Monthly Archives: October 2014

The power of an hour

In service of the federal government and the alkaline battery lobby, millions will pay homage to the bi-annual tradition of changing clocks and smoke alarm batteries 2am Sunday morning. The reward is one ubiquitous yet elusive hour of time and a certainty that if your place catches fire, you’ll be more terrified by the smoke alarm than the flames.

This biannual tradition at the end of a Saturday night alternates a cumulative theft or gift of one hour per person or a couple hundred million aggregate American hours, give or take—and very literally so. All tallied, it’s the equivalent of an astounding 23,000 years (minus batteries) taken from Americans each spring and returned to them each fall! Depending on your take, 23,000 years is either a mind-blowing number or an incredible opportunity.

What changes could an entire nation make if we had 23,000 years in which to do it…virtually overnight?

If each of us used our one hour at some point this season for a needy cause, to make dinner for a shut-in neighbor, volunteer for a charity or otherwise advocate for a deserving cause of humanity, might we see a difference? What if we all donated just one hour of our wages? Overnight, the problems of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and most of our nation’s ills would vanish.

On Saturday night, before you wander to bed or when you arrive home from a shortened night out, change your clocks and batteries, and vow to spend your 60 minute change somewhere you see fit. Change something for someone else. Changing your clock or a 9V battery isn’t really that hard. God knows it’s a lot less rewarding option than what could be done with 23,000 years overnight.

The power of an hour.
What’s yours worth?

Hester Prynne wears a consonant

I think most single people my age detest being called “single.”

We all feel a bit like Hester Prynne walking around town with a consonant.

The “S” word for some is a choice, but for most of us, it’s a consequence of being divorced, busy, preoccupied or some other convenient public excuse to still the questions and help to make socializing in a coupled world a little more bearable.

We go to “singles” groups and functions because that’s where we “belong,” only to find them uncomfortable venues where solo men and women are in search of partners, willing to drop their standards to pair up or at the very least, hook up.

Okay, perhaps that was a bit of an unfair generalization, but if you’re single you know what I mean.

I used to be the life of the party.  My natural gravitational pull was always to groups over individuals. I was socially savvy, interpersonally comfortable and could easily engage an entire room with my wit and personality all night long.  At some point, however, I lost those skills.  My recovery made me realize the shallowness of being the center of attention and as a reaction formation, I have probably swung the pendulum a little too far in the opposite direction instead of settling on a happy medium. Mental note: change that.

It started when I was divorced.  When you’ve lived a coupled life, you develop coupled friendships and activities with other couples and oftentimes have more potential for social life than you have time on your hands.  But, suddenly single, the quake creates a giant, nearly impassable crevasse between you and your former social life.  Stranded on a cold, detached sheet of ice that is an outflow consequence, the growing distance can be pretty lonely.

For instance, I went to a Halloween party last night.  Though the place was fabulously decorated, the costumes were incredibly ornate, the food and drink and music–perfect, I never felt more alone.  Well, maybe not “never,” if I were to be honest and a bit less dramatic (enhanced self-pity is another consequence of being alone most of the time. Nobody is around to keep it in check.)

I suppose it didn’t help that it was populated mostly with high school friends I haven’t seen in 35 years. People look a lot different now. And of course, we were all in costume. For these two reasons alone, they all might as well have been complete strangers.  I recognized very few except for those whose years had been very kind to them.  The social trifecta was completed by the fact I was single.  Being single at a party like that, at least to the single mind, feels like that scarlet letter once again. “He’s single? Must have been a bad divorce or else he’s gay or there’s something unpleasant about him.”  In my case, you could make a case for all three, I suppose.  But that’s how the single mind works.  It develops thought bubbles over everyone’s heads to the point at which the popping sounds become overwhelming and you just need to bolt because the last couple episodes of The Walking Dead and your dog have been patiently waiting for you to come home for at least the past 45 minutes.

Any slightly believable excuse for the host and hostess if you stay long enough to say good bye. I didn’t.

 Single adults now make up more than half the American population. This is a large, looming, lonely statistic.  Our mind’s norm, however, still conceives of ourselves as the minority.

So I head home to be socially extroverted on Facebook and other “social” media where it’s safe to be single and the loneliness is controllable, fishing for likes as life partners rather than real relationships.   I make lame attempts to belong by describing in detail and pictures the deep, meaningful relationship I have developed with my dog who would have loved to join me last night if I had a costume for him.

