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..

 

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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 Face of Leukemia belongs to another………

Oh god! It’s happening right now!!! It’s happening right now! Oh my god, oh my god, holy shit, I’m not ready, or lord I’m not ready!!! Please don’t go, PLEASE DON’T FUCKING GO, YOU CANT LEAVE ME, YOU CANT LEAVE, PLEASE BABY PLEASE D O N ’T  G O…………..

I… love … you….

Time of Death (TOD) 12:10

Date: 10/20/2018

No it’s not a reality show, or some made up Holly wood bullshit and I am not writing a paragraph for some future best seller!

It’s the playlist running through my head every day since my wife succumbed to GvHD or Graft vs Host Disease one week ago. GvHD, a nasty derivative of a Bone Marrow Transplant post Leukemia diagnosis.

I have been a firefighter for 23 years. Nothing, and mean NOTHING prepared me for those 30 seconds as I watched the woman I loved, cared for through sickness and health, good times or bad, take her final, gasping, breath at 12:10 on a bed she made me swear she would never be in (hospice provided hospital bed) in the transformed living room of the place she loved more than anything-her home.

I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people I have personally witnessed perish. I cannot tell you the number of people I have personally watched suffer in agony as the one they loved slipped away. I cannot tell you the number of times I drove back to the station after an incident, filled with sadness for those people and sluffed it away with humor or companionship from my fellow co-workers.

I cannot tell you how badly all of it hurt and came to a head at 12:10 on Saturday the 20th 2018.

The storyline if there was one should read: quietly I wept by her side knowing she was in a better place, free from pain, one with God. I took comfort in knowing these things and because of this knowledge was able to open up and allow others to grieve by her side.

But this isn’t a storyline! This is my life..

If I hadn’t been in a chair, I would have fallen to the floor, If my sons hadn’t been by my side I would have crawled under the bed, but make no mistake, I wailed, I sobbed, I kissed her face, over and over, and over again, just praying for one last look, one last mumble, one last anything.

There was nothing. She was gone, I was crushed, my heart is consumed with pain, I feel immeasurable guilt for the multiple hours she spent alone, trapped in this house as I ran from one place to another, and the thought of living life without my center, my navigational north by my side is unbearable.

Today is the one week anniversary of her death.

I have made it a week. The house is empty, oh so empty. I still am not used to the silence associated with no medical equipment running, no sounds of her coughing or calling my name for assistance. I need more than anything to hear her making dumb jokes, asking if I think GvHD has made her sexy or wanting nothing more than a cheek snuggle. I pace around in the morning early, trying my best to fight the urge to go downstairs and check on that fucking empty room.

This is NOT how she would have wanted me to be. I sit in her room and tell her I am sorry, I tell her I promise as time goes on I will get stronger, but right now I am mourning. I have come to realize I am not mourning just the loss of my wife, my best friend, a person who gave so much of herself to those around her which in turn made me a better man. I am mourning the past, the five years lost, filled with sickness, Stanford, Kaiser and such. Date nights, alone time, reconnection, weekends, and walks around the property, loading up and taking horses anywhere or nowhere at all. I am mourning what we didn’t have for 4 of those five years. I am mourning what we will never have again. I am mourning for my children, for my grandchildren and that is what hurts the most. That woman lived for babies, for being a presence in their lives and the thought of my grandchildren never meeting their goofy, fun loving grandmother. The thought makes me sad, so sad, as if I am drowning in a perpetual sea of sadness.

I am sad my son’s wives will never know the true unfiltered love of a mother in law with no agenda. I am sad my daughter won’t have her mother at her side on her wedding day.

And I am angry.

The hardest part for me is why? I am not supposed to know the answer, I am supposed to believe and follow faithfully. My faith has always been strong. How many times must a man suffer? How many times must a family suffer? What is it I am supposed to learn from all of this?

My whole life I have wanted nothing more than a family, to marry, grow, and together step through the seasons of life. To celebrate 50 years of marriage, to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, births and birthdays. To have a ranch where they all come together with their children built upon the seeds their mother and I threw into the mix. To die an old couple knowing we did our best, grew our crop and watched it flourish to harvest together.

To pass on our love, compassion and set an example for our future Franceschi generations.

I have been robbed, she has been robbed, and our children have been robbed. For that I am angry.

She would tell me to knock it off! To not be angry, we all knew this was a possibility, that she did this for no other reason than to be by her children for one more day, to hear their voices and feel their presence for one more day. She would tell me she succeeded and that it quite simply was time to go. She had a funny way of always knowing. She just had a way. I loved her for it.

Right now, I wish she was here, for 7 days later, I really need her to help show me the way…

The Face of Leukemia now belongs to another.

Picture taken at 11:30 am. 40 minutes before she slipped away.

So? You think you know.

A smile, a laugh, a hug and some jokes, you see me as I am and you think that you know. It’s the same old ground I’m always walking, with a head held high, false face, and fading reality.

You think you know.

This shadow of mine casts a dark reflection for which carries my soul. Walking side by side, flesh, muscle and stature tells you a tale, but my shadow harbors the truth. It’s darkness and rage, horror and fear, a shadowed jail that no one sees when peering at it’s presence upon the ground but me. Yeah I see it; you only see me.

I pray for cloudy days, for rain filled with pain, pressing so very hard upon my skin like needles tearing flesh from the bone. Helping, this searing sensation creates a neural overload strengthening my resolve when ever my shadow is gone. Building up future energy and tolerance for when the sun shines around me so I may survive it’s golden rays for just one more day. I have no place to hide.

