And so we say goodbye..

Quietly we slipped into town. It had been a while since I last stepped foot in my hometown of Sonoma California and as we meandered through streets filled with wandering tourists my memory tried hard to visualize this once peaceful quiet place as it was many years ago. This town still holds a certain charm, a quaintness which unfortunately now feels like a false front. Gone are homes actually owned and lived in by people downtown, instead each cute little cottage or early 1900’s home is filled with one type of business or another. Gone is that small town feeling where mom and pop mercantile line the plaza. Instead the city is surrounded by winery getaway bungalows, tasting rooms, restaurants, and high end hotels catering to those with wine adventures on their mind. Oh there are a few small business breweries, diners and stores but for the most part as you drive in it no longer has that small town charm but more of a high dollar Los Gatos feel.

The traffic was horrendous and as we pulled into Duggans for dads memorial service it was evident no one held an ounce of patience for driving across this very congested portion of the city leading to downtown. Standing outside for a moment before walking in to face family and friends I did soak up the Sonoma sun and smiled, remembering how blessed I was to grow up here. Something I have never taken for granted.

Once inside mom and I placed a few pictures around, made sure everything was in its place while beginning to welcome people with open arms. Last night I had decided for me at least this was not going to be a sad event. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that, besides I have learned over time there is no reason for us to cry or be sad. The only reason we cry is for ourselves, our own misery with someone we love being gone forever. Our loved one feels no pain, carries no worry and would only want those of us left behind to smile, remembering the good not the bad.

After many, many hugs, some wonderful conversation, and several well placed jokes we came inside and began the service. Our pastor was fantastic, light, charming and funny he brought a warmth and glow to this occasion that was desperately needed. Family sat in front and when it came time to speak, my mother did her very best to relay how she felt and followed up her recollections with directions for after the service.

Next it was my turn and I have to say, I was pretty nervous. I started with a joke. Dad and I had spoken on several occasions about memorials and funerals. Our running gag was never had either one of us heard a family member walk up to the podium, thank everyone for coming then slam their fist on the table, look the audience in the eye and say: John Doe so and so was a Son of a Bitch!!!! So that’s what I did by sharing that story! Thankfully the room laughed and just like that my nervousness melted away just a little. Pulling a prepared statement from my jacket pocket I cleared my throat, steadied my vocal chords and began to read:

What I learned from watching my father.

Many things can be said about Robert Franceschi

He was a charmer when need be.

A friend for life once you worked past his often times gruff exterior.

A hard worker

He loved 49r football

He was my dad

But it’s not the image he portrayed that matters to me, instead it is what he taught me from witnessing his actions as opposed to his words. For we know as young emotionally charged youth we fight against our parents every chance we get. Yearning for freedom of our own, to make our own decisions without help from our parents so called “words or pearls of wisdom”. No it’s what I witnessed, without words through silence filled deeds and actions that resonates so very deep within my soul.

From watching my father since the moment I can recollect his life lessons rang true, teaching me…

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself – Dad struggled and worked hard every day to support his family and even when things didn’t go his way he never gave up. We were never rich, often times just barely having enough money to get new school clothes was a burden but my dad did what had to be done and if that meant going from a salesman to a barn builder, a store owner to a restaurateur then that’s what he did. Was he scared? You’re damn right he was, but he always tried and it’s because of him that I have never been afraid to try something new, reinvent myself, morphing into a new side job or purpose and I will sell my last belonging to make sure my family always has what they need.

A love of animals- My dad loved animals, he loved horses, dogs, cats, birds and ostriches. Oh he complained like hell about them, especially my mom’s dogs! But when he wasn’t complaining and no one was looking that tough guy wall came down and he would sit with a dog/cat on his lap or a bird on his shoulder. When his last horse passed away he was devastated for as he put it; Goldpiece was the only one who listened to me anyways.. I love my horses, dogs, chickens, pigs and cats. They are part of my family and whenever they hurt, I hurt. It’s because of my father’s spirit for animals that I care about them as much as I do. I couldn’t imagine life without pets and livestock roaming our property. Whether for riding, petting or putting dinner on the table they are a huge part of our lives. And yes whenever that damn SPCA commercial starts and Sara McLaughlin begins singing while sad puppy eyes stare back at you through the tv screen well I am here to say you just may find it raining only behind my glasses.

To sing whenever possible. I know right? No one can picture my father standing tall in front of a crowd singing his heart out. Well he didn’t, but what I learned was no matter how difficult a day’s become when a song comes on the radio that you love don’t be afraid to belt it out! For you see many times I witnessed his day/mood go from bad to good with nothing more than a good country song and some alone time inside the Ford truck recording studio traveling down Hwy 12. The power of song is amazing, you don’t need to know how to sing or even sing well but for those two and a half minutes you are George freaking Strait and no one can take that away from you. I drive my kid’s nuts to this day singing every song that makes me happy as it billows from our cars speakers. When I am through I always have a slight smirk upon my face.

A genuine appreciation for the automobile. Dad loved cars, all kinds, makes and models and that love trickled down to me. From the time I could walk I can remember staring at this truck, crawling around in that car and listening to my dad tell stories about not having much money so one time he painted a car with a roller and brush. When dad purchased a restored 1936 Ford and brought it home it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. With its swoopy fenders, giant bug eye headlights and sparkling chrome grill that car was to me what was right with the world. Soon after a 1941 Mercury arrived and not long after that a 1921 Model T. The two latter cars are in my garage awaiting the day they will travel the roadways again with the same regal status they once held within their time. Nothing made my dad smile more than when he drove one of his old cars.

