the Rich Kid

Life on “the Ave” was a blissful time for me when I was a little boy. My cousin Mike, like most age-appropriate cousins, was a built in best friend hand chosen by God. We did what little boys do, or at least did in the 70’s before TV became our nanny, caregiver and teacher. We played in the high grass, stomped through the mud, we hid and spied on and generally annoyed the older cousins. I learned to ride a bike on the Ave, dodging giant puddles that made the task of learning to ride a bike about ten times harder than it had to be. The first time I made the whole street, Mike and the older cousins cheered for me the entire wobbly way. We had fun. We were inseparable. For a very brief while I thought that I had tapped into what my father’s childhood was like. It would be many years, I would be practically a teenager, before I would learn how wrong I was.

I think it’s fitting that the street my father grew up on was named Railroad Ave. There really are tracks in my hometown and my dad grew up on the wrong side of them. The squalor that I saw on the Ave was a massive upgrade to what my father had as a child. And in turn the life he had created for himself was a huge upgrade from the Ave. Understanding the difference those 3 miles across town meant to my Dad would be a huge step towards understanding the man.

I always knew my father was different from the rest of his family. I suppose I should just call it what it was, his family was poor. And they acted it. They weren’t much concerned with how they dressed. Many of them abused tobacco and alcohol. They spent money as soon as it was in their hands on frivolous items like jumbo boxes of candy, cigarettes, alcohol and fireworks. We all know the habits and stereotypes of poverty, and my father, despite having been textbook poor for his entire childhood, exhibited none of those traits.  He was different and even though my young mind couldn’t isolate how so, it stood out when he was with his family. It wasn’t in such transparencies as how he dressed or spoke, etc., he just acted different. I understand it perfectly today; he was still under the effects of the memories of his upbringing, but he wasn’t carrying the lessons forward. He was setting new rules for his own family while not disrespecting his own. He wanted a better life.

As a reward for his hard work, selfless behavior and commitment to self-improvement, his family would refer to him, in muted tones, as “The Rich Kid.” They didn’t mean it as a compliment. The snarkiness and inappropriateness of that label was what I had been missing. And of course, the reasoning behind it. It was quite the Dick Slap to learn that my awesome Dad, whom I oozed respect for, was made fun of for simply wanting better for us.

life imitates life…

It just happened one day recently. I think that I was trying to come up with a new Password for some website because I had entered the wrong one too many times. Boom. I realized that I don’t have much of an imagination. I don’t suppose I ever did. I was very into recreating things but I didn’t step much farther out of my comfort zone. I was probably most expressive when I was playing with my Matchbox cars, which I spent most of my time doing. Even with mountains of Trademark Orange track and a huge box of cars to work with in my room, I didn’t build empires. I stuck to what I knew. And outdoors, under my beloved pine tree, I limited my construction endeavors mostly to what I already knew. I built roads with Tonka Trucks, I used my car hauler, I used real mud in my Concrete mixers, and I pushed them around. Like they were real. I think Calvin and Hobbes used more imagination in one strip about playing in the dirt than I did in my entire life.

Despite not being an imaginative kid, I wasn’t without my skills. For example, at a very early age my mother identified me as a people watcher. Or “rude staring”, in my mother’s words. If someone or something caught my attention I was fixated on it.  I never meant to be rude, I just liked to take it all in. And I had a terrible habit of speaking without a filter. It has been both a curse and a blessing, depending on who was on the other side of it.

My Grandmother was a constant presence at my house when I was little. I really enjoyed having her over and she kept my mother company. There is so much to say about her, and I will as the story progresses, but for the sake of this entry let’s focus on one critical factor about her.
She was a terrible driver. The worst. Even at a young age I was reticent about being in the car with her. She had a heavy foot, a reluctance to brake, and Stop Signs were, well, they were for other people.  I suppose my Matchbox stories were a good example of it even at an early age.