Sometimes I wish I was stupid and ignorant.  But once a psychotherapist, always a psychotherapist.  My training and experiences don’t let me escape self-evaluations like this very easily.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I write stories like this one as a form of self-therapy and to educate, inform and inspire others who might have like experiences.

Honestly, I don’t walk around all day forlorn, feeling sorry for myself, prowling for a life partner.  There are aspects of my singleness I greatly enjoy.  I don’t feel entirely incomplete or unfulfilled, just a bit lonely at times when I observe happy couples who have grown together for many years and have someone to hold at night and talk about nothings as if they were somethings.

Though I should know the answers to my problem, admittedly, I do not.  I have tried unsuccessfully to make some more convenient, spontaneous friends who could join me in outings like this.  Though I don’t seem to fare well in these social misadventures alone, underneath, the invitations alone are a therapeutic salve I enjoy perhaps more than the event itself.  For the uncoupled, it feels good and “normal” to be invited, wanted and desired.

I don’t drink. Or perhaps better said, I don’t drink very well.  In an effort to stave off the increasing desire to bolt from the party earlier than I did, I quickly downed two vodka tonics in an attempt to loosen me up for an engaging conversation with nobody at my table. All I got was sleepy and this pounding headache at 4am the morning after.  As a recovering drug addict, I have no business drinking but it’s never been my drug of choice and they weren’t serving bowls of meth at the bar.  Alcohol and drugs are never the answer or solution to this internal problem. I’m intimately aware of this.  But the desire to stay just a little bit longer hoping I could make the feeling pass was so strong, I was prepared to do anything just to last another half hour.

 I dressed as Santa Claus first because I had the costume on hand and second, because my extra weight would be masked as part of the costume. There, I admitted it. For the most part, I really and genuinely like myself and who I’ve become as an uncoupled man.  I recognize I probably would have never created such a mess of my life nor enjoyed the fruits of life changing recovery had I remained coupled.  So singleness has been a blessing in that regard.

Well, I am pleased to report that my splitting hangover headache from that pair of vodkas has mostly subsided and I’m feeling pretty good about today, being a single man on a Sunday morning.

Sundays are always a reminder that while I may be lonely, I’m never really alone.

And that Hester Prynne never deserved what she endured.

Anyone have her number?



(btw, this story is unedited except for spelling and grammar, so if it reads disjointedly, blame the vodka and my laziness.)

A few thoughts delivered at Dad’s Memorial Service

It’s nice to see all of you here today.

So many people from the different eras of our dad’s life

here to pay their respects to Mike Miller

…and glancing around to see who might be next.


Well, they say every cloud has  a silver lining.

If you own a Mike Miller original,

the value just skyrocketed.



There’s a very good possibility that you’ll leave here today having had

more laughs  than you think you should have at a memorial service.

All I can say is, we hope so.

That’s exactly what dad wanted.


Actually, he wanted a couple things:

One, for all of us to laugh when remembering him.

Two, for heaven’s housekeeping to get his room ready YESTERDAY.

He was an impatient man.


Ever since that first day he was diagnosed with cancer and realized the end of his life was going to be much sooner than originally thought, dad started planning for this very day. And of course, it was only hours later that Mr. Quickdraw  came up with the idea of the final experience he wanted to leave for all of us.  But once he’d finished the job, he endured the most difficult thing he has ever done.

He had to wait.

Up to the very end,

Mike Miller hated to wait for anything.

During his last days, we served him some ice cream and he got sick from it.

I said “We should check the expiration date.”

So we very gently asked, “Dad would you roll over a minute?”


As a family, thanks to dad, during these past months, we have laughed more than we have cried.  And he taught us never to be ashamed of it.

As difficult as it is for me to stand before you here today remembering the life of our dad,

it’s a piece of cake compared to having had to watch the slow fade to black of this wonderfully impatient man named Mike Miller.

We all spent the last months of his life talking openly about this day and all those that preceded it after he was first diagnosed.  We talked with him and with each other about death, life, this memorial, arrangements, the plans for mom, the plans for everything that would be affected by dad’s passing.  And through it all, I don’t think we have ever laughed and joked in such morbid, horrible ways ever before. That’s how he taught us to think about most everything.

