Nothing is an accident

Nothing happens by accident. Everything happens for a reason.

Wait…who said that? Was that me? It sure as hell doesn’t sound like something the old me would ever say. The borderline agnostic, the “I stop at being spiritual” guy who reluctantly opened his heart and mind to the possibility that there is a driving force in the universe just said the unthinkable.

I recently met someone I now know in my heart of hearts that I was supposed to meet. I was in need of awakening, of hope, of inspiration and of expansion of what I know now was my very small world.

This person challenges me in multiple ways. To think bigger, to look deeper, to question the unquestionable and embrace the once unthinkable. As I was called “Mr. Practical” and “Stubborn Yankee” and other gems I was challenged to delve into schools of thought like Mysticism, Numerology, Astrology and Eastern Religions and Philosophy. I pushed back on all of them and then when the person wasn’t looking I studied it and found myself believing.

I’m now a better person for what I’ve opened myself up to. I am open to things I once scoffed at. It’s difficult for me, pragmatism, logic and reason have been my Navigation tool my entire life. I can’t help but look at things and ask “How is this going to work?”. “What’s the end game?”, and “Shouldn’t we do this first?”. I don’t just plunge into the pool, I stick my toe in first to see if the water is cold.

I wish this was good enough for my muse, but I’m afraid it’s not.

It’s amazing how difficult baby steps are for this stuck-in-his-ways-grownass-adult. Maybe the reason you entered my life is for me to learn to take bigger steps with a carefree jaunt.

A nice day for a wedding

He sat in the back of the little white church. It doesn’t matter where or the occasion, if he was in a church he sat in the back. He got it from his Grandfather who always joked that if his presence in a church causes the ceiling plaster to crack and fall in, always be near the door for a quick escape. The mere recollection of his Grandfather brought a bemused look to his face. Without realizing it he was studying the ceiling for cracks. The guests shuffling in must have gotten a chuckle out of the middle-aged, balding man laughing to himself alone in a pew.
Hell, I don’t think I know one person in this room so who cares? He mused to himself. Except the groom, for whom he had driven 120 miles to this admittedly beautiful but out of the way location.

The church was almost half full of guests. Without even hearing them speak, he could tell that the guests on the “Brides side” had come a long way. For starters, they were tanned. It was late October in NH and they were not wearing warm clothes. He was impressed that they had come so far for the bride. From what he had heard from his buddy the Groom, this girl was worth traveling across the country for.

He shifted his people-watchers back to his own section and reflected on the tale that he had been told, the story of the bride and groom as told over a few beers in July. He was in disbelief over the details as his friend the future groom told it. Amazingly, the groom was almost equally in disbelief. The nuts and bolts was that he was head over heels over a woman he had never actually met. Their “relationship” had started as a online friendship that evolved to emails, then to texts and calls. Soon they spoke in some manner for most of the day. Every day.
He could recall the look on his face as he said,
“I love her, man. This is fucking crazy. I fought it and fought it but I can’t anymore. She’s the one.” He was equal parts incredulous and smitten.
It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to him, but he really enjoyed seeing his friend happy. Happy is a word that had not been associated with his friend in a long time.

His thoughts were interrupted by the organist. He hadn’t noticed that the little church had filled a little more and that the minister, known only as “Pastor Larry” had set up at the podium and the small wedding party, including his buddy the groom, was at the front of the church waiting for the entrance of the beautiful bride. He was excited about that as well because he had not met her yet, only seen pictures of her.

As if in synch with his thoughts, Yours by Ella Henderson began to fill the church. It was a beautiful, powerful song and it filled him with emotions as he watched the bride enter the foyer. Man, she was everything his friend had said. Tall, with bright and beautiful eyes, shoulder-length brown hair and bright red lipstick she practically flowed into the room in her floor-length strapless gown. She was stunning. He glanced to the front and saw the tears forming in his buddy’s eyes. He was so happy at the very sight of her.

