Crossroads…

cropped-cropped-lonely-man-by-the-bed1.jpgThe reason I named this blog as I did is that through my life I have been known to push through obstacles, illness and otherwise, and trudge on. My friends and family nicknamed me Superman because I seemed invincible despite everything that was thrown at me. It wasn’t always a compliment, in fact, it was sometimes a snarky shot meaning that I didn’t listen to common sense advice and other earthly notions. That I felt bulletproof. To be fair, they weren’t wrong. But that’s how I deal with things. It runs in my family. It is a good and a bad thing.

Putting on a good face presents well. I may have been sad and sick on the inside but I’m always going to tell you that I’m fine. My doctors gave me hell, told me that I wasn’t taking my illness seriously. I told them to leave me alone, I’m taking my meds and following your orders. You’re just asking me to act sick and I won’t do that. Right up to my transplant I pushed my luck, fought through the symptoms and feigned good health. I like to think that I spared my children from worry. Youth is hard enough without a sick father to worry about.

The downside of putting on a good face is that when the hammer falls it is more of a surprise to those close to you. Something that has been at the back of my mind all along is suddenly at the forefront of theirs. Word spread and the unthinkable happened, people starting feeling bad for me. The exact reason I didn’t make a big deal out of my illness. I hated how the first question people always asked is “how are you feeling?”

I suppose that I always thought there would be a cure. I woke each day hoping that something good was happening in some lab somewhere that was going to keep me off of dialysis. This strategy, regardless of how well it worked for me, was classic denial. I called it thinking positive.

What is so bad about positive thinking? It worked wonders for me. When I visited my Dr’s office I saw a lot of sick people. They didn’t see that when they saw me. I was working out, I was strong, my weight was under control and I walked with my characteristic “rooster strut” (courtesy of my wife, once again not a compliment). I refused to act like a sick person. I was actually told that I was an “inspiration” by a fellow patient. This mentality sustained me until the big day.

Post-transplant I thrived. I virtually ran out of that hospital determined to get my strength back and to make the most of the 15-20 years of good health my new kidney would give me if I took care of it. I bought a mountain bike, I went hiking, I hit the gym and I spent a lot of time outside with the kids to make up for the times that I sat on the sofa watching them play because I was too fatigued to join them. I had proved them all wrong, it was possible to positively think your way to good health. Even my doctors agreed that my way of dealing with it kept me strong enough to breeze through a difficult surgery and complex recovery like a warm knife through butter. I had vanquished the haters.

Then I rejected 4 1/2 years later. Almost overnight I went from feeling like Atlas to a 95-pound weakling. My bubble had burst. What I hadn’t been told is that the disease that had destroyed my original kidneys had could come back. And it did. I was mad as hell, how could they have not told me of this possibility?

Last week I went to see my nephrologist. My overall function is now 30%. In 2 years I have lost about 75% of my kidney function. I had absolutely no idea it was progressing that fast. I’m pissed, concerned and full of doubts right now of what my future holds, in particular, how long will I have what I consider “quality of life”?

I need to find that positivity again. Fast. Maybe even a little of that Superman. I liked it much better when everyone but me knew that I was sick.

an attempt at satire

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Imagine the country is a woman who belongs to a country club. And she receives a letter informing her that she is banned. Feedback welcome

Dear Madame Blue:

It is with great sorrow that I inform you that the party is almost over, that you are no longer the “it girl”.

When you first burst upon the scene, all of the old folks in the room took notice. The way in which you achieved your social status captured the attention of all of us. You were admired for your bravery, tenacity, individuality and of course your independence.

We all wanted to get to know you, to learn your secrets. Not everyone could do what you did. Some of us, admittedly approached you for their own benefit. It happens when you are on top. But you were gracious, you admitted that you were young and that you would make mistakes. You went so far as to put in on paper how committed you were to your beliefs. You even allowed for it to be amended. What an original concept!

