So this is 50…

“A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted 30 years of his life”

                                                                                                                                ~Muhammad Ali~

 

I can distinctly remember awakening on my 15th birthday, lying in bed while pondering the importance of this day. You see it was my last year before complete freedom, six months from now with a little effort I would obtain a learners permit, then if I kept my nose clean a full-fledged driver’s license would soon follow. I had dreamed of obtaining my license from the very moment I fell in love with cars and now we were but 12 short months from it becoming a reality!

And that my friends started a habit that has both served me well and left me face first in the dirt wondering why more times than I can count. The habit is known as looking forward.

Most people look forward to a vacation or the purchase of some tangible object. I on the other hand began looking forward to landmark dates and moments in time where my life would hopefully just fall into place. Laying my head upon the pillow at night I would count off the time. 5 years until I turn 20 then I will be able to drink legally, 5 more years and I will be 25, either dead or married but either way that’s 10 years away! Plenty of time in between to explore and have fun! 5 years after that I’ll be a dad that’s if some woman is stupid enough to marry me!! Wow think about that! At 30, 15 short years from now, I will become a father to some snot nosed kid! Ten years after that I will become 40 years old! Who wants to be forty that’s freaking old!! Oh well, I will still be the same just I will have a couple kids to hang out with, go skateboarding, ride bikes and work on cars!! It will be fun, like having your best friends over every day because of course they will see how obviously awesome I am!! Ten years later I will be 50 and then, well then I will be really old! Like the teachers with gray hair I see feebly walking the halls, or the old men that every morning make their way into Fords Café. Pretty sure they are too old to actually have a job, they’re just killing time. Wake up early, go meet with other old dudes who are counting the days until they die, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and repeat! At least when I am 50+ my kids will be grown and gone, and I will be able to party hard once again while watching my ancient body wither away..

 

Ahhh the mind of a young man without a clue. So sure of himself, self-absorbed and completely unrealistic.

I turned 50 years old yesterday. Really not sure what I was expecting to happen, but going to bed the night before was held with great trepidation. Moving my pillow, placing items on my nightstand in perfect unison as if by awaking the following morning to find they were moved held some form of significance in determining my age.

Staring at the ceiling I began my usual looking forward process, except this time I wasn’t looking forward but instead mourning the past. Rolling back in five and ten year segments, memories flooded my conscience and with it joy, pain, fear, sadness and tears. We work so hard at looking forward, to the next conquest, challenge or milestone in our lives I think we forget to honor the past. Not just remember the past but actually honor the past. Without the past we wouldn’t be able to say; hey you remember when we…..???? Or you remember that time….???? And of course; I can’t believe we/I survived……????

We forget to not just remember the good times because all of our good times whether we admit it or not are tempered by that portion of our brain protecting us from pain, but to remember while holding in the highest regards the bad times as well. I know you are thinking what, but I want to forget the bad times! Who needs that kind of grief in their lives? In reality if we don’t take a moment to remember our struggles, relive our pain, relish in strengths formed from having our souls drug through the deepest of dark pits, we would be doing ourselves a huge disservice. It is those struggles and pain that forge the human being we are today. Life is easy and lived well when you are always happy never feeling the burdens life can provide. Life is cherished and held even closer when you struggle then survive, rise above the darkest of times always searching for a better moment to bask under. The struggle helps us to become who we are and creates a human being who cares about others, feels empathy, and knows the importance of tolerance and understanding even during the most challenging of times.

