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…

Flying home…

Southwest flight 4262 has left the runway.

Sitting in the rear of this 737, by myself, (That’s right awhole row to myself) I am pondering because well let’s face it, there really isnothing else to do but ponder unless you have a laptop or a really good book. Iam pondering the last 100 days. Pondering what my life is supposed to bewithout her here, wondering where she is and how she is doing, but most of all.

That I miss her.

I miss having her hand to hold when we fly. She always heldmy hand during takeoff and landings. Silly really to think two grown people whohave traveled together for as long as we did would still need that reassurance.But we did, and I really do.  

I know it seems strange this 205 pound 5’9 20+ year veteranof the fire service would need someone’s hand to hold while flying. That a personwho carries the ability to calmly walk towards disaster is so fearful of a hurtlingtin can in the sky filled with other similar people he needs simplereassurance! But strangely I do and it’s always been that way. You see eversince I was a little kid while others would recite the horror of classic childhooddreams where they fell, never hitting the ground, or standing naked in front oftheir classmates as everyone laughs or being submerged in water never quitegetting to the top for a desperate gasp of air. I dreamed about falling fromthe sky in a plane, corkscrewing nose first in a ball of fire and darkness.Even now as an adult those dreams still haunt me on occasion. It is why for mycomfort I always held her hand. She understood and without fail always reachedfor my hand the minute we were cleared for take-off. She also had a way ofmaking it feel like I was the one comforting her not the other way around.Letting me play the protector. I can never repay her for that except in memorywith a smile.

This week I took a little time away for myself as anexperiment.

I went to Phoenix Arizona for Barrett-Jacksons annualauction of high end automobiles. It is something I have wanted to do for manyyears. One of my very closest friends in the whole world lives near Phoenix andoffered to put me up for the week! Cheap flight purchased, no hotel costs andwell it just made sense to go far enough away that I couldn’t run home at theslightest inclination of trouble from the family.

It was time. Time to get away from the kids, away from theranch, away from my life. It was a test model for what’s to come, (hence theexperiment) for you see I go back to work on Thursday for a 72 hour shift. Istill don’t know how I feel about it. There has been plenty of time to reflect,to grow, to move past a need for seclusion. Therefore it is time. As I fly homeI am hoping this test was a complete success. (The kids being without me andall.) It will help ease my mind on Thursday as I walk through the doors ofStation 81, knowing they can handle it without dad always being therephysically. But I know deep inside my heart will be at home and those 72 hoursare going to hurt like hell while they drag on slowly.

On the flip side of things I have been sticking to my post-Christmasresolution of not complaining about Jacy being gone.  By the way for reference the previousparagraphs were not complaining they were simply observations! Ok???

No complaining, no whining and moaning the minute somethinghappens knowing that if Jacy were here things would be different. No sir! Myresolve has been strong in keeping my promise to get up every day with a smile,put both feet on the floor, be thankful I am alive and surrounded by suchwonderful people and a loving family. I go out when I can to socialize and havesurrounded myself with a few very close caring people who allow me to just beme with no expectations what so ever. I am able to talk or text them anytimeabout anything, or do nothing at all, no judgement, and that is worth itsweight in gold.

Being a planner looking towards the future is always on mymind. It is just who I am. I don’t know what that future holds and that is hardfor a planner to handle, absorb or let become a reality. I may need to changesome things about the way I choose to live my life, push some boundaries, takesome risks, all things I have never been good at doing simply to help break myplanner addiction. Either way it seems to me the only thing I can plan is thatJames (Betty) is going to find out who he is regardless of what the futureholds. I hope I like who he becomes whether I spread my wings or stay exactly thesame, because the decisions, the inner growth, the choices and experiences willall be mine. The thought of that is kind of cool.

I know what my wife would have wanted and that helps mewhenever I need to make these decisions. She was my best friend after all. Sheknew me better than I knew myself and that is something I will never take forgranted. Just at some point, and this is the hard one, it’s no longer going tobe about her, it’s going to be about me and I am ok with that regardless of thedifficulty associated because I know she would kick my ass if it were any otherway.

So at 30,000 feet, 400mph, I watch the clouds go by out mywindow, I think this is as close as I can get to heaven for now.