Nothing in this life is given to you and hard work pays off. Shake a man’s hand when you see him, look him in the eye, your word is more important than anything you possess. If not for watching him work the way he did while trying his best to keep things running at home I never would have learned the patience needed to understand the old adage of “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes you can risk it all by taking loans and building your place into the very best place it can be from day one. Or you can work hard, recycle materials and slowly, without debt build something from nothing, hopefully leaving some form of legacy for your children to inherit. I am working hard to teach my children those very same values.

And lastly but most importantly

Marriage isn’t easy- That’s right, marriage is in no way shape or form easy and if you believe it to be some fairytale story you are sadly mistaken. But what marriage is, is filled with mistakes, sometimes big ones! And with those mistakes also come huge successes, both of which help forge a bond between you and your significant other. Learning the ability to say you’re sorry so another doesn’t emotionally suffer and learn to accept apologies in return, forgiving all wrong doing while never holding a grudge. Giving of yourself wholly to your spouse and your family regardless of time, place or series of events. Remembering that someone you love, loves you back no matter what and with that love comes good times and bad, but it’s how we handle ourselves that create true memories lasting a lifetime. Not posed pictures hanging on a wall staged like a portrait session in the woods, but memories of moments alone, together, surrounded by smells, sounds and sights. From the moment you first met to your final kiss goodbye 55 years later. Marriage isn’t easy but done right, marriage is life fulfilling and holds rewards like no other….

I am sure there is a dozen or so more I could recite, but this is where it ends. I know he looks down upon us all, free from pain, free from his broken down body, free from stress and doubt. I pray his spirit sends a sign to my wife so she feels his comfort, knowing he is alright with her not being here to help celebrate his life. I pray he is surrounded by old friends, family and those he cherished. I pray he feels our love and rests easy knowing we are ok, for sadness knows no place when your job here on earth is done.

We celebrate who he was and the legacy he left behind.

I love you dad…

When it was over I was relieved. Sitting down and listening as my Aunt and Uncle spoke, then watching as our former neighbor stood in front and said something that rang so true of my dad. If I was ever in a fight I would want Bob right behind me. Along with; Bob always did the right thing. That indeed was my dad. To hear it from another adult male figure from my young adolescent life was indeed fulfilling. Dad always did the right thing, no matter the cost and if you ever witnessed my fathers rage then you definitely knew you wanted that man in your corner when the shit hit the fan. Not because his anger was a dangerous thing but because as stated prior, dad always did the right thing. That extended to his ability to control and corral that anger, putting it to good use when the moment arose. Usually leaving a UPS driver or two with a need for an underwear change should they be found guilty of speeding on our road.

At the end of the day we had a very nice lunch at Rossi’s, it was such a pleasure to see so many faces from our past. The ability to reconnect, tell tall tales, have a few laughs while surrounded by so many special family members and friends will keep my heart warm for a long time to come.  Its just to bad that life has engulfed us so, that we may only see each other at weddings or funerals.

Either way thanks to all those who gave up their Saturday to pay tribute to my father. I know he was looking down, smiling and wondering just who in the hell was going to pay for the whole damn thing!

God Bless you all..

Tomorrow the adventures continue as the Franceschi clan loads up and heads to Saratoga to spend the day with their mother…

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Another page….

I was asked to write my father’s obituary to which I declined. I have no answer as to why, other than for some strange reason it just didn’t feel right. Mom of course had no problem picking up the pen as it were then hammering out a short synopsis of my father’s life. After all having been married to the man for 55 years I am sure it came fast and easy.

I haven’t been able to open it.

Mom sent me the obituary in an email. Every day while checking my personal and work emails there it sat, unopened, like an unsolvable Rubik’s cube waiting for me to spin it around in hopes of unlocking its color coding on the very first try. There just hasn’t been any desire to try.

I am proud of my mother, she has handled this all with her feet firmly planted on the ground. Never once has she faltered or wavered in my presence over any decisions since her husband’s passing. She gets out almost every day visiting friends and running errands. She has handled the upcoming memorial with very little assistance from myself and is working on a full reorganization of her life. My mother is living up to the old adage; tough Old Italian woman.

We speak on the phone every day and through conversation she has discussed bits and pieces in regards to her final marital note. It is obvious mom has put time and effort into this little piece that will run in the local paper and yet for a week now, even knowing all she has done I just hadn’t been able to open it, to read it, to absorb what it means to her or anyone who knew my father. I just couldn’t do it, I would scroll past it, move it to another folder only to place it back into the main folder still unread, unopened, as if I was a cold and uncaring person. Scared of what it meant to me.

So with exactly 6 days to go until his memorial service and nothing remotely pressing on my gigantic plate of daily activities, my fingers (on their own accord) scrolled over the email and pressed the little W icon releasing information from the cloud into my server for my eyes to fixate upon and probably wonder why it had been hard for me all along.

And so I read it.

Halfway through my eyes glaze over and instantly I’m transported from my desk inside our fire station to a bench at Prestwood elementary where I sit waiting for lunch. I can smell it, feel it, I have chills upon my skin, my friends from years long gone are buzzing around me, laughing, joking, running playing, I am at ease. The fears of being a small child have enveloped my soul, scared of the bigger kids, jokester to my friends, a storyteller just trying to fit in. My little brain wondering if I will ever understand fractions while hearing my teachers telling us with effort we can achieve anything. Of course all this is happening while I daydream the day away. Yep I find myself staring at a white faced clock with black hands, the second hand slowly moving clockwise eliminating minutes from my daily school experience so I can go home and see what car dads driving home today and hopefully talk him into a game of basketball.

Lights passing overhead as the enormity of the freeway made my eyes larger than pie plates. Dad and I are on a trip to a dealership down south, he works for Kastner Pontiac/GMC and we are trading one car for a truck. I have never been to far from Sonoma in my 8 years and traveling through Sacramento onto 99 south was filled with new sights, sounds and my father singing country music on the radio. (Something I do to this day that drives my kids crazy). It was an all-night trip and I felt like a big kid! It is also where my early love for the GMC/Chevy stepside began. We ate out (something we never did) we sang, laughed and had fun. I slept most of the way home, but for that moment in time I was my dad’s friend, there were no girls (sorry mom) we were hanging out and it was an adventure. Just two men and a really cool truck.

