One year ago….

I really wasn’t prepared…

Oh I thought I had taken all the precautions necessary for a major surgery.

As I stated previously, before the surgery I was quite literally in the best shape of my life! So surgery be damned, I wasn’t changing a thing! I continued eating right, kept myself in excellent shape, and continually tried focusing on the positive as opposed to dredging myself through self-doubt and inner despair.

I believe I even talked a really good game! Like a salesman expounding upon the virtues of a product! Telling those close enough to me to be in the know that the odds were in my favor. Building upon the very statistics I despised while regurgitating knowledge obtained from my surgeon. But let’s face it, at night I was a complete and at times uncontrollable mess.

Often times as I closed my eyes during a moment of peace or reflection; it looked like the end, it smelled like the end, it tasted like the end and that last tasting of my perceived reality was hard to swallow. Many times I’d walked this pathway as a proposed rock, the shoulder, the crutch, carrying the very same sorrows or concerns of my loved ones. Many times I had been told all the facts and how whatever the medical complication was it was a walk in the park. Yet too many times I sat and watched painfully as it all went to shit!

I tried to become prepared, I really did! Sending the two youngest off to their grandparents so they wouldn’t become a part of this hysterical medical machine. Hoping and praying they wouldn’t need to witness the aftermath of another parent in really bad shape post operation. Carefully my will was wrapped into a nice neat little package and distributed accordingly. The house and all the animals were in good hands, taken care of for the next month without worry. My bedroom had been remodeled in anticipation of my return complete with refrigerator, microwave and a lazy-boy recliner which sat you upright through an electric motor.  All of this necessary as I wouldn’t be allowed to come downstairs for two weeks at the earliest. This was due to the physical strain it would place upon my system post operation.

I was reminded constantly just how weak I would become, how hard it was going to be to breathe, how important it was to do respiratory therapy each and every day. The thought of being immobile, in need, a useless weakling that couldn’t care for himself, I could not bear yet I treated jokingly! I really began to believe those who struggled through these operations did so because they were old, out of shape, and didn’t care for their bodies which is what most likely landed them in this position in the first place. I know it was arrogance, but it was a façade I placed upon myself to help me believe I could accomplish this feat.  Nothing no matter how scared I really was could change the fact that I needed to believe, I needed to know I was coming back, and after all I had been through in life, there was no way I was abandoning my family now! I was strong!

Yeah about that….

I stared at the ceiling tiles that morning in the hallway. They rolled me inside one of the operating rooms, I remember the nurse being super nice. In a matter of minutes an I.V. was in place and my hands were strapped down behind me. I don’t even remember if I was told to count backwards. No laughter, no goodbyes or see you in a bit, no God Damn Van Halen! Yeah; no turning back now. Everything, my whole world simply faded quietly into black.

Waking up, well I don’t even remember the first time I woke up. Lyn’s said it was when they removed my intubation tube. (I just realized typing this my heart rate has doubled, maybe I am a little traumatized?)

This is what I remember from my 7 day stay in the hospital.

My chest hurt! Fuck it hurt! It hurt badly, but through modern chemistry and my desire to look tough in front of my girl (I failed miserably) I remember trudging through some pain that I probably shouldn’t have.

My stomach bloated with air continued to do so for several days. My abdomen hurt, it stretched and I went a few days longer than I should have before my intestines decided to awaken and resume operations. It was touch and go for a bit, and I never want to go through that miserable experience again either.

I had to walk during my physical therapy. The first day was next to impossible and I struggled with the fact that a few days prior I was this healthy strong man who could have run a marathon and now I couldn’t make it to the door of my room without wanting to collapse. Dizziness, nausea, the inability to breathe, wanting to vomit and full body weakness is what greeted me whenever I would stand.

On day two of physical therapy I got pissed at the therapist who kept telling me after ten or twelve steps I needed to lean against the wall! Several times I would explain that we didn’t need to stop, yet she would order me to the wall citing it was in my best interest. Fuck that! I walked off on her and did the circle around the whole quad as a giant F-U! She left and I collapsed in bed exhausted having gone far beyond my capabilities. But I did it and it was a win for my mental wellbeing.

A female night nurse who kept calling me “papi” drove me completely bonkers. How you feeling papi? You need pain meds papi? You want me to get you more pain meds papi? Then as if I didn’t have a say, she would dose me up like a stone cold heroin addict! Oh yeah, she dosed me up so bad one night I thought I was going to die. My morning nurse Andrew after talking with Lyns recognized what was happening and saved my ass! He was my favorite of all the nurses who cared for me. Of course Lyn’s figured out the crazy night nurses game and was all up in her shit about her improper patient care! I never wanted to see that woman again.

