You never know…..

In one of my favorite movies; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, (Queenie) Benjamins adopted by fate mother proclaims; you never know what’s coming for ya.

Floating aboard my cousins Bass Boat very early Saturday morning a mere two days since diagnosis, I felt the need to push all my emotions down deep inside. Control myself, place my mind in the right space so as to look forward, beyond my current issues. Then with confidence firmly choose the correct rod, the right lure and hunker down for a long day’s grind. I could not under any circumstances allow myself to wander into the land of death, possible death, my heart failing, the surgery becoming botched, my family falling apart, my pathetic life unraveling before my eyes. It was as if the angel of death had arrived and was sitting alongside me. Taunting me, calling me out for all my misgivings, while allowing one or two last chances to get things right in this world. It was a daunting emotional mind fuck.

Tony and I were fishing in a very well run tournament series (NewJen) and there was no place I would rather have been at that very moment in time. Fishing is my escape from the world, and being as though I am competitive as fuck, it was a double win for me that very morning. 80 teams around us, the sun just beginning to rise over the mountains and off in the distance the national anthem is being played. 160 or so men, women and youth took off their hats, placed them over their hearts, standing upon the bows of their liquid rocket ships, some singing along, others with their heads slung downward, it was a thing of beauty. We were seconds from blast off, moments from 70-80 mph runs towards our first opportunities for greatness. It is what I live for and not only was I privileged enough to do it that very morning, but with family, my cousin standing alongside me.

Not going to sugar coat it. I was terrified as fuck when we ripped across the lake. Knowing sometimes is so much worse than not knowing. All I could think about over and over again was the doc telling me the size of my aneurism. Too big to live my life untouched, not big enough for emergency surgery, but large enough surgery needs to be done in a rapid timely manner. I can now no longer go do the things I did before. You know simple things like running, lifting weights, oh wait sorry; lifting anything over 5 pounds! Carrying things for your girl, the way I raised. Yeah pretty much no straining in any way, yes that includes pooping!!! Whatever you do don’t strain while doing that!!! Could you imaging pulling an Elvis on the toilet!! Its laxatives every day for me!!! But as we ripped across the lake, every bump, swell or rocker left me holding my chest and wondering why. Why me?

My whole world changed that weekend.

As I was fishing, Lynnsie was back at the cottage with all the kids. She promised them a fun filled adventurous day. Lucky for us we were able to get a cottage with a dock so my Bass Boat was out front in the water and that is where all of the kids spent the majority of the day. Fishing, playing, pretending to be in a tournament of their own. Why was this so lucky? Because while they were making their own fun, Lyn’s spent the entire day, holed up in the bedroom, laptop in hand, mired in research. She learned everything there was to learn about my upcoming procedure, how it was performed, the percentages of those who survive and the percentages of those still making it post op. She also researched within our medical system as to who was the very best doctor to perform the surgery. She wasn’t taking any chances. She would later tell me when presented with all the evidence; you have lived through so much, been in so much emotional pain, you are not going to die on my watch, you don’t deserve this bullshit. I don’t care what anyone tells me, we are getting you the best, you will come out of this alive and I will be right by your side. No arguments, no feeling sorry for yourself. She then handed me a piece of paper stating; this is him, this is the guy and I don’t care that he is the best, which will make it difficult to see him, I will get him to see us.

Tony and I had a fair day fishing, not our best but enough to keep us in the points. By noon I had put my fears away and was really focusing on our task at hand. By the time we rolled in, I was still lost back in a life of normalcy, when we got in the truck to head home, through our normal banter of fish lost or what could have been, I focused on the learning points of the day.

We hit the driveway to our cottage and as I walked in the door turning to wave as my cousin drove away, I grabbed a beer, sat down and was instantaneously transported back to Thursday, the words, the facts, and the diagnosis. I started dwelling on fucking percentages.  Have I ever explained through this blog just how much I hate god damn percentages!! They are numbers derived from testing subjects, cases gone both good and bad, they intentionally are loaded to favor hope. But hope is just that; hope. It is neither fact nor science. It is an emotion, a response to someone’s idea of what might keep you interested or holding on. Hope is a falsehood, a misnomer, a correction of fact to illicit a response. Hope is fucking bullshit because in the end you can have all the hope in the world, but real life tangible fact will always rule the day. I have lived through hope, held onto hope, awoken every day regurgitating statistics leading to hope. Every time fact and science slapped me square in the face with no remorse. Every time through prayer, love, pain and hope I was let down. Every time, I hoped, I ended up placing the person I loved more than anything in the ground. Hope can fuck itself.

There I was, surrounded by family, drinking a beer, looking at the woman who has quite possibly saved my life by forcing me to go to the doctor and all I can think is its all bullshit. Her statistics she worked so hard on all day, the doctor she is telling me about, the procedures, how the procedures are done and their survivability rates, yeah all I can think about because I am clearly not listening is I am going to die, this isn’t going to end well. It never does let’s just face it, it is my turn to die. The angel of death rides shotgun, it’s just a matter of time.

Staring at her. My lip begins to quiver, snot begins to roll from my nose and tears fall hard like rain. I am shaking all over. The kids are outside and so move to the bedroom and hide. The children know nothing and we aren’t going to tell them until we have met with all the doctors and have a solid plan in place. I look like an infant, sobbing, blubbering, expelling so much trapped emotion. I just don’t understand and no matter how many times I am told just how lucky I am it doesn’t matter. Not feeling lucky today fuckers! I have chosen feeling sorry for myself and have resigned myself to the fact I deserve too, right here, right now and for some time to come. I want so badly for the angel of death to quit following me. Or crazy thought; maybe I am the angel of death, and it’s time for me to go. Taking every soul I have acquired over 25 years both professionally in the fire service and in my personal life with me. You know the ones trapped in my head dancing along with the ones I loved.

The next few weeks until my appointment with the cardiologist were to be the hardest of my life. Living in the unknown, trying to not look up procedures on the internet. Wrapping my head around the whole thing. Looking at my children without crying and feeling horrible for them again. What if they lose me, what if their whole lives are forged in hate and despair from losing their parents. It just isn’t right. Trapped in a strange purgatory of not being able to go to work, not being able to work the ranch, ride a horse, a motorcycle, a tractor. Fear of any large jolt or bump dissecting my aneurism kept me regulated to sitting in a chair doing nothing. Not a great way spend time when you don’t have all the answers.

I chose to write a will.

It was strange and quite possibly one of the most realistic, grounding moments of my life.

To die or not to die, that is the question. Quickly enough we would know the answer.

Because you never know what’s coming for ya….

Doctor says what??

April 25, 2019

Working a structure fire in one of our neighboring cities I was partaking in the almost mundane task of lowering a ladder from the “C” side of the structure. Nothing big, I had help and it really was/is a job that after proper training becomes the equivalent of putting your pants on every day, (I mean if you wear pants, like pants, you know, that sort of thing). I had developed a pretty significant cough that week and unfortunately it kept rearing its ugly head. Feeling as though it was nothing more than allergies due to this specific time of year my cough was “kind of” being controlled with medication, but it certainly made firefighting a little harder.

