The sounds of silence and where do I go from here?

Sitting at her desk this morning trying my hardest to focus on the 6 millionth start to a book I have already written, something comes to mind. It is lonely. So very lonely and it’s not a lonely that can be filled by friends or family, a phone call or a letter, facetime or actual conversation with well simply anyone.

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

You never realize how noisy your marriage is until it’s over. All the little things like you hustling trying to get kids out the door, her making lunches or singing in the kitchen to a song on Pandora using made up words because well it is the morning and she knows it bugs the crap out everyone so they move a little faster while she smiles with glee. It is hearing her use the damn coffee pot you hate because you own a Keurig and she simply likes the cheapness associated with a standard coffee pot. Her humming I love you as you walk out the door reminding her you’ll be home in an hour. She says she knows but you never know what can happen and she just wants you to know how much you mean to her.

It really is all the little things. The little things that make up the white noise of a relationship.

I woke up this morning and my dog had climbed onto the bed. He was asleep with his back up against mine and in the haziness of first awaking for a second, one split second I thought it was all a bad dream. 5 years a bad dream! It wasn’t, I was still alone, Jacy is still dead. In reality we hadn’t slept together for almost a year. She needed to be downstairs and with her being up all hours of the night depending on where she was with her meds and her constant need for sound (something she had before she got sick only more intense as time went on) the only way I could achieve even a few hours of sleep a night was to retire upstairs. I regret that decision now. I guess in a way it was preparing me for the future. None the less I have fully determined I hate sleeping alone. Oh well, guess I will have to get over it.

The white noise is everywhere.

I will never come home to the joyous sounds of her playing the piano again. She was never taught how, she played the flute, but her understanding of music made it easy for her to adapt to just about any instrument she picked up. I hate looking at that fucking piano.

Walking through the door in the afternoon to smell and hear all about some god awful concoctions she was creating. Foods or flavors that should never and mean ever be associated with each other, but there wasn’t anything left in the fridge so out to the garden she went and viola we have dinner! The funny thing is with only a few minor exceptions, even her craziest of Top Chef mismatched masterpieces all tasted great! I really am missing that right now on a cool fall morning.

The sounds of her painting or creating leather work. She was blind, but would sit at this very desk and create pieces of art out of whatever she touched. I made her a board from scratch to adjust and hold her leather while she stamped it or painted it slowly with one eye squinted shut and the other double focused on her work. The board is sitting here, never to be used again. I hate that fucking board.

Listening to her ask about the kids days when they got home, remind them of chores, reprimand them when they were jerks to her or smother them in love when they apologized. This whole thing has been so hard on the kids and I know they feel sad about each and every time they brushed her off as she was bedridden still trying her best to run the household. She loved them all so much and that love came out every day. The sounds of love bouncing from these walls, it has certain ring, a specific note when it comes from a mother’s perspective. It is quiet now; that sucks hard.

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

I know, everyone keeps telling me she can hear me, her love is all around us, it is in our children and the home we made. I know I simply need to talk with her, or I guess to her because she really can’t talk back. I stare endlessly into this room I created, I hear the oxygen machine still running or the lack of it, I am not sure. I wish I was still bleach mopping the floor while she incessantly apologized for all I needed to do to take care of her. That always bugged me, I would snap at her and say to knock it off! I would tell her I loved more than anything on this earth and there is no place I would rather be! I would kiss her on the forehead, then make her lunch, sit in the chair at the end of her bed and stare at her. Worried this day was coming.

In reality there was some other place I would rather have been.

Back in Alaska on the cruise with her! In Mexico, on the beach with her! In the mountains, hiking with her! In our own backyard riding horses with her!

I would have gone anywhere or done anything with her! Even if I didn’t want to. She just had a way of always convincing me to go and really, if you knew my wife or spent any time with her you just knew what ever her exploits were it was going to be one hell of a good time!

Besides that woman could convince a police officer to rob a bank, a hooker into becoming a nun, or the wealthiest person in the world into giving away every last dime. It just is who she was. I seriously am going to miss that I think the most.

So yeah, the silence is killing me, crushing me, it is hard to breathe most days. I am trying so very hard and it really is so nice how strong everyone believes that I am, but I don’t feel strong, I feel, I feel, I think I feel cursed. I feel as though there is some kind of vendetta against me. I feel like a permanent black cloud. I feel like loneliness is my calling. I hate being alone.

Jacy would tell me that God has a plan for us all and this was his plan. I remember her telling me through tears not more than 6 weeks ago that she wasn’t ready! She wasn’t ready to leave this earth, that she felt there was still so much work to do, so many kids to help!!! I held her while she cried and promised her if her time did come I would carry that work on for her.

I have always been a man of my word.

I am starting a scholarship fund in Jacy’s name for high school kids here in Dixon. It will benefit Ag kids because that is what she believed. We were able to secure a little over $700 on Saturday at her memorial by selling left over tri-tip. So we are up and running.

I am also looking into starting a foundation using Jacys Army as the name. It will hopefully grow and secure enough funding to become perpetual. The objective will be to assist families that do not have the assistance or support we were lucky enough to have while going through Leukemia treatment. This one was my idea and something my wife backed 100% as we talked discussed in detail the lack of assistance for families less fortunate as ourselves as we went through the process.

I also promised her I would continue on, that I would be ok, alone. I lied to her a lot on that one. Starting with day trips, new places and taking lots of pictures of my alone adventures. But I never wanted her to worry about me more than she already did, so I kept doing it even though I wanted nothing more than to be by her side. Ultimately it created a man who was quiet and walked a lot with his head down. She called them rest breaks or time away from caring for her. It was time needed there is no argument there, I put on a super brave face and sold it like a used car salesman, but it is coming back to haunt me now as I long for all those moments I missed with my wife. I hate myself for not being there, for distancing myself from family. But it is what it is I guess, no changing it now.

So instead of rambling on like an A-hole; I guess what all of this is leading to is this;

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

Make every moment count. Even the little ones. Life is short, it can be taken away at a moment’s notice. I am blessed because we knew it would eventually come. But there are so many that walk out the door in the morning never to return again. Is that how you want to leave it?

Never stay mad at your spouse, no matter what. You have the ability to talk just about anything out and come to a resolution. I promise! I could make that woman spit hot lead, and she could make me flip a truck at times, yet we always forgave each other in our own ways. And yes, sometimes you need to recognize that not all forgiveness comes with an apology. Anyone who has been married long enough who reads this knows exactly what I am talking about.

Remember daily why you love them. Why you married them or are with them. Never forget that, they are special to you for a reason. Honor that reason and cherish it.

Never go to bed mad. Seriously it sounds dumb but it’s true. Every day truly is a new day! We are only given so many of those days so don’t waste them! Besides the snoring is enough on its own, so don’t find something else.

Enjoy every single little thing, from burnt meals, dirty clothes, dishes not done, to bad singing and even watching shows you cannot stand. The thing is you’re spending time together and that’s what’s important. You can never get that lost time back.

When the going gets tough, don’t even think for a moment about running away. If that’s what you’re thinking then in my humble opinion you never truly loved each other. Sorry but as my wife would say; the truth can be painful but in the end, it is still the truth.

Love is amazing, it makes us do crazy things. But the reality is love isn’t all the glorious movie tag lines or clichés we’ve grown up with or are led to believe. No my friends, love is all the messy and yes sometimes painful stuff in the middle. The rest is just the icing on loves cake.

Thanks for letting me vent all this out. I actually feel a little better. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings or made you cry. It was never my intention.

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A million no mores………

Where are you?

I see you in the trees, I hear you in the wind. Your smiles a reflection of the sun, your tears an afterthought of rain. I smell you while passing a garden and feel you in the dirt upon my hands. I know you’re in my heart, my chest feels nothing but pain.

You belonged to no one, yet you were mine. I will always have been the lucky one.

Things have settled down, people have filtered away. My house is no longer filled with the sounds of an active family, but instead a quiet, sterile silence echoes from the walls.

I have a lot of time to think. No more oxygen machine, no more pills to be taken, no more round the clock care, sheets to be changed, special meals to be made, I.V.’s to exchange or breathing treatments to administer. No more last minute pain pushes or middle of the night Kaiser Pharmacy runs. No more doctors’ appointments or shuttling to and from her second home at her dads under the wonderful care of her S-MUM. No more……. Anything.