I laid in bed for an hour watching my usual round of The Daily Show, The Amazing Race and Amy Schumer. My eyes were watching but my mind was a million miles away. 50 years old, double the amount of time I really thought I would live. Every person who walked through my life over the last 40 years that was no longer with us crossed my mind. Grandparents, friends of my parents, other family members and of course close personal friends. Human lives never afforded the chance to make it to 50 years of age. Life played out is hand and they were gone way to soon leaving those around them suffering with the stark reality that when it’s over, it’s over. We have no say, no choice and life is not a guarantee. So I ask myself, why am I different? Why did I make it here and the others didn’t? Some lost their lives in accidents while others to cancer, illness or the hard realities of a life not lived well. But here I was getting prepared to embark on this landmark (by societies standards) birthday. 50 years old. Some didn’t make to 20, some 30, others in their early 40’s. Either way they were no longer with us. So why am I still here? What is my purpose? Because if I made it this far there must be a purpose otherwise I may as well be nothing more than the walking dead.

When I awoke, I sat up straight like Bill Murray in Groundhog day! I looked around and everything on my night stand was right where I left it. My phone was already loading up with well wishes from friends and the kids were beginning to rustle for school. Jacy had retreated downstairs as she does most mornings around 3:30/4am due to the wacky schedule her medications have her body beholden too. My morning was fairly uneventful for having just turned 50! No new pains, my joints still working fine and there appeared to be no new grey hairs sprouting mysteriously from my head. I still needed glasses to see and when I stepped on the scale there appeared to be no rapid weight gain possibly warranting the use of suspenders with my belt. Brushing these 50 year old teeth I found myself thankful they were all still there and once my hair was combed it didn’t look as though it had thinned any more than normal. I guess you could say it was turning into an uneventful morning, nothing like what my inner fears told me turning 50 would become.

The 15 year old boy still trapped deep inside calling me an old man was happy none of his premonitions had come true.

Today I am much more cognoscente of my surroundings at 50 years old. Birds, fields, a certain smell or breeze that is just the right temperature hitting my face floods my brain with memories. Good, bad or otherwise. I appreciate life, not just my life, but any life. Animals hold a dear place in my heart, I cannot stand to see any animal mistreated; if you are mistreating an animal rest assured I will mistreat you! Nothing brings more joy than a nuzzle  from a horse, the purr of a cat or the slobbery happiness of a dog. I finally have the patience when fishing I wish I held when I was younger. A morning working a horse can erase an entire day of shit! There is something so calming about learning a horse, its character, abilities and personality. Happiness definitely comes from spending time with my children, whether at a rodeo, playing ball, going to the beach, sitting at a school function or just reading together, they are my world. My overall temperament has changed as well, although those very same children I love can on occasion bring me close to the explosive person I could be when I was younger, I now have the ability to walk away, calm myself down and look at things from another’s point of view.

Understanding the power of commitment. My wife is an amazing human being, she fights every day for the simplest things we all take for granted. Time with her children, the ability to walk outside, go to the store, or even just drive the car without wanting to fall apart physically. She lives in fear of the unknown and wonders if she will ever feel better. Every day she wakes, and works hard at making lunches for her children so they know she is still here and she loves them. She sleeps a lot due to her medications and her body doesn’t help when it comes to walking from point A to point B. She worries about everyone and everything. She is my hero. I am terrified of a life without her.

I miss my dad. Wasn’t sure at times how I would feel about that since we butted heads a lot over my entire life, but I really do miss my dad. I have also come to understand in the circle of life his departure leaves me up to bat as it were. I would rather read than watch TV, sit in a quiet room than listen to music at a million decibels, although there are the occasional times alone in the car or at work in my cubicle I have been known to crank up some Zeppelin or Van Hagar! (only those my age will understand the Van Hagar) I have grown fond of the complexities involved with classical music and nothing brings a smile to face faster than some down and dirty jazz. Real country music not that crap they play today is what is on my channel 80% of the time.

Mornings are amazing! Every morning is a little different and I now wonder why in my younger years I wasted all those mornings sleeping in when I could have been out watching in amazement as the earth rotates bringing a bright glowing sun from beneath the shadows of darkness. I feel the same way about a sunset. Something about dusk just speaks to me. It is the perfect time of day.

