Dream or is it a reality?

It always seems to happen when I am feeling that my life is good. No, let me rephrase, it always happens when I feel as though my life isn’t just going good or well, but great.

It sneaks in through the night using a cover of darkness and a weakness associated with slumber. Knowing the intended victim (myself) doesn’t stand a chance because there are no walls, no observance of its presence until it is too late.

Sometimes it masks itself using my family or friends as an intended target. Other times it drags up memories of the past, the atrocities associated with a long career such as mine. Either way it has a way of tearing me down, leaving me feeling spent both physically and mentally. Other days, it leaves me wrecked beyond belief and I wonder just how much more one man can take. I am confident and strong, I always have been, but there are days I want to curl up and cry for no reason at all.

Dreams of death.

Last night as I slept, Jake my second son came to me in a dream. I was fishing and he appeared in front of me from nowhere.

I said: Jake what are you doing, how did you get here?

Jake: I came to say goodbye dad

Me: Where are you going?

Jake: It’s time for me to go, just wanted you to know I love you

Me: what are talking about?

Jake: Goodbye dad (as he vanished)

The rest of the dream consisted of me doing everything I could to get home! To find my son! And as with most hectic, disorganized dreams every obstacle was put in my place! When I finally got there, he was in fact dead. Gone from this world. It was a nondescript death, a combination of every horrible thing I have witnessed over the life of my career. It was horrendous.

I haven’t been able to shake it.

Here is my problem. I know what it is, I know what these dreams manifest from, I know that it is not a reality.

But

I also knew every single thing about my first wife’s death before it happened because I had in fact dreamt about it over a several year period. I knew everything about where to go and what to do at Stanford Hospital because in my dreams I had been there even though I had never set foot on the property once.

I knew after my second wife was diagnosed with Leukemia that it wasn’t going to go well. Oh at first I believed it was my cynical side, you know that part of us that is carefully crafted from years of getting burned?

But as we went along I did my best to keep faith, to suppress my feelings of dread, to be the most important person in her life during every hiccup or stumble. All the while knowing, not guessing or having a feeling, but knowing she was in fact going to die. Why? Because I dreamt about it over time. From the hospital visits to the pharmacy runs, to her addiction to opioids. I dreamt it all. I knew she would die at home, I knew she was going to suffer and I knew she would leave a huge mark on this world. Not just because of who she was as a person, but because it always came to me in a dream. The only thing my dreams got wrong was her dying in our dining room. In my dreams she died surrounded by family at her dads.

So what is it about me that this happens too?

Is this a curse that only I can live with and if so, do I embrace the knowledge or cower from its implications?

I have so many wonderful people I talk with about my life, my emotions and how to deal with the past.

I have someone very close that I love who lets me talk openly about those last two years while watching the woman I cared for deteriorate and die. The ramifications of being alone but not alone, a caretaker, a warden, a nurse, a pharmacist and surviving nightmare after nightmare. Who listens to everything and anything that comes to mind while I am venting about these crazy notions in my head, understanding completely without thinking any less of me as a person. A beautiful safe space in my life.

But these dreams, these damn dreams, I just need them to stop! I’m weary of death, I am weary of pain, I no longer wish to carry the sufferings of so many in my head only to be replayed over and over again at the whim of nightfall’s grace.

So what do I do?

I do what I have always done.

I write about it for you.

If you are suffering in the slightest I need you to know you are not alone. I need you to understand it doesn’t feel ok, but it is and you are fine. I want you to feel as though you can talk about it, express those very same feelings without judgment or remorse.

I am blessed with the ability to write, to share, and to explain things in a way that you can understand. Everyone has a gift, a talent, something they are particularly good at, I have been told this is mine. Writing allows me to get these feelings out, to purge them from my mind, to let them go even if it’s just for a little while.

If you have something that allows you the same freedom you need to act when you feel down, you need to grab whatever gift you have been bestowed and make it your ritual. It will help I promise.

If you can’t, please find a professional to talk with, to council.

