that look

I was once at a black tie event. As I stood nursing a Scotch a coworker gave me a gentle nudge and she pointed to a man that I did not know.
“See?”, she said. “Look at how he looks at her? It’s like she’s the only one in the room.”
Once she pointed it out it was hard not to notice. In a sea of people, laughing and joking, Tracy’s husband was fixated on her. Every hair toss, every sip of champagne, every polite laugh and smile…he hung on it. Without saying a word, he told the entire room that she was his entire world.

I know the look. As a dedicated and professional people watcher I look for such things. It’s strictly voyeuristic you see. Noone had ever captured my fancy to such a degree. I have always craved someone that would stand out in a crowded room. Not because they are the most interesting and beautiful person in the room, just because they are to me. I never thought that guy would ever be me. Until now.

“I love the way you look at me,” she said. She didn’t elaborate. She didn’t have to, I knew exactly what she meant. I looked at her like she was the best thing to happen to me. I looked at her as if she was the only thing that mattered. I looked at her as if she was the only one in the room when in fact we were in a crowded room. It was strange and wonderfully refreshing to be the one doing it for a change, as I had resigned myself to forever be the one watching another do it. Finally, it was my turn.
I pulled her close, reveling in the surreal moment. Is it luck? Or do I dare say that I deserve her? I don’t know. Just as our relationship lacks labels, it also defies explanation. Just as I can’t explain all of the natural phenomena that go into creating a brilliant sunset on a summer evening, I don’t have to in order to enjoy it.
I can’t explain you. I can’t explain us. I’m just grateful that I have finally experienced looking across a crowded room in pure adulation, wishing I was with you but secure in the knowledge that you will be leaving with me.
They can stare all they want. You’re with me baby.

the Heart comes first

We’ve all heard it. “The heart wants what the heart wants”. Never has a truer and more powerful statement been made.

If you read me you know that I met a girl. It might not sound like a big deal to the average person but I don’t meet a lot of women. Mostly due to the fact that I had very low esteem after my tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce from which I emerged beat down and with little confidence and less desire.

It’s hard to explain the powerful feelings that overcame me when I first saw Lisa. It felt urgent, I just had to meet her. It was surreal how powerfully I was drawn to her. Her smile melted my toes and her voice became etched in my brain. I suppose the word smitten comes to mind.
So I made a move.
In order to not get her in trouble at work I slipped her a note, the plan being that I would make sure I was in her lane (she is a pharmacy tech) and slip it to her when noone was looking. And that is where it gets tricky. As I handed the card to her I noticed the wedding ring for the first time. I tried to pull it back but she wanted it. She opened it. She texted me later. We talked. We laughed.
I proceeded against my better judgment and moral code, as did she. Knowing that it may not end well we began a relationship that may possibly have been doomed from the beginning but we both want to see where it goes. As luck, good or bad depending on your vantage point, we now have very powerful feelings for each other and there is no turning back.
The heart wants what it wants.

I am very conflicted. My morals kept me from cheating throughout the entire course of my marriage despite being very unhappy. I never touched a woman, especially one in a relationship because it isn’t fair to the man. Yet here I am. There’s no fault to attribute to anyone. I should have checked to see if she was married before I made a move and she had admitted that she didn’t help the situation by accepting the note when she knew that it would only open a can of worms. Despite them being extremely unhappy, her husband is a misogynistic brute who treats her terribly, I know that it doesn’t make it right. But I’m addicted. And she is to me. The chemistry we share is beyond words.

We try to behave when together, to keep this realistic but we can’t keep our hands off of each other. Despite the tractor beam that is our attraction, we also have so much in common. Long, deep conversations have revealed so many things in common from movies to music to pet peeves and hopes for the future. As for the true test, yes we can also sit in absolute silence and not need to say anything at all.

