the words left unsaid

I love my dialysis nurses. I think they do God’s work and I appreciate them. They do more than stick needles in my arm, they monitor my welfare and genuinely care about me and make a very difficult transition for their patients easier. Of course, I can only speak for myself but the nurses have a special place in my heart.

One nurse I am particularly fond of is Jesse. Jesse is one of the youngest nurses at the clinic and I have felt a special chemistry with her since the day I met her. We share a devilish sense of humor which is tampered by her strict codes of conduct in the clinic regarding patient interaction. Still, we manage to have flirty and somewhat sexy conversations in sneaky ways, even the exchange of glances or funny faces. I love it when she’s there, it makes the time pass a little better. It’s safe to say that if there wasn’t a clinic policy against dating patients, we would be a couple. Just one more example of how my life is.

C’est La vie.

I have gotten to know her over the last year and she tells me a bit about her personal life. I know she doesn’t share with many patients, we have a special connection. I know that she has 2 very cute daughters, aged 5 and 3. I know that their father used to live with them and watch the girls while Jesse was at work. I know that he recently moved out and she is single (not that I can do anything with that knowledge). I also know that Jesse hasn’t spoken to her father in years. She has revealed enough for me to know that her relationship with her dad was less than stellar. Let’s call it what it is, she hated him.

Last Tuesday Jesse was in a terrible mood. She was quiet and frequently teared up. She wasn’t speaking to anyone with the exception of the communication necessary to get someone set up on the dialysis machine. It bothered me a bit to not have our usual back and forth but it had nothing to do with me and I figured whatever it is will work out and she will be in a better mood next time. Unfortunately, the next time I saw her she was no better.

I decided to engage her. I remarked to her that she was in a bad mood again. She then came over and said “I’ll tell you, but you’re one of two people I’m telling. I haven’t told anyone else. She paused and said, “My father was killed in an accident last week.”

I was stunned. Of course I had no words to offer. I offered her a hug and half-joked that maybe I can give her some of my strength. She teared up. She wasn’t working that day so she soon left. I had several hours left and most of them were spent thinking of her.

She had a difficult road ahead. She has lost her father. In addition she had the burden of knowing that they had a terrible relationship. On top of it all, I know that she had to be torn by those words. You know those words…the ones unsaid. I’m sure there are regrets. I’m sure there are unresolved issues. I’m sure that she was right in how she felt about him but never had the one thing we all crave in the end. Closure. She has a long road ahead of her and there is nothing that I can do that will help her reach closure. I wish I could in the worst way.

See, she’s not the only one with unresolved issues and things unsaid. I wanted to tell her how I feel about her. That I have been pining for her for a very long time. Hopeful that there is a way around the clinic’s policy against patients fraternizing/dating staff. I wish she knew that I would ask her out in a New York minute if I could. I want to be with her so very badly. And I can’t until I am no longer a patient of the clinic or if she leaves the company. Neither seems viable right now, I need a transplant, it’s the only answer. Until that unlikely event, it’s just not going to happen.

I went to a local fair today and it wasn’t 5 minutes before I ran into her. She met my daughter and my friend Eric. It felt naughty to be talking to her because it was forbidden on so many levels. But we talked for a few minutes and it was really nice. Not to mention that she looked beautiful in the early afternoon sunshine. As we parted ways, I hugged Jesse and bluntly said “We need to find a way around that company policy because I want to be with you.” I amazed myself at how bold that statement was. But I felt better for saying it. They were no longer words unsaid. I said them. It was the truth after all and now it was out there. I think she knows that I’m into her, now it’s confirmed.

When we parted ways and walked away my daughter, who already knew my feelings for Jesse said, with her usual candor, “ You need to marry her. She’s beautiful, she’s awesome and she’s into you.”
“You think so?”
“Oh yeah.”
“Well, a lot has to happen before that happens.” I said. “But I think she is worth waiting for.”

Forgiveness

I sat there, asking myself if I really drove 2 hours to listen to this.

“Ugh, this picture is terrible. “
“Do I really look like this?”
“I can’t post this!”

My ex had just finished taking some pictures outside with my daughter and now she was engaging in two of the many obnoxious habits that remind me why we’re not married anymore…bitching incessantly and playing with her fucking phone.

“Just delete them and do them again. How hard can it be, it was ten minutes ago?”
“Did I ask for your fucking opinion?” she snapped at me and left the room.
Face palm
Happy fucking Easter.

