Reflections

It is starting to settle in how different my life is now. In just 13 days my life has gone from “can’t” to “let’s do it”. Restrictions on diet, travel (the extension cord is only so long), and countless other things that I had long dismissed as just not possible are now doable.

The big one is no more dialysis. It has finally settled into my mindset that I am done for dialysis. At least for a while. The goal is 15 years and I’m going to fight like a cornered Wombat to reach that goal. I hated dialysis and that is enough reason to prolong going back to it as long as possible.

When I first started dialysis I was the model patient. I walked in with my characteristic “proud peacock” walk, sat down with a book for 4 hours and then strutted out again (sounds cocky but that’s how people see it so I guess I have to go with it). The treatments didn’t kick my ass as it did some other patients. The older and seasoned (to be fair I was one of the younger patients) patients looked at me with jealousy. On a side note the walk or strut that I have become known for is not new. When I was a Cancer patient back in ’97 I overheard another patient remark “what’s he doing here? He looks like a fine specimen”. And I was, I was going to the gym right after radiation treatments and I was in good shape. But I was 31, at 56 I still have that walk. Anyhoo, I made it a goal that I would never get to the point of deterioration that most patients do. There are a few who always looked good, I’m not saying I’m the only one. But eventually I did anyway and I hated myself for succumbing to it.


First came the sepsis/near death infection episode 2 months in. I almost died, no exaggeration. But I bounced back from that. I cruised for about a year until I hid a bad stretch of infections and diet-related complications. On a Renal diet even healthy foods could be taboo. A tomato, a healthy food contains Potassium. Without a functioning kidney to process it it may as well be rat poison. I see-sawed back and forth between too much and too little Potassium, Phosphorous and Magnesium, just to name a few. Sodium and fluid restrictions, if ignored would mess me up for weeks. I never really got those things under control despite uncharacteristic attention to my diet. It got to the point that I was hospitalized several times and the actual treatments became so uncomfortable that I was sometimes unable to complete the treatment. Imagine having a reaction to Phosphorous in which I was itchy all over, the itch would pop up like a whack-a-mole and it was so bad that I was thrashing in my chair. Imagine being held down and being tickled with 2 1 inch needles in your arm. It was miserable. Towards the end I was everything I detested in that room, I was just like the others. I must be an arrogant fuck to think that it wouldn’t. In short it sucks.
I heard yesterday that one of my friends there chose to stop treatments. He was dead in a week. It happens more than you want to know.

One positive is that I really love my dialysis nurses. I think they do God’s work and I appreciate them. They did more than stick needles in my arm, they   my welfare and genuinely cared about me; first in making a very difficult transition for me easier and then keeping me on course when confronted with challenges. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but nurses have a special place in my heart. I plan on visiting them when I am able and thank them for everything they did to make it to where I am today.

One nurse I am particularly fond of is Jesse. Jesse is one of the youngest nurses at the clinic and I have felt a special chemistry with her since the day I met her. We share a devilish sense of humor which is tampered by the strict codes of conduct in the clinic regarding patient interaction. Still, we manage to have flirty and somewhat sexy conversations in sneaky ways, even the exchange of glances or funny faces. I loved it when she was there, it made the time pass a little better. It’s safe to say that if there wasn’t a clinic policy against dating patients I would have asked her out.

Now I can. And of course, now that I can I’m seeing someone else. No regrets, Lisa is awesome and I’m nuts about her. And there are considerations with Jesse that make me reticent even if I was available. She is much younger than me, almost 15 years younger and she has small children. I’m not sure that I have the patience for young children and I also wouldn’t want them to get close to me and then not be there one day because their mother and I didn’t work out. Jesse and I talked about it. We had discussed covertly a few times about the possibility of dating and it was always “get a transplant and we’ll talk”. So we did. I put it all on the table and as it turns out she doesn’t want a relationship at the moment. She works a lot and spends every available free moment with her girls. As it should be. She’s a great mother and her girls are very sweet. She’s doing a great job as a mom. I don’t know what the future holds but I look forward to hanging out with her as a friend over coffee or lunch. As with everything in life, you never know what’s in store for us but it helps to be ready when opportunities arise.

