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…

The final curtain call

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

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

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

And so life goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it is time to go.

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

So with that Betty bids you all a fair adieu.

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

Goodnight, good luck and farewell…

Time

What is there to say about time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does time mean to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am pondering.

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

I came home early to be with my son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here goes.

Travel whenever you can, we will be.

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

Laugh, hard at everything, including yourself. Often!

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

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

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

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

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

I’m seeing ghosts..

Making my way through town I have always seen ghosts. Ghosts of incidents past rattling through my brain like an unwanted house guest! You know, wearing your wife’s robe and your slippers while they drink what’s left of the milk you needed for your morning cereal.  I have written about “them” these ghosts before, remnants of some of the worst things I have seen or participated in during my career. Who they were or are, how they have affected my current reality, and my inability to let them stay, well quite simply “dead”.

Last night I went to Vacaville to pick up tickets for a popular movie two hours early so the kids and I could go see it. Now if you know me well enough, then no need to ponder the movie. The answer is elementary.

Arriving at the theater, it is very obvious the movies are the place to be after Christmas, as the lot was full and I needed to park a block away. Walking up to order tickets a very polite young man behind the glass informed me they were in fact sold out for the night. Hands in my pockets while retreating to my car I heard a couple talking about heading to Winco after the movies.

Then it began.

I looked across the freeway, Winco hides on the other side and it dawned on me that Thursday was our Winco night. I could see her walking through the aisles, grabbing things and placing them close to her face so she could make them out, never ever wanting help unless she absolutely needed it because that tore away at her independence. We would slowly make our way from aisle to aisle and I remember that as much as I hated shopping ( I am a speed shopper, I know what I need and I haul ass outta there) watching the wonderment she held to each and every item she placed near her face always made me smile. It was like watching a child, or someone who had been in a coma for 30 years and just couldn’t believe all the amazing things that now existed! Winco was always a 2 hour affair and at that very moment I couldn’t believe how much I longed to go shopping with my frail, blind wife, spending those two hours together making our way up and down each and every aisle while she beamed with delight, thanking me over and over again for taking her.

UGH!

Vowing to never take another step inside Winco, I slid into the seat of my car and texted the kids; the movie is a no go, sold out, headed home. Then as I got on the freeway and began passing the Nut Tree area it was as if every single place we ever visited from the beginning of our marriage had a giant neon sign over the top of it flashing, brightly screaming that we had fun over there, we had date night right here, do you remember the time that this happened in this street and how you both rolled around laughing for hours!!! I tried to take it as good memories, something I should be so happy about, but instead it just created a bigger void, a tunnel of darkness that began enveloping me from the inside out! I couldn’t drive fast enough to get away, the signs wouldn’t stop flashing, I started breathing really hard and my chest hurt, I began sweating and I couldn’t focus.

Then out of nowhere!

That’s right out of nowhere I found myself in the Kaiser Hospital parking lot. I was parked in my normal spot. Yeah after you have been there a while you kind of pick a row and park there out of habit. Walking towards the building I had my hoodie pulled tightly down over my brow. I must have looked like the grim reaper as I made my way into the building. Stopping at the pharmacy I stared inside for a few minutes, reciting her medical record number then turning to make my way to the fourth floor. Exiting the stairwell I walked slowly down the hall, talking to her as I always had about how long she would be, did she want me to stay, cause I would stay and watch tv with her, should I go and get chores done, is there anything she needed me to pick up for her in Vacaville? All the right questions, praying I would hear an answer. Knowing there was none to be had.

Oncology, I stood in the threshold for a minute or two, still not quite understanding why I was there; then seeing the television was still on I sat down in the same chair I would always inhabit.

And there it was, right there for me to feel, my wife.

It was as if Jacy was sitting in her wheelchair right alongside me, I could feel her, she was talking to me, we had a long conversation about meds, her health and what lay in store. I eventually snapped from the same old topics we discussed and told her how much I missed her, how very lonely I am, how she was the very best thing that ever happened in my life and I don’t like not knowing what is in store for us without her. I told her I loved her so much and how I missed the touch of her hand. I asked her if she was ok. She just smiled, looking at me with her big beautiful eyes and said it was time to go. I asked her to please not go, don’t leave me again, she said; James, its time for my treatment and turned towards the door. She was gone.

And just like that I was back, alone in the very waiting room I had spent countless hours watching other people struggle with cancer while we were waiting for treatment.  

Walking down the hallway towards the stairwell, again slowly, hands in my pockets, hoodie still pulled down tight I felt heavy. No wheel chair to push, no bags to carry, no oxygen bottle to adjust, no wife whose shoulders needed rubbing, no best friend to reassure this was temporary, she wasn’t going to die, she was Jacy Franceschi, the toughest, most badass woman I have ever known and no amount of drugs or disease could possibly kill her.

I lied.

You can’t possibly know how that feels. To have lied.

She knew the risks, she knew what the outcome could be, she knew it all and she did her best each and every day for her family.