I worry about our future and what we are leaving behind for our children. There is so much hate in this world and our outlets for entertainment seem to thrive on exploiting only the negatives of life. We are developing a nation of self-centered glory hungry humans that care for no one but themselves. I know there is lots of good in this world I just wish there was more reporting of positives than negatives. I also feel as though we are ruining this planet and our great grandchildren are going to pay the price. If we don’t hurry up and make some major environmental changes than we will permanently damage this planet. It is our only home.

So as you can see the 15 year old no longer lives here and thank goodness! I think differently, and lord have mercy I look different! But looking forward will still be a part of my life as I grow older, just there will also be many more times where looking behind is just as important. There are many more challenges remaining in this life that I don’t WANT to accomplish but NEED to accomplish for my own growth and wellbeing and if I make it to my 60’s.70’s or god willing my 80’s I hope I still have the ability to dream big, love even bigger and hopefully are still able to help anyone who will listen to navigate this crazy thing called life so they can find out just who they are or are getting ready to become when they to hit the big 50.

[JF1]

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Fear

Let’s talk about fear.

Fear is a state induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs in certain types of organisms, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding or freezing from perceived traumatic events.

Traumatic events?

Like watching your wife wither away to nothing, struggling to find happiness because she never feels as though there is any progress being made. To her it feels as though her body is just not getting any better! Gloom at only having only enough strength to make it from the bed upstairs to the chair downstairs then remain frozen in time as the world passes her by? Nightmares that she is still at Stanford, never to come home again.

A change in behavior?

Oh yes you mean as in a person once vibrant and bubbly now hiding from herself, the mirror and even people, for she no longer sees herself in reflection but the remnants of a weary, pharmaceutically scarred body? She no longer hears the echoes of love resonating but wallows in pictures from what once was feeling nothing but self-doubt. Trying her hardest every day to find a positive reflection only to collapse under the burden of repetitive negativity pounding in her brain.

Induced by perceived danger or threat?

As in cold sweat, elevated heart rate and blood pressure whenever the word “hospital” is uttered. A doctor insisting she walk through sterile front doors to an awaiting isolation room with no timeline for departure. The minute a fever arises or a cough lingers to long.

The thought of our children being alone, again. Waking up to an empty house, no wife to found, sad faces walking like zombies as they know they won’t see dad again for another few days. Family will help, faces will be there for comfort and assistance but it is not their parents. The threat of mom and dad not being home, wondering when they will come home and if mom will come home at all is always lingering.

And so fear grips us again as Jacy has made another journey to Stanford.

Work has been crazy hectic! Coming home on Wednesday after being at work for three days I walked into an empty house. The first day of school was in the books! Jacy’s one wish through all her recent complications was to make the first day of school. To be with her children and tell them she loved them as they exited the car. She accomplished her mission. After two years with me sending first day photos to her in the hospital I came home knowing my wife was going to be ecstatic! Yet one thing I did notice while at work, was she hadn’t posted anything on FB. Seriously! It is a first day tradition across this great nation to post your first day pic’s on Facebook!!!! Something must be wrong…

Making my way through the house what struck me was the utter silence, then as I made my way through the house I realized it was way too quiet. Calling for Jacy I received no answer. I really did expect her to be downstairs in her chair half crying/laughing waiting to tell me just how amazing it had been to drive her children to school and drop them off! She reached a milestone; living long enough to see her kids off to school one more time. But there was nothing, she was nowhere to be seen.

Checking the window to ensure I had in fact passed her car on the way up to the house. I turned and sprinted up the stairs, opened the door to our bedroom and there she lay, in a ball, crying/moaning. She wasn’t shedding tears of joy, but instead tears of pain. After a little conversation and a full patient assessment I asked if she wanted me to call Gayla her nurse coordinator. She asked me to wait until her pain meds kicked in, and so with hesitation I planted myself at the desk and waited. I didn’t need to wait long.