Moving through time we are on a field trip, I cannot remember to where, but I am sitting in a bus full of students and parents. My dad is sits beside me smiling. It was one of the best memories for me as dad rarely made any of my school activities. I remember laughing, joking around and can even still feel the air blowing through the bus as a mixture of the suns golden rays and dust flows through the cabin.

Sitting at a bar while a man serves my sister and I 7up with cherries at Napa Valley Horseman’s Association. Dad was president and he would lead the Monday night monthly meetings. I remember thinking maybe that would be me one day. I can still see the lights of Napa off in the distance from this clubhouse on a hill. Soon we would be off to bed in the camper or later dad’s motorhome. It was the closest thing to camping we ever did and it was always fun sneaking out to watch our parents dance the night away after some of the meetings.

Driving dads Ford 8N tractor helping put fence around our property, mixing cement inside the rotating box scraper/drag that I guess I now own as it sits unused alongside my barn. Hearing him tell me exactly how to do it. Just the right amount of water, too much and it will be soup that takes forever to set, too little and it will crack and crumble never becoming a solid footing for these posts. Hearing him telling me just how far to back the tractor up, getting mad at me for almost smashing his hand with the bucket then forgiving me as I set my third post perfectly. I hear his voice, see him sweating and wonder why I can’t go back in time. I am talking to him but he can’t hear me. He only hears the very young boy on the tractor and not the 49 year old man trying his hardest to speak.

We are riding together, headed to test drive my possible first car. A 1957 Chevy Bel-Air. It was blue with chrome everywhere! The 57 was my favorite car next to the Chevy Stepside and as child I had built several models of this exact vehicle. When we arrived dad was the most charming man you had ever seen. He always knew just how to talk to people when it came to business of any type. They chuckled and laughed, went over the car from front to back. We jump started it as it had been sitting for a while and took it for a ride. It was everything I had ever dreamed of from the time I was 9. My dad was in love with the car, or so it seemed from the twinkle in his eye as we talked about it, how nice it was, how well it ran with a snappy little corvette motor wrapped neatly in chrome under the hood. I’m there all over again, I can even smell the interior. Several thank you’s were exchanged and my father left the owners with the old “we need to think about” line. On the way home I asked when we were going back to retrieve this heavenly piece of Detroit iron, to which he turned and with the same twinkle in his eye responded; we aren’t. The sixteen year old and 49 year old are yelling at him all over again. WHY??? That car is too fast for you, it shouldn’t be your first car. I can still hear him saying it. I was angry as hell, but he knew I would get over it. (I never really did) Dad was right though, as I wrecked my first truck sending it to the scrap yard. I had the pleasure of seeing that car while working at Aunt Josie’s restaurant as its owner would eat there once a week. It had an unmistakable license plate; 5SEVEN. That car lives in my dreams to this day.

Over the years there were times of laughter and great disappointment, times where we tested each other and times we just gave in, never acknowledging we had called a truce. As we grew older the equality of our stubbornness created larger walls between us. We talked once a week, grumbled about each other’s choices and would always part with an, I love you. But one thing is for certain, my father’s laughter, happiness and inexplicable ability to talk with people will always resonate deep within my soul. I have learned from him by witnessing both the success and failure in his life.

Reading the obituary today made it all too real for me. Yes I was there with him in his last moments, and was honored due to my position at work to actually be at his side when the ER doctor called time of death. I was able to hold his hand and cry, wishing he would squeeze back just one more time. I fully comprehend he is and always will be gone from this earth.

I just wish I hadn’t been so stubborn for I will never be able to take back all the times we butted heads or couldn’t come to an agreement on an issue, I’ll never be able to hear him tell me he is or was proud of me, never be able to apologize for the grief I gave him as a teenager. And yes I know I need to take it easy, and realize he had probably forgiven me long ago. I know, I have lived through death many, many times and it is what it is. But even after you put all that aside I think the hardest part for me is now that I have read this permanent record of decease, absorbed its significance, traveled back in time over the last several hours while sadly staring at the wall I come to the hardest part of this whole circle of life bullshit.

I no longer have a dad, and the little kid inside this aging man is crying his eyes out, holding a pillow across his face to muffle the tears wanting nothing more than his daddy to come home and play basketball with him one more time.

Just one more shot dad, it’s not dark yet I swear…….

Unknown

 

 

 

The Barn is a great place to think.

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Sitting in my barn this morning listening to the horses eat while chattering with each other, the sun crossed over with warmth entrenching the very entrance for which my bum was planted. Smiling at a state of relaxation which overcame my body, a bit of gratitude for all God has placed before me enveloped my being.

And so I pondered…..

Staring at standing water, which was everywhere, in times of past my frustration level would have risen. Instead I am pleased, for even though this means mud all around and frustrated horses it equates to much needed water and lush turnouts in the spring.

It was a heavy soaking rain and a portion of one of our barns that for years no matter the adjustment would flood instead remained high and dry after a summer rebuild. We are slowly gaining ground and this quirky piece of land will continue to challenge us, but seeing the west side high and dry was a huge win! My arena is a small lake, yet the water allows me to see where it needs to be floated and readjusted creating a better arena next year to ride and train.

The back piece where we began building a roping arena before Ms. Jacy went into the hospital has held up perfectly with water shedding in the direction we planed the ground. This means come spring we will add the permanent footing with no adjustments and before you know it the long summer nights will be filled with horses, people and fun. The way it should it be.

I am thankful for the people God continues to place in my life.