I wish Andrew could have been my primary nurse the entire duration of my stay. He understood every minute aspect of my condition and adjusted shit accordingly. I felt safe when he was around and more importantly so did Lyn’s. There was also a nurse near the end of my stay named Chelsea. She was amazing and I felt safe when she was around as well. There is something to be said about nurses that know and love their job. They make a difference every single day.

I learned that I am 100% a horrible patient! The very worst! You know the kind that throw it in you face with statements like; I know myself better than you, you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do! Yeah I was that guy! But I think that behavior as far as I am concerned arises from having been a care giver to others. Strange I know, but truthful none the less for you see we as caregivers have a standard set in our heads and expect the very same in return, but quickly you learn that the work world you live in is yours and yours alone. It is not how the rest of the world operates and others standards which may or may not be less, equal or superior to your own are theirs and they surely would believe your level of caregiving was most likely inadequate.

I learned the importance of letting new people inside my life. Lyn’s was there for me from day one. She never wavered, she took time off work to care for me, she took it upon herself to ensure my care was top notch all the time and she never left the hospital! Not once, not one moment, not one second, anytime I looked to my right, she was always there with a tired, worn out sleepy smile. If I moved she was at my side seeing if I needed anything. She cheered me on when I struggled and cheered for me even louder when I succeeded. She celebrated my stubbornness and never let me forget the reasons I was still alive. I will forever be grateful for the love and compassion she showed me along the way.  She taught me a term that we use between us to this day.

Every day, every way..

I also learned that true friends are just that, true. Those that learned of my operation later on weren’t offended for me keeping it to a tight nit group. Those who knew, kept the lid quiet and my recovery was peaceful. It was a time of renewal for me and my inner circle, a time of growth as people became closer and new people entered my life. It was a time to stop and see things differently. No longer always on the go as fast as I could helping, caring and worrying about others. No longer hearing alarms several times in the middle of the night, running calls at midnight, 1, 2, 2:30 and 4 am. Barley getting sleep some nights while getting 3-4 hours another. It was time to stop and be thankful I was in fact still alive.

No matter the pain, no matter how hard it was to do simple things, I always reflected, learned and did my best to thankful. Like walking from the recliner I slept in for two months to the bathroom. I hated sleeping there, but the reality was I couldn’t lay flat, I was lucky to have it, and I could have been in the hospital but I wasn’t, I was home. Or needing to breathe into a stupid fucking tube for respiratory therapy! God I hated that stupid fucking tube, but the reality was I needed to for my lungs to get stronger, to help keep pneumonia away and the sooner I reached certain goals the sooner I would begin to grow stronger. To simply being able to eat more than a spoonful of food. That was indeed a hard one, but I did, even when I didn’t want too and after depleting myself to a gaunt 158 pounds it didn’t take long to return to 205. Staring at the wall, not moving much, watching movies and healing was my new pastime. It was boring, I don’t do well sitting still, but I did it and was thankful to still be alive.

It has been a long hard road over this last year and Sunday the 28th was my one year mark, my new birthday. I still am nowhere near 100%! Oh like I stated, the weight is back on and I am much stronger, but my heart still jumps to 120 bpm for no reason at times, and I still have episodes of A-fib when startled. I can only do a challenging task for a little while and then I need a couple hour break, I also can no longer take the heat. If it hits the 90’s and up I get a little nauseous.  I can sit in it, I have done a little fishing on hotter days, but for the most part I get really tired and it feels hard to breathe.

But all of that aside, I am here still. One year later. Still breathing, still kicking, still ornery and still able to witness my children’s lives. I don’t know what the future holds. I miss my station, I miss my crew, and yes even though it was beginning to wear thin, I miss the calls, the excitement, and the ability to help another human being during the toughest moment of their lives.

I’m still scared.

There are so many variables with this operation in my case. I could be back on the table in a year or five or ten? Nobody knows. But the one thing they all know is that it will happen eventually and I will need to go through this all over again. The key to my life right now is no stress. Stress places a greater chance the valve will be replaced sooner than it needs too.

Have they not met me???? I am nothing but a ball of stress!!!!!! All the God Damn Fucking Time!!!!!!

Phew… Deep breath… Good air in, bad air out…….

The aneurysm repair so far shows it was done flawlessly! That brings great peace of mind. But that damn valve repair will haunt me forever. I am on baby aspirin every day to prevent clotting right now. Terrified to go on blood thinners, yet it is a very real possibility that I need to live with.

So we move forward. Like I always say; get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, stand up, and always take that all important step forward. Don’t sit back down, don’t cry over your bullshit, just square up those shoulders and move.

Life is to short and regardless of what you are bombarded with daily on television, or Facebook or from some of your weaker minded friends, to damn beautiful to do anything else but enjoy.

