Sometime Friday, November 14th, 2008, my best friend and husband probably had a Gran Mal seizure while at home (he had left me to live with his Mom in San Diego a year & a half ago) and never came out of it. His brother found him dead in bed around 5 pm. We won't know the exact cause of death for about 90 days. The Investigator told me there was "No obvious signs of cause of death". Meaning, they don't know until more tests are done.
Since we were living in different states, his Family and I are trying to puzzle out the services and the nuts and bolts of death. Death of someone far too young to die. Vincent Jeffrey Mills was only 52 years old. He did not suffer, tho, not if he had a seizure. He never remembered them, never remembered the horrible fear and loss of control. He would just wake up sore, like he'd been someone's punching bag. The very first one, I thought he was playing a joke on me. He flopped over onto his computer desk, and remained unresponsive for a few minutes. When I said "HEY!" and pulled him upright, he looked up at me and smiled that sweet Vince smile. He never knew what hit him.
Vince and I were friends in High School. After we graduated, we started seeing each other. We lived together in Ocean Beach for a year in the late 70's. There was a misunderstanding, and we broke up. Young, and foolish, and both of us stubborn and full of pride. I was unwilling to give up the least bit of my autonomy, he was unwilling to give me the unconditional freedom I needed. But we remained very good friends throughout the years.
Somewhere around the late 80's, or 1990, we hooked up again. We got married in 1997.
Vince taught me a great deal about what it takes to be a good wife. I never was a very good one. I took too much for granted because we'd known each other for so long, I thought I KNEW him. Thought I knew what he wanted. But I made some very foolish assumptions in that regards. Because I was so independant, and because both of our marriages were quite late, (I was 40, he was 41 when we married) once again, I was unwilling to give up my autonomy. I DID try! But it seemed to be a power struggle between us at times. It didn't help that we lived with my Grandmother, as I was her Caregiver. Both Vince and I were with her until she died. It was a GOOD THING! this Caregiving we did. But there is a great deal of pressure on a young couple to take care of a VERY stubborn, independant woman with severe dementia, undiagnosed lung cancer, fragile replaced "bionic" hips, macular degeneration, and pissed off about all that to boot. Vince was "Number One Son", and he was very honorable in that role and responsibility he had given himself.
Right around April 2000, Vince had an on-the-job accident. He was a roofer by trade, and one of the workers had removed a chunk of the plywood right behind him. Roofers work backwards, and Vince stepped through the now-gaping hole, and fell through, catching his arm on the way down. Workman's Comp was seriously negligent with his care. He tore his rotator cuff, and we now believe that he hit his head in the fall. The Workman's Comp doctor said therapy would suffice, so for about 8 months, Vince tried to deal with the pain, and therapy, and still work. Then he damaged it again on-the-job. He was working for a friend of his, and tried to protect this friend from incurring any extra costs, so he did not tell the full truth about the accident. Surgery was next. He had to have the shoulder opened up, debrided, then healed, and then RE-opened up and re-built. He was now unable to ply the trade he loved so much.
There are men who define themselves by their jobs, and Vince was one of these. The inability to work gave him a feeling of uselessness. The inability to make a living pummeled his self-esteem. He had our generation's suspicions and mistrust of the Social Security system, and that system did not disappoint him. He was told that he could be retrained, that Workman's Comp had set up a retraining fund for him. One whole semester's worth of "re-training" for a man who had taken three college classes nearly 35 years ago, with no counselor to speak of. Some woman in an office who was always too busy and would "get back to him" and never did. He tried very hard and did not finish even one of the classes. That system set him up to fail.
Early in 2003, one of my neighbors tossed poison over the fence and killed one of my wolfdogs. Tica was a rescue I had rescued out of harm's way, she was sweet, and she was kind, and she did not deserve to die that way. Then a neighbor (probably the same ratbastadge) sued for noise abatement, a case that my lawyer lost for me, because he filed a "No Contest" Guilty plea without telling me. I decided that we had to, after 32 years in that house, we had to move.
Then in 2003, came the Cedar Fire, which took his sister's house, threatened ours, and was the final straw. I went searching for property. Vince wanted us to move east a couple miles, and stay in San Diego. I wanted to get out, to escape all the development, and stupid city folks who wanted to drag the city kicking and screaming into the country and ram it down the throats of the rural folks who had loved the land so long and well. The developers were mitigating our concerns unto insignificance, and I was just done, stick a fork in me, done.
I drove to Oregon and found this place, this Wolfdancer Creek Farm. Vince had told me that Oregon was "acceptable", but I think it was too far north for him. He helped us move, built my dog Yards, and told me "I'd done good finding this place." He WAS happy here, in a lot of ways, but when the seizures started happening, it was just too much taken away from him. He lost his license, so couldn't drive, and now had to depend on others to get anywhere. Lost any hope of employment, because after all, who wants to hire a builder who might at any given time fall down and seize? Social Security & Disability denied him, and it was just too much. Despite myself and others telling him he had to reapply, they ALWAYS deny you the first (and second) time, it was just too much. This town of population 2600 is not "social" enough for such a social person as Vince was. None of his good friends were here. The town was within walking distance, but it was one WHALE of a "brief stretch of the legs". He missed his Family, missed his friends, missed his Hometown more than he could stand. He started losing his teeth, and losing weight. The depression bagan weighing on him like a murky anvil. He was on Dialantin, and would be for the rest of his life.
In August of 2007, he left me a note on my computer desk saying Good Bye, and took a cab, and an flight back to San Diego to live with his Mom. I was taken completely by surprise. We had a date that coming weekend to see my Pal Jeannie's boyfriend's band, and have dinner and go dancing. I had been actively trying to not jump to conclusions, to not take everything he said negatively, I was trying to be more patient, to give him some attention, to make him feel like he MATTERED to me. I was working hard to not be so busy that I took him for granted. He DID MATTER to me, but as I have said before, I was a lousy wife-type person. That Thanksgiving, he came back to town, unannounced. I helped him get his driver's license back (he had been seizure free for a year). His Mom rented him a U-Haul, and he packed up his kiln, his pottery wheels, as much of the supplies he could find, his surfboard, (the one I designed the logo for, and he built from scratch) a couple of saws and tools, his Dad's projectile point collection and a painted cow skull, some art, a bunch of his tools, and called me from the road to tell me he was leaving again. "Sorry to have to say Good Bye, but.. Good Bye", he said. This time, I knew he was going-- I knew it for positive when I found his surfboard gone--but I sure wished I could have said Good Bye in person.
His brother Jeff told me yesterday that Vince loved me very much, but just couldn't see how we could go forward. He said that seemed to be the case with me, as well.
He was right.
So, Dear Vince. I loved you very much. I will always love you, and I am most honored to have been your friend and your wife. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for being "Number One Son". Thank you for your sense of fun and adventure. Thank you for building my dog yards. Thank you for your patience with my animals. Thank you for your love. Good Bye, and Thanks for All the Fish.