At the halfway point of lowering this particular ladder, something “popped” in my right shoulder. Not like a balloon or a pressurized bag, but more along the lines of let’s say; a guitar string letting go. I knew right, deep down inside there was a problem. Oh I stretched it, didn’t make a thing of it, rotated my arm a couple of times and shrugged it off to being older. But yeah, there was a problem.

The better part of this year I worked out like a mad man. Starting in January with eating right, and swapping to a mostly vegetarian diet. Then running, stairs and eventually weights. This lifestyle change had in fact worked wonders!  Not without struggle though, it was hard, taxing, and I was always dizzy or nauseous after each workout; but for real, I was quite literally in the very best shape of my life! Down three pant sizes, lots of muscle and very, little fat! One side effect to the effort though was these uncontrollable muscle spasms or shaking after each workout.  A little scary at times but I simply chalked it up to effort. In the end, I felt great!!!

So how could such a simple task like lowering a ladder take me out?

Upon returning to the station the On-Duty Captain was notified as the pain was intensifying and my range of motion became more limited. For the record; I hate putting in paperwork! I hate looking broken or weak! Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to do this job and our injury/workers comp system is deplorable! In my humble opinion it favors those who don’t want to go back to work and challenges those who do want to go back or at the very least, need too!  

2019 was going to be a better year, it was supposed to be BETTER I told myself over and over again. This is nothing but a strain, nothing but a simple, every day strain associated with physical work. I’ll be in and out of the doctor’s office and the guys will be giving me shit in a few hours. Right? I climbed into one of our utility vehicles, started the motor….Damn! I’m such a fucking pussy….

Long story short….

Right glenoid tear, cracked ball, strained muscles. I’m officially off work with full restrictions for movement or use. Soooo the much hated workers compensation game began.

Playing by the rules, I began visiting the workers comp doc on a regular basis; who I end up really liking by the way? I began moping around the house, feeling all sorry for myself. Can’t do chores (stupid), can’t ride horses (stupid); can’t sleep because of the pain (stupid) and worse of all? I have this cough that makes my shoulder throb when it’s at its height of coughy, coughy land (fucking stupid)! I’m angry, hard to be around and really not feeling well about myself and life in general. Touche’ 2019, Touche’

Oh yeah that cough…. That fucking pain in the ass cough!

Let’s talk about that shall we? Huh? You in? Ok well, to bad here we go…..

A few weeks go by and my cough is so bad that I am soaking the sheets in sweat at night. Not just damp, moist like a hot summer’s night next to your favorite person; actual pools of sweat. My head is pounding, I can’t breathe and I am up all night struggling.

Lyn’s daily has been suggesting I see a doctor, of course I am balking at it. I’m 53, work in emergency medicine and this fireman isn’t jinxing himself by going to the doctor? Ok, so maybe I should put the bullshit aside and go, but I am not going too. Why? Because I am a stubborn, know it all, self-centered man who obviously knows more than anyone else! Yeah that’s right I just called myself out! But it is the truth. I’m a rigid asshole sometimes..

Finally after much coercion I agree to make an appointment with my general practitioner. Of course I totally don’t! I agreed to it, but never said when! Ha! Yeah that went over real well with her too.

After another week of showing my lungs to the world each time I tried to breathe, the cough just wasn’t going away. Everyday Lyn’s asks if I have made that appointment. Every day I make some lame ass excuse as to why I haven’t. One morning all my excuses and bullshit came to an end.

May 08, 2019

I awoke that morning drenched as if I had taken a dip in the hot tub and rolled right back into bed, then for fun had a kid throw a bucket of water on me to seal the deal. My coughing had gone on all night without a break. Sitting on the edge of the bed wondering if I should try and sleep or just roll over and die, Lyn’s tells (not asks) me to go to the ER. I try pacifying her with a; I’ll walk in and see if there are any openings with my GP. I’m not taking up time in the ER. It’s just a cough. Through searing painful heat ray lasers shooting from her eyes, I glanced up, her arms were crossed and I knew that was the wrong answer.

Here is a little background; Lyn’s works in one of the busiest ER’s in Northern Ca. She worked on an ambulance before that and is no slouch when it comes to patient care. She was no longer looking at someone she cared for feeling a little ill. She had given me all the leeway she was going to give hoping my 25 years in emergency medicine would wake something up inside me where I might say; hey stupid! You probably should go to the doctor! Then do something really crazy like, oh I don’t know, actually following through with such an amazing idea that I thought up all on my own like a really big boy. Let’s face it, in a nutshell, she was finished with my half ass excuses and was treating me like an unruly patient in her charge. Rightfully so.

I was told with stern love and kindness to get off my ass and go to the ER. I tried to pawn it off and it was reiterated that I needed, right now, to get off my fucking ass and go to the ER! If I did not do so by the time she got off work, she was going to beat my ass (not hard to do in the state I was in) load me in the car herself and take me to her facility! Yeah the red headed inner Irish devil child had come out! In retrospect it was kinda sexy…

Being a man who had successfully navigated two previous marriages I knew instantaneously when to fold my cards, push my chair back, stand up and walk from the table. I told her, no I promised her over the phone I was headed to the ER. I always keep my promises.

Parking the car I slowly walked by the front glass doors of the ER. Peering in like a kid trying to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus without being caught, before me lay an empty waiting room. I had told myself if the ER was packed I was going to keep walking over to my GP’s (General Practitioners) office and try to get squeezed in that day. Intent would have been met and no one would be the wiser. But there I stood, staring at an empty ER waiting room. It was a sign.

Walking through the door to triage nurse meets me and asks; how can I help you today.

Me: Are you busy

Nurse: we are open 24/7

Me: (kindly) not what I fucking asked! Are you busy?

Nurse (taking me by the forearm): I think you need to sit down.

Sit down I did, and at that moment I realized while seated I was placing myself in a tripod position to ease my breathing  and that I was in fact speaking in 2 and three word sentences with sweat dripping on the floor. I was sick, real sick and for the first time over the last several weeks, through all my excuses, becoming a little worried.

They (ER staff) took me immediately, chest x-rays done and a breathing treatment started it was fairly obvious I was battling a solid case of pneumonia. Heart rate up, jitters from the albuterol, I was finally starting to catch my breath when the doctor came back to have a word with me.

Doc: Hey James, so we were right, you have pneumonia. We will be sending you home with some medication to treat it along with doses of albuterol, but there is something else. We spotted a dark shadow over your heart so you are being sent to CT for a better picture. Is that ok with you? I laugh and say no problem doc, ask anyone my heart is two sizes to small (Grinch reference) so I’m sure it’s nothing. We both chuckle and off to CT I go.

Two hours later.

Doc comes in and leans against the wall.

Doc: James, it is confirmed for sure, you do have pneumonia.

We both laugh at the absurdity of the re-diagnosis.

Doc: But there is something else. You have a T.A.A.

For those who do not know what a T.A.A is, it stands for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.  In a nut shell, the garden hose that feeds my heart is ballooning and ready to pop. If it pops, I’m dead in under thirty seconds! That’s right, I will bleed out on the inside. Nothing anyone can do.

I look him in the eye and say; you can’t tell me that doc, you can’t tell me I have a T.A.A! You know what I do for a living! You can’t tell me that!! I promptly begin freaking out!

