Opening day

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

May 10th would be our opening day. We had the store all set up, groceries and all. The kitchen staff was trained and ready to go and we had a decent, still not enough, amount of people to work. We were planning on a “soft opening” to avoid an influx of customers on the real opening. Nobody wins on Grand Openings. The establishment gets bombarded, they can’t keep up and more people are pissed off than happy. Those unhappy ones are the assholes that take to social media to trash a business after they failed to handle the onslaught.

The soft opening was a Monday. Our dumbass store manager posted on FB that Monday and, as expected, we were bombarded. I wasn’t even scheduled to work that day but I saw that they were in trouble and offered to come in. I worked 11 hours that day. After being on Disability for 4 years. I was in such pain. But we did it. The next day, our announced Grand Opening, was overwhelming. I worked 11 hours that day. The next morning I went for my monthly checkup. I got a call that afternoon. My creatine was elevated (creatine is the number that indicates overall Kidney function). I was instructed to do it again. That turned out to be elevated over the previous labwork. They, and I were concerned. I did it again. I received a call on Friday.
It was requested that I go to the hospital immediately. They had a room waiting for me. What did I do? I told Vinny, then I finished my shift. I am such a dumbass.

I was admitted that night. I would be there all weekend. I had been scheduled to work Saturday and Sunday. Over the previous five days, I had worked 55 hours. I was exhausted and scared. The concern was that I was rejecting my new kidney.
Not the best news only 8 months out of transplant.

missed chance

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

At the end of February I was informed that we had an opening date of mid-May. Not much had changed on the frequency of work or my involvement. I had done my part to be harmonious, it’s unfortunate that I felt the need to show my ability to get along, by getting to know Susanne. Susanne was the woman Vinny had hired to run the kitchen, a decision that he refused to believe I was okay with. She was still running her soon-to-be shut-down business. She was waiting until a firm start date and then she would shutter her restaurant. I visited her frequently at her shop. We would compare our backgrounds and discuss ideas for the new place. I had absolutely no problem with her and she seemed to like me as well, even going as far as to say that she looked forward to working with me. I wasn’t worried about working with her, I figured we would get along fine. My only concern was where I would fit in. Vinny of course failed to see the good in that, he still thought I had an issue with her. That was the first time that I realized that I really didn’t want to do this new venture. I had a bad feeling but I ignored it because of loyalty and the fact that it was too close to opening. I was too late.

Things with Cat were still good. But I was starting to see some potential problems. She had a terrible drinking problem and a worse memory. I was shocked and saddened to learn that some of the best moments and conversations that we shared were lost. She had absolutely no memory of them. It was if they never happened. Plus we were arguing a bit. Not a lot, but she had a nasty side when we did. Still, I believed that I loved her. She claimed to love me as well. It was moving fast, too fast, but I was feeling things that I had not felt in a long time, perhaps never. I was dreading being away from her on the weekends, which was the only time we had to be together. Once the store opened, I would be working all weekend. I HATED that thought. But I told myself that I had to wait to see what happened.

In a rare moment of confidence, I found an opening in a conversation with Vinny to mention that I was not looking forward to working all weekend every week. He said, “Well, you can either wait to see what happens. I promise that once we are established I will find time off for you. Or you can quit.” He was testing me. I was tempted. But I didn’t take the offer. I knew, with all the hype around town, that we would be busier than a one-armed hooker with two customers for the first month or so. I decided that I would try to have the patience to ride it out and see what happens. I missed my chance to do what I wanted to do most.
Walk away.

