Dad would love this

“Your father would love this,” my mother remarked as she nodded to the craziness occurring in the dining room. I nodded in agreement. We were cleaning dishes and listening to my oldest son, youngest daughter and her best friend abuse each other. It was a perfect night. Cold, windy and snow-covered outside; music playing, wood-stove burning hot and laughter galore inside. The house smelled great and our bellies were full. My Taco Tuesday feast (a day late) of Tacos, Quesadillas, homemade Spanish Rice, and Guacamole was a hit.

Mom was right, Dad would have enjoyed seeing this. He worked his whole life to build a home like this to retire in, entertain his friends and spoil his 6 Grandchildren. It is a true goddamn shame that he would not see this come true. We didn’t get together nearly as often as he, and I, would have liked. Shit happens and time flies. My situation did not allow me to come up. A difficult work schedule, a young family and a wife who resisted coming up (too buggy, too far, too much time in the car, I can’t sleep up there, and I’m too much of a rigid bitch to give you what you want) caused time to slip away far too fast. By the time our schedules freed up a little, Dad was sick and visits became difficult. By difficult, I mean it was hard to watch. I barely held it together, but the children had a visibly hard time with it. The once virile, humorous and incredibly active man was transforming into a shell of his former self. It was not unlike seeing the air escape a balloon in slow motion. It became increasingly difficult for him to go out of the house, he had a hard time getting in and out of cars, and once he couldn’t drive, any optimism he had was out the window.

The good and bad memories of my father surround me. His influence is everywhere. Pictures on the mantle, the flag handed to me at his funeral by a grateful nation, the hand made furniture are good ones. The safety rails in the bathroom and the disassembled handicap ramp in the back yard are not. I remember once, when he had a caretaker at the house, I walked by the bathroom and Dad was on the toilet. He needed to be wiped. I asked him if he wanted my help even as I realized that I had never thought of wiping my father’s ass for him. I also never envisioned a day he would need me to. Dad couldn’t talk but he mouthed the name “Arthur” (the caretaker) and I went to get him. I knew then that the last thing Dad wanted was for me to wipe him, he was embarrassed that I saw him like that. That was a tough day.

Still, I remember the few times that we did get together as a family. Fond memories of him manning the grill, making a campfire, toasting marshmallows, playing with the grandkids, having dinner and playing phase 10 after, these are all great memories.

Yes, he would have loved to be here tonight. I would love for him to be here as well. He really left us too soon. I really want to believe that he is here, somewhere in this house, enjoying the laughter and keeping a careful eye on us.

Miss you big guy

 

 

 

Dog chasing a car

Ever seen a dog chase a car? My first question was always “what is he going to do if he catches it?”

I made the mistake the other day of clicking on one of the “hookup” site links. I was feeling, well what the fuck let’s call it what it is, horny. My wife had told me earlier that day that even though we are not officially divorced yet if I wanted to “get back out there” she was fine with it. I guess that means she suggested it. I certainly don’t want a relationship so I entertained the idea of a casual thing. So I signed up, no credit card required appealed to me.

I instantly regretted it. I began getting bombarded with nude pics of really slutty women “near me” and very provocative messages. I immediately knew that this wasn’t for me. Despite how “delicious” I appeared to one lady; despite the fact that Paradise was the “only one who could take me there”; and contrary to Sexygodess17’s assertion that she’s “the one I’ve been looking for”,  it’s just not my style. I deleted the account immediately. Like a dog, if I chose to chase this car, what would I do with it if I caught it?

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I’m not a casual sex guy, never was. I like the idea of a Friend with Benefits. I have friends that have this. Just sex, no commitments of any kind. But I’m not wired for it. When I was a younger man I had many long-term relationships and a few one-nighters. I never felt right after the one-nighters. Laugh if you want but I respect women and felt dirty if I objectified them in any way. Even when they seemed perfectly fine with it I still needed two showers after. It’s how I am and if I have to choose, it’s a good thing.

I recently entertained the casual route because I’m not ready for the real thing.  For a lot of reasons, none of which has anything to do with my wife, she’s actually the one that gave me the green light.

I don’t like how I look. I’m still heavier than I want to be even though I’m losing it. I’m very self-conscious of the swelling in my legs and how it would look to someone should I take my clothes off in a lit room. And, since I am a brutally honest guy, I only have one testicle. I had testicular cancer when I was 31 and lefty was removed. I was offered a prosthetic but I said no, it’s not like I was dating or planned to. I was with my wife. I regret that now. I think a woman might get freaked out about that. Do I bring it up ahead of time or do I let her find out for herself? Should be interesting.

