A year has passed…conclusion

October 4, 2018
I woke up to a team of Doctors standing at the foot of my bed. It was early. or at least it seemed like it was. I hadn’t slept much the night before. The head doctor began listening to my lungs, feeling my legs, being a general nuisance as the rest of the white smocks scribbled frantically on their notepads.
“You won’t remember me, sir but I’m the doctor that was on duty the night you came in.” He was looking me dead in the eye. “I’m having a hard time believing that I’m looking at you right now. You were that close.”
“That’s what I keep hearing.”I said. “I must have been in bad shape.”
“Bad shape doesn’t begin to cover it. You were on the edge of death. How do you feel now?”
“Grateful.”
“You’ve been given a second chance . Take advantage of it. You may be going home in a couple of days if you feel up to it. You need to walk for me before I sign your release.”

I rolled out of bed, with difficulty of course, struggled to my feet and began to slowly walk out the door. The team followed me out and watched as I walked to the nurses station and back. I was wobbly but I did it.
The doctor asked me when I had mastered that, to his knowledge I had failed the day before.
“Last night while everyone was sleeping.” It was then that I noticed Olivia had joined the group.
“Bill is a determined one” Olivia offered. I smiled at her. The team left my room.
“I want to go home.” I told her.
“A couple more days I think. Your fever is still erratic.”
“I can’t take being in bed anymore.”
Her concession was to sit me up in a chair where I spent almost the entire next two days. I continued to try to put the pieces together.

It was my ex wife that filled in the holes for me. She painted a vivid picture for me of what it was like to see me like that. She had visited me every day, I was impressed. At one point or another all of the kids had come to visit me. Unfortunately they all came when I was sedated. The sight of me with a breathing tube, unconscious was a bit much for my youngest daughter. My oldest son, who was on his way to visit his girl friend, was told to turn around. He asked why he couldn’t come in the morning. He was told “Because your father might not make the night.” Of course he rushed there.

October 6, 2018
I was released in the morning. Mom came to pick me up. When I got home I sat on the deck, enjoying some natural sunlight for the first time in 11 days, and opened my mail. The first letter I opened was from Medicare. My health Insurance had been cancelled. Effective that day. Turns out my SSDI had gotten approved and I was now fucking rich and wasn’t eligible for state assistance anymore. I tore it up and went inside.

I had just fallen asleep in my recliner only to be woken by my mother’s best friend Arlene.
“I didn’t think I would ever see you again, Billy. Welcome home you tough bastard.”
“Was I really that bad?!” I asked. It seemed I was asking that to a lot of people. Her face said it all.
Many more townsfolk would say that very thing to me in the ensuing days. They all thought I was going to die.

There are lot of takeaways from this whole incident. I was grateful and impressed with the Hospital. I was thankful for the support of family and friends. I awoke one morning in the dialysis room only to find one of my 3AM buddies Jeff next to me patiently waiting for me to wake up. He had been there for 45 minutes watching me sleep. Now that’s a friend. Later that night two more great friends and their wives visited me. They sat for hours with me, they walked the halls with me, supporting my weight when I wavered. Of course I’m haunted by the way they were looking at me. The words “Dead Man Walking” came to mind. They were scared and it was disconcerting. But overall I am moved and eternally grateful to them for the visit. It really meant the world to me.

Another takeaway is that I am proud to have been gifted with toughness and a survival instinct. In order to survive, one must have a reason. I must have had plenty of reasons to defy the odds, as I was told so many times that I did just that.

I’m a fighter. I’m stubborn and I never quit. This incident is just more evidence that it wasn’t my time. I’m not ready for a dirt nap. My life is compromised but it is not over. I have weddings to go to and Daughters to give away. I have grandchildren to meet and motorcycle rides with my boys. I believe that in my lifetime there may be a cure down the road for me. I want to be there if it does.

My last takeaway? Even if I wasn’t awake, my ability to fight death is there and it is stron. Even unconscious, I do not fear dying.

I fear not living. And that is a powerful thing.

I’m also grateful to be here to tell this story, and that is also a powerful thing.

Do it now…Day 2

On day 2, as the farters and snorers began to stir at about 7 AM, I found myself with a decision to make. Do I haul my sleepless ass out of bed and risk major personal injury or illness and go on the ride and get out of the trip what I had hoped or puss out and stay at the motel?

You can catch up here and here.

I chose to go with the guys and make some memories.