Now, I am going to try and call my son, I think he is out of class by now.

I just need to hear his voice.

Time

What is there to say about time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does time mean to me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am pondering.

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

I came home early to be with my son.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here goes.

Travel whenever you can, we will be.

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

Laugh, hard at everything, including yourself. Often!

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

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

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

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

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

30 Days….

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

That sounds so strange.

She is dead.

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

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

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

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

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

Within the year.

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

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

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

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

That was 38 days before she slipped away from us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you cold, here is a comforter?

Are you warm? Here is a fan.

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

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

And on and on and on..

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

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

Now here I am, alone.

It is such a dilemma of spirit.

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

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

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

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

I’m rambling, so I will wrap it up.

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

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

Jacy I love you…….

The sounds of silence and where do I go from here?

Sitting at her desk this morning trying my hardest to focus on the 6 millionth start to a book I have already written, something comes to mind. It is lonely. So very lonely and it’s not a lonely that can be filled by friends or family, a phone call or a letter, facetime or actual conversation with well simply anyone.

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

You never realize how noisy your marriage is until it’s over. All the little things like you hustling trying to get kids out the door, her making lunches or singing in the kitchen to a song on Pandora using made up words because well it is the morning and she knows it bugs the crap out everyone so they move a little faster while she smiles with glee. It is hearing her use the damn coffee pot you hate because you own a Keurig and she simply likes the cheapness associated with a standard coffee pot. Her humming I love you as you walk out the door reminding her you’ll be home in an hour. She says she knows but you never know what can happen and she just wants you to know how much you mean to her.

It really is all the little things. The little things that make up the white noise of a relationship.

I woke up this morning and my dog had climbed onto the bed. He was asleep with his back up against mine and in the haziness of first awaking for a second, one split second I thought it was all a bad dream. 5 years a bad dream! It wasn’t, I was still alone, Jacy is still dead. In reality we hadn’t slept together for almost a year. She needed to be downstairs and with her being up all hours of the night depending on where she was with her meds and her constant need for sound (something she had before she got sick only more intense as time went on) the only way I could achieve even a few hours of sleep a night was to retire upstairs. I regret that decision now. I guess in a way it was preparing me for the future. None the less I have fully determined I hate sleeping alone. Oh well, guess I will have to get over it.

The white noise is everywhere.

I will never come home to the joyous sounds of her playing the piano again. She was never taught how, she played the flute, but her understanding of music made it easy for her to adapt to just about any instrument she picked up. I hate looking at that fucking piano.

Walking through the door in the afternoon to smell and hear all about some god awful concoctions she was creating. Foods or flavors that should never and mean ever be associated with each other, but there wasn’t anything left in the fridge so out to the garden she went and viola we have dinner! The funny thing is with only a few minor exceptions, even her craziest of Top Chef mismatched masterpieces all tasted great! I really am missing that right now on a cool fall morning.

The sounds of her painting or creating leather work. She was blind, but would sit at this very desk and create pieces of art out of whatever she touched. I made her a board from scratch to adjust and hold her leather while she stamped it or painted it slowly with one eye squinted shut and the other double focused on her work. The board is sitting here, never to be used again. I hate that fucking board.

Listening to her ask about the kids days when they got home, remind them of chores, reprimand them when they were jerks to her or smother them in love when they apologized. This whole thing has been so hard on the kids and I know they feel sad about each and every time they brushed her off as she was bedridden still trying her best to run the household. She loved them all so much and that love came out every day. The sounds of love bouncing from these walls, it has certain ring, a specific note when it comes from a mother’s perspective. It is quiet now; that sucks hard.

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

I know, everyone keeps telling me she can hear me, her love is all around us, it is in our children and the home we made. I know I simply need to talk with her, or I guess to her because she really can’t talk back. I stare endlessly into this room I created, I hear the oxygen machine still running or the lack of it, I am not sure. I wish I was still bleach mopping the floor while she incessantly apologized for all I needed to do to take care of her. That always bugged me, I would snap at her and say to knock it off! I would tell her I loved more than anything on this earth and there is no place I would rather be! I would kiss her on the forehead, then make her lunch, sit in the chair at the end of her bed and stare at her. Worried this day was coming.