Huh?

Maybe she really is sitting here with me holding my hand,letting me know I am doing just fine and everything will be alright.

Just maybe..

Wake up, put both feet on the floor and take a step forward.

The sun has risen, the sun has set, over and over and over again. For 4.543 billion years the sun has risen, the sun has set. Under its warmth or hidden in the shadows of the earths darkness lies the stories of roughly 105 billion people.

My story is no different from millions of others, I loved then lost, then loved and lost again. My heart aches as did the hearts of somany others. We all shared or carry the darkness that comes with such grief. I am not special, I am not different; I simply am.

So why can’t my brain accept this fate of mine? Why do I feel so much pain and anger inside? Why can I not understand this outcome, accept this outcome, and realize that no amount of anything is going to change this outcome; bringing her back?

Why do the people I love die? Why have they died for so many before me and continue to perish all around us or so it seems. We all know death is our fate, we as a society choose to look the other way, to ignore its significance when it comes to ourselves claiming it will never happen to me or standing by the adage of when it’s your time, it’s your time.

She (Jacy) always knew she would die young. She always knew.I hate that, because I don’t know what the hell to eat in the morning and cannot fathom knowing, I mean hand on the bible knowing that I was going to die young. It is unconscionable to me, so how does that affect your life, your meaning of life, your belief system?

Every day I do what I have always done for my whole life, I am not happy about it, some days go better than others, but during my childhood I was never good enough, at anything and was reminded of that fact regularly; yet I still do the same thing I taught myself early on, over and over again.

I get up, I put my feet on the floor, and I always take one step forward.

The pain will always be there, the loss is very real, I absolutely hate walking into my house, her house, the house we built together, for there is no warm echo of her voice, only cold walls and pictures to remind me of what was, and what never will be again.

But I move forward.

I believe you need to keep moving to lessen the impact. To understand what that person meant to you, not by staying home curled up in a ball but by trying your hardest to laugh, have a good time and remind yourself that you don’t know you’re going to die. That you don’t have even the slightest inkling what your last day on this planet may be. So keep moving, keep your head up and keep striving for that next big finish line, covering ground, climbing not sinking further into a hole of despair.

Again the pain is still there, oh it’s still there, and it hurts badly, so very bad, yet in the morning I put both feet on the floor, and took another step forward.

I said goodbye to Jacy’s car the other day. It took me two hours to clean it out. We purchased it new in 2007 to support the adoption of our daughter. We traveled all over in that car, as a family, singing 80’s rock, watching movies, laughing, so much laughing. It was a part of our family as silly as that may sound. But at 220,000 miles, a computer that was bleeding off power, one power door that no longer worked and another that only opened manually, a front transaxle that needed replacement and an owner who was no longer alive, unable to ever drive it again, I felt that maybe it had to go.

Cleaning it out, I discovered Jacy had surrounded herself with the most precious of commodities; pictures. She had pictures from all years ofevery one of her children hidden in easily accessible places.  They were everywhere and it made me cry. She loved them all, so very much to the very end. To the very bitter end….

But I cleaned it out, with tears in my eyes, a wet sleeve from drying my eyes and patience for what she left behind. When I left the car at the dealership I took one last picture. I don’t know why, it was just a car, it was Jacy’s car.

I put both feet on the floor, and took another step forward.

I felt guilty driving my new/used car. It is nice, it has 60,000 miles on it, I will be paying for it for five years, and it will start anew chapter in our lives for child transportation. But I can’t help but think how much she would have enjoyed the ride. How her ribs wouldn’t have hurt so badly going from the house to Stanford, or her dads. How I should have thrown caution into the wind and just hoped we could have paid for it so she wouldn’t have suffered so badly. I cried most of the way home carrying so much guilt asI didn’t feel I deserved such a nice ride. I gazed at the empty seat wishing she was there, singing badly at 80’s songs, butchering the words and laughing between tears of pain.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

