The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

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Can you hear me now?

In my twenties I never thought much about life and what it held for me. Every day the sun rose I tried my hardest to earn the respect of those around me. At that age you just want to be heard. Your ideas, thoughts, designs, you just want to be equal with those around you. To show the world that you are not just another dumb kid. Of course not helping matters much my looks were far younger than my age, therefor anything that came from my mouth was treated with kid gloves, quite literally.

Some life changes came and into my thirties a family was started, a career blossoming and again I yearned to be heard. The problem? I was the older guy as most in my profession started young and had already promoted to mid-level or even officer ranks. During that time I learned about fatherhood, gained some maturity and just when things started looking my way I also learned a lot about death. It was a challenging time and still no one was listening.

Welcoming my forties, our family grew, my inner child faded away as motorcycles, boats and fishing tournaments slid to the wayside for coaching baseball, and raising/riding horses. Trips to Haiti for humanitarian reason filled our summers, helping us grow as human beings and rodeo soon dominated our lives. For once in a really long time things felt as though they would look up, our family, especially myself could or would find contentment in life. Then came Leukemia, cancer, and a Bone Marrow Transplant. A very sick wife was struggling hard, fighting for survival and once again I found myself yearning to be heard.

This time it was different.

You see before, I longed to be taken seriously for whatever I may have learned along the way. Wishing those who I surrounded myself with would just listen, understand that maybe just once I actually did know something and could be thought of as equal or even a peer to someone new.

Over time I stopped yearning to be heard but instead chose to listen. Listening is one of the most important traits we can learn as a human being. Listening allows you the opportunity to feel empathy, compassion and love. Three of the best human characteristics we could possibly have or share with others. So I listened, and listened some more and I learned to love by not saying a thing. To empathize with those around me and show great compassion to those less fortunate than I. Listening gave me an opportunity to engage my brain instead of my mouth. Insecurity feeds a rapid fire mouth while silence often times shows great strength.

Now as I am but a few months away from my fifties I am yearning to be heard again.

My wife is struggling with all that has happened to her. She has been a pillar of strength for so many including myself. There is not a day or moment within the day I do not think about her. Alone, in her chair, or upstairs in bed, wondering, asking God why this happened to her. She has survived so much and yet she feels as though she has lost just as much as she gained. A woman who thrived in our barn, was an angel to so many children within a classroom setting and my best friend is still patiently waiting for things to get better. We are one year since chemo and one month away from her transplant. We are three weeks away from when she left the house for what was supposed to be at its worst no more than four months. It was eight months instead of struggling to survive. She is trying her hardest, but most days leave her incredibly exhausted and unable to move. She may have two good days and four really rough days. Her body is fighting her at every turn. She looks up and smiles at me but we’ve been together for 15 years and I can always tell when there is something hiding behind that smile. Some things she just can’t say, but my heart knows what they are because I have listened. 

So to my wife I hope you can hear me because this is what I have to say.

I love you.

I have loved you since they very moment we kissed. It was a confusing time, a scary moment but an inner sense told me it was supposed to be.

There is something about your personality that is mesmerizing. Like staring into an oasis after a long hot journey across the sand. You are that safe comfortable place so needed after such long travels.

You haven’t changed; your caring shines from the inside of your soul. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t instantly feel comfortable around you.

You are the devil when you are angry. But if you weren’t my strong personality would roll right over you and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

I could never imagine a day without you. Just like chocolate

We have four super fantastic pain in the ass children who love you! They are frustrating and amazing all at the same time. They also have no idea just how serious ALL of this has been and because of that they can be a bit selfish at times. But remember, they love you. They show it every day by not doing their chores, arguing with you about homework and treating you like its days of old where you would pick up after them.

I am scared to death but refuse to show it to you. You have enough to deal with emotionally other than dealing with my fears. This whole thing is so unnerving and yet watching you fight so hard, how could I ever tell you I am scared as well.

Quit worrying about what GvHD has done to your outside appearance. I know its difficult, and I understand you miss your old body but; I love you, the person who is you, it doesn’t matter to me what you think you look like because when I look into your eyes and the smile lines under those eyes relax for just a moment, you are there, whole, kind, caring, soft, understanding and as beautiful as always. I only see you..

I don’t know what the future holds for us, for you. I will not pretend I have the answers anymore. This whole thing sucks, it is painful, emotional and at times beyond comprehension. But I do know this; There is no one on this earth that I would rather be with. I am thankful every day that you chose me for a spouse. Yes it is hard taking care of everything without my partner in crime but I got it. I am doing the best that I can and the only reason I am doing so well is because of my love for you and my faith that God is watching and has a plan.

So please my dear wife ease your worried mind, have faith, look into my eyes and know I will always be by your side, helping you any way I can; Loving you and cherishing every moment we are together. Lean on me all you need, and rest when ever you want.

For every day is a glorious gift from God.

