I got a text from my High School buddy Marc today. We communicate by text and email periodically. I wish he was on FB but he, like millions of men, got in a little trouble with his Messenger and in the interest of staying married he got off FB.
I have a lot of regrets about people that I lost touch with, he’s one of the big ones. We never saw each other after High School. I’m incredulous over how that could happen when most of my Middle and High School memories included him.
Marc lived down the street from me but if I cut through a neighbor’s yard, I could cut out most of the walking. We hung out a lot. Wiffle Ball in his big, hilly back yard in the summer and sledding in the winter. We were pals and always at each other’s houses. As we entered High School, we became typical teenagers. We would spend most afternoons in his basement listening to the best music, sometimes accompanying it with some weed for, you know, atmosphere. On weekends we were out walking around, it didn’t matter what time of year. We grew up in a small town and there wasn’t a lot to do. In the absence of parties, we just hung out smoking cigarettes and looking for something to bread the boredom. Then of course, we got our drivers licenses, and everything changed.
I got a text from him today. It was a familiar interaction that has become a routine for us, “hey, I heard this song today”, or “I saw a car like yours”. Truth is, we had a million memories, so it is no surprise that our memories are constantly triggered. Today’s text was about our cars. “I was thinking today about The Falcon and the Orange Datsun. What a ride down memory lane.”
I had a ’64 Ford Falcon that my Great Uncle left me. It was a classic even in 1981 when I got it. It was a rare car with the hard to find “3 on the tree” manual transmission. My father and his best friend who frequently dabbled in folksy racism, nicknamed my car “the Coon”, derived from “Falcoon” which of course was a mispronunciation of Falcon. I didn’t think much about the nickname, and I adopted it until I realized how racist it was. But the nickname stuck. Marc bought a giant boat of a 70’s Grand Prix. That car was so big you had to moor it, not park it. It was powerful and could light up the tires easily. Every time Marc smoked the tires it cost him a gallon or more of gas. Whenever we asked him to smoke them up, he put out his hand and demanded gas money. It was pretty funny. But the cost of gas got to him, and he sold it and bought an Orange Datsun B2000. He really went the other way with that one. But it was a fun car and it kept Marc out of trouble because that car was incapable of spinning its tires. Throughout the many concerts Marc and I went to, the Orange Datsun served us well.
I am glad Marc and I reconnected 9 years ago at our 30th HS Reunion. When I walked in the function hall, he was there at registration waiting for me. We have kept in touch enough, but I wish we could hang out again. Now that my mom has bought a Condo in FL, where he is now, I will make that happen.
When I say that High School sucked, and I say that a lot, I need to remind myself of all the half-baked fun Marc and used to have. I need to focus on stuff like that more.
It was quite an eye opener for me, the first time someone told me to shut up and listen. I’ll never forget it. At first I was angry and defensive. Then I thought about it. I wasn’t really listening to him, I was clearly waiting for my turn to speak. That’s not listening. Listening is not waiting for your turn conversationally, it’s giving the person in front of you your full attention. And I wasn’t doing that. Fortunately, I’ve improved in that department.
Today my listening skills were really put to the test, I can’t help but feel that I did ok. Not that I’m being graded, of course. I’m just looking back and I feel that I helped a little. I wanted to do something, anything but as it turns out all she needed was an ear. So that’s what I offered. For 2 hours and 45 minutes.
She is so conflicted right now. Her marriage, her job, her friendships, her surprisingly unsupportive family, and of course her demons are all right there front and center fighting for her attention. She feels alone in a crowded room, that noone understands her and on top of everything else, she feels that she has wasted her best years being good to those who took her loyalty and trust for granted. I can’t imagine what it’s like to question everything in life that I once thought was solid.
Today, as she waited for her ride, she asked me to stay on the phone with her. It was hard for me because I really don’t enjoy talking on the phone. But it was the only way I could talk to her and once her ride showed up I would be without her for a week. At Alcohol detox, the first thing to go is the phone.
She needs it, the week at the clinic. She needs to take a hard look at everything, sort out her demons and start to work on them in a healthy way. She doesn’t really believe she is an alcoholic. Nor do I. But she knows that her recent use of alcohol to deal with the increasingly abusive and insensitive behavior from her husband is not the answer. The week of not being around him and even the conflicting influence that I provide will be good for her.
I’m ok with it. All of it. While part of me knows that the advice she gets from a trusted therapist might not go my way. I fear, yet am ready to accept it if it happens, that she may be told that I’m the variable that has to go. Maybe I’m the straw on her weighted back. She may emerge from this to tell me that I have to go. And while the thought rips the very heart from my chest, I have to be ok with it. Because I’m crazy about her and I will do anything for her to be happy. Up to and including letting her go if it is the right decision.