We celebrated Christmas. We did this by going to mass on Christmas Eve. It was the first time I had been to our church since she died. It was one of her favorite places. We gathered and prayed, we sang and prayed and I prayed she was there with me. I kept my eyes closed so tightly and tried sovery hard to feel her presence, to hear her voice when we sang, I wanted so badly to know she was with us, to feel her hand slide gently into mine. But it didn’thappen. I couldn’t feel her. I tried so very hard, so very hard it hurt. I kept it together, we took a family picture by the tree. We as a family went todinner after then home. I didn’t go to bed until 2am. I couldn’t sleep becauseI was so upset that I couldn’t feel her there with me! I was sad, angry and devastated.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

We gathered in the morning. Cody made a splendid breakfast and gifts were exchanged. Very quickly we noticed mom’s absence. All the goofy gifts she would order online for each of us. Well thought out with some form of funny undertone. There was a giant hole in the morning festivities, and after allwas said and done I found myself alone for the afternoon cooking dinner for just us. It was lonely and sad and well, strange. I closed my eyes and prayed for her to talk to me, I waited, I tired and nothing happened. The house was cold inside and to me there was no warmth of Christmas. But I tried, the kids didn’t seem to notice and all of them had smiles on their faces. They all enjoyed agood Christmas dinner, there was hugs and laughter, but it just wasn’t the same.

The next morning I put both feet on the floor and took another step forward.

Jacy’s dad’s house was the place to be. It was warm, it was festivious and it was filled with love. Everyone was happy and had a good time.I see her everywhere there, and her step mom does too. It is not easy. I walked out to the cabin where Jacy stayed when she needed to be close to Stanford.Just a short 24 months ago she would have been laying there, happy to see me, smile on her face and love in her heart. 24 months, 730 days, 17,520 hours ago,she was here in this spot. 4 months, 122 days, 2,928 hours ago she was asleepon the very couch I sat on today. 2 months, 67 days, 1,608 hours ago she told me she loved me for the last time.

It’s hard to be happy, when you carry so much guilt for things you could have done better. It’s hard to be happy when the center ofyour universe is gone. It’s hard to be happy when you sit on the end of the bedat night hitting yourself in the head because you don’t know who YOU are or howto find out. It’s hard to be happy when the only person on this earth who loved you unconditionally, who you could tell everything to is no longer there to hear you, to hug you, to give you the love you so desperately need. It is sovery hard to find inspiration.

But you know what?

Tomorrow, I will get up in the morning, put my feet on the floor and take another step forward.

Not for Jacy or because it is what she would want me to do.But because this is who I am. It is who I have always been. I don’t have tolike it, I only need to learn from it, to show the way for my children, and tohopefully help just one person who doesn’t think anyone knows, or understands this pain.

My only goal in life is to aspire to inspire. It is all Ihave left, it can’t be changed by time, it cannot die and leave me, and longafter I am gone if I have affected the lives of just one person then it was all worth it.

I love you Jacy Franceschi. I miss you terribly….

The 7 Habits of a Grateful Rodeo Kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So with that, here it is.

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

THE 7 HABITS OF A GRATEFUL RODEO KID

So what exactly is rodeo?

Rodeo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go, lets show, lets rodeo!!!

 

 

 

 

The California Stop

I want to talk to you all about something important.

The future of our world.

Ok wait, let’s rephrase, how about the future of America? Nope, nope, nope that still paints to broad a stroke.

Hmmmmmm???

The future of our youth and the direction our country may or may not be headed towards with them at the helm?

No, that comes off as narrow minded and degrading…

WAIT! I got it!

The repercussions associated with adults living and raising our children in the grey area created by society’s ignorance towards methods of the past?

Shit! I just can’t seem to get this one right!!!! Not usually my style to lack on words or the ability to use them.

Let’s try this another way, through a long, drawn out explanation.

Now before all you youngsters either hate me, understand me or feel the need for a safe space to sort out your feelings please understand nothing has changed over time when it comes to what I am about to tout. Only the players and the landscape for which they played the game. Life is cyclical and my hope is we are on the precipice of change. You old timers such as myself I hope will get this instantly!

The other day while driving through town I found myself yelling at another vehicle from the helm of my galactic beast! After 37 years driving semi-trucks, pickups, cars and oh yeah Fire Engines, with all that experience I think I have earned the right for a holler or two! I love driving, always have since the day I took the family tractor for a joy ride. Even with all that, I really only have a few pet peeves when it comes to the rules of the road and it drives me insane when I see others breaking them.