If you don’t believe me, do like I do and get up at 5:30 am to watch the sunrise. I promise, you’ll be thankful you are still here as well.

Coming to Terms…This ones for you Jim Wilson.

“If I ever needed to know how he was doing, I would simply read his blog….”

So are the words of a man I hold in high regard.

To Jim, this one’s for you.

Coming to terms with a traumatic event in your life can at times become very difficult. You and you alone will ultimately decide how, where and when you face whatever collateral damage that event may have inflicted upon your mind, body and soul.

I do not believe there is any one answer. For those that believe there is a dedicated path to recovery, I have no words. That every human being is so cookie cutter perfect, a simple pathway of textbook answers by those in the know is exactly how each person will perfectly handle grief, suffering, stress, emptiness, loneness, mental isolation, adversity and a host of other emotions is absurd.

Now don’t get me wrong, the help afforded through networks of well-meaning individuals with countless hour of education is definitely needed, wanted and effectively utilized.

My problem is this; those preaching the loudest are not the ones in the know. They are not the ones who have suffered and been helped. They are not the ones with hundreds of hours of education within the process. To me, when I look around the ones preaching the loudest are those who are arrogant and the closest to you. With little regard to how you feel, or the knowledge you have obtained along the way, believing they know more about you under the guise of caring for you because they are close to you and you appear to be struggling. Yet their motive most times is very clear. They wish to be the ones to say at the end of the day, they were there, and it was because of them and them alone that you are making it. In the end it is about them and not you. Most don’t even know they are behaving in this irrational manor, a smaller handful do and enjoy it.

There is no substitute for experience and even though I am speaking for myself, I wish those experiences on no one but wear mine like a badge of honor. I have earned this shit! Good bad or otherwise, I have earned my way through surviving each and every single devastating thing I have witnessed or been party too these 53 years of life. The ones speaking the loudest have witnessed little in my opinion and although everyone’s tolerance or idea of what a tragedy may or may not be is differing, I am sure I will be chastised at some point for my view being wrong or delusional.

I don’t know why I felt the need to get that off my chest but I did. All part of the process I guess.

I digress; I said this one’s for you my friend so here we go.

I have not comes to terms..

I still haven’t comes to terms with the passing of my first wife Kim. She was an amazingly beautiful human being, the mother of my first two sons and quite simply the kindest person I ever met.

If she did something to upset you, the minute she knew there was nothing that would stop her from correcting that wrong. In ten years we fought once. Once and it lasted a whole 20 minutes or so. She gave me two of the greatest gifts I had ever received. One is currently a CHP officer and the other works construction hoping to one day be a fireman like his old man. She never saw them grow up, she never saw them off to school, helped with their classes, went to camp with them, or guided them into adulthood. She missed it all. All of it.

I know she is gone, I know she will never walk through the door again, I know this is part of life and I know I carried on the way she would have wanted me too. I wish I could say goodbye, but I never have been able too. My heart hurts when I think about her, she was taken way too soon. I would have given it all up, walked away, allowed her life to be with someone else, somewhere else if it meant she wouldn’t have been taken.

I had not dealt with a lot of death at that point in my life. It was strange to see her after she had passed. Serene, peacefully in eternal slumber. It always stuck with me, if I close my eyes I can see her now. My job had not jaded me yet, life hadn’t begun to punish me. Little did I know.

I am also incredibly thankful for our time together. She made me a better person, she built up my confidence, supported my decisions and always stood by my side through the consequences. And believe me there were many. To deal with the younger me, love me and stand by my side on a daily basis took a saint.

There is a picture of her on our wall. She will forever be 34. To be so lucky.

I have still not come to terms with the death of my father.

A man I revered early on in childhood, who through failure and disgust with what I can only assume was himself, became an angry, grumpy and at times violent man. As a young boy I looked up to him, idolized him, loved standing in his shadow and believe me when I say my dad cast a large shadow! I learned much from him. It is because of him I have always believed in doing what’s right, even when no one is looking. Speaking for those who cannot or do not have the power to speak regardless of the consequences and never faltering on a true friend. EVER!

It is also because of him that I have spent a lifetime struggling with an explosive temper. Fighting the urge to fight at the drop of a hat or hit my kids as a form of punishment! I wrestle with it daily, but I do it because it is what’s right. I hated him for the times he beat me, I despised him as a teenager for those years and knew I would eventually become bigger and stronger than he would ever become. I did eventually become bigger and stronger, it didn’t help.

As he grew older he became harder to be around. I became softer in my stance but the damage was done. Our years of butting heads made it where I had a hard time loving him, seeing him as anything but a bully. My parents moved onto my property so we could keep an eye on them as they aged. In my naïve thought process I thought it would bring us closer but it pushed us farther apart. Both of us stubborn, both set in our ways I found myself purposely avoiding him.