I was in love, I was thinking too much about spending time with her. I was aware of the foolishness of that. In addition, my personal code of conduct told me to follow through on my commitment. I concluded that if it was meant to be then our relationship would survive a few missed weekends.

more cracks

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

It was now February. Not much had changed. Vinny was still involving me less and less and I was growing increasingly frustrated. I wasn’t being utilized yet I made myself available. The few conversations consisted of him going on at length about the grandiose plans he had for the restaurant. I was getting anxious ( I suffer from bad anxiety) listening to these conversations; in essence my anxiety was whispering in my ear, “you can’t do this, it’s too much.” The little voice in my head was in agreement. In essence, I felt he would be really hard to work for, even in my controversial “self-inflicted minimized role”. I should have spoken up and told him my concerns. But I didn’t. Not knowing how to react, I remained quiet. This, of course, made him think that I was not into it. It was a constant and annoying process.
And I now had a girlfriend who I wanted to see and the neurotic bastard in me was already concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see her very much. While we still months away from opening.

Things with the girl were going well. I really felt that I had met “the one”. I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. At the time I thought she did also. So there I was worrying about something that hadn’t even happened yet.

I made the mistake of telling her my concerns. Of not being able to handle it. Of hating the hours. Of not being able to handle Vinny, who was increasingly showing me signs that I was making a mistake. And of course, of not being able to see her.

I now regret that

The added variable part 2

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

Cat and I began to talk regularly. We eventually hung out a couple of times. Despite the outward overtures of romantic gestures, I knew that she, not I, were stuck in the friend zone. Nothing had really had changed. Or so I thought. That would soon change. In one of our conversations, she mentioned that I “checked a lot of boxes” on what she wants in a boyfriend. That was a sign. I decided, despite a myriad 0f common-sense objections, that I wanted to give it a shot. I was fairly certain that should I ask her out she would say yes. I didn’t even care that she lived 100 miles away. She was worth the drive. Wouldn’t you know it?She said yes.

What happened after that can only be described as a romantic whirlwind. We became close immediately. While we were new to dating, we had known each other for a while so the lines were blurred. It was chaotic yet felt natural. We were together every weekend, which consisted of outside-of-my-comfort-zone activities such as musicals and trying new restaurants. The evenings consisted of amazing intimacy. Sure, it was sex but that’s too superficial for what I was feeling. I felt an actual connection that I had never felt with anyone before. We both marveled at how comfortable we were around each other. It wasn’t in the same ballpark or even universe of anything I had ever experienced. We were having fun and we were both enjoying it. Everything really was great. That would be my weekends. Monday morning I would head back up to be available for Vinny. It was a shame that he rarely needed me on those Mondays, or any other day for quite a while. Construction was delayed, it was the dead of February and he had nothing for me. Even the money stopped. I knew something was up. So I asked him about it.

He had hired someone else, which was fine because we needed more people before we opened and this woman had much more experience than I did. I was one hundred percent fine with it. I stood back and let them plan. I am a worker bee, I had no interest in more. But the first wrinkle in my relationship with Vinny had emerged. Despite the fact that it was he who had minimized my role, he gave me shit about pulling back. I called him on this logic, and emphasized that I was fine with all of it, he treated it as if I had done something wrong. I was baffled and it was the first time that I realized that he and I might not be simpatico.
My takeaway was that my little voice, which rarely misleads me, had been chirping in my ear and I now knew why. My guard was officially up.

the added variable part 1

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

It is now January and things are going fairly well with Vinny. With the exception of my pushing dangerous boundaries physically (let’s face it I would have done that with or without Vinny’s direction because I’m dumb like that) I was doing something for him about every week and we were getting along well and I was making a few bucks.

One afternoon we went into town to the restaurant supply place and decided to grab dinner after. We went to his favorite place but it was closed so we settled on a local hangout frequented by vacationers and IPA-guzzling Yuppy types (an outdated word I know but you get the idea). It was crowded and we had a wait. We were standing in the lobby when around the corner came Cat. She gave me a giant hug. She was up for the weekend with a friend and saw me come in through the window. I was taken back, this girl and I have a history. I’ve blogged about her before. Let’s just say that we spent a lot of time together two years before and when I attempted to date her she pulled back, played lots of games and I tired of the drama and removed myself from it. I was hurt but largely blamed myself (like usual) for pushing when she wasn’t ready. After we made small talk, she asked me to come see her in the bar before we left. She went back to her table. Vin looked at me and said, “she likes you.” I gave him a little bit of the back story. We were seated and ordered.