You were interesting, exciting and full of new possibilities. We all wanted something from you. You obliged most of us, but insisted that you would help if your best interests were considered. Most of us found that to be fair. Those that didn’t kept quiet about it.

For a decent amount of time you did a good job of keeping your own house in order. We were all impressed at what you could do at such a young age. You kept an eye on what others in the room were doing but largely minded your own business. You were peaceful but strong.

Then the fighting started. Your house became divided and after much terrible fighting you almost split  in two. We watched to see how you would handle it. Your house stood after all, but it wasn’t the same. Bitterness and divisiveness prevailed.

When all of us got into a major ordeal, you picked the side you most agreed with and got involved. Your resources were a major part in ending a major dispute. It ended badly. Unable to reconcile, we got into another huge ordeal a mere 21 years later. Once again you picked the side you most agreed with and pitched in. Your resolve was amazing and appreciated. Most of us thanked you, the losers licked their wounds privately.

Then you changed. You began to meddle in the business of others. You were less discriminate in who you did business with and picked some fights that really weren’t yours. You meant well but didn’t think your actions through and you suffered some real embarressments and losses. And your family was torn by them. We began to resent you. The infighting in your family continues to this day yet you continue to focus on everyone in this room.

Madame Blue, there was a time when a single word from you would turn our heads and silence the room. Now, you have become a cautionary tale. Your family is struggling and needs you and you are not paying attention. You are not rewarding those that have worked hard and inviting the wrong people into your home. You are not listening to the ones that love you. You don’t even know that when you are not looking we are poking fun at you. Sure, some of us are nice to your face because we want something from you. But we used to look to you for leadership, for the better way to do things. Now you are a reality show. And your ratings are plummeting.

You once had so much potential, your accomplishments admirable and your endorsement invaluable. Please don’t squander what influence you have left by destroying your own house. Lead by example, take care of your family and be the beacon we all thought you to be. Be as good of a citizen as you are a warrior. There is still time and we need you in our club. The old you. You used to be great and can be again.

But until that time, we’d rather you stay away for a while. At least until your house in order.

With regrets,

The Rest of the World

The ride of, or for, my life…

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frus·tra·tion

frəˈstrāSH(ə)n/

noun

  1. the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something.

“I sometimes feel like screaming with frustration”

synonyms: exasperation, annoyance, anger, vexation, irritation

Yes, that is one definition. Here is another.

When you think you are all set with something for a while and you then find out you are not.

MY Synonyms: annoyed, pissed off, here we go again

Almost six years ago I had a kidney transplant. Truly a landmark moment in my life. A future of dialysis and a poor quality of life magically transformed into a bright future with at least 15 years of good health through one amazing gift from one amazing person. It was up to me to take care of the new kidney. To diligently take my medications, eat healthily and listen to my doctor. In addition, my donor was a friend and I further owed it to her to take care of her gift.

I looked forward to 15 years (or more) of good health and I was committed to taking care of it. I hit the gym, I started mountain biking, I ate right and watched my weight. Imagine my disappointment when 4 years later I had a rejection episode. My body will always try to reject the new organ so I take a lot of meds to suppress my immune system. Yet I ended up in the hospital with a severe loss of kidney function. Over the next 3 months, extensive testing will reveal that the original disease that destroyed my original kidneys had returned. The kicker was the Transplant team didn’t feel it necessary to tell me about this possibility. I was pissed. My prognosis was, while uncertain when, my new kidney would eventually fail to the point that I will be back where I was pre-transplant. That was not a good place.

Kidney disease has a wide array of unpredictable and unpleasant symptoms. Besides feeling “washed out” it is not uncommon to develop intolerances to everyday foods that generally would be considered healthy. Cramping, seizures, even cardiac events are possible when in failure if not monitored. As I progressed towards transplant before I developed anemia. I was cold all of the time. I required injections and a multitude of pills that would block this and one that would boost the other. Back and forth to the pharmacy and specialists. It was a roller coaster I was hoping not to ride for a long while.

This July I was told to expect the ride to begin soon.

