After a 3-year absence, I am about to reboot my website. Why? Because I tend to enjoy starting things just as they are becoming  unpopular (I’m also in the market for some used DVDs). But before I get going on the reboot, there’s something I need to do first.

I tried to write this 3 years ago – in fact, a lot of this comes from a journal-ish thing I wrote to get my feelings down on paper – but every attempt was clumsier and less focused than the last, and every good thing was already being said by people with much better words than I had. This attempt is no exception, but this big rock needs to be moved so everything else can start to flow again.

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Oren Miller, the man who changed Amazon Mom to Amazon Family

Saturday, 2/28/15

In late February 2015, I read on Facebook that Oren had stopped his chemo and he spoke about his life in terms of weeks or perhaps days. On the morning of Saturday the 28th, I finally worked up the courage to send both Oren and Beth text messages to tell them I was thinking of them and I’d love to come for a visit. Regrettably, I had talked myself into believing that he should spend his final days with his family and those close to him, convincing myself that I was not one of those people and so much as a text message from me would just be a burden to their grieving. Yes, typing it now, I feel as stupid as it sounds. Beth wrote me back within the hour saying Oren wanted to see me and asked me to come. My daughter was already in the car and we were on our way to a birthday party she had been looking forward to all month. For a moment, I considered skipping the party to go see an ailing friend. Instead, I opted to go to the party, but leave early. After all, if Oren was too tired to talk when I got there, I’d be able to come anytime on Sunday.

In the hour-long trip to Oren’s place, I had no idea how to talk to him. Would we ignore the elephant and talk about how Boyhood was robbed at the Oscars? Maybe he wanted me there to provide a distraction from the cloud. Or would we look the elephant in the eye and tell him what kind of a bastard he is right to his face? Maybe he’d want me to work on getting all his best blog posts and essays together into book form, like the one I self-published last year – to which he attended the release party the week before he got the news. Heck, I’d be honored. I’d even offer up Brent to do the artwork. I had settled on coming out and asking him directly what he wants to talk about. But in a funny way, to lighten the mood. That’s probably why he wants to talk to me.

By the time I got to his place, he was asleep. Family and friends were there. Over the next hour, it became apparent that this was the end. I would not be coming back to see him tomorrow to talk about Boyhood. Beth told me that Oren wanted to see me because he wanted someone from the Dad Blogger group to speak at his funeral. Damn. Gut punch after gut punch.

I took solace in helping clear the driveway of a fallen tree and chip away at the ice for an hour or so with the others who were there. I hoped he would come out again, that the prognosis was wrong. But I also felt like I was inappropriately making this about my guilt for missing whatever window I was given to see him. There will be other birthday parties. I should have come right away. And why did it take me so long to work up the courage to text him? These are questions I’ll work on later. For now, there is a grieving family that could use support, however I can manage to give it to them.

Oren passed away before I got home.


Sunday, 3/1/15

I called Brent to talk about the eulogy. On every level, it made more sense for him to give it. I would be happy to say something in his stead, should he have felt, for whatever reason, that he couldn’t do it. Brent then wrote and later delivered the most beautiful tribute to a person that there has ever been. But please, don’t take my word for it. I did recommend that we have some of Oren’s quotes in a collage for people at the reception to see. I did the same for my dad. It was a bunch of pieces of paper taped to a piece of wood, which had been covered in green paper. Pretty ghetto, but also, very fitting for my dad. Before I knew it, Brent was suggesting we make a video tribute for him. He assembled five of his closer dad blogging friends and put it out there and before I knew it, I was downloading video editing software and creating a video for his funeral. It was an honor to be able to help in some way. Honestly, Jeff Bogle did the heavy lifting, gathering 95% of the pictures that I used from family and other dad bloggers, but I was happy to have helped.

I took a break from the video for family movie night, a tradition recently started in an effort to bundle most of the TV we allow Mabel to watch into a controllable and predictable time period. I had gone most of the last couple days without shedding too many tears, despite being the kind of guy that cries at the end of every episode of Monk and many Subaru commercials. I sat and watched my two-year-old girl and two-month-old boy and imagined what their movie night would be like without me. And that’s when I lost it. I had to leave the room because I didn’t want to have to explain to Mabel why I started sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of Madagascar. Maybe Up or The Lion King, but not Madagascar. Shortly after the movie, I got back to work, which was a good distraction from the sadness, even if it involved looking at over a hundred pictures of Oren and his family.