Before we left I popped in, paid the tab for her and her friend and moved towards the door. She asked me if I wanted to hang out with her a bit and I reminded her that I was with someone. I kissed her on the cheek and left. Vinny was in the car waiting. When I got to the car Vinny told me that he could clearly see her and when I left he said she looked sad. Again, he said, “she likes you.” I dismissed it. We weren’t a match and I knew it. But yeah, I did like her. We drove home and I thought about her the entire ride home.
We talked that night. Part of me wanted to resisted but the heart wouldn’t let me. I wish I had ignored the call. Now I wanted her again.

the story continues

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

I now had a job offer on the table. For a guy on disability, bored out of my frickin’ mind, and in need of money, this was both a Godsend and what I then deemed a pattern. After the remarkable and unlikely series of events that got me a new kidney and consequent new chance at having an actual life, I began to believe that shit was falling in my lap for once and not on my head. I really believed that the Universe was giving me back some of the good energy that I had always tried to put out. Karma may be a bitch but it’s my bitch. Things were going my way.

The deal was that I would be available, on retainer if you will, to help Vince get the project off the ground. He needed help setting up the kitchen, a menu, purchasing supplies etc. I was very up-front in managing his expectations. While I was a qualified Kitchen manager, it was many years ago (20 plus) and I didn’t want that much responsibility at this point. I wasn’t even sure at that point that my health would allow such work.

At first, the work was slow. It wasn’t supposed to be full-time or even regular. Vince is a part-time resident in town, he is a CT resident and owns a huge plumbing company that required a lot of attention back home. We talked on the phone a lot. I made myself available only to not hear from him for days. I asked him what his expectations were. Without being snarky, was I supposed to be available for free? He responded by offering me a weekly cash retainer for my trouble. I was giving up a lot already, most notably I passed on a chance to go to FL with mom to stay at her brand new Condo. It was something, but until the work got regular it still wasn’t ideal and my promise to be available was biting me in the ass a bit. The opening was still many months away and I was lacking a purpose. Most of what he was giving me was manual labor, cleaning and clearing out things while the store was under construction. I did it, against my better judgment and my Dr.’s advice. I was playing with fire, considering I was still in a lot of pain.

talking to strangers

Sometimes I talk to people at random. Often they either ignore me or I may occasionally get a weak response. It’s just how I am. Last night I was in the market and there was a young man shopping with his small son. The boy was having a blast. The father, to his credit, was being very patient. As I was grabbing an item near them I remarked “this is the good stuff right here”. He asked me what I meant. I told him that this moment in time will be a great memory someday. I said to him that food shopping with my young kids was one of my favorite memories. He said, “Sometimes I wish it would go faster.”

I shook my head and politely said “Don’t wish for that, trust me.”

At that point, I knew I was verging on being the annoying old guy offering unsolicited advice. We all hate that guy, right?

Maybe, maybe not. Instead of dismissing me he stuck his hand out and thanked me for what I offered. He said, “I needed that.

It wasn’t an opinion, not a criticism, just a perspective.

I will continue to talk to strangers because I’ve always believed that sometimes we offer people exactly what they need at that moment.


We have a hummingbird that has visited us regularly for years. Mom always puts out sugar water for him (her)? He always follows the same path, he visits and then head the same direction. I’ve seen it dozens of times. We didn’t put the feeder out this season because we have a bear that likes to destroy the feeders in the neighborhood.
Mom put it out tonight. We were sitting on the back deck a few minutes ago and the hummingbird appeared right over her head, hovered for a moment and then flew off. He NEVER to my knowledge goes to the back of the house. Is it possible he was thanking her?
Animals are a whole lot smarter and intuitive than we give them credit for.