Again, in the interest of complete and brutal honesty, I must also confess that I haven’t had sex in 8 years. My wife shut me off then and I couldn’t bring myself to break the vows of my marriage. Several opportunities arose, as did I, but I abstained. I have stayed in my marriage for the children and all I had was my honor. If I was unfaithful, my children would lose respect for me and that’s all I have. So, not having gotten more than a handshake in that long, I am very reluctant to ask my next potential suitor for an instruction manual for her vagina. And a kleenex.

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Another issue is what do I have to offer? A woman my age would most certainly see that I have little or nothing to offer them. I can see the ad now:

Broke, balding, chronically ill heavy guy with one nut and a great sense of humor who lives with his mother for the foreseeable future seeks, well shit, ANYBODY. Confidence in the bedroom depending on how long it takes to turn out the light.

I really want to meet someone to spend time with. To walk and talk, read and watch movies, drink and hang out, and be casual with the pace. On top of everything else I don’t have, I don’t have baggage. I’m actually a pretty good guy and fun to be with if someone can get past all…that…shit.

At least Advil helps with the Carpal Tunnel.

the reason for the season

“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about” Charlie Brown famously lamented.

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Fortunately, Linus bailed him out.

The Holiday season. I’m in the midst of my 52nd one and I still don’t know how I feel about it. It is so many things to so many people.

It is the celebration of the birth of a savior who I have always grappled with my belief in. It is also the source of division between people of different faiths and non-believers.

It is a time to show our love for each other in the form of giving gifts. But due to rampant commercialism and consumerism, the presumed spirit of love, generosity, and peace are replaced by excess, greed, and stress.

It is a time for parents to live up to expectations and give their children the “in” toy or gadget, to see the smile on the face of their children. It is also a time when struggling families are unable to provide any good gifts, because life is hard, and they have to endure the disappointed looks on their children’s faces.

It is a time to gather with friends and family, eat and drink and enjoy each other. It is also a time of year that is depressing for many who are alone, grieving, suffering or struggling who only want the season to pass.

Fortunately, underneath it all, it is still the one time of year when people can be counted on to be their most generous, loving, aware of others in their community and just plain nicer. You don’t need to believe in a loving God to appreciate the importance of kindness, the value of charity, and the rewards of giving.

My hope is that this year, happiness is not measured by the size of the box or the price on the tag, but by the love behind it. We need to be giving each other kindness, acceptance, tolerance, a cup of soup, a coffee, a sandwich, an ear or an encouraging word. Things that cannot be bought in a store and have no expiration date. That is to say, they should last all year.

 

My special purpose… Part 1

I’m not dying, I just live like I am.

This past July I wanted to die. I was so sick, so down and out that my will to live was receding like the tide. Chronic illness had hospitalized me before, kicked me pretty hard but never knocked me to the floor. I always managed to dust off, put on a good face and pretend everything was fine. But this past July was different, it was a perfect storm that came roaring in and left my life in a debris pile when it left. In the 3 ½ weeks I was hospitalized I would lose my job, my apartment and be forced to accept that I needed to go on disability. In addition, I learned that I had lost about 30% of my kidney function. The realization that my Kidney Transplant, the greatest thing to happen to me other than the birth of my children, was failing was more than I was prepared to deal with. I was losing my famous optimism. I could handle a few punches but not the barrage I had been dealt.

I would check out, pack my few remaining belongings into my civic and move to my mother’s house to recover and plan my next move. God bless my mother. She welcomed me into her home, without judgment and gave me all of the tools to recover both physically and emotionally. It would be weeks before I would get my breath back, literally and figuratively, and start to plan my next move. Priority one was getting out of my very uncharacteristic funk. It was bad, even my wife who I feel notices nothing about me, commented “you need to find the old you, the fighter. I don’t recognize this guy. Get him back.”

It would be Facebook, of all things, that would get me on track. Many years ago, when I was really getting sick and in need of a transplant or dialysis, I joined an online support group for Kidney patients. I made a few friends across the country, one of them was Jeanne from West Virginia. Jeanne was at the same stage I was and we often commiserated about our progress. I would get a transplant much earlier than she would and she followed my progress. For someone I never met we knew each other well and had a solid connection. Fast forward to August, Jeanne has since received her transplant and she is doing great. She posted on the 4-year anniversary of her progress and her new lease on life. I was compelled to comment and I posted that I found her “inspirational”. Her response floored me. “You were my inspiration, thank you.”