Now we face the ultimate challenge. She has made concrete steps towards leaving her husband. She has told him how she feels and is trying to plan where to go and what to do should she move out. In this area I’m not the best fit for her. I don’t have my own place and I can’t support her financially. Is love going to be enough? But I would do anything to be with her. She is what I have been looking for the longest time and I really can’t imagine my life without her already.

I wish hope and desire equaled good results. I want her. I need her. I hope that I deserve her. I really think that I do.

This is crazy and ill-advised but it feels so right.

The heart wants what the heart wants, after all.

the jinx

When I first got married my wife and I had a few hobbies. With no kids and a few pets we spent a good deal of time (and money) on tropical fish. It was a fun hobby, we had 3 tanks. A 20 gallon in the bedroom, a 44 pentangular in the dining room and a 55 gallon in the living room which was reserved for aggressive tropicals such as the Oscar or the Red Devil. That tank was beautiful.
And expensive. Not just the equipment, the fish also.
It sucked when they died.

My wife and I had a running joke. Don’t ever say “gee, the tanks are doing well. We haven’t lost a fish in a while”. Whenever we did we found a floater the next day. Not one to believe in jinxes, it was there just the same.
Apparently, it applies to hospital visits also.

2 weeks ago I remarked proudly to my girl that I haven’t been hospitalized in 2 years. This is significant because dialysis patients typically get hospitalized at least once a year and I was happy that I was an exception to the rule. The next day I went to the ER.

I hadn’t felt well for a while. My energy was way down, my stomach was doing backflips and I was fatigued way beyond the usual. I feared that I had passed the wonderful phase (the whole time I’ve been on dialysis) of feeling good despite the thrice weekly beat down on my body. I was preparing myself for the possibility that I was finally at the stage where I had to resign myself to feeling lousy all the time. But that night was excessive. After barely being able to climb my stairs I went to get checked out.
4 hours later I was being transported by ambulance to another hospital. I had excessive fluid in my lungs and a fairly large sac of fluid around my heart. I was there for a week.

The good news is that they were able to get some of the fluid. The bad news is that to get all of it they would have to stick a needle into my heart and drain it. A very risky surgery. So I have to live with it. As for the stomach, I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection which is very treatable by antibiotics.

I feel great today but it’s been a hard road back. I’m pushing myself everyday to be active and try to regain some of that strength and energy. I think I have my mojo, finally, and I’m going to run with it.

One lesson from this is that regardless of whether I believe in jinxes or not, I am going to be very careful what I say it loud.

Then again, that’s good advice for anyone isn’t it?

decency

I walked in the door after finishing a job today and as soon as I saw Mum’s face, I knew something had happened. She was shaking as she held the phone in her hand.
“What happened?”, I asked her. As she explained, my blood began to boil.
She got a call. The caller identified himself as her Grandson. She asked which one. The caller, not prepared for the question asked, “which one do you think?” Big Red Flag. He did not know the name of my boys. The caller began to tell a tale of Covid testing, positive results, then a ensuing traffic stop which rendered my (supposed) boy in jail and in need of bailing out. She hung up on him and immediately called my son on his cell. He confirmed that he had made no such call. Meanwhile, the caller called another 4 times. All were ignored.

We’ve spent the better part of the afternoon calling the local and state police as well as the AG’s office. The number, traced back to Toronto, is on file and hopefully being investigated. The important thing is obviously no harm has come to my son. But my poor mother, having to briefly process the unthinkable. It infuriates me. How many times in my life do I have to ask the question,
“What is wrong with people?”

I don’t fear aging, I don’t worry about dying. I do, however, worry about being at a stage in life where I may become vulnerable to the ever increasing predatory scams perpetrated by people who will easily take advantage of the naturally protective and loving nature of people for the reward of a few dollars. It is daunting to realize that there really is no limit to how low someone will go to steal from another, and the bar is being set lower all the time.