There were more quips, quotes, puns and sight gags about his death and dying than anyone could ever understand and still respect us as a family.  Most were private between us and they’ll forever stay that way.  Others have leaked out in passing conversations during his declining days.

Like when Todd and I were in his garage with him going through all his paintings and he got tired and sat in the chair.  He had some gas and Todd and I grimaced a little and told him that there’s no way we were gonna have an open casket if that’s what cancer smelled like.

Another involved the question:  So, now you’re going through it, Pop…do you think it’s best to know that you’re going to die soon or do you think it would be better to just get hit by a bus?  He said, I think it’s best to know for a couple months and THEN get hit by a bus.

You see, I suppose for some people, to know you are dying soon is necessary if you don’t have your affairs in order.  By affairs, I’m not referring to picking out your casket or plot, planning for the distribution of your leftovers or the remains of the day.

Those tasks were just great opportunities for jokes for him and for us. Again, we laughed hysterically about all those necessary kinds of things easily because…well…because they were superfluous details and we all knew it.  Dad knew where he was going. He’d planned his entire life around this day.

As the cards, emails, calls and letters came in from the people of his almost 75 years here, the content rarely included lauds and applause for his accomplishments, awards and talents.  Sure, there were some, but overwhelmingly, they were about times, events and circumstances of his life that spoke of his character, his integrity and the less tangible of influences on the lives of people he touched within the industries he lived and worked.

Pop didn’t need all the months of fading that he ultimately endured.  There was really nothing that needed fixing.  No relationships he was compelled to mend. No apologies to be given and no wrongs to right.  He had no enemies, didn’t live a life of lies and cheats, and did no harm to anyone.

Of course, he was no angel.

At least not then.

So in trying to find an explanation for this long lingering these final months, he and all of us talked many times about how seemingly unnecessary this was.  Why wasn’t he just hit by a bus?

Only at the very end of this time did the answer finally come to all of us.

On more than one occasion, he expressed his embarrassment that while everyone knew he was dying he wondered if maybe they were saying “alright already, when’s this thing gonna happen?”

We concluded that these last several months of his life were given for us, not for him.

Selflessly, he gave us time to recall and time to laugh.

Even during his last days in that hospital deathbed, in and out of lucidity,

he’d wake up or turn his head and add a punchline to the quiet conversations we thought we were having while he slept.

If you ever get the chance to die very slowly,

I hope you are able to make good use of it, and not have to waste it thinking about what might have been, could have been or should have been.  Because if you’ve lived your life right, what was and has been will be more than enough.

None of us are ever promised a bus.

During my last visit with him, we had the talk between father and son. At the end, he said “I wonder what that final moment will be like, ya know?”  I said to him, “Remember last night when you woke up and I came over to you and the TV was on and you asked me to turn out the light, pop?  I think it’ll be like that.  You’ll just wake up and ask someone to turn out the light and they’ll just say, “Sorry Miller, this one doesn’t go out.”

He looked at me, smiled and chuckled at 3am.

He thought that was a good answer.


It’s a very strange thing, cancer. It gives you a certain amount of time to prepare, reminisce and say good bye before it takes you.  Getting hit by a bus might have been easier and I think it would have been dad’s choice had he had one.  But if so, we would have missed so much.

Now I’ve been to many memorials of people who have passed and will likely go to many more before my own.  And quite frankly, I’ve been disappointed. Let me explain.

It seems that memorial services like this are times when everyone eulogizes about the greatness of a person, their devotion, character and all the positive things they will leave behind.

Now if I were to be perfectly honest, I knew better of some of those people.  And to my recollection, they didn’t always live up to their eulogies.

I wrote my own eulogy many months ago on my website, life means so much dot com, which, incidentally, was named after a popular Chris Rice song and entirely inspired by my dad.  And because of his influence on my life, I was able to be completely honest and open about myself, both good and bad.

I didn’t want any surprises or questions about the kind of man I was or have become.

Having completed it, I realized I am  very much, and very proudly, Mike Miller.

Unless there is some rogue bastard child in the audience today

A hidden mistress

A shady business deal

A dirty browser

A bad habit

A dirty secret.

If you really  knew Mike Miller, you know there are none of these.