We are not supposed to agree or get along with everyone, that would be insane. But as of late I have learned to forgive, forget and understand that many times the problem isn’t with them, it is with me (short of someone intentionally hurting you). A person who rubs you wrong or continually pushes your buttons is who they are and you cannot change that so (as I tell my children) when you are wits end remember that and understand you are the one that has a problem with them! Limit your exposure, take your own stress away and appreciate them, for they have taught you how to become a better you.

An entire community has surrounded our family during these last two years and that support has seen us through many rough spots. We are very blessed to live in a town filled with so many loving caring people. I have sat and watched with pride as our little population has stepped up for the benefit of so many as it seems we are in a weird slump when it comes to survival. The numbers of those in our town reeling from the effects of Cancer, Leukemia, and unexplained tragedies is astonishing! Yet we come together, strap our boots on tight and march to help. Our town folk don’t help for notoriety as I have seen in some places, but because we are still small enough that everyone knows, everyone and genuinely care! There for it is done out of love. There is no greater reason to help.

If you build it they will come. When we built our first barn we hoped to have a bigger family here, a horse family of like-minded individuals who not only loved their animals but enjoyed the company of those around them in the barn as well. We have all been to those barns where everyone complains and the atmosphere is filled with unhealthy competition and all feels toxic. But I can say almost four years later I feel as though we have accomplished that goal. When I walk into our barn I am surrounded by an extended family. Fantastic people who are fun, caring and look out for each other without an inkling of malice or complaint. I am a fan of getting to know each horse and their owners, understanding their personalities, how they behave and react to any situation. We are filled with quite the group and they are all wonderful. My barn manager is also a huge blessing as without her drive and enthusiasm, especially during these very trying times for our family I am convinced without a doubt our place would have suffered greatly. She is my go too, a solid foundation for what we have that I can stand upon; we are very blessed indeed.

Rodeo is a big part of our lives and without an escape from reality into this world I love so, I am certain I would have gone crazy by now. As many of you know I love cutting horses! I love riding them more than anything in this world (thank you Wes and Jalinda) but with my wife being sick that has taken a back seat for the last two years. Rodeo is my son’s passion and to witness this foundation we gave him and our daughter in regards to horses and riding flourish and expand under the tutelage of many great caring and giving adults has been a Godsend for certain. Every weekend we pack up and head out is another opportunity for him/her to reach their goals, take another step forward in competition, and to meet new people even if to only shake a hand and say hello. The rodeo family is huge and they all look out for each other. It is amazingly fun to see so many adults come together for the benefit of not only their children but everyone’s children! Offering help and support while coaching them hopefully to the next level. For me, to be able to help on horseback during the cuttings and in the chutes with other friends during the roping events has allowed me to cheer on so many kids while still feeling like my normal horseman self. To share in this experience is like no other! I hope other parents see it the same way when they are tending a gate, loading a bucking chute or pushing cattle through the chutes. It’s being able to pass on your knowledge, your love for the sport, your passions all while doing nothing more than being the support crew! It has kept me sane through this time of hardship. I thank every family that has adopted me over the last two years. Made sure I was ok, asked how my family and wife are, and ensured I was never excluded or left behind. It’s tough being the lone man out, even tougher when you think about how you can’t share any of these experiences with your wife, your son’s mom, but thanks to this new family I have become a part of I have never felt out of place or alone. I am truly blessed and thankful for you all…

My second family has been behind us all the way and staring here across our fields, I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. Being in the fire service is tough, long hours away from home (especially in the summertime) at times mentally and physically exhausting. But there is no other job quite like it. It also allows you to forge a bond with others like yourself. Living someplace else for a third of your life you become a family, and family always takes care of family. I don’t know how I would have been able to keep my head on straight without the love and support I have received from my fire department family. They have been there from the beginning two years ago, covering shifts, making sure my family is taken care of and always leaving me with these words no matter the time or place. “Whatever you need James” I have been humbled by them all.

Looking over at my dad’s house, I wish I knew it was going to be his last Christmas. I don’t why? It just is resonating with me that maybe we could have carved out more time for him between running around to the hospital and two separate families. I know there is nothing I could have changed and what is done is done. My dad and I hardly saw eye to eye on anything and he could be a touch over the top when he was cranky. But I just wish I could have told him one more time I loved him and given his frail old body a hug. Oh well, I am blessed they allowed us to move them here, where at least he died with his family around him and as we put the finishing touches on his memorial at the end of the month I hope he looks fondly upon all who come to say goodbye and know he was loved.

Staring at the back of my house I think of my wife. How lucky are we she is still with us today? She still hasn’t made it home and it has been almost 7 long months since we drove out of the driveway headed to Stanford for what was supposed to be at the most a 4 month turnaround. Once again the word family rings loud as without this tight, crazy group of misfits that we are I am sure without a doubt this entire process would have been a complete nightmare. Jacy’s family has been by her side every day. Helping with our children, jacy’s care and ensuring she is never alone. Her sisters have brought smiles and laughter and her step mum quit her job to care for her every day! The true definition of a strong family is enduring even the hardest of times and never faltering, no matter the circumstances. To her mom, dad, step mum, sisters and brothers I love you all and admire all that you are as a family. I feel very blessed to be a very small part of what and who you are. Thank you for caring for my wife.

I am also thinking about my oldest son. It has been quite the year for him. Coming home from Humboldt and deciding to join a local junior college to save money while helping me with his siblings. I joke he is my domestic partner, he thinks it’s funny, well not really. We are hoping Jacy is home before August and healthy so this young man who has placed his life on hold to live at home, help raise kids, while going to school can step foot upon Sac-States campus and finish his education. I worry about his ability to grow as a man trapped at home like it’s his senior year all over again. But it is a good deal, he lives for free, helps me and has no bills while going to school and working. Plus he has his beloved dog Cricket by his side! He seems ok after finding his grandfather in the driveway a few short weeks ago, but that is another thing he will live with forever. Thankfully Cody has very broad shoulders and seems to be able to handle a lot. A gift that will serve him well as he chases his dream to become a CHP officer. Blessed to have such an outstanding young adult for a son.

