Being a good sport

Thank you Lisa for the nomination for the Liebster.

I don’t have an award-free blog. I’ve actually gotten a few nods before. I’ve played along and have always been grateful for the recognition. To be nominated means your work meant something to somebody and that is a good thing. Because I’ve nominated so many people in turn before, many of whom didn’t want to participate, I won’t be nominating anyone but I have chosen to answer the questions posed to me by Lisa @ All about life because I love her blog. And you should too. She is a kind soul, full of nice things to say and has a great story to tell in each and every post. You should follow her.

The eight questions:
1) If you could swap lives with someone for just one day who would it be and why?
I don’t have any one person in mind. There are so many. I suppose that I would trade places with anyone whose life is radically different than mine. I would like to walk a mile in the shoes of someone who has it truly worse than me so that I never lose empathy and compassion for my fellow man.

2) What’s your favorite thing to eat?
Comfort foods. Foods from my humble childhood. Mac & cheese (homemade of course with welfare cheese), hot dogs and beans, cheap steak and mashed potatoes. They bring me back to the days when I watched my overworked father dive into a hot meal after a 14 hour day. I admired him so.

3) Do you believe in reincarnation and, if so, do you have any memories of past lives?
I don’t believe in reincarnation nor have I ever had memories of past lives.
Reincarnation is a nice idea but it has no place in this imperfect world. It is to me the representation of the “redo”, the second chance. We say it all the time, “if I could do HS over”, or “redo my childhood” in the interest of doing it different. We don’t have that luxury as imperfect beings. We are all figuring it out as we go. We make mistakes and learn from them. It’s what we share as humans. If I were to meet a person who has it all figured out maybe I’d change my mind. Someone who had walked this earth in a different skin  and previous knowledge would have an unfair advantage. It doesn’t fit my view of the world.

4) What really irritates you?
Just one thing? Angry, rude people. No one has the right to make a person feel like shit in order to make themselves feel better. If you can’t be in a decent mood, or at least act respectful then stay the fuck home. A person’s worth should be gauged by how they treat others. Especially one that can’t do anything for them.

5) Which character from Friends are you most like?
I’m not the best person to ask this question. I think the show is snail snot. That’s just me. But I’ll play along.
Ross is the Ted Moseby of the show. I hate him. He feels entitled to Rachel. I was glad he had a baby with a Lesbian. He deserved it. Chandler is a twit. Phoebe is a dipshit. Monica is a neurotic knucklehead and Rachel  only appealed to me for two reasons, both of which were amply displayed in her choice of tops. It’s Joey. He is a harmless, good hearted idiot. He is incapable of pretense. Like me.

6) What song, without fail, makes you smile (please post link)
Life is better with you by Michael Franti and Spearhead. It’s about love,  both romantic love and that for all of those we encounter every day. It oozes unconditional acceptance. And it is fun to listen to. Don’t take my word for it, watch it here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XEOVl875d0

7) How would you spend your last day on Earth?
Much like I spend every other day. Chronic illness has taught me to treat each day as if it were my last. I tell people how I feel about them and I leave nothing for tomorrow. I give whatever I can, the simplest acts go the farthest. I smile at strangers. Maybe today is the day they decided no one loves them. It’s so easy to show them how wrong they are.

8) What law would you change and why?
Marijuana laws. I don’t smoke it myself because I am a high cancer risk but I have before and I know what it is all about. It is not a “gateway” drug, I don’t believe it is habit forming and the medical benefits become clearer each and every day. It makes people feel good, it makes them laugh, it makes them relax. I know it impairs, so I support laws against operating a vehicle while under the influence. Like liquor. With weed, people don’t knock over gas stations. With the exception of shoplifting a bag of Cheetos.

8 random (short) thoughts about me.

  1. I talk to dogs like they are people
  2. I’m guilty of turning my radio off when driving if I’m lost
  3. I get road rage in Supermarkets
  4. I care about a woman’s personality more than her looks
  5. I watch the chick-flick Sweet Home Alabama when no women are in the room
  6. I never liked one-night stands. I guess I respect women
  7. I used to sit in my children’s rooms at night and listen to them breathe
  8. My organ donor was female. I now pee sitting down and I get grouchy once a month.
    OK I’m kidding about number 8

No nominations folks, play along if you want. I hope I did good Lisa.

a good week

I have to say, it’s been a good week. Other than a killer case of gout and dry-eye, which is essentially a bloody eyeball with a centralized headache behind it that makes focusing unbearable, things have been good.

