, we painted a fairly positive picture about how we’re #flatteningthecurve locally. Therefore, I wanted to point out the numbers and projections that Riverside County issued today, which are, frankly, much more grim—starting with the projection that the county will run out of ICU beds in just six days. It’s important to note that the Coachella Valley has less than a fifth of Riverside County’s population, and what we’re hearing on the ground here is much less dire. The takeaway: Regardless, we need to keep staying at home, wearing masks when we do go out, and generally behaving like civic-minded adults.

• Oh, and we really need to stop flushing wipes! Even the ones that say they’re “flushable”! Just TP!

• This story is developing: After all but one employee didn’t show up to work, the 84 patients at Riverside’s Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center were moved to various locations, including a couple in the Coachella Valley. Just awful.

• If you were curious how national treasure Carol Burnett was handling the stay-at-home order, The Hollywood Reporter has this article for you.

• Have you been having weird dreams during this semi-quarantined existence? You’re certainly not alone.

Is it possible that COVID-19 came to California in the fall? Stanford researchers are looking into that definite possibility.

• Workers at supermarkets and other retail businesses that remain open are literally risking their lives to keep society up and running. God bless you.

• Well, the Independent made another list, of media organizations where “US journalists working across more than 1,000 local newspapers and other publications are facing cuts due to the economic hit their employers have taken on coronavirus.” Thankfully, the Independent has thus far avoided this list of newsroom layoffs, furloughs and closures.

• If you’re using beer, wine or spirits to cope with this mess … well, again, you’re not alone—and scientists worry all this extra drinking could have significant health costs down the line.

Will warm weather help calm the spread of COVID-19? We still don’t know for sure, but don’t count on it.

• Good news: For some diabetics, one drug-maker is capping the co-pay costs of insulin during the crisis.

• Journalism teachable moment: Always read past the headline. This Wall Street Journal headline is downright horrifying: “Nearly a Third of U.S. Apartment Renters Didn’t Pay April Rent.” First … these stats only take into account rents paid through April 5. Second, here’s the story’s third graph: “Only 69% of tenants paid any of their rent between April 1 and 5, compared with 81% in the first week of March and 82% in April 2019, the data show.” So … while 31 percent didn’t pay any of their rent before the April 5, that number represents a 12 percent difference from last year—which is still very revealing, but nowhere near as WTF?! as the headline implies. If I were the editor of The Wall Street Journal, the headline-writer for this piece would be in some deep shit right now.

• Former Independent contributor (and a friend) Baynard Woods writes this piece for The Washington Post about his bout with what he thinks was COVID-19. It shows how important it is to have a true quarantine plan, just in case.

That’s enough for today. Wash your hands. Only flush TP and … well, you know—BUT NOT ANY WIPES. If you’re an artist, you have not-quite two days left to get us your art for our very-cool coloring book projectIf you’re able, please support us so we can continue to cover the Coachella Valley—and even do more—during this unprecedented time. Now, wash your hands again. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I am male. A close female friend was raped by an old acquaintance of mine.

I knew this guy when we were tweens. I didn’t really care for him as we got older; so it goes. It turns out that a few years ago, he raped my friend in an alcohol-blackout situation. I don’t know more than that. She says she considers the encounter “not strictly consensual” and confided that this guy didn’t react well when she tried to talk to him about it. This isn’t something she’s “out” about.

My feelings toward this guy are pretty dark. Now he’s moved back to town, and I see him around, and some good friends of mine who stayed in contact with him invite him to stuff. I don’t know what to say or how to act. I know I don’t want to talk to him or be his friend. I would like to tell my other friends about this guy so I don’t have to see him, but I can’t, because it’s not my story to tell. I would rather just skip social events he’s at. But without an explanation, I doubt my friends will understand, and it feels like I’m surrendering my friends to someone who assaulted a dear friend. I told someone once to please not invite him to something, or I would skip it. They were confused, and it felt like an awkward ask.

What should I say to my friends about this guy? What can I do to keep him out of my life?

Angry Confidant

“I don’t like hanging out with Chuck and would appreciate it if you didn’t invite him to the party/show/bris/whatever.”