First and foremost let’s just get this out there, I am a certified serial speed offender! I hate going slow, I loathe going slow, I mean I really detest moving at the speed of stuck! But with that being said and placed so effortlessly on the table let me ensure you the minute I cross into any city limits I am Johnny law jr. I don’t break the law, I drive the speed limit, I use my turn signals, hell I even stop for pedestrians in the cross walk!!! Yup I am that guy. Living law in the grey…

So where was I, oh yes, the other day a certain individual in a newer blue mustang rolled hard up on the stop sign, and at no point even attempted to bring his 350 horsepower pony to a full and complete stop! Rolling right through as if the big red sign that said STOP on it was merely a suggestion, this idiot completed the perfect, textbook California Stop! Of course he glared at me as though it was some form of inconvenience that I was waiting my turn, being on the right of another vehicle per the law. Yet in truth I believe the glare was more of a fuck you. He knew he was more important than I, he knew he was more important with more important places to be than any other person so carelessly sharing the asphalt with this asshole and he knew he was an asshole and just wanted make sure I and everyone else knew he was an asshole. (Secretly I just like saying asshole)

Staring at this hellish, lame blue piece of shit for which the owner obviously cherished more than his wife or significant other, with its mirror like shine, extra loud pipes and fancy wheels a question flashed through my head! Crass and obnoxious as a teenage boys lifted Chevy Silverado rolling hard and loud with childish straight pipes and oversized 44’s I slowly pondered!

Where the hell did the California stop come from?

I remember (fade away music and fuzzy picture is appropriate right now for my flash back) back as child in the 70’s we were taught to obey the law, respect the law, and to fully understand that if you broke the law there were in fact very dire consequences! You acted respectfully to those who represented authority and from that respect you earned it in return. A very simple, easy to understand logic that ruled our little place in the world. Ahhhh Mike Brady would have been proud. (Look him up young ones)

It was simple really, here let’s do a short recap. Don’t break the law, doing so has consequences, show respect and earn respect, live life with no worries. See! Easy!

I’ll never forget the day my dad slammed on the brakes in his old orange ford sending me to the floorboard (easy youngsters there was no seatbelt laws in the days of the Flintstones) and screamed at some guy about his “California Stop”!

California Stop what the heck is that dad? I questioned.

That is where you roll up to the stop sign, then proceed without coming to a full and complete stop. It is against the law son. It is named after us Californians because we supposedly are self-important and have places to be which keep us from obeying the law because we are above that! (Ok I’m para phrasing for the love of god I was like 8 or 10!)

Being the semi- inquisitive type, you know; only when it suits me, it became my mission to watch for these California Stoppers. There were not that many upon a first hard round of observations. Dad said it was because the fine for running a stop sign was steep and it took points away from your license so people feared that happening. Of course being recently adept at earning a million points on my Atari playing Pitfall I couldn’t even fathom losing one damn point, let alone several! The thought left me paralyzed with fear!

But hey, we have the law, the good old fashioned black and white, dealt out swiftly by your friendly local police officers, order and tranquility, points earned and points lost, so straight forward and yet confusing at the same time law.

As I became 16, obtained my driver’s license and set out alone in the family station wagon, I was always terrified of breaking the law, in specific the act of running a stop sign. Not stopping for the full and correct 3 seconds or creating a sense that forward motion had in fact come to a halt was a death sentence for me. I always looked both ways and spent a considerable amount of time clearing intersections while ensuring the law was properly followed. It was easy really, and the only times I ever saw the law in my rear view mirror was either for speeding (grey area, GREY AREA!!!), being out after curfew or when I was once mistaken for inhabiting a truck hauling some burglary suspects and we (my friends and I) were all pulled out and sat on the curb like criminals! The grey area that time wasn’t the law it was my pants and they weren’t grey!!