For all of the advances we have made in society, we seem to lose another piece of humanity. If only people put as much effort into ways that we can be better as a society as they do into creating ways to defraud and cheat. The distrust that such behavior causes is irreversible and erodes at the very fabric of society. Want to see how bad it is? Say hi to a complete stranger in passing and watch their face, they will be 50 yards away from you before they recover enough from the surprise, ask themselves 35 ways to Sunday why you just greeted them (what do they really want!) and decide whether or not to respond. If you really want to mess with someone, sit next to them on a park bench or on public transportation. It will likely induce fear in someone.

Respect, courtesy and tolerance are all but gone in our society. Bad behavior is the norm. Volume is the new tool against logic, reason and listening. Facts are inconvenient and the truth is considered hurtful. But I know that many people, in their heart of hearts, want to believe in the good in people. They want to trust someone at their word and not have to assume the worst. Unfortunately, that basic desire is being challenged every day by unscrupulous and greedy people. Once trust is lost, I fear there is no coming back from that.

I will continue to try to see the good in people. One thing I have always believed is that there is good in everyone and I will always try to find it. I hope that I never lose that. It’s not an easy task, people test it every day. For now, I will say this.

I believe most people are good and that we only hear about the bad ones.

Spoons

“Got any spoons in the drawer today?”
“1 or 2”, Adam sipped his Chinese Tea, his chubby face forcing a smile. “I need to be careful that I don’t use them all today.”
“Gotcha.” It was a familiar conversation between him and me. Once a month we’d get together at the Asian buffet and catch up over lunch. Each time I saw him I hoped that he would look better, but it was not to be.

Spoons? you ask? I am speaking of the “Spoon Theory”, the metaphor chronically ill people use to discuss their energy level.

  • A person has roughly the same amount of energy each day.
  • Each unit of energy is represented by a spoon.
  • Healthy people have more spoons (energy) than those with an illness that causes chronic fatigue.
  • Some activities cost more spoons than others.

To my friends with a chronic illness, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then I hope you never do. Adam was all about the Spoons. If there ever was a guy that needed more, it was him.

I first saw Adam at a Masonic District meeting. He was sitting in the back corner of the room, listening intently. I was taken back by his appearance. He was very overweight, his clothes were too tight. His pantleg barely covered his absurdly swollen ankles. I was 90% sure that it was due to medications, likely steroids. I inquired about him to a fellow brother and he confirmed my suspicions.
There was a cocktail hour after the meeting and I waited patiently for a chance to introduce myself. He had a constant flow of people coming over to him and talk but I found my opening and went over to his table. sat down and said hi.
He would become one of my best friends.

Adam lived at home. 2 streets over from me. He lived with his parents after a series of heartbreaks rocked his world. A Cancer diagnosis at age 30. A recovery against a survival rate of 15% two years later. A divorce that cost him his house because his wife couldn’t handle him being sick. Visitation with his son every other weekend, which was tough for him because he hated his young son seeing how sick he was.
But he pushed on, despite the lack of spoons. He always had that smile.

In the time that I knew Adam, I learned volumes about the value of not complaining. Often, people make the mistake of greeting someone with a “how are you?”. Some people feel inclined to actually tell you, not recognizing it as a mere formality. Adam would always smile and say “good”. Even when we all knew he wasn’t. In the course of the 6 years that I knew him, he had 2 near-fatal infections, a stroke, a pacemaker installed, 2 new knees and a hip. Not to mention 2 other lengthy stays in the hospital for fatigue, one of which almost killed him. It was exhausting to be his friend because we worried about him so often. But it’s a labor I will never write off as unworthy, for he was as good a friend as any, and his ability to ask how everyone else is doing when he was clearly suffering just exemplified his kind and selfless nature. Truth be told, he didn’t like to talk about his health. Not unlike most Chronically ill people, he hated being the “sick guy” and wanted to be treated as “normal”. I’ve been there, I often longed for someone to greet me just once without saying “how are you feeling?”.
That’s why we limited most of our conversations about our respective help to spoon talk. It became our thing.