My daughter came to the rescue.
“Dad, it’s a holiday. She’s always nuts on Holidays, remember? I’m still happy to see you.”
She wasn’t lying. She was. She’s the best. And soon my youngest boy will be back from his girlfriend’s house and soon after that we will meet my oldest daughter and her boyfriend at the restaurant. Despite my oldest boy not being able to make it, which I was bummed about, I will have plenty of people to distract me from her.

I really hoped that the fireworks were over with her but that would not be the case. The dinner conversation was mostly fine, I enjoyed seeing the kids and the meal was great. But she dropped a couple of cracks during dinner about me that stuck with me for the last week. The first one was when she claimed I didn’t love her and wasn’t attracted to her when she was heavy, early in our marriage. I was floored. First, I have no idea how that subject even came up, and I was further incensed that it wasn’t true.

The second comment came when my youngest daughter said that I was a nice guy. The ex made a face. When pressed by my oldest daughter as to the reason, she said “he is now, not so much when we were married.”

I was annoyed at the first one, I was downright pissed off at the second one. My appetite was gone and I wanted to go home. I didn’t, of course, and the rest of the day was ok. I had a cigar with the boys, the daughter’s joined us outside and enjoyed the weather with us, and I largely avoided the ex until it was time to leave.

I do my best thinking while driving, but that particular two hours was spent fuming.

With regards to the weight comment, I never had a problem with her weight. I always found her attractive. It’s she who was never happy with herself and always struggled with her self-image (the selfie thing is case in point). It got to the point where she was so critical of herself she shut off the sex spicket for good.

The nice guy (or not, as it were) thing? I will admit that I had my moments but it was never unprompted and in my recollection pretty warranted. We began fighting in the second year of our marriage and by the fourth child we were struggling maritally and financially. Money destroys marriages and ours was no exception. Add to the equation her complete hypocrisy as she bought whatever she wanted yet bitched about my career struggles and dropping income…yea I’m not going to be so nice.

But I was quick to apologize. I tried to learn from it and genuinely worked towards doing better. I accepted fault as graciously as I could.

Until I realized I was the only one.

Towards the end, I can honestly say that I gave up on us and my only focus was to salvage my relationship with my children. As for her and I, we tolerated each other. When we finally divorced, we were passive and civil. We went our own ways and it really seemed as if everything was cool. I set out to reconcile my anger and one day I decided to just forgive it. I forgave everything. It would be trite to say that I forgave her in particular, instead I did it for me. To unload the terrible baggage weighing on my shoulders. To sleep at night. To move towards a place of healing and to become the man I’ve always wanted to be, with the benefit of a fresh start.

Forgiveness is not as easy as it seems. Ole’ Superman thought that by snapping his fingers and taking a super breath, he could wash years of anger and frustration and be done with it. But it just isn’t that easy. Her bullshit comments of that day made me want to scream at her,

“Do you have any idea how much of your bullshit I let go!?”

But it wouldn’t have mattered. I was a fool to think that it was going to be that simple. Such a volatile, tumultuous relationship cannot just die out like an ocean storm, there has to be the inevitable ripple effects on the shoreline. I may have convinced myself that it is all good and forgiven, but it is not forgotten, despite my wanting more than anything for that to be true. 

I can’t just forget being screamed at and told to “go and die of kidney disease.”
I can’t just forget sleeping on the sofa for 15 years.
I can’t just forget being nagged constantly about money when I was doing everything that my skill set, physical limitations and increasing illness allowed.
I can’t just forget being replaced by her best friend as a support network.
I can’t just forget being in a loveless, sexless marriage and how I managed to stick it out for ten year after the fire was completely out and still remain faithful when no man ever would do so.

It’s not bad enough that I’m broken to the point where I will never find love again. I also have to shoulder the burden of so many painful memories and constantly asking myself a endless series of “why’s” and “what-ifs.” I have to remind myself that I chose to forgive everything for me, as my way of handling and coping. I can’t speak for her. It’s beyond my control and it is naïve to presume how she is to handle it on her end. I need to be, and I am, at peace with my efforts in this approach.

The big question then becomes… why do I even care?

A sidearm of reality

Most weekdays at about 4:30 I can expect a call from my buddy and Masonic brother Jeff. He likes to call me on his ride home as he is stuck in traffic. It’s his time, no wife and small children demanding his attention and he chooses to call me. It is a special friendship, and due to his complete dedication to his family he doesn’t have many. This is not lost on me. The respect I have for him is immeasurable and his friendship will never be taken advantage of. It should also be noted that he is one of the few people that can say whatever he wants to me without fear of offending.

Yesterday, true to form I got his call. I was happy to hear from him.