In reality there was some other place I would rather have been.

Back in Alaska on the cruise with her! In Mexico, on the beach with her! In the mountains, hiking with her! In our own backyard riding horses with her!

I would have gone anywhere or done anything with her! Even if I didn’t want to. She just had a way of always convincing me to go and really, if you knew my wife or spent any time with her you just knew what ever her exploits were it was going to be one hell of a good time!

Besides that woman could convince a police officer to rob a bank, a hooker into becoming a nun, or the wealthiest person in the world into giving away every last dime. It just is who she was. I seriously am going to miss that I think the most.

So yeah, the silence is killing me, crushing me, it is hard to breathe most days. I am trying so very hard and it really is so nice how strong everyone believes that I am, but I don’t feel strong, I feel, I feel, I think I feel cursed. I feel as though there is some kind of vendetta against me. I feel like a permanent black cloud. I feel like loneliness is my calling. I hate being alone.

Jacy would tell me that God has a plan for us all and this was his plan. I remember her telling me through tears not more than 6 weeks ago that she wasn’t ready! She wasn’t ready to leave this earth, that she felt there was still so much work to do, so many kids to help!!! I held her while she cried and promised her if her time did come I would carry that work on for her.

I have always been a man of my word.

I am starting a scholarship fund in Jacy’s name for high school kids here in Dixon. It will benefit Ag kids because that is what she believed. We were able to secure a little over $700 on Saturday at her memorial by selling left over tri-tip. So we are up and running.

I am also looking into starting a foundation using Jacys Army as the name. It will hopefully grow and secure enough funding to become perpetual. The objective will be to assist families that do not have the assistance or support we were lucky enough to have while going through Leukemia treatment. This one was my idea and something my wife backed 100% as we talked discussed in detail the lack of assistance for families less fortunate as ourselves as we went through the process.

I also promised her I would continue on, that I would be ok, alone. I lied to her a lot on that one. Starting with day trips, new places and taking lots of pictures of my alone adventures. But I never wanted her to worry about me more than she already did, so I kept doing it even though I wanted nothing more than to be by her side. Ultimately it created a man who was quiet and walked a lot with his head down. She called them rest breaks or time away from caring for her. It was time needed there is no argument there, I put on a super brave face and sold it like a used car salesman, but it is coming back to haunt me now as I long for all those moments I missed with my wife. I hate myself for not being there, for distancing myself from family. But it is what it is I guess, no changing it now.

So instead of rambling on like an A-hole; I guess what all of this is leading to is this;

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

Make every moment count. Even the little ones. Life is short, it can be taken away at a moment’s notice. I am blessed because we knew it would eventually come. But there are so many that walk out the door in the morning never to return again. Is that how you want to leave it?

Never stay mad at your spouse, no matter what. You have the ability to talk just about anything out and come to a resolution. I promise! I could make that woman spit hot lead, and she could make me flip a truck at times, yet we always forgave each other in our own ways. And yes, sometimes you need to recognize that not all forgiveness comes with an apology. Anyone who has been married long enough who reads this knows exactly what I am talking about.

Remember daily why you love them. Why you married them or are with them. Never forget that, they are special to you for a reason. Honor that reason and cherish it.

Never go to bed mad. Seriously it sounds dumb but it’s true. Every day truly is a new day! We are only given so many of those days so don’t waste them! Besides the snoring is enough on its own, so don’t find something else.

Enjoy every single little thing, from burnt meals, dirty clothes, dishes not done, to bad singing and even watching shows you cannot stand. The thing is you’re spending time together and that’s what’s important. You can never get that lost time back.

When the going gets tough, don’t even think for a moment about running away. If that’s what you’re thinking then in my humble opinion you never truly loved each other. Sorry but as my wife would say; the truth can be painful but in the end, it is still the truth.