We will continue this fight, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. Ensuring sanity remains while hustling here and moving about over there, remaining blessed and appreciative for all that we have and hold. Jacy’s fight is far from over. She is slowly regaining a bit of strength but no great progresses have been made. She is very comfortable in her new apartment and continues making her scheduled appointments at Stanford. She still has pretty severe GvHD of the lungs and is battling the very same condition in an eye. Today she is at Stanford getting poked and prodded while receiving platelets. She is also feeling the love this morning as her mom and step mum share the duties of caregiver and transport coordinators. Jacy wakes up each morning, wishes she was home, but is very thankful for her family and to still be here with us!

In summary, I guess it just comes down to what you want out of each and every day. These are things I am thankful for right here, right now. They will not fade away tomorrow or the next day, but instead be built upon, stored in the “forever appreciate” locker inside my head and used for the day when it’s my turn, to show some love, compassion, caring, encouragement, excitement, admiration, and humility at some point during someone’s day.

And for all of that I am truly thankful…

One last thought comes to mind.

You can curl up and die in the shadow of some perceived misery or gather yourself up, stand on your own two feet while learning, absorbing, adjusting and reinventing along the way.

One life right? So I have chosen the latter….

 

 

Have you ever heard???

Have you ever heard the cry? It’s a voice inside your head that won’t leave you alone. A mash of emotions trapped inside with nowhere to go. The voice is always there, begging, nagging, wondering, encouraging or discouraging depending upon the day, but do you hear it? Do you hear it cry? It cries for freedom, it cries for solitude, it cries for exhilaration and it cries for despair.

Have you ever told it to just shut up? To leave you alone? Do you find yourself arguing with it while driving in the car? Does it make you crazy just when you feel life isn’t crazy enough? The voice cries out, yearning to be heard but you swallow it down, forcing it into a state of mute while smiling on the outside hoping no one around you hears its needs. Have you ever heard it cry?

Over the last two years my life has been blessed. It has been hard, it has been emotional, it has been; well it has been hell. But through it all I have been blessed to talk with so many people and touch so many lives. To share correspondence with just one person walking in the very the same shoes makes every moment staring at a computer screen while typing my life to the world worth it! All I have ever wanted is to share, to explore and to help. To hear my inner voice cry.

During any time of hardship or struggle there are always those looking to find something wrong with you? Its ok, it’s not that they or anyone else is doing something wrong, for the most part they care and are trying to help the best way they know how. To intervene. We are all taught to intervene from the time we are children, but what we are not taught is what to do after we have intervened. You see I believe every person is different. People handle things differently, they handle stressors differently and it’s ok. Just because someone is not living up to your expectations of how, where, when and why they should behave doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong. It just means those of us choosing to intervene, whether it be loved one, family or friend, need to broaden our horizons learning to accept and understand. For you see that wounded person is listening to their inner voice cry.

Maybe they have never heard it before, this inner voice and this new found annoyance keeps them up at night, or maybe it’s always been there but now that person is listening, hearing the voice and understanding its hunger to be heard. Hardship, or tragedy has turned up their hearing aids. Either way, it is that person’s voice to listen too, and they will listen to the point of acceptance or denial. During these times of trial this person may need nothing from us or they many need complete and total support, but believe me when I say, the inner voice is crying out and it’s running the show.

On a particular day when things weren’t going so well I found myself in a full blown argument with my inner voice. Long list of things to do and I felt as though I was losing the battle. In the middle of it all I glanced into my rear view mirror to see Parker gazing off into the distance with that faraway look reserved for those who have checked out from their current realm, entering the wondrous Walter Mitty world created in our heads.

I asked; Hey Park do you ever answer the voices in your head?

He smiled without breaking his gaze out the window: Why yes I do.

How many voices are in there little buddy?

Only one dad, but there is room for more!

With that, a sly smile and a gleam in his eye, my dry humored, wicked smart eleven year old boy let me know he understands.

So when you hear the cry from deep inside, don’t ignore it. Listen, that voice may be your savoir or it just may be the only one who is listening at the time. Either way over the last two years I have stopped pushing it down deep inside, acting as though it doesn’t exist, and because of that, my inner voice has been able to put pen to paper as it were for everyone to know the true, what, where, when, why and how.

Ms. Jacy is hearing her inner voice cry as well! It is screaming to heal faster! As though the Bionic Woman were trapped inside just waiting to roll out that super human strength! Yesterday we walked, climbed some stairs and tried to make it up her dad’s driveway a bit. She did great, but as with any exertion for her at this stage it came at a cost. She went in laid down and drifted off to sleep. Her medications leave her pretty well zapped. The bladder issue has not resolved itself so Platelets and blood are still the order of the day. She has an IV pump tagging along with her where ever she goes and there are 23 medications consumed three times a day. UGGHH!!

But here is the best part. She is no longer in the hospital. She is able to nibble on regular food and this makes her smile. Although she definitely does not like being told to what to do when it comes to her nutrition. We spend a lot of our days talking about the future, being thankful for our amazing families and sleeping. Yep when I am on Jacy duty I actually get to sleep a bit, something my body has been lacking for a very, very long time! It is nice to be back next to my girl.

The kids had a great winter vacation. Thank you to everyone who helped make my children’s Christmas extra special! All my love to you all! The kids of course received the best present ever when their mom came home to her dad’s house. They stayed at Grandpas from the first of the year until late last night! Spending their days with family and their mom! Everyone was so happy!