The call

I can’t believe that after all this time I may have to rename my blog. From day one Superman can’t find a phone booth has primarily been about my struggles with Chronic illness and rebuilding my life after losing everything and moving in with my mother. In the process, I told my story, made some wonderful friends, and learned the stories of others. It was very therapeutic. But now I have to shift gears because
I GOT MY KIDNEY!

A week ago Sunday my daughter came to visit. My little baby has grown up and at 19 she has a job and a decent social life. She has also been under the umbrella of a terrible depression lately. I had been looking forward to her visiting me, I was eager to have one of our heart to hearts and hoped to glean some insight as to how to help her, if possible. She arrived early morning (she likes to squeeze as much out of our visits as possible) and I made her breakfast and we chatted over coffee. She seemed to be in a good mood. That made me happy.

The morning passed without event. With the exception of the excitement of having my daughter for the weekend, I felt like I always did. Like total and complete shit. Life had been hard lately, I had to struggle to even attempt to fake the upbeat and optimistic person I always strived to be. Dialysis was kicking my ass and despite only being on it for 3 years I experienced more than my share of complications. I had been sleepless, devoid of energy and uncharacteristically void of hope. I wasn’t thinking of giving up but I was as low as I’ve ever been.

After lunch the clouds cleared. The lake effect is powerful where I am and the clouds are always there in the morning and you never really know if they are going to burn off. My daughter asked to go out in the boat. We packed and went to the Marina. Once the dog and the cooler were in and we were ready to go. I turned the key.
Nothing. Shit, the battery was dead. I had left the boat uncovered and the hold containing the battery had flooded. The automatic pump had killed the battery. My mom went to flag down a mechanic and my daughter and I stayed in the boat. We sat there waiting, made small talk and played with the dog. My phone rang, the caller ID read my Transplant team’s number.
I knew that I had an appointment coming up and I was expecting it to be a robocall confirming. I picked up and heard a human breathing on the other end. So I said “What are you guys doing working on a Sunday?”
“Well”, the woman said, I was hoping to give you a kidney today”
I almost fell off of my seat.
I repeated the sentence verbatim, not sure if I meant to but that’s what I did. I looked at my daughter and her jaw was wide open. I put it on speaker. There was a bunch of qualifying questions she had to ask. Recent hospitalizations, any open sores, dental issues, distance from hospital etc. I answered all of them satisfactorily and she told me that it was between me and one other person but the odds were enough in my favor that I should get in my car and start driving right away. The hospital is 2 hours away. We bolted for the car.

The 2 hour ride, despite my driving like a complete and total asshole, still took two hours. Traffic was not thick but it was slow. But I got there within the time frame that I told them. Nobody in the ER was expecting me. For a really good hospital, the receptionist in the ER was less than professional. You would think that the sentence “I got a call from the transplant department, they have a kidney for me” would be self-explanatory but her face was similar to mine when faced with a math problem. Blank. I lost my temper. I’m not proud of it but I did. People in the ER waiting room got it but the staff didn’t. I made it clear that if I didn’t get the kidney because they didn’t know I was there that I was going to go apeshit. A triage nurse soon came to the rescue. He knew. Whew, that part is over.

I waited over an hour before someone came out and told me that I had beat the kidney there and it wouldn’t be much longer. Soon, a team of smiling people in scrubs came out and announced that the kidney was indeed mine and that I should come on in for surgical prep. Anesthesiologists, nurses and a team of support staff greeted me at the door. They actually clapped as I was rolled down the hallway. They were great.