There is also no more middle of the night laughter as she owned being high as a kite! No more rambling conversations with me acting frustrated to get her goat then tell her I was listening all along. No more stories of childhood or the time she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, all having been recited a thousand times. No more theological discussions involving what some would consider the gospel truth, then mixed in with stories of what we both called historical biblical sleight of hand. No more listening painfully to The Real Housewives of any fucking stupid city as she played it purely for background noise to quell her ever increasing anxiety. No more walks together outside or watching as she bravely and oh so blindly used her will of steel to walk on her own. No more morning breakfasts where I tried so very hard to create something flavorful and delicious to make her smile, knowing that being stuck in bed while I ran a million chores made her sad. No more arguments about who wasn’t listening to who or her telling me to slow down because her brain didn’t process as fast as it used too. No more inadvertently hurting her feelings as I needed to treat certain situations in a clinical aspect to get her to comply then working towards forgiveness and a long awaited hug and kiss which she always made me earn and rightfully so. No more watching her snuggle her children or her dogs with glee! No more watching her find joy in the simplest of things, hear her recollect every amazing moment with each and every one of her children or fill those precious moments with every worry she had about their future. No more sage advice from a woman who pulled no punches while never saying she was sorry, but then fill your face with a million kisses instead knowing you’d probably already forgiven her. No more family holidays with her smile radiating across the room. She couldn’t see, but she could sense every single minute surrounded by those she loved and the joy upon her face was the stuff stories are made from. No more hearing her at 1 am downstairs, alone, singing or laughing or talking to her iPad as she recorded things for her children in the future. No more hearing her sob, alone downstairs at 1 in the morning as her brain helped her realize what was to be a certain fate. No more morning goodbyes or walking through the door hellos, followed by a joyous “I love you”. No more hidden cards telling me how much she loved me, no more painted art or crafty paintings! No more kissing her while she slept and adjusting the covers so she was warm. No more, no more, there are a million no mores.

Saturday was the start of something.

Seeing each and every life she ever touched, listening to all the stories and remembrances, being surrounded by that much love was an amazing experience. I know she was there, I hope she was happy, I am sure she spent time in her own way touching each and every one who walked through our gate. Jacy just had a way. I fell in love with her for many reasons, but one of them was because she just had a way. She drew you in like a moth to a flame, she held you close with her warmth, compassion and heart of gold. She only ever cared about you, never herself and that my friends is an amazing quality that is not seen all that often today. She was quite simply an angel.

I can remember dropping her off for choir practice and thinking as I drove away that church seemed a little brighter once she walked into the building. I loved listening to her sing in the choir too. She always glowed. She always said that we all find our way, it is what Go has planned for us. There is no roadmap, no directions, we simply need to trust in him and we all find our way.

After Saturday, seeing everyone and watching a day of remembrance unfold exactly the way she hoped it would, I knew in my heart we will also find our way.

It will be long and painful for all of us. There will be a million new experiences for us. We will make new memories and find our way while hopefully honoring the leader of our family with each and every step.

I will miss being able to report our successes and failures to her, hearing her laugh or wanting to give us a hug. But we will find our way.

The truth of it all is I don’t know how to be anyone but Mr. Jacy and I miss more than anything hearing her voice out loud. It’s in my head, it’s in soundbites and video, but I am selfish, it is not the same.

But I can hear it, and I hear her telling me to have faith, stay strong and find a way.

She told me once that she will be waiting for me with open arms on the other side, and though it will seem like an eternity for me, for her it will be but a joyous moment in time, for she had been with me all along, in my heart and in my soul.

I loved you Jacy Franceschi, I will always love you, I will always be grateful for every single moment we spent together and apart. When it was easy it was good, when it was hard it created what marriage is supposed to be and those memories will never fade. I loved you with everything I had and I can never repay you for what you brought to my life.

I miss you so bad, but I can truly say not only was I loved, but I was loved by an angel.

You were my everything…

Day 11. I’m so sorry you had to go…

Eleven days

It’s been eleven days since we said goodbye. It wasn’t pretty, no longing stares or pointless conversation. Goodbyes are always hard, I am glad we didn’t do the whole; it’s not you, it’s me thing. That would have been pretty pointless.

The thing is, I have never been away from you this long. I have never gone a day without hearing your voice, laughing at something dumb or had you to bounce ideas off. I understand that seasons change, lives change, feelings change and with it we should learn to accept that change, embrace that change and learn to grow from its opportunity. Yet I am so confused.

I feel as though I tried really hard to be everything you needed me to be in the hope we would grow old together, raise grand kids together, and be there for each other. Best friends until the end! It was the plan right? I mean you said it was, you said you would always be there for me to dote over, to help pick me up when I was down, carry some of my load as I to carry yours, meet me in the middle of the toughest situations and walk hand in hand through this messy thing called life! You promised me that I could go first! I know it’s selfish, but after everything that has happened in my life, I just didn’t think I could bear to live through another emotional loss of such magnitude!

And yet here we are. You have left and I am alone.

I cannot get past it, I know, I know, it shouldn’t have been a shock, things hadn’t been working out for a while. But it was a shock, of the greatest magnitude!! When I think of the moment your left and trust me it occupies my every thought, I can’t catch my breath! I cannot think straight, to see you leave that way wasn’t easy by any means!!! I have never seen that look on your face! Your bright, sunny, amazing smile encompassing your olive complexion and radiant eyes has never, and mean ever looked that way before!!! It, well, it was horrific!!

Days later and all I can think of is who am I? Missing your voice, your advice, your goofy demeanor is bad enough, but let’s cut to the chase! Who the fuck am I? I have been 50% Jacy for 17 years and I really liked that, a lot! WHO THE GOD DAMN FUCK AM I? WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO BECOME? WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO AS I FIGURE THESE THINGS OUT? YOU AREN’T FUCKING HERE SO WHAT THE BLOODY HELL??!!!

Ok I am sorry. I am really angry! So fucking angry!! I am angry at God, I am angry at Haiti, I am angry at Leukemia, Chemotherapy, experimental drugs, promises, Stanford, Kaiser, fuck I am even angry at myself buying into all this bullshit the same way you did! The only difference is you never wavered, you always felt you were going to beat this fucking thing!! I spent so many nights not sleeping, worrying for you, for your safety, for your mental well-being. I dove into the process and everything and I mean everything pointed to dark, black places that no one should go! But you, you always shone brightly, always with a kind word or positive thought. It is one of a million reasons I fell in love with you. You always knew I was a realist, a black and white kind of guy and although it bothered your unicorn and rainbows outlook at times you could always trust me for the straight answer. And I never disappointed.

I hate that I know the things I know, I hate that my profession has given me insights I never should have had, I hate that on the morning you left I knew that was the day you were leaving.

On the flip side, I am also thankful for the knowledge I have, it allowed me to care for you in ways others could not. It kept you safe and warm and nothing, I mean nothing kept me feeling closer to you than when you would tell me I was the only one you trusted with every single aspect of this shit sandwich we were handed. I was always prideful of our marriage.

I guess none of it matters now though does it? You are gone and here I sit.

Jacy, please know, that I understand completely why you had to leave. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life was lean down on that Saturday morning, kiss your cheek and whisper in your ear that we would be ok, the kids would be ok, I would make sure all of your dreams for them would come true and it was ok for you  to go. It killed me to say it, but it was the right thing to do. All I could think of after was that bullshit saying; if you love something set it free, if it comes back it is yours, if not it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t know why I thought that, because we were meant to be.

You were in enormous pain, you have been for some time. You have been struggling just to make one more day time and again. I no longer wanted you fighting for me and I know you Jacy Mirelle! That is exactly what you were doing. My heart is so torn, it aches beyond any pain I have ever felt, but saying goodbye was the right thing to do even though I know you loved me and you were never coming back. I’m trying to let the reality of it all ease things for me. I mean I know you are no longer in pain, you are in perfect form free from this world earthly struggle. But I guess I am just a selfish man who knows he had something special. You taught me about love, true love, how to love and be loved in return. How does one go forward when that much love has vanished? I am surrounded by so much love and support, yet I am achingly alone. I am trying really hard baby, I really am, but it’s just not ok that you left. I am not mad at you, I could never be, I just miss you.

I’m scared and I need a cheek snuggle really badly.

I’m really sorry you had to go, I love, love, love you..

 

Can we talk? Please???

I wrote this piece on August 4, 2018. I could not bring myself to post it back then. But as I sit here struggling with so much guilt and pain over my wife passing away this last week on October 20. I think it speaks volumes to my mental status over these last few months. I also think that if you are reading this, struggling with how you feel you may or may not be handling adversity in your life. You will see that its ok, the pain is real, the rambling mind is real, and you need to understand you are not alone. I may feel alone right now, but know I am surrounded by love. You are too. Just reach out and ask for help. Please….

Can we talk for a minute? Please?

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those talks where it ends something like; it’s not you, it’s me.

