Just Jot it January Day # 20

Your prompt for JusJoJan 2019, January 20th is brought to you by Jill! Click here to find her last post and say hi while you’re there! Jill’s word for our prompt today is “serendipity.” Use it anywhere in your post or make it the theme of your post. Have fun!

Serendipity is a happy accident. It’s also a pretty good John Cusack movie.

When I think of Serendipity I think of an event that occurs over a short period of time that isn’t ironic yet it’s profound.

I like to think I have an example of Serendipity that occurred over a longer period of time.

I dreaded dialysis for most of my adult life and I did almost everything I could to avoid it. How surprised am I at the overall impact on my general well-being; the wonderful nurses that I get to see everyday doing God’s work for the love of the job and not the money; and the effect it’s had on my ability to empathize and relate to those worse off than I. I was already pretty good in the last category but now I’m even better.

It’s a happy accident that I am benefitting from something I once thought was the Ninth gate of Hell.

It is Serendipity indeed.

Next Stop Willoughby

“Next stop Willoughby”.

The sleeping man woke to the conductor’s voice. “Excuse me, did you say Willoughby? That stop isn’t on this route.”

“It most certainly is, sir.” The conductor replied.” Just look out the window.”
As the train screeched to a stop, the man looked through the faded window to see men and women, dressed in fancy clothes from the last century, carrying umbrellas and carefully wading through a crowd of excited children scurrying around the gazebo in the center of town. He watched as the scene began to move as the train slowly left the station. He sat back in his seat and closed his eyes, taking a mental picture of what he had just seen.

“Stanton. Next stop Stanton.” The conductor again woke him as he walked down the aisle. The man captured the attention of the conductor. As he approached the man asked him about Willoughby. The conductor gave him a puzzled look.

“Sir, I have never heard of Willoughby.”

Confused, the man gathered his coat and satchel and exited the train.

He enters his beautiful home and greets his attractive wife. Her looks couldn’t detract from the contempt in her eyes for him.

He begins to tell her of his terrible day. How his boss had demeaned him in front of the entire office. He told her he wished that life were simple, how he was tired of the cutthroat business world and the way in which he needed to behave in order to survive in it. He explained to her that he was really just a nice guy, too nice to be a part of it.

His tale of woe was not met with sympathy. Instead he was told how he must compete, must continue on course and to stop thinking in such a way. She needed him to keep providing so that they could maintain the lifestyle that was killing him.

He was done. Washed up. Burned out. All he could think about was the lovely, if not odd town of Willoughby.

The next day he goes to work only to have another confrontation with his boss. He goes to his office and calls his wife. He tells her that he is leaving his job. Quitting and coming home to her. She tells him not to come home if he quits his job. He leaves and gets on the train home. He rests his weary eyes.

Again, he is wakened by the conductor’s announcement of the stop of Willoughby. This time, he jumped out of his seat, grabbed his coat, left his briefcase and stepped off of the train to check out the town.

He was found dead.

Shocked men stood over him, wondering why this stranger had thrown himself off of a moving train. They would never know that he was dreaming, dreaming so hard for a new life that he died in pursuit of it.

Some story, wouldn’t you agree? I wish I had written it. It’s actually an episode of The Twilight Zone from 1960 entitled “A Stop at Willoughby”. I watched it in deep fascination on the SyFy New Years Day Marathon. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I could have been that man, yet it was written 5 years before I was born.

The correlations to my own life are nothing less than staggering.

At one time I owned a house in a nice town, in a nice neighborhood that we didn’t belong in. It was out of our league. Because we somehow managed to pay the mortgage we kept the water level below our noses. But we were in way over our heads. Our children went to school with a lot of wealthy kids and we clothed them accordingly. All activities were A la Carte and we did our best to find a way to enroll them. What we didn’t have, we charged. My wife wanted a lifestyle that was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. I tried to protest, to voice my concerns over our mounting debt but it fell on deaf ears. In hindsight I should have protested louder, but it’s too late for overthinking that. I lived by the mantra “happy wife, happy life.” What I didn’t know is that I would never have either.