You think you know

You think you know me when we meet, my smile and kind looking eyes but it’s all an act. My laughter and tears are played for an audience, I have become a master actor at life. Doing what I can to appease my shadow, to help hold these demons within. But much like an actor I must retire into solitude, and darkness, to a place inside my head where I can safely practice my lines. It’s a moody uncomfortable place where people can and do get hurt. But regardless it must be.

What you don’t know or will never understand is the sheer context of my life. I feel like a broken glass. Shards chipped, broken, then broken again. Placed carefully inside another glass for all to see.

You think you know

You mean well and want to help, but you have no way to reach inside this jar, pick a shard to begin putting me back together without hurting yourself, without bleeding and breaking just a little each time you try. Blood mixes with pain to become rain that falls back down on me. It hurts to much to try.

It’s all there for you to see. I’m all there, confined within the very transparency of glass for all to witness, not fix. Ultimately it is my gift to you. My way of helping you to never become broken, and for those already broken to understand it is ok to accept the truth and to be seen by those who care but don’t know.

So next time you see me, please don’t act like you know.

Because you can’t……

The drive home just isn’t long enough.

In a row, our legs move fast, pushing, yearning and striving they sling  copious amounts of sweat. Some in unison, others to the beat of another distraction. All of us moving, dripping, staring, and for myself, wondering why.

It is a mental game working a machine to nowhere. The windows before us showering our sight with images of a life outside. Yet here we are, trapped in the concrete confines of metal, muscle and weights.

I am trying to keep in shape, it is important for not just my physical ability but my mental muscles as well. So much trapped upstairs, so many thoughts, painful thoughts that emerge then disappear.

One hour in the gym. One hour to myself. Ok really only to myself mentally as I am surrounded by others in search of their own mental nirvana as they too work through their own physical pain. Yet even though it is for my benefit, and even though I almost always feel better after, I wonder if it is enough.

Shaking off the urge to once again over think something I have made a very astute observation. Legs burning, climbing, pressing against an artificial resistance I cant help but notice the man next me has become, well lets just say a tad bit competitive. Yes, it seems that us men cannot help ourselves. Even though this man and I haven’t spoken nary a word, have made no eye contact or even signaled a nod or shoulder shrug it appears as though when I speed up, he speeds up. Curious.

I try a little teaser to fortify my observation. For fun I decide to alternate speeds. Moving from fast to slow within one minute intervals I am sure this will dispel what I believe to be a subconscious race. I am wrong, with each interval change my face forward, without so much as a glance my neighbor matches me step for step! I am trying my hardest not to chuckle as for fun, I turn it up a notch! Without fail he continues to matching me step for step! Like an old school drag race, or two kids racing without actually breaking stride to run it doesn’t matter what I do, my workout neighbor never misses a beat!

Just when things couldn’t get any weirder a new piece of meat jumps on the elliptical to my left!

Ha! Now I have one on either side!! There is no way they both will keep pace! Again I am wrong! Without fail both men instantly keep pace with what ever I throw at them! It is as if us men have a racing gene that we are born with! That one thing inside that says to us: Did that guy just call us chicken??? Oh I could so beat that loser! You’re going down!! Yep a real bonafide, inbred, racing gene, and us men have no control over it.

I step off the elliptical leaving my unintended racing partners behind. Smile on my face as I roll over to start some resistance training before hitting a few well needed free weights. Then just like that, as I sit on a bench, sweat pouring from my face I am back. Back into my reality. One filled with things I cant discuss, pressures I cannot relieve and images I cannot erase.

I have so much to say, but no one to listen. There are plenty who want to talk, or talk at me, but that’s not what I need. Recommendations for professional help are always the first thing offered, but the problem is, these people, these professionals, they may have education, but they haven’t lived my life, walked in my shoes, understood or even tried to accept the culture for which I thrive. You cannot help me if you don’t understand me, and you cannot understand me unless you’ve stood alongside me, in the shit or next to me as I m surrounded by my brothers and sisters as we joke and laugh about things you would never understand. I cant take it home, but I cant leave it here, it follows me everywhere.

I used to complain that I needed a longer ride home. Time to brush off a bad shift or horrific experience. Decompress, listen to good music or my favorite morning show. Just me, the truck, some distracting sounds and time to think, letting it all go before I walked in the door to a wife that hadn’t seen me in days.

I once had a semi-truck on the freeway lock up his tires because he came upon heavy smoke covering the roadway. We couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see us, the wind was blowing 60-65mph, the fire was vegetation and it was running hard. I’ll never forget that sound. I was on the pump panel, engaging two wildland lines so our guys could fight fire. The smoke shifted quickly and we screamed for everyone to get off the freeway as that sound got louder and closer. I could barley see the engine, and as I cleared the tailboard jumping down the embankment, that truck slid right on by! If I had still been standing at the pump panel well, either my life would have ended in a full bagpipe salute and some nice speeches or at the least I’d have been scared to death, left with some soiled undies.

Another time at a vehicle accident in the middle of the night, while walking towards our truck to retrieve extrication equipment, I stepped on a 50K line. Now the car had taken out several poles including a series of high voltage lines. We worked our way into the scene and as we did all lines on the ground were identified. So on the way back for more equipment I kept telling myself; self, look for the power lines. And look I did with the exception of one thing, I completely missed my line of travel. Stepping on that line was an awful moment filled with terror. I knew what it was the minute my boot made contact, and it took me a second to realize that if in fact it had still been charged I would already be long gone. Electricity through my foot and out through my head as I hit the ground. Charred deeper than a forgotten shrimp on the barbeque. But again, I was lucky, the line was dead and I was not.