Because trust me, it’s all me.

But we need to talk none the less.

You see I am having some problems with our relationship. I recognize that I haven’t been forth coming or honest about my feelings lately. That keeping things really close to the vest as it were has been my modus operandi. It has been tough for the both of us I know as I am constantly peppered with questions when seen out and about. But the thing is, I am not doing it on purpose. I am cowering in silence.

Things are rapidly changing in my life and as much as I live to talk with you through this medium it hasn’t been a priority out of fear. Couple that with a request to stop writing about a certain main subject (my wife), exhaustion on my part and a feeling of continual inadequacy in all aspects of my life and well you can see how the information clam has sealed tight.

I hope you can forgive me, but I’m having other issues as well. My brain cannot get past the continued bad luck that keeps raining upon me and my family. It never seems to end! I swear some days I am afraid to go outside, open the mail or even take a phone call out of shear panic to what’s waiting on the other end of the line. Everyday life is scaring the hell out me, I never know what rock is waiting to fall on my head, what vice is waiting to squeeze the last ounce of compassion and care from my heart, what nerve will finally be worn raw!

I lay in bed at night thinking about you and how bad I need to talk to you but when the time comes I just cannot bring myself to open the laptop and stroke a few keys! I know if I do, maybe something I say or am going through may help you, may give you strength or tell you it’s ok! As in for example; hey, see that guy has the same problem, life isn’t so hard and isolated after all!  But for some reason I just can’t do it! I have even gone as far as staring at the screen while trying to find the right words, but only my anger at this life comes through in ugly, disturbing tones. Things written that do not show a strong man able to conquer all but a weak tired man ready to climb into a cave, never to be seen from again, and then of course I end up deleting anything I have written.

My anger is off the charts! I find more days than not I am ready to blow! Some days I pray for someone to look at me the wrong way so I can finally lose my shit! Let out all this pent up aggression, depression and frustration. But thankfully it is never to be.

I will never understand how I won this lottery of spousal death twice? The first time around was relatively speaking quick, from diagnosis to passing was just under a month. I thought that was bad, I thought what the hell, how can this be? I thought life is so fucked up when it’s taken away so quickly and harshly! But what’s happening this time is 10 times worse! We have had hope, then sadness, then hope again, then more sadness then miracle hope as in a Bone Marrow Transplant and then more sadness and then a little hope and finally being told; this is as good as it’s going to get. Maybe she will pass within a year, maybe a little more, maybe a little less.

Even with all that, nothing compares to watching what all these medications in combination with GvHD are doing to the love of my life! Watching her deteriorate to the point where some days her brain is spot on and others she is almost a dementia patient. What the fuck!!! I get so freaking mad when I see her struggling and I know it comes across wrong or feels like I am taking it out on her and the kids but god damn it I am pissed!

Are you still with me? It might get a little dicey from here on out.

What fucking God would do this to a person? What God would take away a mother and wife twice from a man? What God would sit back and watch all this happen while I am supposed stand under this cloud of despair and think there is a supposed purpose to all this? Are you fucking kidding me!!

My kids hate everything! The older ones are running away, the younger ones are trapped here but for the most part staying either in their rooms or hiding behind a video game screen.

Every day is the same as we try our best to all take care of mom, while terrified to leave the house as she cannot see and struggles due to breathing issues to get from one room to the other at times! She puts on a super brave face for everyone out of fear that she is letting someone down. But in reality she is in more full body pain than any of you could ever imagine! Her ribs are broken (yea that’s right broken) from coughing all the time, her feet and legs swell up as she can no longer adequately move fluids throughout her body as I said before she is blind and don’t let her bump anything as even a pencil size eraser bump will turn into a dinner plate size bruise and sometimes those bumps will break the skin which leaves blood everywhere!! So tell me, please, what God would do that to a person??

I hate being at work, and I hate being at home! I want our life back! I want her life back! Hell I would trade places with her in a minute. But we all know how stupid that sounds because it is an impossibility!

I wake up each morning worried something is going to happen to me! Seriously, what if something happens to me? Tell me I am wrong at how scary that sounds! You can be honest, I won’t hold it against you! But think about it. You wake up every day and you are it! The sole provider, the sole parent, the sole caregiver (that she trusts) at home, and you feel as though you cannot take any more, but for some reason it just keeps fucking coming!!!!!!!!!! Just because she is sick and dying doesn’t mean the bills stop, or the debt goes away, it doesn’t mean the kids can just automatically accept that dad is now the end all be all for parenting, it doesn’t mean the ranch will just run itself! No it’s all on me! Fucking Me!!!

You know what is even funnier? Come on, guess what’s even funnier???

Through all this, I am supposed care about your emergency when I show up in my fire engine!!! Don’t get me wrong, I do, I still give it 100% when we pull in front of your house, but please forgive me if I am not as excited about your papercut, vomit, alcohol laced sickness or cancer that you thought you had but really didn’t because you were misdiagnosed during a DMV physical by a third party doctor who swore you had a pacemaker which you had no idea you needed due to a history of diabetes that runs through your entire family but missed your third cousin Billy.

Yeah……

Still here?

Sorry I know this was supposed to be a talk between you and I and it has instead turned more into a rant. I never meant to bring you any worry or discomfort, I hope you can forgive me. I am just tired, really, really tired of it all.

Deep inside, I am struggling hard. I wake up every morning and stare at her to see if she is still breathing. Somedays I am lucky and she is up, fumbling around in the kitchen making coffee, other days she looks dead to the world and I freak a little. Every day is spent in the house trying to keep up. I no longer know which way to turn.

I feel as though there is nothing positive going on in my/our lives. I have a career that has been placed on hold for 5 years now and I feel it slipping away. The horses and the ranch are barley getting by and I have other people riding our horses as I cannot even throw a leg over one. I am struggling to find joy in the little moments with our kids as those moments are few and far between plus when the times are good there is always a backhanded slap from something that goes wrong when we get home. I feel myself aging at a rapid rate and I fear death may find me soon too and that scares me the most. Eventually losing their mom then losing me not to long after. The thought of my kids having no one when this bell is finally rung is petrifying.

I have always tried to make light, be funny, show anyone that will listen that no matter what, you can get through anything. And now I feel like a hypocrite. For I have nothing positive to say, no words of wisdom, no stellar advice.

All I hear in my head is the sounds of sadness and quote from long ago.

People die every day, what are you going to do about it?

Answer: Nothing.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.

 

 

 

The Face of Leukemia belongs to another………

Oh god! It’s happening right now!!! It’s happening right now! Oh my god, oh my god, holy shit, I’m not ready, or lord I’m not ready!!! Please don’t go, PLEASE DON’T FUCKING GO, YOU CANT LEAVE ME, YOU CANT LEAVE, PLEASE BABY PLEASE D O N ’T  G O…………..

I… love … you….

Time of Death (TOD) 12:10

Date: 10/20/2018

No it’s not a reality show, or some made up Holly wood bullshit and I am not writing a paragraph for some future best seller!

It’s the playlist running through my head every day since my wife succumbed to GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease one week ago. GvHD, a nasty derivative of a Bone Marrow Transplant post Leukemia diagnosis.

I have been a firefighter for 23 years. Nothing, and mean NOTHING prepared me for those 30 seconds as I watched the woman I loved, cared for through sickness and health, good times or bad, take her final, gasping, breath at 12:10 on a bed she made me swear she would never be in (hospice provided hospital bed) in the transformed living room of the place she loved more than anything-her home.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people I have personally witnessed perish. I cannot tell you the number of people I have personally watched suffer in agony as the one they loved slipped away. I cannot tell you the number of times I drove back to the station after an incident, filled with sadness for those people and sluffed it away with humor or companionship from my fellow co-workers.

I cannot tell you how badly all of it hurt and came to a head at 12:10 on Saturday the 20th 2018.

The storyline if there was one should read: quietly I wept by her side knowing she was in a better place, free from pain, one with God. I took comfort in knowing these things and because of this knowledge was able to open up and allow others to grieve by her side.

But this isn’t a storyline! This is my life..

If I hadn’t been in a chair, I would have fallen to the floor, If my sons hadn’t been by my side I would have crawled under the bed, but make no mistake, I wailed, I sobbed, I kissed her face, over and over, and over again, just praying for one last look, one last mumble, one last anything.

There was nothing. She was gone, I was crushed, my heart is consumed with pain, I feel immeasurable guilt for the multiple hours she spent alone, trapped in this house as I ran from one place to another, and the thought of living life without my center, my navigational north by my side is unbearable.

Today is the one week anniversary of her death.