Love is amazing, it makes us do crazy things. But the reality is love isn’t all the glorious movie tag lines or clichés we’ve grown up with or are led to believe. No my friends, love is all the messy and yes sometimes painful stuff in the middle. The rest is just the icing on loves cake.

Thanks for letting me vent all this out. I actually feel a little better. I am sorry if I hurt your feelings or made you cry. It was never my intention.

A million no mores………

Where are you?

I see you in the trees, I hear you in the wind. Your smiles a reflection of the sun, your tears an afterthought of rain. I smell you while passing a garden and feel you in the dirt upon my hands. I know you’re in my heart, my chest feels nothing but pain.

You belonged to no one, yet you were mine. I will always have been the lucky one.

Things have settled down, people have filtered away. My house is no longer filled with the sounds of an active family, but instead a quiet, sterile silence echoes from the walls.

I have a lot of time to think. No more oxygen machine, no more pills to be taken, no more round the clock care, sheets to be changed, special meals to be made, I.V.’s to exchange or breathing treatments to administer. No more last minute pain pushes or middle of the night Kaiser Pharmacy runs. No more doctors’ appointments or shuttling to and from her second home at her dads under the wonderful care of her S-MUM. No more……. Anything.

There is also no more middle of the night laughter as she owned being high as a kite! No more rambling conversations with me acting frustrated to get her goat then tell her I was listening all along. No more stories of childhood or the time she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, all having been recited a thousand times. No more theological discussions involving what some would consider the gospel truth, then mixed in with stories of what we both called historical biblical sleight of hand. No more listening painfully to The Real Housewives of any fucking stupid city as she played it purely for background noise to quell her ever increasing anxiety. No more walks together outside or watching as she bravely and oh so blindly used her will of steel to walk on her own. No more morning breakfasts where I tried so very hard to create something flavorful and delicious to make her smile, knowing that being stuck in bed while I ran a million chores made her sad. No more arguments about who wasn’t listening to who or her telling me to slow down because her brain didn’t process as fast as it used too. No more inadvertently hurting her feelings as I needed to treat certain situations in a clinical aspect to get her to comply then working towards forgiveness and a long awaited hug and kiss which she always made me earn and rightfully so. No more watching her snuggle her children or her dogs with glee! No more watching her find joy in the simplest of things, hear her recollect every amazing moment with each and every one of her children or fill those precious moments with every worry she had about their future. No more sage advice from a woman who pulled no punches while never saying she was sorry, but then fill your face with a million kisses instead knowing you’d probably already forgiven her. No more family holidays with her smile radiating across the room. She couldn’t see, but she could sense every single minute surrounded by those she loved and the joy upon her face was the stuff stories are made from. No more hearing her at 1 am downstairs, alone, singing or laughing or talking to her iPad as she recorded things for her children in the future. No more hearing her sob, alone downstairs at 1 in the morning as her brain helped her realize what was to be a certain fate. No more morning goodbyes or walking through the door hellos, followed by a joyous “I love you”. No more hidden cards telling me how much she loved me, no more painted art or crafty paintings! No more kissing her while she slept and adjusting the covers so she was warm. No more, no more, there are a million no mores.

Saturday was the start of something.

Seeing each and every life she ever touched, listening to all the stories and remembrances, being surrounded by that much love was an amazing experience. I know she was there, I hope she was happy, I am sure she spent time in her own way touching each and every one who walked through our gate. Jacy just had a way. I fell in love with her for many reasons, but one of them was because she just had a way. She drew you in like a moth to a flame, she held you close with her warmth, compassion and heart of gold. She only ever cared about you, never herself and that my friends is an amazing quality that is not seen all that often today. She was quite simply an angel.

I can remember dropping her off for choir practice and thinking as I drove away that church seemed a little brighter once she walked into the building. I loved listening to her sing in the choir too. She always glowed. She always said that we all find our way, it is what Go has planned for us. There is no roadmap, no directions, we simply need to trust in him and we all find our way.

