What an ass

How was your yesterday? I bet it was more fun than mine. I did a dialysis treatment and a Colon Blow on the same day.

I have spent most of the week dreading my Colonoscopy. It is a necessary evil because A)I’ve never had one and I’m about 3 years past the normal age to get one. B) It is the last test to complete to be approved for another Transplant.

Knowing that I needed it and that it is a necessary step wasn’t the issue, I was just dreading the prep.

Yesterday I woke knowing that this was the day that I had to start preparing. I had my jug of ready-mix diarrhea powder on the counter, just add water, and I had my instructions laid out on the table. I was going to be behind the 8 ball because I was supposed to begin chugging water first thing in the morning but that was a problem because I had dialysis until 4, and the last thing you can do is go to dialysis full of water. You’re heavy and you have to pee, both no-no’s.

My plan was to have water with me for the ride home. So as soon as I left the clinic I managed to slam down 2 water bottles on the way home. Then when I got home I mixed the “Ready-Blech” and chugged a 8 oz glass every ten minutes until I had consumed 3/4 of a gallon. Then the fun began.

All in all it wasn’t so bad, I was relatively dry because I have semi-fasted all week. I was disappointed that I didn’t see the GI Joe that I swallowed when I was 12 but all in all I got through it. I actually slept through the night. Which was a good thing because I had to get up at 5 to drink another quart of Ready-Blech.

I needed a ride home after so Mom joined me. It was an hour drive to the hospital and it was miserable. In hindsight (hind? no pun intended) I should have brought a cork to sit on. The morning dose was wreaking havoc on me and I nearly ran into the hospital in search of a bathroom when we got there.

Once that episode was over, I was immediately ushered into the staging area to undress, put on a very flattering assless “Johnny” and get my vitals and instructions. The nurses, male and female were very friendly and informative and managed to make a couple of Colonoscopy jokes. I cried foul.
“Here I am behaving, and believe me I got jokes, and you’re doing it.? I’m being good because you have probably heard them all.”
It’s true, you know. Everyone thinks they’re the first one to make the Dad jokes, like when meeting a Funeral Director and saying “how’s business…dead?”
Ba doom doom crash.
Their answer was that, occasionally they hear a new one. I laughed inside, I had yet to spring mine on them.

As I was in the process of succumbing to the anasthesia, they rolled me over onto my side. It was then that they noticed the “post it” note I had stuck to my ass that read…

Exit Only

When I came to in the recovery room I was greeted by a slew of nurses and technicians congratulating me on “the one they’ve never heard before.”

All joking aside, they removed a couple of polyps and I’m fine. Still an asshole, but fine.

Little ones

Inspiration, as well as motivation often comes when you are not looking for it. Recently, while catching up with Lisa’s blog I found this beautiful poem on childhood. It’s no wonder I try to keep up with her work. This is brilliant.

I cannot be seen if I cover my face
There are scary beasts hiding under my bed
I cannot fall when my Daddy carries me
The Shadows in my room have horrid faces
I cannot be hurt if teddy is with me
When you turn off the night light terror finds me
I cannot get lost when Mummy takes my hand
Don’t leave me alone, I’ll cry. I can’t see you
I cannot grow up. I’m safe, when I’m not scared.

I’m feeling empty lately. I don’t have a lot to do. I haven’t been sleeping. There has been a lot of open time for the dark forces to attack my defenses.

I miss working, it made me feel productive. I was an important man at my company, always fixing problems and blessed with the opportunity to help people.
I miss having a companion, despite how unhappy we were. When we got along, I liked having a wife, the idea of being married. I’m lonely.
I miss my big, noisy house. I loved the chaos during the day and the closing of the door at night that alerted me that everyone was home and safe for the night. It is so quiet here at night, and I don’t have the luxury of knowing that everyone is home and safe. You don’t stop worrying about children because they are grown.