When he passed away in our driveway, all I wanted to do was turn back time and say I was sorry.

Sorry for being a troublesome child.

Sorry for fighting/rebelling against him all the time.

Sorry for never living up to his standard.

Sorry for not being the son I am sure he wanted as I was adopted.

Sorry for so many damn things I could write an entire book.

I carried, and still do; all the guilt.

I just needed to be eight again, when he was my dad. Really my dad! The man who held me, kissed me, hugged me, let me sit next to him during a Niner’s game. I will never truly know what happened or why. But that was all I needed and as I parent my kids feeling as though I am failing at every moment, I pray when I am gone, I did a good enough job and they won’t feel this way. It sucks…

I have not come to terms with my second wife’s death.

How do you say goodbye twice? How do you even fathom believing you can not only lose one wife but two! Seriously!! What the hell is wrong with life that this can happen again! How can two amazing women walk into my life, stay for a while and then be gone like the wind. Ten years the first time felt like a dream, this (16 years) felt like the blink of an eye. An alternate universe, a black whole.

Kim went fairly quickly; her heart failing, it was painful, scary but she only suffered for a short period of time. But Jacy, poor Jacy struggled and fought, and struggled some more. She lived with incredible pain every single day, while trying her very best to show a consistent positivity that one could only hope our society strives for, yet really; who deserves that much pain and struggle? Who?

Jacy was a people person and not one person I knew thought otherwise. She had the incredibly rare ability to make a friend from anyone. She could morph herself into any situation and always be loved by all. It was her gift. Anywhere anytime, it didn’t matter. The back of the school yard as a teacher or the far reaches of Haiti. People flocked to her, people loved her.

She willingly and gleefully raised, loved and cared for my first two sons, we added another son together and adopted our daughter. She always placed the kids first and did her best to keep them on their toes, created fun lasting moments in their lives. I still don’t understand how life can take away two moms from one set of boys and the only mother three of them ever knew. Leukemia is a bastard.

I am unable to clear my head from the vision of her taking her last breath. It is with me most days. I look at those I love and pray to never see them die the way I saw her pass away. When my children are sleeping, I stare at them to see that little movement. The rise and fall of the chest. I am permanently scarred. Always looking to see if you are alive. I have witnessed the passing of so many human beings, it wears on you over time. Death staring you in the face. It makes it hard to appreciate life sometimes. While others may hear a clock ticking in the background, I hear a life clock clacking loudly, harshly, reminding me it (death) can be at any moment.

I have not come to terms with my own mortality.             

Three important people in my life gone. People I never knew beyond the few seconds I attended to them in the course of my job, gone. Faces, feelings, the most awful things one could ever have seen done to the human body, emotional disconnect, doubt, all run through my thoughts every single day.

Spending my entire adult life hiding behind a wall of false security. Being a firefighter, we train, learn and work our best at protecting you while needing to feel invincible. It is the only way we could do our jobs. Nothing can touch you, nothing can hurt you, and your good deed bank is overflowing so how can anything bad ever happen to you?

Three gone and I feel wounded. Then I learn that I have an aortic aneurysm and a failing heart valve a mere 8 months after losing my wife. Where is the justice? Why do bad things keep happening? Is there any sunlight left in this world? Why does the darkness always fall upon me or the ones who surround me?

My oldest is a newly christened CHP officer. He has wanted this since he was 8 years old. I am beyond proud of this man for chasing his dreams. Success always follows hard work. Yet, I don’t sleep at night sometimes worrying about him, on his own, with back up 45 minutes away. Especially in today’s climate! He is a public servant, raised in a public service family. All people are to be treated with kindness and respect until proven otherwise. No one person is any better than the other. Yet all some see is the badge which incites hate. Never mind the person or the fact that even though you hate him for what he represents he will gladly protect you, while upholding the law. Praying daily I am the one carrying all the bad luck for the entire family. It all stops with me.

I have a girlfriend. She is amazing. But what is she in for by being with me? Is she destined to perish to soon as well? Will some other medical bullshit mow her down in the prime of life? Would she lead or live a better life by never being with me? Am I cursed? Will her family be cursing me if something does happen? How many people do you know who lost everything twice and are still sane? Still looking for the sunshine on daily basis? How many?

You know, funny tidbit, things come in threes! Are we truly fucked in the end?

Friends have come and many have gone over the last almost two years. Faces and attitudes changed. Some telling me what I should be doing and not supporting me when I didn’t agree. Others openly accepting changes in my life because they understood. Missing a few who kept quiet but just disappeared. Relearning people all over again.