Ok I am droning on, so anyways, as the years went on I began noticing people were increasingly no longer stopping at intersections all the way! Over a ten year period it slowly became the standard, I mean everyone is doing it right? Just up and keep going! Only stop if there is a light and even then on right hand turns people started to roll those too. I couldn’t figure it out! What was changing and why was it changing? We need law and order, we need civility, we have laws for a reason, to not have laws and obey them leads to all out anarchy right???

Then one day, I was in my early thirties, I too rolled a stop sign, oh I had been doing it forever (bandwagon jumper), everyone does, nothing ever happens so my friends say, which I always found hard to believe and yet here I was motoring on when Johnny Law slipped from a side street and lit me up all red and blue lights an shit!

My heart was racing, what had I done? As he walked up the side of my old Ford, I already had paperwork in hand but for the life of me could not figure out what I had done. I wasn’t speeding, I know I stopped at the intersection (California stop denial! its real check it out!), maybe a tail light was out yeah that must be it.

Rolling down the window the officer took my information, told me he would return and after what seemed liked hours as rubberneckers gazed upon my scarred and shadowed soul cast so darkly under the glow of blue and red rotating police lights. They (rubberneckers) all slid by as close and slowly as possible. Bastards! I just knew they were laughing inside the comfort of their cars, making snarky remarks while calling me every name in the book! You could see it on their smug condescending faces!!

The police officer came back for which I produced my best Ill kiss your ass smile. While handing my paperwork back through the window he then explained I had in fact rolled the stop sign at the intersection behind us. My father had taught me to always be respectful towards authority so of course I didn’t dare challenge his findings in regards to my driving ability. Oh and you know I stopped, I stopped hard, the hardest stop anyone had ever stopped since the dawn of vehicle stoppedness!

He kindly thanked me for being so polite and explained (because of my skilled Eddie Hascal impression) (kids look that one up too) he was letting me off with a warning. Please never run another stop sign again. Ahhhh wasn’t that sweet???? So nice of him to recognize pure sincerity when he saw it.

From that point on, as the years passed by I started noticing other things as well. People no longer moved out of the fast lane, choosing to camp there much like a Memorial Day weekend, staking their claim and not budging no matter how hard you pressed them! There were people passing on the right, all the time, as if it was safe! I mean last time I checked that was labeled the slow lane and the left was the fast lane and oh my god I feel as though I am in Bizarro land! Also people tailgating! Whatever happened to a minimum of three car lengths between you? It feels as though with some people they are so far up my ass I am expecting colonoscopy results at the next red light!

The world is definitely going insane! No one IS following the rules of the road any longer!!! The stop sign became merely a suggestion, a set of turn signals is now apparently an option on all vehicles, and I mean it must be because maybe 10% of people can either afford them or are using them while operating their car! Semi-trucks are given no room for stopping, red curbs are for parking because let’s face it, it’s only a few minutes and what the odds the fire department is really going to need that spot! Speaking of fire departments, hydrants are now all the rage to park in front of as well! They really make your car pop! While parked on the street!

Also a trend has formed with the invention of social media. Now you don’t just complain to your friend or neighbor, you start an outright media campaign over every injustice ever committed by anybody, anywhere, anytime!!! No matter how stupid!

NO JOKE! I once saw the same man on a very public forum bitching about the lack of police presence in his neighborhood to handle those unruly teenage speeders, suddenly change his tune and begin complaining about the piece of shit cop who gave him a ticket for parking the wrong way on his street! His statement was that he was only in the house for a minute so he shouldn’t have gotten a ticket!!!! He was parked the wrong way! It’s not even a grey area, it is against the law!! What the hell is wrong with people??

(Cue heavy thinking) Hmmmm????

And right there, right there and then ladies and gentlemen of the jury it came to me.

Much like the moment I realized Santa Clause was not real, or expiration dates on food are for a reason! The second I fully understood the pull out method was not a viable option for birth control, or the real reason the pretty gal in Vegas “liked” me was not because I was funny or good looking but because she felt there was money involved.

Yes it hit me like a truck, slapping my face harder than the moment you knew your drug dealer was a narc because he had ALL his teeth!

The California Stop is to blame for all our nation’s problems!