For a while, the pace of my career kept pace with the increasing burden of my lifestyle. I kicked and scratched my way up the professional ladder and I did what the situation dictated. I worked long hours, competed with some cutthroat players and managed to come out on top enough times. I definitely engaged in tactics that were not my style but stopped short at the unethical. Like the sympathetic character in Willoughby, I was a nice guy. Unlike him, my career benefited from that very reputation. I was known as honest, reliable and good at my word and I am proud of that to this day. But the toll to my health was immeasurable and devastating. Kidney disease causes Hypertension, as did my career in sales. The rush-hour traffic, the constant looking over the shoulder, the high intensity of negotiations, the nights before the big phone call letting you know you got the contract, and the stress of failure took years off of my life.

Like our hero, I was also afraid to voice my concerns over the nature of the work I needed to do to maintain our address. The few times that I did, I was also told to stay the course, that we were committed. And sadly, if I were to come home after a bad month, I wasn’t met with empathy or a “you’ll get ’em next month”, I was chastised for failing to do “my end”. Or worse, I would get the silent treatment accompanied by a disappointed scowl. Many times I tried to tell her that shit like that wasn’t helpful, she didn’t care. I almost became afraid to come home for fear of the reprisal.

At my last job I achieved the most security I ever had. A strong salary, a achievable bonus plan and decent hours were a welcome respite. But alas, there was a catch. I worked for a megalomaniac. 85% of the time he was a very nice man. But his dark side was abysmal. I would learn that he had to be right; I was to be good at what I do but not better than him; I was never to talk to his boss about anything because of his paranoia and love of the “chain of command”; and I was to be his puppet and totally devoid of independent thought. If I violated any of the above tenets I would be subject to a minimum of a one-sided rambling lecture and at the maximum a violent and irrational episode. Once he actually challenged me to a fight. I put up with it. Why?
Because I had to.
I had a family at home that needed health insurance, a roof over their heads and most importantly, a childhood. A man supposedly never walks away from a fight. This one did, because a man also doesn’t make his family homeless over his temper or pride. But to stand there and be called the names that I was called, spit flying into my face by a irrational, butt-reaming asshole who was wrong on 10,000 levels took every last drop of restraint that I had. Not hitting him may be my best career accomplishment.
Still, when I got home it was all about the paycheck.
If I had called home and said “Honey, I’m done. I can’t do this anymore” I would have been told not to come home. So I dealt with it. I was forced to dream of the day when life was simpler, more honest and manageable. Where I didn’t have to claw, scratch and claw for every inch.

I wanted my own Willoughby.

I know that in my heart of hearts that if I rode a train and I was woken to the vision of a town 100 years in the past where simplicity reigned over technology; courtesy over competition; a handshake over a notarized document; family over clients; ethics over business, love over money and simplicity over chaos…I would jump off of the train as well. If the fall killed me, so be it. I would still escape the lifestyle that I loathed. The risk would be worth the jump.

I wish I had found my Willoughby, and to find that it wasn’t a dream after all.

#SoCS & #JusJoJan 2019 Daily Prompt – Jan. 12th

The prompt for #JusJoJan and Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “art.” Talk about something that’s hanging on your wall. Add a picture, if you’d like. If you have no art on your walls, talk about something in a museum. Have fun!

Something hanging on my wall

There are many items that adorn the walls around me as I compose this post. I really can’t single one out for they share a connection. They all make me think of my father.

I am in my favorite place to write, the finished basement of my mom’s house. Originally purchased as a summer home, the small chalet was expanded and remodeled into a full house by the time they retired up here in 2001. It went from “the summer home”, to “my parents house”, and now that my dad has passed it is known as “mom’s house.”

Nothing says more about my father than this house. He dedicated time and money he didn’t have to make it perfect. A house that his wife would be proud of (her opinions mattered on every detail in every room), that his kids could bring his grandchildren, and one that he could grow old in. The finished basement was his last accomplishment. I love the entire house, his touches are everywhere. But none so much as this room, it’s my favorite place to be.

As I look around the room the first thing I notice is the curio cabinet. He built it special for mom to put her amazing collection of curios. It is a one of a kind, like him.

My attention is then drawn to the painting of his favorite view. It is a path in the woods, near here, that is entirely covered by a perfectly formed canopy of tree branches. In the summer, it is a cool respite from the heat. In the fall, it is a panorama of colors. In the winter the bent, snow-covered branches form a winter paradise. He took a photo of it once and a friend painted it for him. What a wonderful gift.