Coming to terms means: To begin to or make an effort to understand, accept, and deal with a difficult or problematic person, thing or situation.

I don’t know if I will ever truly come to terms with some or any of what I have just described. But I do know this, because unlike many humans I have encountered. I know, like and love myself, regardless of any doubt, struggle or pain. I can look in the mirror and say yes; I would hang out with myself if we ever met.

In the end, there is this;

I will always, wake up each morning, put my feet on the floor and take one step forward. Life is so incredibly beautiful if you take a moment each day to look around. It is also too short to think otherwise. Move forward, every single day, breathe and know what will be, will be.

And this.

If you ever want to know how I am doing? Just read my blog.

Thank you for being you Jim Wilson..

30 days..

Over the next month, I met with doctors, health professionals, and people from work. Every person I met I felt as though I was saying goodbye. I hugged, I smiled, I behaved as though nothing was wrong. Then once alone I would cry.

 My girlfriend was amazing! We did get the very best doctor there was for this procedure due to her efforts. We were told we had a very favorable outcome according to those in the know. After one appointment in particular it was explained that I had the arteries of a 20 year old! All positive things!

Lyn’s helped me finish the will. With my son Cody as the executor and my three best friends all holding certain positions within, I knew the children, ranch and animals were well cared for. Signing it, having it notarized, watching friends sign it, was incredibly sobering.

There were a few fun moments.

At my angiogram the nurse and I were talking and he asked what I would like to listen too as I drifted off to sleep. I responded, can we play some Van Halen please?

As I rolled into the room Sammy was screaming on the overhead speakers. That gentle, gracious kindness to a scared 52 year old man I will never forget. My eyes are wet thinking about how much the gentlemen from that room calmed me down, and let me drift off on my own terms. I am forever grateful.

Lyn’s asked me to list all the things I wanted to do in life but never could. When I asked why? She simply stated, because you have more than earned them!

The reality; it was something else to look forward too. To think about living for beyond the operation date. Something other than worrying about my family, my children, my very small circle of friends, all for whom I have no desire to leave. It was a new tomorrow, sunlight at the end of the tunnel, an umbrella from the rain. She was shielding me while providing mental warmth.

Daily I would melt down, daily she would ask me:

Where am I?

I would respond: right here…

Where am I going?

I would respond: nowhere

Then (not ashamed to say) I would cry again..

She would look me in the eye and say, I expect the same from you. You are not going anywhere, this all will be fine, you have the best surgeon, you are in great shape and healthy. This will all be over soon and you will be back to being you.

I chose during this time to silence myself from social media, and from this blog. To keep this procedure to myself. Some would (actually some did) say it was selfish, I should have asked for help from those who cared. But to me, after all I went through after my first wife Kim passed away, and after running through the gauntlet with Jacy’s battle, I simply wanted to fall away. If the operation went south, if they failed to save my valve or botched the aorta transplant, to me nothing would have been more beautiful than to simply draw myself into darkness. Fade to black. No one needed to know.

I had done things right for once, the kids were to be well taken care of, and my friends are my friends because they would understand. The only things that bothered me most was the loneliness the kids would have for eternity because they had lost so much! Between losing both their moms and now their dad; what a fucking mental train wreck for all of them.

Speaking of mental train wrecks! I ended up telling the kids after my first appointment with the cardiologist. Jake and Cody both were home and I asked them all to please sit down on the couch for a family meeting. The looks on their faces, my god I will never forget the looks on their faces. It took a while for it all to settle in and when it did, there were a few questions. I did my best to answer everything honestly. It was so very hard to look them in the eye. I was ashamed I could not be their strength any longer. I am their father, dad, and the foundation for this family yet here I am, just as vulnerable as both their moms. Not the man they thought or I believed they knew me to be.  

And then there was Lyn’s, this whole surgery thing bothered me for Lyn’s as well. Sure we were a fairly new couple, but simply put; I knew that pain all too well. One day someone you love or care for is there and then they aren’t. It’s mortifying, draining, scary, and leaves you always wondering what if.

What if they had lived a full life? What would they or we have become? What would the world have held in store for them/us? Questions that would never be answered.

A whole month, from diagnosis to operation. One trip to the ER because of some strange chest pains in the middle. A whole, long messy, shitty, emotional month. I was scared to move, to breathe, to cough, to lift, to ride my horse, to sit on my motorcycle, I was terrified of every single ache and pain that moved through my chest, I was afraid to live, in reality I was mentally living to die. My entire mindset was just that, counting down the days until surgery, counting down the days until I die, counting down the seconds until I said my final goodbye.

June 27th 2019

Lyn’s and I head to Mercy hospital. I am having my body shaved today by some stranger in a small room while they poke and prod, take samples of blood and prepare me for tomorrow’s grand finale! Uncomfortable is the word to describe how I feel yet strangely to this day it doesn’t even come close to how I felt.