After Saturday, seeing everyone and watching a day of remembrance unfold exactly the way she hoped it would, I knew in my heart we will also find our way.

It will be long and painful for all of us. There will be a million new experiences for us. We will make new memories and find our way while hopefully honoring the leader of our family with each and every step.

I will miss being able to report our successes and failures to her, hearing her laugh or wanting to give us a hug. But we will find our way.

The truth of it all is I don’t know how to be anyone but Mr. Jacy and I miss more than anything hearing her voice out loud. It’s in my head, it’s in soundbites and video, but I am selfish, it is not the same.

But I can hear it, and I hear her telling me to have faith, stay strong and find a way.

She told me once that she will be waiting for me with open arms on the other side, and though it will seem like an eternity for me, for her it will be but a joyous moment in time, for she had been with me all along, in my heart and in my soul.

I loved you Jacy Franceschi, I will always love you, I will always be grateful for every single moment we spent together and apart. When it was easy it was good, when it was hard it created what marriage is supposed to be and those memories will never fade. I loved you with everything I had and I can never repay you for what you brought to my life.

I miss you so bad, but I can truly say not only was I loved, but I was loved by an angel.

You were my everything…

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..

 

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?

The scary stuff…

The scary stuff hides in plain sight, we try our best to ignore it but in reality the scary stuff is what lets us know we are living.

I am terrified of death. It surrounds me with in your face realism, implication and pure dishonesty. Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering when it will come, how it will come and have I done all I could to let those I care for know just how much they mean to me? Have I spoken a word in haste leaving someone disappointed or was I able for just a moment to make someone’s day?

Do you close your eyes and feel all the world has to offer or do you clench your teeth frustrated by the very movements within your realm? Do you drift away from the sight, sound or smell of another place thankful for having been there or do you grasp tightly to the past angry at what the future holds in store?

I cannot control the panic within, a feeling there is something more and I am running out of time. That I haven’t lived to my full potential, achieved all my dreams, helped all that could use assistance, or been the best human being I could possibly be. My brain runs out of control and there are moments the thought of trying to stop it long enough to grab any form of tangible information to act on is overwhelming.

So the scary stuff creeps in, like a game, toying with my ability to reconcile myself.

I stare at my wife while she sleeps, scared she won’t be there in the morning. Two years of this nightmare have worn away my ability to be realistic about things at times. Watching all she has gone through and yet she still tries to smile, to have a positive attitude, even when she really doesn’t want to anymore. Being at work is an eternity as my subconscious leads me into a room of dirty tricks. How is she? Why won’t she answer the phone? Has she taken her medications? Are the kids helping her? Is she eating enough? Has she walked today? I know she is ok, she has her phone to call me, and my mother is right next door, able to check in at a moments notice. I know the kids are helping and our close friends/family are doing their best, but the scary stuff keeps pushing my insane fears into the light so I may remain bewildered and lost.

Stressed beyond what I ever felt I could handle, my stomach, head and neck hurt all the time. I have ridiculous nightmares always revolving around the loss of someone near me. Last night it was one of the boys in a vehicle accident. The scary stuff lurking in my brain won’t let me gloss over anything in a dream either, its graphic and designed to always leave me terrified upon waking. The scary stuff knows how to leave me down and out through shock value. I am tired… All the time….

What do I do? How do I control it? It feels at times like a giant weight upon my chest. Somedays I can’t breathe and find myself sobbing for no reason at the very stupidest of things. Like an imaginary scary creature hiding under my bed, only I know it’s there, only I can feel its presence, and only I can battle it when it comes out at night to play. It is my burden to bare.

The scary stuff is what tears at your soul, leaving you scarred, hurt, but alive. We all have scary stuff lurking in our brains, without it we would never understand the value in cherishing every moment on this earth. For the good stuff is even sweeter if you’ve had to deal with the scary stuff life is made of.

