big boy pants

jjj-2018

Today’s topic for Just Jot in January is pants. Considering I just got back from the wake for my often-discussed recently deceased friend Tony, I can think of no better topic.

The wake was as crowded as I had expected. Tony was a well-known and well-liked guy. The crowd consisted mostly of older people, not surprising given his age. Other than his family was an endless line of people who had worked with Tony at the restaurant over his 40-year tenure.

I had the good fortune to sit with some guys who I had only heard the legends of, from Tony of course, but never met until tonight. All they could do was talk about how miserable of a place it was to work. And I thought of all of the times that Tony, after a couple of Courvoisier’s would show his soft white underbelly and state, not complain, state his unhappiness at the hours of his life spent in that one small room while his kids grew up. He lamented the missed weddings and nights out with friends that occurred while he worked. But he immediately came down to earth, shook it off and convinced me, and himself perhaps a little, that it had to be done.

You see, in 1969, in a bad economy, with a pregnant wife and bills to pay you did what you had to do. Even though they didn’t have this expression then, he “put on his big boy pants” and didn’t look back.

Just one of the many reasons I will miss him.

When worlds collide

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https://lindaghill.com/2017/12/27/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2018-rules/

My phone vibrated for what seemed like the one-hundredth time that morning. I was stuck in another endless meeting and I knew that checking my phone was taboo. In order to see if it was an important message or an FB notification required me to dig my phone out, it was a gamble because my megalomaniac boss had a “thing” about cell phones during meetings. I gambled, unlike most in my office, my job required of me a lot of access by our customers so it wasn’t uncommon for me to take a call. It was a company phone after all. I put the phone in front of me while feigning interest in the monotony going on around me and glanced at the tool bar. It was an FB message from my mountain biking buddy Barbara.

did you hear about Rick?

No,what?

He died last night

call you as soon as I can

That indelible moment when you realize you just lost a good friend.

Rick, Barbara and I mountain biked together. Barbara and I were part of a larger group but we paired up a lot because we were the same skill level, had similar schedules and were close friends. Rick was a Fire Chief by day who was a friend of a friend of Barbara’s who had recently joined us on some rides. Rick and I became fast friends and it wasn’t long before he and I would squeeze in an extra ride on nights when others weren’t available. The night before was one of those rides and I had the bloody shin and bruised ego to show for it.

Rick had gladly assumed the role of making me a better rider. He wasn’t much to look at but he was very athletic for his age and body type and surprisingly coordinated. He had been making me try increasingly difficult terrain and I was doing well. That night we went somewhere new, a State Forest notorious for its technical (difficult) terrain. 30 minutes and 2 miles in, I followed him across a makeshift bridge of 2X4’s over a muddy ravine. I panicked, I helplessly watched as my front tire wobbled and I went in, face first.

It was horrible. There was only black, putrid mud. I went in elbows deep, my torso from my chest down was drenched. I stood up, in disbelief, starting scraping the shit off of me and there is Rick, laughing his ass off.

“I’m sorry to laugh, I should ask if you’re ok first.” He wasn’t sorry, he was having a blast. I must have been a sight!

I was a little bloody, but my ego was bruised worse than my leg. And my bike was broken, the front brakes were damaged. The wheel wouldn’t move. I was looking at a 2-mile hike carrying a bike. Then Rick somehow fixed it enough that I could ride it out. He just happened to have the tools.

In the parking lot, he looked at me and we both started laughing. I was a mess, covered in mosquito bites (the little bastards loved the smell of that mud) and I was stained black.

“Want a picture for memories sake?” Defeated, I agreed.

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I’m glad for this picture, after all how would I know that I would never see him again? He died at home, of a heart attack about 4 hours after that picture was taken.

I called Barbara, she was an emotional wreck. It turns out they were dating. He was estranged from his wife, I knew that she was a “cheater and a liar” from our many conversations while pounding through the woods. She had found him, she went to his house after he didn’t answer her calls. She asked if I would go to his wake, of course I agreed.

Have you ever been to a Firefighter’s wake? Or a Chief’s for that matter. There were thousands of people, police details, Firefighters in full dress, friends, family and respectful citizens patiently waiting in a line that would wind through the old Victorian Funeral Home for 2 hours. Barbara and I and a few other Mountain Biking friends waited together. Finally, as we reached the point where we could see into the viewing room, I saw a pair of legs that looked hauntingly familiar. The first thought that came to mind I immediately tried to chase out of my head.