Dialysis, I am happy to say, has made me feel a lot better. Some may complain about it and feel bad for themselves but I am here to say that I feel better than I have in months. So much so that I stepped forward to help out at the local Community Club meeting. I helped, alongside 7 other awesome people, prepare a meal for 86 people and then had enough energy to serve, clean tables and wash dishes after. While I admit that I was hurtin’ for certain by the end of it, I know that I could not have done half of that even a month ago.

My Social Security Disability came through this week. I have been waiting a long time and it has never been a guarantee. I was very disheartened when I was denied in December. I was very encouraged when I had my appeal this past August but still, I was not certain about being approved and even if I was, how far back would it go. It worked out perfectly for me, I will be getting a retroactive settlement from October of 2016. Over $30,000 to soften the blow. I will give my family half of it and that should set them up pretty good. I will pay back my mother and catch up on everything I have put off for the last 18 months. In the Spring I will buy a used motorcycle.

My friend Steve, who I wrote about last week must have been blessed by all of you that wished him well. After several years of waiting by the phone for MA General to call him, driving in to be tested against a cadaver because there was a fatality that may be a match for him, he got the call on Wednesday. This one was a match and he got a new liver. He is recovering nicely now. I am absolutely thrilled for him. As the saying goes, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. He’s a good man and a great friend.

Well, that’s it. Superman is back to his old self (for the most part). My strength is coming back, my sense of humor has caused people to say “you’re like the old you!” and I’m even losing a couple of chins in the process of dialysis.

I’m going to enjoy the day because this is a good one. I’m going to run with it because, after all, who knows what tomorrow will bring right?

where were you on that fateful day?

17 years ago to the day
I can’t see the world
quite the same way
disgusted by how far
some will go
to destroy those
they don’t even know
it escapes me
it really does
the hatred and venom
their twisted cause
For some the anger has faded
not me
I’m eternally jaded
where were you?
on that fateful morn
when buildings fell
and hearts were torn
I still look to the sky
I stop and ask myself why
airplanes staying in the air
are no longer a given
our only crime?
our way of living
lives changed forever
innocence was lost
the widows and orphans
such a tremendous cost
if broken spirits were the goal
the bastards failed
Old Glory’s still on her pole
It brought out the best in us
the tables were turned
we rose to the occasion
as the buildings burned
First Responder’s responded
with soldiers and regular Joe
reacted with a fierce resolve
that we had yet to show
for a short, glorious time
we were all brothers
put aside our differences
respected each other
came together as one
hatred can only conquer
if you choose to let it
hang your head today
and always remember
The weight of your heart
on this day in September
mourn for the lost
the brave and the strong
celebrate those that fight for us
all the year long
on this anniversary
of an event so heinous
may faith, hope and charity
always sustain us

Sunshine Blogger award

I was nominated by All about life for the Sunshine blogger award.

And the award goes to…….those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community and, apparently, that includes me! While not much for awards (I really don’t feel worthy), out of respect for her nominating me and with a desire to draw attention to her blog I want to answer the questions posed in the nomination. Lisa pens a really wonderful blog, written in a very down-to-earth manner and it just reeks of positivity.  She engages her readers and offers sincere, useful feedback. Oh yeah, she’s funny. Check that out here. I personally am thrilled to have found her blog.