He says; James because of what you do for a living, I told you that way. I know you know what it is and what needs to be done. He calms me down, gives me all the specifics and reminds me that in fact I am the luckiest person in the building. They caught something that has no known signs or symptoms. In the medical world it is known as the silent killer.

I walk out to the parking lot in shock. The sun seems brighter, the air smells different. Holding it together, head held high, I make it to the truck. To that date, longest slowest walk of my life. Once inside, I start it, turn on the A/C, hang my head behind my dark tinted windows and cry. A lot.

I text Lyn’s to give her the update. As soon as she is able to process what I have just told her, she clears it with her team and runs outside to call me. I am sobbing and sobbing hard, I can’t breathe, and I’m coughing, crying, and speaking in two word sentences again. All I can focus on is every call at work I responded to where the person/patient had an aortic aneurysm. They died. Even the few I went on that were post operation, yeah……they died. What the fuck! What the holy fuck! Yeah I know doc reminded me I was the luckiest guy in the building at that very moment because they found it in time but I sure didn’t feel lucky! I feel fucking cursed! So god damned fucking cursed!!!! Fuck you 2019, fuck you God, fuck everything!

Lyn’s pulls me back in, reminding me she is there for me, she isn’t going anywhere, and she is going to do a ton of research. She tells me we will find the very best doctor for this procedure, acquire him and everything will be fine. She reminds me that there is no way I have survived everything life has thrown at me without surviving this too. Calm down, breathe it will all be ok.

She has a way about her. I don’t know what it is but she has this consistent way of talking me off the ledge even if it’s momentarily. She is also a thorough planner and I know the planning is about to begin. Someone is going to be taking care of me, something that never, ever happens. The fact that it’s early in our relationship and she isn’t running away, is mind blowing. She says she is all in. Over the next several months, it will show just how “all in” she has become. I learn I am a lucky man once again.

Hanging up the phone, I proceed to spend the next hour calling my three very best friends. The three men in my life I would gladly give my life for in return. I tell them the news, give them all the prognosis and each one of them find a way to make me laugh. You know why? Because that’s what real friends do. They have your back no matter what and you have theirs. We will be that way until we die.

I place the truck in reverse and start my way out of the Kaiser parking lot. I’m terrified, certain I am going to die, worried about what I am going to tell all four of my already emotionally damaged children. Fuck me. What I am going to tell them? They’ve lost their moms’ and now they are most likely going to lose their dad! Haven’t we done enough? Hasn’t my family been through enough already!! Why?

I’m driving up 505, sobbing again. The pain is real, I am scared of the reality I am about to face. Little do I know just how scary things are about to get…

Dually..

My son brought him home one day while I was at work. Which coincidentally seemed to be where I was during most large events or life changes that revolved around our family.

He was black and tan, no bigger than a handful, full of energy and completely against what I thought my son was worthy of at the time. His name was Dually. He was a kelpie mix, a mistake from a breeding that shouldn’t have happened. He was cute as hell, full of energy and I wanted nothing to do with him.

You see Jake already had a dog. Jack. Jack came to us in a similar fashion (as in I was at work and had no say). After a year or so, Jack just kind of fell off the boy’s radar and Jack more or less became my dog. Now here we were again, a puppy, the dog of his dreams and I just knew with a stubborn, stingy old man heart that I would be taking care of another damn dog in a year. Cynical yes, but with cynicism comes truth. Little did I know how right and wrong I would be all at the same time.

Dually turned out to be smart as hell! You could teach him anything with only a few tries or corrections. He not only got it, but he never forgot it. The two of them (Jake and Dually) were inseparable. Where ever Jake was Dually was not far behind. He learned to work cattle quickly and went to every roping with jake, happily riding shot gun or inside the trailer. At rodeo’s if I was looking for my son, I’d just walk down the alleyways belting out his recall whistle. My son to this day has no idea how many times that dog narc’d him and his buddies out! One time after not getting an answer on Jakes phone and realizing the locater had been turned off, I whistled down an alleyway to see Dually’s little head pop out from under a stock trailer. Walking over quietly I peered into the trailer to see him and all his friends huddled around a heater, telling lies and laughing. Now I am no moron, of course they were hiding and drinking beer, but all I could think of was it could be much worse. When I was his age, it definitely was, so I simply chalked it up to memories they would never forget and kept a close watch.

Jake went off to college the next year. He came back a few weekends here and there but over time the trips became fewer and fewer. Dually was depressed, moping around the house and ranch. I had grown to really like him a lot. It was such a hard year, Jacy was dying, and the house was inundated with people all the time. The pressure to be everything to everyone was mounting and most days I felt as though I was going to explode. Even with writing this blog, detailing every experience, I was pushing down so much hard emotion. Days were long and the nights were longer. I always tried my best to put on a good face or when called out for my appearance proclaimed I was simply tired. Truth; I was alone inside.

One day I loaded dually up and took him to the beach. He was so happy! He ran and played, we hiked and it was then I knew, my son was losing his dog.

Dually slept on the bed next to me, he got baths, his teeth brushed, treats and lots of exercise. He went with me everywhere, and I mean everywhere. To quote the world famous Forrest Gump; we were like peas and carrots!! Ha ha!

The coolest thing about this dog and believe me there were many really cool things about this dog was his ability to sense things. I had sleep apnea at the time. If I had a night where I quit breathing. Dually would jump on my chest and wake me! He would then stand over me until I recognized him, kiss me once on the face, go to the foot of the bed, curl up and go back to sleep. At first I didn’t know what he was doing. I put it together after realizing the only times he did it, I had a severe headache when he woke me up. A sign I had been oxygen deprived for some time. He was my very special friend.

Even though it was him and I all the time, when Jake came home he never flinched in covering that boy with love. His faithfulness never wavered. Jake would always be “his” boy. It was amazing.

Sitting on the park bench I kept staring at the picture of my dog lying still on the pavement with the caption; He dead. At first I thought he was joking, that dually was actually sleeping out front in some weird contorted body position. I knew the truth by staring at the pic, but couldn’t grasp it. I called Parker and when I finally reached him through his choking tear filled pleas, Parker proclaimed it wasn’t a joke. Dually was dead.

Somehow that morning, Dually had escaped from the backyard. Parker realized he was gone and found him out in front of the house. Before he could get to him, while rounding the corner some asshole in a green Chevy truck hit my dog, full force, and dead center running him over with both the front and back of the truck. I know this because Parker saw him do it, saw the truck bounce into the air and the bastard never let off the gas.

Parker watched him die out in the middle of the street. Parker pulled him from the street, dragging Dually to our front porch. Covered in Duallys blood he tried calling me several times, because he didn’t know what to do. Where was I? Helping, always helping, doing my job, not home with my family where I should have been. Not able to answer the emergency call from my panicked, scared and heartbroken 14 year old son who had just seen something he shouldn’t have seen and was believing it was his fault. Yeah at work we stopped the structure fire that morning, we saved the house; we did our jobs. Here I was miles away and had just lost the one thing that had saved me, saved Jake from going crazy as we watched my wife, his mother die over the last several years. Who was going to save us now..

So I sat and cried.