No! The widow, AKA the cheater and liar is Deb?!?! I waited impatiently now, to get a better view. As I got closer I realized it was true. The widow was my first serious girlfriend out of High School. Not the one that got away, I let this one get away. She lied to me and cheated on me too. I, 20 years before Rick met her, parted ways with her for the same reasons.

I got to the receiving line, we made very awkward small talk and I got the hell out of there. Outside, Barbara asked me why I looked so messed up. I told her. Her answer…

“only you, dude. Only you could go to a funeral and have this happen.”

Rick was a very nice man. I know we would continue to be good friends had he lived. But it turns out we shared a lot more than he would ever realize. I know that he would laugh his ass off if he heard this story.

Dangerous Thinking

jjj-2018

It is amazing what can be conjured up from the dark recesses of the psyche. So many experiences laying dormant, waiting for the right odor or sound or phrase to bring it to the forefront of your mind. Yesterday, as I was composing what I now realize was a poorly planned but heartfelt post about being passionate, I accidentally triggered myself. In attempting to tell a story, I forced myself to think about her…the one that got away. Now I can’t chase the memories out of my head.

I have stated in previous posts that I have never really been happy. I don’t say this in a please feel bad for me way, I’m not like that. I say it because for the longest time I have felt a bit numb, detached and joyless as if I’m on the outside looking in at my life. I’m there but I’m not present. I now know that I was incorrect, I was happy. A long, long time ago in a Galaxy far far away.

In the mid 80’s I was in college, I had a part-time job, a full head of hair, a motorcycle and a love that comes around but once in a lifetime. That knowledge would have been helpful then, but that’s not how this works is it?

I met her in the library. Cramming for an exam, I look over and I see the adorable raven-haired, dark-eyed girl with the pink sweater giggling with her friends. Glancing up from my book every so often I would catch her gaze every time. Finally, I jokingly told her that if she doesn’t stop giggling I would report her to the librarian. That was her cue to pry herself away from her clucking friends and join me at my table. Her approach seemed to be in slow-motion, walking gracefully in her modest but tasteful clothing, her head bowed slightly indicating a gentle shyness, eyes locked on mine the whole time. When she sat down across from me and I got my first good look at her up close I was smitten. A dinner invitation was soon proffered and thus began a great story. A brief, tumultous story that would end badly and suppressed from memory for a long time.

The last time I thought of her was driving home from Mom and Dad’s lake house about ten years ago. I had the kids in the car, wifey had stayed home that day. We had enjoyed a great day of sun and fun, now they were all chilling as I drove and listened to some music. My son said, “Dad, are you crying?” Shit, I realized that I was. Pearl Jam’s Black was on and Eddie’s lyrics, which I had heard a thousand times before had just bitch-slapped me back to a place I didn’t want to go. Eddie wailed

I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

I don’t remember how I explained it away but I was able to change the subject. But I thought of her the entire ride home. I accidentally, and unkindly, came up with a term for my wife on that ride, my Silver Medal.

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I was an entirely different person with her than I am today. I was affectionate, I was passionate, I expressed myself without fear of reprisal and I wasn’t afraid of showing my love. Her personality was different. She was quiet and soft-spoken but could speak volumes with her eyes. Her eyes could tell me anything, I know because I couldn’t stop staring at them.

We would fight, no couple is perfect. I took her quiet nature for granted sometimes, or I didn’t read her eyes correctly and I would say or do something stupid and she would let me have it. She was always right. Especially when she said that someday I would take her for granted one too many times. I did, and I lost her. The pretty girl that could have had anyone, but chose me, was done with me.

I would try for months to get her back, she would have nothing to do with me ever again. Her eyes were only angry to me by then. I left her with a parting thought, I told she was my only love. I meant it. I moved on, but I never got over her.

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I would see her again. We were on the same cruise ship. On our honeymoons.

Coincidences like that just don’t happen. I saw her on deck. She looked at me and quickly looked away and that was it. There was nothing there. My wife never knew. I put on a good face for her. But the thought of her on the same ship with her new lucky fucking bastard husband was devastating to me.

I was true to my word, I would never find another that made me feel the way she did. My wife and I had it good for a while but I would never willingly allow myself to be vulnerable again. My wife would become an emotional cripple so in the end, it worked out just fine.