“What’s the issue between you guys?”

“Look, we go a long way back, and it’s not something I want to discuss. It’s just awkward for us to be in the same place.”

That’s the best you can do without outing your friend—without telling a story that isn’t yours to tell—and it’s likely your mutual friends will be confused by the ask, AC, but you’ll just have to be at peace with that. You could add something vague that omits identifying details (“He did a shitty thing to a friend”), but any details you share—however vague—could result in questions being put to you that you can’t answer or are tempted to answer. Even worse, questions will be put to “Chuck,” and he’ll be free to lie, minimize or spin.

My only other piece of advice would be to follow your close female friend’s lead. You describe what transpired between her and Chuck as rape, while your friend describes the encounter as “not strictly consensual.” That’s a little more ambiguous. And just as this isn’t your story to tell, AC, it’s not your experience to label. If your friend doesn’t describe what happened as rape—for whatever reason—you need to respect that. And does your friend want Chuck excluded from social events hosted by mutual friends, or is she able to tolerate his presence? If it’s the latter, do the same. If she’s not making an issue of Chuck being at a party, you may not be doing her any favors by making an issue of his presence yourself.

If you’re worried your friend tolerates Chuck’s presence to avoid conflict, and that being in the same space with him actually upsets her (or that the prospect of being in the same space with him keeps her from those spaces), discuss that with her one-on-one and then determine—based on her feelings and her ask—what, if anything, you can do to advocate for her effectively without white-knighting her or making this not-strictly-consensual-and-quite-possibly-rapey thing Chuck did to her all about you and your feelings.

It’s really too bad Chuck reacted badly when your friend tried to talk to him about that night. If he’s an otherwise-decent person who has a hard time reading people when he’s drunk, he needs to be made aware of that and drink less or not drink at all. If he’s a shitty person who takes advantage of other people when they’re drunk, he needs to know there will be social and potentially legal consequences for his behavior. The feedback your friend offered this guy—the way she tried to hold him accountable—could have prevented him from either fucking up like this again (if he’s a decent but dense guy) or taking advantage like this again (if he’s a shitty and rapey guy). If he was willing to listen, which he wasn’t. And since he wasn’t willing to listen … yeah, my money is on shitty and rapey, not decent but dense.


I’m a single straight man. A friend recently told me her 20-year marriage hasn’t included sex for the past six years. Kids, stress, etc. I offered to have sex with her, but only if her husband approves. If I were her husband, I would want to know. But I think it’s unlikely her husband would approve our coital encounter.

Have I done wrong?

Married Asshole Refuses Intercourse To Affectionate Lady

If discreetly getting sex outside her marriage allows your friend to stay married and stay sane, and if she doesn’t get caught, and if the sexual connection with her husband should revive after their kids are older—a lot of ifs, I realize—then the condition you set could result in your friend and her husband getting divorced now, which would preclude the possibility of their sexual connection reviving later. (Although we shouldn’t assume that sex has to be part of a marriage for it to be loving and valid. Companionate marriages are valid marriages.) That said, your friend is free to fuck some other guy if she doesn’t like your terms. Finally, MARITAL, unless you’re brainstorming names for a My Chemical Romance cover band, there’s really no reason to use the phrase “our coital encounter.”


I’m a straight 45-year-old man. Good-looking. Three college degrees and one criminal conviction. Twice divorced. I’ve had some intense relationships with women I met by chance—one knocked on my door looking to borrow an egg—so I know I can impress women. But online dating doesn’t work for me, because I’m only 5 foot 7. Most women online filter me out based on height. The other problem is that I’m extremely depressed. I’m trying to work on the depression (seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist), but the medications don’t seem to do much for me. This is probably due to my alcoholism.

I’d love to start my online profile by boldly proclaiming my height and my disdain for shallow women who disregard me for it, but that would come across as bitter, right?

Serious Heartbreak Over Relationship Travails

There are plenty of 5-foot-tall women out there, SHORT, women you’d tower over. But there are very few women who would respond positively—or at all—to a man whose online dating profile dripped with contempt for women who don’t want to fuck him. Rejection sucks, I know, but allowing yourself to succumb to bitterness only guarantees more rejection.