There just isn’t a drive home long enough for that. There is no amount of time behind the wheel that erases those instances, and those were only two! There are ones I’ll never, and I mean ever talk about! Because if I did my family would never let me out the door to work again! Now on top of all that imagine adding death, destruction, despair and the simple added pressures of a regular life along with it. Kids, spouses, ex spouses, bills etc…

How do we turn all of that stress off before walking in the door to our families?

I don’t know, I wish I had the answer.

But what I do know is the guy across from me on the squat rack is a mean asshole when he’s drunk! It’s been a while so I don’t think he recognizes me which in a way is to bad. Maybe he’d apologize for the shitty things he said and did while we tried to help him. Or maybe he would cuss us out for ruining his evening. Oh well maybe Ill head back to the elliptical machines and find some others guys to subconsciously race taking my mind back off the darkness within.

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~

It is only 10 days a month.

Today another fine California Highway Patrol officer perished, this time at the hands of a drunk/impaired driver.

We have friends who are family with this outstanding young man. Only one year and four months on the job, gone in the blink of an eye due to the selfishness of another’s actions.

In my city we (the fire department) work hand in hand with our CHP officers. We hold great respect for these men and women and working together we create a safer place when juggling the very dangerous world of our Interstate system. Although our jobs are different yet in some cases strangely the same.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been terrified while working on the freeway. How many times we have almost been hit or had drivers veer our way. I personally have had an individual swerve purposefully at me with the intent to strike me with his vehicle.

Two weeks ago a CDF Fire Engineer was killed while working the Thomas fire. Although no real details have been released, I did read he perished from burns and smoke inhalation. Another fine young firefighter gone to soon.

We (the fire service) give up so much in our jobs and we are proud to be given the chance to perform the tasks for which we work so hard to perfect. But one firefighter killed, just as having one officer killed is one to many.

I wrote this post two weeks ago and it is all I can think about at 1 am this day after Christmas. A Christmas neither one of these fine young men were able to spend with their wives, their children, their parents or their friends.

Rest in Peace Officer Andrew Camilleri, thank you for your service.

Rest in Peace Fire Engineer Cory Iverson, thank you for your service.

It is only 10 days

They say it is only 10 days and what a cushy job we must have; while everyone else is working we must be relaxing, doing what we want while leading a life of luxury with such a grandiose forgiving schedule. Ten whole days, ten easy, lazy days a month?

Man I need a cushy gig like that! Yeah that’s what they say.

It sounds simple enough, the life of a firefighter. I personally have been one since 1995. When you say it out loud 10 days a month really does come across as a dream job of employment, and to some degree it can be. Yet the reality is, 10 days a month can lead to 50 years (30 working + hopefully 20 retired) of heartache, injury and despair.

Our schedule is a nifty one and it has changed a few times over the years. From days Mon-Fri 0800-1700, to a Kelly schedule format which consists of one day on (24 hours) and one day off (24 hours) for three shifts then four days off (96 hours), to the current scheduling of 48 hours on and 96 hours off that most departments (at least on the west coast) use today.

When I became a full time firefighter it felt as though my world had screeched to a complete halt. You see my previous work schedule consisted of 6 days a week and anywhere from 12-14 hours a day. My job was laborious and I was paid by percentage for materials moved so although I could have worked 5 days a week at 8 hours a day I was in fact a hustler. If you even hinted there was more money to be earned I would hustle for it, it was who I was and I enjoyed it every time I opened my paycheck to reap the benefit. Being a hustler is a part of me the fire service completely stifled as I never found a direction within the wide array of specialties we provide that kept the hustler feeling alive.

That was me, and it was a long time ago, yet I fully understand it is the same schedule of many hardworking Americans today. But the reality is most means of employment consist of an 8-10 hour a day schedule or a 40+ hour work week. A person is paid for the hours put in on the job and provided overtime for anything over those 40 hours. Hopefully being paid accordingly for the effort.

So why does it bug me when someone gives me shit for supposedly “only” working 10 days a month?

Why do my hackles stand up the minute I detect that smart-alecky you have it so lucky, you must work several jobs because you have life so easy type attitude?

You know I do work ten days a month, 10/24 hour shifts which never by the way work out to those cakey 10 days a month. You see we firefighters are always working extra, which I don’t mind, in fact one of the requirements for being a firefighter is you possess that type A personality which consists of always being a problem solver while continually taking the lead in any situation.

Example: We don’t just put the fire out, we stay behind no matter how long it takes to ensure the building is safe, you are safe, you have what you need, your neighbors are ok, hell we have even taken the family pets back to the firehouse and cared for them until arrangements are made! It is just is who we are! Helpers!! But let’s make sure we have our facts straight before running our mouths and tripping over our tongues shall we? There is really nothing easy about anything we do, we do it well, we do it right, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes, as long as it done with heart, conviction and compassion. Also let me clarify when I say working extra. Working extra comes in all shapes and sizes, from mandatory hold overs, shift trades, extended incidents, sick leave/vacation coverage, mandatory training, or recalls for large incidents. Plus we are consistently understaffed so you can see how quickly 10 days grows to 12, 14, or 16 days away from home serving the citizens we swore to protect! That’s half a month away from our families. Half a month away from watching our children participate in life, half a month during which time our significant others become single parents.

As I previously stated ten days a month is our base, this equates to a 56 hour work week on average. Sometimes it is much more, other times it is a few hours less. So right out of the gate we are already above the 40 hour work week. Now let me say right here, no complaints on our part at all, it is what we signed up for and trust me when I say there is a LONG line of qualified individuals waiting to step into any vacated position!