Adam never truly recovered from the Cancer. In medicine, for every action there is a reaction. For every cure, there is a side effect and a new set of symptoms. And another pill. The treatments are what ultimately killed him.
10 years after he was “cured”, he was dead. Out of spoons at 40 years young.

I miss my good friend. I miss his kindness. His self-deprecating jokes. His drive to do something, anything, every day just to feel normal inspires me. His memory serves to make me a better man, one that thinks of others before self. See, therein lies the secret and once you learn it you can’t unlearn it.

When you are thinking and acting on someone else’s needs, your own problems disappear. Even if for only a moment.

I wonder if he knows that every time I go to the drawer for a spoon, I think of him.

the Caretaker

My mom is 75. Up until this year she worked. Not because she needs to, she just likes to be busy. Working with Special Needs children here in town gave her so much satisfaction. But, with Covid being what it is, and my health (I’m in the most vulnerable category there is), she took a leave of absence.
I hate that she had to do that, knowing that she did it for me.

She has been relentlessly puttering about the house looking for something to clean. Something to sew. Projects to complete. It’s confusing to me because she has a RV ready to go in the driveway, a boyfriend that is always telling her that she should quit working (she does not need the money) and travel with him, and she has me to watch her house should she choose to go someplace.

A month in and she hasn’t spent any additional time with her boyfriend and she has made zero effort to make any plans whatsoever. The other day I asked her about it.
“What, are you trying to get rid of me?”, she asked.
I explained to her that I just want her to enjoy her retirement, to take advantage of not having financial constraints, to do all of the things that I long to but can’t due to the rigorous demands of my dialysis schedule. We talked about it and she was uncharacteristically quiet. I got frustrated and asked her why again. She spun around with a face on that I haven’t seen in years.
“Bill, do you remember what happened 2 years ago?” You would be dead right now if I hadn’t been here!” She was on the edge of tears.

There it is. The truth comes out, and an inconvenient one at that. Despite all efforts to the contrary, beneath it all I am a burden to her.

My mother is a Caretaker. She cared for both of her parents during their decline and she, with little help from the Teamsters, VA and Medicare, cared for my father as he succumbed to Parkinson’s over an eight year period. It took almost everything out of her. She put her life on hold for him. Once he passed, I had hoped that her caretaking days are over. In her eyes, clearly they are not.

I can see why she feels this way. You never stop being a parent, no matter how old your children are. I can’t imagine how she felt to come upstairs to my loft, after calling my name several times with no answer, to find me on the floor unconscious. Does it matter that I was 53 years old at the time? No, she was terrified and thought her only child was dead. It changed her, she is burdened with walking around with that image in her head. And she’s afraid that if she goes away it could happen again.

I’m smarter now about being honest about my health. I tried to assure her that I know enough to call 911 if I am in trouble. But she is standing firm. It is what I love and hate about her.

I want to be so many things in life. A burden is not one of them. I wish I could erase that whole ordeal from her mind. But I can’t. It happened and in her eyes she is permanently vigilant in the event that it will again.

I’m forever the burden, she’s forever the caretaker. That’s what being a parent is. If you do it right, it never ends no matter how old they are.

Enough

I can’t believe that I am actually reading tweets and FB posts from people hoping that our President and First Lady die of the Coronavirus. What is honestly wrong with people? Such unadulterated hatred is unfathomable to me and it marks a new low in our civilization…and I am speaking loosely here.

This is not a political post. I rarely post anything political on here, for the same reasons that I don’t post my politics on FB. My politics are my own and I don’t try nor do I expect anyone to follow suit or come over to “my side”. There are no sides, only our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights to a individual and protected voice. You can feel however you want but I draw the line at forcing your beliefs on me. That includes hateful speech.

I was the least biggest fan Barack Obama ever had. It had nothing to do with the color of his skin, I strongly questioned his character and his politics. I never once wished harm upon him, I just patiently waited for his term to be over. I respected the office. What happened to that?