The pain was enormous, her head hurt, her body hurt and she felt nauseous. All bad signs. An immunocompromised subject’s body is constantly doing a fine juggling act between medications that both allow her immunosuppression system to work and drugs that suppress that very system. It is all in an effort to keep harmony while both allowing her white cells to protect the body but since they are not her white cells, keeping them from destroying the body which it sees as foreign all in the same stroke. Confusing, amazing and horrific at times to watch.

She finally stood up, looked me dead in the eye and said; I need to go to the hospital now! I again mentioned Stanford but was rebuffed as she could no longer tolerate the pain. We rapidly loaded a few things and headed to the Kaiser. Kaiser is no more than 5 miles from our home. We feel blessed to be so very close to such a wonderful facility. Arriving at the ER we were put in a room fairly quickly and were warmly greeted by staff. The on duty doctor was one of our favorites and within minutes (a lifetime to Jacy) she had IV pain meds which allowed to her to finally relax and feel some relief.

I stepped outside while a lumbar puncture was performed to call Gayla her nurse coordinator. After a brief explanation of her symptoms along with justification for the stop at Kaiser, Gayla assured me she would grab Dr. Muffly ASAP and call me right back. The phone rang within minutes and a transfer to Stanford was being arranged. Dr. Muffly wanted her there and she wanted her right now!

Of course Jacy wanted nothing to do with this plan! Fear had set in.

It was the first day of school and she wouldn’t be there when her babies returned, she promised she would be there! She didn’t want to be stuck at Stanford again, how long would they keep her, why are they keeping her, can’t she just go home after the headache subsides? She doesn’t feel like an inpatient, whatever they need to do can be on an outpatient status!

Fear makes you overlook the obvious. We all knew she needed to go. She was still in pain, we had no answers as to why her face was swollen, her head hurt so badly, and she was feeling nauseous. But fear can help you justify anything.

The ambulance came.

I had gone home, packed her some clothes and returned to the hospital just in time for the ambulance to arrive. We loaded her up and in usual Jacy fashion, people needed to come say goodbye and good luck. She is always making friends wherever she goes. Kissing her on the cheek, saying goodbye I closed the back doors of the ambulance like I have done a thousand times in my career. It didn’t feel right. I thanked the guys taking her and walked back to the car. Sitting in the driver’s seat with a very heavy heart I watched the ambulance slowly drive away.

My head hurt, my bones began to hurt and I felt nauseous. Here we go again.

I needed to work the next four days and Jacy made me promise I wouldn’t follow her down. I called her family and they agreed to meet her when she arrived so she wouldn’t be alone. I went home, greeted the kids, asked how their first day of school was and after a few jokes and giggles the elephant in the room reared its ugly head to bellow.

Where’s mom?

Now imagine being 10. Knowing your mom has been sick for a very long time, she goes to the hospital one day with the promise of being home in a couple of months. Instead you are living through her being absent from your life for 7 months while you travel back and forth to see her once a week. You now remember at one point it was very bad as nervous and scared adults circled around you, acting weird, treating you differently all because the end looked near. They kept it from you, but you knew because even though you are a kid, you are perceptive. Then you wake up one morning and mom is home! She is home in time for your birthday and all is right within your ten year old mind again. Now every time she goes to the doctor your 11 year old mind starts to worry. She comes back from the doctor each time, which makes you happy, but you still worry, and you are a little distrustful of information provided by adults in regards to your mom’s health.

That was look I had to deal with when asked; where’s mom? That look quickly turned into a squinty face and before I could even say; moms headed back to Stanford, the tears began to flow. They flowed hard and fast. Jessica looked in shock, Jake hung his head and Parker cried and cried some more. This little boy’s fear had come true and my heart was breaking. Some days I feel as though there is a constant grip around my chest and I just can’t take anymore.

The long and the short of it is this, we all face fear, each and every day in one way or another. Fear is gripping, mind bending and often time paralyzing.

I hate fear.