I don’t know what is going to happen at the end of the week. I just know that whatever she chooses to do is fine by me. It has to be. Part of loving someone is wanting what is best for them. She is my friend. My lover. My ray of sunshine on a mostly cloudy day. She has been so good for me, just knowing her has brightened my life. I see a future for us, one in which I finally have someone to really want to live for.
I hope it’s me, I really do. But more than anything I just want her to be happy.
In 1981 my Great Uncle Cyrus died. He had a big house on Cape Cod, about 300 yards from the water. My family was tasked with cleaning it out. My Great Uncle was a kind and giving man. On my 16th birthday he gave me his late wife’s 1964 Ford Falcon as a present. I was grateful yet conflicted, I barely knew the man. Amazingly, the distance between us and the Cape was enough to keep me from seeing him more than 5 times in my life. And there I was cleaning out his house, charged alongside my mother, father and Grandparents with deciding what was “junk” and what wasn’t.
There I was, a 16 year old exploring a old house. I meandered to the basement where I found a dusty tool bench with some really cool but unfinished wood working projects and a lot of unorganized stuff scattered around. I stooped to check out the bottom shelf and I saw a bottle. I blew an inch of dust off it and I studied it. It was a bottle of J&B Scotch, a fairly middle of the road blend and a very popular drink in its time. I was intrigued by the label “half gallon” and realized that this bottle was old. The stamp revealed that it was bottled in 1949. “Hey Dad, check this out!”. Dad came over and agreed that it was a find. We brought it home with us and stored it in my grandparents basement.
Saturday I had my installation ceremony as Master of my Masonic Lodge. Due to Covid restrictions we were only allowed to have 50 guests and we reached that number. My children and my mother, several brothers from other lodges that I became friendly with over the years graced me with their presence. One of them had told me 5 years ago that should I become master he wanted to be there. So I invited him. The remainder of the crowd consisted of lodge members and their guests who all came out to support the new line of officers.
It was an AMAZING ceremony, the same one that was conferred on George Washington in the 1700’s. Once complete it was my turn to say some words. I had it all planned out. In fact, I have had it planned out since the day I decided that I would move through the chairs to Master. “Brother Marshall, would you retrieve my conversation piece?” The crowd was intrigued. Brother Marshall is my good friend and past master Basil who promised to help me in any way should I take the big chair. He winked at me and walked to the back of the building and came back with the bottle of J&B. He handed it to me with a wink and sat back in his seat. I hoisted the J&B in the air and told the story. “I am a lover of objects, for their significance and place in history. Objects do not contain memories but they have important associations. For example, I wear my grandfathers watch and cufflinks. I wear my fathers motorcycle helmet. They hold memories for me and mean something. This bottle is not just a bottle, it is a reminder of a different time”. I told the story of cleaning out Uncle Cyrus’s house, who I later found out was an esteemed and beloved Freemason (it explained why he gave me a car) and how the bottle in my hand has fascinated me all along. “This bottle has never been opened, it was bottled in 1949”. The crowd was hanging on every word now. “This bottle was owned by a wonderful man. It was also bottled during the era of Harry Truman, my favorite President. Harry Truman, you may not know, was a Freemason. He served as Grand Master of the state of Missouri as Vice President yet he never discussed it”. I asked the crowd if they knew that in a Masonic lodge everyone is treated the same regardless of social stature. I told of how Harry Truman went to a regular lodge as Vice President and later President and wasn’t greeted with fanfare and adulation…he was simply “brother Harry”. “This bottle represents a simpler time and I hope to run this lodge as Harry did his own, with humility and honesty”. It was a hit, everyone applauded. After, I rounded up all of the shot glasses I could find and I opened it. We toasted and took a drink. After 70 years in several basements, I finally shared my find with those people closest to me. A week and a half later, people are still talking about it. They agreed with me that it wasn’t just a bottle.
I sat down yesterday morning to begin a post in continuation of the one I had previously published and I just couldn’t find my groove so I saved it as a draft and turned the computer off. I’m glad I did because today I got a phone call from a dear friend and in the course of it not only did I figure out what I wanted to say but I found myself with a renewed interest in my blog.
I suppose it would be beneficial to first state that she is a fellow blogger. In every sense, she is the perfect person to having spoken to today. On so many levels. To begin with, I love the sound of her voice. In addition, she always makes me laugh. When I’m done laughing I then find myself with something to think about. Lastly, she always revives my faith in people.