After breakfast we put on our gear, warmed up the bikes and headed up Rte 9N, a beautiful scenic road that would take us through our little corner of NY and into the farmlands of VT. The first stretch of road was a long climb followed by a hair-raising downhill full of treacherous curves. My riding buddies were going too fast around the corners for my taste so I took my time. When I came to the bottom I found them at a rest stop taking off their helmets. We socialized with each other, I was still getting to know them and we mingled with other travelers as they pulled in as well. The stop was on Lake George and were all getting pictures when an enormous Military Transport Jet appeared over the lake and gave us a show at not even 1000 feet over the hard deck. It was quite a sight. We buzzed about that for a while and then started traveling again.

The next stop was Fort Ticonderoga, a major landmark which I had never seen before. Then, an hour later we came to Lake Champlain and took a ferry across the lake into VT. I was wiped and found myself sitting on the hard concrete floor of the ferry next to my bike, enjoying the scenery. 30 minutes later we were in VT.

We spent the next 3 hours driving through the most beautiful countryside I have ever seen. Under the canopy of a cloudless sky we weaved through farm country as far as the eye could see. There were barely any cars, quite a few bikes and no people. We stopped for lunch at a cute and very busy roadside burger joint and I slurped down 2 cokes to stay awake. We discussed our route and the boys decided that it would be best for me in my present condition to shave a little off of the trip to give me a break . I was grateful. We soon grabbed the ferry at a different spot and re-crossed Lake Champlain.

The remainder of the ride was challenging. Charlie number 2 and Rick took off when we got to the highway and Charlie and I didn’t want to drive 100 miles per hour so we lost them (or vice versa). We rode 80 miles of highway so remote that the only traffic was trucks hauling grain, feed and oil. We then found Rte 9N again and made our way back. We never did reconnect with Speed Racers 1 and 2 so we took our time. We got back to the hotel just as it turned dark. We went to the bar and sure enough, there they were. We chatted for a while about our 320 total miles and the highlights that we saw but I was fading fast. I decided that I was going to find a motel room in the 5 mile strip of completely booked rooms and get some sleep. At that point I felt as if my life depended on it.

I went to Trivago and found one. It was right down the street and only 92 bucks! I immediately booked the room, told the fellas not to be offended but I needed sleep, and set out. The boardwalk of madness ensured that my 1 mile commute would take 30 minutes but I made it. I went in to find that I had booked for the following week. I asked the cute little Asian attendant if there was anything available. There was, a double at twice the cost. I handed over my credit card and said I’ll take it. Fuck it.

I couldn’t sleep at first. But somehow I scraped out 6 hours and before I knew it I was checking out and meeting the boys for breakfast. Today was to be a bit of a break. We were parking the bikes and walking to the car show.

I welcomed the respite.

To be continued...

Do it now…cont’d

I pulled into a gas station in Meredith, NH at exactly 12:30. You can catch part 1 here btw. Charlie wasn’t there yet so I went inside and bought some essentials to offset my sleepless night. 2 cokes and a Snickers. A sugar high was what the doctor ordered. When I came out, Charlie was waiting for me. We briefly discussed the route, 220 miles to Lake George with a stop to meet the other 2 guys who were coming from MA. We then took off.

The ride was beautiful. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We whipped and weaved through the winding roads of Western NH into VT. Through our frequent stops, a virtual comedy played out as our compadres continued to fail to meet us at arranged stops. They were lost, despite having done this ride 10 years in a row. We finally met up in Killington, at a gas station where I first met Charlie (another Charlie) and Rick. I liked them immediately. We took off for the last 80 miles of our journey.

We stopped for dinner at a diner in the Adirondacks. As soon as we got there it became clear that they knew everyone there. A complimentary round of beers came to the table. I gave mine away and asked for a coffee. I was dead dog tired and fading fast.

The last leg of the trip was cold and a bit white-knuckle. My crew was more experienced than I and were going too fast for me on the dark roads. I barely kept up with them. My nerves were frazzled after almost 6 hours on the road.

When we finally got to the Village of Lake George it was evident that we had arrived at the party. The streets were full of classic cars, muscle and vintage, Street Rods, Rat rods, you name it. The streets were lined with people in lawn chairs cheering on the cars as they drove the strip in a loop. Apparently, the village issues a temporary permit for Thursday through Sunday for all the cars, street legal or not, to cruise the one strip and drive like maniacs if they want. The police just stand there and watch. I had never seen anything like it as we negotiated the bikes through the crowd blocking the motel entrance. I was overwhelmed.