August 13, 2016

Today is day four at Stanford. I didn’t write anything or spread the word right away because I am having a hard time coming to grips with her being there again. It is weighing heavily on me and even though she most likely will go home on Tuesday evening each time it happens fear grips not only her but our entire family. We still have no word on the cause of her body pain or associated headache. Jacy had some severe swelling in her face that was most likely caused by a plugged salivary gland. She is partaking in *photopheresis?dialysis to hopefully clear her blood of any viruses still lingering around. Her steroids have been raised and they are tweaking her medications to be more proactive in this ongoing viral war. Getting her home can’t come soon enough!

More to come….

*Photopheresis

In medicine, photopheresis (aka extracorporeal photopheresis or ECP) is a form of apheresis and photodynamic therapy in which blood is treated with a photosensitizing agent and subsequently irradiated with specified wavelengths of light to achieve an effect.

 

 

Pushing back from the table for I might be full.

Our daily lives at times seem to flow like an oceans tide. Highs then lows, troubled waters an incoming squall or the serenity of a calm sea. I feel as though we are such a part of this earth, so intertwined and yet it’s not what many would have us believe. All things remain cyclical yet no observation as to the cause or need? Blinders have been affixed and our noses lay heavy towards the ground out of fear or repetitive motion. This mundane normalcy deemed appropriate as we refuse to raise our eyebrows casting glares into alternate directions for no other reason than to ask why? A society spoon fed by the very corporate dollar so many rage against. There is no trustworthy source any longer, no sense of community bringing bright ideas and alternative messages to an open forum where mockery and ridicule are not to be tolerated. We are a society of mongers. It is no wonder so many hearts are filled with anger and hate. It is why those who are not filled with anger and hate only feel fear, sadness, bewilderment and confusion. Our modern day is frustrating to say the least. Just an observation.

Trying my hardest to find positives around me, my head hurts. My head is feeling as though it is filled with sand and ready to burst at the seams. When I feel this way, knowing myself as I do while understanding my body, I know I am emotionally full. Neck pain, back pain, the inability to tackle large projects or even affect them in some small way. These are signs I may be a bit troubled.

My blog is suffering. There has been many stories as of late, yet I have been making excuses not to write. It’s as though I am procrastinating for some unforeseen life test that I have not studied for and time is desperately running out. You remember school don’t you? Mid-terms, tons of material to study for and you begin to feel as though you just can’t? So you put it off one day, then another and soon one day becomes two, two becomes four and four becomes a week, a week becomes two then bam, you staring down the barrel of having done nothing and you have 48 hours to get all that work/studying finished!

The book is kicking my ass! No kidding, it is seriously killing me!! Every writer feels as though there is this romanticism associated with the act of writing. (cue dreamy music) Holed up in some small cute cabin in the woods alone with nothing but a Hermes 3000 and a couple reams of paper to keep you company. There is a light rain and endless wildlife roams at will around your cabin. Scotch, scotch, scotchety, scotch! There is plenty of scotch, a few steaks for grilling; a warm fire leaves nothing but your imagination draining through clunky metal keys as you pour your souls into the world’s next greatest novel! A book written from the heart, full of love for all to read and draw conclusions while filling your desire to reach just one person! Then if you are really lucky you end up on the talk show circuit telling all who will listen just what an amazing experience it was to find yourself, in that little cabin while sharing your pain and exploring your mental boundaries! Oh yeah, also while consuming copious amounts of scotch!

In reality, you write when you can. At work, the desk at home, at three in the morning when you can’t sleep, or you just tell your laptop to GFI with a super number one symbol shown using solely the middle finger as you walk by.

Right now I have over two years of writings, some from the blog, others never published. There is back stories needing to be filled and fillers needed where some writings have failed to draw a conclusion. Then while writing new material or correcting older stuff you realize you haven’t even begun to touch the depth of pain pulsing deep inside. Oh you think you have done a fine job of explaining where you are on the pain scale but in reality it’s more like a large, gross scab. Each and every time you begin to write about a certain painful moment you are really just picking at it! The scab that is. The problem becomes the more you pick at this scab, the more you wish to keep picking at this scab no matter that it hurts! Then you find you long to pick at the damn scab, almost crave picking at this fucking scab and before you know it the scab has started to bleed and each drop of blood is another level of pain for you to experience! Once you have bled enough you find the need to analyze the blood, categorize the emotions and before you know it, you are writing about it and another scab is there for the picking!!! Oh bloody Hell!!!!