Where Lisa’s beautiful poem hit me in the feels is that, more than anything, I miss when my children were young.
When they were innocent and untainted by the ugliness of this world.
When a kiss on a boo-boo was a million times more soothing than any medicine.
When Daddy was a force bigger than life itself and could always save the day.
When I was needed.

23 years ago I was cleaning up the kitchen where I worked with my co-worker Tony. We were sipping beers and talking. I took a pull on my beer and said to him, “I need to stop this soon, my daughter will be born soon.”
“Why do you need to stop drinking?”, Tony asked. “You can’t be a father and have a beer?”
“I need to get this right, Tony.”
I hadn’t gotten much right at that point in my life, I needed this one.

I never did quit drinking. But I sure made an effort to get it right. When my beautiful daughter was born, I felt a joy unlike any other. I doted on her. I made sure I changed a lot of diapers because it is the best way for a dad to bond, they have nowhere to look but at your face while you do it. I raced home from work to catch bedtime and when I missed it I camped out on the floor of the nursery listening to her breathe. With 2, 3 and 4 I lightened up a bit but not much. I worried less and enjoyed them more.

There is so much about their younger years that I wish I had a redo on. Not blessed with a particularly strong skill set, I had a string of awful jobs with terrible hours and I missed an awful lot of pivotal moments. But when I was home, I tried to make the most of the time.

I missed a lot of dinner times, but I made a lot of bedtimes. I would come home to smiling babies, toddlers running to see me and an exhausted and grateful wife. I gladly helped with baths, we called them “tubbies”. I loved to read them stories, with my own little twists of course. Daddies “additions” to the story were the best part and if done properly would draw huge ear to ear, toothy (some missing) smiles and a chorus of belly laughs that defied the dimensions of their tiny bodies and still ring beautifully in my memory all these years later.

It was a source of frustration as parents to stay on the same page as parents and not contradict or undermine each other. I was guilty of it when it came to bedtime. Selfishly, I wanted more time, regardless of what the clock, or mommy said. It wasn’t unusual to sneak another show or video in, or have my daughter fake an asthma attack in order to get a Nebulizer treatment and an extra half hour with Dad. The end result was the same, I got to carry a sleeping child to bed, tuck them in and marvel at them as they slept.

For the first ten years of fatherhood, I was not a particularly distinguished career man. I didn’t make a lot of money or drive a nice car. I failed to earn any titles of importance. I didn’t care. Someone called me Dad, and it was the finest of all titles. My favorite job consisted of witnessing an amazing series of “firsts”, making silly faces, causing belly laughs, giving shoulder rides, rolling around in newly mowed grass, leaf piles or fresh snow. I experienced more than any man’s fair share of witnessing wonderment at things that adults are now bored of, like a butterfly or a sunset. I taught them about the world they lived in, answered ten million questions, magically healed boo boos by kissing them and slayed any and all dragons that dared occupy the space under their beds.

I had been minimized in all areas of my life, even my marriage. But in the eyes of my children I was a giant among men and a force to be reckoned with. I could make anything better just by being there and would do anything to protect them.

Sometimes, when in the presence of my children, I find myself staring. Part of me sees the fine adult sitting before me, but another sees the cherubic face of the beautiful baby they once were. After all, they will always be my babies no matter how old they are.

Now, as they are all grown and living their lives, I would give anything to go back to those days. I didn’t know that it would end up being the happiest time of my life.

I wish my friend Tony was still alive. I’d love to tell him, after all these years, that I got this one right.


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?

Human

Insomnia is a bitch, and it apparently is a side effect of dialysis. Lack of sleep equals negativity for me. When I am awake, I am going strong and doing everything I can to feel good. At night, the gladiators of Insomnia climb the perimeter fence and invade my Fortress of Solitude. In my exhausted and weakened state, I am unable to fight as they bombard with me with arrows of negativity. I lose my resolve and find myself starting each new day with a whole new hill to climb just to start at zero.

I’m also tired of trying to be something I’m not.

My last post was very unlike me. I was “maudlin” to quote my dear Bella. To be fair, she’s right. My post was depressing, dim and entirely unlike me. But as Bella said, “Superman is human, after all.” She knows it, you know it. But I need to learn it.