I got my lab results back today. I’m anemic. Yay.Time to strap in because it’s going to be a long ride.

wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Day 5 of the 30-day challenge…letter to a celebrity I admire

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To the Celebrity I admire:

Webster’s lesser definition of the word celebrity defines it as “the state of being well-known.” One can be well-known for a lot of reasons, there is Charles Manson as well as Casey Anthony celebrity. But being known is what really matters, and all of the power that comes with it.

What power you ask? A celebrity like Lamar Odom can get a kidney transplant immediately after destroying his body with drugs and prostitutes. But he’s well known so let’s bump his transplant up over Joe the electrician who has been waiting for a new lease on life for 6 years. Fuck him, he’s not famous.

You’re not like that. You’re one of the good ones.

  • You wait your turn in line, you don’t cut in front of others because your time is more important than everyone else’s.
  • You don’t yell at Cops and Firefighters and Maitre D’s etc. “do you know who I am!” when you can’t park in a fire lane or your table isn’t ready.
  • You don’t spout your politics because you know that Hollywood is a bubble and has no clue what the people who pay exorbitant prices for their products do to earn that money. You know what the average guy stands for and wouldn’t insult your audience.
  • You don’t lecture us on our “carbon footprint” from your private jet. You recognize the hypocrisy in that.
  • You have a gate around your property so you know better than to talk about open borders. 
  • You walk the streets among us because you are one of us. You don’t need a security detail.
  • You would gladly walk away from fame because it’s not that important to you, being a good person is.
  • You know that just because you sing, dance, act, rap, paint, shop, act like a desperate housewive or try to win at Big Brother…it doesn’t make you an expert on everything.
  • You manage to stay grounded even though everyone knows your name.

I would write that name on this letter but to my knowledge, I have no idea who you are. You don’t exist.

I fucking hate celebrities. I can safely say this without repercussion because hey, I’m not famous.

With distaste and disdain,

The Regular Schmuck

 

Day 2 of the 30 day challenge. A letter to myself as a child

Open letter to my younger self

Dear younger me:

Your life will probably not turn out as you expect. Nothing ever does. I am not saying it will be better or worse, just different. Don’t force it. A lot will depend on the decisions you make. Please spend time on your decision making, it will pay dividends.

Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.  You can only get experience by living your own life so I can’t make it easy for you. You are going to make mistakes. You will learn from all of them. Cuts and bruises are going to happen if you live your life. A good scar is the beginning of a great story. Try to keep your mistakes to a minimum. Know a bad idea when you see it. Bad judgment comes from your gut, so listen to it. If your gut tells you something is a bad idea it probably is. You have it, I know you do. When you were a Junior in High School Billy and Rick tried to make you get in the car after we had been drinking all night. You said no, they called you a pussy. But two mothers had to identify headless bodies at the morgue that night, not three. Please remember that night it will serve you well.

Listen to your father. He knows. There are going to be times that you think he has no idea what you are going through, you will be wrong. When you are impulsive, he will want to slow you down. Hear him out. Ask him about his childhood, it will make you understand why he is like he is. He doesn’t always show it, but you’re the best thing that ever happened to him. Don’t wait until all you have is a gravestone to tell him how much you loved him. Tell him now.

Don’t be ashamed of where you came from. There are some uncles and cousins that are white trash embarrassment’s but they are family and a reminder of what you could have been if your father didn’t work so hard to escape it. They are where you started, not where you will end up. When they call you the rich kid because your father worked hard, joined a union and bought a house it’s their journey. Not yours.

Don’t pick your friends. Just be yourself and it will happen. The best people in high school are the ones that talked to everybody. Don’t wait until after high school to learn this. There will be a time when Nerds are cool.

Don’t shy away from hard work. Someday someone will ask you where you learned to work like you do. You will thank your Dad. And you will know that they are impressed by you. You will have friends whose Daddy’s will buy them shiny new cars. You will work for yours, and because of that, it will be nicer than theirs. Hard work will give you something you will always savor and desire, the feeling of accomplishing something. Hopefully, you will never lose that feeling.