As if sensing that the moment was getting too intense. the bride briefly tripped over her dress and uttered a pretty audible “Fuck!” and then sheepishly smiled, laughed it off and made her way to the altar. He had heard about that side of her as well. His bud the groom had joked that her vows would probably include the words “Fucking right!”. He could picture it. He had heard all about this beautiful lady and she had quite a story. One that had seemed destined to have tragedy written all over it until their chance encounter. Now, she was fond of the words “happily ever after.”

It was a beautiful ceremony. Simple and elegant. When they exchanged vows, the couple were barely able to choke back tears as they proclaimed their love for each other. As he listened to their exchange he wondered if everyone in the room was as familiar with their remarkable story as he was, of the myriad of events and the tumultuous events that occurred that would have derailed so many relationships in person, never mind from a distance. Yet they had believed and fought for it and they made it happen.

Soon, they had their kiss and the crowd cheered and they made their way down the aisle. As they passed the groom reached out to him and grasped his hand.
“Glad you’re here, bro. Thank you”, he said.
“Wouldn’t miss it, man,” he replied.

He watched as they filed out the door into the late afternoon sunlight. Among all of the commotion of pictures and family members swarming around them he studied the groom. The way he was looking at her, like she was the center of his universe. The guy that had once told him that he was not destined to ever be happy was beaming with his beautiful new bride at his side. He had proven himself wrong and in the process had proved her right.

There is always the opportunity for a Happily Ever After.

He squeezed his way past the crowd and stepped off to the side to light a cigarette. He looked at the clear blue sky, the radiant fall foliage and its reflection on the still lake behind them. He could see what his friend loved about the area. It really was beautiful. A fine day for a wedding indeed.

deep, lasting bruises

My shoulder is killing me. I have a large goose egg on my elbow. My hip is so sore I can barely walk. But nothing hurts as badly as my pride.

NH has a very stringent policy on Motorcycle endorsements. You can only have a learner’s permit for 45 days at which time you need to schedule a road test or complete a state run safety course that, provided you pass the skills test you are granted a license upon completion. Once the 45 days is up you had better have a license because you can’t get another permit. I set up and timed it perfectly, I took the surprisingly difficult test at the DMV exactly 45 days before I would complete the safety course with the hopes (dare I say expectation?) that I would leave the course with my license.

I then embarked on as many days of riding as I could, the weather has been terrible) and at the end of the 43rd day I felt good about my skills. I put almost 2000 miles on my bike in that time and I deliberately worked on areas of difficulty to make myself a better rider.

I showed up at the practice course ready for 2 days (8 hours each Sat and Sun) of learning. I had jumped through hoops to make it work, including rearranging my dialysis schedule which included making my extra day a 6 AM (ugh) start. Great sacrifice went into this but it was a necessary evil and I was ready.

Overall, it was a cool experience. The instructors were knowledgeable and fun. It was hot as hell but we took many breaks. At the end of the day I was tired. It probably isn’t advisable for a dialysis patient to spend 8 hours pushing and riding a motorcycle in the heat but I didn’t complain, I didn’t want any special treatment. At the end of day 1 I was exhausted. I had a hour and a half hour ride home and when I got there I was done. I woke at 5 am the next day and embarked on day 2.

Day 2 was a disaster. It was baking hot and I hated the motorcycle they assigned me. It was really small and the controls were much closer than on my own bike and I never got used to it the entire day. But I got through the day, barely. Worn from the heat, cranky and not feeling well I felt my stomach drop when they announced “evaluation time.”

I don’t test well, I have extreme test anxiety. I have a hard time performing anything in front of a group of people. It’s the main reason I had to abandon my Porn career. I was nervous and filled with dread despite their assurances that it would not be difficult. The 12 of us lined up.

The first exercise was fine. Not great but I did it. I was really struggling with the size of my bike. The second exercise not so good, on a corner I cut too sharp and the bike tipped over. I was furious, embarrassed and in pain. None of which compared to the sudden realization that I had also failed. The instructors made sure I wasn’t hurt and pushed my bike to the side. I was hurt but didn’t tell them. I went to sit in the shade and fume. One of the instructors came over and told me not to leave, no matter how mad because there was still the knowledge test and if I missed that I would have to repeat the entire course.

There I was. One of the only class members who had actually ridden before, sitting in the corner with a fucking Dunce Cap on.