But whenever someone whines to me about how cushy my job is with this luxurious 10 day a month work schedule it bears truth to remind them of the pleasantries a 40 hour work week affords them personally. That’s right pal you get up in the morning after sleeping alongside that super special someone every night, grab some coffee, kiss the kids, pet the dog and head off to work. Then after putting in 8-10 hours at the old job, you can go home, or to the bar, or an adult league softball game, or bowling or to your kids school play or, or, or, or this could go on indefinite. Every night upon arriving home if you so choose its dinner with the family, spending time with other loved ones, working on that project in the garage, watching late night television and then going to sleep again next to that super special someone to do it all over. Wash, rinse, repeat. Pretty sweet right?

Here is my work week or 2.5 days that I work.

I get up in the morning, kiss my wife/kids goodbye and pray I see them in two days. I know this sounds overly dramatic but it is without a shadow of a doubt a truth you can only understand after dealing with the public and emergency responses over any period of time. There are so many things/close calls that have happened to me personally over the years I will never tell my wife about because if I did, even though she knows the job and understands, she would never let me walk out the door again. EVER!!!!

Arriving at work, I get a cup of coffee and go over the morning shift exchange between ongoing and off going members. This is followed by a shift meeting covering our agenda or expectations for the next two days. PT time is observed and then it is straight into morning chores which consist of station and equipment maintenance. The afternoon usually has training either in classroom, outside or online along with specialty projects and of course reports generated from emergency responses. Reports document the entire sum of all responses for city, and county wide statistics, insurance and homeowner or patient investigations. This sometimes goes into the early hours of the night depending on call volume or deadlines needing to be met. We have dinner as a group and head off into our own directions. Some take a little personal time as in read or study for the next phase in their career, while others may workout some more or as in my case write. Many take a deep breath and head nose deep back into station related work projects. Heading off to bed, hopefully to sleep (I know right? How awesome I get to freaking sleep on the job!), we wake up the next morning and do it all over again. After the required shift exchange we go home where the first day is usually kept open for clearing our heads while catching up on lost sleep. The second thru fourth day is trying our hardest to spend time with family and then in a blink it is back to work we go.

It all sounds easy right? Pretty darn cushy. Except for one thing. We handle emergency calls through it all. When the bell goes off we respond and we need to do so in under 2 minutes, no matter the time, day or night. That bell, that loud clanging bell knows no time limit or has a lick of sympathy because it is merely sounding an alarm to another’s tragedy. Tragedies also hold no time limit. They happen day or night, rain or shine, wind or calm. When it sounds we know no matter what kind of day we are having and regardless of how tired or worn down we may be it is our duty to respond to someone else’s worst day of their lives! Not only respond but always, and I mean always be on our A game! Plus we get the distinct and amazing pleasure of retaining every single horrible thing we have ever seen or done while performing that job! We carry it around like a suitcase full of horrors and that suitcase is always banging, shaking, live with action, gruesome action, reminding us constantly that we were there! What’s inside that suitcase wants to come out so badly and there are days it does and on those days it seeps into the presence of others it is always at the wrong time, the wrong moment leaving you drained while those around you are wondering what the fuck! Can you feel a bit of pressure there?

So let me break this down, yeah, break it on down now!

What that means is during my supposedly cushy ten days a month, I work, train, eat, run calls, fight the eternal, emotional nightmares, and oh if I’m lucky and it’s a good shift, I may get 5 full hours of sleep.

Yeah good times.

So let’s talk a little more about the mental aspect now that we have covered the basics of ten days a month.

When I started the chief told our graduating class: Cadets, you are going to see some things out there, some really horrible things.

Yep that was it.

We all laughed because we were larger than life, we had graduated, becoming probationary firefighters which meant we were now somehow invincible, indestructible and we’d fully bought into the bullshit associated with wearing a fire department shirt. Please understand I don’t mean that disrespectfully at all. The day I pulled that fire department job shirt over my head for the first time was one of the proudest moments of my life. It was a defining moment, an accumulation of hard work and drive, succeeding when others told me repeatedly I was too old to try or I would definitely fail. It also comes to note that I fully loved the career field I came from, but I always knew deep inside there was more, that I was supposed to do more, not for me, but for others. It gnawed at me day and night from the inside so when firefighting found me I knew it was what I needed to do.

It was difficult too for as I stated I had an established career, I owned a home and had a wife and child. To leave that security behind on the slimmest of chances one day I may get hired was a tough pill for my family to swallow. But they did, they trusted me and stood behind me all the way! All because I knew inside there was more. It’s why I get a little miffed when I see our shirts on non-fire personnel. It was the hardest garment to obtain because it meant you survived, you made it, and you wanted it that bad. You simply had to earn it.

I digress

We laughed, thought there was nothing we couldn’t handle and for a while it was surreal. Looking at your first dead person is overwhelming to say the least. Now throw in a side of body deformation, evulsion, amputation, violent drug overdose, murder, self-inflicted suicide by any means. Heck let’s play the old adage of children are the hardest. To me children are indeed the hardest, but it’s not because they are dead. Nope death is an end, they don’t know it or feel it, and the ones who suffer are those left behind. It sucks for someone so young because they never had a chance at life and that is a sad depressing thought, but for me children suck and stay with you forever when they are the living.