You will love the ladies. When looking for “the one” look for cute and nice. You will find that Hot often means bitch. The hot ones always look for the next, better deal. The cute and nice one, if you treat her properly will be looking at you and she will be yours to lose. After the looks are gone, you will still love her for the nice. And you will suffer a broken heart, maybe more than once, I can’t tell you how many. It’s ok to marry the 2nd runner-up.

  • Be a good friend. It’s a rare and valuable commodity.
  • Be kind to others. It’s free.
  • Talk to old people. You will love them and they will love you.
  • Listen more than you talk. It will serve you well and people will wonder what you are thinking about and it will piss them off.
  • Don’t argue with stupid people. You lose IQ Points and they don’t absorb them.
  • Wherever you are, that’s the place to be. Don’t look around when you’re with someone. They hate that.
  • Always tell people how you feel about them. They need to know. It might make someone’s day.  It might save their life. And it might be someone’s last day. You don’t know and that’s the bitch of it.

The rest you are going to have to figure out for yourself. Be a good person and life will be good. Your legacy is how you are remembered by others. Work towards building that legacy starting…now.

Oh yeah, don’t let bitterness drag you down. It’s like an anchor and it will sink you. Let some things go, you’ll thank me for it.

Fondly,

Your future self

Wise young man

Image result for experience

I strongly suspect that I am a good bit older than most of the bloggers I follow. But I relate well to them. I often wonder if they relate to my posts (judging by the amount of hits I’m getting not many). I write from the perspective of an adult, albeit an emotionally stunted one at times, with grown children, many years of life experience and the added bonus of chronic illness just to keep it interested. I think young because in my heart I’m a much younger man than my license suggests. And it has worked for me. A firm policy of consciously avoiding uttering the words “kids today” has served me well.

I am at a wonderful stage where I am still a player in the game of life but able to have an advantage. That advantage is wisdom.

Wis-dom

noun

  1. the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
synonyms: sagacity, intelligence, sense, common sense, shrewdness, astuteness, smartness, judiciousness, judgment, prudence,

circumspection

 

Wisdom is gained through experience. I do have plenty of that. Good decisions come from experience and experience is gained through making bad decisions. I have made a lot of bad decisions. Among the things I wish I had told my father before he died is how many times he was right and I chose to do it my way. And it cost me. Other experience is gained through the course of living life, surviving what life throws at you. And I have been through a lot of shit. If God gives you all he thinks you can handle he must think I’m Rambo.

Now that I have it what do I do with it? Wisdom, in the form of advice, must be distributed carefully. By that I mean it shouldn’t be offered unsolicited. I firmly follow the “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one” mantra. I’m not that guy that offers up “hey do you know what I think”. But lately I’ve found myself dispensing a lot of advice, advice that is being asked of me. Friends texting me, inboxing me, calling me with dilemmas of all nature. I think I have been able to help a bit in some cases.

I find it odd to be a source of good advice given my situation. I’m not in a good place at all. But people aren’t coming to me about matters of high finance and which fork to use for the appetizer. They are asking me about matters of life. Relationships, family matters, how to handle people, the list goes on. Apparently, I am known as a guy who has “been there” and knows what to do. Sadly, that is true. I have had some really bad jobs, horrible bosses, bad girlfriends, a lousy marriage, regrettable moments of anger with the family that I will always regret and on top of that several serious health scares. And I learned from all of them. The biggest lessons learned by adhering to the following:

  • A man does what he has to do
  • Life is not always fun
  • It’s bigger than you, you have a family
  • Get busy living or get busy dying
  • Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does

I deliberately avoid giving advice, but I am glad to share what I know. We all have a purpose in life, maybe my recent assignment is to share what I have learned so that someone else may benefit. The biggest advice I would offer anyone is to live life, take your hits, learn from them and move on. You can’t learn from someone else’s experience. But there are people you can learn from. Take them up on it. Everyone can teach you something, even if by poor example they show you something you don’t want.

the gift that keeps on giving

“You had better take care of it or I’m taking it back!” She was kidding of course. But it comforted me to know that part of me wouldn’t put it past her. “She” is my donor. I call her my angel. Not for any good reason, you know except for the whole saving my life thing. We were in the kitchen at work about a month after our surgery and I had thanked her for the millionth (or what seemed like) time.