We checked in and I was less than thrilled to find out that the four of us were sharing two beds. I am a terrible sleeper and was not looking forward to sleeping with another guy. I shook it off, hoping that a couple of drinks would knock me out enough to override what I suspected was going to be a massive snore/fart fest. We went to the bar.

It was like Cheers the TV show for these guys. They knew everyone and everyone knew them. Several rounds of drinks showed up at our table and I imbibed a little. We went back to the room and everyone passed out in their clothes. It was exactly the snore/fart fest that I thought it would be. I was up all night. I knew I was in trouble.

After breakfast I asked what the plan was. The plan was to do about 300 miles of beautiful riding through NY and VT. I had a decision to make. Do I take a chance and do the ride on no sleep in 2 days and risk getting real sick or do I puss out and stay at the hotel? They knew my situation and said they would understand if I couldn’t make it.

I thought about it for a while and decided that I would definitely regret not going. I had made it this far, I was going to experience all of it regardless of the cost. I showered and packed for what was going to be a really long day.

to be continued…

Living

I have gone on record as being divided on how I feel about Social Media, Facebook in particular. I hate the politics and the pursuant hatred and vitriol from idiots with “keyboard balls”. I hate the vague statuses in which some attention hound posts “ooh I’m so mad!” so all of her friends will reply “What’s the matter honey?”. Then there’s the 50 year old housewives doing duckface selfies. Enough already.

The one thing I have always liked about FB is catching/keeping up with old friends. I have deeply enjoyed this aspect of it. Having graduated HS almost 36 years ago I love that I can see what people who I don’t actually see often (or at all) are up to. One such person is Tim. The last time I saw Tim was after we had a fistfight after school in 9th grade. I don’t know to this day why we fought, but it was over quick and he moved soon after. That was 38 years ago. He and I connected on FB about 8 years ago and have been very friendly but never gotten together.

That changed this week. I posted a pic of my new (to me) motorcycle

and several minutes later a IM popped up. Want to ride?
Hell yea, I replied. We worked out the details for Monday, the weather was looking fine.

We met at a restaurant we both knew. He had come from 50 miles south of me and the plan was to ride into the White Mountains of NH where, I think it is safe to say that God himself designed these roads for Motorcycles and merely allows cars to use them as needed.

He pulled in right on time. I knew what his bike looked like and a fair idea what he did as well. He got off his bike, took off his helmet, lit up his trademark cigarette and just said, “Billy Mac. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Well, gee Tim. I would think I’ve changed a little since 9th grade.”
We talked for a bit, mostly small talk and we then saddled up. I told him I was a bit of a Rook so I would follow him.
Off we went.
There are certain rules to follow when riding in a group, even if the group is two. I learned them from my dad. Don’t ride side by side, ride staggered. If the leader is occupying the left side of the lane, stay in the right so that another driver doesn’t try to occupy the lane. Don’t get too close. I was nervous at first but I did fine. At the first stop, Tim likes to stop frequently and have a smoke and talk, he asked how long I had been riding.
“Less than a month.”
“Wow”, he said. “You’re doing great.”

At the next stop I asked where we were going. He told me we were going up Cathedral Ledge. I asked more questions and he said to just follow him. Before long we were taking a left into Cathedral Ledge State Park. We then began an upward climb on the windiest road I ever saw. Cars were crawling up and we had to pass a couple because if we didn’t we would have rolled back down the hill. It was that steep. We reached the top and there were hundreds of bikes and cars. We dismounted and I followed Tim to a clearing. Where I saw this…

The view was breathtaking. We talked for a while, got into a little more detail about our lives, elaborated on things we knew about each other from Facebook posts. Finally, he said. “Dialysis, huh?”
“Yup. If you look over there (I pointed to a clearing not visible in this pic), that’s my clinic right there.”
“They’re there. And you’re here, huh?”
“Absolutely. When I’m not there I’m living.”
Tim’s a quiet guy, a man of few words. “You sure as hell don’t look like a dialysis patient to me. Not that I actually know what one looks like, but it ain’t this.”
“Thanks, man. That’s the point.”