I have made it a week. The house is empty, oh so empty. I still am not used to the silence associated with no medical equipment running, no sounds of her coughing or calling my name for assistance. I need more than anything to hear her making dumb jokes, asking if I think GvHD has made her sexy or wanting nothing more than a cheek snuggle. I pace around in the morning early, trying my best to fight the urge to go downstairs and check on that fucking empty room.

This is NOT how she would have wanted me to be. I sit in her room and tell her I am sorry, I tell her I promise as time goes on I will get stronger, but right now I am mourning. I have come to realize I am not mourning just the loss of my wife, my best friend, a person who gave so much of herself to those around her which in turn made me a better man. I am mourning the past, the five years lost, filled with sickness, Stanford, Kaiser and such. Date nights, alone time, reconnection, weekends, and walks around the property, loading up and taking horses anywhere or nowhere at all. I am mourning what we didn’t have for 4 of those five years. I am mourning what we will never have again. I am mourning for my children, for my grandchildren and that is what hurts the most. That woman lived for babies, for being a presence in their lives and the thought of my grandchildren never meeting their goofy, fun loving grandmother. The thought makes me sad, so sad, as if I am drowning in a perpetual sea of sadness.

I am sad my son’s wives will never know the true unfiltered love of a mother in law with no agenda. I am sad my daughter won’t have her mother at her side on her wedding day.

And I am angry.

The hardest part for me is why? I am not supposed to know the answer, I am supposed to believe and follow faithfully. My faith has always been strong. How many times must a man suffer? How many times must a family suffer? What is it I am supposed to learn from all of this?

My whole life I have wanted nothing more than a family, to marry, grow, and together step through the seasons of life. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, births and birthdays. To have a ranch where they all come together with their children built upon the seeds their mother and I threw into the mix. To die an old couple knowing we did our best, grew our crop and watched it flourish to harvest together.

To pass on our love, compassion and set an example for our future Franceschi generations.

I have been robbed, she has been robbed, and our children have been robbed. For that I am angry.

She would tell me to knock it off! To not be angry, we all knew this was a possibility, that she did this for no other reason than to be by her children for one more day, to hear their voices and feel their presence for one more day. She would tell me she succeeded and that it quite simply was time to go. She had a funny way of always knowing. She just had a way. I loved her for it.

Right now, I wish she was here, for 7 days later, I really need her to help show me the way…

The Face of Leukemia now belongs to another.

Picture taken at 11:30 am. 40 minutes before she slipped away.

I am not fine…

I am not fine.

There it is, I said it. It has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion. But, I have acknowledged it, pulled it out from under the emotional rock it was hiding and verbally stated its presence.

I am not fine.

There are many reasons I am not fine, and it’s not a simple answer to the question of why? But it is a truth, a truth I have been hiding for quite some time now.

I spent this week in San Diego as a participant in a Health and Wellness for public servants seminar. The first day started with an amazing opening speaker who really inspired and justified my resilience in accepting this time away from Jacy. After that it was a lot of the same old build up, and for us fire guys a reiteration that ICS should always be used while managing any type of incident. Including a mental health crisis. After 8 hours of what was new and interesting information for most and a segment of boring refresher for us fire people. I prayed the class would only get better. It did not disappoint.

Day two found us thrown into the emotional arms of a speaker covering the essentials of support, where that support comes from and what it looks like when built properly. He carefully broke down through his own experiences where we go wrong as public service personnel when it comes to identifying the who, what where and why of our foundations for strength while working these spiritually, emotionally and mentally taxing professions.

As he stood there expounding on his failures, the recognition of a skewed priority system, the ability to deny professional help after a triggered emotional event and the wall he built around him by simply stating he was fine when asked. It hit me, hard, like a ton of bricks that everything he was saying fit me to a tee. That I to have been pronouncing my resilience nonstop and answering every question in regards to how I was doing with the five year demise of my wife as I was “fine”.

But I wasn’t fine. In fact I had been living this lie for so long I actually began to believe my own bullshit.

You see in those few moments as I wandered in and out of his lecture, with every key point fitting me perfectly I knew it had gone on long enough. But where did all this come from? How did I get this way? Why have I been able to carry this load so well for so long and still be standing?

Day three gave me the answer.

During a transition in classes on day three, having freshly been removed from an hour long course on family crisis and the emotional well-being of children in regards to perceptions related to our jobs.

I received the phone call no one wants.

My wife, the love of my life, the strongest human being I know in this world was in demise. As many of you already know Jacy has been fighting a very long hard battle with GvHD post Leukemia transplant. The GvHD has won. We quietly placed her on long term hospice four weeks ago. Affording us instant access to RN’s who would come straight to the house when needed. Also giving me a strong base to stand on as I have been the head nurse to my wife for over a year.

 

 

 

The phone call went something like this: James, Hospice is taking Jacy off the Stanford medications, she can no longer swallow, or eat and really it’s about pain management now. She has but a few days.

Of course there is much more to it than that but this is neither the time nor place to run through her complete medical chart, emotional state or my irrational state of mind.

As of late I have been referring to myself as the air traffic controller of our family, that call was the equivalent of having a plane drop from my screen. Call sign, call sign, pandemonium and panic ensue.

Yet it was also in that moment, standing on a deck just outside the convention overlooking beautiful Mission Bay trying to keep it together as 600 hundred of my fellow public servants could see me from many vantage points I not only realized 100% I met every single criteria for a public servant-no a human being, father of four, dad, a fucking husband in distress and the honest recognition I needed help. Just like that, the clarity as to how I have been able to keep going for so long hit me like a brick.

My father.

My dad could drive me crazy! His self-righteous bullshit was always something I rebelled against! But since his passing here at the house almost three years ago I have come to realize that even though I fought against him so hard for so long there are traits he taught me that I carry proudly to this day.

Son; always put one foot in front of the other, life will knock you down but you need to keep going. What else are you going to do?

Of course in his later years he did nothing but sit on his butt and blame everyone and everything for his perceived failures in life instead of cherishing what was around him. This was also a bone of contention between us because I believed the latter and it made me mad he wouldn’t follow his own advice.

But here I was, overlooking the ocean, swelled up with a myriad of uncontrollable emotions. Not more than a few hours earlier I had been talking to one of my co-workers about how tired I was after five years and several Leukemia associated battles. Trips to Stanford, scares, triumphs, disappointment, doctors’ visits to Kaiser, Jacy crying in the elevator proclaiming she wasn’t ready to die, because she felt there was so much work left to do. It all has taken a tremendous toll on us all, of course no more than what it’s done to my wife.

The only life I have known for five years is that of a single parent (I fully admire all of you single parents) doing his best to get three of my four kids where they need to be when they need to be there, run our ranch, work my job as a firefighter, and care for my wife 24 hours a day many times with little sleep. I am blessed the most amazing support structure in Jacys family and with the assistance of our Gina I don’t know how I would ever have gotten it all done, but either way, yeah I was tired.

But what struck me, what really opened my eyes at that very moment was the realization through wonderful training that week, was that I hadn’t been placing one foot in front of the other for five years, no, no my friends. I have been doing it for 18 years.

 

 

 

I never dealt with or recovered fully from the loss of my first wife. I have been doing the emotional two step in one form or another for a very, very long time, affecting my personal relationships, my children’s ability to grow as human beings and my own self-care.

So yeah I am tired, I am so fucking tired.

But in that same instant, I’m not ready!

I am not ready for any of this, I have the skills to handle it, I have a complete support network in place to handle it, and I have the contacts to some of the best professionals in the business to handle it! All of that is something I didn’t have in 2001 when Kim died. I have been praying for peace for my wife, but her mind says she isn’t ready. I have been wanting to have a moment where I don’t need to worry about anyone or anything, but I am a man who cares deeply for his family, all of his family so that is not a viable wish. But I am not ready to say goodbye.

On the flight home I stared at the ceiling, I could hear my wife’s angelic voice in my head as I replayed moments from the past. It hurt because we haven’t had a conversation that was completely lucid in quite some time. I relived many of my favorite times with her and realized how much I will miss even the tough times. She is the only woman in my life who understood I never ever meant any harm when at times my mouth wrote checks I couldn’t cash. Which means she is also the only person who could ever call me on my shit without receiving the full verbal wrath of James Franceschi! Something I am always embarrassed by when it inadvertently happens.

I don’t do alone.