I still lied because I loved her.

I see ghosts everywhere I go, they don’t prepare you for that when you become a firefighter, but over time you develop the coping skills to understand it, to deal with it, to accept it when they arise.

No one can prepare you for the ghost being the one you loved more than anything on this earth.

No one….

I have become afraid.

I over think things, I really do. I try my hardest not too, but I am the guy who lays in bed all night long thinking, and thinking, and thinking, until I pass out! Of course then I wake up in the morning and start thinking about whatever the hell it is I was thinking about before I went to bed and thus the process starts all over again! Phew, I had to think about that for a minute..

So here is my problem.

When I think about Jacy, most of the time I no longer see her in my mind sick, in pain and getting weaker by the day. My brain for some reason has me grieving our life prior to Leukemia. You know, she is a mom, I am a doting husband, we date twice a week, have rodeo, Criners arena, Sugarland and lots of bbq’s with friends. Also on the flip side my brain is inundating me with Stanford visits and Kaiser Hospital runs/rituals acquired over the last 5 years. So that seems pretty confusing doesn’t it?

Let me rephrase or clarify the upper statement.

It has come to my attention that if I am in a crowd, or shopping, or any place there are people, I begin remembering moments from another time and Jacy being with me, or have memories of us doing things together in conjunction with “whatever” activity I am participating. She is healthy, and so damn beautiful and it crushes whatever spirit I had towards the activity I am trying my hardest to participate in! I begin looking for her desperately in the eyes of every woman that passes by me, every woman with her back to me, I search and search and I can’t find her in the crowd so my heart rate goes up, then I can’t breathe, I am afraid and just when things seem like they couldn’t get any worse they do! I find myself running for cover trying to hide so no one can see I am falling apart on the inside! Then it just happens, and I can’t stop it! I cry.

Crying is absolutely ok. I am rational enough to know that, but I don’t want the attention. I simply want to do so without anyone checking on me and when you are in a large crowd with nowhere to hide that simply is not possible. So I try swallowing it down, hard, which just makes it worse. Because as the tide comes and goes, if the waves are held back to long eventually one massive wave will break onto the shore.

Yeah picture that! So fun.

My face hurts, my chest hurts, I swear my heart is going to explode, I start sweating, I can’t breathe and then it happens, over and over again, her face flashes, events flash, her smile, her kiss, her hand in mine, I can’t fucking take it!!! I can’t see her and my head starts spinning!! Then just like that, it’s gone. She is gone and it’s like someone lifted it all off my shoulders, until something else sets it off and it starts all over again.

I went to Nevada City today to celebrate Christmas with my son since I really haven’t been feeling it at all. I was excited, he was excited; we walked past the entry sign and into the crowd. The deeper we went I felt the tightening in my chest. I began searching. For her…

Parker shopped away as one woman after another passed me and although no one even remotely looked like my wife there was something, some kind of resemblance; a dress, the shoes, the way she walked, a smile. Stupid really, but it only furthered my need to find Jacy! I become irrational, saying things to myself like; She would have loved this place, the smells, the people, oh my, she would have been talking to every stranger she could in every shop or booth! I knew she just simply had to be there! She couldn’t be dead there is no way my wife, the strongest fucking person I have ever known could be FUCKING DEAD!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!!!

Turning the corner looking for a place to run and there in the window of a shop is a pair of shoes. Not just any pair of shoes, but clogs, her favorite and they were decorated and colored and she would have loved them and I would have bought them for her for Christmas because we loved Christmas, and church and Christmas eve pajamas and snow balling our friends and FUCK, FUCK, FUCKITY, FUCK!!!!

But see it doesn’t get better either.

The second part is when I am driving. That’s when I run through five years of hospital rituals, three years of Stanford Hospital rituals. Sneaking her hamburgers when she wasn’t supposed to eat them. Playing words with friends for hours, watching Survivor, quite literally ever single season-twice. Spending all those moments together with machines beeping and nurses coming and going and holding her hand through it all. Listening intently and calming her down as she tells me to please murder the next nurse that puts her on bed alarm! Telling her I loved her a hundred million times, not because I had too, or was afraid she wouldn’t know but because I wanted too. The way when you are first in love and you say those words it feels magical. Yeah like that, every time. Even when things weren’t going well. That’s the way it felt for me. I haven’t heard those words back for 50 days now. It is killing me inside.

I had to go to Kaiser the other day for me. It took me 15 minutes to get out of the truck and go inside. I even parked in the wrong place because I was on auto pilot. Once inside I wanted to run away. I never want to be inside that building again. Either of them. It’s irrational and I know I am going to need to get over it but I can’t right now. Every corner I see her, in a wheel chair, waiting for me to push her into an elevator. Or sitting around the corner waiting for a blood draw. I see the same faces of the same ladies working at reception who helped her and I pray no one makes eye contact with me. I know they won’t know who I am, but if they look at me I will feel like I am supposed to walk up and say; hi good morning, yes Jacy Franceschi at 10:30-04039018. Thanks yes I know where the paperwork goes.