I was floored by this revelation. To think that my story had compelled someone, had given them hope was invigorating. I told one of my best friends about this, he agreed with her. I would learn that he and many others found my “push forward” attitude refreshing and motivating. That had never occurred to me and I was floored. I only acted as such to motivate myself to keep going. I knew then that I had to find my old mojo, if not for me then for others. I needed to, at this point the only thing that gave me any joy was my children who I never saw but loved more than anything.

To be continued

PC vs Common Decency

I do not stand with the people that insist that as a Country we should shout Merry Christmas from the rooftops. We do not need to assert that this country was founded by people primarily of Judeo-Christian faith.  Multiculturalism is a wonderful thing. There are approximately 29 Holidays celebrated within the month of December. It is culturally intolerant of us to insist that everyone says Merry Christmas. I believe that “Happy Holidays” is just fine. That is my bow to the age we now live in.

On the other hand, if someone, anyone for that matter, wishes you a Merry Christmas and it’s not your holiday…take it and say thank you. The overall point is that someone took the time and made the effort to say something nice to you. Don’t be offended. If someone offered me a peanut-butter and Jelly sandwich and I had a nut allergy I would say thank you for the sandwich. It’s common decency. Which, like common sense, is not common.

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Lighten up people, please.

Integrity and $2.25 will get you a coffee

I have been on a nice, even emotional ground lately. I have rolled with adversity and conflict without anger and frustration. The only good thing to come out of recent events is that I have reconciled my past, forgiven myself for past mistakes, and tried to approach my future as positively as possible. I was doing great until yesterday when I saw my wife.

As part of the divorce proceedings, we are required, as parents of a minor child, to take a class on the impact of divorce on children. Our youngest is 15 and she is fine with everything so the course would be a piece of cake. Sit through it, sign your certificate of completion and head home. I would drive her home, I would head back up and we would not see each other until Christmas.

When my wife initially proposed that we get divorced, she put it out there as completely amicable. There was no money to argue about so alimony was out of the question, no assets to bicker over, and an agreement that I would give whatever I could towards supporting the family. No court mandates required. Completely civil. She just wanted to move on and I agreed.

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In the ten-minute ride to her house, she completely changed her tune and started talking about what would happen once I started receiving my disability checks. I didn’t know how to answer that, particularly because I still have no guarantee that I will actually get approved. She began to talk about how much she would need for the youngest two children in the way of clothing, food etc.,. I explained to her that if I am approved I will do whatever I can for my family, reminding her of our previous conversation. She pushed on further, speculating again on a check that I can’t guarantee. Finally, I asked her to just give me a number. She wouldn’t. She refused. Apparently, her monthly expenses are private. They always were I suspect. She handled the finances and despite how well we did we were always broke. Exasperated, I told her she was unaccountable and it was unfair. She replied that I was trying to walk away from this marriage without consequence. Are you absolutely kidding me?

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This is a direct affront to my character. My character is all that I have left in this world and it is not in question. I am committed to always doing the right thing, especially with regards to the children I love so much. I have shown her my ass, figuratively speaking, by disclosing everything and offering it all if needed and she thinks that I would let my family go without anything when it is within my means to prevent it? All I ask for is some transparency, something I have never had in the time we have been together. I may have to have an agreement drawn up after all. I can’t believe that my integrity is on the line after the sacrifices I have made to do right by her. I never say this but I’m offended.

As my dad, a very honorable man often said…”sometimes, it’s just the point that matters.”

Because it’s all I have

I was heading to the market this morning to grab some necessities. I take any opportunity I have to drive through the center of this little town and admire the old buildings. I have never spent a winter up here so it is still all new to me. It’s a beautiful town but it is very divided between old money and crushing poverty. For every restored farmhouse with smoke from the wood stove drifting lazily from chimneys, there is also one dilapidated house with one or more broken down cars in the driveway, also occupied by children without a proper winter coat.

As I drove by AD Auto Body I was prompted to turn around and say hi to Dave. Dave is another MA transplant who moved up here for a simpler life and eventual retirement. Dave is a friend of my mom and a close friend of my mom’s deceased second husband Frank. When I moved up here in August I had damage on my car that I needed to be fixed but couldn’t go through insurance. Mom brought me to Dave who said he would take care of it. He repaired over $1500.00 in damages for $286.00. I was amazed at this gesture, which he apparently does for everyone. “Never mind what the insurance estimate says, I will do it for what it really costs,” he told her. I was very grateful and thanked him repeatedly. Today. I felt compelled to stop in and say hi.