A police officer came over and asked if I was ok. Was there anything he could do to help? I told him no, there wasn’t, I had just gotten word my dog was killed. He looked at me the way most would. With kindness and understanding, but also with that look. You know the “it’s just a dog” look. How could he know, how would he have known what this dog had done for me, for our family and now like everything else in my life that I grew to love he was dead, gone forever! Is this my destiny? I get it, he is a dog, but fuck! Is everything I love supposed to die? I am I not supposed to love anything at all? Am I fucking jinxed?? I mean whats next? This woman I am seeing; is being with me a death sentence for her as well??? Jesus H FUCKING Christ!!!!!!!!

I spent several minutes on that bench, trying to process, fighting the fight or flight urge to get out of there, wondering how I could escape. Then like I have done so many times before, I swallowed hard, stood up, and shook it off pushing every emotion I had down as hard as I could so as to not show weakness. I walked over to rehab, grabbed up my crew and we went back inside for overhaul relief.

Coming home I pulled up front. There he was, my best friend, my partner in crime, lying there on the concrete. He was still, stiff, and flies were making there way around his crushed skull and missing teeth. There was blood in the street, blood on the concrete. I cried so damn hard. It was painful. I didn’t know what to do. Parker and I hugged, I told him it wasn’t his fault and we would all be fine. I called Jake, I don’t remember that conversation and I am glad I don’t. When I think about that call all I feel is pain. Lots and lots of pain. That dog had saved him right in the middle of his mother dying. Dually was a gift from his mother against my wishes. I would find out much later it was because she simply wanted him to be loved unconditionally after she was gone. Pain, lots of pain.

I took the backhoe and dug a hole for him by his roping horse buddy Twoey. We had lost Twoey to a freak accident earlier the year before. I spent an hour carefully digging that hole. Something that probably should have taken only twenty minutes. It was clean, perfectly shaped and just the right depth. I laid him gently in the bottom of it and something strange happened to me.

Laying down next him inside that hole, I thanked him for everything he did for myself and Jake, I cried some more. He should have been off to the side watching me dig like always. He wasn’t supposed to be dead! It took me twenty years to love another dog after the death of Bear my first dog. Dually was it! What the fuck! I don’t know how long I was down there, but I heard a soft sweet voice coming from the edge. It was Lyn’s, my girlfriend. She came over right after work, she knew I was in a bad place.

Calmly, quietly she reached out her hand for me to come out of the hole. I told her I couldn’t, I couldn’t leave him, he never left my side and I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. Gently she reached out again, took my hand and asked; what can I do?

I came out of the hole. Hugged her, sobbed on her shoulder, crying like a child. I just couldn’t do it, there is no way I can do it, I mumbled over and over again. Lyn’s asked me what it was I couldn’t do.

Bury him. I just can’t put the dirt on top of him, I just can’t say goodbye. Especially like that, as if he was nothing.

Lynnsie grabbed my face, looked me right in the eye and said something I will never forget.

Maybe his time here was done. He came and did what he was meant to do. He cared for you and Jake, he brought you both exactly what you needed and now it’s time for him to go. Now go be the man I know you to be and finish what you started. He’ll always be with you.

The first bucket load was hard, the second a little less so, and before long I was grading the finish.

I sat for a while, looking over the pond with him. Feeling lonelier than ever. Wondering how one human being could hate another human being that he had never met more. Hatred is a powerful thing. Even now, writing this, I have no forgiveness for the fucker who took my friend from me.

I thought a lot about Dually in the days before finding myself lying in a cold hallway awaiting my turn. Wondering if someone would play Van Halen for me once we were inside.  If this went wrong, would I see him again, would I see everyone or anyone at all? Would I wake up and be even more heartbroken. I had my family, I had my closest friends and now I had Lyn’s, but I didn’t have my four legged buddy who could brighten up the roughest of days with nothing more than his presence. It was selfish but it was sadness drawn from love.

April 25, 2019 a mere five days later.

It all begins….

2019- Isn’t this supposed to be my year?

2019 and life, (as it is supposed too) has moved on. In retrospect, oddly enough it seems that I am the first in our area to begin social distancing, long before it became popular due to COVID-19!

Facebook for the most part is in my rear view mirror, and I have written my Final Curtain Call on Betty’s blog. Instagram, twitter and such have been shut down as well. My life has become about something it hadn’t been for many years. About me.

A very special person has entered my life as well. This came as a shock too many, but truth be told I had been alone for a very long time. The person I started seeing our family had known for many, many years. This was a benefit for me as I never felt the need to explain anything in regards to emotions felt or struggles had during this time. Good days, she understood, bad days she understood more, and at the end of the day I had someone neutral to confide in with no judgement.

Some friends disappeared, which was fine, I valued the time we had together and understood their choice to no longer be a part of my life. Some who I thought were friends tried to ruin my reputation, which I will never understand. Things were said that blew my mind, lies were told and all the small town horror stories you hear and think could; “never happen in my town”, did.

As my friend, I have your back through thick and thin, which means I will always choose you, support you, and be there for you regardless of whether I agree with you or not. Only you can ruin that relationship. Of course other friends showed their true colors by never once wavering, having my back, standing up for me, and understanding that life is meant to be lived, not submerged in misery, ghosts of the past and constant sorrow. Believe me there was easily enough sorrow over the past several years (not including my job) to drown even the most resilient.

Nose above the water line we moved forward.

April 17th was important to me when chronologically moving forward because I guess it was the day everything began. We didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, it was the nexus or center of me finding out there are no passes given for good behavior, for surviving even the roughest of struggles, that God is never done teaching you to overcome life’s hardships.  A moment in time reminding you that you are never in control, ever! Also, a reminder that no matter what happens in your life it will always be your responsibility to handle these stressors with dignity and strength. Fact is it was quite the opposite for me, it was in fact the beginning of me no longer handling hardship well, being the one in our family that every one could rely upon. No grace, no dignity, no plan, no strength. I had been Knick named Iron man on several occasions by a few close friends and family. It was of course, for me a flattering joke.

It was the end of that persona.

It started simply enough by doing nothing more than tearing out a moldy, rotten floor from the side room off the garage.

We (My girlfriend and I) tore right in early one morning to the sagging, rotting floor of my old fishing room. After ripping out the first floor board we realized we needed to begin digging deeper, for every single board from that point on showed us that more of the floor needed to go. By the end of the morning we had ripped out 80% of the floor complete with all the floor joists. It wasn’t looking good at all. This project that appeared simple and more repair like than complete overhaul was rapidly showing us the building was filled with deep, black, moldy rot. Once all the dirt and dust settled we stared at it for a bit and decided to call it a day.

2 days later I began to cough..

April 20th, 2019

A few minutes before getting off work we break a structure fire. Rolling out of the apparatus bay it is quickly evident by the large column of black smoke coming from the general area dispatched we had in fact a “worker”. Two minutes later we are turning a corner and staring right at the building. It’s rolling. Heavy black smoke pouring from the eves, roof, the windows to the rear of the structure and everything in between. We are going to work.

My crew and I force entry to the front door, we break right and begin a search of the building as cars are parked out front and no one has seen the landowner. Quickly through our search and with a thermal imager we realize this house is under renovation. We still complete our search to be thorough and begin pulling ceiling to determine where the fire is in the attic space. The secondary line is manned at the front door and an additional attack line is battling the fire from the B/C side of the structure. Between them knocking down the fire, taking away the heat and us locating/extinguishing fire in an attic space the red devil is once again smothered. Fire kept to the structure, no impingement of neighbor’s homes, no loss of life, another great job by our amazing crews.  