For the next 30 minutes I waited inside in the AC and fumed. I was beyond myself. While I was waiting I walked over to a chart on the wall. At the beginning of the class we were asked to rate ourselves on our own skill, knowledge and awareness of motorcycle riding. I was a cocky prick and I felt safe giving myself 8’s and 9’s. After all, I had ridden in groups, highways, hills and corners with some very good riders. I erased all of my scores and changed them to Zeros across the board.

As the rest of the non-fuck-up classmates trickled in I kept my face in a book to avoid eye contact. I would have chewed my own arm off to get the fuck out of there at that point. But I didn’t. I took the test, scored 100% and waited for my exit interview. I made it easy for them, I said “yea, I screwed up and I will take the course again.” The instructor felt bad.

“Bill, you’ve got the skills, you just had a bad day.”
“If you think I have the skills, will you pass me?”?
“Sorry. No.”

That was the end for me. I got in my truck, texted Lois that I was a failure and an idiot and made the hour and a half hour drive home. I was miserable.

I spent the rest of the day in a foul mood and woke up about the same. I sulked around for a few hours and then I decided I had to take it on headfirst. I went to the DMV and enrolled for a road test. I scheduled it for next week. I am going to practice the moves that I struggled with and I am going to pass that goddamn test with the assistance of improved skills and a hopefully nice test administrator.

I hate pity parties and therefore I host as few as possible. My wounds still hurt today, but the ego feels a little better because I took some action to resolve this. I don’t feel great, but at least I don’t feel bad for myself.

Now if I can just get the remembrance of dropping a motorcycle and hitting the pavement in front of a large group of people out of my head.

Lessons unlearned

I came home today to be greeted by the sounds of Circular Saws and Hammers. The Contractors are finally finishing work on our Farmer’s Porch that they started in October. On the way into the house I paused to watch in fascination as they measured, cut and nailed with such precision and skill. And, as often happens, I triggered myself. Again.

I can’t hear a saw, a hammer or a drill without thinking about how much I didn’t learn from my father despite the many offers and opportunities. My dad was beyond handy, he could do almost anything with his hands. My earliest memories were of my dad rebuilding our house as we lived in it. He would work from 5 AM to 6 PM or later, slam down a quick dinner and then go to work until at least 10. The saw and hammer were sounds I knew at a very early age.

As I got older Dad tried to enlist my assistance, not because he necessarily needed help but instead to teach me. I was eager to help him but not very interested in learning anything new. This was odd for me because I was an eager student in every other aspect of life. I would pull nails from a pile he created, I could swing a hammer fairly well but offers of learning to measure, use woodworking tools and such were dropped due to lack of interest. Even offers of car maintenance were met with tepid enthusiasm despite our shared love of everything to do with cars.

One incident really stands out in my mind. One evening when I was in my late teens Dad offered to show me how to change the oil on my car. He had it already in the garage, the drive up lifts set up and all. The house phone rang (cell phones weren’t invented yet) and it was my girlfriend (she was goddamn gorgeous if that is relevant at all here) and she was imploring me to come over her house. I told her I was doing something with my Dad that was important and she insisted that it was very important. I had to make a decision and I can honestly say that I made the wrong one. I blew off my Dad.

The look of disappointment on his face was tangible. In my feeble defense, I really thought my girlfriend needed me. That almost helped me pull out of the garage feeling good about myself. Almost.

I arrived at my girlfriend’s house 20 minutes later and knocked on her door. She yelled for me to come up. I went upstairs, asking as I climbed the steps if she was ok, still very curious as to what the emergency was. As I entered her room and saw her lying there buck naked with a rose between her teeth I knew that I had been suckered. It was merely a sexual emergency. I somehow managed to get through it but soon after I began to feel bad.

I apologized profusely to my Dad the next day. He was curt and brief with me. He wasn’t mad, he was disappointed and that was always so much worse. He told me that he had offered to show me something for the last time. It was a pivotal moment in my relationship with my father and one of many regrets that I have from my childhood with regards to my dad. If I could talk to him for only five minutes it would be a priority in the conversation. He was such a hard-working and self-taught man. I admired him so. I take some comfort in many other things that I did learn from him that have made me the person I am but there is still a lot of regret.