One day she came in the house, her mouth going a million miles per hour as she told my mother about the incident she had with the “dang Po-lice” on the way over. Through the histrionics and across the many rooms of the first floor of my house I could hear her tell my mother her tale of injustice and overreach. The officer had the nerve to give her a speeding ticket. That day was one of the few times that I didn’t run into the kitchen to greet my Grandmother, it just seemed safer and smarter to stay in my room with my Matchbox cars. History and my limited experience at a young age suggested that I let her come to me this time.
Apparently I had dug through my big box of cars and had found a clunky red sedan that looked like the boat of a car Grandma drove, a big ol’ Lincoln that the front end arrived ten minutes before the rest of you did. I had also found one of my old beat up police cars. The stage was set for some hilarity. I began to act out the scenario I had heard playing out in the kitchen. Red car, pulled over by police car. I simulated an argument between the two parties, culminated by the officer telling the driver to get out of the car. I was having a blast when I looked up at the door to my room, occupied by my Grandmother. She had come to at last to say hello and there I was acting out her earlier humiliation.
When she realized what I was doing she wasn’t amused. My mother was of course amused enough for the both of them.
It was then that I realized how selective my Grandmother’s sense of humor really was.

Perception

My recent hospital visit really played into the narrative I have recently opened; that is to say that it did little to dissuade myself that I am indeed a FUS (a fucked up shithead). It may be difficult to do so, but please don’t argue with me on this. I know what it is and the key to my functioning is to be completely honest with myself.
A myriad of emotions are bustling within me. For starters, I’m embarrassed and concerned about the long-term ramifications of my recent hospital stay. Will future doctors treat me differently based on the nature of my last stay? Will I be taken seriously in my quest for treatment of whatever malady(ies) are next for me?
Why is that my initial assumption would be that people will think less of me, especially if they are part of my circle? Am I wrong in my assumption that people just look at you differently once they hear the words “psych ward”? Why would I think that those closest to me wouldn’t understand and support me? After all, most people that I have spoken to, doctors mostly, thought very little of the details of the situation and focused instead on immediately trying to get me into a better place.
I have told more people in my blog about the details of my last hospital than I have in my circle. My closest friends know all of the details, amazingly my family does not. My and oldest daughter is my health care proxy and she and my mother made the decision not to tell my other 3 children. They know that I was in, they just don’t know the details. I suppose I will tell them when I am ready but for now I will maintain my strict policy of not making people worry about me.
To the best of my analytical ability, and I am surprisingly adept in that area, I believe that is my biggest problem and the root of many of my issues. I am not honest with people when they ask me how I am and therefore it always turns about to be a little worse than expected when I do fall.

I’ve always been a believer in the old adage “when someone asks you how you are say fine, at the end of the day they don’t give a shit”. It’s harsh but there’s a grain of truth to it. Greetings are formalities and should be treated as such. I have always taken it a bit farther when it comes to admitting that I am not doing well, I smiled and acted fine. So when I did break down it was always worse than everyone thought.
Lately, fine was not happening. I was sick and my resolve to deny that dialysis was kicking the shit out of me was gone. I reached out to my doctor’s and they didn’t respond to my liking. So I tried to force their hands to treat me medically under threat of force.

I’m not crazy, I just fucked up. But this time I hurt the ones around me. Not only do I have to carry that around with me, but the pain is still there. The insomnia is still there. The memories of the outrageous, uncharacteristic and very dangerous thoughts that ran through my mind in which I vividly imagined every conceivable scenario in which I would end my life are still there. Now compounded by an unimaginable and insurmountably heavy sense of guilt for forgetting that there are people in my life that care for me, people who would miss me if I were to commit such an act.
Maybe that guilt would be less intimidating if I finally admitted that I am not doing as great as my fake smile and false assurances would suggest. Do they even want to know what it takes for me to get out of bed in the morning?

I hope I shake this darkness and never fall down this rabbit-hole again.


It’s not you

Three powerful words from my daughter.
“It’s not you.”
I added another creamer to my coffee, took a sip and let it sink in. She’s right, it’s not a good look for me. Cheater. Adulterer. No thanks. It was then that I made the decision to end it. My daughter always keeps me on the straight and narrow. I trust her for the truth. And there I had it.