Self care

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

I spent the remainder of September and the better part of October focusing on my recovery. I was under a regimen of twice-weekly appointments with my transplant team, which was a 2-hour drive each way. It was exhausting because sitting up for that long was excruciating. The pain this time around was so much worse than my first transplant. You may or may not know this, but new kidneys are implanted in the abdomen. The human body is such an intricate, well let’s call it what it is, a miraculous design. Therefore, the abdomen contains everything it is supposed to with no room to spare. I now had not one but two foreign organs stuffed in there. They had to make room, for lack of a better way to put it. It’s quite an image to think of opening up an abdomen and shoving this and that aside to make room. And the kidneys aren’t small. I saw mine before they put me under. It was the size of a large boneless chicken breast. And now I had two in there. It pushed on the incision terribly and the pain was constant. Standing was difficult for the first week. Lifting was out of the question, regardless of the weight. And God forbid I should get constipated, which is common post-surgery, then the pressure on my abdomen (which was held together by 27 staples) was intense.

In addition to my visits, I was on a strict diet and fluid intake program. I was required to monitor everything that went in and out, log it and relay it to the team, when they called every damn morning at 10 AM. And they were not playing around. If I were to slack off in any way my coordinator would give me hell. I liked that, to be honest. It kept me focused. After all, they wanted the same thing I did, for the kidney to take and last as long as possible. So at the time, it seemed like an eternal pain in the ass, but I’m grateful for it in hindsight. This went on for six weeks, by the end of which I was well on my way to my own self. I was doing light weight conditioning and walking between 1 and 2 miles per day. They were thrilled with the walking, not so much about the weights. A typical patient rarely did either with any regularity. But as I was always quick to point out, and they had to reluctantly agree, I was not a typical patient.

The last week of October I drove by, on the way to the Hospital, the store where Vinny had asked me to come work for him. He had told me that when I felt better that we should talk. His truck was out front and the door was open. Work had already begun and he was wasting no time. So I went in and said hello. We discussed my health for a bit and then he showed me his progress on the store and told me his plans. They were impressive. He had some great ideas and I was convinced that he was going to do really well with this venture. As I went to leave he asked if I wanted to make a deal.
Here we go, I thought to myself, decision time.
“Talk to me”, I said. He made me a salary offer and gave a job description. It was a good one. I thought for a few minutes, and based on how I was feeling at the time I said yes. I was feeling strong, hopeful for my future, and ambitious. At the time it felt good. It felt right. On paper, it all looked good. And for a while it would be.

Driving myself

*this post is a continuation of a story. It will stand alone in many ways but for missing context please go back a few…*

I was home 4 days after my transplant surgery. Everything went well and the efforts that I made to keep my weight down and stay in shape paid dividends in my recovery. I have always bounced back fast from the myriad of health obstacles that I have encountered but this time I was in a lot of pain. Being released on the condition that I come back for bi-weekly appointments, I was disappointed that on my first visit I was unable to walk from the door to the transplant wing. I actually needed a wheelchair. The pain would continue to be severe for several weeks but my recovery was nothing less than stellar.

For the first week, I wasn’t permitted to drive myself. I was so relieved to not have to burden family with the long ride to the hospital twice a week so I took the long way to get to the highway. The first place I passed was the rundown convenience store that Vinny had bought. As luck would have it Vinny was outside surveying the property. I stopped, rolled the window down and said hi. He seemed very happy to see me.

We talked for a while as I brought him up to speed on all of the amazing events that led up to my surgery. I thanked him for reaching out to me. He told me that he was so happy for me, what a great story it was and how it affirmed his belief in God. It wasn’t long before he asked me if I thought that I would recover well enough and in time to come to work for him when he opened. I asked him what his time frame was for opening. He estimated 6-8 months, putting us at between March and May. I told him no promises, but I should be. He wasn’t holding me to anything, he said. He wanted me to take care of myself and we’d see where it went. He made a tentative offer of employment. No discussion of pay, hours, etc., he just wanted to gauge my interest level. I told him we’d talk soon. That was good enough for both of us. I drove off, I was on the verge of being late.

6-8 months, I thought, just the motivation I needed to make a (another) kick-ass recovery. As they say, it was on.