Sorry Dad, how’s it go…If I knew now what I didn’t know then?

On Grief

She cared for her husband when he was sick and dying. He was a veteran with a pension and Medicare but he couldn’t secure a spot in a Nursing Home. For six long years she was Nurse and Caretaker until the day he left us. I never saw her cry. She claimed that she grieved his loss while he was alive.

A short six months after her beloved husband died she met another man. A man that adored her. It was a second chance for both of them and they were happy. They moved in together until they decided that their upbringings demanded that they get married. They did. 3 short months after he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. He died 10 days from diagnosis. I never saw her cry.

She went on an online dating site 2 months after he died and began dating a man soon after.

She put her beloved dog down last Friday. I saw her cry for a brief moment. That’s it. She’s already talking about getting another dog.

She is my mother, and she does not Grieve.

I have grappled with and marveled at this for many years. I am no closer to understanding it now than before. If she was a closed-off person by nature it would make more sense. But she’s a warm, caring person. She is outgoing, friendly and kind. She had a caring, if not somewhat overbearing mother who showered her with love. Her father was, in my opinion one of the nicest men ever to walk the planet. But something or someone critical in her formative years taught her that women, not just men, don’t cry.

I tried talking to her about it the other day. I asked if she grieves in private or not at all. She revealed that she has her moments when she thinks about my dad and her second husband Frank. The memories are all over the house in the form of pictures and the fact that my Dad essentially built the house we live in. T0here are the triggers, the songs and smells and random nuggets that make us think of that one special person. They make her cry…a little. But not for long, no sense wasting time on what’s already happened.

This can only be the inherited toughness from her mother. Mom’s family cab be faithfully traced back to the ages of Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower and they were solid, steadfast people that frowned on weakness. Her mother was a stalwart example of that bloodline. I’m sure her mother taught her to “suck it up” and not dwell on that which is beyond our control. It worked for her when she was orphaned at a young age and was raised by her brow-beating Grandmother. I’m not sure she did her daughter right by passing this on to her.

I have no pretense of trying to change her. It simply cannot be done. I also inherited, or learned, toughness as one of our family traditions. It has served me well as my life’s buffet has been a seemingly endless supply of Shitburgers. But I do know how to let things go properly.

I wish my mother would just, for once, let it out. Grief is like a lungful of air after a deep inhale. If you let it out slowly it hurts. If you open up and let it go it leaves the body quickly and painlessly. I admire her toughness and her ability to trudge forward no matter how strong the wind is. But toughness at the risk of emotional health is the wrong way to go.

Yes, those of you that know me know that I admire and exemplify a high level of toughness and it is no exception with her. But before I tell something to Fuck Off from my life permanently I deal with it properly. I forgive once I decide that it’s good for me to do so. I cry occasionally because it’s too hard keeping it in. I admit when I’m wrong because it’s the right thing to do. I also know how to grieve, too well unfortunately. I’ve had lots of practice. My mother, on the other hand doesn’t deal with things, she just plays the waiting game in hopes that it will go away on its own. And she always wins. It’s not healthy.

Yes, let it go, but only after you have made proper peace with it.

Goodbye faithful friend

You’ve been struggling for a while. The spring in your step wasn’t quite there. Your deep brown eyes lost a bit of their sparkle. Your playfulness had begun to wane.

We tried to call it a phase. We woke each day hoping that we would see that spark. Occasionally you showed us glimpses of your old self. But you were tired. You were in pain. Life wasn’t fun for you anymore. It eventually began clear to us that you were never going to come out of this.

This last week you provided us with no glimpses of former you. You moved slowly. Your pain was obvious. When you fell on the stairs and needed help to get up we knew that a terrible but necessary decision was made.

It was time to put you to sleep.

For 13 years you were the loyal family dog. You weren’t a pet, my heart can only be this broken for a family member or a dear friend. You were always happy to see me, even when no one else was. You were always by my side so that I never felt alone. When the house was empty, I had wonderful companionship sleeping at my feet. As only a dog could do, your friendship was omnipresent and unconditional. I was one of your pack.