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I walked into the old, dusty shop and saw that Dave was with a customer. I waited patiently for him to finish (he is long-winded). When the customer walked out he looked at me and said “What’s up Bill? Crash your car again?” I laughed.

“I just stopped in to say Merry Christmas and acknowledge again how grateful I am for helping me out this year. You’re a real nice guy and I hope someone tells you that once in a while.”

He was touched,  but tried not to show it. A man like Dave deserves a thank you but doesn’t need it. And at this point in my life, I am unable to give him anything else but what is in my heart. It’s all I have.

Dave and I talked for a while, I shook his hand and left. “Say hi to your mom for me,” he said. I assured him that I would. I got in my car and felt whole. I could have committed to stopping in after I went shopping, on the way back. Or maybe later. But I might not have. I may have put it off. I’m glad I recognized that the time is now to say what is on my mind and acted on it. If all I have to offer is what is in my heart it is going to have to be enough. It can’t be bought in a store, and it can be given by many.

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No returns, please.

Another anniversary

Six years ago, at this very hour, I was undergoing Kidney transplant surgery. My family and my donor’s family waited nervously in the waiting room and friends and co-workers at home anxiously waited to see how we were doing.

I woke many hours later. I woke to bustling nurses, the beep of numerous machines, flashing lights and tubes and wires coming out of everything. The incision area was very painful, but I quickly realized that I already felt better than I had in years. Kidney disease patients often complain about a “fuzzy head”, feeling “off”. My head was clear.

The next day my donor and I were flooded with visitors. She was in a lot of pain but mobile, I was not, so she hung out in my room. Because we were co-workers many came to see the both of us it worked out great. I was still really sore and heavily medicated but the company was welcome. We were all celebrating a truly amazing thing, a co-worker donating a vital organ to another is such a selfless act, I felt like I was witnessing a historic moment.

As my recovery progressed, I committed myself to be better than before. I wanted to get back the strength I had lost, to truly commit to good health and get the maximum out of the estimated 15-20 years that I could expect from this kidney.

While I did enjoy some physical milestones in hiking, basketball, mountain biking and weight training, a mere 4 years later  I hit a wall. I got sick again, and by the symptoms, I knew what it was. After several biopsies, it was determined that the original disease that had destroyed my original kidneys over the course of 30 years had come back and done a ton of damage in just one year.

I’ve struggled to reconcile this for the last 2 years. I feel angry that I wasn’t told of this possibility. I feel sad that I can’t do the physical activities that came easily to me a mere 2 years ago. I even feel bad that my donor’s generous gift wouldn’t last as long as she and I had hoped. But I do not feel bad for myself and I do not ask “why me?’ I got a shit hand, it happens.

Six years ago today my Facebook page virtually exploded with encouragement and positive messages. I have truly never experienced anything like that. Some people may never experience such an outpouring of support. Some people may never experience a second chance at anything. I did, and for that, I am grateful, regardless of what the future holds.

the Apple has a worm

I made myself get an iPhone this year when my upgrade was ready with Sprint. I did it reluctantly, my entire family and the rest of the known universe has one so I had to see what the big deal is. I am not impressed. As a guy who doesn’t play games, use a ton of apps and spend all day glued to it my phone needs are not a high priority. I use the internet, emails, social media, the camera and make calls. That’s it. I lose a lot of calls, the blue tooth is not working right and every time it updates it messes everything up. Part of this may be that I’m not tech-savvy. I know my way around a computer but I don’t care much otherwise. I’m old-fashioned like that, when I graduated HS the internet was barely a thing. Because I’m old-fashioned, I also like talking to a person when I have a problem. After my experiences with Apple and Itunes customer support’s phone system and customer service, I officially hate Apple. I may be the only person in the world to say this but it’s true.

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Voice-activated computerized menus suck. Theirs is the worst. None of the options given by the computer have ever been what I was calling about and getting the option to speak to a representative isn’t offered. I find myself screaming “CUSTOMER SERVICE REP” into the phone before I finally get someone. With the exception of maybe twice I have been connected with a gum-snapping, Starbuck’s Venti triple-swirl, cinnamon-laced-wheatgrass-infused with tiger semen sipping person who puts me on hold for twenty minutes only to give me a different number to call.

Resetting my password was an act of Congress because they couldn’t tell the difference between my son’s account and my own. But I dealt with them. I had to.