You see, when I first started my blog I had very few readers and I really didn’t care. I was in a real bad place, I felt alone and at the very bottom. The blog was akin to the cliched Shrink’s Couch where I unburdened myself in relative obscurity and anonymity with the end result feeling as I’ve talked to someone. Then people started reading. They were drawn to my story. Not that I told it particularly well but because I was so unflinching and honest. In a world of fluff and bullshit I bared my ass to the internet and it resonated with some people. Soon enough I became actual friends with 3 of them and we got together for a day of conversation and dinner. I am proud to say that I am still communicating with all of them.
Today’s conversation was with a woman that I like to joke with about being the female version of me. Or I’m the male version of her. Whatever. Point is, she gets me. She knows me well and has a history of knowing when I am in need of a pick me up and she always reaches out. On this day, it wasn’t that I was not doing well but yea, something was bugging me and we got to the bottom of it. That is what a real friend does. Over the miles or right next door, a friend knows when you need them. Thank you.
How did she inspire me to get back up and blogging again, you ask? She reminded me that in the beginning, before followers and stats were even a concern, I told my story. It was a story that enough people enjoyed or at least felt compelled to hear the rest of it. I thought I had told my story and I have been struggling for things to write about. Until today. This is my journal, my outlet, my place to tell my story that is still evolving, twisting and turning, and changing before my eyes. It is a journal.
As long as there are days in my life, my story still needs to be told. Hold on, shit’s gonna get bumpy around here.
It’s been a few years since the 4th fell on a weekend. And if memory serves the last 3 years it rained on the 4th. I remember because I live in the region of vacation homes and every time it rains on Memorial Day, The 4th or Labor Day I always remark that I’d be pissed if I was a weekender and it then rained. One advantage of being here year round I suppose.
Holidays haven’t been huge for me lately. The distance from my fam and friends, the virus, living in an area where I don’t know many people all contributed to a blah attitude about holidays. But not this year. 4th of July 2020 was going to be different. I HAD PLANS.
A couple weeks before, my awesome friends Jeff and Leanne asked if they could spend the 4th with us. I jumped at it. Spending the day at the lake with friends is my idea of Paradise. A few days after that my youngest daughter told me that she and her boyfriend were coming up for the weekend. YAY! Then a few days later I learned that my youngest boy was coming up also. YAY! But his amazing girlfriend wasn’t. BOO! Then 3 days later Abby got the day off. YAY! (these yay’s are a nod to a certain blogger, you know who you are). To top it off the weather report called for a gorgeous day. The planets were aligning nicely. Now if Jeff and Leanne were to cancel I would be fugging pissed off. Not Jeff, he won’t let you down.
The day arrived. My kids got here early Saturday morning. I had already bought a metric shit ton of food and there was some setting up and cleaning to do. The boat was ready, I had reserved a table at the beach, I was scrambling around. A stressor was my mother. I love her dearly but she is a fanatic about her house and every time I opened a bag of Dorito’s she was looking for a container for it. I felt like a dog must when he’s circling to drop a deuce and the owner is following closely with a poop bag. But by the time Jeff and Leanne rolled in with Jeff’s son Johnny and Leanne’s daughter McKenzie we were good to go. Boat here we come.
I gave them a good tour of the lake. Everyone had a blast. We headed back in around 3 because the call of all of that amazing food and drink was irresistible. Jeff had promised an assortment of meats in his legendary marinade and I had a backup batch of sirloin and chicken breasts. Add to the mix Macaroni salad, a ton of snacks and a cooler full of booze…yea moor the fucking boat already.
The men hung by the grill, commenting on the meat and making guttural grunting sounds. The women congregated on the farmer’s porch and occasionally mixed. I went to find my daughter’s boyfriend and told him to come be with the guys, not hang with the Joy Luck Club. He did. He and I have a complicated relationship. He thinks I hate him. I don’t. But there wasthat time that I told him I was going to cut his balls off. Water under the bridge. He’s a nice kid, he’s good to my daughter (all a dad should care about) and he has a lousy home life with no good male role models. So I’m trying to get to know him. He joined us. It was cool, all the guys around the grill. Or maybe it was the bag of weed. Did I mention that? Yeah, I started the day with a half ounce of stinky weed and I rolled a bag of fatties in the morning. My daughter smokes once in a while, usually only with me and I knew a few others there did (no names) and I don’t really drink anymore…I decided to fly the friendly skies with anyone that cared to join me. So yeah, father of the year getting baked with my daughter and her boyfriend. What are you going to do, we all had fun. And the boyfriend loosened up a little.