What am I going to do without her? Why is or did this happen? I have been so focused on keeping her alive that now as the time dwindles away I haven’t remotely considered how I am going to function without her, her strong willed personality, her gigantic kind, giving heart, her ability to coerce me into doing things or trying things I never, ever would have done or experienced completely against my will only to have me thank her for it afterwards. That larger than life smile, how will I go on without that larger than life smile in my life? How are my children going to function? Cody and Jake have been through this, they still have no idea what’s ahead, and they are quietly struggling as well but what do I say, what do I do? What is Jess going to do in a house filled with all boys, no mom to be there for prom, homecoming, graduation, and all the girly things that need to be addressed in the way only a mom, no, only my wife can do! What about Parker, why is this happening to Parker her only child? She fought so hard to bring him into this life and now she won’t be there for him either!! She is his everything!!!

Listen, I understand I am not the only person in the world this has or is happening too. But what the hell???? Why is this happening to me twice and how in the fuck do you justify taking away quite possibly the kindest most giving person I have ever known. Why not me? I have spent my life as an asshole, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to work???

 

 

 

Jacy Mirelle Glenn Franceschi answered a call 16 years ago. She fought hard against all odds to answer that call, fulfil that vision and she has without question made me the man I am today! Something I am so, so grateful for! She fought long and hard, working night and day to create the James Franceschi that sits here typing, wondering why? Is God saying her job is done and if so couldn’t he have found a different, less painful and disturbing way to tell her?

I love, love, love my wife. What am I going to do the first morning I get up and I don’t hear; Good morning my love as I grumble across the kitchen floor and make her coffee and breakfast? That first morning the kids don’t yell goodbye mom see you after school, hope you feel better today, while she does her best to respond with: have a great day! The first time her hospital bed isn’t there, the oxygen machine isn’t running, the doorbell isn’t ringing with medication deliveries and the house is cold and empty as if she never existed? The house she created, the home she filled with warmth and love, the ranch we tried to build together???

WHAT KIND OF FUCKED UP SHIT IS THAT??? MY BEST FRIEND IS DYING SLOWLY AND THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT!!!!

I’M NOT FINE, THERE IT IS, I’M NOT FUCKING FINE!!!

The 7 Habits of a Grateful Rodeo Kid

Our first rodeo of the year for the 2018/19 season has come and gone.

As many of you who are part of my inner circle know (mostly because I have honored my wife’s request to stop writing about her) things have been getting harder here at the Blue Sky Ranch. Rodeo almost didn’t happen for us this year. Finances have been miserably tough, our horses haven’t gotten the love and attention they deserves and my plate is soooooo full that even helping my children has fallen to the wayside.

I feel many days I am failing miserably as a father, a son, a friend, a mentor, a rancher, a fireman, and well pretty much at life. At one point I contemplated selling it all, just to remove some of the strains and pressures associated with being the caregiver to an terminally ailing spouse.

But then a moment came where I was reminded of something my father taught me in his oh so confrontational way. God rest his soul..

I could feel him looking me dead in the eye and yelling (yes, he could only communicate in two ways- yelling and laughing) Son god damn it! Whats right is right and whats wrong is wrong, so always do whats right and you’ll never be wrong with yourself. And remember you can lay there and cry about it or get off your ass and do something.

Well I got off my ass. I asked for help and it was received, I got the rig together and quit pacifying the kids, forcing them out into the barn (an area I have been neglecting because of the wife and injury to myself) I got them back on their horses and practicing, hard. As we pulled out heading to the first rodeo of the year I was nervous for them, all of them. My kids, my friends kids, kids I hadn’t even met. Why? Because as I was so reminded this weekend. WE are one BIG family. I couldn’t believe that for a moment I thought about leaving them because of life’s hardships.

There is no other sport in the world like rodeo. The National Anthem plays and silence falls over thousands in an instant, kids loping their horses stop, remove hats and hang heads. Parents greet everyone with a good morning and a smile, whether you know one another or not, and all of us, kids, competitors, parents and visitors cheer each other on with words of encouragement, excitement and amazement at what each and everyone of these athletes (horses, kids and adults) can do. We all start the day with an Amen.

This last weekend inspired me to re-post something I wrote two years ago. It came from my heart, it came from years of failure, try and grit. It came from watching kids over and over again works their asses off, fail and come out of the arena with a smile. It came from failing and having my own children remind me of the many pearls of wisdom I had bestowed on them over the years.

After reading it again today, I pray this is my legacy. My children’s legacy and their children’s legacy. If we can keep this attitude and drive moving forward years after we are gone, regardless of what society deems or pushes upon us, then we as parents have succeeded.

So with that, here it is.

Thanks dad, I know we didn’t always get along, but I miss you……..

THE 7 HABITS OF A GRATEFUL RODEO KID

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

The American English word “rodeo” is taken directly from Spanish rodeo ([roˈðe.o]), which roughly translates into English as “round up

Rodeo is a competitive sport that arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later Central America, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia and New Zealand. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States, western Canada, and northern Mexico. Today it is a sporting event that involves horses and other livestock, designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls. American style professional rodeos generally comprise the following events: tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. The events are divided into two basic categories: the rough stock events and the timed events. Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events such as breakaway roping, goat tying, or pole bending may also be a part of some rodeos.

Many rodeo events were based on the tasks required by cattle ranching. The working cowboy developed skills to fit the needs of the terrain and climate of the American west, and there were many regional variations. The skills required to manage cattle and horses date back to the Spanish traditions of the vaquero.

Early rodeo-like affairs of the 1820s and 1830s were informal events in the western United States and northern Mexico with cowboys and vaqueros testing their work skills against one another.[9][10] Following the American Civil War, rodeo competitions emerged, with the first held in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1872.[10] Prescott, Arizona claimed the distinction of holding the first professional rodeo, as it charged admission and awarded trophies in 1888.[11] Between 1890 and 1910, rodeos became public entertainment, sometimes combined Wild West shows featuring individuals such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, and other charismatic stars.[10] By 1910, several major rodeos were established in western North America, including the Calgary Stampede, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Rodeo-type events also became popular for a time in the big cities of the Eastern United States, with large venues such as Madison Square Garden playing a part in popularizing them for new crowds. There was no standardization of events for a rodeo competition until 1929, when associations began forming.

In the 1970s, rodeo saw unprecedented growth. Contestants referred to as “the new breed” brought rodeo increasing media attention. These contestants were young, often from an urban background, and chose rodeo for its athletic rewards. By 1985, one third of PRCA members had a college education and one half of the competitors had never worked on a cattle ranch.[12] Today, some professional rodeos are staged in large, air-conditioned arenas; offer large purses, and are often telecast. Many other professional rodeos are held outside, under the same conditions of heat, cold, dust or mud as were the original events.

Wikipedia

I have always preached being grateful as an adult and I believe that comes from a tempered or aged wisdom which allows adults to see what the youthful eye cannot. For when we are young it is very easy to become self-centered; forgetting the where, why and how of it all. Believing there is only one person in the universe that matters and that person is yourself. Parents often times inadvertently help with this self-absorption. Creating often times a very self-centered child by constantly praising their failures, awarding them for mediocre performances while never allowing them to work hard after recovering from the sting of defeat. These parents will purchase the newest greatest next horse at the drop of a hat without any consideration the horse may not be the problem, but the child themselves. As a parent, in my opinion constantly bowing to the child whenever things don’t go their way is a set course for disaster! This often leads to a rodeo athlete who doesn’t understand just how lucky they are to be where they are, doing what they are doing, all why relying on a partner who speaks no English, knows nothing of what the game plan is other than a learned skill and has no way to say afterwards; Hey dude that wasn’t me this time it was all you! Hence the ungratefulness and emotional meltdowns ensue.

I will constantly tell a child to smile while leaving the arena, no matter the outcome! A simple reminder that this run you made was the luckiest thing you could have done today! Who else gets to do these amazing things on horseback in front of a cheering crowd? Who else but you and your closest friends? You have already beaten the odds by even being here! Smile! Smile big! You practiced and this time it didn’t work out, but next time it will! Just remain grateful and keep working hard.

I tell my children no matter how you did, get up, knock the dust off and smile! People always remember the kid who gave it their all with a smile on their face! You can be mad at yourself, mad at the run, hell even mad at your horse because yes, even though I also always preach look at yourself first before being angry at the horse, horses have bad days too! But wait until you are out of the arena, away from everyone else before you let any evil out of the jar!! Take a few minutes, compose yourself and remember you participated and did something most people only dream about. Hell most parents envy you a little because we can no longer compete! So you did something most people don’t get to do and your parents secretly envy you? Yeah I’d say that is pretty freaking cool!