  1. What’s the thing that you like most about yourself?
    I would like to think that if nothing else, I am genuine. I can’t and won’t pretend I’m something I’m not. Some people are like playing cards. From the front they look solid, turn them to the side and there’s just nothing there.
  2. Do you have any little oddities?
    I have a lot of little oddities. Let’s see if I can come up with a non-embarrassing one. I have a nervous tick, when I tell a joke that I am uncertain about (due to appropriateness or for fear of offending a snowflake) I slap my leg at the punchline. My son makes fun of me all of the time for it.
  3. A million dollars or a 1000 hours of bliss? Which would you prefer?
    I would take the million dollars and then create some bliss. I would do as many meaningful gestures as possible with the money. Anything from buying new cars for my kids to helping a military family or a family with a terminally ill child. Something that would better someone’s life.
  4. Which animal do you most identify with?
    The dog. I have the potential to love unconditionally. I am loyal. I may have teeth and am capable of doing harm but at the end of the day if you rub my head just right I will be truly happy. 
  5. Do you believe in fate or think we create our own destinies?
    I’ve always struggled with the notion that our destinies are pre-determined. That it’s all a master plan that we have to wait and see how it plays out. So I guess I believe that we, to the best of our abilities create our own destinies. In the end it is a combination of our willingness to take risks, our drive to succeed, the ability to make good decisions and our ability to get up after we get our asses kicked.
  6. Which of your blog posts are you most proud of (feel free to add link)
    I tend to avoid the word “proud”. But I would have to say that I am happy with my few attempts at fiction and poetry but I am most rewarded by the response I have gotten from those posts that I really put my bare ass out there and shared my life. Many who read me find my “brutal honesty” (not my words but a reader’s) refreshing. It helped me also by putting it out there, it is liberating.
  7. It’s your last day on Earth – what will you do?
    I’ve been chronically ill for a long time. I am probably the worst I have ever been as I type this. I tend to treat each day as if it is my last in that I make sure that all of the people in my life know how I feel about them; that I free myself from anger and bitterness; not waste my time with negative people and thoughts; and I make it a point to enjoy every sunset, gust of breeze, conversation, and opportunity to laugh knowing that if I were not to wake tomorrow I left nothing on the table.
  8. What’s your favorite quote and why?
    Pine
    I don’t care how much shit you have, how many instagram followers you have, how much you make or how big your house is. Do you have character? That is how you will be remembered.
  9. If you had to give up one forever would it be reading or writing?
    I’d eat a bullet before I would give up either. Books are an eternal wellspring of knowledge, fantasy and learning. A life without these is no life. Writing is my only therapy, I like to think I do it well and I would also like to think that I have helped or inspired someone by my writing.
  10. What’s your happiest memory?
    I have so many. All of them involved when my kids were young. Footie pajamas, silly movies, shoulder rides, bedtime stories and belly laughs. Wishing they would never grow up. 
  11. Who are you?
    I am Bill. I will never put fruit in my beer. I like what I like and I don’t ask you to change for me, just accept me for what I am. Opinionated as hell but accepting to a fault.  I am a philanthropist with no money, I still want to save the world. I am a guy with no job, no money living with his mother that still believes that life is good and will only get better.

I am not going to nominate anyone. If you feel encouraged to play along, I would love to hear your answers to the same (great) questions.

The kindness of strangers

I wrote a post many, many months ago challenging those who say the lovely, always productive phrase “people suck.” You can find it Here.

I’ve always hated that expression. I believe, I want to and have to, that most people strive to be the best person they can be. I also believe that the best way to reveal character is not in the year of your car, the size of your watch, how much you have in the bank or how many Instagram followers you have but instead by your deeds towards others.

I’m less interested in whether you have stood with the great. I want to know if you’ve sat with the broken.

I received a call from a Masonic Brother last week. He was checking in to see how I was feeling. I told him the truth. Virtually sofa-ridden, fatigued and in need of dialysis. He appreciated the update. We talked for a while and he then excused himself because he had something to do. I put down the phone, put my head back and settled in for the ninth nap of the day (I may be exaggerating a bit). Several minutes later my phone starting blowing up with FB notifications. I took a look.

He had excused himself to compose FB posts on every MA FB page related to Masonry regarding my condition and my need for another donor. It was overwhelming.

The messages began to pour in. Due to my brother’s gesture I have six, yes six people who have asked to be tested in order to donate a kidney to me. 4 of them I have never met or even heard their name before.
download (46)

I am humbled, excited, honored and blessed by this outpouring of support. It has given me something that I have not experienced, nor expected to, for over a year. What is that you ask?

Hope, I now have hope.

If I ever have the privilege of speaking to any of you, please don’t ever tell me that people suck. I’m not the guy who will buy into that mentality. The good ones are out there, maybe you have to look a little harder. Just remember…

If you can’t find one, become one.

38,325 days…the later years

This is the 7th and final installment of my series on the remarkable life of my late Grandmother Marion. You can check the archives for the previous installments. I hope you enjoy.

When I left off my Grandfather had passed away at the age of 92. At the time, they were living in a really nice Assisted Living community. I feel the need to mention this because Marion was one of the only residents who didn’t need assistance.

They moved out of their tiny, quaint home into this facility on the condition that their house would not be sold while they were alive. With that detail secured, they made the move to a very small apartment in a building that could always be identified by the Ambulance parked out front with the engine running. The transition was difficult for Marion, there was only room for a small amount of her furniture in the apartment but she managed to take the pieces that made her the happiest and the rest went into storage. The place did have its advantages, there were other residents to make friends with, they didn’t have to worry about treacherous stairs and shoveling driveways anymore, and transportation was provided by the town. They were also offered extensive Visiting nursing care…Marion would have none of it. It wasn’t until my Grandfather started to really fail that she accepted the medical assistance. After he passed away, she had little difficulty caring for her apartment and for herself. She did accept the services of the volunteer “companions.” Some she became quite close with, others were unceremoniously shown the door. She wasn’t lonely. She disliked 80% of her neighbors for some reason or other (we never knew and stopped asking) but made a small circle of friends that kept her busy. She lived like this for years with little or no medical care. She watched her soap operas, went to the Senior center and lived for company, especially from my 4 kids, her great-grandchildren, who she absolutely adored.