The word humanity cannot exist without the word “human”. The word humanity implies distinct qualities only attributed to mankind. The ability to reason, to empathize, to love, to show kindness; most but not all of these things qualities that the lower species are supposedly incapable of. I have begun to question our propensity for Humanity when I see people blindly attacking each other and wishing death upon them.

We’re better than this, people.

Or are we?

Just friends

“Let’s just be friends…”. Undoubtedly the most unwelcome words for a guy to ever hear. Nice guys, and I’d like to think I am one, are cursed to hear those ugly words many times in life. I’ve certainly been kissed off more than my share by them. It ultimately feels like rejection, only covered in confectioner’s sugar to sweeten the taste.
Today, I think I would welcome those words.

Why did you have to take my note, after I caught the wedding ring and tried to pull it back? It would have been so much easier if you let me down easy that day. I was ready for it. Going into any situation you must be prepared for any outcome. I was poised for rejection, it’s my usual pose. I wasn’t prepared for you to want to get to know me “as friends”. I wasn’t prepared for you to pry your way through the very small wall of scar tissue that I call my heart and make me want you more. I wasn’t prepared to invest myself emotionally in you, to want to make up for the poor manner in which your husband treats you. You deserve better and it is my nature to want to give better to you. I want to take you away.

But I can’t.

I’m not financially secure. I’m in poor health. I have no place of my own. I am in no way an upgrade for you. You need security in the comforts of life that I cannot provide. If only good intentions were currency.

This will not end well, I just know it. I can let myself enjoy the waltz of the initial flirtation, getting to know you on a deeper level, to lie in bed thinking of those hungry, stolen kisses. But to what end? It’s just not fair to you. You deserve better.

5% of me is shouting down the other 95% of me to do the right thing. The blare of reason is the only thing loud enough to drown the raucous roar of my beating heart.
I want you.
I need you.
But you are not mine to take.

Until something changes on your end…please tell me you want to be “just friends”. I will hate it. I will fight it. But I know that I will learn to live with it. After all, It’s the only way this can end well.

Wait, don’t. I want to savor the moment for a while…

The Ring

“I like your jewelry. You have a very unique style.”
She put her hand to her ear as if to say speak up.
Fuckin’ masks.
I’m trying to make small talk through my mask, a plexiglass screen and her mask. I had to try, though. I was too intrigued not to. Lisa the pharmacy tech had been all I could think about since I first saw her.

Tan, blonde, a pretty smile, outgoing personality and awesome personal flair with the jewelry; an abundance of bracelets and rings and neckwear ranging from Native American themes to what I would find was her Grandmother’s ring on a chain about her supple neck. She reeked of individuality and she seemed to be about my age. I was smitten.

Over the course of several medication pickups (not a big deal I’m there all the time lately) I attempted to get to know her a bit. Last time I was there I sensed a twinkle in her eye when she saw me in line. I’m pretty bad at physical cues and I haven’t been laid since Obama’s first term but I do vaguely remember the dance of flirtation. I had to make a move.
Today, before I fired up the Fatboy to head to the pharmacy I decided that I would make a move. I feared public humiliation and I didn’t want to get her in trouble at work so I made a little note and tucked it into an envelope.
Hi. I think you’re amazing. If you’re not married, engaged, or dating, I’d like to take you out.
Name and phone #

When I approached the pharmacy I was excited to see that she was working today. She looked up and there was the twinkle again. Then another cashier summoned me from Lisa’s line. I obliged, only for Lisa to finish with her customer and jump over and offer to take care of me. I lowered my mask and said hello. As I did I pushed the envelope across the counter.
“You’re so sweet”, she said. As she grabbed it with her left hand I saw it. The friggin’ ring.
“I need that back. After seeing your ring finger I think I made a mistake”, I said.
“Nope”, she said. “I’m opening this.” I went home feeling somewhat defeated. I changed clothes and began doing some yard work. My phone chirped 2 hours later.
Hey! I feel the same way about you. Yes, sorry but I am married. I hope that’s ok I would like to get to know you as a person, even if it’s as friends. Is that ok? I could tell you my situation but you don’t want to hear about it.

