the reminders are everywhere

Last night I came home exhausted. Sometimes dialysis leaves me a crampy, washed out mess. Yesterday was one of those days. My sofa was calling my name. But it was not to be. Mom needed help.

We have contractors coming Saturday morning to rip the roof off of our garage and they needed us to get all of the junk in the upstairs of the garage moved to the back. It’s a project I’ve been planning but I was putting it off until the fall because in August the attic of the garage is blistering hot. I wasn’t about to make mom do it alone so I sucked it up and headed up.

It was hot. Africa hot. After a few minutes I was dripping. Ten sweaty, swamp-ass minutes later I was down to two unmarked cardboard boxes. I went over to them, dragged them from the overhang and opened them. They contained Dad’s miniature truck collection.

Dad drove a truck for 35 years. Retail home oil delivery. Over the road Gasoline hauling. He could legally drive anything with wheels. He loved trucks. By extension I did also. By the time I was 12 I could name any truck by name, model and approximate year by the headlights alone (still can). It wasn’t enough that he spent 60-65 hours a week driving, he also had to have his den covered with replicas of 18 wheelers with Wal-Mart, Harley Davidson, etc. markings. Dump trucks, concrete mixers, you name it he had it. Until he passed and my mom put them in storage. I had forgotten about them.

Many years ago Dad gave me some model trucks as presents. I brought them to work with me but they never had a proper place so they sat in the corner of my office in their boxes. When he passed in 2013 I broke down and bought a large bookcase for my office. I dedicated 2 large shelves to mementos of him. The trucks, a collectible baseball that he bought for me, a portrait of him and a license plate from 1929 that I found in my Grandfather’s garage. It was on his first car.

When people came in my office they were naturally drawn to my homemade shrine. It afforded me the opportunity to talk about my dad. Of course, its primary purpose was to inspire me when I was down. He taught me to work hard. To act with integrity. To always do what I say and do it well. To be a man that takes pride in what he does.

They look like just trucks. But they represent so much more to me. Hard work, dedication and pride. He may have been only a truck driver but he was the only one in his family to pull himself out of abject poverty and make something out of himself. And he did it by learning a skill, dedicating his life to it and raising his family through his efforts.

I will spend the day Sunday finding a place to display them again. I miss him more than words can ever express, but there is never a moment when I see a truck, real or model, that I don’t think of him.

Why not you?

I’ve talked about it before. The prevalent “victim” mentality that surrounds us. Maybe it’s a lack of general toughness in today’s world, a lack of people who, like me, were raised with a “suck it up” mentality. My parents taught me that everyone has problems to deal with, how we deal with our own will define us. Toughness was a virtue. Toughness evolved into kindness as we evolved into empathetic creatures who learned to treat all they meet with basic courtesy with the understanding that they are dealing with their own problems.

I’m a pretty tough bastard by all accounts. I’ve even been told that I’ve inspired a few people as I continue to persist against and fight like hell the constant obstacles in my path. I’m stubborn as a bull and I hate to lose. I may someday be the conquered, but I will never be the victim. It starts with one simple learned behavior. Never utter the words “Why me?”

Why NOT you? is the question that begs to be asked.

What makes me, you, or anyone so special? Whether it is pre-ordained or written in the stars, fate or karma what happens to you is your story and there is nothing you can do about it except deal with it. I choose to deal with it by defining it as my mortal enemy. Illness and death are foes to be vanquished, the bastards that cannot win as long as I have anything to say about it. Happiness is the ultimate prize, the Holy Grail.

I admire the strong among us. Today, I am downright enamored of one beautiful woman who is ten times stronger than I will ever be. She has been dealt one giant shitburger after another and has come back for seconds. Her story saddens me, angers me and inspires me. One thing I will never do is pity her because she is anything but helpless.

If I hadn’t actually seen her I would think she looks like one of the Amazon women from the comic books. Tall, packed with glorious muscles and adorned with a cape and wings. But she is not, she is a normal, if not beautiful woman with the heart of a warrior and her cape is only visible if you hold her delicate hand. There you see the scars. The scars of fighting back, of refusing to be the victim, the battle scars that come from never, ever giving up.