Finally, I was wheeled into the operating room, still conscious, where I saw my surgeon. Dr. Dailey is a giant man, six foot seven at least. His eyes smiled through his mask as he prepared the kidney. I asked to see it. He held it up, it looked like a big chicken breast complete with the fatty tissue still on it. Very cool indeed. Ten minutes later I was under.

There is so much more to tell about this. It will be at least an entire post to go over it. As a tease, let me just say that the head of my Transplant team, a highly respected Doctor known internationally for his work in Transplant Science who never indulges in anything but concrete facts told me that my odds of finding this kidney was, and I quote, “in the millions.”

Superman has found his phone booth.

to be continued…

Better things

“We could do this all day”, I said breathlessly as I kissed her neck.
“All day?” she whispered. “One of us has to work.”
Just like that, as BB King once lamented, the thrill is gone. Reality comes a knocking.

It was a glimpse (my choice of terms), a semi-frequent occasion where we dare to look at a life together. A life where she is free from her abusive husband and I can be with her. A life where I was strong enough physically and financially to support us. We would have our own place. We’d watch movies curled up on the sofa with our dog. We would go places and do things as a couple.
Someday.

Today, she is still married. I believe in my heart that she is doing everything she can to leave him. Even if I didn’t believe her, it’s not up to me in any of this.
Me, I forgot during that lovely glimpse, that I am NOT physically or financially secure. At all. I’m on disability living with my mother. In addition, I’m pretty banged up physically so working is out of the question.

Still, hope prevails. We’re good together. We have chemistry. We have the same dreams and the same nightmares. We both want one thing. Better. She deserves better and she makes me better. Maybe we both deserve better.

one for the ages

This summer truly has been one for ages weather-wise. In NH we have witnessed record heat and unseasonably cold days. We have had record droughts followed by record rain fall. And this all in the month of July. The old adage is true, if you don’t like New England weather stick around a minute, it will change.

I feel really terrible for the 75% of my neighborhood, and by extension every weekender in New England. It’s rained almost every weekend. If I was one of those poor bastards who slaved away to pay for a second home only to spend each hard-earned weekend under an umbrella, I would be pissed.
Yes, I know you can’t get mad about the weather. But it still sucks.

I have a little side business that I’m trying to get off the ground. I detail cars. What started out to be a few here and there has morphed into a pretty steady flow of work. Only problem is that I work out of my driveway. 3 conditions make my job difficult; cold, extreme heat and rain. And that’s all we’ve had lately.

Consequently, I have been watching the weather app on my phone fanatically. I only wish that it was accurate. We have lake/mountain effect weather here. The weather patterns are fairly localized and are characterized by sudden change. The weather apps around here tend to err on the side of caution and predict some rain nearly every day. This makes life maddening when you are trying to schedule work. Sometimes I either fail to schedule a job or end up canceling only to have it be a beautiful day after all. Lost $$$$$$$$. Fuck.

Today, I looked out of the window of the dialysis clinic and it was pouring. I texted today’s appt asking her what her thoughts were. We agreed to reschedule. It ended up being a beauty. But hot.
Too hot.
I really can’t work in this heat.

Most of my customers know that I am a dialysis patient. As my network grows and I pick up people in different towns I suppose it becomes less common knowledge and I try not to bring it up. But when it comes to canceling a job over health concerns I’ve learned to err on the side of caution and I no longer care if I may appear to be a weather-related pussy. I have to be careful.

With 90’s predicted for the rest of the week I have already reached out to my scheduled jobs and rescheduled. Not one person cared. They get it.

I wish I could be as easy on myself as they are. Just another entry in a long line of instances in which I slowly come to grips with the fact that I am disabled, like it or not.

Slow recovery

I’ve developed a new habit of late. I like to go out to breakfast after Dialysis treatments.
Before Covid, I occasionally frequented a small but bustling diner named Bea’s Place. I really got sucked in by the great menu selections of comfort foods (breakfast and lunch only), the friendly staff and the normalcy and routine aspect of it.