And first things first: Keep working on your depression with your mental-health team, and please consider giving up alcohol. (I’m sure you’ve already considered it. Reconsider it.) No one is looking for perfection in a partner—and no one can offer perfection—but if dating you is likely to make someone’s life harder, SHORT, they aren’t going to want to date you. So get yourself into good working order, and then start looking for a partner. And since you know you have better luck when you meet people face-to-face, don’t spend all your time on dating apps. Instead, find things you like to do and go do them. Maybe you can pick a presidential candidate you like—one who supports coverage for mental-health care?—and volunteer on their campaign.

On the Lovecast: A drug that cures heartbreak? Seriously. Listen at savagelovecast.com.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITMFA.org.

Published in Savage Love

I’m a 35-year-old bisexual man in a long-term relationship with a man. My question, however, has to do with my parents.

As an adolescent/teen, I was a snoop (as I think most of us are, looking for dad’s porn stash, etc.). I was probably 12 or so when I found evidence of my dad being a cross-dresser. There were pictures of him in makeup and women’s clothing, and correspondence (under an alias and to a separate PO box) with other men interested in cross-dressing. As far as I could tell, he did this alone in hotel rooms while on work trips. Two years ago while on vacation, it came up while my mom and I were at dinner. She had recently found evidence, and she needed to take a short break to visit a friend out of state to process. She suggested I bring it up with him (I guess) because I’m queer, and she knows I used to help host pansexual play parties. My dad is a devout Republican and comes off as very masculine. I see them only a couple of times a year.

Should I try to bring this up with my dad and let him know that I’ve known about his cross-dressing for more than 20 years and offer my knowledge about kink and alternative sexuality? Or just let him do his thing, and we all retain the illusion of ignorance? My parents are still happily married—and whether it is more companionate than lusty, they love each other and have been married for more than 40 years. Your take would be appreciated.

Son Of A Cross-Dresser

Why does your mother want you to talk to your dad about his cross-dressing? Does she want you to talk him out of it? Does she want you to convince him to include her on his cross-dressing trips? Does she think he would benefit from attending a pansexual play party with his adult bisexual son?

Unless your father is in some sort of emotional distress, or your mother is in some sort of danger, I really don’t see the point of this conversation, SOACD. It doesn’t sound like your dad is struggling with shame. If your dad had to abuse alcohol or smoke a crate of meth in order to give himself permission to cross-dress alone in a hotel room, you surely would have mentioned that fact. And if your father was having unprotected sex with the other straight male cross-dressers he corresponded with, you surely would have mentioned that, too.

From the details you included in your letter, SOACD, it sounds like your dad has successfully integrated cross-dressing into his life without harming himself or neglecting and endangering your mom. You could say your parents had a long and loving marriage despite the cross-dressing … or you could say it’s possible your parents’ marriage is an ongoing success not despite the cross-dressing, but because of it. If dressing up in women’s clothes and occasionally escaping the confines of masculine performance helped your dad feel centered and emotionally whole, having this escape and having some people he could be open with about it—some straight male cross-dressing peers—could have made him a better husband and father. (It’s too bad it didn’t make him a better person politically, but you can’t have everything.) While it might have been better for everyone if your dad had been open about his cross-dressing with his wife and kid(s), that ship sailed a long time ago.

I don’t see what this convo—coming 20 years after you discovered his cross-dressing and two years after your mother discovered it—will achieve other than embarrassing and humiliating your father. Even a married person has a right to some small degree of privacy, and each of us has a right to a small zone of erotic autonomy. Your parents’ long, loving, successful marriage coexisted with your father’s cross-dressing for four decades, and I don’t see why it can’t continue to coexist with it now. And if your mother is sad that your dad never shared this with her and wants to reassure him that he didn’t need to hide this part of himself from her and that she loves him just the same, she doesn’t need to deputize her bisexual son to initiate that conversation. If she thinks it would be a relief and not a torment for her husband to know she knows and that knowing hasn’t changed how she feels about him, she should tell him.