So we move onto the next phase. Weekly trips to see Jacy on the weekends and closely monitoring her progress. She has her Step-mom by her side daily. Gina left her job to care for my wife and we are forever grateful for this dedication. It leaves our entire family at ease as we know how well she is being cared for! Everyone keep those prayers coming as we have a long road to go and I firmly believe it is because of all your prayers we have made it this far! God bless you all.

Time to go, I hear my inner voice crying…..

buckle up

A Conflict of Emotions

Conflict

Noun: a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one:

Verb: be incompatible or at variance; clash:

Emotions

Noun: natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others

A conflict of emotions best describes the last 7 days. One minute jubilation for my wife’s ability to walk away from Stanford Hospital, then while walking our property, gazing upon my parents home, sadness, knowing my father will never walk out the front door again.

Seven days ago dad perished in our driveway, six days ago Jacy walked free from six months of medically induced incarceration. Seven days ago I was having one of the best shifts ever, working towards a year end that would top our best ever in regards to calls for service. Then in the blink of an eye it was over. Six days ago sadness hovered over me like a bully, pushing me, calling me names, slapping me in the face, then happiness as my eyes witness an event we all prayed would happen, but to be quite frank at times wondered if it would come to fruition. She (Jacy) stood up, untethered and walked out of the hospital a free woman to the raucous cheers of all involved.

During these last seven days I have endured the worst migraines ever, slept very little for a few days then slept and slept and slept some more! Moving about like a lost butterfly chaser, over here then over there and due to our very hectic lives have only been able to spend three days with Jacy. I have helped my mother gather up and organize her life while working on a proper way for all who knew my father to say goodbye. I have fielded more emails than ever, talked with family and friends, tried my best to let everyone know what is happening in regards to both major events and with the help of my second family (work) I have been blessed once again to have the freedom to do so!

I worry about missing someone, anyone, in regards to this constant flow of information. I have a tablet which I am constantly filling with notes to help keep me on track. It feels as though these two things just shouldn’t go together! That for some reason it is an unfair request for someone to handle this all at once. Life and death. A friend once made this statement; People die every day what are you going to do about it? She was right and my problems are so minor compared to others so I end up feeling ashamed for complaining.

But in reality, life is about turning the page.

Today, I loaded up the trailer and headed over to a friend’s house. There, my son (Jake) and I worked horses, surrounded by wonderful people. Three laps walking was all it took for every stress knot, tension spot, pain and ache I had been feeling to go away. Five laps into trotting my disorganized thoughts began to fall into line, categorized for processing. Moving into a lope a clarity overtook me, leaving me with a sensation similar to floating. Dropping into the herd to select one cow for practice I felt focused, at one with my horse. Carefully taking it from the herd and placing it into the arena to be worked a darkness lifted from within. Moving across the arena to bump, stop or turnback that cow while a young horse was being schooled and everything became right with the world. There was no conflict inside, I no longer had a headache, my body was loose and free, there were no unanswered questions, I didn’t feel alone anymore. Just me, my horse, some friends, a few cows and some good old fashioned horse work.

In that moment, I thanked my dad. Former president of Napa Valley Horsemans Association, Owner of Town and Country Western store, the man who first showed me what horses were all about and even though I ran away from them as a teenager. I came back. I felt I could continue that passion by instilling it further within my own children and hoped one day they (even the two who don’t ride) would feel thankful for it after I am gone.

In that moment I also thanked my wife, for without her constant vision of what our family could be; we would never be where we are today. She always has a way of seeing what I cannot, showing me a vision with clarity, then allowing me to pick up the ball and run. If it weren’t for her my successes would be fewer and farther between. To have been able to be by her side these last two years has been my privilege. She always tells me how proud she is of me, and then apologizes for all she says she has put us through. I see it a little differently. I am incredibly proud of her! She has accomplished a feat of great magnitude in regards to her health. She has nothing to apologize for, without her there would be no me and without me there would be no her. The way I understand it, that is what marriage is supposed to be. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

Later in the day my oldest Cody took me out to the refuge where we sat in a blind, decoys in front of us we waited. Sitting there gazing at the incredible young man he has become I am filled with pride and more happiness. We only got a couple ducks in the three hours we were out there, but today it really wasn’t about the hunting for me. This young man, my son, sat there and quietly explained every move, where the ducks were going to come from, how his decoy pattern is planned using patterns or duck socialization he learned while at Humboldt. He knew every breed that flew overhead, talked about how beautiful it was where we were at, and relished at the evil cloud formations forming over us as rain poured down. In other words he spoke with passion for something that makes his world turn, that brings him happiness, which makes him relax when everything is crazy. I was in heaven and all I could think about was how thankful I am for him and lucky I am to still be here to enjoy this very moment.

So we move forward. As the week draws to a close and another sun sets off in the distance we make progress. Jacy is doing well. She continues to sleep a ton, she joked with me today that she stayed awake for a whole 45 minutes! She is surrounded by family and her children as Jess and Parker have been with her every day since she arrived at her dads! There are twenty three daily meds, eye drops, 4 breathing treatments a day, an IV line connected to a portable pump and trips back to Stanford every other day or so. None of that matters as Jacy smiles that famous smile simply because she can.

My mom is also doing well, she has reorganized the house, started preparing for the future with her own personal needs and is focused on making sure dad’s memorial is exactly the way she wants it! They have been together since they were 15, I am not sure what that means to her emotionally right now, but as she put it; I am a tough Old Italian woman, at some point I will cry again, but until then there are things to be done. She checks in with me almost every day and the boys and I have been checking in on her just the same.

I have no idea what I have been worrying about, just take it one day at a time. Right?

A turning of the page…

Goodbye Stanford

2015 has come and gone.

Quite frankly it can kiss my ass.

If the first day of 2016 is any indication of things to come, then we are headed down the right path for change.