Coming out of the structure for our first bottle change we are all feeling really good.

Realizing the kids were expecting me home, I turn over my area of responsibility to an auto-aid crew from a neighboring city. My crew and I are in rehab and stripped down to cool down. I grab a water and walk over to the engine retrieving my phone so I can let the kids know I am ok and just running a little late.

Turning my phone on, the screen has blown up with over 10 missed calls and four or five texts! My 14 year old son has sent them all.  Staring at the screen I am thinking to myself, holy shit kid it’s not the first time dad has been held over for an emergency, what the hell!

My opinion quickly changes upon opening the first text. Walking across the street to a bench and away from where anyone can see me. I begin to cry. Life has punched me in the gut once again.

And so it begins…

One year ago I walked…

No.

One year ago I ran screaming away, as though I was a man literally on fire! What was I running away from?

This blog…

It wasn’t easy setting my emotional self on fire. But I did.

Yet it is in those moments where you as a human being know exactly what is best for you, you find yourself. Those moments helping nourish your soul, your mind, while giving you the necessary space to expand your future horizons.

I swore I wouldn’t be back. I swore I would start a new blog, under a new alias, eventually creating new material for all three of my readers to enjoy from what I always imagined was a big comfy, easy chair. Yet, I didn’t come back, I stayed away, far away, in a place where the world couldn’t touch me, hurt me, crush my independence. Where supposed friends couldn’t turn their friendship into something owed, or try ruining my reputation by spreading falsehoods and hearsay. In a place where I could rebuild myself and no one needed to know. A mental place that kept no record of time, or love, or friendship, or family, or well loss. Yeah, I would never face the written word of loss again, or feel the need to share, hoping to help others. A place that left a portion of my mind blank. It felt very safe there in the dark. I couldn’t see me and I couldn’t see you. Like when you were a little kid, burying yourself under the covers at night because it felt warm and safe. The best part? You couldn’t see me either. Only close family and friends mattered because I could feel them, know they were there, and hold them close. I didn’t need to see them in this dark, blank world I had created to know they cared.

That was wrong.

Many things have happened over the last year, both good and bad, amazing and scary, to which I will delve later. But suffice it to say, my brain is, or has been struggling. The very same weight I claimed to toss (cavalierly I might add) from my shoulders just one year ago was replaced by a new, heavier, weight! Succumbing to its enormous pressure I felt choked, smothered, and dull inside. I was mentally dying..

The answer was right there all along, under my nose, sitting covered in dust (my laptop) on my unused desk; I needed to write.

Not only do I need to write, but I want to write! I still felt the need to share, to let those who jumped onto this journey we call life know they are not alone! We all struggle and succeed in life and we need to do it together! We need to share these journeys and laugh! To revel in the absurdity while expressing our own similarities and differences.

The trouble for me was twofold.

To start

To start under the same blog.

After much thought, I have come to the conclusion/realization that Betty is just who I am.

Betty was born from a necessity, evolved and ultimately became me, or I became her? Not sure, maybe there is a “they” in there somewhere! Fuck! Sorry, I digress.. The reason I am back or coming back, or thinking of coming back is because I missed her, him or “they”! Whatever, you get the point, either way once again, I am hoping all three of my readers are still there, still interested.

So here goes! Bring it! I want to hear from the three of you, and don’t leave me hanging!!

THE END OR THE BEGINNING?

Last year I walked away looking for peace, new horizons, knowing deep in my heart after the struggles of the year before nothing, and I mean nothing could ever hurt me again. (If you’re confused, its ok, just scroll back to all posts from 2013-2018. You’ll catch up) Oh there were also the depressing ponderings of memories churned up from the year 2001 as well but hey! Who is counting right?

Yep I had hit the ceiling, dropped the trifecta and survived! First wife passed away, father dropped dead in the driveway of our property and then, second wife passes away. Oh there were other little family tragedies in between as well, but we as a collective whole trudged through.

I was looking at life, at the prospect of the next few years thinking, no, knowing nothing bad could ever happen to myself or my family again! We were safe, we bore the brunt of loss and survived!

It felt as though we had done a good deed for god, or the mafia, not sure which is better at this point but damn it! I knew we were in the good graces of some higher power! Whether it was god or Tony Soprano I really didn’t care. The way I saw it we were kissing some feet or a ring and either way we were getting the nod! This of course meant in the struggle department I was untouchable.

June 28, 2018

Lying in a cold hallway, staring upwards at the tile ceiling I am waiting my turn. There are four of us here. All dressed the same, in our one piece, easily removable, light blue gowns. Our hair covered in netting, our skin growing colder from the low temperature.

My mind is racing. Racing at a hundred miles an hour. What the holy fucking hell had I done in this life to lead to all of this! For the past month I have cried, and cried a lot. I have pushed people away, while holding others close who refuse to give up on me! Truth be told, I want you to hate me! I NEED you to hate me! I want you to go away! I don’t want you in my life, because if you as a person are not in my life you cannot be hurt when this is over!

What did I do God? I keep asking that. I did everything you have asked of me. I came to church when I didn’t want to, I changed the way I was living from reckless and absurd, to organized, caring and with charity. I traveled across the globe to administer to the less fortunate, to rebuild, to love and care for those I never knew. I dedicated my life to public service with great pride. I wrote about it and shared, all of it! Making me nervous and scared because I really don’t like putting myself out there that far. That is how you get hurt. I even let someone else in, close very close and she is in the waiting room with two of my three best friends, terrified, scared and she chose to be there when others would have, no, should have run! I did all those things God and what have I received for my efforts?

What?

Two wives dead, my dad gone, my dog killed. My two favorite horse’s dead, a struggle to keep this ranch going, shattered relationships and a fire career that feels tattered and destroyed. A new human being let into my inner circle who is scared to lose me so soon, which leaves her suffering because of me! My closest friends scared once again. Four children that don’t know what if any future may hold and feel so lost after five years of this continuous BULLSHIT!

Yet here we are….

A bulky man comes down the hallway and leans over me with a smile telling me its time. He grabs the gurney, and with a smooth calm voice reminds me it will be alright. As he is pushes me through the double doors the spot lights from above illuminate the white room, I ask if he could please play some Van Halen for me. He chuckles and asks; are you a Van Halen or Van Hagar fan? Van Hagar of course, is my reply! The needle is inserted, my hands are tied behind my back, I am asked to take a deep breath and count to twenty. He laughs and says, me too! I drift off with a smile because I have found a new kindred spirit.

My world has once again turned deathly black…

The final curtain call

The singers have sung, the dancers have danced, the orchestra has bowed, arisen and stepped away. The curtain has fallen.

Life is filled with chapters, our stories yet to be fully written. In reality we are but a show, actors or animals upon a stage for all to see.

It seems to me that as we grow older and our lives become intertwined within the workings of this world we actually may live in seasons. Seasons hidden so very deep within these so call chapters of life.

And so life goes.

