I woke up this morning to see in my notifications that Lisa of All About Life fame has nominated me for the 3,2,1 Challenge. She knows me, I love a good quote and I especially enjoy elaborating on why it means something to me.
I find it odd, perhaps a sign that this challenge comes on a day that I woke up in the mood to binge-watch movies of a man whose loss I feel deeply. The brilliant and manic comedian that brought tears of joy and abdominal pain from laughing. The soulful and charismatic actor who created and portrayed characters that walk alongside me in real life. The “sad clown” that laughed on the outside and cried on the inside but chose to make others laugh because he knew pain. The man who left us way too early because his pain was just too much to bear.
I have been called a “Sad clown” before. I have been accused of making jokes to minimize pain. Of deflecting praise because I didn’t feel worthy of it. They weren’t wrong, I was deeply unhappy for a long time. But I did get pleasure out of making others happy. That’s what Robin did, so today I will provide 2 great quotes from Robin Williams.
Bad days are lessons. You can learn from them or dwell on them, it is your choice. I have had more than my share of bad days in my life but I always chose to smile through them when I was able, or smile after when it was over. Collectively, my bad days have taught me to appreciate everything, most especially the little things in life. The warmth of the sun, the smile and laugh of a child, the gait of a beautiful woman, the affection of a pet, the sunrise of a brand new day. We only have so many sunrises left and I try to enjoy them all. I don’t know how many days I have left, none of us do, but I refuse to die with regrets and unexpressed feelings.
What a wonderful take on wisdom. Wisdom is fleeting for some, nonexistent in others and always appreciated too late in the dispenser and wasted on the young. Too often we dismiss the advice of others because we feel that we know enough already or that the giver is not qualified. Wisdom comes from good judgment. Good judgment comes from making mistakes. Mistakes, better known as learning experiences make and shape who we are. How we handle them speaks volumes. At the very least, our mistakes teach us how to handle future incidents. At the most, they allow us to help others clear their hurdles. Unfortunately, wisdom is acquired too late. The sands of time eventually fill the bottom of the hourglass and it dies with you. You can only hope that someone besides yourself learns from your slips and falls, the hills and vales and the walls that you hit so that they might not struggle. But if they do, they will have acquired their own wisdom. Just another cog in the circle of life.
I nominate: My bud Biff @ Biff, Sock, Pow. His blog is brilliant and funny and I would love to see what he comes up with. I would also be pleased if you would check him out. You will not regret it. Sparky Jen. She’s positive, very wise and a true pleasure to read. Trust me. Tom @ Tom Marches on. He’s been in a slump lately maybe this will get him writing again. Plus I would like to see what he comes up with.
I first met you in the courtyard of our Apartment complex.
You were walking your Boxer. Your buzzcut, upright posture and tattoos immediately revealed that you were military. I welcomed you to the complex and happily found out that you lived above me. I told you we should hang out.
I learned your story. You were active
duty Army, 3 tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an MP. You were
stateside and reassigned as a Recruiter. Your wife and 2 beautiful
daughters were so happy to have you home. I immediately respected
You were half my age. You sought my
friendship and advice over frequent drinks. As we became close you
alternated between treating me as a friend and a father figure. I was
happy to be both.
We worked out together. You hated the
fact that I was twice your age but could outrun you. Eventually you
asked me to help you get in better shape to pass your PT test. I
threw pebbles at your balcony window to wake you at 6 am to go for a
run. Most times you didn’t feel up to it. You were hung over.
You desired fitness, but you were a
slave to Alcohol. You didn’t deny it. You couldn’t just have a drink,
you could only get hammered. Jack Daniels was your best friend and
your wife was getting jealous of your relationship.
I tried to get you to slow it down. I
warned you of the damage you were doing to your family. I treaded
lightly because I knew you had seen some shit overseas and needed
your coping mechanisms. But I saw the writing on the wall.
Eventually, your wife, tired of you passing out on the sofa and your belligerent behavior when drinking grew tired of your antics and sought solace in the arms of another. A mutual friend had betrayed you, broke a cardinal law and coveted your wife. When you found out, you went on a binge.
I got your call at 11 PM on a Sunday
night. You were very drunk and driving around. Your life, your
marriage and your military service were on the line. I pleaded for
you to park your car and let me come get you. You succumbed. I drove
an hour to pick you up. I offered to take you home but you didn’t
want to go. I took you to my home. We talked into the early hours of
the morning. You were heartbroken. Angry. You wanted to lash out. The
one person you refused to blame was your own self. I listened to you,
talked when appropriate and tried to set you on the right course. You
passed out on my bed. I slept on the floor that night. You were worth
it, we were friends after all.
The next morning, while I was at work
you called me and thanked me for my friendship. You promised that you
were going to make it right with your wife.