We left, descended the hair-raising winding road and set out on the last leg of our journey. We ended up on a very winding stretch of 29 miles that begins with a sign “no gas or services next 29 miles.” The first 3.5 miles were straight up. Then the curves began. I followed Tim’s lead and we began a stretch of snake curves where you need to lean your whole body into the curve or you wouldn’t make it. It was do or die time for me. I summoned my courage and went at it.

Part of me wanted to slow down but I didn’t. I rolled with every turn, mimicking every move Tim made. The wind blew us about, the noise in my helmet was deafening, the adrenaline was pumping. I was exhilarated in the place of fright. At one point I screamed over the din of the engine to no one in particular
LIVING!”

No mortal man heard me, it was for the ears of God alone.

At the next break we talked about the rush of that section of road. I was in heaven. I felt accomplished, I felt like I had performed above my pay grade. I felt alive.

Tim and I later parted ways with a commitment to do it again. We will. I can’t wait. It’s days like yesterday that remind me why you have to deal with the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. The bike, good friends, good conversation, the outdoors on a beautiful Spring day, adrenaline. That’s the good stuff.

I may be stuck in a dialysis chair 3 days a week. But on the other 4, you’ll find me out doing something that someone told me I can’t or shouldn’t do.

I call it LIVING.

The Wedding

Saturday I went to the wedding of the woman who destroyed my marriage.

How’s that for an opening line?

I would like to say that I am overstating it. Maybe I am, but not by much. Lisa, the bride, is the best friend that my wife essentially abandoned me for, adopted as her support system and downgraded my role in her life to inferior paycheck and roommate.

It’s a hell of a story and surprisingly, I haven’t touched on it much in my blog. That is because it is a very complex scenario. First, it needs to be stated that it is not Lisa’s fault, she didn’t ask my wife to choose her for all of her emotional needs. I admire her as a person. It further complicates things that her new husband is an old, dear friend that I love like a brother. He has stood beside me all these years, equally perplexed at the bizarre relationship that developed between my wife and his and he has been very supportive of me.

When this longtime couple with 4 children and 3 grandchildren decided to get married for the noblest of reasons, to adopt a special needs baby that has been in their care, I couldn’t help but be happy for them. I tasked myself with sucking up my bitterness, reconciling the bizarre relationship I have with this couple and enjoy the day. I’m glad I approached it as such, because so many beautiful things occurred and some wonderful memories were formed.

The wedding was beautiful. Their grown son was the best man. Their oldest daughter became Certified Ordained in order to perform the service. All of the children and cousins had a role and it was very touching.

My children all had their significant others with them and they did not disappoint. My handsome boys had their beautiful girlfriends on their arm, my gorgeous daughters escorted by handsome and well dressed men. I was in awe of how my boys turned out to be such gentleman, seeking commitment over the player life. My daughters in turn are faithful, loving companions that respect themselves and demand nothing less from their men. It was a magical moment as a father watching my fine young adults laughing, dancing and canoodling with their dates.

At the beginning of the reception my youngest daughter asked me if I would dance with her should there be a Father/daughter dance. I hate dancing, and pictures, and anything that draws attention to me, but I promised her I would. As luck would have it, I was in the men’s room when it happened. My daughter was a bit peeved with me that I missed it, she told me that she wanted to get a preview of what it would be like to dance with me on her wedding day. As she walked away to join her boyfriend I was struck by a powerful realization.

Like it or not…I might not be around for her wedding.

It was at that moment that I decided that the time to be a non-smiling in pictures, hiding in the back of the room, non-dancing introvert was over. I asked myself how many moments like this did I, or anyone, actually have?

The first slow dance, I grabbed my daughter from her boyfriend’s arms and I danced with her. She teared up but smiled through it. She was so amazed and happy. I then requested a country song that the groom and his brother (another amazing friend) loved and dragged them both onto the center of the dance floor and we belted it out together to the joy of the room and the amazement of my family. When that song ended and the applause died down, a Motown classic started up and my kids surrounded me and I, for the first time ever, danced like no one was watching.

After, enjoying a cigar with my boys and friends, I was asked how many beers I had drank. I told them two, that alcohol was not a factor. I had just decided that it was time to show them all a side they had never seen before.

It was unanimous that everyone, including me, really enjoyed that side of me. The amazed looks from my wife pleased me as well.

It was a good day, with the exception of one comment that my wife made that had the potential to ruin my day…and almost did until I chased it off. It is still bothering me even as I write this but it is a topic for another blog entirely.