Today, while shoveling snow in white-out conditions my phone apparently fell out of my pocket. I looked everywhere, under mountains of snow as if someone had sneezed the coke off of the coffee table at Robert Downey’s house. It’s gone. So I called my carrier for my options. Sprint told me that I can get a new phone for $473.99 (in other words pay off my current plan). I said, “what about my protection plan?”

“Oh, you have AppleCare?”

They gave me the number to AppleCare. Surprise, surprise they don’t cover lost phones. Ugggghhhhh. Either way, I have to pay $473.99.

My mother called her provider and asked about adding me to hers. Good news, they can add me on cheaper, their protection plan covers lost phones and they will pay $375 towards paying off my other plan. I asked them what the deals were. They offered me a great deal on a Samsung 8 Note. I love that phone. I said “Great, let’s do that. How do I get the $375 to pay off Sprint.?”

“Oh, I’m sorry sir. That deal only applies if you get the iPhone.”

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Let me tell you about my children

Are you running yet? That is the typical response when someone talks about their kids.

I was never “that guy” who had a stack of pics to roll out like playing cards if someone asked if I had a family (this is before cell phones and uploaded photos of course). I would be happy to talk about them to someone really interested but I have always believed that people are really not interested, it’s just something to say, like “how are you today? “Trust me they don’t really want to know.

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My children are older now and I don’t have to deal with that anymore. But now I want to talk about them to anyone who will listen.

If this past year has taught me anything, it is that life’s meaning is not in the size of your house, your stock portfolio or how nice your car is. After being reduced to an unemployed, sick man with too much time on his hands I have come to value accomplishments as the measure of a man. To do this I had to contemplate the meaning of a real accomplishment. Here is what I came up with.

I worked at a restaurant for a long time. A family business where I met my wife. I rose to the top of the food chain in the kitchen to a manager, where I was responsible for thousands of meals. To be real, however, my only real accomplishment was establishing high standards that led to a reputation as a hard-working perfectionist.

I sold cars for many years. Aside from consistently meeting or exceeding goals for sales and satisfaction, my only real accomplishment was the testimonials of customers that left with a different, better impression of my much-maligned industry after they met me. They used words like nice, accessible, professional and my favorite “has integrity.”

I worked as a Collections and Liquidations (repo) manager for many years. I developed systems, reduced overall losses, and increased profitability for the entire ten years that I was there. I was considered the best in my industry. Despite that, my only real accomplishment was that I helped a lot of people. People who were struggling, confused how things worked and needed someone to talk to who would really listen. I was the person that worked with them and I know that at the end of the day I made a difference in someone’s life.

Nothing else I have done matters…except my children. I really accomplished something there.

My children are awesome. At 21, 20, 18 and 15 I have four decent, sarcastic, hardworking and nice kids. They are good citizens. Charitable, kind-hearted, polite to all, respectful of the elderly and authority figures and did I say nice? I am a truly blessed man. While I wasn’t able to afford a massive house, a car for each of them on their 18th birthday and a trust fund, I was able to give them a decent childhood despite constant financial hardship. We went to Disney, we went camping, they played sports and I spent every minute of daylight and energy that I had to throw the football, fling the frisbee or wrestle on the lawn. Fighting the clock, all the while knowing that they were going to grow up too fast.

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I was able to walk the line between parent and friend, being accessible while still in position to leverage the “Dad card” when necessary. They weren’t afraid to tell me things. I never shielded them from life, instead, I told them how the world really is. My girls dressed as Disney princesses once, but today they aren’t the types to wait around for a man to solve their problems. My boys aren’t fighters, but they knew enough to punch the school bully back and he would leave you alone. And if someone messed with their sisters, well watch out is all I can say. The other lessons they learned from me were unfortunate. They learned the value of saving money by seeing their family home auctioned off. They learned the value of hard work when I lost 6 months of work to illness and the older 2 had to get jobs in High School. They learned about sacrifice when they realized that I had tried to leave a terrible marriage ten years previous, but stayed because they deserved to have their father around. And finally, they learned that life is not all sunshine and rainbows when their mother and I finally split up after 21 years of marriage. Amazingly, they are all thriving. Strong, resilient, versatile and not expecting a damn thing from anyone.

That is truly an accomplishment.

So let me tell you about my kids. Despite all of my shortcomings, they were able to retain all of the good things, rise above the bad and cause person after person to tell me how great my kids are. Thank you, I say. If I were to die tomorrow, they are indeed my real contribution to the world. My legacy.