Right place, right time concluded

You can find part 1 here.

There was only one person in the waiting room besides myself, a woman sitting patiently in the corner. This particular waiting room is not a very chatty one, it is mostly populated by very sick people. It was not lost on me when I was under their care that I was one of the healthier ones there, I was only getting shots and infusions for anemia and other renal-related issues. Most people in there were getting chemo. I respected them and consequently felt a sense of reverence towards the woman in the corner. I took out my phone and played around for a while.

“Do I know you?” she asked. Startled, I looked up from my phone. I wanted to give my usual response to that question and say “Do you watch porn?” but I restrained myself.
“I don’t know. Maybe.” I replied
We talked for a few minutes and it was determined that she didn’t know me. It was at that time that Lauren poked her head out the door and I politely excused myself and went to talk to her.

Lauren brought all of the ladies of the center out one at a time. One by one they asked me how I was doing and what I had been up to. I gave them all the Readers Digest version and I kept it very positive, I hate to burden people with my problems. I touched on dialysis, some of the issues I have dealt with and my possibility of transplant in my most self-deprecating, humorous, and matter of fact manner. One by one they excused themselves and went back to work. Except Lauren. She stayed. She wanted me to tell her the truth. So I did. But I still did so in a positive way. Then she had to go back to work so we said our goodbyes. I jokingly asked her if she was still married. She laughed, wished me well and then gave me my fourth huge hug of the day. I turned to leave and as I did my sole companion in the waiting room said something to me. I don’t remember what but it was enough for me to go over and sit down.

What I remember was that she commented on what she saw and heard. She was taken back by my positivity and remarked that it was just what she needed that day. I decided that it was a good idea to stick around and talk to this very nice woman.

She told me her story and I told her mine. She was there for treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis. I didn’t have to tell her that I knew how bad that can be. I listened intently as she told me about her RA and how it has affected her life. She was very brave and I knew immediately that like most with a chronic illness she was a fighter. But something in the way she was talking told me that she was wearing thin with it and like most of us, she was looking for a good reason to keep fighting. As the conversation continued I realized that I was right. She actually said it, that she needs a reason to go on.

I don’t consider myself the best listener. In theory I am, I want to hear what people have to say but my problem is that I want to interject, offer advice. All because I want to help. But in this case I just listened to her. She clearly needed to talk to someone. I was momentarily taken back by the similarities in our situation. One big one…give me a reason to feel optimistic. My take on this is simple, looking for a reason to go on isn’t merely to counteract those dark moments, which all people with chronic illness experience, it is much more, it is looking for something that is stronger than the nagging urge to give up.

When it was my turn to speak I seized upon one thing that she spoke of that piqued my interest. Purpose.
“Ok. You noticed how the nurses all knew my situation and commented how well I’m doing with everything? That’s not an accident. It’s my purpose, my role in life. To be the one that makes that caregiver a break from the sad and miserable people. To be the one that shows that attitude matters. And do you know what else, it’s all an act sometimes.”
“It is?”
“Sure, often I feel like absolute crap but I tell ’em that I’m doing great because that’s what they want to hear. It helps people. Some know better but they respect what I’m trying to accomplish. It’s my purpose in this world, unfortunately not a paid position, to offset the negativity. It’s a role I fell into but once I did I realized that it was something that inspires others into being more positive.
“It’s hard sometimes” she said.
“Believe me, I know.”
“Well, I find you inspirational” she said.
“Well, I find you inspirational as well.”

At that time the door opened and she was called in for her treatment.
“Well, it was nice talking to you” I said. And it was at that time that I received my fourth big hug of the day.

Here’s the rub. I shouldn’t have even been there that day. I was there the day before to do my lab work and I hadn’t noticed the caveat about 12 hours fasting before doing it so I dropped it off and went home. So is it a coincidence or destiny that I would come back, foul mood and all, to see Nichole who wasn’t there the day before; Lauren that didn’t poke her head in while I was there; and meet my new friend?

get the reference?

I don’t believe in coincidences and I don’t believe in destiny. I do believe that sometimes things happen for a reason. I got as much out of talking to her as I think she got from talking to me. It was a very good use of my time.

Be open to opportunities to talk with someone who may be down.
Be nice.
Find your purpose.
When you find it…go with it.