Winter came upon us, leaving waste to our landscape. Unlike days of old, thanks to technology and the advancement of care within our structured society we knew the storm was coming and had braced ourselves for quite some time, thereby lessening the brunt of its blustery arrival. Easing fears in regards to the trail of waste it may leave behind was indeed a luxury. Letting us, the recipients of such travesty decide whether to allow this storm to rage uncontrolled or hunker down and get through it. It allowed us the opportunity in preparing to stand tall and rebuild our lives or possibly hide in obscurity for as long as we needed if not forever.

The storm came, the storm passed and now the seasons have indeed changed.

I have written on this blog for 8 years. Starting with my very first posting in 2011. My how the writings have changed, the author has grown while expanding upon a gift that has been given and received. To look back upon what started as a place to express my feelings as a father, husband and friend, to chronicling my wife, her sickness and ultimate demise. To share with anyone who chose to read it a sense of humor about life that some welcomed with open minds while others wondered what the hell I was thinking as they scratched their noggins. Yes also mastering the ability to arise emotions from even the hardest of readers was also a plus truth be told.  It really has been an amazing journey. A perfect documentation for my family to look upon long after I have left this earth.

But like most things, it must come to an end.

I have chosen to stand upon my own two feet, to move forward with my life, to live and yes I have even chosen to love again in finding a heart that met mine, a mind that challenges my thought process, a strength that holds me up when I am feeling bombarded or down and a knowledge that family comes first. We should all be so lucky! It is what life is about contrary to some popular belief.

Life should never be lived cowering under the shadows of others, the expectations created by those who have never walked in your shoes, but merely watched from a distance, judging only to fade away when the time was right. You only have one life, therefor only surround yourself with those who want nothing but the best and expect nothing in return. The kind of people who are positive and caring, for every day should be greeted with a smile, a deep breath and the knowledge that this is the one and only life you have therefore you should take it by the horns and ride it for all it is worth because your tomorrow may never come. I have seen it too many times where one loved one kisses another and like that, in the blink of an eye, they are never to be seen or heard from again. The grim reaper leaving its calling card, blackening their hearts, destroying their lives. Something I have sworn to never allow happen to myself.

Part of this season changing, part of a new crop (my life) growing comes from tilling the earth. Turning under empty soil in search of the rich nutrients I need to flourish. Which for me means it is time for this blog to end.

I have tried time and again to write the last couple of months. Nothing flows, nothing feels right and as I write this now I feel a giant weight being lifted from my shoulders. I must put this in the past, let go of all the negativity and allow the seasons to change thus creating a new chapter for my life.

Thank you to everyone and anyone who took a moment out of their lives to read this little blog. It has been a mental pleasure and a mind game of the highest proportions! It has been some of the best parts of my life and some of the very worst.

But it is time to go.

I will start a new blog eventually. I am not sure exactly what or how but I do know my need to write is strong. When it happens I will post it here for anyone who is interested in following along. The writing style will remain the same, the stories will be changed to protect the innocent!! Ha, Ha!!

So with that Betty bids you all a fair adieu.

She has said all she needs to say and as she lays down her proverbial pen, closing her laptop for the very last time she reminds you all to always have faith.

Goodnight, good luck and farewell…

Dream or is it a reality?

It always seems to happen when I am feeling that my life is good. No, let me rephrase, it always happens when I feel as though my life isn’t just going good or well, but great.

It sneaks in through the night using a cover of darkness and a weakness associated with slumber. Knowing the intended victim (myself) doesn’t stand a chance because there are no walls, no observance of its presence until it is too late.

Sometimes it masks itself using my family or friends as an intended target. Other times it drags up memories of the past, the atrocities associated with a long career such as mine. Either way it has a way of tearing me down, leaving me feeling spent both physically and mentally. Other days, it leaves me wrecked beyond belief and I wonder just how much more one man can take. I am confident and strong, I always have been, but there are days I want to curl up and cry for no reason at all.

Dreams of death.

Last night as I slept, Jake my second son came to me in a dream. I was fishing and he appeared in front of me from nowhere.

I said: Jake what are you doing, how did you get here?

Jake: I came to say goodbye dad

Me: Where are you going?

Jake: It’s time for me to go, just wanted you to know I love you

Me: what are talking about?

Jake: Goodbye dad (as he vanished)

The rest of the dream consisted of me doing everything I could to get home! To find my son! And as with most hectic, disorganized dreams every obstacle was put in my place! When I finally got there, he was in fact dead. Gone from this world. It was a nondescript death, a combination of every horrible thing I have witnessed over the life of my career. It was horrendous.

I haven’t been able to shake it.

Here is my problem. I know what it is, I know what these dreams manifest from, I know that it is not a reality.

But

I also knew every single thing about my first wife’s death before it happened because I had in fact dreamt about it over a several year period. I knew everything about where to go and what to do at Stanford Hospital because in my dreams I had been there even though I had never set foot on the property once.

I knew after my second wife was diagnosed with Leukemia that it wasn’t going to go well. Oh at first I believed it was my cynical side, you know that part of us that is carefully crafted from years of getting burned?

But as we went along I did my best to keep faith, to suppress my feelings of dread, to be the most important person in her life during every hiccup or stumble. All the while knowing, not guessing or having a feeling, but knowing she was in fact going to die. Why? Because I dreamt about it over time. From the hospital visits to the pharmacy runs, to her addiction to opioids. I dreamt it all. I knew she would die at home, I knew she was going to suffer and I knew she would leave a huge mark on this world. Not just because of who she was as a person, but because it always came to me in a dream. The only thing my dreams got wrong was her dying in our dining room. In my dreams she died surrounded by family at her dads.

So what is it about me that this happens too?

Is this a curse that only I can live with and if so, do I embrace the knowledge or cower from its implications?

I have so many wonderful people I talk with about my life, my emotions and how to deal with the past.

I have someone very close that I love who lets me talk openly about those last two years while watching the woman I cared for deteriorate and die. The ramifications of being alone but not alone, a caretaker, a warden, a nurse, a pharmacist and surviving nightmare after nightmare. Who listens to everything and anything that comes to mind while I am venting about these crazy notions in my head, understanding completely without thinking any less of me as a person. A beautiful safe space in my life.

But these dreams, these damn dreams, I just need them to stop! I’m weary of death, I am weary of pain, I no longer wish to carry the sufferings of so many in my head only to be replayed over and over again at the whim of nightfall’s grace.

So what do I do?

I do what I have always done.

I write about it for you.

If you are suffering in the slightest I need you to know you are not alone. I need you to understand it doesn’t feel ok, but it is and you are fine. I want you to feel as though you can talk about it, express those very same feelings without judgment or remorse.

I am blessed with the ability to write, to share, and to explain things in a way that you can understand. Everyone has a gift, a talent, something they are particularly good at, I have been told this is mine. Writing allows me to get these feelings out, to purge them from my mind, to let them go even if it’s just for a little while.

If you have something that allows you the same freedom you need to act when you feel down, you need to grab whatever gift you have been bestowed and make it your ritual. It will help I promise.

If you can’t, please find a professional to talk with, to council.

Now, I am going to try and call my son, I think he is out of class by now.

I just need to hear his voice.

Time

What is there to say about time?