After the feast was consumed and cleaned up we all ended up on lawn chairs enjoying the late afternoon sun. We talked about movies and current events. Jeff, Ryan and I talked about music, ranking musicians and bands all the while I had my bluetooth speaker on and phone in hand putting on great song after great song. Everyone was having a blast. Unfortunately, all great things come to an end and Jeff and Leanne had to pack it up. It was the end of the day for them but I still had my kids there so I could continue on. And we did.
What a day. What a weekend. I thank God for all of the blessings I have received in family and friends. This one made up for all of the lonely and uneventful holidays that I’ve had in a long long time.
It is said that how you treat people says everything about you. Especially those that can do nothing for you. The other day I met someone whose treatment of others, my friends and I, whose behavior spoke veritable volumes about her character. And not a single word of it was remotely favorable.
If you live anywhere near NH you may have heard of the Fallen 7. Last year, a group of Bikers on a charitable ride for USMC causes was rounding a corner in Jackson, NH and found a heavy-duty pickup and attached car carrier in their lane. Having nowhere to go, no escape route as bikers call it, a bloodbath ensued. 5 bikes, 2 with passengers met a tragic death. 7 dead in all. The operator of the truck, a illegal with several moving violations including a recent DUI, with multiple drugs in his system, had crossed the lane. It was a huge story and one that struck a decisive blow to the heart of anyone who, or knows anyone that rides a motorcycle. The tragedy was made worse by the truck operator’s lack of remorse and the fact that Registry backlog and poor communication between state DMV’s had caused his CT DUI to not be processed in MA. If it had, his license would have been suspended.
A beautiful memorial was erected on the site of the motel they were staying (they died mere yards from the motel, a further tragedy) and since the accident many a group of bikers have made the pilgrimage to the site to pay respects. Sunday, some friends and I set out on ours.
We have been under a drought for a few weeks. Each week the weather apps on on our phones predicted rain but it never did. So when the forecast called for rain we set out anyway on our 100 plus mile ride. As luck would have it, the heavens opened up on about 10 miles short of our destination. Rain is manageable on a bike, but this rain was torrential and it stung our eyes so bad that we were forced to take cover. The first place we saw was what looked like a abandoned motel and we pulled into the parking lot. We found a unit with a sufficient overhang and took shelter.
It wasn’t long before we realized that it wasn’t abandoned. A woman who identified herself as the owner approached us. We apologized for our presence and assured her that we were planning on moving along once the rain let up even a little. She was a bit annoyed but said ok and walked back to her unit. Not ten minutes later she came back and she was highly agitated. She began shouting at us, calling us filthy scumbags and ordered us off of her “fucking property”. One of my buddies asked her why the sudden change of heart and she ramped up her agitation. She screamed that she was going to start “dumping bikes”. I was horrified to see her heading towards mine, the one I had owned for exactly a week. She had both hands on the right hand grip and had it off of the kickstand when I realized that I was armed. I pulled up my shirt and revealed my 9MM. I said “Lady, get your fucking hands off of my bike or I will be forced to exercise my 2nd amendment right”. Not taking any chances I grabbed the bike away before she could dump it. She swung at me several times until I unsnapped the button of my holster and doubled down on my stance. She turned her attention to my buddy Tom who had a travel mug of coffee in his hand. She screamed at him and slapped the cup out of his hand. He told her to back off, that we would leave. We pulled out as she screamed obscenities at us.
It took a while for it all to settle in, it was a while longer before we were able to laugh about it. But it wasn’t funny. We completed our trip, paid our respects and made it home with several more stops to get out of the rain. We’re still talking about it 3 days later.
Several years ago I read a story about a Jackson, NH innkeeper who was sued by a Moroccan couple for refusing them service on the grounds that they were “Muslims from the Middle East who had no business being in our country.” NH had only recently passed hate crime legislation and she was the first person sued under it. After some research, yup you guessed it, it was her.
We engaged her on Facebook, gave her several poor reviews despite not being technically guests. Almost every review we read of her place was critical and often scathing, detailing tale after tale of verbal abuse and poor service. She was clearly a horrible person. She went after us and our reviews, doubling down on her “filthy biker” language. This was not good for her at all because us “filthy bikers” are a huge part of her business, largely due to the fact that she is ten miles from a very popular memorial site. But it didn’t end there. She tracked my friend Tom’s Facebook profile. On Tom’s cover page is a photo of his deceased son. The woman went so far as to say,”your kid is dead, how many others around you have died because of your behavior?” Tom was floored. The hate of this woman is overpowering.
I am still a little worked up over the incident. At the base of it all I know that we were on private property. But we weren’t hurting anyone, she had initially told us it was ok after all.
In the world I grew up in, shelter is given to strangers in duress, comfort is given to the weary and respect is paid to all until it is deemed unworthy. I have never been treated like that and I hope never to be again.