Right place, right time

Where were you today?
Me?
Amazingly, inexplicably and entirely uncoincidentally I was again in the exact right place at the exact right time.

Today started as most days. My alarm went off at 445 and I laid in bed, enjoying the snooze cycle that grants me a 9 minute reprieve from the agony of getting up. In order to make it to Dialysis on time I have to be out of the house by 5:10. Of course I got out of bed at the last minute and I didn’t know that it snowed the night before. After removing the snow and ice I was running behind. I was in a bad mood.

As it turned out the clinic was running behind and it didn’t matter that I was late.

It was a miserable treatment. The needles hurt like hell from the minute they went in. The machines seemed to be beeping and pinging more than usual and I was really annoyed. Amazingly I managed to fall asleep but after a mere hour I woke up in agony. I had flinched (spasmed) in my sleep and one of the needles infiltrated my fistula. In laymen’s terms the needle punctured the wall of my vein. It’s excruciating. And it also meant the end of the treatment. They had to take me off so that I could fight another day. I left 2 hours early with a sore arm and a big blood stain on my expensive new sweat pants.

As I got into my truck, fuming, I remembered that I had lab work to do at the hospital. It was up the street so I decided, despite my mood that I needed to get it out of the way. I walked into the hospital, went to the lab and went to the window to make sure that they had my order. They did and instructed me to wait so I sat down. It was then that the door to the lab opened and it was Nicole.

Nicole the lab tech is a ball of beautiful, charming and sweet stuffed into a tiny 5 foot 1 inch package. I haven’t seen her since I started dialysis (the clinic does most of my lab work now) and I was really happy to see her. As it turns out she was happier to see me as she gave me a huge hug.

“Oh my god, we were just talking about you the other day!” she said.
“Anything good?” I replied.
“Only that we were hoping you were doing well. We miss your humor around here.”

She completed filling the 8 (yes, 8) vials of blood for the labwork, walked me to the door and gave me another hug. At that point my day had transformed into a good one.

Then it got better. Lauren from the infusion center walked in.

Lauren was once the topic of an entire blog. Gorgeous, smart, funny…and married. That little detail always left me unfazed and when I was getting my infusions I shamelessly flirted with her. She didn’t mind, in fact I think she enjoyed it. Here she was, discussing a patient with Nicole. As she turned to walk out she instantly recognized me. I was awarded my third huge hug of the day.
“I can’t believe you remember me” I said.
“What? Forget you? Never.”
“Is that a good thing?” I inquired.
Everyone always asks about you.”
“Can I go in and say hi?”
“Sure. I have to go take care of something so wait in the waiting area and I’ll come out when I can to get you.”

I followed her to the infusion center and patiently waited.

to be continued…

the lessons of time

It is not only a new year but also a entirely new decade. As I mark the halfway point of my 5th decade on this glorious spinning ball we call earth I have to say that the last ten years have easily been my most tumultuous and unpredictable to date. It is said that it is better to forget the incident and focus on the lesson. I need to do just that. If I was to take anything away from the last ten years, it is that I have learned a lot of lessons.

In 2010 it was determined that I would need a Kidney Transplant. Without it, dialysis would be my only option. One that I absolutely hated. The lesson was that, despite my remarkable skills of denial and putting on a brave face, it was time to take my health seriously.

2010 also saw the culmination of multiple bad financial decisions and living beyond my means in the foreclosure on my house and a bankruptcy. Despite finally landing a great job in 2008 it was too late to stop the inevitable and my family dragged ourselves to our new home, a small 3 bedroom apt where the rent was as much as our previous mortgage and we were actually tripping over each other. The lessons were many. I learned to curb my spending. I learned to downsize. And as we banged around in close quarters I learned that the smaller the space, the closer the family and as a family we achieved some much needed closeness.

In 2011 a co-worker and friend offered to give me a kidney. Her selfless offer caused a chain reaction at my company culminating in a fundraiser for my medical expenses. I felt like the luckiest man alive and I was blessed with a huge support system. I received my transplant in December. I was grateful and empowered. The lessons were many. I learned that a blessing can come from any source and to be open to it and be grateful. I learned that people are good and plentiful. I also learned that there is a catch to everything. My GM, who coordinated the fundraiser for me was going to play that card to manipulate and attempt to compromise me for years to come.