I’m 25 years old and polyamorous. I’m in a relationship with a 28-year-old man since August 2018. It was just him and me when we first started dating, and then his old flame came into the picture. This whole time, he had said he was not interested in having kids and a home and a primary partner. Since he got surgery in June and is now unemployed, he’s had a lot of time to think, he says, and now he’s decided he wants kids and a home and a primary partner. He knows I do not want any of these things, so he says his old flame is the person he’s going to do this with. He has made jokes about being an “alcoholic” since I first met him, and I thought it was just a joke. But now he’s spending money he simply does not have on alcohol. It worries me.

Do I hang in there? Do I throw in the towel? I love this man very much, but I’m so confused.

Previously The Primary

I’m so sorry, PTP, but it would appear you’ve lost the unemployed guy with the drinking problem to another. But take heart: You’re young enough to meet someone else, someone who wants what you want and doesn’t want what you don’t. I’m certain that after meeting this person—or even long before you meet them—you’ll be able to recognize that your ex did you a favor. Sometimes we dodge the bullet, PTP, but on rare occasions, the bullet dodges us.


My 19-year-old younger brother is doing financial domination online. He maintains a Twitter account that’s mostly photos of him giving the finger and looking smug. He also posts pics of his feet, videos of him urinating (no penis visible, just the stream), and lots and lots of “bitch shots,” i.e., crotch-height photos looking up at him from below. He uses a lot of homophobic slurs in the tweets that accompany these images. I would have exactly zero fucks to give about this if my brother wasn’t still a teenager and wasn’t posting photos of his face. I warned him that the internet is forever, and facial-recognition software is a thing, and people who don’t understand the role-play aspect of his use of hate speech will think he’s a bigot. This could come back to haunt him socially or professionally. Complicating matters somewhat: My little brother is a straight boy, and I’m gay. He’s not making a ton of money doing this, but he’s making enough that my parents are wondering how he’s buying all those super-expensive shoes. What do I tell him? What do I tell them?

By the way: I know about this because he told me—I didn’t stumble over his Twitter account.

Falling Into Nefarious Doings Of Male Sibling

You’ve already told your brother the internet is forever and that the low-key, low-stakes pseudo-sex work he’s doing could come back to haunt him, FINDOMS. Beyond that … well, there’s really not much more you can do. Your brother is an adult, as are the men paying “tribute” to him, as they say in FinDom/FinSub Twitter, and he’s free to make his own choices.

As for your parents, why is explaining where your brother is getting all those new shoes your problem? If your brother is old enough to set up his own Twitter and Venmo accounts, he’s old enough to come up with a plausible lie about those shoes.

On the Lovecast: Mob Queens! Listen at savagelovecast.com.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @fakedansavage on Twitter; ITMFA.org.

Published in Savage Love

It’s 9 p.m., and my Porsche’s thermometer reads 55 degrees. Felicia Tichenor is wrapped in a thin blanket on her concrete “bed” behind the Staples at Gene Autry Way and Ramon Road.

We’re supposed to have a night photo shoot, but Tichenor is out of it. Next to her is a big Budweiser can.

She’s not going to pose tonight.

Tichenor, 41, is not good at keeping appointments. She has been homeless for eight years now. Her blonde hair is tangled, and her blue eyes are bloodshot. It wasn’t always like this. She had a home once, and a family, too.

“My mom died when I was 14, and my dad in ’06,” Tichenor says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’ve a son; he’s 20 now.”

She stops to light a cigarette. “At 32, I lost my job; things in my life turned for worse. I lost all I had, and when the money ran out, I ended up on the streets. I’ve been homeless ever since.”

She admits she made some bad choices. Addictions, drinking in particular, didn’t help.

“I love my Budweiser,” she grins, “but I don’t drink hard liquors, and I’ve done my drugs when I was younger.”

Her story is pretty typical, sadly, for a homeless person here in the desert. Except for one detail: Tichenor owes about $7,000 in unpaid tickets and citations.

She doesn’t own a car, nor does she drive one. She doesn’t even own a bicycle. She keeps everything she owns in a shopping cart. That’s part of the problem—a number of her tickets are for the illegal use of a shopping cart.