After treatments I am almost always ravenous. I don’t eat much the night before a treatment because I obsess about my weigh-in. I don’t eat or drink anything pre-treatment for the same reason and because bathroom breaks are very inconvenient at the clinic. You have to have the needles tied off, pause the machine and it is a lot of work for the technicians. So by the time I’m done I’m hungry. Bea’s is not only down the street and as I said, the food is delicious.

Covid did not spare Bea’s. Shortly after the lockdowns, Bea’s shuttered their doors. I checked their door periodically for announcements of reopening but saw none. For a year this continued and I more than once openly lamented the loss of the place. As Americans, we have all seen the trillions of dollars of destruction economically as so many businesses, even ones considered “bulletproof” such as restaurants and bars closed their doors for good. I naturally assumed the worst.

Then one day I saw the cars parked in front. Sure enough, after a year they had reopened. Wishing to feel normal and wanting to put the whole Covid mess behind me in a meaningful way I began to frequent Bea’s twice a week.

I sit at the counter. It is where most singles are directed. I never liked going to a restaurant alone but breakfast is different. I’m less insecure about being alone, my need for caffeine and sustenance trumps appearances. Usually I find myself with a buffer of an empty seat on one side of me. Today, I was not so lucky. The place was jumping.
I like to be alone with my thoughts when I have breakfast but occasionally I get into a conversation. Today was one of those days. An elderly woman whose wrinkles wove a tapestry of unhappiness felt compelled to tell me about her life of late. I listened patiently as she told of out of work children, fear of catching the virus, perhaps most vividly she talked of the loneliness.

It occurred to me as I was finishing up that we have yet to tap the surface on the real impact on people by Covid. I have long suspected that forced isolation on essentially social creatures (humans) has caused damage that has yet to fully manifest itself in our society. There are some genuinely lonely people out there. Yes, I was eating alone also. But I was going home to someone, in addition to a crazy friendly dog, with a huge network of friends to reach out to by phone if necessary. I don’t think my new friend Brenda had any of that.

When the waitress took my plate I asked her for Brenda’s check. She obliged with a smile. I paid them both. By the time Brenda realized what had happened I was standing and putting on my coat.
“Why did you do that?”, she asked me. “I mean, thank you.”
“Why not?”, I replied. “Have a great day”, I said as I left.

I’ve said it before. Nobody can help everyone. But we can all help somebody. I’m not going to presume that my small gesture today will help her in any real way. We have yet to see the full effects of Covid on our previous way of life, but I fear that the pricetag on the isolation and fear is one that we are unprepared to pay.

Coping

I have been feeling pretty good lately. Oh shit did I just jinx myself?
I’ve been consistently active lately. That’s why I’ve been feeling ok.

My definition of good, when I say I’m feeling good, probably differs from yours. There are days that I get out of bed and my legs tell me what kind of day I’m going to have. If my legs feel like I have bags of cement tied to them it means that I’m not off to a good start but all hope is not lost. It is those days that I expend all the mental energy that I can muster to make it through whatever I need to do. Errands, etc. If I have nothing that I need to do, I sigh in relief. I used to beat myself up over the do nothing days but I’ve given myself a break. I have limitations and sometimes I can’t come out to play.

A day when my legs feel good are the days that I almost, I can’t stress the almost enough here, feel normal. I hate that word don’t you? It means that I have some spoons in the drawer and that I have a limited amount of time to do something that requires me to go out in the world and be among people. The drawer could run out of spoons at any time and I needed to be near a bench when the spoons were gone. There will be days when I go strong. On those days I overdo it without exception. There is nothing to be gained in overdoing it because the next day I will certainly suffer. Cramps, fatigue and a general largess will leave me sofa-bound for sure. But I will smile a bit knowing that I did something that day.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to admit to myself is that I am sick. Sick isn’t always visible. That’s because we don’t want you to see. We want to look normal. We smile through pain and push on when our bodies beg us to stop. I always thought I was special. I thought that I could fake my way through feeling the effects of Chronic Kidney Disease. I couldn’t. I later thought that I could endure dialysis without experiencing the effects that others do. I couldn’t. So I was forced to admit, in addition to being sick, that I am in fact deteriorating. Deteriorating to the point that I fear it is not long before I’m unable to do the things that make me happy and keep me sane.
This has been haunting me.