She’s known about my relationship from the beginning and knows all of the details. She kept quiet at the beginning because she wanted me to be happy. But she had an opinion waiting for me. When I told her that I was feeling conflicted and was thinking about ending it she put it right in my lap by calling me out on my character. In a way only she could. Blunt and to the point. And also correct. That’s not who I am.

I ended it, whatever it was, yesterday. It was heart-breaking. We had spent some really special times together. We had real potential as a couple, if not for one minor detail.
Her husband.

I did it by text. Texting is all we have had lately. She works full time and isn’t around for me to see her on weekends. Those rendezvouses we had, fleeting and precious, were few and far between. While I didn’t use the words “break up” she knew where I was going with my words. As if she was expecting it. Just like that, it’s over. We wanted it to work, we really did. But there was just no way. At least not now.

I can’t believe what I just threw away in the name of “doing the right thing”.

A person who thinks and acts along Grey lines may have been able to pull this off. I tried to be that guy. The Grey lines guy. Who practices “relative morality”. It was a perfect situation for that. They were unhappily married. He was horrible and controlling in everything he did to her. Grey lines guy could rationalize all of it. I can’t.

I’m not black and white in everything that I think and do. But I have a firm grasp on right and wrong. I believe in codes. The Guy Code, for example, which clearly states that you do not fuck another man’s wife. I may not know him personally but I respect him enough to honor the code. It’s tragic that he is too ignorant to see what he has before him.

She’s amazing. If I actually thought I had a chance with her I’d fight with the strength of 20 men to get her. She always deflected but I think she’s beautiful. We were wildly attracted to each other, when allowed we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other. We shared so many interests and activities. We liked the same music and movies. We waxed poetic about the things we wanted to do.
Be seen together in public. Go for walks. Socialize as a couple. Snuggle on the sofa. Watch silly movies. And of course see each other whenever we wanted to.

None of it could ever happen and I began to realize that unless I saw some serious signs that she was actually able (she was willing, we talked about it) to leave her husband then it was just unfair to all involved to continue. She needs her husband right now for what he can provide. Things that I can’t.

So it has to be this way. Love is just not enough…

within those 5 miles

Early on, my entire life occurred within the radius of 5 square miles. But within those 5 miles there were worlds of differences. Not one to dwell on the issue of class, but I think it’s the only way I can describe it.
First there was the lower-middle class life that played out in my house. I call it lower middle class because we lived in a section of town that we could barely afford but kept up with the proverbial Jones’s. My Dad worked all the time to afford it, to give us the better way of life that he never had. That life was still going on across town. The middle-lower part of town. “The Ave”.

“The Ave” consisted of 7 houses. All owned by some member of my family. A family so large that to this day I can’t remember who was related to who and how. 6 houses shared one thing in common, they were in very poor condition. The 7th was a overgrown lot that contained the collapsed remains of the house my father grew up in. His father had moved across town (within the same 5 miles) with his sister who he disliked. But I digress. The last house on the street was where his sister lived with her drunk wife-beating husband and my 6 cousins. The youngest was Mike. He was my age and my best friend. His house may have been absurdly overpopulated, with plastic on the windows and broken linoleum floors but I didn’t know better or didn’t care. I was there all the time. I can barely come up with an early memory that doesn’t contain adventures with Mike on “The Ave”.

3 miles away, in a different town lived my mother’s parents. It may have been a short journey but on it you can clearly notice that the houses looked better maintained, the yards bigger and lawns greener, the roads better paved as you drive. Just on the other side of the town line, on the left side were a row of houses that were dwarfed by the ones on the other. As if they didn’t belong. This town was big money. Pro athletes from all 4 major Boston Sports teams bought houses there. Along with bankers, doctors and lawyers. My grandparents owned one of those small houses. Like my parents they were barely clinging to their middle-middle class lifestyle.
But they belonged. My Grandfather was content, my Grandmother sometimes acted as if they were from that other side of the street, the one with the bigger houses. I would not go so far as to call her a snob, but she had her moments.