This ties in directly to the name of this blog. Many years ago,I was married with four young children. I was struggling in my career and facing severe financial problems. To add the cherry on top, I was sick. To not worry my family, to keep my job, to keep my sanity I chose to keep most of what was going on with my health to myself. I was told it was denial, I just chose not to think about it, to not let it define me. My wife exploded on me one day for not being forthcoming about my health and shouted angrily, “OK Superman! Do what you want, apparently you’re bulletproof!”

I never claimed to be bulletproof, I just try to be strong.

It’s been my way forever. I want to be the best at everything. Not in a competitive sense and not in a quest for glory. I simply thrive on achievement. I wanted to be a great husband, a great father, a great worker, a great co-worker and a great citizen. I failed at one, but I crushed the rest.

Unfortunately, now my life has been reduced to being great at staying alive.

I tackled the role of being sick like I do anything else. I buckled down, sized up my opponent (in this case, death), learned a skill set and dove in. The end game is easy, stay healthy and hope for a transplant. I set out to be the best dialysis patient ever, with a goal of not ever acting or looking sick.

It’s not as easy as I thought. I’ve had some rough treatments lately, severe cramping, volatile and unpredictable blood pressure and the effects lingered long after each treatment, sometimes late into the night. I get up early each day after treatment with the goal of trying to do something, anything that I can call an accomplishment. I hit the treadmill, I swing and press my kettlebells. I do pushups until I collapse on my own face.

Then I have those days that I wake and I’m unable to do those things. I wake up stiff, feeling pain with no basis, painful headaches and no energy. And I get mad at myself. I tell myself that it is not OK.

I need to stop doing that.

I am a mere mortal. I am comprised of flesh and blood, like everyone else.

It’s ok to be human.

I may need to say it out loud a few times, but eventually I will get it.

My last post was an anomaly, a rarity that is unlikely to happen again. I have no plans to change my Blog name to Superman can’t find a Xanax anytime in the near future.

Tired

I’m tired.

Tired of being misunderstood.

Tired of being uninspired.

Tired of my routine.

Tired of acting ok when I’m not.

Tired of holding myself to an impossible standard.

Tired of believing, in my heart of hearts, that everything is going to be ok. I really have no way of controlling that.

Tired of being let down.

Tired of having nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Tired of harboring anger and resentment even though I convinced myself that I have forgiven it and moved on.

Tired of being tired all day, only to be awake all night, wishing for the morning when I can move about freely
Have my precious coffee
Keep myself busy
Immerse myself in noise
Distract myself from the pending night

where I will stare at my ceiling, with endless, deafeningly silent hours ahead of me, trying to deny just how fucking lonely I really am…

the power of music

A young man or woman goes to the music store.
Or the pawn shop.
They buy a beat up guitar.
A keyboard.
Some blank music sheets.
Or a note pad and a number 2 pencil.
They sit in their basement with their headphones. Fumbling to play along to their favorite artist.
Or, on the side of a lazy river, scribbling the lyrics to their someday breakout hit.

They dream.

Do they dream about fame? And fortune? Thousands of screaming fans clamoring for their attention, in desperate need to hear their favorite song? Isn’t that the goal, after all? I would imagine it is.

But I wonder if an aspiring artist knows that, despite their level of achieved success, they have the potential to make someone’s day, even change their life by sharing a piece of themselves with us.

Did Bruce Springsteen know that a 47 year old man would immediately go to his music while driving 2 hours on a cold December night, tears streaming down his face, to see his father before he draws his last breath?

Did Journey know that their music would make millions of 80’s kids remember sweaty fumblings in the back seat of sedans and slow dances with their High School Sweetheart?

Did Van Morrison know that Into the Mystic would always remind me of that one night, sitting oceanside, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, drinking bourbon in beach chairs with a dear friend that has since died?