 

My parents had retired to NH and only came down to visit Marion and maintain her house in order to resell it someday. I had a large house at the time so it made sense to have holidays at my house. I loved hosting the holidays. I had a big table to seat large groups, many chairs, and sofas to sleep off the inevitable food coma and several rooms so that we could all spread out. One of the big upsides of hosting was not having to take my kids out. They were free to be at home and be as wild or as mellow as they wanted. And they had a great room to get away from the adults. The previous owners had converted the garage into a giant “playroom” and after dinner that’s where you would find them.

One Thanksgiving, when Marion was 97 years old, she got off of the sofa after a brief siesta and went to the playroom to see what her beloved Great-Grandchildren were doing. The room entrance had a 1-inch drop that we were careful to tell people about. She did fine as she crossed over and checked on the kids. After she had watched them be wild and crazy for awhile she turned to exit the room. She failed to remember the step up and she went down. Hard. On her face. She didn’t even get her arms out. I was across the room, I didn’t have time to catch her, I could only watch in slo-mo as she went down. I will never forget the sickening sound as she hit the floor. She was in great pain. We called 911 and kept her still. The paramedics arrived and we all went outside to give them room. As they wheeled her out, her face bloodied, the paramedic leans into me and says, “Sir, your grandmother is 97 and claims that she’s not on any medications? Is that correct?”

“Yes, it is,” I replied. “Unless you count a daily aspirin.”

He continued on in amazement. An hour later she was released, the only injury she sustained was a broken tooth.

Later that year she was moved to a Nursing home after she developed some Gastrointestinal issues and was being hospitalized frequently. She wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon, she had just had surgery and had a Colostomy bag installed. She hated the bag and refused to learn how to care for herself with it. They wouldn’t let her leave until she mastered it but she was too stubborn. So stubborn that she asked to have the surgery reversed so that she could “use the crapper like everyone else”. At age 98 she was deemed healthy enough to do the surgery. She breezed through the surgery, amazed the doctors and moved to another assisted living facility. Incredible.

Previous to her 100th birthday, we called Good Morning America and requested that Al Roker feature her on the show. He did such stories all of the time and we hoped she would get a mention. He never responded. Marion shrugged her shoulders, said “the hell with him, dismissed it and moved on. Unfazed, we still gave her a hell of a party at the home. She shared her “Flag Cake” with everyone as she cheerfully, and without assistance, devoured her slice.

Her 101st, 102nd and 103rd birthdays would find her still alert, pushing her wheelchair with her feet around the entire facility, accusing people of stealing from her. When we visited her, they had to find her for us because she was never in her room.

Her 103rd birthday party was the last birthday my father, who was very ill with Parkinson’s disease, would spend with her. One very profound memory of that day, other than her recalling the name of her class President from her HS class of 1929, was her eating her favorite “Flag” cake without assistance…as we fed my father his because he was unable.

7 months after her 104th birthday, Marion started losing strength and would become bedridden. She was finally slipping mentally as well. To this point, with brief moments of not knowing what decade she was in, she was sharp as could be. Those “lapses” now became the norm. She was still alert, and when we visited her she had moments of clarity. But she was depressed and kept asking for Mel, her late husband. We increased our visitations, knowing the end was near.

5 weeks before her 105th birthday, she stopped taking nutrition. She had shriveled to a mere shadow of her former self and barely spoke. She did little more than writhe around in her bed, moaning. It seemed like she was attempting to communicate but we didn’t know if it was us or if she was dreaming. On April 28th, we were summoned by the nursing staff, they felt Marion would pass that day. My mother and I arrived and we were asked if there was any other family coming. My mother explained that the calls had been made but it would be a couple of days before some of them could make it. “But that’s too late” the nurse stated, “she won’t make it that long.”

My mother, as if in a trance and someone was speaking through her, said “No, she won’t die until May 2nd. The day her husband passed away.” The nurse was in disbelief. “Trust me,” Mom said. “I’m right about this.”

Marion, as predicted, passed away on May 2nd of 2015 just weeks shy of her 105th birthday. Her only medical condition was Scottish Alzheimer’s, a condition in which you forget everything except who you don’t like. I used that joke when I delivered her eulogy. I got a few laughs. I know she would have liked it.

Her funeral was sparsely attended, she outlived all of her friends and most of her family. It was hard to be sad, we instead celebrated her incredible life. If we mourned we only mourned the loss of the values, strength, and integrity that we will never find in any other generation than hers.

God bless, Marion. And Godspeed to you. We’re all better for knowing you.