You went home to find your bags packed. It was over. You moved back into your mother’s house the next day.
We promised to stay in touch. Due to the distance we were reduced to the phone and Facebook. I monitored your progress through Facebook until the day I noticed that I wasn’t seeing your feeds. You had “unfriended” me.
I called you and asked you why. Was it
a mistake? It had to be, after all, we were such good friends weren’t
You told me that because I was FB friends with the guy that banged your wife you couldn’t be friends with me. I was flabbergasted. Could you really be that childish? As it turned out, you could indeed.
I pride myself in doing for the sake of doing, not for recognition but I lowered myself to asking you if my friendship and the associated deeds mattered to you. You said they did but you couldn’t be friends with me in real life if I was FB friends with the other guy.
I asked you if you had fully thought
this through. You told me to “unfriend” him and it will all go
away. I refused. While I wasn’t thrilled with what he did, it wasn’t
my place to judge him and there was a principle involved. I told you
so. You stood firm.
I made it easy for you and I told you
that we were no longer friends.
I hope you do well in life, my friend.
I regret the manner in which I lost touch with you. I enjoyed your
friendship and I also valued it. More than the “Friends” list on
a stupid Social Media outlet. But that’s the difference between you
and I. That, and accountability. And honesty. And the appreciation of
I hope you do well in your journeys.
Should you ever grow up, you know where to find me.
I have been challenged by the very talented Haunted Wordsmith to again take part in the Tell the Story Challenge. It’s quite simple, I was given an image and tasked with telling a story. I initially was going to decline but the picture was so challenging I forced myself to rise to the challenge. Before you read, check out the Wordsmith’s blog. You won’t be disappointed.
The Captain stood at the bow and stared at the gray horizon. In all directions, as far his eyes could strain it was storm clouds and turbulent seas. He steadied himself against the battering waves, the salt spray burned his tired eyes.
Captain Hillenbrand was alone on the
deck. His weary crew was bedded down for the night. What was left of
his crew, that is. Rocked by a mysterious disease, his men were
dropping fast and those that remained were cowering in their quarters
for fear of contracting it. It’s better, he thought, that they not
see the worried, furrowed brow that had replaced his legendary,
confident stare. They need to see a leader, not just another scared
and vulnerable man.
A practical man, raised at sea by a legendary seaman of Her Majesties Royal Navy, he led with a superb blend of instinct and reliance upon the proven tools of the sailor. He always knew what to do.
He was surrounded by the unknown. A week before, all of the ship’s navigational tools inexplicably stopped working. The dial of the compass spun like a child’s toy. The barometer failed to budge in any way. He strained for an explanation, but there wasn’t one. Stranger than the failure of the instruments was the lack of daylight. It had been dark for 7 days.
It had all occurred at the same time.
Right after…he tried to chase it out of his mind. The recollection
surged through him and he resigned himself to allow for the
possibility that his deeds had finally come to haunt him. Right after
they came upon the stranded ship flying the African flag, drifting
The Exodus was a merchant vessel. Captain Nathan Hillenbrand had lost his commission after his father had retired in disgrace. The Royal Navy felt that the name Hillenbrand would carry a negative connotation and politely and expediently forced him out of the Navy. Unable to find other work, Nathan Hillenbrand had been forced to Captain the Exodus. It was fairly easy work, being free of the regimen of military service he was able to lead his crew as he saw fit. The challenge,of course, was that his crew was also not under the regimen of military service and he was tasked with leading a crew of characters, some unsavory, and that was a daily challenge.
The Exodus, weighed down with a cargo of dry goods was headed towards the Philippines on a routine trade mission. Six days into their journey they found that their food and water supply was contaminated. Rats had not been detected during loading and had sufficiently bitten into and defecated onto enough of their food supply to render it inedible. Rum was the only consumable product on the ship. Captain Hillenbrand had done his best to maintain order, he assured his crew that with smooth seas they would make their destination before starvation set in.
It was soon after that they encountered the stranded ship. Floating, it’s main mast broken, likely due to a storm, the craft was truly helpless. As the Exodus came into sight, the weary sailors waved frantically to them to assist. Captain Hillenbrand ordered a team to drop a rowboat and board the ship. He gave them specific instructions to assess how many were aboard. If it was a manageable amount, they were to signal him to send more boats to rescue them. It was also instructed of them to “appropriate” some supplies to get them through their current situation.
The crew boarded the ship and signaled, by way of hand signals that there were 35 men aboard. Too many to allow on the already overloaded Exodus. He signaled across the waves to them by drawing his hand under his throat and simulated slicing his own throat. This was the universal signal to abort.
What happened next would haunt the most
hardened of sailors and men.
The crew leader, either misinterpreting, or more sinister, perverted the signal and began to attack the crew of the stricken craft. The others followed. The Captain stood helplessly as the men hacked the crew to death. Horrified, he watched the brutal display unfold before him. Blood mixed with the salt spray, bodies fell to the deck, those who were lucky lived long enough to bleat like sheep to the slaughter.