“Don’t waste your time with explanations, people only hear what theywant to hear” ~ Paulo Cohelo

“It has been spoken that time heals all wounds. I do not agree, I believe that time distorts the remembrance of pain teaching us how to survive, to move forward as we begin to live again” ~ Betty

“The past is gone, the future is yours and yet we are collectively mired in the moment. It is yours to grab a hold of and thrive or cower and fold” ~ Betty

“Time is the longest distance between two places” ~ Tennessee Williams

“There comes a time when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it is saying” ~Sarah Dessen

I chose in December to not allow time, or the perception of-time to dictate my future. To not allow those mired in their own perception of pain and loss to coerce or change my direction. I am a man of great conviction, faith, perseverance and inner confidence. I was raised that way, by a man who I didn’t always see eye to eye with, yet marveled in his ability to consistently reinvent himself, his family and his life. My father never gave up. Ever.

In the end he was tired, worn out and felt at times a failure. I learned from that too. My father taught me so much and he never knew I was watching. Watching his every move, the way he reacted, plotted, planned and did his very best to succeed.

It is why I strive to be a good man in front of my children all the time, not just some of the time. Because I know in time, they too will be faced with adversity, struggle and hardship. They too will need to draw upon a mental reservoir filled to the brim with lessons never taught but learned through observation. Life is filled with so many lessons and people to help teach them to us. I believe with all my heart people come into our lives for a reason and when they are gone their job is done. Just as I believe when I am gone hopefully I helped many and my job will be done as well. We just need to learn to listen to that voice guiding us constantly. I believe there are souls or energy that travel through space and time, allowing us the ability to find each other again and again hopefully creating a more perfect being assenting towards heaven.

I hated dad’s lessons that were heart to heart, always choosing instead to do things my way, the hard way, alone. I have one of three sons that is following in his father’s footsteps in that regard. He is in for a long uphill battle this I know but in the end he will be strong and wise, hopefully casting a larger shadow than his father did for him. Always helping those who need it through actions not words.

By watching and learning from my father I refuse to let life bring me down, to hold me back. There is a world to see and I plan on doing so.There are people to meet, to love, to keep close and there are those that will fade away. But I will have done my best to be a mentor, friend, and a man who loves with his heart and mind.

So what does time mean to me?

I don’t want to miss a second of time. If anything has hit me harder than a brick after losing not one, but two wives is that we only have so much time on this earth and none of it is guaranteed. Time with my kids, time with my family, time with friends and people I choose to love. Not one second or opportunity will I miss.  

Every day I wake up, put my feet on the floor and take a step forward. Every day I look for the good in everything and everyone. Everyday I pray at work I won’t see another human perish. I know that’s an impossibility but it’s nice to want and wish.  Every single day I willingly choose to make it better than the day before, to lead the way.

Jacy made me promise to live my life, to not mope around or feel despair, to fully recognize that her suffering was over and so was the 5 year struggle within our family. She made me promise to take care of our children and do what’s best for me. She knew she would die young and that her time or work here on this earth was done as well. She was one of the wisest, kindest people to those around her and those for whom she never knew I will have ever known. I learned from her, much like my father from simply watching.

The time is now. I cannot wait for what my life, our life, our families life has in store. Time is never a given and I feel as though our seasons of life are changing, there is no more bad luck and it is definitely time…

Flying home…

Southwest flight 4262 has left the runway.

Sitting in the rear of this 737, by myself, (That’s right awhole row to myself) I am pondering because well let’s face it, there really isnothing else to do but ponder unless you have a laptop or a really good book. Iam pondering the last 100 days. Pondering what my life is supposed to bewithout her here, wondering where she is and how she is doing, but most of all.

That I miss her.

I miss having her hand to hold when we fly. She always heldmy hand during takeoff and landings. Silly really to think two grown people whohave traveled together for as long as we did would still need that reassurance.But we did, and I really do.  

I know it seems strange this 205 pound 5’9 20+ year veteranof the fire service would need someone’s hand to hold while flying. That a personwho carries the ability to calmly walk towards disaster is so fearful of a hurtlingtin can in the sky filled with other similar people he needs simplereassurance! But strangely I do and it’s always been that way. You see eversince I was a little kid while others would recite the horror of classic childhooddreams where they fell, never hitting the ground, or standing naked in front oftheir classmates as everyone laughs or being submerged in water never quitegetting to the top for a desperate gasp of air. I dreamed about falling fromthe sky in a plane, corkscrewing nose first in a ball of fire and darkness.Even now as an adult those dreams still haunt me on occasion. It is why for mycomfort I always held her hand. She understood and without fail always reachedfor my hand the minute we were cleared for take-off. She also had a way ofmaking it feel like I was the one comforting her not the other way around.Letting me play the protector. I can never repay her for that except in memorywith a smile.

This week I took a little time away for myself as anexperiment.

I went to Phoenix Arizona for Barrett-Jacksons annualauction of high end automobiles. It is something I have wanted to do for manyyears. One of my very closest friends in the whole world lives near Phoenix andoffered to put me up for the week! Cheap flight purchased, no hotel costs andwell it just made sense to go far enough away that I couldn’t run home at theslightest inclination of trouble from the family.

It was time. Time to get away from the kids, away from theranch, away from my life. It was a test model for what’s to come, (hence theexperiment) for you see I go back to work on Thursday for a 72 hour shift. Istill don’t know how I feel about it. There has been plenty of time to reflect,to grow, to move past a need for seclusion. Therefore it is time. As I fly homeI am hoping this test was a complete success. (The kids being without me andall.) It will help ease my mind on Thursday as I walk through the doors ofStation 81, knowing they can handle it without dad always being therephysically. But I know deep inside my heart will be at home and those 72 hoursare going to hurt like hell while they drag on slowly.

On the flip side of things I have been sticking to my post-Christmasresolution of not complaining about Jacy being gone.  By the way for reference the previousparagraphs were not complaining they were simply observations! Ok???

No complaining, no whining and moaning the minute somethinghappens knowing that if Jacy were here things would be different. No sir! Myresolve has been strong in keeping my promise to get up every day with a smile,put both feet on the floor, be thankful I am alive and surrounded by suchwonderful people and a loving family. I go out when I can to socialize and havesurrounded myself with a few very close caring people who allow me to just beme with no expectations what so ever. I am able to talk or text them anytimeabout anything, or do nothing at all, no judgement, and that is worth itsweight in gold.

Being a planner looking towards the future is always on mymind. It is just who I am. I don’t know what that future holds and that is hardfor a planner to handle, absorb or let become a reality. I may need to changesome things about the way I choose to live my life, push some boundaries, takesome risks, all things I have never been good at doing simply to help break myplanner addiction. Either way it seems to me the only thing I can plan is thatJames (Betty) is going to find out who he is regardless of what the futureholds. I hope I like who he becomes whether I spread my wings or stay exactly thesame, because the decisions, the inner growth, the choices and experiences willall be mine. The thought of that is kind of cool.

I know what my wife would have wanted and that helps mewhenever I need to make these decisions. She was my best friend after all. Sheknew me better than I knew myself and that is something I will never take forgranted. Just at some point, and this is the hard one, it’s no longer going tobe about her, it’s going to be about me and I am ok with that regardless of thedifficulty associated because I know she would kick my ass if it were any otherway.

So at 30,000 feet, 400mph, I watch the clouds go by out mywindow, I think this is as close as I can get to heaven for now.

Huh?