You are my hero. My inspiration. My partner in the fight against those bastards. It will be my honor to march headlong into battle together, as a team that can never be vanquished. Your strength will empower me. The bastards will never beat us.

“Why me?” will never be uttered by our lips.

You know who you are, now you know what you mean to me. You are my Lois.

Humility

Some would be scantily clad if only clothed in humility.”
Author unknown.

Inspiration indeed comes from many places. The above quote was displayed on the local church billboard. It’s not original, but it’s great.

Humility is a virtue. It is a value. It is a moral construct. It is also woefully absent in today’s world.

Webster defines humility as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. How many people do you know that act in accordance with this?

It’s difficult today. We live in the “selfie” era. The age of “look at me”. Social media has created an atmosphere of constant exposure, of the creation of celebrity, which is merely the status of being famous for being famous. No merit requested or required. We measure our worth by the number of followers we have, many of them not unlike WordPress.com followers…I follow you in hopes that you will follow me.

Sigh…

I find myself wanting to reach out to some people and tell them to “get over themselves”. Explain to them that I know who they are, what I want to know is what do they do? Do you contribute to society at large or do you use society to contribute to you? The least accomplished generation is also the most documented.

I am a firm believer that our deeds define us. I believe in Service. I believe that we are, in large part, here for the benefit of each other. Sure, some cynic will ask, “if we’re here for others than what are others here for”. That is when I am forced to amend it and say, “we are here for each other.”

I used to be an enormous follower of Ayn Rand. Her philosophy of Objectivism appealed to my conservative sensibilities. She taught that man is innately a creature of reason, craving accomplishment and achievement. She consequently dismissed the less accomplished in our world as victims of their own choices and should be left to pull themselves up and only then will they be worthy. I broke with her on this. By that logic, screw the addict, screw the homeless and screw anyone else who made a mistake in life. She called for the embracing of selfishness. While I do understand what she meant, that we owe it to ourselves to chase our own happiness, she neglected to touch on the value-added proposition of the achievement felt when helping someone. Most especially those that have nothing to offer you in return. I have experienced this and it is an achievement indeed. It made me a better person.

Today, people will step over a bleeding body in the street. They will film a person getting beaten and bullied and not attempt to help. The “hits” on the YouTube video matter more than helping another human being. They will blame the media, the video game, the music of the era but will never acknowledge that they only care about something in relation to how it affects them. They would be naked and cold if only clad in their humility.

Chase your goals. Work towards your dream. Achieve and accomplish. But remember that as you climb the ladder it is important that you remember not to kick on the way up what you may have to kiss on the way down. People are not stepping stones, they are our fellow residents on this earth. Our deeds are forever, and they are how we are remembered. The best deeds are anonymous ones, they are the embodiment of charity. It doesn’t matter how many people know what it is that you did…you’ll know. If someone finds out, be humble. Think less about yourself and more for others.

Think of your upcoming funeral. Will someone say, in hushed tones, “I can’t believe there are so few people here, she had a huge Instagram following and thousands of FB friends.”

Stay humble and fully clothed my friends, it’s worth it in the end.


Don’t let him win

A team of doctors frantically work to save the life of the patient on the table. One of the doctors yells “Don’t let the bastard win!”
Later, an observer to the scene leaned in to a doctor and asked “What did he mean, ‘Don’t let the bastard win?’ Who was he talking about?”
The doctor calmly replied, “Death. The bastard is Death.”

This was a scene from MASH, one of my all time favorite shows. The doctor was none other than “Hawkeye” Pierce. The part of Death was played by, well, Death of course. A character that transcends a TV show, it is a very real thing.

And it is a Bastard.

I remember the first time I saw that episode, it resonated deeply with me. I caught it on re-runs the other night and it knocked me out of my chair. It spoke to me.

I have been a obstinate, stubborn, insanely driven lover of a good fight my entire life. The best way to get me to do something, my father always joked, was to tell me that I couldn’t do it. Through the years I became known for it, and as my health deteriorated, it became my calling card. When I met a challenge, I overcame it. I found that it inspired people, and that was a role that I could live with.