I wrote this tonight because many have asked me repeatedly how I have been able to handle everything through this Leukemia/Bone marrow transplant infused portion of our life. Truth be told, many days I don’t! I do my very best to juggle everything while keeping a smile on my face, sharing a joke here and there, trying to keep my children smiling all while letting my wife know she is the very center of my universe. I vent a lot on friends and I believe in having faith! God looks over us all and challenges us daily, it is up to us as too whether or not we accept those challenges. There is always hope, and even though the scary stuff is a reality in my life, my way of never letting it win is by writing about the fear so others who read this know its ok to feel everything I just described. If you take time in recognizing your flaws, sharing your pain and understanding there is always a better day ahead, the scary stuff doesn’t stand a chance. It may not be today or even tomorrow, but faith is there waiting to put the scary stuff we all feel and worry about right back under the bed where it belongs.

 

 

 

Another page….

I was asked to write my father’s obituary to which I declined. I have no answer as to why, other than for some strange reason it just didn’t feel right. Mom of course had no problem picking up the pen as it were then hammering out a short synopsis of my father’s life. After all having been married to the man for 55 years I am sure it came fast and easy.

I haven’t been able to open it.

Mom sent me the obituary in an email. Every day while checking my personal and work emails there it sat, unopened, like an unsolvable Rubik’s cube waiting for me to spin it around in hopes of unlocking its color coding on the very first try. There just hasn’t been any desire to try.

I am proud of my mother, she has handled this all with her feet firmly planted on the ground. Never once has she faltered or wavered in my presence over any decisions since her husband’s passing. She gets out almost every day visiting friends and running errands. She has handled the upcoming memorial with very little assistance from myself and is working on a full reorganization of her life. My mother is living up to the old adage; tough Old Italian woman.

We speak on the phone every day and through conversation she has discussed bits and pieces in regards to her final marital note. It is obvious mom has put time and effort into this little piece that will run in the local paper and yet for a week now, even knowing all she has done I just hadn’t been able to open it, to read it, to absorb what it means to her or anyone who knew my father. I just couldn’t do it, I would scroll past it, move it to another folder only to place it back into the main folder still unread, unopened, as if I was a cold and uncaring person. Scared of what it meant to me.

So with exactly 6 days to go until his memorial service and nothing remotely pressing on my gigantic plate of daily activities, my fingers (on their own accord) scrolled over the email and pressed the little W icon releasing information from the cloud into my server for my eyes to fixate upon and probably wonder why it had been hard for me all along.

And so I read it.

Halfway through my eyes glaze over and instantly I’m transported from my desk inside our fire station to a bench at Prestwood elementary where I sit waiting for lunch. I can smell it, feel it, I have chills upon my skin, my friends from years long gone are buzzing around me, laughing, joking, running playing, I am at ease. The fears of being a small child have enveloped my soul, scared of the bigger kids, jokester to my friends, a storyteller just trying to fit in. My little brain wondering if I will ever understand fractions while hearing my teachers telling us with effort we can achieve anything. Of course all this is happening while I daydream the day away. Yep I find myself staring at a white faced clock with black hands, the second hand slowly moving clockwise eliminating minutes from my daily school experience so I can go home and see what car dads driving home today and hopefully talk him into a game of basketball.

Lights passing overhead as the enormity of the freeway made my eyes larger than pie plates. Dad and I are on a trip to a dealership down south, he works for Kastner Pontiac/GMC and we are trading one car for a truck. I have never been to far from Sonoma in my 8 years and traveling through Sacramento onto 99 south was filled with new sights, sounds and my father singing country music on the radio. (Something I do to this day that drives my kids crazy). It was an all-night trip and I felt like a big kid! It is also where my early love for the GMC/Chevy stepside began. We ate out (something we never did) we sang, laughed and had fun. I slept most of the way home, but for that moment in time I was my dad’s friend, there were no girls (sorry mom) we were hanging out and it was an adventure. Just two men and a really cool truck.