You see we now completely live in a vast grey area brought about by the California stop. We have gone from a law abiding society to near anarchy. It began with us slowly accepting the California stop as a way of life. A social identity, and once we did that other aspects of travel law began to fall, and with that we taught our children through our own failures that as long as you don’t get caught it is ok. This of course traversed into other manifestations. You know the mindset, well if he got away with it???

And so on, and so, and so on..

The California stop has ruined all our lives. Go anywhere in the world and they know what the California stop represents and where it originated. It is the bane of our existence, the precursor to all our problems and much as the entire world believes that if you are a Californian you are a surfer, you live within walking distance of the beach (because although long the state is roughly only ½ mile wide) and you are a Democrat. The California stop is of your doing, it is your legacy and the world has every one of us Californians to blame! Don’t worry they are blaming us and hating us for many other things as well so don’t feel too bad.

So please, I beg of you all. Stop at the stop sign. 3 full seconds! If you can do it consistently then maybe like monkeys in a UC test project others will soon follow, mimicking your obvious love for safety, rules and standards. Then before long everyone will be stopping, cars will begin using turn signals again, people will start waving hello to each other as they pass, much like a Sunday drive about of days gone by.

And with just a little luck.

Kids will no longer get trophies for participating in real sports or soccer, parents will start reprimanding their children without fear, safe spaces will no longer be needed, people will have hope, laws will once again be followed creating a brighter future for all and some guy in a Mustang will no longer be known as an A-Hole by some other guy with way to much time on his hands to think about this shit. But instead he will be admired as the owner of a really bitchin car….

Oh fuck, ok I can’t go that far, who I am kidding, he was driving a newer mustang for Christ’s sake! It wasn’t like it was the wholly grail of mustangs the GT500 or a Hertz special, hell he wasn’t even in the ball park of a 67 fastback, Mach 1 or the California Special! Bahahahaha naw he’s still an A-HOLE in a poor man’s Camaro!!!

But hopefully you all get my drift…..

 

 

I have become an electronic zombie

It breaks my heart when I see people wasting or frittering away their lives. 

So wrapped up in our own self importance, worried about what we believe others will think about how we look, act or react to life around us that we fail to just recognize and appreciate our own self worth.

The internet and social media warping words, bending the truth and consistently bombarding us with so many personal, social and irrelevant issues we can no longer begin to comprehend, let alone handle our own problems without creating a public spectacle. 

Anger, hate and disgust for all creeps like an elephant, thundering, shaking as it pours from our fingers tips for all to see. 

Our lives driven constantly by an emotion not of our doing, but created for our undying attention or entertainment as we stare into the handheld zombie sucking dry what remains of an ability to think for ourselves. 

Our lives, locked in a box that lets us go nowhere, do nothing without a thread, status update, like or post. A neural overload of useless information with no basis in reality, only assumption and lust. 

When you die, and you will, does it really matter how many “likes” you obtained? Will you have lived life for you, or for what you believe others want to see? Can you lay your head down for the last time knowing you made a positive difference in the world? Were you a catalyst for change or as stated above did you fritter it all away, for nothing? 

Stop living your lives through the falsehoods of others, attached to half truths and lies perpetrated upon your unwavering electronic devotion. 

Go out and live! Experience, create a personal, exceptional, positive narrative that bathes your inner soul. For to feast solely on what you are being fed by others can only lead to starvation, to a lack of fulfillment. 

We as a society seem to have forgotten what a gift this thing called life really is and trust me when I say; it’s to late once it’s gone. 

I have become an electronic zombie

It breaks my heart when I see people wasting or frittering away their lives. 

So wrapped up in our own self importance, worried about what we believe others will think about how we look, act or react to life around us that we fail to just recognize and appreciate our own self worth.

The internet and social media warping words, bending the truth and consistently bombarding us with so many personal, social and irrelevant issues we can no longer begin to comprehend, let alone handle our own problems without creating a public spectacle. 

Anger, hate and disgust for all creeps like an elephant, thundering, shaking as it pours from our fingers tips for all to see. 

Our lives driven constantly by an emotion not of our doing, but created for our undying attention or entertainment as we stare into the handheld zombie sucking dry what remains of an ability to think for ourselves. 

Our lives, locked in a box that lets us go nowhere, do nothing without a thread, status update, like or post. A neural overload of useless information with no basis in reality, only assumption and lust. 