We talked about the usual stuff, his family, his job, the state of our Masonic Lodge. He never fails to prod me about my health, knowing that I usually sugar coat it he pushes me until I tell him the truth. I’m not sure why I try. Yesterday, the conversation took an unusual twist.

“So, you mentioned that you bought a new 9mm last month. Tell me about that” he said.
“Not much to tell, bud. I found a good deal and I bought it”, I replied.
“Do you carry it?”
“Of course.”

The silence on the other end was deafening. Finally, he spoke.

“I was going to save this for a face to face, but I need to get this out”, he said.
“Get what out?”, I asked him.
“Why? There, I said it.”
“Because I can, I suppose. My father always carried. I believe in the Second Amendment. I like to be prepared to defend myself or be a good Samaritan. I feel very comfortable with it strapped to my waist. And before you say it, I’m not looking for trouble.”
“Listen”, he said. “I’m all for it, the whole Second Amendment thing. The protection of life and property, I get it. But you’re…”
“I’m what?”
“You’re different.”
“How am I different?”
“People in your situation are prone to Depression. I read up on your condition and there is a very high suicide rate in CKD patients and dialysis patients in particular. I’m worried that you might use the 9mm and take my buddy away.”

I thought for a moment. I couldn’t argue with his facts or begrudge him his motives. He is a great friend.

“Jeff, you know me as well if not better than anyone, but when have you ever seen me exhibit signs of depression?”
“Truthfully, I haven’t. But I can’t believe that you haven’t with all of the shit that you’ve been through. And I know you lie to me a lot when I ask you how you are.”

He had me there. Guilty as charged. My entire family accuses me of the same thing. And they all think that I must be depressed. But I’m not a Theater-trained actor, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m a terrible liar. Yet they, and now Jeff don’t believe that I’m fine.

I explained to Jeff that I’m fine. He apologized for speculating as to my mental health. I assured him that it was fine, that his reasons were admirable, and thanked him for his concern.

After we hung up, I thought a little deeper on it.

I have lied to a lot of people about my health, not to worry them or out of a desire to just be treated normal, not as the “sick guy.” But I never lie to myself. I am not depressed.

My Doctor’s, my family, the nurses at my clinic constantly ask how my mental state is. It’s no big secret that patients like me get angry. Angry with life, with God. One guy committed suicide last month. He left a suicide note that simply read “I cant take the pain anymore.” It’s a real thing.

But not me. I am the anomaly. I am the happy patient. The jokester. The guy that plans for his next good day instead of living for treatment days. I really feel ok most of the time and most importantly I still find JOY in life.

I have a wonderful family. I get along famously with my ex-wife. My relationship with my children is tremendous. My oldest daughter tells me she loves me almost every day by phone or text. My oldest boy trusts and confides in me all the time. When he had food poisoning on Monday, he called me at 6:30 AM because I was the first person he thought to call. My youngest boy both admires and respects me and looks forward to opportunities to just sit and talk. My youngest daughter, she adores me. She tells anyone that will listen that I am her best friend. My mother, she welcomed me into her home at the lowest point in my life and has made me her first priority. All of these things equal one big conclusion.

These people are my reason for living.

If I was to die of natural causes, something I work hard at trying to avoid, they would be sad. If I committed suicide they would be devastated. Bottom line, I recognize the lure of suicide but I could never willingly cause pain to the ones I love. It’s selfish. And that is not me.

So where does the gun fit into all of this? Does anyone think that I didn’t think about the suicide thing when I decided to purchase it? I thought long and hard and I decided that it wasn’t an issue. Because I’m secure enough to know that I’m not at risk. I am a perpetually positive person with things that I want to do and places I want to go. There are weddings I want to go to and future grandchildren I look forward to bouncing on my knee.

The gun is just what it is. Protection. A sense of security. A manifestation of a Constitutional right. And maybe, just maybe, it is a reality check. Knowing that I can end it any time can keep me on the right path and in some morbid way, remind me to look at what I have to live for.

We all need something like that in our lives.

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.

Missed opportunities

 I posted recently about my 35th High School Reunion. It was a honest piece in which I spoke directly to the healing that I have experienced in the years since I graduated.

I spent a lot of years blaming others for my own lack of visibility and satisfaction. Consequently, I developed an aversion to all things HS related, in particular Reunions. Fortunately, I grew up and eventually I went to a couple. What I came up with is that it was as much my fault as anyone else. That realization led to growth. So in my post I was honest to myself and issued a statement to my classmates. It was fairly well received on WP. But WP wasn’t the desired audience. As supportive as the community was, I felt that my former classmates needed to hear it. So I posted the link to the FB page of my HS class. I was nervous. I felt like I was in HS again, so afraid of being judged or ostracized by my classmates. But I knew that it didn’t matter in the big picture what they thought of me. I had put that monkey behind me. And I was further fortified by the possibility that I wouldn’t even be alive for the next one. I hit the “share” button. There was no turning back.