So many people have told me to be strong, that I have so much to live for. This I once tragically forgot momentarily and almost made the mistake of all mistakes. But it is now at the forefront of my brain, the knowledge that to end my life would cause a lot of pain for some people. I don’t have that in me. The thoughts of seeing 4 weddings, welcoming grand babies into the family, listening to music, and doing every possible activity that puts a smile on my face do indeed give me something to live for. But…my brain constantly screams at me that the most important thing to me needs to be quality of life.

It’s not selfish despite the obvious implications. Milestones in life are awesome, but the pain is still there while you’re waiting for them to happen. I’m wiped out, my hands are cramping, I stopped feeling sensation in my feet about 3 hours ago (Did I mention that I now have Neuropathy?),my legs are swollen from the knee down and my dialysis port on my left forearm is throbbing. It’s unlikely that I will sleep tonight and when 3 AM rolls around it will be me and the pain and exhaustion. Trust me, at that hour in that condition the last fucking thing you are thinking about is giving away brides and bouncing a baby on your knee. It is the witching hour and the dark thoughts fight for dominance.
I wish nights like that on nobody, not my worst sworn enemy.

All that aside, with the exception of the occasional bouts of insomnia, I’ve been out in the world and accomplishing things. I’ve been running a successful little side business cleaning cars. It kicks the crap out of me almost every time but it’s good money.
I bought a brand new Harley Road King. It is the bike I’ve always wanted. When I ride I have a smile from ear to ear on my face.
We may be getting a place in Florida. I have the opportunity to stay down there all winter should I want to. That has been giving me hope to carry on.
I have a fairly active love life right now. 3 women who are actually interested in me. Problem is that I still want the married one and I’m willing to wait and see what happens. She certainly gives me a reason to look on the bright side.

It’s been a hard road back from my fall from grace. But there have been some lessons learned and coping mechanisms formed. For now at least I’m on a good road.

But the pain is still there…

Depends on how you look at it

I have been in the clutches of a identity crisis since my stay in the Boobie Hatch (it was only 2 nights but it sucked enough for a week) and it has really taken a toll on me. My breakdown was very uncharacteristic, I’m not a person who has ever seriously considered taking my own life. I’ve always thought it selfish with the emotional burden being passed on to those who loved them.
Then one day it was all I could think of. The hurt that I was going to drop on the people that care about me never crossed my mind. That is one of the hardest things I have had to reconcile.

As any father can attest, A man always wants to be a part of his kids’ lives. I work hard at this, to be in any capacity they will let me. I held off on getting divorced until the kids were older for fear of having access to them cut back. I didn’t want to miss anything. That has never changed. So how did I forget that?

Let’s talk about my oldest. Bright, strong, willful and hard-working. I have an amazing relationship with her now. I didn’t always. There was a time when she was much younger, around 8, that we fought terribly. I began to worry that she and I may never get along. I feared the fighting (she was very combative) would forever taint our relationship. Then I had a horrible nightmare in which I found myself looking through a glass enclosure watching my daughter. She was a toddler, not 8 as in real life. I was pounding on the glass and she couldn’t hear me. The takeaway was that she was in some sort of jail and I couldn’t talk to her. I woke up in tears. It was that time that I committed to fix my relationship with her and be the adult. It worked. This amazing girl is smart, strong, has a great job, just bought a house and has a great boyfriend. I look forward to her wedding.
Yet I was temporarily willing to miss it.