The screams, my god the screams.
When the crew completed their unsanctioned massacre, they grabbed a meager supply of food and loaded the dingy and paddled back to the Exodus. Hillenbrand, dazed and outraged, met the returning men with a team of sailors armed with bayonets. Unable to find any other suitable option, he had them summarily executed, their treasonous corpses tossed overboard.
After, he ordered his remaining crew to
make do with the tragically obtained supplies and went to his cabin.
It wasn’t long after that it became dark. The sea kicked up. The clouds rolled in. The Exodus began its now endless spell of being tossed around by the angry waves. Then the instruments stopped working. The next morning, when he surveyed what should have been a horizon with at least a glimpse of sun…he saw nothing but darkness. It wasn’t just strange, it was foreboding.
More sinister than the darkness was the
floating specter that appeared before him. Dancing on the waves, not
possibly human and of this world, the skeletal face stared at him,
through him and into his very soul. It haunted him. He ordered his
crew to change direction at full sail. Still, there was the specter
dancing in the waves, taunting him. In another change of direction,
he saw it again. No matter what he tried, there it was.
Any experienced sailor will tell you, the sea is a mysterious mistress and can play games with the weary mind. Hillenbrand was beyond weary, but he knew what he saw before him. All of his rational instincts raging through him, he knew that he was dealing with something beyond the realm of the rational. It was Karma, it was payback for what he had allowed on his watch. It was his reckoning. It was the call of retribution. It was Death.
Clearly, there was no escaping it.
He heard a commotion below deck. He need not look, another, or a few more men had died. The remaining men were scared. They wanted answers. He had none, a mutiny was certainly imminent. They would come for him. If it came to that, he would let them. The next man who assumed the helm would not escape the same fate. They would all die in darkness.
As he stared into the endless, bland
night he heard the screams of the helpless, slaughtered victims. The
ones who had died under his watch. They danced around in his head,
demanded to be heard. He couldn’t fight it, the cacophony overpowered
He raised his pistol to his temple, took a deep breath and one last look at his own personal hell and pulled the trigger.
As his body slumped to the deck of the cursed ship, he faintly heard the sinister, menacing laugh of the specter in the crashing waves before him.
It’s wonderful to be my age in today’s America. I am old enough to have been raised on solid values, ones that carried generations through a Depression and several wars. Yet I am young enough to be able to relate to the bizarre and often entertaining exploits of today’s younger generations. I’m not yet a dinosaur and I understand a generous 30% of what Gen X’ers and Millenials say and do. I even dare to say that I have acquired wisdom to share with anyone who asks.
Unfortunately, I am also at an age
where I am deeply affected by the divided, hostile state my beloved
country is in. Being raised in an atmosphere of manners, respect and
tolerance I am very bothered by bad behavior, a lack of respect for
institutions that I revere, a widespread intolerance of opposing
viewpoints and a startling lack of civility and decorum in our
disagreements. As one fellow boomer once said to me, “I feel as if
my entire being is under attack.”
He’s not wrong. Dialogue has been replaced by shouting. Race relations have regressed by decades. Education has been replaced by soundbites and false information. Respect for differences has been replaced by violence. Morality has been replaced by relativism and history is under attack by revisionist historians. Sadly, instead of finding balance between the established and the progressive, many are reverting to banning that which they find offensive.
We are even banning words.
Maybe I’ll jump on that band wagon.
Let’s start here. I propose we ban the
Black Hispanic Asian Latino Gay Trans
When you see, talk to,write about, report on, interact with, tell a story about a man or a woman simply report what they did and what happened, who they are, what they stand for, what they believe but not WHAT they are. Identity politics is the bane of our existence and needs to be addressed. The facts don’t care what you identify as unless it is germane to the story and applying a label to a person only sensationalizes, not depicts the situation.
If you choose to just see a man, to just see a woman, the way we look at everything will change. See a HUMAN.
Ask only who you are and what you bring to the table.
Go ahead PC police. I’ve given you the idea, I dare you to run with it.
This may be a bit late to the party but I want to share my Valentine’s Day experience with you.
It was a busy evening at my favorite
watering hole. Perhaps because it was Valentine’s Day, maybe because
the skiing has been good with all of the recent snow. I couldn’t help
but notice that I was one of the only ones rolling solo that evening.
That may have bothered me at one time but I’ve gotten quite used to
my own company. Nursing a drink and uninspiredly munching french
fries isn’t so bad once you’re used to it.