Next there is a professional photo of he and my mother. In happier times. His arm around her with a big, genuine smile. He loved her so much he didn’t have to say “cheese”. Her smile speaks volumes also. She doesn’t smile like that anymore. Her smile now is forced, a result of loss, grief and a steadfast resolve to not show how much pain she is hiding.

The next wall is a collage of dog portraits. All spaniels, his favorite. In my life we had 2 Brittany Springers and 3 Cockers. Like cars, he went with what works and Spaniels never let him down.

The last thing I see is on the mantle. A case containing a folded flag that was handed to me at his funeral, by a sharply dressed soldier on behalf of a grateful nation. He never talked about his military service, other than where he was stationed. I will never know much of what he saw. But I know that he volunteered, during the age of the Draft, and he wouldn’t imagine not doing his part for the country he loved so dearly.

The rest of the room contains a lot of cutesy décor, my mother’s touch. Porcelain and wood carved Mallards, embroidery portraits of puppies and various stuffed versions of woodland creatures adorn the room. Mom knows how to cutesy up anything.

Still, in this room I just see Dad everywhere. In the actual sense. I often sleep here, and many times I have awoke to the sensation that he is in the room.

While unlikely, I wish he was. He completed this room soon before he died. He never got to grow old here, which was his goal. He worked so very hard his entire life and never got to enjoy the spoils. It’s really not fair, but he would be the first person to tell me that life never is. He had working man’s wisdom.

What I wouldn’t give to talk to him for just 5 more minutes. If not in this realm then in the next. Until that somehow happens, I have plenty of reminders. They’re hanging on the wall.

Just Jot it January day # 11

The prompt for JusJoJan 2019, January 11th is brought to you by M! Click here to find her last SoCS post and say hi while you’re there! M’s word for our prompt today is in SoCS style: “flew/flu/flue.” Use one, use them all, use them anywhere in your post or make one or all the theme of your post. Have fun!


The doctors stood over him
his family sat helplessly by
all they could do was wait
it had been 2 days
since he had last opened his eyes
what they couldn’t see
behind the closed lids
and the motionless body
was the battle raging within
he had won many before
but he had met a worthy opponent
who had the upper hand
the choke hold was on
he was about to tap out
a peace like no other
washed over his body
relaxation coursed through him
the pain was gone
he could see but not move
he helplessly watched
as his spirit materialized
in a mystical wisp of smoke
and spiraled up and out
as if headed up a chimney flue
when he suddenly heard
a faint and faraway voice
whispered through clasped hands
Don’t leave us Dad
I love you so much
it was then that he found his fight
gasped and inhaled with all of his resolve
drew his fleeing soul back in
trapped it in his lungs
and slowly opened his eyes
he saw before him
a translucent eagle
staring intently at him
it lifted its gaze
and flew away on sheer wings
he had won again
the death bastard defeated
let the healing begin

#Just Jot it Jan Day # 10

Today’s prompt for JusJoJan 2019, January 10th is brought to you by Toortsie! Click here to find her last post and say hi while you’re there! Toortsie’s word for our prompt today is “sunrise.” Use it anywhere in your post or make it the theme of your post. Have fun!

As I have laid my head on my pillow each night, for as far back as I can remember, I had a veritable highlight reel of fuck-ups to keep me awake. Every thing that I’ve done in my life, from verbal faux pas’ to outright embarrassing episodes, played on repeat mode in my head, ensuring a bad nights sleep.

This is what happens when you are wrapped tighter than a 24 hr Convenience store sandwich. You don’t get in fights. You don’t need to when you’re way above the curve in the pugilistic art of beating the shit out of yourself.

Eventually, as my illness caused my Blood Pressure to escalate to dangerous levels, I was forced to pick and choose what I would become aggravated about. I could no longer afford to harbor resentments, to dwell on the past, and get too caught up in the omnipresent stresses of Management. My job was stressful and difficult so this was no small task. I achieved a meteoric rise in my company and I had a lot of people wishing, and sometimes trying to cause me to fail. I can now admit that I was a bit paranoid. Not “shhh…the Gummint is watching me” paranoid, but instead the “when I’m at a football game and the team is in the huddle they’re talking about me” kind of paranoid. I had to learn not to look behind me, but ahead.