My mind is whirling with new and creative ways to get back at her, including filing a police report against her. I’m not sure what it will accomplish but it may make her think twice before she treats otherwise decent, respectful people like the piece of shit that she sees every day in the mirror.
Friends and family. Sometimes, in the bustle of our everyday lives we lose touch with those that sustain us the most. Now, as the world has come to a screeching halt they have become the most important asset. My kids have been amazing. Before the collapse of modern society they, most of them at least, were great at keeping touch. My oldest daughter was always the leader in keeping in touch with me. My oldest boy was good but like his old man, time gets away from him. And that’s ok. He’s an adult and he has his own life. My youngest boy is probably the worst, he has the least ability to keep track of time of all and I had to call him to see how he is. Again, it’s alright. He has a job and a girl and he is living his life. My youngest daughter is just now starting to get busy. But she almost rivaled her sister in checking up on the old man. I was always grateful for the communication.
Now, the kids are all in constant touch. They all have accrued a solid education on what my immunocompromised ass is or isn’t supposed to do during a pandemic and they have been amazingly supportive and critical at the same time. They applaud my attitude but chastise for going anywhere. They want me to stay in and never go out, but I have to. We need things. So they yell at me. Constantly. And I love them for it.
My friends have been amazing also. I always knew I had an great circle but I never knew how much so. Friends that I spoke to frequently now call or text me constantly. Friends that I have maintained contact with sporadically are reaching out. They all know my situation and they are all concerned. It has really touched my heart and to their credit, I have made sure that they are all safe and healthy. Physically and mentally. Despite this unprecedented event, they all seem to be handling it.
Then there’s my special lady friend. She isn’t doing so well.
In the short time I’ve known her I have recognized and reveled in her free spirit. Before the pandemic she went into the city for work. She occasionally worked from home but not more than two days a week. Going into the city was her break, her routine. It made her appreciate home. Now, she appreciates getting out of the home more than ever. Some birds are not meant to be caged. I’m worried about her. What she is experiencing is beyond stir crazy. She’s depressed and on top of it all, she feels like the walls are actually closing in.
The confinement. This is where the pandemic really hits home. Well, you know, besides dying that is. I’m a fixer. I want to help. I want to jump in my car and visit her. I want to hug her and tell her it’s going to be ok. I want to take her for a ride. I just want to keep her company.
This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.
Jimmy McInerney stood on the curb outside of O’malley’s impatiently waiting for his ride. He had interviewed all 3 bouncers, 2 patrons and Mike was still not back. Where the hell is he? How long does it take to give a drunk chick a ride home? Jesus. As if on cue his radio crackled. “Unit 7 en route to Mercy Hospital.” “10-4 Unit 7”, dispatch responded. Jimmy reached for the radio mike on his left shoulder and squeezed the lever. “Unit 7. ETA ?” “Be there in 5.” Jimmy looked around the Main st. Last call was in effect and all of the bars were emptying out, including O’Malley’s. Between Mike clearing the crowd outside and Jimmy shaking the place inside out everyone had left . He marveled at how the patrons had cautiously steered way clear of him as they exited the bar. They’re not supposed to be scared of me, they’re supposed to trust and feel comfortable around me. That’s the way it was these days and Jimmy hated it. He had always, despite the road blocks in his career, tried to be the cop that people waved to when he drove by. A police officer that was a resource to the community and not something to be feared. Andy Griffith always came to mind when he was on this topic. Maybe it was only a TV show but he wished that the people in town felt towards him and his fellow officers as the people of Mayberry did. They trusted Andy, they gladly sat next to him at the coffee shop and welcomed him into their homes as a friend. But that was not to be, forever relegated to the status of TV Land reruns, police were regarded on a whole different level in recent years. It wasn’t entirely unearned, Jimmy knew some bad cops. But he also knew some good ones, Mike and himself included, that took this job upon themselves for the right reason. Community, helping people, keeping them safe. Yet people, even in this town…HIS town, bought into the narrative that cops were racist and corrupt and not to be trusted. Maybe banging my nightstick on the bar a while ago wasn’t the best way to reverse that dumbass, he scolded himself. Maybe, but the damage has been done. He exhaled and reveled in the cool early morning air. Mike pulled in moments later and Jimmy jumped in. Before Jimmy could fasten his belt Mike noisily sped off. “What’s going on?” Jimmy asked him. “We’re going to Mercy. That wasn’t a routine drunk chick. I ordered a Tox. Med 2 is on the way with her and I want to be there when they get the results”. He stuck a Marlboro Red in his lips, lit up and slowly exhaled. “Something stinks in Mayberry.”
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.
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.