I scanned the room, the people watcher
in me cannot be denied. I do have to admit that seeing all of the
happy couples canoodling as they celebrated a Hallmark Holiday got to
me a bit. I never understood the need to go to extravagant lengths to
show your love for someone, isn’t love something you should express
every day? Why do you need dinner reservations, overpriced flowers
and credit card debt to prove it. I then reminded myself that every
guy in this room who adhered to this forced ritual is going to get
laid tonight. I won’t have that luxury despite how much alcohol I
pour on my hand to get my date drunk.
Still, I passively observed the ritual
as it played out before me, fondly remembering the days when I was
still in the game. Then I saw her. She was alone at her table,
listlessly staring at the table and stirring a drink. I could tell,
despite the fact that she was seated that she was tall. A heavy
sweater couldn’t disguise an athletic build. Most men would be afraid
of that but I’m not one of them. Fit is sexy.
Occasionally, she would glance around
the room. I was careful to avert my eyes. Was she waiting for
someone? Enough time passed that a date in the Men’s room seemed
unfeasible. How is this lovely specimen alone? She turned and met my
Unable to turn away without looking as
if I was busted, I managed a weak smile and turned to study the ice
cubes in my glass. Despite my interest in her I wasn’t prepared to
meet anyone tonight. After many years of a loveless marriage
distinctly lacking contact other than self-imposed my confidence
level was non-existent.
“Mind if I sit down?” Surprised,
I turned and there she was. “By all means” I managed to reply.
“You were staring at me.”
“Guilty as charged.” I said.
“Don’t be. It happens when you’re
alone in a place like this.” “About that.” I asked. “Why
are you alone on this hallowed Hallmark Holiday?”
She smiled mischievously. “I could
ask you the same.”
I went for it. The humorous route. “I’m
divorced, broke and living with my mother. Still want to sit here?”
She told me I was cute.
Small talk turned into conversation.
She was indeed an ex-athlete. She had just gotten out of a long
relationship but didn’t provide many details. I didn’t pry. I was
just glad to have company. Several drinks were consumed and I began
to relax a bit. She warmed up also and soon was stroking my wrist
with her strong hands. Clearly, she was in the mood for some fun. I
started to tense up, trying to remember the last time I had been with
a woman and having a true crisis of confidence.
“Let’s get out of here. I live around
the corner. The drinks are cheaper and we can just hang out.”
“Listen.” I said. “There’s no
easy way to say this so I’ll just blurt it out.”
She patiently stared at me, waiting for
me to get it out. “I haven’t been with someone in almost 10
years. Sex for me is like a dog chasing a car. If I caught it I
wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
She laughed. “Sweetie, you’ve already
caught the car. No worries, I’ll be gentle.”
I paid the tab and we put on our coats
and left. We got to the parking lot, she pointed out her car and told
me to follow her.
She was right, she did live close. We
went inside her neat apartment. She poured two scotches neat, turned
and walked towards me as I was mentally choosing what seat to choose.
Sofa for action, or single seat for plotting my next move. My palms
were sweating. I didn’t need to decide, she decided for as she led me
to the sofa. She gently pushed me into my seat and stood over me. She
took off her sweater and revealed a sheer sleeveless top. Her
shoulders were strong like I imagined. Things were getting hot.
“Scared?” She asked me.
“No.” I replied. “But I think my
cock is scared stiff!”
She laughed haughtily. Then she
proceeded to toss me around like a doll for what had to be an hour.
She gladly called the shots and I gratefully let her. Fortunately I
was able to think about baseball enough to make the encounter last.
After, we lay on the rug in front of
the sofa. Our clothes were strewn about. I was panting, sweaty and
satisfied beyond the measures attainable by modern technology. We
didn’t speak. Conversation could have added nothing to the moment. We
laid there for quite a while, her lying on her side with her head
nestled under the crux of my arm. The only movement was her
persistent caressing of my balls. It didn’t bother me, but it was
unsettling how she was fixated.
Eventually I asked her why she was so
intent on fondling my testes.
An empty chair is the car wreck of the room. You don’t want to look at it but as you pass by, you have to. Sick? Vacation? Or did they…get that out of your head, don’t think the worse.
Chair 3 is in the private room, a walled oasis in a open desert. I’ve never been in chair 3, I’m too well-behaved. The “problem” patients seem to go in there, the ones that hassle the nurses and complain a lot. Dan the Veteran is usually in there, he hassles the staff like an old man at the early bird special. I like Dan, mostly I respect him for his military service. You know, the service that gave him the need for a heart and a kidney transplant and then denied him his VA benefits. The last time I saw Dan I asked him how we was, and he told me. After 5 minutes of him complaining, I not-so-politely reminded him that we are all at the clinic for the same reasons, maybe he could try to be a little more pleasant? It’s not that he’s not sick or that I don’t empathize, but he’s preaching to the choir. Did I hurt his feelings? He’s not here today, and I feel bad.
Chair 4 is also empty, it is usually
reserved for a new patient, a transient or someone who missed a
session due to illness or weather.