At approximately 4:21 in the afternoon of December 31st 2015, my wife Jacy Franceschi walking under her own power stepped out of Stanford Hospitals E1 BMT wing a mere 30 hours after 2015 gave its final shot to our family with the loss of my father.

jacy leaving

Take that 2015! That’s right suck on that! You can go to hell you rotten shitty damn year! You tried your best to take everything away from me, you tried your best to destroy our family! 2013 and 14 really had me weak and on the ropes but neither of you got us and you 2015, well you failed to finish the job! Oh you did your best to bring us down, but I’m not that easy and in the end it wasn’t even me that gave you the last middle finger for you see 2015, my wife was much tougher than us both!

Watching her smile as Heather our nurse disconnected the final IV line from her arm, seeing the light in her eyes grow brighter as each second grew closer to discharge. Packing all her belongings up, which after 6 months was an entire car load and then some. It was an amazing experience.

heather

At 4:15 she put on her HEPA filtered mask, walked to the door of her room, looked around it one last time, took a deep breath and opened her door to freedom. Walking down the hallway she was greeted by the entire working staff. Applauding and cheering with homemade signs congratulating her it was more than she could take. Tears streamed down everyone’s eyes, hugs were had and the pure love from every person who ever made contact with my wife was more than evident.

To say we felt like family while housed in this unit is an understatement. Each person there is special. To be a nurse, nurse’s aide or doctor in that unit is to be a remarkable human being. Every day I walked through those doors to see my wife I felt at ease. Never in the entire 6 months, even when things were rocky did I feel as though I really had to worry. When Jacy was transferred to Intensive care these people fought to get her back where she belonged. There was never a moment where her needs were not met and as is my wife’s personality she made sure every single person within E1 who crossed her path knew just how much she appreciated them.

As we made our way out the door, Jacy cried. I am sure she was crying to finally be free, but I also know she was crying because she was leaving so many special people behind. It is what everyone wanted for her but there is an intimacy that comes from creating bonds with your caregivers and every now and again those bonds become stronger than just the patient caregiver relationship. If you are lucky that happens with one or two, but if you are really lucky it becomes the whole damn staff!

I cannot express adequately just how thankful I am to the entire staff at E1. I tried my best to hug each and every one who was there before we left. To everyone I hugged and to everyone I missed, I love you, you helped save my girl, you always treated myself and my children as though we were your family and for that I am forever grateful.

I never want to see you again!

Just kidding we are coming by to visit!

Jacy got into the car took a deep breath and as we drove away, she sat quietly. Parker asked her if it was weird sitting in a moving car after being in a hospital for so long and she said yes. The 30 minute ride to her dads was silent. I could tell she was taking it all in, and trying her best to not be nauseous.

leaving stanford

We arrived at her dads and were met with hugs and happiness. Moving her belongings into the apartment it became official. We were finally on to stage two.

Her dad had completely repainted and redone the apartment just for Jacy. It is vibrant, comfortable and Jacy loves it! We spent the better part of the afternoon putting away her things and sorting her 23 medications that need to be taken three times a day. Uggh! Makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it! Within a few hours, people dwindled away, Jacy and I were alone for the first time in forever. We talked about the future, upcoming appointments and what it will take to care for her. She finally got a shower with no nurse, no lines, no hospital towels, and a nice soft warm bed to climb into afterwards. She was exhausted and ecstatic all at the same time.

Jacy Franceschi, my wife, my hero, the woman I love and adore, welcomed the New Year in by drifting off to sleep…..

Just the way it should have been….

2016 will bring some major new challenges to our family, but as it arrives and we travel through its first month I want each and every person who follows my blog, has helped my family or has been there for me to actually cry upon to know.

I do love you all and I don’t use that word lightly.

Whether it has been a kind word, uplifting passage, or deed done, I thank you. You are all part of my family. We couldn’t have done this without all of your support. We still have a long road ahead but it feels a little less bumpy and the directions a little easier to follow.

Here is to a happy and blessed 2016.

jacys hand

 

Today I said goodbye to my dad.

It started like hundreds of calls before it. Arriving on scene, keying up the mic, I spewing forth the normal rhetoric; Engine 81’s at scene, one vehicle moderate damage, 81 will be out with CHP, also we are blocking the onramp to eastbound Interstate 80.

Simple, easy. It was our 20th call of the set, we had been up most of the night and this late morning commute accident was another example of how wonderful the safety standards are for automobiles these days. As my crew did their job perfectly, the way they always do, I smiled.

Little did I know while standing ankle deep in vehicle debris my life was about to change.

My oldest son Cody was home from work, moving around the house doing laundry he looked out the window to see his grandfather moving trash cans towards the road. We live out in the country and my parents live on our property. We share garbage service and it was not uncommon to see my father dragging garbage cans out to the road, grumbling about why they weren’t drug out the night before. It was just his way.

My father has always been ornery, some would say crusty or salty of disposition. He could charm the socks off you when need be, but for the most part it was his way or the highway, no questions asked. He struggled with the move here, not wanting to really leave all he had built over the years in Sonoma, but he also was a realist and with the market at an all-time high, his and my mother’s health on the decline he realized there was no better option.

He spent his days watching TV, talking with the horses, and occasionally going out to see friends. Although that list was in decline as of late, his friends over the last couple years seemed to be dropping like flies. This of course worried him as it should, it is the mortality within us all that creeps around as we get older. He loved his grandchildren, he loved giving them a “hard time” and especially loved that Cody and Jake would give it back! My dad did the very best he could with what was left of his aging body and that left him more times than not, sitting wondering what could have been.

It also left him grumbling when the trash cans weren’t pulled out the night before.

Cody walked back into the kitchen and while getting a cup of coffee noticed grandpa’s car was still in the driveway. Thinking 30 minutes after the last time he saw him was odd he stepped onto the back porch to see his grandfather’s lifeless body on the ground in front of a garbage can.

