Category: My Life

A Promise Kept

A Promise Cherished

Photo by Denis Agati on Unsplash

There are promises.

I promise I will be good today.
I promise to pick you up on time.
I promise to finish the laundry.
I promise to quit smoking.
I promise I will always be your best friend.

And then there are PROMISES.
December 18, 1976. On that cold December day in a suburb of Chicago, a young man and woman were just beginning to understand the most sacred of promises. To love honor and cherish till death do you part.

Yes. That promise. The “I do” promise. Not the easiest to keep. It takes work. More importantly, it requires deep, unconditional love to have any hope of keeping it.

How do I know this? Was it something I read in a book? Or an article like this?

No. I have lived it nearly all my adult life. I was that young man. A young man who made the most significant promise anyone can ever make.

How many promises have you made in your life that completely altered your life? Unselfish promises that while the benefits for yourself would be great, the promise made was for the benefit of another?

The opportunity for such a thing rarely happens in an average lifespan. Marriage and parenthood lead to many such promises. Some are broken. Some should never have been spoken.

The instant I said “I do” I felt the most significant change I have ever felt in my life before or after that moment. In a moment, one frozen in time, I was overcome with love that I could not have imagined at that point in my life.

A singular moment that will be shared for eternity. That and a mile-wide smile on my face when I think about it.

That is the promise we made to each other. No conditions. No limits. My advice to whoever may read this is simple. Love. Love like your life depends on it. Love like your lover’s life depends on it. It does.

Originally published on

Going Back Home

Ripping off the biggest bandaid

Photo by Ozzie Stern on Unsplash

Ten days from now I am heading to the Chicago area. Home. The place where the vast majority of my most treasured moments occurred.

This is it. The BIG BANDAID I need to rip off. I have never been so conflicted in my life. I’m looking forward to seeing many loved ones. I also know I will be surrounded by Nancy’s presence everywhere I go. I will see her in the faces of my children. My daughter is her mini-me.

This may surprise some of you. At my advanced age, I have never been on a road trip alone. Prior to meeting my wife I traveled cross country with friends. She and I had hit the road ten times. I have no pretenses this is going to be easy.

It will be one of the hardest things I have done in my life.

I also know it is something I have to do in this venture of self-discovery. I’ve already learned that grief does fade in time. It is replaced by its cousin, emptiness. The sense of loss. How do you replace such a large part of the person you’ve become? I have no clue.

I do know that my family and friends will be supportive and understanding if and when things get tough. I am intentionally going to make it get tough. To visit all the trigger spots in an attempt to have great memories overshadow the loss I will be simultaneously feeling.

Ripping off that bandaid.

As I write this I wonder if I am ready for this. Or if I’ll ever be ready for this. And I just got my answer…no. So I might as well get it over with. Take one more step into a most uncertain future. I look at it this way. I have a good chance I will be laughing more than crying. That is certainly an upgrade.

Thanks to all who have been following me on Medium for being my sounding board over this past year. My gratitude is boundless.

Note: This trip will likely keep me from spending much time on Medium. Again. Don’t give up on me. I have already promised myself to get back to serious writing and reading after this trip. Wish me luck.

© 2022 Joe Merkle All rights reserved

The Day Before, The Day After

A sequel

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

This article is a sequel to Going Back Home.

The Day Before

The day before I left for my trip home to Chicago I had grave reservations. I almost backed away from the trip, afraid to face what was surely going to be tough times. I would be constantly reminded of the person that no longer walks beside me.

At the same time, it had been too long since I have seen my children, grandchildren, and other family members there. I knew I would get plenty of love and laughter. Two things I desperately needed.

Then I realized what this trip would really be about. Moving on. Ripping the biggest bandaid off. It was in fact a selfish move on my part. This trip was for me. And although loved ones would benefit from my appearance it was me who had the most to gain.

I was fortunate that on the first day of the trip I went to an Eckankar event. For those not familiar with Eckankar it is a spiritual path based on the science of soul travel. Simply put, gaining inner self-awareness as soul. So the event was very uplifting and sent me on my journey feeling blessed.

Day two was the trip to Chicago. Eight hours on the road. Alone. No copilot. And yes, it sucked. But, I have nearly mastered the art of holding back tears. It came in handy on this trip. When I was within an hour of my destination, a trip I’d made many times, I had a strange sensation. It did not feel like I was going home. This was immediately followed by the realization that I will never feel home again. Home is not a place. It’s a person.

I arrived at my oldest child’s home on a Sunday afternoon. Chris and his wife Kristin greeted me with hugs and smiles. My 3 1/2-year-old granddaughter Scarlett had her doubts. I had not seen her for over three years. It was the first time I got to meet my 8-month-old granddaughter Savannah. Scarlett warmed up to me by day three and Savannah is one smiley, little girl. Love all around. They were wonderful hosts.

On my second day there I spent the day with my daughter. I took her on a tour of my life starting with the first home I remember living in. Taking her to all the places I lived in, where I met her mother and fell in love, and the history of us. It was a wonderful day for both of us. Both laughter and tears. Kelly is my wife’s minny me.

In the following days, I spent time with old friends, my brother, sister, nieces and nephews, and cousins. It was all wonderful with much laughter. And moments I could barely hold back the tears. It wasn’t right she wasn’t there. Everyone loved Nancy. You couldn’t help it.

I then realized on day three that my son’s home is about a ten-minute walk from the first home my wife and I purchased. It was a condo. Bordering the condo complex is a park that we walked in with different dogs through the years.

Every morning I walked the park and condo complex to get my three miles in. It was a means of self-torture to some degree. But, that’s the selfish reason I made the trip. To walk that walk. Pain is a byproduct of ripping a bandaid off. It’s worse when you have hairy arms. And even worse if you have gray hairy arms.

The Day After
Upon returning home from my trip I immediately realized it didn’t feel like home either. This confirmed my suspicions earlier that I will likely never feel “home” again. The first night I was busy unpacking, going through three weeks of mail, and otherwise keeping busy before bed.

Day two was everything I expected it to be. Really, really hard. It was a tortuous reminder that I was alone again. It came as no surprise. What did surprise me was my response. The realization was that behind that bandaid I ripped off was a gaping wound. Then came a terrible backslide into self-pity, a sense of loss, and the desire to totally withdraw from life. I just don’t give a damn. I pretend, play the game, and try to convince myself time will heal me.

I realize to become human again will require a supreme effort on my part. That is highly unlikely to occur. Not anytime soon. Not until I actually find a reason for wanting to occupy this body.

I have spent hours over the last month or so attempting to write and publish more on Medium. Most of the time I sit and stare at the screen. My heart’s not in it, which most likely shows while reading the few things I have published. To be honest with you the readers, and myself, I have no idea what my future holds. I want to write. These days, I think my brain is too occupied with just keeping me breathing. What a waste.

Peace. I haven’t felt that in nearly five years. Would I even recognize it if it slapped me in the face? I rather doubt it. Like everything in my life. So what is my goal now? I am going to try to do my best to write myself out of this dark place. Wish me luck.

©2022 Joe Merkle All rights reserved.

I want to once again express my gratitude to those here on Medium that has been so helpful to me in these trying times.