Before it’s too late

Often when I take a break from blogging it is because I can’t think of a topic. Sometimes it’s just laziness. Sometimes I just get busy, I’m pretty active for a guy with nothing to do. Then other times I just don’t know where to start.

Last week I suffered so many slaps upside the head that I just couldn’t sort my thoughts. It started with the death of a dear friend, then another old friend of the family passed, and then to top off the shit sandwich that was my weekend I found out that my best friend in the world and his young daughter had contracted the Covid-19 virus. I was floored both metaphorically and actually. I didn’t know where to begin.

The death of my friend, a elderly Freemason whose company I have enjoyed so often and so greatly was not a shock. He was elderly and in declining health. Quarantine issues made it difficult to visit him and he wintered in Florida but I had no excuse not to talk to him more frequently and I am feeling guilt even though I don’t feel that there was anything unsaid between us. It is the worst part of losing someone, wondering if you knew where you stood with them. It is THE reason that I endeavor to always leave someone as if I will never see them again, on the level (as we Masons say) and free of anger and resentment. He was my buddy, regardless of our age difference and I feel that I am a better person for having known him. I miss him terribly.

The family friend was less of a blow. He was 92 and passed peacefully. But he meant something to me as a memory of my childhood. My parents used to Square Dance (mock away I won’t resent you) and they met many solid friendships through it via conventions at Campgrounds every Summer and retreats in Winter. I can think of 5 or 6 families that I met on those occasions and the many lasting friendships with their children that I cherish now. Frank was one of the ones that stands out in my mind the most. A father of 5 awesome kids and a all-around wonderful family man, he represents an era gone by to me. I was so upset that I wasn’t able to go to his funeral. Not being able to attend funerals is one aspect of the Pandemic that is hard to reconcile.

The news that my best friend in the world contracted Covid absolutely floored me. The news may have numbed us with all of the constant talk and actual people can fade into just statistics but by now most of us know someone who has contracted it. Sadly, many of us have lost someone to it. We always hear about those people in the high-risk category. My friend is in it. He’s a big, strong man but he’s overweight. He has a heart condition. He is always tired and his immune system is vulnerable. When I heard the news, I won’t sugarcoat it, I had some very bad thoughts about worse case scenarios. And for his daughter, whom I love like my own daughter…her diagnosis scared the ever loving shit out of me. Fast-forward to today, everyone is on the mend. That is a huge relief. But I was scared.

If you are reading this, I want you to know that I care about you and I hope you never have to endure a weekend like I had last week. Tell those close to you how you feel. Make phone calls. Send emails. Don’t put yourself in a position where you know that you could have done more. We’re social creatures and we need each other more than ever.

Footprints

Nice idea right?

I’ve always been a lover of the “footprints” meme above. It was shown to me early in life and the message resonated with me. It’s a nice idea. The whole Jesus thing. Walk beside me, keep me company and hey, while you’re at it can you carry me through the rough terrain?
The problem is that I am not really a big “Jesus guy.”
I am not going to go too much into the religious and spiritual beliefs of Billy Mac. I’d done it in previous blogs and I just can’t do it again. I will give a brief synopsis for the sake of understanding what exactly the fuck I’m trying to say in this entry, but that’s it.

Here goes…I’m not an atheist because an atheist believes there is nothing. You’re an arrogant bastard if you believe that there is nothing else out there in the immeasurable vastness of the cosmos. Deductive reasoning therefore concludes that if you can’t say there’s nothing then there has to be something. With that in mind, I reluctantly accepted the possibility of a higher power. Sure, let’s call it GOD. As for a bearded guy in a flowing white robe judging and condemning everyone, I’m not so sure. As for his son, I can’t wrap my head around that part. It’s a nice story but it doesn’t fit my paradigm. But again, it’s in the nice idea department in my world.

But back to the Footprints. There was once a day when I would have resented the notion that I would have had to be carried anywhere, by fictional deity or by any man. Strength mattered the most to me and I swore that the day that I couldn’t deal with the weight of my life that would be the day that I would no longer want to engage in this dance. For the longest time I was able to pull it off.
It’s getting harder every day.