We’ve been texting all day. Her last text was a pic of her in a bathing suit. What have I gotten myself into? I would never touch a married woman. But I like her sooooooo much.

Friggin’ ring.
Friggin’ luck.
Nothing is ever friggin’ easy.

I may have to end this before it starts

the bottle story

In 1981 my Great Uncle Cyrus died. He had a big house on Cape Cod, about 300 yards from the water. My family was tasked with cleaning it out.
My Great Uncle was a kind and giving man. On my 16th birthday he gave me his late wife’s 1964 Ford Falcon as a present. I was grateful yet conflicted, I barely knew the man. Amazingly, the distance between us and the Cape was enough to keep me from seeing him more than 5 times in my life. And there I was cleaning out his house, charged alongside my mother, father and Grandparents with deciding what was “junk” and what wasn’t.

There I was, a 16 year old exploring a old house. I meandered to the basement where I found a dusty tool bench with some really cool but unfinished wood working projects and a lot of unorganized stuff scattered around. I stooped to check out the bottom shelf and I saw a bottle. I blew an inch of dust off it and I studied it. It was a bottle of J&B Scotch, a fairly middle of the road blend and a very popular drink in its time. I was intrigued by the label “half gallon” and realized that this bottle was old. The stamp revealed that it was bottled in 1949.
“Hey Dad, check this out!”.
Dad came over and agreed that it was a find. We brought it home with us and stored it in my grandparents basement.

Saturday I had my installation ceremony as Master of my Masonic Lodge. Due to Covid restrictions we were only allowed to have 50 guests and we reached that number. My children and my mother, several brothers from other lodges that I became friendly with over the years graced me with their presence. One of them had told me 5 years ago that should I become master he wanted to be there. So I invited him. The remainder of the crowd consisted of lodge members and their guests who all came out to support the new line of officers.

It was an AMAZING ceremony, the same one that was conferred on George Washington in the 1700’s. Once complete it was my turn to say some words. I had it all planned out. In fact, I have had it planned out since the day I decided that I would move through the chairs to Master.
“Brother Marshall, would you retrieve my conversation piece?”
The crowd was intrigued.
Brother Marshall is my good friend and past master Basil who promised to help me in any way should I take the big chair. He winked at me and walked to the back of the building and came back with the bottle of J&B. He handed it to me with a wink and sat back in his seat.
I hoisted the J&B in the air and told the story.
“I am a lover of objects, for their significance and place in history. Objects do not contain memories but they have important associations. For example, I wear my grandfathers watch and cufflinks. I wear my fathers motorcycle helmet. They hold memories for me and mean something. This bottle is not just a bottle, it is a reminder of a different time”.
I told the story of cleaning out Uncle Cyrus’s house, who I later found out was an esteemed and beloved Freemason (it explained why he gave me a car) and how the bottle in my hand has fascinated me all along.
“This bottle has never been opened, it was bottled in 1949”. The crowd was hanging on every word now.
“This bottle was owned by a wonderful man. It was also bottled during the era of Harry Truman, my favorite President. Harry Truman, you may not know, was a Freemason. He served as Grand Master of the state of Missouri as Vice President yet he never discussed it”.
I asked the crowd if they knew that in a Masonic lodge everyone is treated the same regardless of social stature. I told of how Harry Truman went to a regular lodge as Vice President and later President and wasn’t greeted with fanfare and adulation…he was simply “brother Harry”.
“This bottle represents a simpler time and I hope to run this lodge as Harry did his own, with humility and honesty”.
It was a hit, everyone applauded. After, I rounded up all of the shot glasses I could find and I opened it. We toasted and took a drink. After 70 years in several basements, I finally shared my find with those people closest to me.
A week and a half later, people are still talking about it. They agreed with me that it wasn’t just a bottle.

It meant something.