. .

 

The Journey

Thursday we made our bi-weekly or so, journey to Stanford. These required visits are needed so doctors may track Jacy’s constant state of GvHD.  Whether it be dealing with a pulmonary function test, her intestinal tract, eyeballs, skin or simply drawing blood to determine antibody needs we always arrive nervous, expecting the worst but hoping for the best as in serious signs of improvement. These appointments can range from down and dirty, leaving us with more time on the road than actually inside any facilities, to eternally trapped on campus with no place to retreat between sessions! Moving from one appointment to another with sometimes more than an hour or two in between visits. We laugh at each other for it has become the only alone time we ever receive and of course nothing is more romantic than swooning surrounded by similarly sick people or holding hands beneath the deep shadow cast from a set of IV pumps inside a sterile chamber. On this particular day Jacy was meeting with her primary Doctor which is always a treat. She loves seeing Dr. Muffly and always comes away feeling as though she just spent time with a friend. But first a 4 hour IV infusion of antibodies to boost her multi layered, still very confused immune system. After that a little round of pulmonary function testing and then it’s back on the road to hash it out with every Bay Area commuter trying their best to get home in under 3 hours. Of course the first hour is fun for me as I play a time honored game started with my son Parker that centers on the Toyota Prius. Much like the road game slug bug only the Prius takes its place. We also play the car spotting game, Tesla, Ferrari, Audi, and Porsche. It is fun driving through a community where the majority of vehicles on the road are green or simply cost more than my house. Ahhhh to have that kind of disposable cash….. We pulled into Stanford’s Cancer center turn around at 10:30 am after a leisurely 3 hour traffic jammed ride when my wife suggested I find something to do other than sit by her side for 4 hours during her infusion. Now normally I would have balked at this absurd suggestion as I have always believed a husbands place is by his wife’s side, no matter what! But today she was right, I needed some Betty time. Time to reflect and be alone. Time for just me with no one needing me for anything. Trapped in the center of Silicon Valley with no excuses to hide behind, that is just what I chose to do and with a kiss, a hearty good luck and I’ll see you in a while, this guy headed out alone.

Where to go, where to go????

I thought about going to the Tesla store but I knew then I would want one and since that type of purchase is nowhere in our future I turned the old faithful 200,000 mile wagon left instead of right. Of course this also eliminated the Ferrari store, the Audi store and who couldn’t pretend car shop without sitting inside a Porsche 911 4S! To dream ah to dream.. First retreat I chose to patron was a little restaurant I have passed a hundred times. A quaint little place nestled in the hills above Palo Alto. A place I have yearned for my world to stop just long enough so I may cross its gastric threshold, yet there never seems to be enough time. Today would be different. When I pulled into the parking lot the first thing to hit me was a smell of ancient redwoods filling my nostrils. Walking up to this small, shake covered hut, heavenly aromas wafted across the open plane. Stepping onto a huge well seated porch I quickly took my place silently amongst some of my favorite people in the whole world. Bikers

That’s right Bikers, masters of the motorized two wheel sleds. Throttle squeezing, leather wearing, Carbon fiber covered, alloy loving, helmet adorning, race pipe thundering, high rev, revving BIKERS! Eating my breakfast a Cheshire cat smile glistened as I listened to each story about the mornings ride, or a previous ride or a tale about someone else’s unbelievably adventurous ride. Tech talk at table two involving power commanders and horsepower. New heads for table fives Harley and a freshly painted fairing to boot! I could almost feel a bike running underneath me! It was good to be back amongst these folks. Gazing across the landscape I recalled many of my bikes from days past. A simple street cruiser, bench seat KZ500, my very first Harley! I could still sense the raw power and throaty noise coming from one of my customs while aching for the sheer arm stretching torque produced by my ZX12R which had quite a few modifications. Each motorcycle reserving a special place in my heart, leaving me smiling, content and hoping I’ll know that feeling again. Yeah, someday day, I’ll be back. After settling up with the waitress I drove down the road a ways to a state park where walking off breakfast sounded like a good idea. Parking the car, walking to the trail head I chose a direction and headed out across this large open field. Working my way along the hillside there arose a bench in the distance. Reaching that bench I couldn’t help but laugh as I read the plaque inlaid upon its top plank. It was quite simply labeled “Bobs Bench”. Taking a seat the view was amazing. I thought to myself somehow dad knows I’m here, sitting on a bench with his name and wondering how he is doing. In return I knew he was looking down upon me, letting me know he’s watching over Jacy. He loved her so, they bantered back and forth and in reality the old man lived for her calling him out for his shortcomings.

Strolling farther down the path it felt as though the weight of my world had left for a bit, a beautiful fern laden path, some ancient trees, and even a few Mountain Lion tracks made this the perfect hike. I lost track of time and before you know it I had traveled 4 miles. It was glorious! Now I will say this, when deciding upon an impromptu adventure, ensure you retain alternate apparel somewhere in your vehicle for just such an occasion, for as I discovered the hard way; Vans are not for hiking! Just saying!