Clean as a whistle we head out for one last meal. We laugh, we joke, and we have a very good time. Heading home the rest of the evening is spent with kids, family. I still feel like I am saying goodbye. Like a death row inmate having the proverbial last meal.

That evening, I don’t sleep very well.

June 28th 2019

Lying in a cold hallway, staring upwards at the tile ceiling I am waiting my turn.

Doctor says what??

April 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long story short….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 08, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you busy

Nurse: we are open 24/7

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

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

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

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

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

Two hours later.

Doc comes in and leans against the wall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choices

You know the funny thing about being a living breathing human being?

You and you alone have a choice. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, believe it or not you have a choice in everything you do, say, the way you react or don’t react to life.

Choice is powerful, we have the freedom of choice and how we wield that choice. I am thankful for that because it means as a human being I am allowed to choose which direction I go in any situation, including the precarious emotional moments I am currently living.

Right now, I have chosen sadness as my course. You heard me right, I have chosen to allow sadness into my life. To not meet the male dominated pre-requisite that we all understand to be a norm but is instead a gigantic falsehood of life; and that is to swallow it down, hiding from the sting of losing quite possibly the one person on this earth who will ever love me for who I am, who I was and who she always thought I could become. That statement alone as its read, and I recall all the times she looked me in the eyes, told me she loved me or was proud of who I had become, creates a surge of sadness that forms deep in my chest and moves like a wave towards my outer being. Who will do that? Who will be proud of me? Who will I champion for in the future, who has my back and loves me unconditionally? Who? And don’t say my children because;

1-that’s a given and

2-that is not what I am referencing here. It’s about the relationship built between you and your spouse..

My son texted me the other day, he wanted to know what I was doing, how I was feeling and our texting conversation ended with; I am feeling down. When prompted as to what was happening he replied; I just need to talk to mom. I replied: is there anything I can do? His response: No I just want to talk to mom about shit….. (in his vernacular “shit” means life)

Yeah; let that sit for a moment. Pardon my bluntness but you’re an asshole if that doesn’t tear you up inside just a little. Anyone who was close to their mom and has lost that person knows exactly how my son is feeling. Sad, alone, the boy inside of him simply needed his mommy. To hear her voice, to laugh together at stupid stuff, to hear I love you son at the end of the conversation. Fuck you Leukemia, fuck you GvHD, I hate you all to hell!

But even though those moments come and go, and even though each day that void widens I choose to keep going, to move forward, and to act in a manner that is respectful to both myself and my family. To set an example for our children. Our lives still need to be lived, there is so much out there to accomplish when it comes to our lives and the lives of others. We still have a choice.

Jacy has none of those choices. She didn’t choose this as her destiny. She can no longer choose an alternate outcome or make decisions based upon her feelings. She can no longer do anything from the confines of the handmade box sitting behind me on the table with her picture hovering over the top.

On the flip side though, Jacy did choose as a living, breathing human being exactly how she would exit this earth. She made it very clear what her expectations where and how we as the ones she loved and cherished most would handle that task. She did not want to go, even though her faith was strong, she wasn’t ready, she screamed she wasn’t ready, she felt as though there was so much left for her to do! In the end she was mad at God for stripping her of her family, something she had always wanted, but knew it was time and was welcoming the thought of heaven.

I am trying my hardest to honor her requests, and I will continue to do so until my very last breath. Why? Because I loved her unconditionally the same way she loved me. Because I made a promise to her 17 years ago, 5 years ago and two months ago! I always keep my promises. She was the center of my universe and even though she is gone I will cherish every single moment we spent together in memory over all those years.

I have no doubt as time rolls forward, our lives will change, priorities will change, and the look of our family will change. But her name, her memory and what she hoped for will not change as I will carry that forward with her in my heart and right by my side in spirit. It was and is my choice.

So what exactly is my point?

When the time comes and darkness hits your family, who are you going to become?  There is no reason to face it alone, because you don’t have too. As I have stated many times over the last five years, I started sharing our story because I didn’t want other spouses, partners or family members to feel alone. Like it was them against the world. I really wanted them to have a voice, a place to speak out, to read, understand and reach forward to someone such as myself who was open and accepting while painfully walking that walk.

Now our journey has ended and I am beginning a new journey forward, as one instead of two. It is scary as hell, I am worried for the future of this family, and the one person who understood me is no longer here to help guide me. But I am not alone.

You don’t ever need to be alone either! You know why?

Because you have a choice.

30 Days….

One month ago today my best friend, partner, hand holding, cheek snuggling, mischievous prankster, mom to our four children and all around goofy badass human being of a wife died.