I’m failing in so many ways. My body is simply breaking down. Sure, there are physiological forces at work, understandable ones, I have a disease. I’ve had it for a long time and I have done a pretty impressive job of fooling everyone, especially my family. Until now, now I’m showing the cracks. I’m walking slower, in need of more recovery from the most basic of tasks, uninterested in making plans for fear of not knowing how I will feel when the day comes, I am becoming what I have always feared. Weak.

This morning I tuned in to my church’s online service. I’m not sure why, I rarely do so. The Reverend, a young family man with a fresh perspective, was just wrapping up the musical segment when I tuned in. He welcomed all of us and said, “let’s talk about Footprints.” I knew exactly of what he was speaking. I put my head in my hands and I listened. It was as if he was talking directly to me. I became emotional. I even cried a little. Why do I feel this way? I don’t want help. I hate asking for it. I don’t want to burden anyone. So why?

I have a great support system, I really do. Great friends, amazing family, my Masonic brothers and the resources of the entire fraternity. But I never ask them for anything. I swore that I would never be that guy. But I’m not in a good place lately and maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I let someone carry me for a couple of blocks.

It might allow me to garner enough strength to go back to trying to convince people that I’m ok when I’m really not. Or maybe I can grow the fuck up and acknowledge that Plan A is just not working.

Fighting the green eyed monster

I don’t need a reason to withdraw from Social Media. Who would blame me when I am overloaded with disinformation, vitriol, hatred and myriad videos of just plain bad behavior? I used to be able to handle it then I realized that handling it wasn’t necessarily enough, it was getting me down and affecting my already tenuous grip on normalcy (whatever that means). Keeping up with friends near and far, combined with cute puppy videos used to do the job on balancing me out but lately it’s not enough. Even my friends posts are starting to bother me.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a people watcher. Not to analyze them or criticize but instead to further my understanding of people and what makes them unique and of course what binds us together. My desire to keep up with friends and co-workers both past and present has always been my primary reason to have FB. I like knowing what they are up to and it is a form of people watching. I watch what they post, good or bad, and how they behave, good or bad. Some of my FB “friends” are having a rough time, those I support the best I can. Others are doing ok, I’m there with a good word when needed. Then there is the ones that are doing great, or at least they make it look so. Those people I have always tried to be genuinely happy for. Despite my lot in life, I always make sure that I am never a victim of the Green Eyed Monster. I don’t envy wealth, possessions, pics of expensive cigars and liquors and cars. Hey, I’m happy for them and will continue to be so if they are good people.

I try to reject the notion that social media was designed for us to compare lives. That would be alienating and not the stated goal of bringing us together.

But I’m thinking of taking a break from Social Media anyway. For a rather unique reason I suppose. I have fallen into a different kind of people-watching and it is becoming destructive to me and my ability to maintain positivity– people watching as a sick guy and comparing notes with my own situation. It’s a terrible habit in which I observe one of my friends doing something outdoorsy such as hiking or biking, and I ask myself questions such as,
“I wonder if he can walk more than a mile without his legs swelling into balloons?”
“Hey, do you think he can work a whole day without wanting to pass out from nausea?”
“Does he have to take a nap after something so minor as food shopping?”

It’s not envy or jealousy. I’m happy for anyone who has been blessed with wealth or success. I just want their GOOD HEALTH.

If you think about it, it’s a well-established sentiment in our society. When addressing a pregnant woman with “what are you having?”, the answer is invariably met with “as long as he or she is happy and healthy.” As if the minimum expectation in life is good health. Trust me, it can be taken for granted amidst the scramble for education and vocation. I’m here to tell you that good health later in life is not guaranteed and without it all of those other things simply don’t matter. Even out of reach.

You don’t need to feel good to be happy. But it sure helps. Stay healthy my friends, it really is the most important thing in life.



Existing vs. living

I feel like I’m coming out of the funk. I can’t say how long I’ve been in it–too long for sure. It probably happened about the time of the time change in November and the short days. About the time that I was driven inside due to the weather. About the time that I had to put my beloved Harley in the garage until Spring.