Back at the car I made it three miles down the road when Jacy called to say she was almost finished. Perfect timing. Picking her up some lunch then circling back into the Stanford Cancer Centers turnaround she climbed inside already a bit exhausted. We headed over to the main hospital where we arrived very early for her last appointment, a pulmonary function test. Luckily we didn’t have to wait very long and before we knew it back on the road we were, heading for home.

I thanked my wife for the wonderful morning, and I told her all about the day’s events. She told me about her appointments but before long she was drifting off to sleep. We weren’t 30 minutes into traffic when Jacy’s head nodded its final nod, resting gently towards the door, looking completely tuckered out.

These trips are hard on her and so is the process of recovery. She tires of being exhausted all the time and doesn’t understand why she just isn’t healing or regaining any of her former strength and vitality. Jacy is very thankful to have survived, to have fought as incredibly hard as she did, but the longing to just be normal, to ride horses, to help her kids, to be a teacher again surrounded by children who aren’t hers, but in reality are very much her children has become overwhelming for her at times. It is hard as her husband to see her in pain, to see her struggle, to see her longing for the past. As a man I am a fixer by nature and I can’t fix this, I can’t make it better, I can’t take it from her and make it my own.

The best I can do is support her, listen when she needs an ear, stay quiet when she screams at the ceiling, give advice when she asks for it and when my wife says to go do something on my own. In this case a journey within the monthly journey.  Do it, enjoy it, and thank her for it afterwards for without her coaxing me to do so, I wouldn’t. I would stay right by her side, making sure she is ok and telling her just how special she is to me.

I cant wait until the both of us can sit on Bobs Bench.

bobs bench

 

M is for Mom….

Mother’s day was founded in 1908. Its reverence came to fruition after Anna Jarvis held a memorial celebration in honor of her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton West Virginia. Anna had begun campaigning for the holiday a year after her mother a well-known peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War died. Ann also created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues within the community. Anna wanted to honor her mother along with honoring every mother out there for as she stated they were “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

In 1908 The US Congress rejected a Mother’s Day proposal joking they would also need to honor a “Mother in Laws Day”! Yet through persistence and a need to recognize the extraordinary efforts by Anna’s mother Ann, by 1911 all US States began to observe Mother’s Day as an official holiday.

No matter its origins, Mother’s Day is upon us once again. A holiday that in my opinion has become less about its true intentions and more about commercialization, much like Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Mother’s day for me is not about just saying Happy Mother’s day to my mom. Although due to my extremely hectic life that is about all my poor mom gets as of late. A woman who deserves only the utmost of respect for all the dread I put her through. It is about taking a moment to recognize not only all mom has done for you, but all she has not done for you as well. It is the things mom hasn’t done for you that have built and developed your character into what it is today. Yes she does so much to ease your life’s miniscule burdens simply by being your mother. But it is the hard choices you make on your own, the times she isn’t there as a crutch to lean on, but is a phone call away to listen, leaving you to your own devices without interfering that make all the difference in the world. It is about allowing you to become you with nothing more than a look or facial expression that needs no words. There isn’t a mom alive that cannot change a young man’s course with nothing more than an MMMMMHHHMMMM or what were you thinking tone in her voice, all while allowing you to believe you made the correction in course all on your own. Our moms are the planet for which we orbit. Without them we would be lost.

Mother’s day for me is also about everyone else’s mom as well.

You see I wouldn’t be the man I am today without a hoard of surrogate mothers grabbing me by the ear, sitting me down to chew my ass, or giving me a hug when I needed it most. The moms who fed us after school without so much as a complaint, helped us with our homework because we were together as friends! A group of scraggly hoodlums helping each other out and that made these moms smile. It was the mom’s that approved of me dating their daughters and believe it or not it was also the mom’s that did not approve of me dating their daughters that made a huge difference in my life.

Swim team moms, wrestling moms, 4-H moms (those were the toughest), FFA moms, and any mom who thought if even for a moment I was worth it are permanently lodged in my heart. From laughing at my jokes, treating me as one of their own, fixing up my scrapes, not telling my parents the whole truth when I was complete jackass or telling me to get the hell out complete with a motherly ass chewing! These women, mothers of my friends who knew it was up to them to not only ensure their own kids turned out ok, but their children’s friends did as well. They showed us love and compassion, making sure we knew they would always be there for us if and when we needed.

Each one of these women made a huge impact on my life whether they knew it or not. They are the sole reason I try my hardest to make a positive impact on every single young person I meet, or that crosses through our threshold at the ranch!

To not only my mom, but ALL moms who have taken the time to love and care for more than just their own children.

Happy Mother’s Day

Without all of you there really would be none of us….