That sounds so strange.

She is dead.

I waited all day to write about you Jacy, because I wasn’t sure how today would play out for me. I was a mess. I put on a good face, went and did something fun with dear friends, our son and horses. But the drive home was painful. I almost sobbed in Burger King as I recalled all the times you would mess with me over your order, hoping I would screw it up and you would get a good laugh at my expense. And for some reason every song on Pandora or the radio was either one of your favorites, one of our favorites or a correlation of both in conjunction with some special time or setting. I struggled to pull into the driveway and as soon as we unloaded horses found a reason to disappear again so no one would see me so damn sad.  Please forgive me honey…..

I know I have said this before and I will say it again so bear with me.

I have never and I mean ever gone this long without talking to her. Listening to her take on things, accepting or rejecting advice given or received from each other. Hearing her say; I love you in one of a hundred different ways that always reaffirmed our commitment to each other regardless of time or place. The darkness, cold and emptiness is, well, I guess it is just empty.

I know for a fact Jacy would kick my ass for behaving this way. She made me promise I wouldn’t and yet it is so hard to keep that promise, I am failing miserably. Sobbing for no reason, pining for her love as if she is going to walk through the door at any moment! We always knew this was a possibility and over the last few months it became more of a reality. Of course how could it not become more of a reality when every doctor during the last two months would ask; Jacy how long do YOU think you have?

Being Jacy she would answer without hesitation she was living long enough to see Parker graduate high school. She would then proclaim her forgiveness to me as that meant she was willing to check out after that milestone. I would smile and say it was ok and then both of us would gaze upon her physician wondering what the real projection might be. Her twitching like a nervous cat and me staring stone faced.

Within the year.

That was the answer we were greeted with and it never set well with her. How could it! Someone just gave you your official life expectancy! It stung even more because, well because this was Jacy!!!! If you knew my ass kicking, never take no for an answer, spin instructor, teacher, YouTube sensation and cheerleader for all wife, you knew that if anyone could beat any doctors expectations it was her! Right??

Ladies and gentlemen that is where the rub lies for me.

I know I have mentioned this before as well, either in the blog or in person, not sure, things have been really weird for me mentally lately. But here goes. The rub for me is I bought into this bullshit!!! I was so secure in my knowledge of my wife, her strengths and weaknesses that I seriously ignored what the doctors said and felt like she could, no dam it! She would make it another four years!!! She conned me and she conned me good!!!!

She cried in the elevator that day after hearing this for the second time, this time from her Kaiser doctor. I couldn’t even muster a “there, there honey” or hold her because I was so in shock! I was in shock we were actually coming to this point, I was in shock my wife who would never, and I mean ever bow to any such flabbergasting, erroneous bullshit prediction was believing it must be true. I was in shock that a day might actually come where she wouldn’t be by my side. I just stood there, in shock, as my wife wept and as the elevator doors opened, she hid her face so others wouldn’t see. We moved slowly to the car, I helped her inside, hugging her on the way down. I put away her wheel chair, slid into the car and did what I always do, tried to crack a joke. It didn’t go over. Right there, right fucking there I should have seen it, but I didn’t! Jacy was giving up.

That was 38 days before she slipped away from us.

I had bought into the super human, wonder woman, I am stronger than anyone on this earth bullshit, that my eyes became covered with blinders. I no longer recognized the worsening distressed look upon her face, the increased swelling and lesions that covered all areas of her body. I no longer heard her struggling to breathe harder than before, I simply treated it more aggressively and moved on. I no longer noticed she was wetting the bed any more or any less and trying her hardest to focus on small tasks she previously handled fairly well with her limited vision.  I no longer…. Not because of a lack of empathy, exhaustion or care, but because as I stated; I bought into the bullshit! This was Jacy and damn it, nothing and I mean nothing was going to happen to her!!!

Instead I became a quiet cheerleader, blinders on, hoping our tough as nails girl was actually doing better than she let on.

Don’t worry about the fact you wet the bed honey, I got it.

No I don’t mind cleaning the toilet chair, quit apologizing, I love you and this is what it means to love someone. Proud of you for making it here on your own.

I have all your pills figured out, no more overlapping, I think we can manage your increased pain without issue, you just need to trust me.

I know you don’t want to eat, but I made something really tasty and it has Marmite!!! Come on, just try a little, you can’t take your pills until you eat something good. She did love my cooking and that is one memory I will always love.

Are you cold, here is a comforter?

Are you warm? Here is a fan.

You want all the dogs on the bed, no problem.

I washed all your clothes, they are folded and placed on the couch; I will help you pick something later. Yes you can dress yourself but I am going to be here in case you need me.

And on and on and on..