In 2013 I lost my father to Parkinson’s. It hit me hard to say the least. I still wonder if he died knowing how much I appreciated and loved him. The lesson, and there are many, was to tell the people in my life how I feel about them. I have committed to always leave people as if I am never going to see them again. Regrets are not part of my current game plan.

2013 also was the year I joined the wonderful fraternity of Freemasonry. I found a passion to pay forward my recent gift of a Kidney Transplant and Freemasonry allowed me access to great men who do great deeds. My commitment to be a better man each day than I was before has forever changed my life. The lessons are many. Selflessness, charity without expectation of recognition, love of community and the confirmation that there are a lot of good people in the world, you just have to know where to look.

Professionally, it was a wonderful decade. In 2008 I had fallen into the job that would not only introduce me to a lifesaving donor, but I found my niche in my career. The company groomed me for a couple of years and then gave me a department to build and I can say, without hubris that I knocked it out of the park. My background and personality served me well in our business model and I became a crucial “go-to” team player valued by our customer base and a frequent resource and problem-solver. Every day was challenging and different and I found myself in a position to help people. The lessons were many, chief among them was to listen to those around you and help them whenever possible. Also, be the worker and coworker that when you take a sick day, people miss you.

I would say that 2016 was the worst year of the decade. It began when my kidney failed suddenly in February. I was floored. Upon receiving my transplant I was a new man. I began my recovery immediately and I committed myself to keeping the kidney for at least the 15 years I was told it would last. I worked out hard. I did P90X, I biked and hiked. I took care of myself and dropped weight. When it suddenly failed after only five years, I was angry like never before. Where were my 15 years? Why did I have to find out on my own that my disease was the only kidney disease to return and infect the new organ? I would later deduce the lesson. You never know what the future holds so get out there and live now. If the Dr.’s had told me that I may lose it in 5 years would I have achieved all that I had? No, if I had sat around waiting for the shoe to drop I would never have climbed those mountains and savored the view.

In 2017 the bottom really fell out. My company closed, taking my dream job with it. My health deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t keep another job. When the job was gone so was the money and that was when my marriage officially collapsed. It was inevitable, we had been strangers for years but it hurt nonetheless. I suppose you know the rest. I moved in with my mother. I applied for Social Security Disability. I was denied. I went on dialysis and I am to this day. That’s the bad.

But here’s the good. I started this blog and if you are reading right now then I made a good decision. I also focused on creating and maintaining solid relationships with my children. Today, we are strong and their love sustains me. I also committed to getting along with my ex. I have not to this day experienced the closure, the explanation for the rejection many years ago and the giant wall that formed between us but I remained friendly with her for the children, for us and for the sake of tranquility. I would like to think that I am setting a good example for the kids on how to be an adult.

2019 served as a year of tying things together and trying to formulate a plan going forward. It was a year of many setbacks and achievements. After nearly dying in September 2018 I emerged from a medically induced coma with a “bucket list” mentality. I focused more on what I could do and less on what I couldn’t and in the process found that I could do a lot of things my detractors said I couldn’t. One of them was buying a motorcycle. Everyone said no, as had my wife and family for many years. But it was in my blood and as an homage to my father I was on two wheels again. The freedom and love of the open road has changed my life and, second to my children, is a thing that keeps me going on those dark sleepless nights when the pain is so bad that I consider the darkest of thoughts…ending it.

My greatest achievements of the 2019 was the transformation of my entire attitude. I like who I am. Finally.

It is true that a man has to hit rock bottom, with nowhere to look and go but up, before he truly discovers what is truly important. Brutal self-examination led to self-improvement. Physical challenges awakened the fighter in me. Having nothing to lose empowered me to rise from the ashes and shine my light instead of lurking in the shadows. It was then the lessons became clear.

For every high there is a low.
People do not suck.
Life is to be lived not viewed out a window from a recliner.
The words “no” and “can’t” are to be treated as a personal challenge. Sometimes we all need help and that’s when we discover who our friends are. Pain is temporary while regret is forever.
Be charitable to a flaw with your time if not your wallet.
Only look down on a man if you are helping him up.
Be nice. If you can’t do that then be quiet.
Don’t ever let someone tell you what you can’t do.
Make every day count as if it were your last.

In closing, I hope to be around long enough to do another one of these ten years from now.

Happy New Year.

What's your word?