Reading through my journal, correcting grammar while restructuring sentences has forced me to relive every emotionally charged experience over and over again. Some evenings I can only make it through one or two before I find myself feeling blue. Feeling the pain as though it is happening right then, right now. My heart aches for my wife and all she has endured and continues to endure. It is not fair and many times I wish it was me and not her. But it is not, so the best I can do is honor her by writing this story the right way and pray that when it’s finished a story is told that adequately reflects the message I am trying to convey. During many of my postings a follower asked if I thought I would survive reliving the experience while writing this book. I can say with all honesty that I will. It will be painful, it will most likely change me as a person forever, and if I do it right I pray it will change the lives of others, but it will leave a mark, a toll and once the scab is healed, leave a scar.

Work.

My whole career I have been really good at doing my job and much like taking my uniform off to go home; putting it away when I am done. There has been some rough calls as of late. Vehicle accidents, a few fires and a few fatalities. The beauty of our job is the thousands of hours of hands on training and preparing all pays off, then we are able to quietly slip away into the background. Notoriety is not what a true public servant wishes for in my eyes. This job we do is so much more than a job, it is who we become and it fulfills a need we harbor to help other human beings without fanfare. So for the better part of 22 years that’s what I have quietly done. But the last loss of life call I participated in was much more. It was a young life, it was a good call (as far as work goes)! Everything went right! From on scene time, to assistance, to hand off, the patient was treated and cared for exceptionally! Hell upon arrival at the hospital there were signs we had in fact succeeded! It all sounds great right? Do your job well then go home? You quietly pat yourself and your co-workers on the back for as a team we either do well or fail and this one was in the win column. Right? Ah no wrong! Sadly the patient ultimately perished.

Where things have become harder is in today’s age you can no longer erase the calls, and move on keeping some form of sanity. Why? Because we have Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. It’s not that we don’t want to know the outcome or for that matter want you to know what we did or how we did it, for we do, but instead of a verbal update from your medical director or battalion chief complete with an after action assessment we now get all of that plus the social media report! Our world is becoming so small and because it’s shrinking rapidly we see patients or victims plastered across any number of social media sites and with it comes the arm chair quarterbacking that so often follows a senseless tragedy. Those thoughtless comments, or ignorant compilations of medical strategies or tactics that should have been used, or weren’t used at all! These of course are usually coming from people with little to no knowledge of emergency services or the stressful split second decision making that often times accompanies a fast paced life or death situation. No, other than watching an episode of Blue Bloods, Greys Anatomy or Chicago Fire the majority of these people spout off from the relative safety of their computer screens with little or no thought other than self-absorption as to what their statements say to all of those involved! The consistent proverbial stirring of the pot, pointing of the finger, trying to find someone else to blame at all costs is taxing!! It shouldn’t bother me, it really shouldn’t, I mean I am grown man who loves his job and can empathize with overwhelming grief and sorrow. Usually a few of the main precursors to spouting ignorance before cooler heads prevail! But once the faces become a repetitive fixture, shown over and over again, complete with background stories, testaments from loved ones and of course the aforementioned written rage well it becomes hard to not take it all personally. To transpose that person as one of your own loved ones and then carry the guilt.

We do our best, we try very hard for the citizens we serve and we carry the faces of each and every one we have ever lost while trying to do this job. Sometimes it just sucks and there is nothing you can do about it. It is the job.

So you can see there is a lot on Bettys mind, I may be a bit full right now, but not to worry! Anyone who knows Betty, knows Betty loves to eat!

Hopefully my next ramble will be filled with a little more humor.

I think we all need some laughs!

Maybe I’ll go fishing?