One day coming out of the cutting pen my son reminded me of just how important my own words had become by throwing them right back into my face. I had worked hard during the winter on getting my horse just right. I strolled slowly into the herd as confident as I had ever been. I knew what cattle I wanted, my horse was supple and relaxed, Hell as far as I was concerned they should have already written the check out to me! After pulling my first cow out for a clean cut, I dropped my hand, sat back, turned out my toes and completely relaxed. This was going to be a kick ass run. In the end it was an; I got my ass kicked run. Nothing and I mean nothing went right after the second or third jump and I ended up schooling my mare. Instead of winning the round, I walked out with a zero.

As I passed through the gate, angry as hell, dejected and wanting to punch something (I am a little competitive) my son said; Great job dad! Smile! Who else gets to go out and do what you just did!

My son Jake, teaching the father. I smiled because I was in fact grateful. Grateful God had placed him there to remind me which made me grateful for the opportunity to try.

And with that little story here are my 7 habits of a grateful Rodeo kid/participant

  1. Always thankful to God. We get up each morning and from the minute we pull our boots on we should be counting the many blessings put before us. Riding rough stock, training and riding horses, learning to rope, steer wrestle, goat tie and chute dog, takes time and skill. Thank God each and every day for the gift of life, the ability to thrive for everything you have achieved or will achieve. Thank God for the ability to fail! For failures are what eventually leads to improvement and a solid winning attitude.
  2. See’s the run in their head. You have practiced it, you have done it a million times the right way at home. Enjoy the very moment coming before you by closing your eyes and seeing yourself completing an amazing run, rope a steer perfectly, or wrestle a steer to the ground with ease. Riding bulls or Broncs? Who is your favorite rider, picture yourself making the very same ride your hero has, using the very same technique and effort! Enjoy this moment and use the power of your mind to see the perfection locked inside.
  3. Helps someone every single chance you get. Rodeo is a giant family and somewhere, someday you might need help in return. Always sharing knowledge you have gained, what you’ve seen while comparing notes you have taken. A truly grateful rodeo athlete knows that by helping others you are raising the competitive bar and that makes for a better rodeo all the way around. Be the first to congratulate another competitor when they have done well, always have an encouraging word, share a smile, a pat on the back, a high five! Your support will be returned tenfold, I promise!
  4. Always remains humble. Rodeo athletes who come across as entitled just don’t get it. They aren’t thankful, grateful and their attitude can bring about resentment and hate. Remain humble, honest and true to the values your parents gave you. Honesty, good sportsmanship, empathy and desire to be the best (best partner, contestant, coach, friend etc.) Buckles are great, money is awesome but those things should never define who YOU are. Remember you are only as good as your last run.
  5. Listens, listens, listens. You are never too good to take advice. The learning process never ends and someday when you are older you will hopefully feel the desire to pass everything you learned to another, whether it be your own children or clients. Remember to treat others the way you expect to be treated and that sometimes means to listen more and talk less..
  6. Treats ALL animals as if they were their own! You cannot compete without livestock! Don’t treat your horses, cattle and goats like a piece of machinery to be fueled, worked and thrown in a garage never to be seen until the next rodeo. Be grateful for their existence and abilities. Care for them like they were family because in some cases if you are really lucky that is exactly what they become. I have seen many of the meanest bucking bulls in the arena act like little puppies loving on their human for some ear scratching outside the arena! These animals truly love their jobs when treated right and in the end there is no greater bond than a grateful child and their horse.
  7. Continually thanking everyone that helped you along the way. Your parents, grandparents and even in some cases your brothers and sisters, they spent countless hours getting you where you needed to be when you needed to be there. Trainers, horses, cattle, ropes, saddles, tack, everything you need mom, dad and even sponsors did their best to make it happen. Nothing says you are a grateful human being like showing gratitude for the sacrifices these people all made so that you could ride into an arena, good, bad or otherwise and ride out with a smile on your face.

There you have it! How I feel our children should approach this great American sport. I know my children hear this all the time. It starts from the minute I remind them to remove their hats during the national anthem and continues until the moment they are asleep in the truck during our long ride home.

Our children should dream big! Shoot for the stars! But at the end of the day where ever they end up, these days here at rodeo with friends will be some of the best, most memorable days of their lives. Why not help by building a solid foundation that will lead them out into this world with a grateful attitude, a love for the sport win or lose and god in their back pocket? It can only bring them success in life.

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

The California Stop

I want to talk to you all about something important.

The future of our world.

Ok wait, let’s rephrase, how about the future of America? Nope, nope, nope that still paints to broad a stroke.

Hmmmmmm???

The future of our youth and the direction our country may or may not be headed towards with them at the helm?

No, that comes off as narrow minded and degrading…

WAIT! I got it!

The repercussions associated with adults living and raising our children in the grey area created by society’s ignorance towards methods of the past?

Shit! I just can’t seem to get this one right!!!! Not usually my style to lack on words or the ability to use them.

Let’s try this another way, through a long, drawn out explanation.

Now before all you youngsters either hate me, understand me or feel the need for a safe space to sort out your feelings please understand nothing has changed over time when it comes to what I am about to tout. Only the players and the landscape for which they played the game. Life is cyclical and my hope is we are on the precipice of change. You old timers such as myself I hope will get this instantly!

The other day while driving through town I found myself yelling at another vehicle from the helm of my galactic beast! After 37 years driving semi-trucks, pickups, cars and oh yeah Fire Engines, with all that experience I think I have earned the right for a holler or two! I love driving, always have since the day I took the family tractor for a joy ride. Even with all that, I really only have a few pet peeves when it comes to the rules of the road and it drives me insane when I see others breaking them.

First and foremost let’s just get this out there, I am a certified serial speed offender! I hate going slow, I loathe going slow, I mean I really detest moving at the speed of stuck! But with that being said and placed so effortlessly on the table let me ensure you the minute I cross into any city limits I am Johnny law jr. I don’t break the law, I drive the speed limit, I use my turn signals, hell I even stop for pedestrians in the cross walk!!! Yup I am that guy. Living law in the grey…

So where was I, oh yes, the other day a certain individual in a newer blue mustang rolled hard up on the stop sign, and at no point even attempted to bring his 350 horsepower pony to a full and complete stop! Rolling right through as if the big red sign that said STOP on it was merely a suggestion, this idiot completed the perfect, textbook California Stop! Of course he glared at me as though it was some form of inconvenience that I was waiting my turn, being on the right of another vehicle per the law. Yet in truth I believe the glare was more of a fuck you. He knew he was more important than I, he knew he was more important with more important places to be than any other person so carelessly sharing the asphalt with this asshole and he knew he was an asshole and just wanted make sure I and everyone else knew he was an asshole. (Secretly I just like saying asshole)

Staring at this hellish, lame blue piece of shit for which the owner obviously cherished more than his wife or significant other, with its mirror like shine, extra loud pipes and fancy wheels a question flashed through my head! Crass and obnoxious as a teenage boys lifted Chevy Silverado rolling hard and loud with childish straight pipes and oversized 44’s I slowly pondered!

Where the hell did the California stop come from?

I remember (fade away music and fuzzy picture is appropriate right now for my flash back) back as child in the 70’s we were taught to obey the law, respect the law, and to fully understand that if you broke the law there were in fact very dire consequences! You acted respectfully to those who represented authority and from that respect you earned it in return. A very simple, easy to understand logic that ruled our little place in the world. Ahhhh Mike Brady would have been proud. (Look him up young ones)

It was simple really, here let’s do a short recap. Don’t break the law, doing so has consequences, show respect and earn respect, live life with no worries. See! Easy!

I’ll never forget the day my dad slammed on the brakes in his old orange ford sending me to the floorboard (easy youngsters there was no seatbelt laws in the days of the Flintstones) and screamed at some guy about his “California Stop”!

California Stop what the heck is that dad? I questioned.

That is where you roll up to the stop sign, then proceed without coming to a full and complete stop. It is against the law son. It is named after us Californians because we supposedly are self-important and have places to be which keep us from obeying the law because we are above that! (Ok I’m para phrasing for the love of god I was like 8 or 10!)

Being the semi- inquisitive type, you know; only when it suits me, it became my mission to watch for these California Stoppers. There were not that many upon a first hard round of observations. Dad said it was because the fine for running a stop sign was steep and it took points away from your license so people feared that happening. Of course being recently adept at earning a million points on my Atari playing Pitfall I couldn’t even fathom losing one damn point, let alone several! The thought left me paralyzed with fear!

But hey, we have the law, the good old fashioned black and white, dealt out swiftly by your friendly local police officers, order and tranquility, points earned and points lost, so straight forward and yet confusing at the same time law.