“I’ve gotten about 16 tickets for pushing a shopping cart full of my stuff around (the area of) Walmart and Staples,” Tichenor says. “I even got tickets if I leave a cart around here with my personal belongings in it.

“I’ve got to put my blankets and my clothing somewhere. ... That’s all I’ve got! My whole property!”

She’s also received a number of tickets due to her drinking—for drinking in public and being drunk in public.

“I did get tickets for ‘camping’ and sleeping at the grounds here,” she says, “and for public drunkenness (and possession of an) open container.”

Tichenor has her own explanation for why she’s been picked on.

“Someone from the Walmart called the police and complained, I guess,” she says. “… I’ve got it; (the police officer’s) gotta do his job, but I’ve got no money to pay for any of it! If I had seven grand, I’d be living the hell outta the streets.”

Jeffrey Adams, 44, right, has had a similar problem with court fines. His latest “Failure to Pay Notice” stood at $2,552.68 as of Oct. 9. By now, it’s likely higher due to penalties.

“I went to the public defender, got a payment plan and paid the first $50, but then fell behind,” says Adams as he produces the court papers from his backpack. “I’m ill now, in need of a hernia surgery, and I’ve got not a penny to pay for fines. All I’ve got now is my health scare!”

During the day, Adams sticks around the park at the Palm Springs Library, and he spends nights at the Roy’s Desert Resource Center, a local shelter. He hopes to get his hernia surgery soon, before it gets strangulated.

Like Adams, Tichenor went to the Riverside County Public Defender for help. However, again like Adams, she wasn’t able to make it to court as often as she needed; after all, they don’t have their own transportation.

“I took a two-hour bus ride to Indio court, and I got a public defender, but it didn’t work for me,” Tichenor says, sounding resigned. “It’s hard to make it anywhere on time when you’re homeless.”

Daniel Schmidt, a seasoned local lawyer who spent a large part of his legal career working as a public defender in Indio, has an impressive record of representing the underprivileged.

“These cases are so bizarre when big-buck companies, like Walmart, are causing such a burden to our court system—the judges, the police force, jails and, in particular, the public defender offices—because someone has removed a shopping cart from their lot!” says Schmidt. “Let the Walmart take those individuals to small-claims court instead of spending the taxpayers’ money on such frivolous charges and offenses.”

According to the Riverside County 2013 Homeless Count and Subpopulation Survey, there are 242 unsheltered homeless persons in Indio, while Palm Springs has 60, Cathedral City 59, Coachella 37, Palm Desert 11, Desert Hot Springs 9, La Quinta 5, Rancho Mirage 1, and Indian Wells 0, with dozens more in the unincorporated areas and in the towns heading southeast of the Coachella Valley down to the Salton Sea.

How many of those homeless people owe hundreds or thousands in unpaid tickets, like Adams and Tichenor? It’s hard to tell; we couldn’t even get the numbers for the town of Palm Springs. Sgt. Harvey Reed, of the Palm Springs Police Department, says “it would take a public record request to reach the exact number of the citations issued to the local homeless population.”

In other words, there are probably a lot of them—and society is paying as a result.

“I guess eventually,” says Tichenor, “I’ll do time, because there’s nothing on Earth I can do about that seven grand fine.”

Published in Local Issues

It’s just not supposed to be this way.

When a young child dies, there is always an outpouring of support for the parents, and a lamenting of the lost possibilities of a life that will never be fully realized. But what about the loss of an adult child, whose life has already taken its own direction?

My youngest stepson, Thomas Aylesworth, died at 34, a victim of melanoma. He had received treatment in his 20s for a skin-cancer growth on his shoulder, and successfully came through it to pursue a successful career as a chef. Several years later, he discovered a lump in his chest. Six months after that, he was gone.

The doctor said to think of this virulent type of cancer as if someone scattered seeds in an empty lot, and eventually, some of them took root. It was little comfort for the family, but at least we knew what was coming, and had time to spend with him during his brief and final illness.

Two local women didn’t have the benefit of time.

Diana Fitzgerald of Indio is still living with the pain of losing her only child, Joseph, at “28 years and 55 days,” as she puts it. She candidly explains: “He killed himself.”