He ran outside

My crew has just finished closing the ambulance doors, I was watching their backs with my eye on traffic when I heard the tones through my radio. Waiting for the dispatch we began moving pieces of broken car towards the side of the road. The dispatcher began by announcing a medical aid to which I knew would be routed to our engine company that was available. As we continued moving debris the location or address of the newly dispatched call for service hit me like a ton of bricks.

I knew that address! It couldn’t be, I mean I heard it, but it just couldn’t be! Frozen in my tracks, the numbers resonated as my heart beat doubled.

It was my address…

The dispatcher announced the address along with a reported 80 year old male down in the driveway, unknown if breathing.

My heart sunk further, because I knew.

My engineer was listening and he hadn’t quite put it together, but the look on his face suggested that he knew it sounded familiar. When he made eye contact with me as I screamed over the freeway roar; it was my place! It all came together. My firefighter, a new probie was confused but hustled to get everything together so we could go.

Climbing into the engine, I took a deep breath, secured the call we were currently on and attached ourselves to the medical aid. Normally since the medical aid was in my engines response area, I would have cancelled the second engine, but I didn’t know where they were, and I desperately wanted someone there fast. Our Battalion Chief attached himself to the call and ordered an engine from our neighboring town which was much closer to my house than we were. In a matter of seconds, my father had my second family coming for him in full force.

I sat quietly in the Captains seat on the way to the call. Trying hard to fight back tears as deep inside I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I also thought about my son, and what he must be thinking right now. I could feel my phone buzzing in my pants. Knowing it had to be my son calling for help, I could do nothing, with turnout gear on there was no way to get to it in the confines of my seat.

Desperately checking the computer for updated notes on his condition, there was no new news. For a minute that gave me hope. Experience has told me that when there are no updates, there is no one panicking on the other end. This usually comes from a calmness of either a very stoic individual or the subject or patient in question is breathing or talking.

We pulled up to my house and that hope went out the window.

My father was there, lying in the driveway with a blanket and a pillow, my son on his knees holding his grandfather while a dear family friend who just happened to pull into our driveway minutes after Cody called 911 was holding his head.

I have seen this image a thousand times, done this particular job to the best of my ability more times than I care to remember, but my dad…

Getting to him first with 5 members of my second family hot on my heels, I stripped his shirt, felt for a pulse while sighting his chest for rise or fall. Asking for a BVM and NPA I was politely shoved out of the way by one of my guys. Rolling around to his side to start compressions, I was politely shoved out of the way again and told to talk with my family. I stood dumbfounded looking at my hands thinking what the hell! This my dad, I am going to help him! Someone asked for oxygen and I grabbed it only to be moved again to the back and gently told to be with my family. What the hell this is my Family! The man lying there is my God Damn Family and I am going too; oh….. I get it.

Looking behind me at my sons pie eyed face and the look of stress upon our friend it hit me that my job was not on the ground thrashing for supplies, working with the best fireman I know to hopefully save my dad’s life. Yes, that was my family on the ground, but that family was in very capable hands and those guys knew through clear eyes where I was supposed to be.

Turning around I hugged my son, told him he did everything right and not to worry. I hugged our friend and said thank you for being there at just the right time. Cody told me he yelled at our little ones to get back in the house when they came outside so he thought they hadn’t seen much. Our friend had her son go inside and play video games with them to keep them occupied.

Once dad was loaded into the ambulance, it dawned on me. My mother! Holy shit, my mom is next door and has no idea what is happening! As I began walking that way I was asked if I wanted to ride with dad to the hospital. Just then my mom pulled up, our friend grabbed her and told me to go and I did. It was a quiet ride to the hospital, I needed to ride in the front as to keep my hands off the operation. I felt bad, as I work alongside these guys every day, but there was no conversation. It was all I could do to keep tears from streaming down my face.

We arrived, we hustled into an ER room and for the next twenty minutes or so everyone worked valiantly hoping for any sign of life. But in the end, we had an unknown downtime, we had no discernable rhythm or any resemblance of electrical activity and with honest to goodness remorse, the doc turned to me and said: we have done all we can Mr. Franceschi, it is time.

I have heard “time of death” called on a person’s life more times than I care to remember. Hearing it called for my father brought a conflict of emotions.

The ER crew was so gracious and kind. They cleaned dad up, dressed him neatly with a white sheet and left him looking as though he was sleeping. The silence inside that room was deafening. My heart was breaking as I thought of all the times we butted heads or argued over little things. I never got to tell him Jacy was being released from the hospital. He loved her so, and had worried non-stop over her in his own silent way. He was never going to see any of his grandchildren get married or watch them progress with their lives. He was also no longer in pain, his body had given out on him years ago and he struggled daily. His pace maker had just been replaced which was something he was proud of because he had outlived the previous one. Our entire lives together was rushing through my brain.

I just stood there, not knowing what to do, staring helplessly at his lifeless body.

Then deep inside, a ten year old boy emerged. This boy, felt lost and alone, like he was in the dark with no way to find some light. This ten year old boy began to cry for his daddy. He just wanted his daddy to find him, take his hand and tell him not to be afraid anymore. To wrap his arms around him, hold him in his massive 300 pound 6 foot frame and tell him, one day you will be a man and you will know just what to do. This ten year old boy just wanted to cry on his dads shoulder.

The ten year old boy from within forced the 49 year old man to lay his hand across his dad’s chest, kiss him on the forehead and tell him he was sorry he wasn’t there faster. He was sorry they hadn’t always seen eye to eye, he was sorry but they did the very best they could to keep him around for just a bit longer. The ten year old boy from within cried, the 49 year old man shed those tears.

We both said goodbye.

I miss you dad.