Chair 5 is today’s home for Terry. I don’t know much about Terry. He’s a quiet guy, in his 60’s. He nods his hello’s and goodbyes. His knit Harley-Davidson hat and multiple tattoos suggest that he was a pretty fun guy before he got sick. He seems simple and direct, I earned his respect the first day he made his way by with his walker, when I moved my protruding feet to make room. His nod of thank you told me all I needed to know.
Chair 6 is today’s home for Kim. Kim plays with her phone and sleeps. She doesn’t say much, but she monitors the banter of the room and will occasionally smile warmly. Kim doesn’t have teeth, I think that’s why she doesn’t say much or smile often. She clearly doesn’t feel well, even after dialysis. She walks the same painful, slow walk on the way out as she does on the way in.
Chair 7 is today’s home for Jack. Jack sits upright, vomit bag in lap because of his chronic nausea, staring straight ahead through dark glasses the entire session. He says little and smiles less. It took me a while to realize that he is legally blind because he walks out unattended. He’s a big dude, I wouldn’t want to have messed with him in his prime. I wonder how he is handling his new life.
Chair 8 is empty. Lisa has been missing
a lot of appointments. She has not been a patient for long. She is
not handling it well, she has experienced almost every complication
one of us can. I hope she starts tolerating it soon. She’s quiet, I
really don’t know anything about her.
Chair 9 is today’s home for Kurt. I
don’t know for how long, but he’s been doing this a long time. A
small man with a great head of hair, he makes his way in with his
walker and oxygen tank, armed with enough gear to survive an ice age.
He always says hi to me, occasionally we sit next to each other and
talk, between his frequent naps. He used to be a big man in business,
now he lives for his next treatment. I like Kurt.
Chair 10 is home to John. At 81, he is
a vibrant guy. Witty, always smiling and messing with the Nurses. He
passes the session with a stack of newspapers in his lap,
occasionally glancing at the TV. He is quick with a smile and a joke.
Not eligible for a transplant, he is fine with his routine for now.
Me, I’m in chair 2. I’m uncomfortable. I’m itchy. My arm hurts from the needles. I don’t much care for this spot, the glare from the window makes it hard to see the TV. The Nurses station partially blocks my view of the room, which dampers my people watching. I read and I watch mind-numbing TV, I try to blog. I talk to the nurses to pass the time. The nurses love me. I never rush or hassle them. I am never rude. I don’t complain. They wish the others were more like me. They hate that I have to be there, but they are glad that I am.
When I’m not wondering what is going through the minds of the others in the room, I evaluate how I’m doing. The doctor’s tell me that I’m doing great. That’s the physical part. I know that. I focus on how I’m handling dialysis emotionally. I think I’m ok. I try to be active on days I feel well. I try not to be discouraged on days that I don’t. I’m getting used to it.
It’s all about the routine, after all.
Arrive and wait in the waiting room to be called in. Make small talk with the others. Get called in. Report to the scale to weigh in. Any nausea, vomiting, dizziness, change of appetite? Me, I always say no. Go to your assigned seats and do a standing Blood Pressure. Sit and wait for the 2 sticks from the one-inch needles that would make Dracula himself wince. Wait for the pain to subside as the Nurse programs the machine. We make small talk until it is time to settle in, our feet up, laptops or tablets at the ready, our headphones plugged in. We try to nap, try to read, try to watch boring daytime TV, anything to kill 4 excruciating hours of sitting perfectly still. When the welcome sound of the end timer goes off, the blankets come off, the needles come out, we apply pressure to the needle sight to stop the bleeding and we wait for the dizziness to subside. We then dutifully wait our turn at the scale and announce our new weight, which is hopefully significantly lower now, and trudge out the door. We’ll be back in a day in a half.
This is my new life, my new normal. I can live with it for now. I really don’t have a choice. Planning, scheduling, hoping to make the most of the good days. I hope to be on a transplant list soon and be in recovery by Summer.
In the interim I will continue to be the guy the Nurses look forward to seeing. The guy that other patients laugh with (or at). The guy that has become part of a community, one that has altered his outlook on what really matters in life in a wonderful, if not a routine way.
I had a great weekend planned. There was a special dinner at my lodge on Saturday that I wanted to attend. The timing worked well because it was the weekend before our monthly Monday meeting. I had it all worked out. I changed my dialysis time to an earlier slot, I would drive down in time for the dinner at 4:30. I would stay over my best bud Jeff”s house and visit with my kids (at 3 different locations) on Sunday. I then planned on staying another night, have coffee with one guy and visit another until it was time for the meeting and then drive home.