I have only one wish left.

I wish that everyone here today who has somehow been painted by the brush of the man we called Mike Miller,

can someday be eulogized with the clarity of conscience and character  we all have offered here today.

And if not, that in walking away from this event, driving home, going to bed and to work tomorrow, that you will ask yourself some very important questions while you still can.

You see, from the very moment he was informed he would surely die within the next few months, he spent no time mending fences, righting relationships or confessing secrets for last minute absolutions.  He just went on living the best he could until he could live no more.  I’m sure he searched deep during these months but found no demons or death-bed confessions. Surely he had a case of the woulda-shoulda-couldas like all of us, but he just lived and laughed through them knowing that what he’d gleaned and left of this life was more than enough.

Unless we meet that bus,  most of us will come down sick at some point, faced with our own mortality. We’ll get suddenly sober and spend our last days getting right and making amends.  What a waste of precious time that would be.

I think most of us, given a few months left, would want to spend the time doing things that were both meaningful and enjoyable, to the extent they could be enjoyed.

Dad did just that.

Living with Mike Miller has been awesome.

Patiently dying with him, not so much.

So, our family is now missing the capital F.  We are missing him horribly.

But he left us all we need to get through this.

Live right and die laughing.

And at the very end, like Mike Miller, you might also be able to say…

“My God, it’s full of stars!”

And you will be among them all.


Dad wanted me to tell you it’s totally real.

He woke me from a dream and dragged me to the living room as if he had every right to. I hadn’t slept much the past few weeks, what with him dying and the kids’ wedding and work. I also haven’t written much lately but hey, I’ve been kind of busy, Dad.

So I got up here at 245am, apparently at your request, and I’m sitting in front of my laptop asking for a little help. Yes, I took off work today to help with the family’s plans for your memorial service tomorrow morning and except for the ding of the coffee maker just now, there are no bells going off on what was so urgent that you had to call me from what might have otherwise been a good night’s sleep.

Angels don’t sleep, do they? Actually, that wasn’t really a question, but rather more of a statement. I know, because you’ve been all around me day and night since you died, Dad. I haven’t said much to anyone about it because I didn’t think they would believe me and just write it off to some crazy bereavement psychosis. After all, it’s not even been two weeks since you’ve been gone and I still cry when I close the car door a certain way and when I breathe air.

I’ve never lost anyone close to me until you. I’d read all the crazy accounts of people saying they continue to feel the presence of those they loved at the strangest moments, sometimes always. And either I’m just experiencing the newness of grief or this shit is real.

Last week when I was up at 245am writing my father of the bride toast for the wedding, you recall I felt something and looked behind me as I was thinking what to write next. I turned back to the laptop and wrote the funniest line of the toast. You should have seen the room laughing at the reception, Dad. But you’ve always been my inspiration to be funny and I’m sure you saw the whole thing and were proud. After all, it was a line only you would have written.

I heard you laugh yesterday. I was napping on the sofa and it woke me up. I probably should have laughed right along with you but the tears wouldn’t let me.

So now I’m a believer in spirit guides, Dad. Isn’t that crazy? I mean even you, when you were alive, laughed stuff like that off as nuts. So now that makes two of us as converts I guess.

I think of you and feel you when I’m driving, when I’m making even the most routine decisions, in meetings at work and when I’m watching TV. You’re a still small voice…a second conscience of sorts….at least that’s the best way to describe it from this side. And I always see your face when it happens, which looks remarkably like my own these days.

So now percolating on my third cup of coffee with no turning back to bed for the day, I ask you: Is this what you wanted me to write? Is this why you woke me up and dragged my ass to the living room at this silent hour? Did you want me to write and tell people that this stuff really is real?

There’s your face again.
I think they actually might believe me.

Thanks Pop. You make me cry as much as you make me laugh. Tomorrow’s memorial is gonna be great and we saved the best seat in the house for you.

Mike Miller 1939-2014

After a long battle with cancer, dad has gone fishing.
He passed in his sleep but kept us laughing every time he was awake. Cancer didn’t take his life, it took his body. He’s still very much alive and enjoying the start of his eternity. We will celebrate his colorful life at a memorial service to be held at The Crossing, A Christian Church, 7950 West Windmill Road, in Las Vegas. Watch for date and time.