Mom has an overdose for the third or fourth time and said child walks in to witness us performing CPR to no avail. 5 year old in the back seat screaming for mommy who is clearly nothing more than a blood smear across the entire front seat, never coming back, never able to hold her child again. Son comes home from school to find dad slumped over the corner of the bed with half his head gone from self-inflicted shotgun blast, bits of skull and dura matter cover the wall and ceiling like bloody popcorn. We arrive to an insane scene filled with screaming and hysterics, mommy or daddy aren’t coming back and a child’s psyche is destroyed for life. Yeah the living children always get me. It’s the father in me, I want so badly to take them home, hug them, help them anyway I can and it is always without fail a very quiet engine ride back to the station.

But wait there is more…

There is no place in this damn town I can go without seeing ghosts. Every place, even some of my absolute favorites have ghosts standing around, looking at me, and asking me why?

Why couldn’t we do anything or how did this happen? They tower like billboards flashing a message that blinds me, leaves me seeing only white as repeatedly I flash back to a moment, that second in time where we either tried like hell or made base contact and called it as we saw it. D.O.A. Another father, son, mother, daughter, aunt, uncle, grandfather, grandmother etc.. gone way to soon.

A man overcome with fumes in a grain silo that no one could get too. Another steps in front of a train and faces it with a hardened resolve, we picked up pieces for what felt like hours. A car full of teenagers, flipping over in the night, their burned bodies found when the fog lifted in the morning. The smell of burned flesh, young, old, that smell, it doesn’t discriminate and it never goes away. We pulled those kids out for the coroner, one piece at a time, one badly burned smelling piece at a time. A teenager hung in the garage, with obvious signs he changed his mind to no avail, he was a victim of love gone wrong. Another teenager who shot themselves because that person was tired of being bullied, thinking a bullet was better than another day at the hands of his tormentors. A former law enforcement officer kills himself in front of us as we turn the corner because he couldn’t stand the pain any longer. I can never erase the image of red spray exiting the top of his head. Domestic abuse where a patient is terrified to have you help them simply because of your gender or look. Where it is all you can do to remain professional as anger seethes deep below the surface while you bandage up the knuckles of one’s attacker. CPR attempts, oh lord the CPR attempts, so many, more than I can count, and to be honest there have been so many that I can’t even put a win to loss ratio on them anymore and yes we do take it quite personally when we lose!

These are merely a few, a tidbit, the smallest of snippets regarding calls I have been associated with over the years. Many so very graphic and disturbing. We as firefighters get the distinct pleasure of bearing witness to the most horrendous acts one person can inflict upon another or themselves.

I think back to what the chief told us, what I stated above: You are going to see some things out there, some really horrible things.

He was right and in his defense it was a very different time. We firefighters were expected to be tough, to hold it inside, you were laughed at if a call bugged or bothered you in any way. We used and still do use dark humor to quell the inner beast at times, getting us through a shift. Firefighters don’t cry, they are supposed to be strong, and brave. We are the hero’s so we must act like it. Yet we never claim to be heroes and I personally cannot stand anyone within the service who acts as though they are, for we are just people. People who do a job for which we are well trained. We have a need to help and combined with education and overwhelming compassion that is why we do what we do. But hero? No

The ghosts are real. They are fucking real and they never go away. We keep them from our families and our children but they to pay the price.

Some days I just want to be left alone, I don’t want to talk and I’m a prick no matter how hard I try to keep it together. I am lucky, as I stated earlier my wife understands, but that is because she was once a firefighter so she knows the schedule, knows the struggles we go through and understands when I need to be left to my own devices. But that doesn’t make it right.

My children can’t do anything without me seeing the dangers! I am constantly all over them for whatever they do like an insane safety cop trying my hardest to keep them out of harm’s way. When either of my boys pulls out of the driveway I am constantly on guard, worrying the call will come that one of them has been killed in an accident. At the station when I finally get to lay my head down for a bit I pray they are all safe at home, yet images of horrific accidents or fire rolls through my head and instantly transposed upon my family. I close my eyes tightly and fight the mental demons knowing (irrationally) that one day the tones will roll and my address with be on the tip of the dispatchers tongue.

Speaking of addresses, there is no count to how many times the dispatched address is a person or family within my personal circle. Working in the town for which you reside and your children participate brings with it another responsibility, another personal struggle when things go south. When things go well, the pats on the back are extra special, but when things go south the stares are twice as painful. If you perish on my shift either before we arrive or in front of me, it is a tough to pill to swallow when I don’t know you. Your ghost lingers and wonders why. But if you are a member of my extended family, close friends, or even well-known acquaintances then it’s even harder. Looking into the eyes of your surviving family members is so hard, there are no words to say, your ghost is much harder to deal with and every time we (surviving family) cross paths the pain is all to real. You wear it like a badge of failure.

The fire service has determined PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a real thing. Thank goodness, because we are losing way too many members to the mental struggles that resides within us all. In this writing I have only touched on a small portion of what rolls around inside my head on a daily basis and I know I am not alone. There is so much more and one day I will talk about it all. One day I hope to purge all the ghosts, at the very least erase the faces. I know deep inside this won’t come until I retire as every shift has a new face attached. They say time heals all wounds, but these wounds never heal. They are covered in scabs, scabs that we keep picking at because we just can’t or in some cases won’t let them heal. We need to see them, feel them and remind ourselves they are there for some fucked up, unknown reason. I’d like to think it is our humanity reminding us its ok to feel. But after a while you just don’t wasn’t to feel anything anymore.

The best we can do is recognize the problem, show it to the world and find help for those who need it desperately. They are out there, and they need compassion and understanding for the weight carried upon their backs. Weight that feels as though it is driving them to their knees.

I have 6 years left to go.

6 years of only 10 days a month.

Pretty cushy gig huh?