A blessing in disguise

A very dear friend, a fellow blogger with a chronic illness (you know who you are) once told me at length how her illness was a blessing.  She spoke of being grateful, of appreciating the small things in life and of not wasting precious time. I wholly agreed with her, but I stopped short of calling it a blessing. 

Now, I’m not so sure.

My illness has made me a better person, there is no doubt about it. I feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.

My blog has always been a labor of love. I started it as a means to tell my story and to vent my frustrations. I vowed to not dwell on the negatives, there were a ton, but to matter of factly talk about my life. Like my social media account, I made a real effort to be positive. No complaining, no placing blame for my situation and zero anger. Many have said that I have inspired them, that I am a good person. I suppose that I am a ok person now. But to be fair, I wasn’t always.

I would never go so far as to say that I was ever a bad person. Instead I would describe my former self as deeply flawed. I used to be closed off. I was angry. I often resorted to pettiness. I was jealous. I blamed others for my lack of success. I tried to be something I wasn’t and did a lot of things I am not proud of.

When I got married and started a family I genuinely wanted to curb some of my bad habits. I wanted to cut down on my drinking. Eat healthy. Be more loving and open. To lose my anger. But it wasn’t to be. Marital strife, financial issues and career challenges dominated any attempts to be a better man. My illness, particularly the hypertension that often bordered on out of control, combined with a drinking problem resulted in a horrible temper and some outbursts that I would give anything in the world to unwind them. I fought with my wife and said terrible things in front of my children. I would get mad at the kids if they took sides or interjected. My oldest daughter and I had horrible arguments. As tough as she was, I was failing her. I failed to recognize that I needed to be the adult. But my version of an adult was an angry, sick, disappointed and frustrated version of the man I wanted to be. Then one night I had a transformative moment.

After a particularly nasty argument with my oldest daughter I went to bed angry. I hated myself for the things that I said. It was truly unforgivable. Somehow, despite my raging blood pressure and self-loathing I somehow fell asleep. What happened next changed my life.

I dreamt that I was watching my daughter through a pane of one way glass. She was in jail, or a mental institution, I’m not sure. At the time of the argument my daughter was 12. But in my dream she was about 3. She was in a room, alone. I was watching her play with blocks. Her hair was pulled up in a tiny ponytail, she was wearing the cute stretch pants that I loved when she was little. She was intent on the puzzle, silent and sad. I somehow had the knowledge that she would be in that horrible, cold and loveless room forever. I pounded frantically on the unforgiving glass for her to hear me, to see me. For the opportunity to mouth the words, as late and fruitless as they were,
“I love you!”.
“I’m so sorry!”
“Please forgive me!”

She continued to listlessly play with her blocks.

I awoke in a cold sweat. I was crying. I did not fall back asleep that night.  I was haunted by it for weeks. It still bothers me. For weeks and months I hated myself. It was then that I took a long, hard and brutally honest look at myself. I acknowledged my illness and made a real commitment to address my shortcomings. I knew I had to curb my drinking, my anger and mend my relationship with my daughter. By reconciling with my mortality, true healing began. I felt urgency to work harder. Most important, I committed myself to positive change.addressing my shortcomings. 

I am happy to reveal that my commitment to repairing my tumultuous relationship with my daughter paid off. We get along wonderful now. Despite no apparent issues with my other 3, I know I formed a much better relationship with them that wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t been honest with myself. It inspired me to fix the other areas of my life. 

The true catharsis occurred when I received a kidney from a co-worker. Her altruism changed my life. I received a humongous lesson in gratitude. Which resulted in a pay-it-forward attitude that I have yet to lose. I became charitable, if not with money I offered my time which is more valuable than any financial offering. By diving into charity, tapped into a well of empathy and caring I didn’t know I had. It made me a better husband, father, son, co-worker and friend to all. 

I think we all look at our lives and think that we have about 80 years on this planet, more if you are lucky. It allows us the luxury of putting off things until “later”. Chronic illness puts a serious damper on the notion of later. This realization changed how I did everything. Before my transplant failed I had one time frame on my mortality. After, I had a much different, and shorter one. Later may be too late. 

Chronic illness has caused me to be the man I always wanted to be. I owned up to the fact that it’s ok to walk away from a fight. To forgive those that wronged  me. To ask myself if I’m right before I shoot my mouth off. To be nice in place of rushing to judgement. To let things go. To be kind and open to the struggles of other. It led to my life-guiding mantra of knowing that there is no value in self pity. Someone always has it worse.