After dredging all of this up, I am thankful that my psyche buried all of this shit. It’s too painful to think about what my life could have been like. This type of thinking is dangerous, for starters I wouldn’t have my amazing children if not for the way it turned out. Aside from that, it is a giant reminder of how stupid I can be.

I am glad that my windshield is bigger than my rearview mirror, I have so much to see that is ahead of me and I can’t be distracted by what is behind me. It’s just plain dangerous thinking.

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 5th, 2018

 

the ups and downs of being passionate

jjj-2018

I am nothing if not a passionate man. It is perhaps my greatest, at least my strongest, character trait. I have strong beliefs, a concrete set of values, an opinion on everything and a sincere zest for life. I love to learn, take any opportunity to help another person and get very into things. As a patient with chronic illness, having had several brushes with my own mortality, I do not fear death. I fear a life unfulfilled. I don’t care if I only have 10 years left, as long as I can spend them doing things that I love.

I consequently have a real hard time dealing with people that don’t have passion. I don’t judge, I want to inspire them. I have a great story to tell, and if someone were to hear it they may think like I do.

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I used to be an ardent follower of Russian philosopher Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. She unabashedly promoted that mankind’s sole purpose of being on earth was to achieve his own greatness. She vehemently opposed all things communist, so her ideas came across a bit selfish. If you were to say to her “we are here for others” she would reply

“then what are others here for?”

I eventually broke from her because of her views on charity. She played a little “fast and loose” with who is deserving of charity and who is just a waste of flesh. But I did take away a powerful message of worth and achievement. Some nuggets: nothing is more unacceptable than wasted talent; a man owes it to himself to achieve his best; if you believe something then fight for it and shout it from the rooftops. It ties into my ideas of worth, in other words, I always ask of people (inside my head of course) “what is your joy. What do you bring to the table? How are you making the world a better place by your presence?”

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I know it’s a little hardcore, but do you ever wonder what your funeral will be like? Do you know how you will be remembered? Will you be remembered fondly? Once again, as a person with a lot of health issues, I often think of my legacy. I would hope that the attendees of my memorial would raise a glass and tell a funny story or of something I did for them. My stone will most certainly say

here lies Bill

He really cared

About what I have no idea

That’s passion.

Of course, there’s another type of passion that I am sadly lacking in. In the love department, my furnace is out of oil. Not for lack of interest, but lack of opportunity. I fondly remember being in love. Sadly, it wasn’t with my wife. God bless her, my little Silver Medal. I am speaking of the one that got away.

To say that I was passionate about her is the understatement of the century. The very thought of her excited me. She was my everything. Sex is great, I love it like the next guy, but a mere kiss from this girl would make my feet spontaneously combust. We loved hard and we fought harder and I would still give anything to be with her again. I have never loved like that again, and I’m afraid I never will. After 24 toxic years with the wrong person, it’s unlikely. In that department, I am dead inside. But I want to.

Life without caring is a life unfulfilled. I don’t think I would change my style even if I could. I look at it as you either give a shit or you don’t. People without passion will continue to disappoint me but, like politics and religion, it’s their deal. To me, it’s the only thing that keeps me going.

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 1st, 2018

 

 

the benefits of boisterous

jjj-2018

bois·ter·ous
ˈboist(ə)rəs
adjective
(of a person, event, or behavior) noisy, energetic, and cheerful; rowdy.
“the boisterous conviviality associated with taverns of that period”
synonyms: lively, animated, exuberant, spirited, rambunctious

There was a time when my name and picture would be next to this definition in the dictionary. The younger me, according to a lovely young lady that I worked with at the local supermarket during High School, strutted like a Rooster; shoulders back, chest out, heart on sleeve and mouth in gear. I was silly, friendly to strangers, energetic if not a little obnoxious. I was boisterous. I was in the comfort zone of my own henhouse. The nickname Foghorn soon followed.

I would eventually learn that not everyone enjoyed my energy and jocularity. It took a while because I had the gift of being physically intimidating. I may have been silly, but I was 6 foot and 220 lbs of silly while carrying two 50 lb bags of dog food on each shoulder. Any criticism or mocking would be done behind my back. It wasn’t until I closed the bathroom stall one day and saw this on the door “____ ___ is a fucked up shithead“. I knew who wrote it but it still stung. It was 35 years ago and I remember it like yesterday.