I had discussed in a recent post about a double organ transplant patient that I had the good fortune to hear speak. He told an amazing story and the most moving part was his relationship with his donor’s family. My situation is so different from his because my donor is still alive.

My kidney transplant of 2011 was by far one of the most important experiences in my life. The whole process, from the moment that it was determined that I needed a transplant, was amazing. While I will explore this incredible experience more in future posts I want to talk about Deb’s role.

Deb is the daughter of my then assistant at work. Deb and I were not close. She had a reputation of being short-tempered, fairly humorless and unfriendly. But we worked together well. I saw through her tough exterior.

I had worked for this company for only 1 year when my medical team came to the inescapable conclusion that I needed a transplant. While I was concerned that the company would accuse me of holding back my history, the fact is that it wasn’t decided until then. Instead of blowback I instead received amazing support and my General Manager proved to be one of the most supportive, dare I say a friend. The company allowed me all the time that I needed for doctor appointments and the myriad of hospital visits that were required to coordinate a transplant. I managed to accomplish it all, make up my time and maintain my value to the company. The only thing I didn’t have was a donor. As it stood I was looking at dialysis. Wait time up to 6 years for a cadaver match.

One day, while hospitalized for a kidney-related infection, Greg came to see me.

“I have news” he said. “Deb wants to donate to you.”  I was dumbfounded. Thankful, amazed, excited yes. But also dumbfounded. Deb is just a girl I work with, well…not anymore! Her stock just went way up. But why?

When I was released from the hospital my first stop at work was Deb’s cubicle. I needed to hear it from her. I asked her if it was true. It was. I asked her why. She said why not?  She told me she can help so she’s going to try, not to make a big deal out of it until we know she’s a match. Ok then.

She was a match. A perfect one. She began the process. She did all the testing. She made quick work of it. And as I got sicker she called our doctors office and asked what the hell is taking so long!? Somehow I made it to the big day without going on dialysis. I really believe that her telling the doctors to hurry it up was a big part of it.

We were on the news. A vendor of ours had a connection at a local news station and one day they showed up at our door cameras and mikes in hand. They sat us down and asked us to tell the metro Boston area our story. I was camera shy and didn’t say much. They turned to Deb and asked her why she is doing this for me. Her answer: “I have 2 kidneys, Bill needs one. Let’s not make a big deal out of it.” That’s pretty much it. That’s Deb.

The day of the surgery our families met for the first time in the surgical waiting room. We met at 5 AM on a Tuesday morning. Awkward conversation and nervous body language ruled the room. Then we were called. Our families hugged us and Deb and I walked into the hallway. “See you on the other side” I said.

She just laughed and said “just remember you’re going to be part girl in a few hours.”

When friends and family came to visit they found Deb hanging in my room. While the donor technically has a more painful recovery the recipient has a more complex recovery as the body acclimates to the organ and the medications are adjusted, she didn’t show the pain except when she coughed. She needed a cigarette but hadn’t had one in weeks in order to prepare for the surgery. She would become the hospital legend as she was caught three times sneaking out of the hospital to smoke. She laughed it off. I on the other hand was in a lot of pain. She joked that it was her bitchiness invading my body. Typical, never taking herself too seriously and deflecting praise.

So there we were in the office again, trying to treat her as just a co-worker and not put her on a (visible) pedestal. It’s nearly impossible to do so knowing that I cannot measure the enormity of her gift. Even if I was able to build her a throne, drape her in velvet and put her on it she wouldn’t want me to. I’m the one who continues to be emotional. It must be the female kidney. It may also explain why I pee sitting down and get bitchy once a month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the Duality of Man…Pilgrim (best John Wayne voice here)

“Private Pyle you are a disgusting FATBODY!” screamed the Marine Drill Seargent. Oh boy if he only knew how much he would regret that comment.