My oldest boy. Glued to my hip from the day he was born. There was a time when he couldn’t sleep unless he was lying on my chest. For 6 months of colic, I was the only thing to soothe him. I lost a ton of sleep but we formed a powerful bond. Any father would cherish the way a child looks at them as if they are the world, I am no exception. He is now a kind, charming young man with a great girlfriend, a bunch of friends and a good job. He is going places.
To think that I would want to hurt such a fine young man.

My youngest boy. Just 21. He was a struggle to get along with for a long time. Always a happy kid with lots of friends, he and I clashed all the time and I still don’t know why. But I worked hard at our relationship and I ate a lot of shitburgers in the interest of getting along. But we weren’t close for a long time. Then it turned around in his early teens. I always had great concern about his future. He wasn’t like his two older siblings in so many ways. As it turns, he is already as successful if not more so than them. Despite being very smart, he chose not to go to college. I had no problem with that. He now works for a great company that values him and offers him a future. He makes good money. He lives with his amazing girlfriend who I know he is going to marry. He is smart, somewhat charming and worldly beyond his years.
To think that with one bullet I was willing to forgo the opportunity to see the great things he will accomplish.

My youngest. She is no less unique than her siblings. Just 19, she is taking a different course with her life. Smart, sassy, fiercely independent with a huge heart, we share a powerful and unshakeable bond. She loves to talk about me to anyone who will listen about how I’m her best friend. She’s on a different course than her siblings. She wasn’t able to get a job at 15 as her siblings did. The reasons are too many to discuss, but she was needed at home. She started school. but the virtual model forced on her by COVID didn’t work for her so she dropped out temporarily. She is working full time now. She’ll go back I know it. If she doesn’t, that’s ok also. What’s important to me is that she never loses her shine, to me she lights up the room when she enters it and when she leaves it is as if the sun went behind the clouds. Close doesn’t begin to cover our relationship.
If I was to harm myself she would be devastated.

My mom knows what almost happened. She knows the whole story. She couldn’t believe that I was in such a dark place with all of the wonderful people in my life to support me. My mom and I are close and the relationship is only strained by one thing, my health. I tend to downplay my illness with her because I don’t want our relationship to be one of caretaker and patient. Mom iwas designated by God a caretaker, willing or not. She cared for her father, her mother and then my father as they dealt with assorted illnesses. She gave up her career and many years of her life to be a caretaker. I refuse to let her slip into that role with me. I want her to enjoy her life.
I can’t imagine what it would do to her if I harmed myself. I’m all she has left.

These thoughts have haunted me but the lesson has been learned. There are others to think about when making such drastic decisions, and there is a lot to be said for remembering what it is you’re looking forward to. Weddings, Grandchildren, communions, baseball and soccer games, the list goes on to infinity. Or maybe just living long enough to share the wisdom I’ve acquired over my turbulent life.

As I further contemplate this it occurred to me that when you add up the simple pleasures in life that we often take for granted it forms another powerful argument to face the day.
Music, what can possibly soothe your soul like your favorite song(s)? The song that brings you to that mental happy place.
Your favorite food that not only tastes amazing but has the dual function of comfort food.
The love of a pet, or patting a random dog.
Again, the list can go on for infinity.

So many good things in life. It is so easy to forget them when you are overthinking the bad things. I need to live by this.

catching up

I have been away for a long time. I don’t think anyone really noticed, my readership was at a all time low despite regular postings. It was about the time that I started telling my story. Admittedly, it wasn’t riveting stuff and I should have storyboarded it first. I’m still writing it but I haven’t been posting it. As they say, eventually you realize that nobody gives a shit.
But it’s ok. It goes both ways. I’ve been too busy to read my faithful followers and I can do better. And I will.

I have had a crippling case of writer’s block, despite being extremely busy. My health has been spotty, I feel pretty weak and lack motivation most days. But I have tried to stay active as possible and I have managed to maintain my detailing side business.

Masonry has largely consumed my time. I was elected Master of my Lodge last year and I was put in office at a critical time, we had been given one year to make adjustments and improvements or they would close us. I’m happy to report that we saved it in a big way and we roared back to full functionality by September.