That hastily scrawled, nasty message would serve as a lesson that sometimes people are laughing at you, not with you. After that revelation, I didn’t retreat into my shell like a frightened tortoise but I became more self-conscious than I wanted to be. It was more than just an adjustment of the volume knob, it changed my station. It’s a shame too because I could dance to that station.

I remained an outgoing person, albeit a guarded one. If someone from my Foghorn days were to see me now they wouldn’t see the same person at all. I’m happy on the inside but I’m tragically selective about who I let see that side of me. I don’t speak loudly in crowded rooms for fear of being mocked and I don’t say hi to every stranger anymore, I’m now selective based on how friendly the face is. I have retained some of my old boisterousness but it is reserved for select company and occasions. My warped sense of humor has stood the test of time, but fewer people are exposed to it now.

I like to think that my cheerfulness has stood the test of time as well. I have always believed that if you can’t get out of bed and try to make a good day then you should stay in bed. I continue to see the good in things and people. It is definitely a big part of how I managed to work right up until noon the day before my transplant surgery. Positive thinking, a cheerful and optimistic attitude and a little bit of denial carried me over the goal line on its shoulders.

Still, I miss being Foghorn.

“Boy, I say Boy…he must, I say he must be in there somewhere…!”

 

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 1st, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

smells like Teen Drama

I had the pleasure of having my youngest daughter with me for the entire school vacation week. We had a nice week. Since the separation, I haven’t spent a significant block of time with any one of my children so this was much needed and appreciated. Before the move, my youngest and I had a standing date every Saturday night with the sofa, Netflix, and a pizza. Of all of the things I miss from my previous life, one on one time with the offspring is the toughest one.

She and I had a nice week. There was no pressure to fill the week with activities, this house is her go-to spot for relaxation and to catch up on sleep. We spent a few nights catching up on some shows but it wasn’tas relaxing as before. In the last year, one thing has been added to her repertoire that I can’t compete with…boys. And all of the accompanying drama. The endless stream of texts, “snapchats” and FB messages made it impossible to just chill and watch our shows like we used to. I can’t compete.

Despite having all of the features treasured by the superficial, hormonal teenager, my daughter has always kept herself grounded and humble. She tells me that she has low self-esteem but the astronomical amount of “selfies” she takes indicates to the contrary. At some point in the last year, she has apparently come around to the possibility that she is attractive and now interacts pretty freely with the boys. To her credit, she is not drawing attention to herself, but she is still getting it. And some notoriety, if I am to believe the story that she rejected the captain of the football team last week, causing her stock to rise further. The only thing I know for certain is that, when it comes to the male gender, she is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, deep fried in a puzzle. In other words a hot mess.

I raised my kids to talk to me so naturally, I heard all about the different hormonal messes, I mean boys, vying for her attention. While it is mostly a blur, here is what I have so far. She likes the bad boys but won’t date one. She likes nice guys but they’re not “hot” like the bad boys. She has rules about dating friends of guys she likes or has liked in the past. Apparently, one boy, who is friends with a former crush, has started drinking and smoking weed because she won’t date him. She feels bad that she doesn’t like this guy, she wishes that another guy liked her more. It goes on and on and on.

I wanted to help, but there wasn’t much I could do but listen to her. She showed me some of the posts, the boys seemed to be behaving themselves. She knows that if I see a Dick Pic someone is going to die but there was none of that. The temptation arose to tell her to “cool the drama” but I knew that I, as an adult shouldn’t do that. I have been there, suffered teen angst and had my heart broken. I needed to limit my participation to giving the best advice that I could. At the end of the day, I have tremendous faith in her decision making and her values. She does have a flair for the dramatic but it’s more a matter of her making up her mind as to what she wants than an actual crisis. Still, it’s tough not to administer the antidote when you know you have it.

Her dramatic phase will pass, eventually. After all, it’s for teenagers right? I’d like to think so. Then I saw an FB post from a 41-year-old female friend that said

“Grrrrrr so aggravated right now!”

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Ah yes, the generic plea for attention while offering no context post. Soon to be followed by a string of replies imploring “what’s wrong honey?”, “are you OK?”, “Oh, you poor thing”. Drama, maybe it’s not just for teenagers after all…

#JusJoJan Daily Prompt – January 1st, 2018