Full Metal Jacket is a movie that is forever etched in my mind. Brilliant acting performances by newcomer Vincent D’onofrio and veteran Matthew Modine, jarring training segments and powerful battle scenes.

As a self-proclaimed History buff this movie was just one more version of the war that no-one talked about. I know the story I just want to see this director’s take. Of course Kubrick does not disappoint in pointing out the absurdity and atrocity of an unpopular war. And the final segment, without giving it away, has both.

One of my favorite scenes is when Modine’s character is called out by a Colonel for having both “Born to kill” and a Peace Sign on his helmet. He explains that it is in homage to the Jungian concept of the Duality of Man. While the Colonel was nonplussed, Peace signs were for the kids at home protesting as far he was concerned, Kubrick hit on an important point. I have dedicated a lot of time and energy to the duality of man, this man in particular.

I believe that every person is indeed two beings; the one they are and the one they want to be. It is really a wonderful concept and, by its own virtue leads to self-improvement. Should you recognize it and want it. In some cases there is a negative connotation, for example when someone leads a life of deception or hides a tremendous secret. But my overall outlook on this is that it should be one’s life goal to work towards being that person you want to be by bettering yourself.

I am working towards being a better man. I will never be a perfect or great man but I will settle on being remembered as a good guy. A bonus, hell my GOAL is to be remembered as a good father, son, husband, coworker and friend. And if all goes well I will achieve some or most of those. Lord knows I’m trying. But it took A LOT of soul-searching and brutal honesty as I took a hard look at myself. What am I stuck with and what can I change?

A year ago I was very overweight and sick. Sadly I had accepted it and given up on trying to change it. Now I have taken control of my health I have lost weight and doing a much better job of managing my symptoms. I’m still sick but the new me is going to live longer.

A year ago I had a house for my family. But the waterline was at my nose. And the stress of maintaining that lifestyle almost killed me. Now I have very little overhead and the burden will be off of me once disability is approved. My savings are supporting my family and I can focus on my health, physical and mental.

A year ago I saw my kids every day but didn’t feel close to them. Now that we are apart I have really focused on strengthening my bond with them and I feel that our relationship has never been better.

A year ago my wife and I were full of anger and resentment. Today we have both recognized fault and have developed a new desire to forgive and respect each other. And although we are apart we are hopeful to get all of us together again.

All of this evidence of the duality of man. While the ultimate goal is the reconciliation of your two selves, part of it is to recognize that it is there and borrow and learn from it. Don’t hide it and don’t run from it, without it you can’t appreciate the new person you’ve become.

 

 

jump scares and laugh tracks

I went to a campground Sunday with my mother and her friend for a early Trick or Treat celebration for the kids. It was a gated community full of 3 season homes. Trailers apparently aren’t good enough anymore. For October, Holiday or not, it was staggering how many people were there. Approximately 500 people, parents, grandparents and tons of kids dressed in really good costumes paraded around with their dogs and open containers of hooch. I couldn’t stand sitting so I walked around and checked out the scene.

It was a party to say the least. Campfires, candy, coolers, fat guys sitting in lawn chairs drinking beer and wives telling them to slow down. I was hoping one of them would offer me a beer. I miss the days of sitting around with buddies drinking beers on a cool fall day. But none did so I kept walking. As I walked by one site the owner was playing the Halloween theme on repeat. If you haven’t heard it you may need context but if you have you know that is haunting and very effective at creating a scare. It then hit me…background music! Wouldn’t life be better with background music?