8 Heads in a duffle bag..

Although my fingers have been fairly quiet as of late my brain has not. There is this strange struggle that goes on inside my head on a daily basis. It is as though two entities are fighting for the right to think and during that struggle neither seem to be able to act accordingly.

For the most part I have spent this entire process of dealing with the arduous task of caring for a Leukemia survivor, GvHD patient with positivity and faith. Struggling with the highs and lows, while finding strength and solace in my abilities as a caregiver with an upbeat attitude has helped immensely. Jacy and I have been so blessed to meet many of the people we have spoken with through the long reaching tentacles of the internet. Knowing that simply by sharing the human condition you have helped another is humbling to say the least.

But what do you do when you’ve reached what feels like the end?

Now I know deep inside, and I mean right now really deep inside, I fully understand it is not the end, that I not only want, but need to continue being open and honest. But I am struggling. Badly. It is why the argument inside my head continues on, it is why no matter how hard I try my fingers just can’t seem to find the keyboard, creating words that are meaningful to others while allowing me an avenue to vent, love and share with solicitude.

Constantly I stare into the screen and wonder what it is that is hindering my thought process, why do I feel as though I am constantly drowning and the only relief on the horizon is a shadowed man throwing paper life preservers?

To say it’s all too much that life is more than a person can handle has and always will be a cop out to me. I have been to other parts of the world, stepping from within the spoiled confines this country and my own personal bubble for which I reside affords us all. Witnessing true abuse of the human condition, desperate pleas from those who reside in squalor, with no more than two pennies a pair of shorts and no food to their name. Governed by those who care not about their people’s physical health and financial wealth but furthering personal gain. So I know, there is more inside me, more to give to my family, my community, my friends and my life. I know because I have seen true struggle and what I am facing inside is a mere droplet inside a rain storm.

Yet, struggling I am.

I used to go to work and hide my pain. It is a great place to hide ones inner demons as any day surrounded by good, like-minded people can bring about a recharge of the inner soul. One purpose, one goal, be there for the community and its citizens, save a life, save property from the destruction of fire, or help someone simply change their smoke detector batteries. The privilege of caring for one’s community on a daily basis is amazing. Spending 48 hours winding through the autonomous machine of daily chores while finding comfort in the twisted humor of your co-workers is electric! Starting a new guy down the right path while helping to refresh the volumes of knowledge 23 years has stored inside your head brings renewed life.

Instead as of late I’m feeling like a cornered parole, unable to do anything correctly while nervously twitching at the thought of going back inside. Working for a city (management) that no longer appreciates the enormous amount of effort we place with so very little in return. Refusing to acknowledge our continued attempts to assist not only them but the public to the best of our abilities while suppressing our very innate need to always help. It is demoralizing to say the least when you feel a department many have worked so hard to bring to the forefront is slowly slipping backwards and there is nothing you can do but shake your head and watch.

Coming home has always been the respite from the atrocities seen at work. A safe haven if you will where one can leave their heavy gruesome baggage at the door. But it seems I can no longer walk up, drop the bag and not worry about it for a few days.

It’s like 8 heads in a duffle bag (movie reference), you know at one point you held the bag but now it’s gone missing and no one needs to see what’s inside. So what do you do?

You panic.

Therefor in a constant state of panic I am! Oh I may look cool on the outside (or really angry and moody as has been brought to my attention) but inside a constant state of disarray exists! No longer am I able to complete a single task as my life spins out of control. Raising these kids mostly on my own, caring for my wife using the same skills acquired over many years at work, the line begins to blur between work and home. With that blur the demon heads are no longer at rest inside that bag on the porch. They come out at all times of the day or night. Some days they bark at my inner walls, clawing and screaming so loud I cannot turn them away and so, I bark back. For those who know me, who know me well, when I turn on something I do it in grand style. It is never pretty, it is mean spirited and hurtful. It is shameful to say the least. Then the bag disappears and more panic sets in as I must find it and keep it from anyone else. It can never be seen! EVER!

So here I am, still left wondering.

What is in store for our family? What is in store for their lives? How am I supposed to protect them from the boogeyman, that hidden danger or beast waiting just outside the door? What lays ahead for my life and how am I ever supposed to keep moving forward? I mean, I am moving forward aren’t I? I wake up every day and put my feet on the floor, pull up my big boy pants and move through the day just like everyone else. But where is the break? Where is the respite we have been told is coming? When does my wife get a break from her constant inner struggles which are also mine? When does she no longer feel pain? When does her body become strong again and she no longer needs to live on a regiment of medications that leave her weak and sick? When do we see the pot at the end of the rainbow? Hell I would even be happy to just see the fucking rainbow!! Why has my life been hit so hard, and why does it continue to get hit time and again? What the fuck did I do to deserve this and if it’s a Karma thing and it’s me, why is my family paying the price, over and over and fucking over again!! Can we please get a break? Can we please just have our lives back????

I am angry, angry as hell and I feel as though I can no longer hide it! People tell me I need to take time for me, hell I tell others to never lose who they are and work hard at taking time for themselves to keep that spirit alive! But lately taking time for me feels like being trapped in a buildings revolving door and I can’t get out! Spinning so fast I can only feel a moment of either freedom or pain, never able to fully step from within the confines of the door to one side or the other.

I worry so much about my children and all they have been through, I am in constant worry for my family and all they feel as we still make our way slowly down this forsaken path of a leukemia nightmare. I worry for our ranch and this life we built as I find struggles in maintaining its future for our family. I worry for my job as my passion has waned through this continued personal battle. I worry for myself as I push it all down deeper inside.