When you die, and you will, does it really matter how many “likes” you obtained? Will you have lived life for you, or for what you believe others want to see? Can you lay your head down for the last time knowing you made a positive difference in the world? Were you a catalyst for change or as stated above did you fritter it all away, for nothing? 

Stop living your lives through the falsehoods of others, attached to half truths and lies perpetrated upon your unwavering electronic devotion. 

Go out and live! Experience, create a personal, exceptional, positive narrative that bathes your inner soul. For to feast solely on what you are being fed by others can only lead to starvation, to a lack of fulfillment. 

We as a society seem to have forgotten what a gift this thing called life really is and trust me when I say; it’s to late once it’s gone. 

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?

 

 

I dreamed a dream about a dream until I realized I had been dreaming all along.

As a child I would lay awake at night gazing upon a ceiling of white, not knowing what darkness or light of a new day may bring. Excitement, happiness, sadness, confusion or worry were commonplace in those silent moments before slumber. This single moment of nightly reflection was a time I dreaded for I neither knew nor had the ability to process each and every thought or feeling rapidly infiltrating my developing brain. So I did my best to create an alternate reality (you know the dreaming before you actually dream) about the future and what it may hold. This was done with a gentle rocking back forth as if I was a baby clutched within my mother’s arms.

Eventually I would contort until finding I was flat on my back. My eyes cast toward the sky, head laid upon a pillow for which I would trust with my slumber until well into adulthood. Then and only then after dreaming about dreams would I drift off to sleep and eventually dream. It’s funny how things can become so very important when we are children and yet nominal as we grow older. That pillow was a lifeline to some nominal form of sanity. It was a trusted object for which I looked forward to after a long day. A moment of pure bliss as my head met its tattered misshapen form. It smelled good, it formed to my head just right and it meant that hopefully after a little blank moment or enlightened thought process the best was yet to come.

To dream

What is it to dream? We dream with eyes wide open about our futures and what they may hold. We dream about what we want to become as we grow older or where we wish to be within a certain designated time frame. We dream about that perfect human match, a soul mate who mirrors our better selves forming a solid foundation for which life and dreams can be achieved. We also dream as we sleep. The subconscious collecting data from deep within our cerebral cortex, correlating it into a one night only performance. Hyper-infusing our confidences and fears into a woven tale of wonderment, confusion or terror.

As a child I recall dreams were abundant. They would come and go, filled with mystery and wonder. Our subconscious mind working overtime filling our thoughts with the impossible, the amazing and at times the downright frightening! But as a child, I can remember the importance of dreams. How some mornings they left me mesmerized or flat out invigorated! I can remember getting dressed before school thinking today anything is possible! All from a dream that boosted my confidence or left me wondering whether or not it was in fact a dream.

During those very early years it was mostly dreams of playing baseball, swimming, learning to ride a bike, or flying! Flying like a superhero, swooping long and low over rooftops with the speed of lightening. My dreams always had a happy undertone that I was popular, or famous and life was licking my fingertips waiting for me to grab onto it and hold it tight!

Into the age of teen wonderment, nightly I would drift off with rock music playing in the background much to my parent’s dismay. My dreams consisted of cars, high school and girls. Real cars would fill my head, not the plastic ones rolling around our streets today! A 1957 Chevy or a 1966 Chevelle! Yes hardened steel and abundant horsepower!!! My 1964 Chevy truck became my world and before sleep I would dream about having the money to one day fix it up so that it would shine, making the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.

During this time I was particularly fond of writing (shocker huh?) and would pencil my dreams in the morning upon waking. I dreamed of being a writer one day, I also dreamed of being a cowboy, or a movie actor. This of course led to desk bound daydreaming where in class my thoughts would wander off and I would be dreaming about the day I would have enough courage to leave home to chase those exciting dreams. An actor, on stage or in the movies I didn’t care! Imagining myself in a full scale western movie, riding, shooting and doing my own stunts! Sometimes I would dream about being a doctor, going to school for a really long time just to prove to my parents that even though school was incredibly hard for me I was in fact smart after all.. It was certified Walter Mitty syndrome!