Saturday rolled around and I was ready to go. Tux in one hand, overnight bag in the other I left the house at 8. I ran into my first wrinkle when I arrived at the dialysis center and they wanted to know why I was there so early. I explained that I had scheduled it with Lisa, but Lisa never marked the calendar, They made me wait an hour. I rolled with it, I had allowed extra time in case such an issue arose.
It was a brutal session. I had a bad reaction to a med, I cramped up horrible and the injection site hurt like hell the entire 4 hours. Somehow, I got through it. At 2:30 I was off like a Prom Dress. Straight into a traffic jam. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go home first. I barely made it on time to the dinner.
I was given a warm welcome by my friends and brothers, but the evening was mediocre because I wasn’t feeling well after my rough session of dialysis. I put on a brave face and got through it but by the end of the night I was cooked. Jeff and I had little Scotch and Cigar time that night, I went to bed early. Fortunately, I was up most of the night. Insomnia isn’t limited to your own pillow, it’s transferable.
Sunday morning I got up at the butt crack of Dawn because Jeff has young children (is it still called getting up if you never slept?) and had breakfast with his family. At 9:30 I embarked on my day of visiting the kids. Over the course of the morning and afternoon, I drove a total of 130 miles and saw my youngest 2. I spent some time with my youngest daughter hanging out at the apartment. I then went to a cigar bar with my youngest boy and enjoyed a ten dollar cigar and a good conversation. It was then back to MA to have dinner with the ex and my oldest daughter at the restaurant my oldest boy works. I wasn’t feeling great by the time dinner came but it was good to see everyone, even if my son was working. By the time I was done eating you could again stick a fork in me, because I was done.
That night, I managed to have a Scotch and a Cigar with Jeff, we went over the events of our day and I was in bed by 10.
That night I slept like a log. When I woke my stomach was a bit off. At that point it could have been the Scotch, the need for a good fart or just a bubble. I was wrong on all counts, I quickly realized as I raced to the bathroom to toss up the previous evening’s dinner. I had caught the stomach bug. I would not leave Jeff’s guest room the entire day. I spent the day alternating between sitting on the throne with runaway diarhea while simultaneously barfing into plastic shopping bags and then sleeping. The meeting I had gone to all of the effort to plan for…I never made it.
Tuesday morning I made the 2 hour drive at 75 miles per hour, plastic bag handy and butt cheeks clenched firmer than a Southern Baptist minister. Having successfully made it without an “accident” vehicular or otherwise, I made it to dialysis.
Where I had another miserable session.
It’s so absurd it only makes sense to laugh. The best laid plans, right?
I received a text from my youngest daughter late last night. We text almost every day and I always light up when I see that it’s her.
She told me that she has an English assignment to write a 20 sentence essay about a powerful moment in her life, and would I mind if she wrote about my last hospitalization. I joked with her, which one? It was a caustic joke, making reference to the many crises I’ve been through in the last couple of years. It wasn’t funny of course, my battles have had a real impact on my kids, one that I wish they never had to deal with. The last one, I’ve heard, was particularly bad. I have to rely on what I’ve heard because I was unconscious for 2 days.
I told her I was fine with it and asked her to email it to me. Here is what I opened.
As I pulled up to the hospital, I did not know what to expect when I walked into his room. My mom and I made it into the hospital, to the elevator, and into the ICU. The nurse led us into the room and my heart dropped to my stomach as I saw my dad. I have never seen someone look so helpless, while he laid there with a tube down his throat and a machine breathing for him. The nurse was talking, but I couldn’t listen. All I could hear was my heart pounding, the machines beeping, and the sound of oxygen being shot into his lungs. The first time I saw his chest rise then fall, tears came to my eyes, but they did not stop. Tears kept pooling in my eyes and falling down my face. I could not breathe. I felt like I needed to have oxygen sent to my lungs, too, because I couldn’t seem to breathe on my own. They told me to talk to him, but what do I say? Would he be able to hear me? All I could do was hold his hand and hope he could hold mine back, but he didn’t. Even if he wanted to, he had gloves on preventing him from ripping the tubes from his mouth, which he had tried to do during the many attempts to wake him up. So I did the best I could and I held his hand and spoke soothing words to him. I told him I loved him. I told him he couldn’t leave me, and he didn’t. He stayed strong for me, for my family, and for himself, like the fighter I know and love. “He’ll be okay,” they told me. He’ll be okay.
She will be reading that in front of her class.
I was floored. I cried. I was so sad for her that she had to go through that, so proud of her ability to express herself so boldly and honestly, and so taken back by her account. Above all, I was blown away by the love this child has for me.
I told her how proud I was, how well-written it was and that I was moved by her words. “Well, it’s all true”, she matter of factly replied.
I continue to struggle with that episode of my life. I’ve had a couple of medical close calls in my life and I sincerely remember traveling towards a tunnel of some sort before being revived. I know what I experienced and no skeptic will ever talk me out of it. But the last one was the worst. I was inches from the dirt farm, to the point where the Doctors were discussing my DNR.