With that, she kept going, and her effort every day made me feel like I was helping, like she had some form of independence which I felt she needed to keep mentally tough, to get stronger to win! But unfortunately the increased medications, increased antibiotics, the increased sleeping and loss of mental acuity all spoke volumes to just how wrong I was. My blinders were strong.

The reality is it didn’t matter what I did, GvHD was winning, the doctors knew it, those close to our family, including our immediate family knew it, I recognized it deep inside I suppose; I just chose to ignore it. To keep working hard, hoping she could just keep going a little longer.

Now here I am, alone.

It is such a dilemma of spirit.

Like I said, I know for a fact she would be mad at me for carrying on. But I can’t help it. I miss everything about her and now I am selfishly missing everything we lost before she got sick. I was on auto pilot for so long that it never occurred to me (even though I knew and thought about it all the time) how much I missed date nights, walks in the park or on the property, hiking in the woods, camping, boating, campfire ghost stories, taking in new dogs from the SPCA, cooking together, drinking wine and beer together, watching fucking survivor together, sitting in bed talking for hours, riding horses up Lagoon Valley together. I miss doing everything with her!!! I miss it all and on top of that I can’t even FUCKING TALK TO HER OR HEAR HER VOICE!!! ARRRRRGGGGGGGGG I’M SUCH A BROKEN RECORD!!!!

I miss it all, all of it, every single last messy bit of it!

Nobody ever deserves this but she really never deserved this! She never did anything wrong to anybody, she helped anyone who she felt needed it or asked. She did nothing her whole adult life but give, give, give. She radiated an energy that just can’t be explained and the minute you met her you felt it, you bathed in it and you knew instantly she was something, no, someone special.

Jacy you quite simply were the best human being I have ever known and I am so lucky you were mine for almost 17 years. My life will never, ever be the same.

I’m rambling, so I will wrap it up.

It’s been thirty days since we said goodbye, I feel you inside me, I feel you watching me; I have loved having you visit me in my dreams.

I just wish you could come home, wrap your arms around me, tell me it was all a dream and it will all be ok. Please? I’m scared.

Jacy I love you…….

Day 11. I’m so sorry you had to go…

Eleven days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Can we talk? Please???

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

Can we talk for a minute? Please?

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

Because trust me, it’s all me.

But we need to talk none the less.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah……

Still here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Answer: Nothing.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.

 

 

 

The 7 Habits of a Grateful Rodeo Kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So with that, here it is.

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

THE 7 HABITS OF A GRATEFUL RODEO KID

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

2018 we cannot be friends.

I wrote a little story a while ago.

Vowing to never write about the coming new year, because, well that is what every writer does for some strange reason. I tore into a 2200 word negativity rant filled hate mongering dissertation over my fear of the upcoming new year instead! Which really is the same thing as simply writing about the new year which is what I vowed not to do and yet I did anyway. I know confusing huh?

Call me a little gun-shy about this upcoming year but lets face it my track record over the last four years has been pretty dismal. I must say that I am ashamed with my behavior. After reading all 2200 words I realized I didn’t know who the person was staring back at me through those paragraphs. I really didn’t like him very much as he reeked of hopelessness and despair. Not the person I portray myself to be!

I admit it, times have been hard, I have hated some of those times very much but after reading over and over the nastiness associated within, to think my fingertips willingly splayed such painful rhetoric expecting to share it upon my page has forced me to look a little farther inward. To try to find myself and the reasoning as to why I harbor so much hatred!

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

No!!!!!

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

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

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

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

2018 you are not my friend, you are my enemy. I fear and loathe you all at the same time. You will as other years have, confuse me with your tactics but I think I am ready. For this year over all the others I am prepared to look for the signs, prepare for the attack and brace for an emotional impact. So 2018 I am going to keep you as close as humanly possible. I am taking the first shot! Hopefully it finds its mark.

Straight across your bow.

You have been warned 2018. Dont fuck with me.

So here it goes.

To all, I hope you have a safe and wonderful New Years Eve. May 2018 bring you all prosperity and joy, happiness and love, humility and the feeling of being content. My family and I love you all, we are grateful, so very grateful for the tight-knit group of human beings who are always on our side, propping us up though we may fall, standing next to us as we celebrate minor triumphs and cry with us over steady set backs. There is no place that I would rather be than right alongside all of you and my family. The day will come when I can pay all this forward and I cherish the moment I am able.

To good health, a grand heart, and steady path.

Happy New Years to you all..

Take that!! Suck on that 2018!!! Yeah buddy you aint never getting up from that right hook!!! Whoop, whoop!!!

Shots fired, SHOTSSSS FIRED!!!!

nOW pISS oFF!!!

Seriously though I am wishing all of you a very blessed 2018….

With much love ~Betty~