The response was amazing.

People that I thought never even knew my name responded. Friends who I had lost touch with for years told me how proud they were to be my friend. Comment after comment posted about how well I captured the experience of High School. Of how they could relate. Of how they remembered me. One of my classmates went so far as to say that my prose had inspired him to attend the next one.I received multiple FB inbox messages telling me how much my post meant to them. Friend requests followed. My blog received a record 151 views in one day. I was deeply humbled.

 I am a guy who walked out of  The Breakfast Club saying “I call Bullshit”. I never believed that the scars caused by the cliques of HS could be overcome by one 8 hour session of detention. When RUSH released the song Subdivisions,I immediately adopted it as the story of my High School experience.To say that I was jaded is an understatement.  

I carried this resentment for too many years. It was uncomfortable, cumbersome and it went on for too long. Based on the feedback, and in some cases support, of my classmates I now know that I had it all wrong. So many years living in my own head.

Sunday I am driving to MA to have lunch with a guy I went to HS with. He was the most recent of FB inbox messages related to my FB posting. He really wants to get together and get to know each other. Here’s the kicker. I never knew him in HS as a friend. I actually thought he disliked me. Apparently I was wrong. I look forward to making a new friend, even if it’s an old one I wasn’t aware of. 

So many missed opportunities. I wonder how many I can recover before it’s too late.

3,2,1

I was nominated for the 3,2,1 challenge by the awesome Cheryl @ The Bag Lady. I want to thank her for the nomination and also ask you to check out her page. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

The idea is to post quotes about a topic. This one is on the ever elusive subject of TRUTH.

Here goes.

1)“Integrity is telling myself the truth.  And Honesty is telling the truth to others.”
Spencer Johnson

The above quote rings true for me in so many ways. First, I never had peace in my own skin until I took a long, hard look at myself and acknowledged my shortcomings. By recognizing my flaws and owning up to those things that I was not proud of I was able to get over myself and get to work. Beyond and above being able to forgive myself, I was able to compose a plan to improve myself.

Second, people need to hear the truth. Everyone says they want the truth but they don’t. Their biggest mistake is to ask and not be ready for the answer. I have often found myself in the role of truth teller. My candor and lack of pretense make me a good fit for the role. It’s a necessary one in the plastic and disingenous society we are becoming. The truth can hurt, can be disrupting, and it can piss you off. But it needs to be said if you want to walk this earth just and upright. I’m glad I found my own truth, apparently noone had the testicular fortitude to tell me. The truth has made me a better version of myself. I will never be a perfect man but I always endeavor to be a good one.

2) “What someone considers the truth is considered by someone else as a lie.
Bangambiki Habyiramana, The pursuit of dreams

This speaks to me on so many levels and brings complex emotions to the fore, but it’s actually not complex at all. Propaganda and misinformation are not new, but in the age of the internet, short attention spans and a biased media it is more important than ever to not accept everything we see, read and hear as gospel. We need to seek our own truth, question what we are told and make an effort to suppress our first reaction and approach it rationally. Too often we think with our feelings, while the truth is devoid of emotion. It is only about facts.

I won’t be nominating anyone. Play along if it makes you happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Bird-Day

My family always had a bit of fun with me at the Thanksgiving table when it came my turn to say what I was thankful for. Maybe I waxed a bit too poetic about deployed soldiers, the homeless and the lonely. I just felt it needed to be said. Eye rolls and sarcastic cracks aside, I still do.
Recent events in my life, while debilitating in some aspects, have had a profound impact on my ability to be grateful. It is almost a superpower. I have so much for a guy with so little. The best part is that it lasts all year, not just the holiday season.
If you live with the knowledge that no matter your situation, someone always has it worse you will achieve a generous spirit that will survive more than one Thursday a year.
This time of year there is an abundance of people who show up at pantries and shelters to volunteer. Sometimes people are even turned away because too many show up. But in August they are begging for volunteers. The need doesn’t go away when the trees are taken down, neither should the spirit. Giving doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. A simple smile and a good word may be all someone needs to have their faith in humanity restored or energized.
No-one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
I am grateful for my family and my friends. I am thankful for all kindness and generosity, regardless of the scale. My goal is to spread that mentality like a bee spreads pollen.
Happy Thanksgiving to all. If you have a little extra spirit, I’m sure someone would love a slice.
Every day can be Thanksgiving with the right outlook.