Now, I don’t have a lot of challenges or enemies. Not much is staring me in the face. With the possible exception of my mortality. It’s taunting me, telling me to lie down and accept its inevitability. To just go with it. After all, it says teasingly, it’s only a matter of time after all.

Fuck you, you bastard. I’m not listening.

I see people every day that have given up. They are just going through the motions, waiting for death. Not me, man. I’m scouring for donors, I’m exercising, I’m being positive because it’s only one of the two choices I have.

So many days I have felt tired and weak. So many days I have sat on the sofa unable to do anything. So many nights I have laid in my bed, sleepless and exhausted counting reasons to go on vs giving up. The term “quality of life” bounces around in your head during those moments. When you don’t feel well, life can not feel like it’s worth living. You can even begin to welcome the sweet release of death.

I’ve been close to death 3 times in my life. I’m not scared of it. I’m also not ready for it. I have a lot of people in my corner who want me around. So it’s up to me to get myself in a place in which I want to be around.

Today, I started week 3 of my workout routine. Treadmill, kettlebells, pushups and resistance bands. My strength is pathetic, my stamina is woeful and my body begs me to stop. I pushed through and now I feel like I have accomplished something. I did more than I was able to on week 1. That is forward progress.

If death is coming for me, he needs to know that it won’t be without a fight. I’m not letting the bastard win.

Just Jot it January day #29–Dirty

The prompt word, “dirty,” for today’s post is brought to you by Jim! Thanks, Jim! To find his “dirty” post, click here. And say hi while you’re there!

There is so much talk about “Toxic Masculinity” these days. Guys my age struggle with this. I was raised with the words “be a man”, coming from my father, society, and my own recollections.

“Being a man” wasn’t a difficult concept to live by. Boys don’t cry was a common mantra. I was encouraged to be strong, to open and hold doors for a woman, to always pick up the check, to not drive off until my date was safely inside. Of course, I was also encouraged to be a lothario.

I witnessed my male counterparts as they cat-called, crotch grabbed, whistled and otherwise made fools out of themselves in front of women. I always knew the line and when it was crossed. I was (and still am) flirty, but not dirty, and I am respectful of women.

In turn, I also have expectations of women to be strong and able to handle themselves. When a man crosses the bridge from flirtatious to inappropriate I expect, and have seen it on many occasions, a woman to put a man in his place. I love those women. There is never an excuse for a man to offer unwanted advances or lay a hand upon a woman.

See, I know that a woman can open her own door. I know that she has her own coat and umbrella on a cold or rainy day. I may not need to follow her home to make sure she is safe. But I still do these things, because that’s how I was raised.

It’s not toxic. It’s part of being a man.

Just Jot it January day # 28–Testify

Your prompt for JusJoJan 2019, January 28th is brought to you by Dan! Click here to find his last post and say hi while you’re there! Dan’s word for our prompt today is “testify.” Use it anywhere in your post or make it the theme of your post. Have fun!

tes·ti·fy
serve as evidence or proof of something’s existing or being the case
.

It took mere seconds to say “I love you.”
It took me an hour to explain it
It takes a lifetime to prove it

We are no longer together
couldn’t withstand the weather
I did not abandon you
did what I said I would do
and kept promises made

I am aware of our status
I’m currently persona non gratis
although I don’t live near
I will always be here

My friends don’t get it
but I don’t regret it
This is how I testify to the oath I made
on our wedding day




Just Jot it January day # 27–Cathartic

Your prompt for JusJoJan 2019, January 27th is brought to you by Enthralling Journey! Click here to find her last post and say hi while you’re there! Enthralling Journey’s word for our prompt today is “cathartic.” Use it anywhere in your post or make it the theme of your post. Have fun!

Time spent having an amazing conversation with good people is one of the great, free experiences in life.

We spend an awful lot of time talking and an unfortunate amount of time waiting our turn to speak again. This occurs at the expense of actually listening to the other person. When you speak, you regurgitate that which you already know. When you listen, you learn something you didn’t. When you have an amazing conversation everyone leaves different than when they went in. Sometimes we learn something about ourselves.

It’s downright cathartic.