Today I walk upright, true to myself and others. I try to give as much as I can of myself to others. I think of my funeral, whenever it may be. How I will be remembered matters to me. I want to be remembered by those that matter to me as a good person. This is an attitude that is lost by many in their pursuit of wealth, power and prestige. I have lost all of those things and in the process gained a unique viewpoint.

If i were to live 100 years as the man I was, I would never achieve the clarity of mind and comfort in my own skin that I have now. I thank my illness for this. I know in my heart of hearts that my illness made me a better man. Not perfect, but better. 

That, my friends is indeed a blessing.

The Reunion

When the 5th Reunion invite arrived I immediately discarded it. Likewise with the 10th. I wasn’t ready. The scars were still fresh and sore to the touch. When I opened my mailbox to see the invitation to the 15th, I decided I would go.

I arrived, with my wife of three years on my arm and a bad attitude. I had caustically joked to her in the elevator that “the same people that didn’t talk to me in HS can have the luxury of not talking to me tonight.” I left that night not knowing if I was right or wrong, her father had a heart attack and we hurriedly left after only an hour.

I skipped the 20th. And the 25th. I was too busy, too tired, too fat, too poor, too unsuccessful…let’s face it…too full of excuses. I just wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t prepared to talk to people about my life because I felt like a failure. I had visions of regaling people with details of my remarkably mediocre life and then sit in the corner and drink until it was time to slip out the door.

I went to the 30th with a slightly better attitude. I reconnected with a few old friends and made small talk with quite a few people. But I confirmed that I was still largely a Ghost. The people that didn’t talk to me in HS didn’t talk to me then, my caustic joke  of 15 years before had proved correct. It would later occurr to me that I didn’t talk to them 30 years ago either. It was a sobering, powerful lesson. You get what you put into things. I decided that I hated reunions and would likely not attend another.

My terribly negative, yet persistent view of Reunions had clearly stemmed from my HS experience, or lack of therein. I left HS unfulfilled and unhappy. I had few friends, few prospects, and few memories. I tried too hard to fit in. When I failed to, I drew within. I walked the halls looking at my feet instead of making eye contact. I worked a lot. I dropped out of clubs and quit teams when I got the slightest bit of grief from classmates. I ran Cross-Country because it was a solitary sport.  For years to come I blamed others for my lack of fulfillment because I wasn’t yet mature or aware enough to put the blame squarely where it belonged, on myself.

It was liberating to stop casting blame. Reviewing my High School years with a clear, honest eye, I realized that it was mostly a giant missed opportunity. A regrettable one at that.

When I received the invitation to the 35th Reunion I immediately decided that I would go. It was time to cast the monkey off of my back once and for all.

When I arrived at “The Shoe”, the place was full. I took a deep breath and walked in. I wasn’t concerned with “measuring up” against others, and I was genuinely interested in the lives of my peers without the burden of jealousy or envy. Fully prepared to say, if asked:

“Hi, I’m Bill. You probably don’t remember me. I was the color of the walls in HS. I went on to have a unremarkable career and a failed marriage. I’m on Disability. I lost almost everything to End Stage Renal Disease and I may not be alive for the next one of these. But I have 4 amazing children that I live for.
It’s goddamn good to see you though. Hey, where are you going?!?!?!?!?”

I never had to say that. Here is what happened instead.

Everyone looked great. Everyone was happy. Drinks flowed and conversation roared. The people that I recognized, I talked to.  I had a few conversations with people that I didn’t know so well. I saw most of the people that I had hoped to and definitely missed opportunities to chat with some that, after 35 years, were still strangers to me. I mused to myself, as I sat in the corner nursing a beer, the old proverb “A stranger is a friend you haven’t yet made.” As true as it was, it was a bit late for that with most in the room. I needed to be OK with that.

I left early. I didn’t feel well and was struggling with light-headedness and headaches all night. But I’m glad that I attended. For so many years I actually thought that I was the only one who had struggled in HS. That everyone else loved High School and would all grow to be happy, well-adjusted adults but me. It was when I realized that life maybe didn’t turn out for them as planned, that they maybe struggled in HS, and life after as well, that I finally gave myself a break. Life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. All I can say is, I struggled for years to find myself, until I realized I was me all along.

It was great to see everyone. I wish I knew you all better. I wish I had made more memories to laugh and reminisce about. Alas, as the saying goes…there is no second chance to make a first impression.