Please don’t tell me God doesn’t give me anything I cannot handle. That is a twisting of the actual verse Corinthians 10:13 referencing sin, and sinful choices. That although sin is irresistible, the lord will always give us an escape from such temptation.

So what is the end game? There has to be an end game right?

Is the end game hidden within 2 Corinthians 5:10

For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

If that’s the case then my wife is saint!!

But the question remains, why must our family continue to struggle? Haven’t we all had enough?

Why do I lay my head down at night and have mild panic attacks because my insides feel tormented. My mind never shuts down and I feel as though the other shoe has yet to fall. Why must I live in this constant fear? I don’t want the other shoe to fall, it cannot fall!

“Deep breath”

Thanks for taking a moment to read this and witness me losing my mind.

I have stored that up for a long time now. I just needed to get it all out. I know the answers will come when they come and there is nothing I can do about it. I know there are others who feel the very same way I do, and I hope if you are reading this you know its ok.

It’s ok to ask why, its ok to feel inadequate, its ok to feel as though you may be failing, It’s ok to struggle and its even ok to carry the extra load.

You know what’s not ok?

Keeping 8 heads in a duffle bag on your porch.

Yeah that’s never ok…..

To go gentle into that good night.

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From The Poems of Dylan Thomas

 

This poem has resonated with me since that of a young man. I have had it stuck in my head for months now trying my hardest to determine what it means to me.

It brings about stirred emotions of an unwavering inner strength, tormenting whispers of the unknown, and an inner fight that arises much like a demon awaiting a moment to reign terror upon those who doubt its power. For there are those who will challenge your age, your wisdom and use the word to chip away at all that you are, have accomplished in life, or look to become. They don’t understand this poem speaks to everyone, not just those who proudly wear the wrinkles of time.

And so with that said I write..

The assumed stands before demise.

So expected and anticipated according to annals of time that my brain is washed by hollowed expectation.

Waiting and waiting to crumble so frail. My strength gone from age’s elastration.

But I refuse to go gentle into that good night

I have too much to lose by allowing forked tongues in shaping my destiny

To live, to breathe, to gather life in a bottle and sip upon its soulful nourishment

A man whose wrinkles should bring about empathy while disparaging apathy

I am strong, I am whole, I am man, I shall move forward no matter life’s dreadful weight

A second half of life laden with baggage and yet its burden bears no consequence 

I cry for those entrapped, ones who are youthfully pointed towards, a folly of jokes and insults fall upon this wasteland created through a wrinkle of time. Burdening a man’s soul it does, with stereotypes of ancient freight.

For they too shall bare ages haunting truth and most likely through inner weakness go gently into that good night

Sickle in hand, cloaked from light.

But not I, for quiet has never been my right.

 

It feels as though lately people are dying all around me, I can no longer ignore this truth. I am starting to feel the pressure to survive at all costs. Every time I turn around another child has gone, another mother is ill, another father has crossed over to the other side. Some I learn from phone calls or social media and others because I was there, my hands unable to help. It has brought me to fully understand that I can longer hide behind disbelief, a realization rings solid that yes we all really do have an expiration date.

For years we have known this to be true; but we never think it could possibly happen to us. It can and yes it does. In the blink of an eye, this glorious gift given us from God can be taken away. Our hearts beat loudly, our minds work endlessly and yet it is all for nothing once our bodies have vanished.

Every day driving into town, there is always something that reminds me how much I love life. Our world is very complex and filled with so many wonderful things, I just find it hard to fathom that at some point in time I will no longer be here to enjoy the majesty that continually surrounds me.

I have seen and felt so many things in this short life, more than some less than others. I have cried until there were no tears left to give, laughed until my stomach felt like one giant cramp, put my fist through a solid door and thrown a wrench through a wall in shame and or anger. I have hugged another, held out a welcoming open hand and used those same hands to bring pain upon another’s wrongful deeds.  I have screamed towards the sky, lied to appease emotions, and mumbled quietly at the voices in my head, begging them to leave me alone. I have not only felt my pain, but your pain as well because of a sworn life choice. I have sat befuddled by life’s obstacles, gazing upon an open field wondering, praying, and yearning for answers to so many questions. Some days the answers come, most days they do not, and then there are days I believe obstacles have been placed in my way to keep me from myself.

In my humble opinion.

This life it was not meant to be easy, it was meant to be experienced.

You may not currently like the experience, you may not enjoy the outcome at any moment in time. But know this; this life, it is yours. It is not someone else’s, it belongs to you and you alone. It is up to you in determining how you see life’s obstacles, how you react when life’s ugliness knocks upon your door. Do you stand tall, find the answers and move forward? Do you strive to provide positivity, a ray of light and hope or do you bury your head in the sand ignoring the life around you?

Do you simply become that who goes gentle into that good night?

I have and always will choose to fight.

It’s in my nature, it is who I am..

Who are you?

 

 

Wins and losses = PTSD

fire 6

 

It is by the numbers they say, we live our lives in columns of wins and losses. Every day we, the human beings walking this gigantic greenhouse we call earth walk out the door and in the blink of an eye easily break down our existence to nothing more than wins and losses.

From the time we can understand the gibberish coming from our parent’s lips we are told to pick our battles, get along with others, speak only when spoken too, judge not lest ye be judged, and we can be anything we choose to become yet be prepared for the struggle that may lay ahead.

Every one of those tidbits of wisdom revolve around wins and losses.

It further convolutes our mental wellbeing as we grow older. For we no longer look to our parents for sage advice. These challenges be it work, relationships, sports, after hours activities, projects and dreams of our own that must be chased can all be boiled down to wins and losses! We take them on; lumps to the head, body and mind be dammed! We are adults now and can handle our own business.