Imagine the worst moments of your life. Imagine that before you went over the handlebars of your bike when you were 12; the time you got jumped in the locker room; the time you got mugged; the time you got into a car that you shouldn’t have; the list is endless just insert yours here _______. If you had the luxury of hearing Oboes, Tympani drums, basses and violins slowly building to a crescendo or a sudden explosion saying “DON”T DO IT” or “WATCH OUT” or in my case “DON’T MARRY HER” would be pretty helpful. Of course none of us would have any wisdom without our “experience building” fuck-ups but it is indeed a nice idea.

I have a friend who, despite how many good qualities he has, is an opportunistic contrarian. He loves to reject things under highbrow pretense, basically if everyone does it he won’t. He once told me how his “dream car” was a Chevy Volt. You know, the whole carbon footprint thing. Admirable, but he then bought a hummer. Total fraud. He also told me he won’t watch any TV sitcoms because the laugh track is an “insult to his intelligence”. While I also find the notion of being prompted when to be amused or not, as if we have a choice, I am not going to reject the genre for that reason. But on the flip side, it could be helpful in certain social situations. Like when you are being sarcastic and your audience is either too uptight, or let’s face it, stupid to get it. Maybe if the press corp had one for the President they would at least know when he is being serious or just being a buffoon? In summary a laugh track would let the room know that you are trying to be funny so lighten up already!

Yes, I don’t like being told when to laugh and I don’t think a soundtrack would drastically improve my decision making but it may have helped me a few times.

“Don’t go in the cellar!”

A grateful nation indeed

I attended the funeral the other day of a very good man. A well-respected retired police officer; a decorated Air Force Veteran of Vietnam; a beloved member of the community and by all accounts a devoted family man.

I wasn’t very close to him personally, he was a Police officer in my hometown and a friend of my Dad’s. My best remembrance of him was getting pulled over by him for speeding when I was 16 1/2 years old. He didn’t give me a ticket, he just told my father. That was enough; my dad read me the riot act for disrespecting a police officer, his friend and my Dad’s name. When he retired he moved up here and became a very involved member of this small but vibrant town. When I saw him last year I apologized for mouthing off to him when I was a teen. He laughed it off.

He fought cancer for 18 years before he finally succumbed.

The funeral was well attended. Many members of his home town drove the 2 hours and people from town poured in to pay their respects and hear the many humorous homages to a man who was ironically remembered as a man of few words.

At the grave site was a folded flag and a delegation of uniformed soldiers at the wait. After the local minister said his last prayer and the last gospel song was tearfully performed by a grief-stricken granddaughter the familiar sound of Taps wafted through the breezy autumn air. The delegation then proceeded to unfold and then refold, with precision echoing great training and a sincere dedication to the grim task at hand, and then handed the flag to the widow.

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

That’s where I lost it. I challenge anyone to not be emotional when this service, which I have seen way too many times for a man my age, is performed. I freely admit that I cried. I also cried when my Grandmother was handed one, when my mother and I were handed one and I will again every time I see this done in the future. Because the Flag means something to me. And it meant an awful lot to the family.

See, that flag represents something bigger than ourselves. It represents service to country and community The very nature of the National Anthem is an observance that while bombs exploded in the night sky, in the worst possible conditions, the Flag not only survived but shone like a beacon. That flag has been a beacon of freedom to immigrants for centuries looking for a life that only the United States can provide. It has been raised on beaches, planted on the moon and it has draped every casket of every soldier who didn’t return home from battle.

This week some people are going to take a knee while that very flag is being honored. I don’t know how many because I won’t be watching. Yes, I’m one of those people that the “educated” elitist left call Patriotic, Nationalist and easily distracted from “real” issues. I keep hearing how kneeling during the National Anthem is acceptable and “their right to do so.” I’m not arguing that. No one believes in free speech more than I do.

My father once told me that while he would never disrespect the flag, but if someone were to do he would only hope that they had a hell of a good reason to do so. Because such a strong statement needs to stand on a strong issue. But in the case of the NFL the issue(s) at hand are convoluted at best, self-serving at the least and they can be handled another way.

Just because you have the right, because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Anyone who has a folded flag on their mantle will thank you.