As I became 16, obtained my driver’s license and set out alone in the family station wagon, I was always terrified of breaking the law, in specific the act of running a stop sign. Not stopping for the full and correct 3 seconds or creating a sense that forward motion had in fact come to a halt was a death sentence for me. I always looked both ways and spent a considerable amount of time clearing intersections while ensuring the law was properly followed. It was easy really, and the only times I ever saw the law in my rear view mirror was either for speeding (grey area, GREY AREA!!!), being out after curfew or when I was once mistaken for inhabiting a truck hauling some burglary suspects and we (my friends and I) were all pulled out and sat on the curb like criminals! The grey area that time wasn’t the law it was my pants and they weren’t grey!!

Ok I am droning on, so anyways, as the years went on I began noticing people were increasingly no longer stopping at intersections all the way! Over a ten year period it slowly became the standard, I mean everyone is doing it right? Just up and keep going! Only stop if there is a light and even then on right hand turns people started to roll those too. I couldn’t figure it out! What was changing and why was it changing? We need law and order, we need civility, we have laws for a reason, to not have laws and obey them leads to all out anarchy right???

Then one day, I was in my early thirties, I too rolled a stop sign, oh I had been doing it forever (bandwagon jumper), everyone does, nothing ever happens so my friends say, which I always found hard to believe and yet here I was motoring on when Johnny Law slipped from a side street and lit me up all red and blue lights an shit!

My heart was racing, what had I done? As he walked up the side of my old Ford, I already had paperwork in hand but for the life of me could not figure out what I had done. I wasn’t speeding, I know I stopped at the intersection (California stop denial! its real check it out!), maybe a tail light was out yeah that must be it.

Rolling down the window the officer took my information, told me he would return and after what seemed liked hours as rubberneckers gazed upon my scarred and shadowed soul cast so darkly under the glow of blue and red rotating police lights. They (rubberneckers) all slid by as close and slowly as possible. Bastards! I just knew they were laughing inside the comfort of their cars, making snarky remarks while calling me every name in the book! You could see it on their smug condescending faces!!

The police officer came back for which I produced my best Ill kiss your ass smile. While handing my paperwork back through the window he then explained I had in fact rolled the stop sign at the intersection behind us. My father had taught me to always be respectful towards authority so of course I didn’t dare challenge his findings in regards to my driving ability. Oh and you know I stopped, I stopped hard, the hardest stop anyone had ever stopped since the dawn of vehicle stoppedness!

He kindly thanked me for being so polite and explained (because of my skilled Eddie Hascal impression) (kids look that one up too) he was letting me off with a warning. Please never run another stop sign again. Ahhhh wasn’t that sweet???? So nice of him to recognize pure sincerity when he saw it.

From that point on, as the years passed by I started noticing other things as well. People no longer moved out of the fast lane, choosing to camp there much like a Memorial Day weekend, staking their claim and not budging no matter how hard you pressed them! There were people passing on the right, all the time, as if it was safe! I mean last time I checked that was labeled the slow lane and the left was the fast lane and oh my god I feel as though I am in Bizarro land! Also people tailgating! Whatever happened to a minimum of three car lengths between you? It feels as though with some people they are so far up my ass I am expecting colonoscopy results at the next red light!

The world is definitely going insane! No one IS following the rules of the road any longer!!! The stop sign became merely a suggestion, a set of turn signals is now apparently an option on all vehicles, and I mean it must be because maybe 10% of people can either afford them or are using them while operating their car! Semi-trucks are given no room for stopping, red curbs are for parking because let’s face it, it’s only a few minutes and what the odds the fire department is really going to need that spot! Speaking of fire departments, hydrants are now all the rage to park in front of as well! They really make your car pop! While parked on the street!

Also a trend has formed with the invention of social media. Now you don’t just complain to your friend or neighbor, you start an outright media campaign over every injustice ever committed by anybody, anywhere, anytime!!! No matter how stupid!

NO JOKE! I once saw the same man on a very public forum bitching about the lack of police presence in his neighborhood to handle those unruly teenage speeders, suddenly change his tune and begin complaining about the piece of shit cop who gave him a ticket for parking the wrong way on his street! His statement was that he was only in the house for a minute so he shouldn’t have gotten a ticket!!!! He was parked the wrong way! It’s not even a grey area, it is against the law!! What the hell is wrong with people??

(Cue heavy thinking) Hmmmm????

And right there, right there and then ladies and gentlemen of the jury it came to me.

Much like the moment I realized Santa Clause was not real, or expiration dates on food are for a reason! The second I fully understood the pull out method was not a viable option for birth control, or the real reason the pretty gal in Vegas “liked” me was not because I was funny or good looking but because she felt there was money involved.

Yes it hit me like a truck, slapping my face harder than the moment you knew your drug dealer was a narc because he had ALL his teeth!

The California Stop is to blame for all our nation’s problems!

You see we now completely live in a vast grey area brought about by the California stop. We have gone from a law abiding society to near anarchy. It began with us slowly accepting the California stop as a way of life. A social identity, and once we did that other aspects of travel law began to fall, and with that we taught our children through our own failures that as long as you don’t get caught it is ok. This of course traversed into other manifestations. You know the mindset, well if he got away with it???

And so on, and so, and so on..

The California stop has ruined all our lives. Go anywhere in the world and they know what the California stop represents and where it originated. It is the bane of our existence, the precursor to all our problems and much as the entire world believes that if you are a Californian you are a surfer, you live within walking distance of the beach (because although long the state is roughly only ½ mile wide) and you are a Democrat. The California stop is of your doing, it is your legacy and the world has every one of us Californians to blame! Don’t worry they are blaming us and hating us for many other things as well so don’t feel too bad.

So please, I beg of you all. Stop at the stop sign. 3 full seconds! If you can do it consistently then maybe like monkeys in a UC test project others will soon follow, mimicking your obvious love for safety, rules and standards. Then before long everyone will be stopping, cars will begin using turn signals again, people will start waving hello to each other as they pass, much like a Sunday drive about of days gone by.

And with just a little luck.

Kids will no longer get trophies for participating in real sports or soccer, parents will start reprimanding their children without fear, safe spaces will no longer be needed, people will have hope, laws will once again be followed creating a brighter future for all and some guy in a Mustang will no longer be known as an A-Hole by some other guy with way to much time on his hands to think about this shit. But instead he will be admired as the owner of a really bitchin car….

Oh fuck, ok I can’t go that far, who I am kidding, he was driving a newer mustang for Christ’s sake! It wasn’t like it was the wholly grail of mustangs the GT500 or a Hertz special, hell he wasn’t even in the ball park of a 67 fastback, Mach 1 or the California Special! Bahahahaha naw he’s still an A-HOLE in a poor man’s Camaro!!!

But hopefully you all get my drift…..

 

 

The little horse with a big heart..

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He was small, stout, nervous and had the type of heartwarming personality most people would kill to exude. When he walked across the roadway from one ranch to another we knew right away he was something very special.

As with all things special, he came with a story.

My son had been desperately searching for a good rope horse. As rodeo was progressing so were his roping skills and a good sound horse was on the agenda. One day at a cutting my neighbor saw me from across the parking lot, we made eye contact and he headed my way. A solid handshake and hello was followed with; I heard your son is looking for a horse? I said yes and he went on to tell me about this gelding he had that hadn’t made it as a cutter but had so much personality and drive my neighbor just couldn’t let him go. The problem? This horse needed a job. It was killing my neighbor to see such a wonderful horse with so much to give doing nothing and if my son was interested, after a test ride or two we may be able to strike a deal.

Of course I smiled, it sounded very promising and I said we would be over that week to take a look.

We walked across the road one afternoon and after the cordial hello’s, an introduction to the horse and a few laps around the indoor arena it was apparent these two were going to get along. My son was smiling from ear to ear riding this flashy paint gelding with an obvious personality twice his size. My neighbor was smiling too.

It was time for the deal making.

My neighbor helped the boy untack the horse and then pulled him aside. With a stern look on his face he proceeded to list the good, the bad and the ugly as all good horsemen should because no horse is truly perfect. Afterword’s it was time to negotiate a price. My son asked timidly how much for such a fine horse. My neighbor replied $5 dollars. Shocked my son repeated this monetary demand ensuring he’d heard it right! Yes this horse was being sold to my son, on this day only for the amazing sum of $5 dollars! He was also being sold with a thirty day money back guarantee! If for any reason my son changed his mind or decided the horse was too much animal he could simply walk said horse across the street, no strings attached and receive his $5 dollar bill back! Now after thirty days our neighbor made it very clear he would still take the horse back but he was keeping the $5 dollars.

My son ran across the street to gather his money and paid him promptly with a handshake and a gigantic, beaming smile.

Twoey set foot on our place and within minutes we all thought he was great. He seemed to be smiling and he acted as though he wanted to talk with you. Over the next year, hundreds of hours of practice and bonding between him and my son led us to know and understand just how great he really was.