I certainly haven’t been the avid outdoorsman that I was in the last few years but I do try to be outside whenever possible doing what I can, despite the limitations that my recent decline in health has allowed. I went from being as active as I was able to a state of vegetation. I stayed in. I slept late. I went to my dialysis treatments and did what I had to do and nothing else. I dreamed of being home whenever I was out.

Home is a nice place to be. My mom is a great roommate. I have a wonderful dog. I have tons of books to read. I have a treadmill, kettlebells, and workout DVD’s to condition my ailing body. I have Tai Chi DVD’s and meditation videos on YouTube. With so many things to keep me company and develop myself physically and mentally, all I did was watch television. Thus began the character trait I hate most about myself.
The self-loathing.
I was in a rut like no other before. I wasn’t living, I was merely existing.

Then I met her. She inspired me to do better. To be better. A pretty little fireball with the vitality of a woman half her age. I wanted her on my arm but I had to build myself up to the point that I could even keep up with her sassy and speedy gait. I trimmed my David Letterman beard, I let her take me shopping for new clothes. I began to work out a bit.
Then I got sick again.
My blood pressure began giving me all kinds of problems. My insomnia returned. I developed a mystery stomach ailment that, in addition to heart problems, has put me in the hospital twice. I felt like God was mad at me. He delivered this gift to me and I wasn’t able to enjoy it. My depression deepened. The old me would have gotten angry, instead I drew into myself.
But she’s still there. Waiting for me to get well. Waiting to give me a future that I thought for the longest time wasn’t an option for me. Waiting for me to get my head and body right.

My recent hospital visit was a bit of a bust as far as diagnoses are concerned but I did get my head in a better place. I came home inspired to recapture the piss and vinegar that people know me for and do what is needed to get it back. I started by turning the fucking TV off. I have been reading. I have been making phone calls. Diving into my role as Master of my Masonic lodge and being the leader I was elected to be.

One thing I know about myself. When I am mentally strong there is absolutely NOTHING I can’t do. I genuinely feel sorry for the person who tells me that I can’t do something. I’m the guy that graduated college because my father told me I wouldn’t. I have defied the odds so many times. I have had 3 near-death experiences and I’m still here. There must be a reason why the Universe has chosen to keep me around. It certainly isn’t to watch TV. That much I know.

Whatever it is that I have to do I am willing to do it again. Time to stop merely existing and start living again. I of all people know that life is fleeting, short and meant to be lived.

Refreshed

It’s good to be home.

5 days in the hospital and no diagnosis why my BP is out of control and I keep experiencing spontaneous nausea and vomiting. They made a small adjustment to one of my meds for the BP but overall every test on my gut came up Negative. Oh well, it’s not the first time I’ve defied medical science.

Believe it or not I got some rest. Yes, you read that correctly, I got rest in a Hospital.

I’ve been really, uncharacteristically lazy for so long. My illness has really beat me down. While I actually have very little to do, I have been having a hard time doing it. I was almost out of Spoons. (If you are not familiar with the Spoon theory here you go) https://wordpress.com/post/goodtobealivetoday.com/5461 . On top of all of it I’ve been beating the ever-lovin’ shit out of myself mentally for being so lazy. It was a constant, vicious circle and I was exhausted.

Hospitals are not known for letting you sleep. Nurses wake you at all hours of the night for blood and vitals and DR’s traipse in all day long. I’ve ended many visits more tired than when I went in. It’s been anything but quiet and restful. This one was different. Because I told no-one that I was hospitalized and visitors were prohibited due to COVID, this visit was very quiet. Consequently, I had a opportunity to do some extensive mental, emotional, character, are-you-the-person-you-think-youare inventory. Long story short I came home mentally refreshed.

The biggest takeaway is that I need to give myself a break once in a while. I am conflicted by my resolve to act and feel normal and the knowledge that I have increasing physical limitations that simply won’t allow it. I need to listen to my body when it tells me “nope, ain’t happening”. Beating myself up does nothing to help how I feel. I think if I can do that, forgive myself for moments of weakness, I can get back to the old Superman. For now, I need to take it slow.

Baby steps, Superman. Baby steps.