Through Doctor and family accounts, I’ve been given details of the ordeal. The 2 ambulance rides, the first to a hospital that was ill-equipped to treat me. The 104.9 fever. The medically induced coma. The breathing tube and the bedside dialysis. I don’t remember any of it of course, and there lies the frustration.
The one thing I have never wrapped my head around is what my family went through during that time. The guy who always tried to act strong, through a carefully orchestrated design of denial and lying about my health was, in my daughter’s words, helpless. Helpless is not a word often associated with me.
My mother, my ex-wife (who was amazingly supportive and present throughout the ordeal), and my older children were all deeply concerned. But my youngest, she was beyond herself. We have a special bond.
As all of these thoughts ran through my sleepless mind last night, I texted her: “That was a scary time.”
“I was more scared that I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye.”
Is there anything that would make a guy want to keep plugging on stronger than that? God, I love that kid.
“The roll of the workmen has been called, and one worker has failed to report”.
I dutifully hung my head as the familiar dialogue of a Masonic Funeral was read. I’d been in many Masonic funerals in my years as a Freemason. It is a beautiful ceremony, the same one performed for George Washington, and a show of respect for the fallen brother and a glimpse for the family into the ways of the fraternity the brother’s family never saw. They always make me sad, but this one really hurt.
This brother was also a very close friend whose loss I know I will feel for a very long time.
I first saw Adam from across the room at a meeting. The first thing I noticed about him was the absurdly round face. I observed that he was heavy, but his face was bloated beyond that. When he stood up I could see that he was in pain. This man had a story to tell.
As the room cleared at the end of the meeting I saw the small crowd gathered around him. Handshakes, hugs and greetings abounded, it was obvious that he was a beloved member of the lodge. I made a goal of getting to know him.
During cocktail hour I walked across
the room and introduced myself. Never one afraid to approach a
stranger, I stuck out my hand.
“Greetings, Brother. My name is Bill”. He stuck his hand out, “Adam.” And thus began a beautiful friendship.
Adam had joined Freemasonry at the suggestion of his father. It was suggested that he would make friends, enjoy the fraternal bond, if nothing else to have something to do to get his mind off of his problems. He had many, chief among them being a Cancer survivor.
Adam was diagnosed at the age of 30
with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a highly aggressive cancer with a very low
survival rate. Newly married, with a flourishing career and a young
son, his life came crashing down. He survived, thanks to the
wonderful gift of a bone-marrow transplant from his brother. It was
an agonizing, extremely painful surgery for both, but his family
continued to make every sacrifice they could for him.
A year later, Adam was living with his
parents, sleeping in his childhood bedroom, a mountain of
prescription bottles at his bedside. Divorced and friendless because
his wife couldn’t handle his illness and his friends stopped calling
him. Seeing his son every other weekend was the only glimmer of hope
for him, he would tell me one day, keeping him from taking his own
I learned part of his story from mutual friends before he and I actually spoke of his travails. As our friendship blossomed he gladly told me the rest. Over lunches, cocktail hours at the lodge (his lodge, that I joined to spend more time with him) and hanging at his house he would tell me the stories about the events that led him to this point.
He was grateful for his new friends and
humbled by the support of his new brethren. His father had been
correct. His father was a 50 year Mason when Adam entered the
fraternity and his father was enormously proud. His mother proudly
beamed at the results his new circle had created for him. I vowed to
be one of the best friends he would have.
Adam didn’t just take friendship, he gave it back. When he learned of my health issues he became one of my biggest advocates. He spent time at home on his computer researching possible treatments being developed, texting me his findings and always checking in to see if I was eating right, taking my meds, or just to see how I was doing. It isn’t lost on me to this day how someone who felt like garbage almost every day could manage to check up on me, and all of his friends for that matter, to see how we are. He was a special friend.
In the course of our friendship Adam
had a rollercoaster of health challenges. On a flight to St. Louis he
contracted a virus that caused him to spend 7 weeks in the hospital.
He almost died, but he pulled out of it. He had two knee
replacements, a hip replacement, a pacemaker and was hit by two more
staph infections, one that required removal of both knee replacments.
At the end of all of it, there he sat with his absurdly swollen face,
a result of a massive amount of steroids and other medications. He
was a fighter like no other I have never met. As his Facebook
announced another setback, myself and all of his friends had faith
that the tough sonofabitch would bounce back and smile that huge
This past December, Adam met a foe he
couldn’t overcome. Another staph infection that the Doctors, despite
their Herculean efforts, could not pull him out of. He was forced
into a medically induced Coma at the end of January.
I found out too late, for some reason
his father’s FB wasn’t showing on my newsfeed and by the time I knew
it was too late to visit him. Had I been sitting next to him he
wouldn’t know I was there. All of my prayers from afar wouldn’t
change it. His parents thanked me for my friendship and support, I
knew in their voices they had given up this time.