I never did have the guts to leave, head out on my own. Terrified of the unknown and worried about rejection along with where I would sleep or eat, those dreams became nothing more than lost hopes. I regret those decisions to this day.

Early adulthood and my dreams began to wane. Sleep becomes more of a necessity as life treats you a little harder and exhaustion gives way to reality. The reality being there is no longer time for dreaming about any future while lying in bed. Work became my outlet and I ran at times to the beat of two or three jobs at once. My cherished pillow, the one I longed for at the end of the day no longer mattered as resting my head anywhere warm and dry was more important than comfort or security. Life has picked up speed and there no longer remains time for my silly dreams.

Marriage and not long after children come, days are filled with responsibilities beyond comprehension. My thoughts range from love and pride with this life we are building as a team to worry and fear for what the future holds for us both and this family we have created. Today’s moments are about these people who are now the backbone/foundation of your life. Your dreams for the future are no longer your own but those of a collective whose agreeance is mandatory. These moments of life you will cherish forever, they will create a better and stronger you, you will achieve more than you imagined but those achievements may not be part of what you initially dreamed life would become. You will smile at how quickly life expands, grows and evolves with the continued addition of all who come into your life. I believe these years are the years which leave you with a smile upon your face when your time has come to an end on this earth. You are now following a path and new hopes and dreams will emerge, but you must not forget who YOU are and begin to allow those day dreams to come back. You need to listen to your heart and follow the right path. You long for the nights when deep sleep brings about happy dreams about life, love and family.

There for to quit dreaming is to quit living and hopefully your dreams continue on through the latter portions of your adult years. For me, life and my dreams are much different. I now dream for the thought processes of a child, returning to the innocence of adolescence with all its narrow minded wonder. My head hurts every day, my body is so tired, it’s as though I have drug a truck uphill for miles. When I lay my head down at night I no longer have a single trusted pillow, hell any pillow that is thicker than a postage stamp will do. I can no longer stare upon the ceiling to dream about any kind of future and what it may hold for sleep apnea has its evil grip upon my body. When sleep does come it is at the hands of my wife’s oxygen machine running, the sound of dogs barking, a television squawking hoping to ease my wife’s nervous mind and sheer exhaustion overtaking me while I struggle to breathe through the mask of a CPAP machine.

To dream a lovely dream would in fact be a delightful dream.

Many times I fear sleep depending on the day, the stress level over Jacy’s health or what may have transpired during a shift at work. These dreams do come and with them sometimes death, tragedy, harm and images to disturbing to mention. Often times awaking in panic or fear, drenched in sweat while ripping CPAP mask from my face! This will lead to walking the halls until I can calm down. Many times I awaken feeling as though I am having a full blown heart attack complete with chest pain, sweat and difficulty breathing! It is scary, and tiresome at the same time. Most nights I can no longer fall asleep until I know all my children are safe at home, in their beds. Sleep comes with a price as my worries surpasses any expectations of deep slumber. Listening to Jacy’s labored breathing, coughing and doing my best to stay out of her way as she tosses and turns for fear of waking her from a much needed rest. When I do get the chance to fall into a drop dead slumber my dreams lead to a land I wish not to visit and these places only lead to eventually being awake. Once there I daydream about a life once lived, a love inspired by the continual thought of a new day where my wife is healthy, happy and free from all this torment.

I wonder why life can’t be like the movies. A story with all its problems neatly wrapped up in 90 minutes. Where a young boy can dream while gazing at an arcade machine about being BIG and it happens. Or a girl dreams about running her own clothing company and she does. Or a rat believes it can be a chef in Paris and voila! He is..

What would we be without dreams?

You see things and you say why? But I dream things that never were; and say, “Why not?”

~George Bernard Shaw~

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

~C.S. Lewis~

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today.

~James Dean~

A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

~Oscar Wilde~

And my personal favorite

A man is not old until regrets take place of dreams

~John Barrymore~

And with John Barrymore’s quote I say this.

You are born with the ability to dream and with the very same skill set you shall perish. What you do with it in between falls squarely upon you.

Whether asleep or awake, dream, dream big and never let anyone detour you from those dreams.