Within two weeks we set out to get him into a great roping program with a well-known trainer. We loaded him up and dropped him off at the facility of our choice. After three weeks we received a phone call from the trainer. The call that morning was to initially let us know it just wasn’t working out. His nervousness, big engine and inability to focus were detrimental to becoming a rope horse. We of course also heard repeatedly just how sweet he could be and that everyone in the barn loved him! This was no shocker to us! But then something happened. On that very mornings practice everything clicked and the small, nervous horse with the giant engine and sweet disposition was repeatedly roping one steer after another. The trainer in a matter of hours had changed his mind and was requesting we keep him there a little longer.

When Twoey finally came home he pranced around our place like he was a Lipizzaner stallion! As though not only he knew he had accomplished something great but we all should bask in the glory of his accomplishments too! My son and he over the next month grew closer and closer and it didn’t take long before he could call Twoeys name and the horse would cover hill and dale to get at my boy. Lip quivering with excitement all the way.

Sometime later my neighbor ran into me again and asked how the horse was doing? I replied great, then explained all the training he’d undergone. My neighbor asked; how long did it take you to get him into a horse trailer? Shocked by the question I replied; I opened the door, said Twoey load up and pointed inside. Without hesitation the horse walked in and I closed the divider behind him. I had no idea he’d never, ever been in a trailer before. And just like that, there it was, the beauty of this horse. His mind always turning, thinking, he was willing to do anything to please you, to get a treat or a pet, he would literally do what ever it took to make you like him. He was a 1000 pound four hooved puppy dog that you just happened to be able to saddle and ride.

Not only was he taught to team rope or more precisely work in the role of a heel horse. But after a year on the ranch, my son also taught him to be a calf horse. He learned how to work cattle both in the pen and on the range, he roped, doctored and branded and he never, ever flinched. Not once.

Twoey also decided he really liked people. All people, and camera;s too! He was a super camera ham!! But he especially liked children. If he saw you near the fence he would always be the first to greet you, let you pet him and even give you a kiss. His nervous lip would always be quivering but it was his style and oh what an endearing style it was.

Four years later his paddock is right next to the house, he and his buddy Levi (the bulldogging horse) run around like mutt and jeff. They are inseparable. They travel to rodeos together, live together, eat together and look out for one another. Every time I see my son walking them from one paddock to another without halters, no worry as to whether or not they may leave him in the dust. Heads down, calm demeanors, moving alongside him like something straight out of a western, well it always makes me smile. Whenever I come home he is the very first horse I see and he will remind you he is there by knickering at you. If I’ve had a bad day, his quivering lips and kisses always make life just a little better.

Today at work I received the phone call no one who owns horses ever wants.

Twoeys hurt and it’s bad. You need to come home now!

Not knowing the situation I chose to wait until I got home and put my eyes on things before alerting my son who was at work. Yet as I pulled in the driveway a burgundy blur that is his F-250 flew by in a cloud of dust. No notification needed.

Walking into the barn I knew instantly it was bad, very, very bad. The long look on several faces as our borders gathered to help in any way was all I needed. Rounding the corner I see him, lip quivering, soaked in sweat, holding his left hind leg in the air while my son is squatted nearby holding his head in his hands. He knew it was bad too. Again, no words needed to be spoken.

Looking over my sons shoulder the picture became much clearer. A full avulsion from just under the Talus all the way down the leg to just above the Long pastern bone. Gone were the middle ligament and the lateral tendon, remaining was nothing but shredded skin and white, clean bone. It was so massive and mesmerizing I couldn’t believe this horse was even standing. My jaw was on the ground and the sheer size of this injury and the fact this horse was still upright wanting to be pet and kissed was boggling.

Our vet was out of town, several backups were called, but in the end UC Davis was notified and two vets were sent right away. Twoey’s lip quivered, his ears were up and forward, he licked his lips and looked as though he was wondering why everyone was making such a fuss over him. We gave him some medication to make him more comfortable and we waited. The dreadful long slow mind fucking wait!

During this time we found out he and Levi had somehow escaped, running through a fence while on their escapades. No one saw the accident or even how it happened. All anyone knew (including my daughter who saw them running about) was they were out and something just didn’t look right with Twoeys leg as he was running.

Our neighbor came over and assisted with his old horse. I was very glad to have him there, decisions needed to be made and it was comforting to have someone else to bounce things off. Twoey was surrounded by people who loved him and we did our best to keep him calm. My son was falling apart on the inside but very stoic on the outside. We both never said it, but each eye contact we made we knew the direction this was headed and it was tearing us both apart inside.

The vet arrived, several photographs were taken and consultations through the latest in technology led to only one plausible outcome for our dear sweet boy.

Today at 5:30 pm, under the old oak tree on our property our friend, my sons best friend, the face of our ranch after the passing of Tank (another story) and one of the smartest, sweetest horses I have ever known was laid to rest in tall green grass with those who loved him the most right by his side.

My son sat next to his head, stroking his mane and made direct eye contact with his buddy until the very last breath was taken. He and I hugged, we both cried.

Twoey was gone.

We gave my son some time alone with Twoey. There is a special bond between a boy and his horse, especially when that horse was the first one you ever trained for yourself, purchased with your own money, taught to come like a dog, give kisses only when asked and ride trail until there is no more trail to ride.

That horse loved him, believed in him and trusted him all the way till his very last breath. That is an amazing bond few youngsters from 13-17 will ever know.

When I came back after signing paperwork I rounded the corner headed towards the old oak tree just in time to see him. Sitting there on the ground, his arms around his horse and although I know he won’t admit it, he was crying. As a father it was the hardest thing to watch. It made my heart painfully, crushingly hurt and broke my spirit just a little more. Nothing in this world is more painful than the suffering of your own child. Nothing is more painful for a child than saying goodbye.

As I write this, I am in tears. Not for myself, not for Twoey as he feels no more pain, but for my son as he is going to feel lost and filled with anger and sadness for a while. Also for our family, I have two younger children who adored him and are in disbelief he is actually gone. I am also sad for our friends who knew Twoey through rodeo, interacted with him and all that knew what a sweet horse he was. I’m crying because our family is now missing an important stone in the foundation of our ranch.

Our boy is gone forever, this $5 dollar horse, the kind of horse and story no one believes until they see it for themselves. May he run heavens fields free, I hope he is with his old rodeo traveling partner Tank. Maybe Cooper is running alongside, barking and chasing his tail. May he know just how much we all loved and adored him? May my son rest easy soon and not dwell too hard on the tough decisions life brings. Even though they at times are dreadfully painful. His final words to me tonight were; this has been the worst day of my life.

I know deep inside, right now he is beating himself up thinking, just one more ride, why couldn’t I have had, just one more ride…..

So? You think you know.

A smile, a laugh, a hug and some jokes, you see me as I am and you think that you know. It’s the same old ground I’m always walking, with a head held high, false face, and fading reality.

You think you know.

This shadow of mine casts a dark reflection for which carries my soul. Walking side by side, flesh, muscle and stature tells you a tale, but my shadow harbors the truth. It’s darkness and rage, horror and fear, a shadowed jail that no one sees when peering at it’s presence upon the ground but me. Yeah I see it; you only see me.

I pray for cloudy days, for rain filled with pain, pressing so very hard upon my skin like needles tearing flesh from the bone. Helping, this searing sensation creates a neural overload strengthening my resolve when ever my shadow is gone. Building up future energy and tolerance for when the sun shines around me so I may survive it’s golden rays for just one more day. I have no place to hide.

You think you know

You think you know me when we meet, my smile and kind looking eyes but it’s all an act. My laughter and tears are played for an audience, I have become a master actor at life. Doing what I can to appease my shadow, to help hold these demons within. But much like an actor I must retire into solitude, and darkness, to a place inside my head where I can safely practice my lines. It’s a moody uncomfortable place where people can and do get hurt. But regardless it must be.

What you don’t know or will never understand is the sheer context of my life. I feel like a broken glass. Shards chipped, broken, then broken again. Placed carefully inside another glass for all to see.

You think you know

You mean well and want to help, but you have no way to reach inside this jar, pick a shard to begin putting me back together without hurting yourself, without bleeding and breaking just a little each time you try. Blood mixes with pain to become rain that falls back down on me. It hurts to much to try.

It’s all there for you to see. I’m all there, confined within the very transparency of glass for all to witness, not fix. Ultimately it is my gift to you. My way of helping you to never become broken, and for those already broken to understand it is ok to accept the truth and to be seen by those who care but don’t know.

So next time you see me, please don’t act like you know.

Because you can’t……