Did Dawes know that in his song A little bit of everything he would perfectly illustrate, as if on a design board, how to approach life when you don’t know how many days you have to live?

Did Michael Franti know that he would inspire my blog when he sang Good to be alive today? The song that slapped me in the face and told me that it is so simple, and necessary that I spend each day trying to make the world a better place and just be glad to be ALIVE.

So many songs.
So many associations.
So many memories.
So many things to so many people.
So many powerful emotions. Smiles of nostalgia. Tears of angst. Pains of heartache, sadness and loss. Euphoria and joy. The urge to play air guitar or pound the steering wheel to your favorite drum solo. The feeling that you have been where the artist has.

I have listened to thousands of songs in my life. There are millions of songs that I still want to hear. Songs that I know could speak to me. That will make me feel something, experience something powerful. I can only hope that when I hear them, I have a takeaway. Something that I can relate to. A fresh perspective on a old subject, a new spark to light the candle of another fond yet dormant memory.

Here’s to the person out there, just getting started, setting out on your musical journey and hoping for all of the typical trappings of success. May they know that success can me measured in so many ways.

Always keep in the back of your mind that you may change just one life with your efforts.


Service

In my last post I discussed the virtue of humility. It was a simple post, a suggestion to mankind in general and a reminder to myself in particular to think of self less and others, or the big picture in general, a little more. In the interest of brevity I touched on, but was unable to dedicate enough time to the greatest benefit of the humble lifestyle. Service to others.

When you are ill, even if you are fortunate enough to have a strong circle of support in the form of family and friends, you often become the focus of extra, sometimes unwanted attention. As well-intentioned as the constant inquiries into your health status can be, it can have a negative effect. I have the occasional day that I feel “normal” (an entirely different subject for another day) and am going about my day and the first person I encounter hits me with a “how are you feeling?” and boom, there it is, the reminder that they know me as the sick guy. It feels weird, perhaps ungrateful even, to put this to words because it is a beautiful thing that people are concerned about me enough to ask.

But it still bothers me.

So I deflect. I play it down. Knowing that at least half of the people who ask really don’t want to know, but feel negligent by not asking, I keep it short. Often, I just say “today is a good day.”
I can’t go wrong with that because I do have more good days than bad, and I truly believe that any day looking down at the dirt, not up, is a good day.

The other thing I do is spend as much available resources on others. I work my Masonic charities. It is the greatest kind of giving, it is anonymous. Scrambling behind the scenes to find a prom dress for a HS senior who can’t afford one, glasses for a child whose family has no insurance, a scholarship for a local youth to buy books is truly food for the soul and I am grateful to be in a position to help.

I volunteer at the local food pantry. One day there and it is immediately evident that my life could definitely be worse. All of our lives could.

On a smaller but significant note, I make a point to call and visit people. People I know very well and people that I know enough to call and say hi. The funny thing is that everyone that I call or visit gives me some inclination that they needed it, confirming my favorite quote…

I have spoken to so many people that needed to unburden themselves and I found myself in a position to do something, even if all they needed was for someone to listen to them. One commonality I have found is that the conversation is either prefaced by or includes the some variation of the phrase “of course, this is nothing compared to what you’re going through…”

I shrug that off. That is the essence of what they don’t get. My problems are my problems, their problems are theirs. It is not a matter of whose is bigger or worse, they are pressing on us and affect our ability to function and be happy. It’s not a contest. But interaction with each other, no matter how small, makes it better and also unburdens us. I truly believe this.

Obviously, at least it should be, we should be cognizant of the needs of our fellow man and help whenever possible. It is our duty as human beings. But a wonderful secondary effect of focusing on others is that it takes your mind off of your own issues, whatever they are.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that should scientists discover the center of the universe, I won’t be shocked to find that it’s not me. My happiness is in making my life not only about me, but of being a part of a bigger picture. Being surrounded by happy is my source of happiness. My sense of purpose. I couldn’t achieve that if I was to sit around thinking about how sick I am.

The universe, like most people, doesn’t give a shit.