Maybe she really is sitting here with me holding my hand,letting me know I am doing just fine and everything will be alright.

Just maybe..

2019 I’m ready; so lets aspire to inspire shall we?

Sitting quietly in a dark room, a flickering of light emanating from the television playing off in the distance dances across the somber mood in our living room. The Ball is about to drop ringing in a new year while saying goodbye to 2018.

I am pondering.

Life is a funny thing. Earlier in the evening I went to a friend’s house for a few hours to reconnect, feel a part of life’s tapestry and try my best to remember what life is like when lived. It worked, which is not what I expected. I laughed, hugged, lived and thought to myself on the way home about how much I missed this portion of my extended family. How many things we (Jacy and I) missed while she was sick and fighting for her life over the last five long dreadful years. And how terribly sad it was that she was not there with her million dollar smile, laughing, making new friends while smothering the old friends with love.

I came home early to be with my son.

Parker and I watched the ball drop together. We kind of chuckled at the horrendous attempt at entertainment the entire New Year’s Eve televised show had become. It was bad, really, really bad and to me showed what little value us as a society place upon ourselves or what we expect from others; but that is my opinion and for another conversation.

As expected at midnight the ball dropped, Parker stood up and said: well that was fun (sarcasm), hope 2019 is much better than 2018 for us dad!

I wanted to say; well it couldn’t get any worse!

But then I would be summoning the black cloud that seems to live over the top of us to rumble, crack and prove me wrong once again! Parker then announced he was taking shower; that he loved me and off to bed he strode.

I eventually went to bed, alone, sad, and wondering why? I knew why I was sad and alone, but why I should bother giving a shit was all I had left.

This morning while making coffee and wanting to write, I decided to look back at previous New Year’s offerings to see just what my advice or observations were for the coming years. Maybe that would help me to understand the why.

2012/13- it was all about resolutions. That’s right, I dug deep (sarcasm again) for that one and really hit it out of the park! Of course I had no idea what was instore for our family a mere 10 months later.

2013/14- I didn’t write a thing! You know why? Because I was knee deep in learning about Leukemia, treatments and how we as a family were going to tackle things head on! No mercy! It is the way this family has always handled adversity!

2014/15- New Year/New Fear. Living with the after effects of treatment, chemotherapy, and learning to live again for my wife. Understanding what it means to be in remission. It was a year filled with scares, and adventure. Jacy ran at it full bore because as I found out later, she knew deep inside but didn’t want to say it out loud that she felt Leukemia would come back.

2015/16- We focused on new beginnings, not letting this journey weigh us down, making the most of every moment because the truth is, nothing is guaranteed.  

2016/17- Handling ourselves appropriately. This journey was no longer about us, but how we could help as many people as possible by continuing forward. Both through my writings and her never saying no to any treatments. Finding joy in all the little things. Whether it be a week with some energy and no sickness to simply sitting in the sun with your children. My wife was an amazing human being and she continued to show her super powers during this dreadful year.

2017/18- This one was a little harder. I copied a portion of this former posting because I couldn’t accurately summarize my feelings.

Am I excited by the prospect of 2018 and what it has to offer?

No!!!!!

No I am fucking terrified of another year with more unexpected disappointment! Or maybe after all this time disappointment, disaster, despair should simply be expected and that’s why I am so tense! Wondering day and night as to whether or not there is more tragedy waiting for us just around the corner! I am constantly worrying about our future, her future, our children’s future and all the emotional toil our lives hold on a daily basis! I wonder if I can take on more. Is it humanly possible for me to handle another loss, another failure, another misfortune! Is there room for me to place more emotional unrest inside my soul?

I found myself mumbling; Fuck you 2018 every time I read someone’s cheery uplifting post today! I would start grinding my teeth the moment someone, anyone spoke of this dreaded New Year and it hasn’t even started yet!! That is just not me!!!

I want so badly to embrace this upcoming year, to feel hopeful, promise and opportunity! To know our future looks bright for all involved. But even as I am writing this my chest hurts, it’s hard to breath and the anxiety associated with wishing such selfish thoughts when I know there are thousands suffering in this world tonight. Struggling much harder than I. It is more than I can take right now. What the HOLY HELL!!!

Somewhere I learned the valuable lesson of keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

2018 you are not my friend, you are my enemy.

And there it is. It is like I knew or my negativity proved to be my downfall. I have had to read through the last five years while working on my book and it has been extremely hard. From 2012-2018 Heaven gained my horse Tank, Jakes Horse Twooey, Jacy’s Grandmother, and Uncle, my dad, a few friends and eventually Jacy herself.   

So what does all this mean for our family after looking through the past?

It means I am taking my own advice. Put up or shut up!!!

2019 you are not my friend, you are my enemy and the difference in regards to your arrival shall be that my tactics are changing.

I look forward to the upcoming challenges you present, my life will not be lived in sorrow or misery, it is not what my wife would have wanted for me and I know this because she made sure I understood the importance before she passed. She also knew it would take a while for me to come to terms with her passing, but she had faith I would or could carry on. She always had faith in me and that is something I cherish so very much.

After spending the evening a few weeks back with new friends, the holidays with our beloved family, and last night with old ride or die friends, it has come to my attention that now is the time. Her father sent me a video yesterday from his YouTube channel that really hit me hard. It was wise and insightful and I believe he needs to see I, his son in law, the man who loved his daughter more than I can ever show him, is taking it to heart. No more whining about her being gone. Oh that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her, or occasionally complain about it, or have terrible days for I know all too well they will come, when I least expect it, and it is 100% ok to let those emotions envelop me. Besides I don’t care who you are or think you are, a good cry now and again is good for the soul. But this family needs to look past all that and begin to live life again. We cannot besmirch her memory, her name, and her beliefs about family, life and love by wallowing in a wasted sea of tears.

Jacy Mirelle Franceschi showed me the meaning of love. She also showed me the meaning of life, living life, experiencing everything around you without slipping into the background. She showed how to make a new friend, to laugh or help someone to laugh when it’s needed, even if that means sacrificing your own dignity. She showed me the meaning of family. If you knew my wife, you knew exactly how important it was for her to have a family to call her own. She did, we loved her, and are forever grateful.

So, no, there will be no New Year’s resolutions, no pointless lists of things that couldn’t possibly be accomplished. Instead our family, my family, the family she loved and created are going to face this year head on! Not afraid of challenges, not afraid to explore, no expectations other than to walk out the door every day and live this thing called life to the fullest!

As I have said before, a mantra I have always lived by will surely be followed.

Every day you can get up, put both feet on the floor and take a step forward is a good day, a day to aspire to inspire.

So here goes.

Travel whenever you can, we will be.

Make a new friend at every opportunity, life is way too short not too!

Laugh, hard at everything, including yourself. Often!

Love with meaning, passion, and faith. To love is to be loved and I have been loved by the very best. For that I am both extremely lucky and eternally grateful. I still have so much love to share and so do you. Never forget that, ever!

Never take yourself or life to seriously. It just isn’t worth it.

Take time for yourself. Live, breathe and appreciate all this world has to offer.

And always take time for your friends and family. They are the most people in your life. Trust me after all of this, I know.

So come on 2019! Let’s do this! I am ready for whatever you have to offer. And if I am ever in question I will simply ask myself; what would Jacy do?