Monday, 3/2/15

I arrived at the funeral about 45 minutes early to set up the video. This was not the first time I was at this funeral home. A few years ago, when Mabel was only a baby, I was here for a college friend’s funeral. I did not appreciate having a sort of familiarity with a particular funeral home. I set up the video, adjusted the volume 47 times, and looked desperately for Brent or somebody I knew. I sat with Brent, Chris Bernholdt, and Jeff Bogle, together as the four representatives of the Dad Bloggers group that Oren started and ran all the way up to yesterday.

I didn’t belong there. I wasn’t family. I had met Oren a few times, but I wasn’t even a real blogger. I was sitting with these three larger than life characters, who also coincidently all happen to be 6’3” and above, listening to them talk about monetizing stuff, sponsorship, and paid trips to go somewhere they could blog about later. I pay a web hosting site a few bucks a month and post stuff I think is funny. We are not in the same world. I didn’t have anything to say to them. And boy, do I have no idea what to say to Beth or certainly the kids. I was a phony and I was crashing a funeral because of my own guilt. What an ass. I looked around for any other imposters. Nope. Just me.

You know who I need to be here right now? Oren. He was my bridge from me to these rock stars. He got me. He understood these insecurities. Stupid as it sounds, I was really wishing he was there to sit between me and these other three guys. He stood squarely in both worlds and when he was there, I was on equal footing with the others. He made me feel comfortable. He made everyone feel comfortable. He talked about me in his blog once. I felt honored. We met IRL when I first joined the group to talk about blogging, SAHDing, and Facebooking. He actually – and I shit you not – had to explain to me what a thread was. I didn’t know. And he didn’t judge. It was largely his influence that kept me both an active member of the Facebook group and a blogger at all. In the three years since he passed, I have only posted once. Saying that Oren’s passing was the only reason I stopped writing would be overdramatizing the past – it was a ton of things, as it always is – but I didn’t feel a part of the group like I did before. And the motivation just wasn’t as strong.

Brent stood up to give his eulogy. It was moving and perfect. He sat back down and some other people spoke. I still didn’t know what to do. I wanted to show my support, but I started questioning why. And then it was time to go to the cemetery. They were calling the pallbearers up to the front to help them. A few of the people I had met on Saturday started moving to the front. And then they called my name. Dustin Fisher. Why? I mean, I was surely happy to help but why me? I was sitting with three men all at least 6’7” and much stronger and my name was called? Perhaps it was a thank you for the video montage. Maybe the other guys would have been too tall and strong. Or maybe Beth needed one more person and I was the only name she could remember at the time. Regardless, I was shocked. Maybe I wasn’t a phony after all. Maybe I did belong here. Maybe I was better friends with Oren than I thought.

After the service and the cemetery, we collected back at Beth’s house for Shiva, yet another chance for me to feel insecure and phony. Only I now felt a little more like I belonged. I still didn’t know why I was chosen as a pallbearer for this incredibly important moment, but I was. This gave me a little confidence to talk to these people as a real friend of Oren, regardless of how many times I had seen him in the real world or how many hits my website got last week. Suddenly I found some common ground with these 7-foot behemoths of the dad blogging industry. I even felt comfortable enough to bring Mabel to Shiva the following day. Mabel is always a good icebreaker. Unfortunately, she is also an adept Lego breaker. Sorry, Liam. Thank you for taking that in stride. And then I had a thought. I think I know why I was chosen as a pallbearer. It was Oren. It was him, sitting between me and these people and things that intimidated me. He was – maybe one last time – making me feel like I fit in. He was my bridge yet again. And so even at his own funeral, he was able to reach out and do for me what he had done many times before with regard to my writing and my dadding. He told me that what I was doing was enough. That I had no reason to doubt myself or my intentions. That I deserved to grieve and show support as much as anyone. Thank you, Oren. I’m sorry it took me three years to say it.

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world

Four dad bloggers, just trying to change the world

4 thoughts on “Oren

  1. I think this is the most authentic and beautifully vulnerable piece I’ve read on Oren since his passing. Thank you for sharing your story in such a moving and memorable way, Dustin.

  2. What a beautiful tribute. I just went in to kiss my daughter an extra time while she slept peacefully in her bed. Life is so damn short. Keep doing more of this. You have a real talent for writing and storytelling. God knows, the world needs new, honest stories to tell ourselves, now more than ever. Can’t wait to read more.

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