I was pretty successful in dealing with the stressors in the present. I had learned to walk away and not engage unless I really needed to. I could say to myself “not worth it”, “not my circus, not my monkeys”. Not so much, however, when it came to reconciling my past. I continued to ruminate over past goofs and never allowed myself forgiveness.

Until recently. The stress thing has resolved itself. I’m now out of work and my only stressor is what I’m having for dinner this evening (I am downplaying it a bit but you get it). I have forgiven myself. Having been unburdened by disability the possibility of career or financial security I now have easy, attainable goals.

I want to maintain the wonderful relationship I have with my children.
I want to get through dialysis without getting gravely ill (again) and get a new Kidney.
I want to interact with my fellow man in a courteous, compassionate, and respectful manner.
I want to always be looking up and around, not down at the ground, because I don’t want to miss a single thing to be grateful for.

Now, if I find myself tossing and turning all night, I have the benefit of looking at the skyline at dawn, which is the glory and the beauty of each new day. With every sunrise comes a new opportunity to make a day that is better than the one before.

When you don’t know how many days you actually have left, the beautiful glow of the rising sun means a whole lot more.

Making amends

When I worked at the finance company I was presented with some difficult but wonderful challenges. The company was going through some growing pains and I was immediately tasked with some big issues. Their need was in the “back end” of the business. That is a nice way of saying “repo”.

When I joined the company they were being inundated with cars coming back due to bad loans. My background in appraisals and remarketing proved to be a valuable asset. I had connections with auctions all over the country, offered alternative outlets such as salvage auctions and private sales, and I created a valuable network of tow companies.

One particular tow operator was a local guy named Mike. I essentially inherited him when I joined the company but his role was minimal and I expanded it. I always try to do business with a local guy, it’s just good business.

Mike is a really likable guy, the kind of person I enjoy doing business with. He was a independent with one truck but willing to work all day to earn a living. I gave him a lot of tows. He did a pretty good job for me for a few months and then I began noticing a side of him that didn’t work for me…he “Yes’d” me to death and wasn’t honest about his availability. He was growing his business through AAA tows and had begun to fall behind. He failed to tell me that he hadn’t gotten to previous assignments while gladly accepting new ones, which chaffed my ass greatly. I had to cut him back.

It wasn’t long before Mike came to see me in my office to apologize for his underwhelming performance. We talked at length. I told him how the demands of my job required a more reliable transporter and that I would keep him on but on a more limited basis. He reached across my desk with his big, greasy hand and shook mine, thanking me. He was hard not to like.

Mike continued to work for me for many years and was of great service on the AAA end of things helping me and my family with our five cars.

One Saturday I was getting ready to go out and my car wouldn’t start. I tried jumping it, it was dead. I called Mike and asked him if he could help. He was there in 15 minutes.

He pulled in with his rusty old Ford pickup, his dog and wife in the cab with him. I said hi to his wife, a very unpleasant and morbidly obese woman who I had never seen smile. She grunted in my direction.

Mike somehow got my car started. I asked him if he took credit cards. He didn’t. I was at a loss. I had no cash on me. He said don’t worry about it, remarking that I give him so much work that it more than worked out. I sheepishly thanked him.

His wife scowled at me.

I always felt bad about that day. Yes, I did give him a lot of work but I should have been able to pay him. I lost my job soon after. Mike and I lost touch.

Last week I saw on FB that he had a birthday. It caused me to reflect on my past dealings with him and how much I liked him. I decided that it was time to right a wrong. I took out my checkbook and made out a check for $100.00. I grabbed my stationary and wrote a short note.

Mike, I always felt bad about never paying you for the AAA service years ago. You’re a good man and you deserve better. Please accept this check as good will for a good deed.
Take care,
Bill

I mailed it that day. He FB inboxed me 3 days later thanking me. He said I shouldn’t have. I disagree.

My mother likes to tell me that I am determined to spend every penny I have. What she doesn’t get is that I am charitable within my means and I am not afraid to make amends.

Besides, the check to Mike isn’t about money.

It’s about respect.