He died a few days ago.
I miss my friend. I regret not being able to thank him for his unwavering friendship and his eternal optimism. His selflessness in the face of adversity that would cause so many to wallow in a pool of self-pity. He was an amazing human being.
As I stood silently in a moment of
prayer, I was flanked by dozens of brothers who knew Adam as I did.
We all knew his family. We all knew the efforts he made for our lodge
as he took different assignments to keep himself productive, a
concept that meant the world to him. We all knew what a loss we had
I waited patiently as the procession
slowly entered the funeral parlor, each waiting our turn to place a
sprig of evergreen, a masonic symbol of the eternity of life, on his
simple coffin. A rare tear fell onto my cheek, one of many that would
fall that evening.
He is resting now, his pain is gone.
The irony of it is that the cure for his disease killed him. If he
were here right now he would laugh at that line, we shared a morbid
sense of humor. Sharing the burden of Chronic Illness, we knew that
laughter is the best medicine. I want to laugh at the funny exchanges
we had over the years. I can still see his big, round face that
initially caught my attention. The smile that shone through some
tremendous sadness, the face of a truly great person.
Rest well my friend, I hope to see you
again someday in the Celestial Lodge above that we, as mere mortals
hope to achieve at the end of our journey.
Jeff is the rare “3 AM friend”, if I called him at 3 AM he would be there for me (he has). When he called me last week and invited me to play Poker I jumped at the chance. The prospect of playing cards with him was worth the 2-hour drive.
I met up with him at noon on Sunday and we headed out to get snacks and drinks for the game. We arrived at our friend Justen’s place on time. Jeff and Justen were the only ones I knew, but as a believer in “a stranger is a friend I haven’t yet met” I immediately became friendly with 3 of the 4 new guys. The fourth set off my “Spidey-Sense”, I didn’t like him at first impression.
senses were accurate, not long into the tournament I concluded that
he acted and played like a Dick. But I put up with it.
game wore on, players began to drop off. Our Texas Hold’em tournament
winners only, once you were out you were out. It had come down to me
and the Dick. After a showdown in which I bet and he made a huge
raise, I was forced to fold. As I threw down my cards he laughed and
talked some trash. I ignored him.
In Poker, if your opponent folds you are not required to show your cards. It is an unspoken rule. When he threw his cards in, I scooped them up in preparation to shuffle and deal the next hand. In the process I accidentally flipped his cards up. He immediately reacted, accusing me of looking at his cards. I assured him that it was an accident.
escalated. I stood up and told him that if he didn’t stop we were
going to take it outside and handle it a different way.
is when Jeff stepped in.
he said to the Dick. “Bill wouldn’t do that. If he says it was an
accident it was, he is one of the finest people I know. Sit down
before he kicks your ass.”
The Dick sat down. He and I finished the game. He won, I took second place, doubling my buy in. He took his money and left.
after, Jeff and I left also.
“Thanks for getting my back, brother” I said to him. “No worries, bud. I meant what I said.” “Finest people I know?”I joked. “Bill, you are an amazing human being. One in a million, maybe a billion.”
floored. I was unable to offer a response other than to thank him.
I was on my way back home with 2 hours of quality “me time” ahead
of me. I love to drive, I do my best thinking behind the wheel. I
can’t count how many blog posts came to me while driving.
This ride, I was thinking about what Jeff had said. What about me made him say that? I’m a pretty laid back guy, I try to be honest and kind-hearted, I’m not judgmental and try to be nice… But I’m nothing special. Then a word popped into my head. Basic. Basic is a urban slang word, like fleek, lit, woke, bae,. Etc. Words my kids use that drive me crazy. Basic is a derogatory word denoting one’s lack of spark, of being of no particular interest. Not a nice thing to be called. But it’s a great thing to be and people seem to admire it.
last two years I have embarked on a spiritual journey to find myself.
By applying the harsh spotlight of self-evaluation, unwavering
criticism and acceptance of unwanted but necessary truths I emerged
as a person who, for the first time, could look into a mirror and
like what he saw. I had stripped myself of pretense, hubris, ego,
pride and the conventional measures of success. Isn’t all of that a
fancy way of saying that I got down to the basics?
never been happier.
basic. Like a child. Remember when we were children?
We loved everyone because we did not know hate.We were friendly to all because we had not learned prejudice and bigotry. We were honest because we had no reason to lie. We were happy because we had not been taught cynicism. We said the “darndest things” because we were too young to be censored. We asked questions to learn, not to make judgments.
the world changed us.
Fortunately, I have restored myself back to “Factory Settings”. Not amazing, not particularly noteworthy. Pretty basic overall. Some people seem to like that so I think I will run with it.