The rest of my time, when not detailing cars and recovering from dialysis, has been spent on my new Harley. I broke down and bought a 2021 Road King. It is just a beautiful piece of workmanship and my smile is evident as I ride down the road. It is a reminder of what is good in life.

Of course, the main reason I’ve been away is I’ve been wallowing in reflection and searching for answers after my near suicide attempt a few months ago. The event was bad enough, the soul-searching that followed was worse. I have been questioning every damn thing about my life after it, it rattled me to the core.

All of these things will probably become their own blogs, for now I’m just trying to condition myself to blog again.

I hope all of you are doing great and killing it at life

the brink

hit me again life
I fucking dare you
you son of a bitch

I stand before you with bloody mouth
broken teeth
eyes badly battered
but still open
you did your worst
but it wasn’t enough
you may think you broke me
is that all you got?

how could you?
how could I let you?
you gave me all the reasons
to live
to love
and you then denied me the strength
to reach out and embrace them
pain and emptiness
occupied my heart
and consumed my thoughts

on my back
looking nowhere but up
no sky in sight
just institutional white
on the ceiling of my room
no sharp objects allowed
I thought I knew what the bottom looked like
I was wrong

the moment won’t leave my head
rest area
loaded .38 in hand
pointed at my chest
don’t make a mess
end it clean
it will stop the pain
for me anyways
but not for the forgotten ones
that love me
how could I forget them?

lesson’s learned
memories burned
my attitude forever altered
if I can’t think of a reason
to keep going
I can think of a thousand
of why not to quit just yet
life is beautiful
when you know where to look




the Rich Kid

Life on “the Ave” was a blissful time for me when I was a little boy. My cousin Mike, like most age-appropriate cousins, was a built in best friend hand chosen by God. We did what little boys do, or at least did in the 70’s before TV became our nanny, caregiver and teacher. We played in the high grass, stomped through the mud, we hid and spied on and generally annoyed the older cousins. I learned to ride a bike on the Ave, dodging giant puddles that made the task of learning to ride a bike about ten times harder than it had to be. The first time I made the whole street, Mike and the older cousins cheered for me the entire wobbly way. We had fun. We were inseparable. For a very brief while I thought that I had tapped into what my father’s childhood was like. It would be many years, I would be practically a teenager, before I would learn how wrong I was.

I think it’s fitting that the street my father grew up on was named Railroad Ave. There really are tracks in my hometown and my dad grew up on the wrong side of them. The squalor that I saw on the Ave was a massive upgrade to what my father had as a child. And in turn the life he had created for himself was a huge upgrade from the Ave. Understanding the difference those 3 miles across town meant to my Dad would be a huge step towards understanding the man.

I always knew my father was different from the rest of his family. I suppose I should just call it what it was, his family was poor. And they acted it. They weren’t much concerned with how they dressed. Many of them abused tobacco and alcohol. They spent money as soon as it was in their hands on frivolous items like jumbo boxes of candy, cigarettes, alcohol and fireworks. We all know the habits and stereotypes of poverty, and my father, despite having been textbook poor for his entire childhood, exhibited none of those traits.  He was different and even though my young mind couldn’t isolate how so, it stood out when he was with his family. It wasn’t in such transparencies as how he dressed or spoke, etc., he just acted different. I understand it perfectly today; he was still under the effects of the memories of his upbringing, but he wasn’t carrying the lessons forward. He was setting new rules for his own family while not disrespecting his own. He wanted a better life.

As a reward for his hard work, selfless behavior and commitment to self-improvement, his family would refer to him, in muted tones, as “The Rich Kid.” They didn’t mean it as a compliment. The snarkiness and inappropriateness of that label was what I had been missing. And of course, the reasoning behind it. It was quite the Dick Slap to learn that my awesome Dad, whom I oozed respect for, was made fun of for simply wanting better for us.