38,325 days…a life truly lived cont’d

If you have been following this series you will know that it is a dive into my family history, concentrating on the role of my deceased Grandmother who lived to almost 105 years old. If you would like to catch up you can here, here, here and here.

In the last entry in this saga, I was describing the sleepovers at the Grandparents house. Without hyperbole, I tell you that these are among the finest moments of my childhood. I had left off with the need to go to bed early when I slept over because the next morning at the breakfast table always proved to be the highlight of the day and I needed to be rested for it.

My Grandmother was a saint on earth, she really was. She had so many wonderful qualities about her. Unfortunately, a sense of humor was not one of them. In this sense, she married the wrong man. Mel was a tireless jokester and he loved an audience.

Breakfast was always at 8 AM. I would wake before that to the smell of bacon. Even if bacon wasn’t on the menu. Marion cooked everything in bacon fat and a black skillet. Everything she cooked smelled like bacon. As an aside, isn’t it incredible that she lived to that age cooking with only bacon drippings from a Chock Full O’Nuts coffee can? I would usually come downstairs when I smelt breakfast or heard her clanging around. Sleepy-eyed, I would come into the kitchen and get a warm greeting from her.  My Grandfather would never come to the kitchen until he was called. He would putter around in the basement in the morning or watch the news in the living room which was a mere 15 feet from the kitchen. He knew the coffee was brewed and breakfast was done but when I was there he insisted on being called…nay screamed for. Marion would call him once or twice and he would ignore her. When she yelled, that was his cue and the show was about to begin. He would then walk into the tiny kitchen with his famous devilish grin, in his pajama bottoms, a worn wife-beater, and slippers and say “what are you yelling for, I’m right here!?” Marion would shoot him a look for being a smartass. That’s when he would wink at me with those wicked eyes and his trademark bushy eyebrows. Yay, I would think, the show’s about to start!

The show didn’t always begin the same way. Sometimes he would start stacking cups and saucers precariously high and wait to get yelled at. Other times he would put salt in her Marion’s sugar bowl. Sometimes he would each behind him and put the creamer back in the refrigerator and then ask her why there’s no cream for his coffee. Other times he would just start off by acting deaf. No matter how it began, it ended with him being yelled at and a playful wink in my direction. Marion was fussing to make everything just right for me and he did everything he could to mess it up. Marion, God bless her fell for the bait every time. This apparently happened when my mom was little also and she never really caught on. It was her drive to make everything “just right” that caused her frustration, I wish she found it half as funny as her husband and I did.

After breakfast, Mel would retreat to the basement where he shaved in an old sink with a straight razor. His show was over, now it was me and Grandma time. They didn’t have much of a yard for me to play in and they lived on a very busy street so I was usually inside. Her routine became mine. I helped her clean up from breakfast, including the occasional broken saucer that her menace of a husband broke when balancing it on his head or spinning it on a spoon, drained her black skillet into the famous coffee can and then the day began.

Marion was not much of a house cleaner despite her obsessive tendencies. Her table, earlier cleared for the breakfast debacle, was immediately covered with 86 pounds of clutter that was moved to the fourth, unused chair. She was a hoarder before it was a thing. She made enough room each day to do her letters. Her letters are a lasting memory, both due to how outdated the whole “mail” thing is now and how much of a part of her life they were. She wrote to everyone and she absolutely lived to get mail in return. When the mailman came she moved like a hyperactive child to that mailbox. She kept in touch with High School friends and she had a large family in California. Sadly, I have not met most of them. Christmas cards and letters were the highlight of her year. I would be subjected to her reading her letters to me from people I didn’t know yet she continued to act as if I did. I regret being annoyed at that now, she really loved to share her mail with me. It occurs to me that she would hate today’s lightning fast, impersonal communications. An email would never bring her the joy that opening a card that she would read 20 times and keep 20 years.

If I was lucky, they would take me to the Senior Center in the afternoon. They were always old, as far back as I can remember. Maybe they were the youngest ones in the group but they ran with the older crowd. The Senior center had Bingo for her, multiple widows to flirt with my dapper grandfather, and a bunch of people that just loved seeing me. To be fair, I loved them. I have always enjoyed talking to the elderly. They had such stories to tell and I really enjoyed them. It wouldn’t surprise me if I found that I was immediately good in History class because of all of the Vets that I talked to and all of the women who did their share to keep this great country running during the war.

This routine would carry on into my early teens. Marion and I were inseparable. I was her “Dear Billy” and her pride in me helped me through my awkward teenage years of hormones, bullies and finding myself. She was non-judgemental and always there with a Root Beer Float and a hug.

more tomorrow…