Diana remembers that when she put herself through college at the age of 28, her son was then in first-grade. “He said, ‘Isn’t that cool, that we’re both going to be in first-grade together?’”

Joseph was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after experiencing behavior problems in his teens; he also suffered from depression as an adult. “He was originally misdiagnosed and then had side effects from medication,” says Diana. “He finally stopped taking his medication. Without health insurance, he had a revolving door of doctors. He had married, and about a year after his wife suffered a miscarriage, he took his own life. He shot himself.

“I remember when his wife called me at work to tell me what had happened. I didn’t believe her. I slammed the phone down. I just screamed out, ‘It can’t be true!’ I knew he was not doing well, and had told the receptionist at work that if he ever called, I was to be interrupted, no matter what I was doing. The day he died, he did call, but there was someone else on the desk. I was in a meeting and wasn’t told that he was on the phone. About two hours later was when my daughter-in-law called.

“When someone is killed by another, say a drunk driver, we can make it someone else’s fault. But when your child kills himself, who do you blame? I still feel guilt 11 years later.”

Perhaps the worst moment of the ensuing events came when Diana returned to work after the funeral. “A woman who cleaned the offices saw me and said, ‘I heard your son died. What happened?’ I said, ‘He killed himself.’ She looked right at me and said, ‘Well, you know, that means he’s gone straight to hell!’ How insensitive can anyone be?

“I joined a support group for a while, but what stays with me is that I was his mother, and I was supposed to protect him. When people say, ‘I know what you’re feeling,’ they really can’t know. I hate feeling as if people look at me, when they know what happened, and judge me.

“The only advice I can give others is that you have to accept that everyone handles grieving in their own way. We just need to comfort each other, no matter what the circumstances. Joseph was funny, and fun to be around. I miss him each and every day of my life.”

Barbara Marx of Rancho Mirage lost her son, Jim “Jimmy” Autz, in 2006, when he was 47. Jim had alcohol and drug issues, but he lived a productive life, running his own business producing stage shows in Los Angeles. He also loved to collect wine.

“Jimmy had an extensive collection, maybe over 1,000 bottles,” says Barbara. “He clearly enjoyed what was not necessarily the smartest thing for him to pursue, considering his problems with alcohol. He had one called ‘Screaming Eagle’ that he just loved.

“Jimmy had been to the Betty Ford Center and had done pretty well. My husband (Bill Marx, not Jimmy’s father) and I tried to get him into rehab again just two days before he died. He looked terrible. Bill had to literally walk him across the driveway. When Jimmy saw me, he started to cry. But he didn’t stay (in rehab); he signed himself out the next day and drove himself back home.

“I kept calling, and he didn’t answer. A policeman (later) called to tell me he had died. His roommate at the time had found him on the floor. He loved his wine and drank it constantly, so proud of some of the bottles he had accumulated. I think he must have died from cirrhosis, although I’ve never really known for sure.

“When I found out he was dead, I just screamed. Still, today, I have the same reaction. I remember saying to him, the last time we talked: ‘Jimmy, where do I bury you if you keep this up?’ He said, ‘I don’t care to have this conversation.’ That was the last time we really spoke before he died. I still feel awful whenever I think about it.”

Barbara still has the urn with Jimmy’s ashes. “Every now and then, I stop and talk to him,” she says. “I think about him every day. A piece of him is still in my life. I try to focus on the times we laughed together—that’s how I get through it.”

When my stepson Thomas was going through the difficult chemo treatment for his melanoma before he died, my husband, John (who has since passed away), would walk through the house and suddenly say out loud, “It’s just not supposed to be this way.”

After Thomas’ death, John cherished the time he had spent with Thomas in the hospital, laughing out loud about past experiences. That memory of Thomas, his beloved youngest child, laughing out loud and still seeming so alive and hopeful, is what got John through it all.

When you lose an adult child, it feels like no one can possibly understand. Each of us has to find our own way through the pain, especially the inevitable feelings of responsibility and guilt. But help and support is available. Some of your neighbors do know what you’re going through.

It’s just not supposed to be this way.

Published in Know Your Neighbors