If I drive towards the city it’s all I can do not to head towards Stanford. Again partly on auto pilot and partly because I still feel like she is there and this is all one big misunderstanding! There is no way she is gone, there is no way she is dead; there is no way she is in this wood box sitting behind me! The summation of her physical being bound into a bag with a copper tag and number that have the earrings she was wearing taped to it! There is just no way!!! They said it was a 10/10 match!!! She had the very best odds. They said that, I heard it!! They said she was going to live and there was only the slightest of chances things could go wrong! I heard that too!!!! They fucking said it!!!

I want someone to wake me from this horrible dream. PLEASE!!!!

Listen, I know they said a ton of other things as well, but it is just where I am right now. I don’t blame them, everyone was amazing to us and our family.

I just want my wife back! Can I go to heaven just for the day? (yeah like the song) Just so I can make sure she is ok? It was my job for so long it just feels so unfinished, and yet that is exactly what it has become. Just a day so I can come back and take care of the kids knowing she is all right. That’s all I ask..

Oh well, I guess I will just have to assume.

Listen, I know it will get easier over time. I don’t know how long that is going to be and really I don’t care. I loved her for 17 years, she was my very best friend and I will love her still, no matter where life takes me. I will never quit loving her, or the memory of her, I just wish for a while, I could turn my brain off and quit being afraid.

A Little Christmas message..

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday of the year.Lights, trees, church, love, family and all the wonders that come with celebration.

Over the last five years we have struggled to make it the very best Christmas we can. Some years we did a stellar and I mean a flat out,old college try, jaw dropping successful experiment in making things work bringing love and joy into an otherwise really shitty situation! Then other times we just muddled through taking selfies and tons of family pics simply to prove we did our very best.

In the long run or the end game as it were, this did turn into a blessing as we have some sense of just how much we all loved Jacy and our family through this hell we were living. Don’t get me wrong, we knew just how much we loved everyone, and know it to this day. I genuinely love every one of our families to no end! But trying, even when you don’t want to and it feels just wrong is 100% the right thing to do.

 So here we are, December 5, 2018, 47 days since my sweet Jacy left us to be with God.

Guess what?

I don’t want too.

Yup, that’s right, my favorite holiday and I simply don’t want too. I am trying my hardest to find the joy in this moment. I made it through Thanksgiving which is by far not one of my favorite holidays, but I just don’t feel it.

Parker got out the fake tree last night. We always put up a fake tree right away in the room where the wood stove is in so you can see it when you come downstairs in the morning. He drug out all the ornaments and put up the lights. I was proud of him for taking the lead and I told him so. I chose to put my feelings aside and help him, because as his father, regardless of my personal feelings I need to set an example and I know that for the same reason I don’t want it, he really does.

While we dug around in the closet for the “cheap” ornaments that go on the fake tree. I knocked a shelf and a hat box fell onto my head. It burst open and inside was every single love letter I had ever written my wife.I had no idea she had kept them all. I knew of several hat boxes and their contents, but this one I hadn’t seen. I stood jaw open as I picked them up carefully and started to read them to myself.

By the end of it, an hour had gone by, I was balling again as my heart poured out to my wife within the confines of those pages. One of them had her lipstick on the bottom as though she had kissed it after reading it.

What she never knew was I kept every letter she ever wrote tome. My favorite being a single page left under her pillow for me to find (she knew I would because I make the bed every morning) after she left for Haiti on her first trip. I read them all, the cards too. I saved the one from Haiti for the end.

I cried some more.

Now this is where you think I probably went into a very deep and dark rabbit hole. Oh I am sad, so very sad but not for what you think.

You see I believe she was there and knocked that box on top of me. I believe she needed me to see it, to feel it and to put her letters and mine together to better help me understand that although I am alone now, this love was never as one sided as it feels without her here. I believe she was telling me in her own way to not be sad for what’s lost but cry tears of joy for what we had together. I know this because that is exactly what she wanted.

I cannot believe a guy like me was able to have a woman like her. She was my best friend in the whole world. How lucky was I to not only be married to an amazing human being, a kind giving soul, but someone who was not only the absolute love of my life brought together by God, but my very best friend as well! What we shared, I only wish everyone could feel that, to hold that, to grasp it tight and realize that you are indeed the lucky one!

I put them all away. I cried for a very long time because I do miss her so, so much! I do feel as though I still can’t do this without her but I know I will, it is just who I am and I know it’s one of the many reasons she loved and believed in me. I just need to believe in myself and that will come with time.

I am going to do my best to make Christmas happy, or as happy as it can be for our family. I will carry forward our love, it will suck Christmas morning as there was no mom happier than her watching her children tear apart gifts and laugh together.

I will try. I promise.

Jacy if you have anything else hidden that you need me to find, could you please wait until after the first of the year? I am pretty dehydrated from crying so damn much..

Thanks, I love you…