I heard a radio host yesterday asking people to call in and define 2019 in one word. “Tumultous”and”chaotic” were used frequently. Myself, I choose “disappointing”.
I am disappointed in our lack of respect for human life as first responders are targeted for death, people are beaten and killed over the color of their skin and innocents are being slaughtered over failed political and religious ideology.
I am disappointed in the pursuit of money, power and belongings at the sake of character, integrity and morality.
I am disappointed in our fascination with celebrity without merit, gossip without respect for boundaries and the idea that bad behavior is acceptable if it accomplishes your selfish agenda.
On a personal note, I am disappointed in myself for losing the optimism I once had so much of, that I let life get to me this year instead of customarily plowing through the pile of horseshit looking for that pony that must be in there somewhere.
I hope that next year is better, if nothing else that people stop being ugly to each other and we start treating each other as brothers and friends we have yet to make. And I hope that I get back my power to create my situation instead of being defined by it. And I hope that anyone who suffered through this post has a great 2020.

What’s your word to describe 2019?

A New Year's Toast for all

Raise a glass…

to the parents struggling to care for their family. May they be able to provide sustenance and love for the children

to the first responder running towards danger when others run from it. May you always stay safe

to the soldier thousands of miles from those that love them. May your mission be righteous and your body unscathed

to the healthcare workers who do more for others than they do for themselves. May their selflessness be recognized and appreciated

to the bullied child. May your struggles be recognized before it’s too late

to the bully. May you see the error of your ways

to the ill. May you experience recovery

to the grieving. May you experience closure and peace

to the hungry. May your plate always be full

to our leaders. May they do what is right, not what is profitable or electable

to the disenfranchised, the angry and the frustrated. May you find an outlet and peace in your heart

to the practitioners of hate and division. May you become part of the solution, not part of the problem

to those that chose the path of honesty and integrity. May you never be caused to second-guess that choice

to those who are hopelessly glued to screens. May you look away and see the beauty all around you

to those fighting a hard battle. May the people you meet treat you with kindness and respect.

Here’s to a better you. A better us. A better world. It’s up to us to make it a good year.

Here’s to you.

the day after Christmas

It was the day after Christmas and my youngest daughter and I were nursing our morning coffee after a late night of junk food and binging Netflix. My phone rang its distinctive Duck call ring tone and I walked over to the counter to see who it was. It was my ex. It was a dick move but I chose to let it go to voice mail. I do that a lot. I’m not proud of it. I don’t hate her but I have been conditioned to feel a sense of foreboding when she calls.

Too many years. Too many bad phone calls. Too many uncomfortable associations.

2 minutes later she texted me. Please call me it’s an emergency!

I called her right away. Her boyfriend Glenn was missing. He had been since Christmas Eve.

Do you remember Glenn? I wrote a blog about him a while back. He is the boyfriend that moved in with my ex and caused a family brouhaha. With a history of drug problems, still married with a shit ton of baggage some of us were less than thrilled that they were shacking up. It blew over, like most things do. I met him on Thanksgiving. He was a nice enough guy and I accepted him, if not the situation. My only problem was that I knew, as did my ex, that it would end badly.

It ended worse than anyone could imagine.

He’s dead.

My ex saw his car at a rest stop several hours later. She found his lifeless body in the back seat curled under a blanket. We’re waiting for the autopsy results but we know it was an overdose. The only unknown was how much of what he took.

She is a hot mess right now and I feel terrible. The memory of finding his lifeless body will be burned in her brain forever. Despite all of my animosity towards her I find myself perplexed and frustrated because I want to help. There’s nothing that I, or anyone can do.

She had told him, and herself as if in an effort to convince herself, that if he used drugs while with her that she would throw him out. Several months later, when he was still there, I assumed that he was clean. I now know that he wasn’t. He relapsed several times, disappeared for a few days at a time on benders and then showed up begging for forgiveness. She caved each time. I guess that’s what you do when you love someone.

I drove two hours yesterday to see her. To comfort her. I put everything aside to give her a hug. It was the first time we had hugged, even touched each other since my father’s funeral in 2013. I told her that I would never in a million years want such a thing to befall her. Then I left and drove another 2 hours.

I checked my FB at a gas station on the way up. She had posted a meme about how her life would never be the same and added her own commentary about how no one had ever made her feel as he did and that her life was changed forever by his love and that she will never feel again about another man. As concerned as I was about her I was stung a bit by her post. I spent half of my life with this woman, nearly killed myself trying to support and love her and this is what I see? Part of me wondered if she ever loved me that much.