We hear it all the time! WINNNING!!! Or man you are such a loser. An assumption made upon a moment, movement or emotional situation resulting in an action, deed or punishment.

Therefore our societal needs dictate we win! Nothing brings fame, fortune, happiness or simple satisfaction more than winning! When we are younger and we win at a team sport, that moment of exhilaration is breath taking, amazing, a real high produced by natural endorphins leaving us exhausted upon its retreat from our system.

But when we lose if we are truly driven individuals we strive harder for success, fighting, clawing, learning, adapting, becoming one who grows and develops into that winner or winning individual again. Why? Because we crave that sensation, we lust for that endorphin rush, we yearn to be someone or something special, not just in our own eyes or the eyes of the ones we love but in everyone’s eyes!

So no matter what we chose to do in life, thanks to the imprinting our parents and society have placed upon us (and this not a bad thing mind you, just stay with me) we are left with wins and losses, our whole life can be simplified into easily accessible columns of wins and losses.

It is what makes us as human beings strive for the very best. It is what I believe keeps us getting up every day and moving forward, no matter how difficult life can and does become.

I read a story the other day about a fire captain in southern California who took it upon himself while out driving to stop his vehicle upon a highway overpass, place the vehicle in park, walk to the security fence, scale that fence and jump to the freeway below. He met his untimely end at the front of a semi-truck. It should never have happened.

Last year according to the National Fire Protection Agency or NFPA 132 firefighters took their own lives in this great nation. One Hundred and Thirty Two firefighters woke up one morning and could no longer bear the thought of waking up another day.

We as a firefighting family are not doing a good enough job.

Those 132 human beings who sacrificed their lives for their community on a daily basis were let down by us their firefighting family. 132 lives taken, more than by injury or illness last year. Gone forever.

WE ARE LOSING

Firefighters take the wins and losses columns we are engrained with from childhood and we amplify them, placing them under a magnifying glass within our heads. Those win and loss columns mean more to us than our sports rec league basketball team, or our children’s baseball team. Winning at a football fantasy league or winning by finishing the build on your deck. Everything in life fits into these columns of success or failure and when it comes to our chosen profession they mean so much more because lives are attached within each column.

The way I see it we are failing to recognize that although we will never feel as though it is ok to lose, we do lose and we need to talk about it. We need to talk about those losses and how they affect us emotionally when we pull off the uniform. We need to quit treating these losses as if they are the elephant in the room everyone sees but no one wishes to speak about.

Imagine everyday going to work, trying hard and though you have minor wins here and there the losses over time begin to pile up. In the beginning of your career its ok, you rebound well and pretend to not keep track. But after several years those losses begin to wear you down and after a while you can no longer pretend they don’t exist. You stop waking up each morning thinking like a winner! You begin to dread that first cup of coffee where before you would grab it on the way out the door thinking today is the day for another win!

The wins are there, don’t get me wrong, but soon stopping the spread of fire through a structure quickly or rescuing a family from an overturned vehicle doesn’t equate to the loss of life you have been party too. You feel remorse for not having done the job better, or quicker because in the end people are still injured and some things just can’t be unseen! The feeling of success slowly becomes fewer and father between.

Someone once told me that each incident truly bothering me is like a rock, and I am coping by placing those rocks in an emotional back pack. The problem is no one has taught me how to unload the back pack, so I walk around with more weight than I can bear on a daily basis and someday it will be so heavy the thought of just giving up, no longer wishing to carry this backpack will enter my mind.

We wear the wins on the outside, we carry the losses in our backpack. We are no longer well balanced and what we carry around is just our work, let alone what we load onto ourselves from our personal home life. Like a rat in an unwinnable maze we become emotionally trapped.

The faces from our past begins haunting us, showing up at incidents, during our family time, holidays and worst of all in our sleep, our dreams. We transfer guilt and blame, death and loss onto those we love and we hate ourselves for every minute our psyche allows participation in this pointless mental interaction.

This Christmas when you are with family and friends look around, is there a firefighter, police officer or emergency medical worker with you? Talk with them, show them love, let them know how very grateful you are to have them in your life. They may not be reeling from stagnation within the wins and losses column, their back pack may not be full, but if they have been doing any of these glorious jobs for any amount of time they might not yet recognize its ramifications. They only need an ear, an ability to tell a story, and be allowed to feel everything is ok.

If one of these people you know shows any signs of depression, withdrawal or strange behavior, don’t be afraid to lend a hand. Don’t be afraid to tell them you love them and find the assistance they need. Be that pillar of strength they are looking for.

I don’t have all the answers, but I know this; on this Christmas Eve 2016 it is all I can think about. That somewhere out there a person such as myself is wondering if another is ok. If they need help, and is there anything that can be done to help them. We can’t keep losing, we can’t keep feeling as though we are losing and we can no longer turn a blind eye to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the emergency services field.

1 firefighter lost is one to many, 132 is simply unacceptable! I don’t have the numbers for Police or Emergency Services (ER rooms, Ambulances) but we are one large family. Let’s work hard to make 2017 the breakout year for PTSD acceptance. Build programs so our own can reach out to help our own who are struggling.

No firefighter should feel as though the only option they have is to scale a fence and jump. Leaving behind everything they ever loved, everything that fell into the win column on a daily basis.

Be thankful for what you have, for who you love and for who loves you in return. Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year..

Betty….

If you sense someone is in trouble:

Call 911

The National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

Contact the 10-33 foundation for more information

www.1033foundation.org

Betty’s AKA:

Fire Engineer James Franceschi

22 years of service to the citizens of Dixon California