As one of your pack, I vowed that when your time of need came that I would be by your side, tirelessly and unconditionally. That promise was called in today as we woke to find you listless on the kitchen floor. Your sad brown eyes said it all. You were done, you needed relief from your pain and we had to do what was right for you despite how hard it would be for us. We called the veterinarian and asked to bring you in.

I carried you in to the office. You never let me pick you up until today. The waiting room full of people knew why you were there. They avoided eye contact out of respect and the knowledge of what we were there to do. They let us right in and we placed you on a cold metal table. I put your favorite blanket under you. They gave you a sedative and fed you treats until you put your head down. We patted your head and told you what a good boy you are, and have always been. The Dr. asked us if we were ready. Mom was sobbing. I teared up a little. But I held your little paw and stroked your ears in your favorite spot as they shaved a small section of your leg and gave you an injection.

As you stood by me in life, I stood by you at the end of yours.

“He’s gone”, the Dr. gingerly uttered a few moments later. We were asked if we wanted a private moment. I left my mother alone with him. I had said my goodbyes.

He leaves a hole that can never be filled for reasons that can never be explained. I will cherish the memories, for that is all that remains of my loyal, silly, loveable little furry friend. He is in a better place, at peace and free of pain. Somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge.

Unlike those of us who wish he was still here.

Bad things to great people

I woke this morning to an absolutely beautiful, cloudless day. Spring and Summer have largely evaded the Northeast so far this year so I deduced that I really had no choice but to take the iron steed to my Nephrology appointment. I saddled up for the 50 mile ride south.

As my window had suggested, it was nothing short of a glorious hour ride and I’m pretty sure I smiled the whole way. I made excellent time so I rode around a bit before I pulled into the Medical building the suggested ten minutes early. I parked Bella, wiped the dust and pollen off of her and went inside.

After I checked in I went to sit in the waiting room. Seeing the helmet, several people struck up conversation with me about riding, the weather, etc. I’m still amazed at what a conversation starter a helmet is. After several minutes of small talk, I was called in.

My doctor, who handles most of my needs including monitoring my progress on dialysis, glanced at the helmet, surveyed my jeans, boots, tanned arms and face and said “Well, I guess I don’t have to ask how you’re feeling, do I?”

“I could lie to you, Doc but I feel great.”

After a thorough 30 minute evaluation he concluded that indeed, I was feeling great. He ordered some routine tests and sent his Nurse in to do some follow-up exams. Her name was Madison.

Madison was very good at talking to patients and we immediately began talking as she breezed through her routine. It didn’t take long for her to start talking about her fiancĂ©, and how he was critically injured at work. He is a tow driver and he was hit by a car. I suggested that maybe it was the opening for him to maybe get a better, safer job someday. That’s what I do, put a posi spin on things. She agreed. Then she said something that really resonated with me,
“It seems bad things happen to the best people. As a nurse I see it every day.”
“Can I expound on that?” I asked.
“Sure.”
“It’s been my experience that the illnesses and accidents create the best people.”‘
She was visibly intriguedby what I said. I kept it as brief as I could as I told her what Chronic Illness and my experiences in the blogosphere with the many Chronically ill bloggers that I loyally follow and interact with have shown me. That illness and injury bring out the best of us. I have stopped short of calling it a blessing, but it is undeniable that when faced with unpleasantness and uncertainty many people develop a true appreciation and zest for life that “healthy” people may never achieve. We love more, fight less, forgive more easily, breathe more deeply and waste fewer moments because we don’t have the luxury of guaranteed longevity.

Madison is young, I would guess no older than 23. She was enthralled by my thoughts but I suspect she is taking my word for it to a large degree. She is too young to have seen a lot of the ugly in the world. But I know that I gave her something to think about. She is a good nurse and I’m sure she is decent and kind to all of her patients. But I hope that she will learn to treat her more hardscrabble patients not with pity or sympathy, but instead as the warriors that they are.

Every day is a beautiful day if you take the time to find the beauty. It beats waiting for a better day that you may not be around to see.