I quickly reminded myself that it wasn’t about me.

Still, it stings. I guess I will just pile that onto an already heaping shit pile of things that I will never understand. Again, it’s not about me.

Addiction is a powerful thing. More powerful than many, including my ex, will ever understand. Like suicide, it’s the ones around and left behind that get hurt. I take no satisfaction in the fact that I told her she would end up being hurt. Being right doesn’t matter. The damage is done. The pain is palpable. The struggle continues.

All that is left is the cleanup.

the power of youth

I am a conservative, words hardly uttered on the blogosphere or social media in general. Conservatives have it hard these days, we find our beliefs and values under fire, even under attack in today’s left-leaning society. I’m ok with it, I know that I’m neither a bigot, a Nazi, a Xenophobe or a racist and I really don’t have time or the desire to defend or explain myself. My blog has likely suffered, however, because I stay away from current events for lack of desire to be attacked as all of the labels listed above. Having said that, I am going to say something that may surprise many of my fellow conservatives and say that I don’t entirely believe that climate change is a myth.

Climate science is not an exact science. In fact, the term “alternate facts” comes to mind. About 2 years ago a debate erupted after Kelly Conway defended Donald Trump and used the term “Alternate facts” and a brouhaha ensued along the lines of factuality. “Alternate facts” was touted as a means of promoting falsehoods and I found it entirely disingenuous. Alternate facts actually refers to the existence of different sets of arguments or evidence. And that is where climate science breaks down for me. For every scientist that presents evidence that the earth is warming/cooling/changing there is another with a set of conclusions that says it is not. Especially when you read a story about a Arctic expedition heading to the North Sea to study diminishing ice and have to turn back due to too much ice. As a layperson I don’t know what or who is correct.

But, unlike my fellow conservatives I don’t deny that there is a problem. There certainly is.

Is the earth cooling or warming due to manmade activity? It’s possible. Is the earth going through a natural cyclical adjustment that may or may not involve eventual rising sea levels and massive weather events that may extinguish a large portion of the population? Also possible. It happened before and it was called an Ice Age. Another one is also possible. Whatever you believe, it is difficult to deny that animal methane emissions, fossil fuel consumption and rampant pollution are having a severe impact on our beautiful planet.

We only have one.

Enter Greta Thunberg. Never heard of her? You’re the only one. Greta Thunberg is a 16 year old, angry Swedish teen with Asbergers syndrome who has become the face of climate change through her fiery speeches lashing out in particular at boomers for destroying the planet for her generation. She has become so famous that Time magazine named her “Person of the year” (much to the dismay of Donald) and just today the prominent British Magazine Nature blessed her with her own issue for the awareness she has raised for environmentalism.

I have a lot of problems with Greta. None of which are her own fault. She is a tool of the left, likely backed by notorious leftist George Soros. It wouldn’t be the first time youth and the disenfranchised were exploited by the left, it wasn’t that long ago that caravans of “broke” people crashed our border after traveling thousands of miles in mere weeks and somehow had transportation, iphones and all of their meals and other expenses miraculously paid for. I also feel that she is being exploited by her parents who are undoubtedly making a small fortune off of their angry daughter. She is also woefully uninformed in environmental science as AOC is regarding basic economics and the accolades thrown the way of this angry little waif as a “expert” are misguided and borderline comical as she and the Bloomberg’s of the world lecture us about our “footprint” and tell us to use public transportation as they crisscross the world on private jets and jump their privileged asses into limousines.

But again, it doesn’t mean she is entirely wrong and as much as I dislike her and her angry rants she is energizing her generation and spreading awareness. Maybe boomers will reevaluate their rampant consumerism and millennials will use less plastic Starbuck’s cups full of complicated coffee drinks and be a little nicer to this planet. The miles wide patches of plastic floating in our oceans and killing our sea life will thank them.

There is a problem folks, even this conservative (one who is confused how conservatism somehow became synonymous with climate non-believer) knows it. So if it takes a angry little puppet’s scowling face posted everywhere to make us love our Mother then I will gladly watch it happen.

I can’t stand her, but she may be doing some good. Youth gets our attention. Youth is good. Youth is powerful. Embrace it.