Moving through time we are on a field trip, I cannot remember to where, but I am sitting in a bus full of students and parents. My dad is sits beside me smiling. It was one of the best memories for me as dad rarely made any of my school activities. I remember laughing, joking around and can even still feel the air blowing through the bus as a mixture of the suns golden rays and dust flows through the cabin.

Sitting at a bar while a man serves my sister and I 7up with cherries at Napa Valley Horseman’s Association. Dad was president and he would lead the Monday night monthly meetings. I remember thinking maybe that would be me one day. I can still see the lights of Napa off in the distance from this clubhouse on a hill. Soon we would be off to bed in the camper or later dad’s motorhome. It was the closest thing to camping we ever did and it was always fun sneaking out to watch our parents dance the night away after some of the meetings.

Driving dads Ford 8N tractor helping put fence around our property, mixing cement inside the rotating box scraper/drag that I guess I now own as it sits unused alongside my barn. Hearing him tell me exactly how to do it. Just the right amount of water, too much and it will be soup that takes forever to set, too little and it will crack and crumble never becoming a solid footing for these posts. Hearing him telling me just how far to back the tractor up, getting mad at me for almost smashing his hand with the bucket then forgiving me as I set my third post perfectly. I hear his voice, see him sweating and wonder why I can’t go back in time. I am talking to him but he can’t hear me. He only hears the very young boy on the tractor and not the 49 year old man trying his hardest to speak.

We are riding together, headed to test drive my possible first car. A 1957 Chevy Bel-Air. It was blue with chrome everywhere! The 57 was my favorite car next to the Chevy Stepside and as child I had built several models of this exact vehicle. When we arrived dad was the most charming man you had ever seen. He always knew just how to talk to people when it came to business of any type. They chuckled and laughed, went over the car from front to back. We jump started it as it had been sitting for a while and took it for a ride. It was everything I had ever dreamed of from the time I was 9. My dad was in love with the car, or so it seemed from the twinkle in his eye as we talked about it, how nice it was, how well it ran with a snappy little corvette motor wrapped neatly in chrome under the hood. I’m there all over again, I can even smell the interior. Several thank you’s were exchanged and my father left the owners with the old “we need to think about” line. On the way home I asked when we were going back to retrieve this heavenly piece of Detroit iron, to which he turned and with the same twinkle in his eye responded; we aren’t. The sixteen year old and 49 year old are yelling at him all over again. WHY??? That car is too fast for you, it shouldn’t be your first car. I can still hear him saying it. I was angry as hell, but he knew I would get over it. (I never really did) Dad was right though, as I wrecked my first truck sending it to the scrap yard. I had the pleasure of seeing that car while working at Aunt Josie’s restaurant as its owner would eat there once a week. It had an unmistakable license plate; 5SEVEN. That car lives in my dreams to this day.

Over the years there were times of laughter and great disappointment, times where we tested each other and times we just gave in, never acknowledging we had called a truce. As we grew older the equality of our stubbornness created larger walls between us. We talked once a week, grumbled about each other’s choices and would always part with an, I love you. But one thing is for certain, my father’s laughter, happiness and inexplicable ability to talk with people will always resonate deep within my soul. I have learned from him by witnessing both the success and failure in his life.

Reading the obituary today made it all too real for me. Yes I was there with him in his last moments, and was honored due to my position at work to actually be at his side when the ER doctor called time of death. I was able to hold his hand and cry, wishing he would squeeze back just one more time. I fully comprehend he is and always will be gone from this earth.

I just wish I hadn’t been so stubborn for I will never be able to take back all the times we butted heads or couldn’t come to an agreement on an issue, I’ll never be able to hear him tell me he is or was proud of me, never be able to apologize for the grief I gave him as a teenager. And yes I know I need to take it easy, and realize he had probably forgiven me long ago. I know, I have lived through death many, many times and it is what it is. But even after you put all that aside I think the hardest part for me is now that I have read this permanent record of decease, absorbed its significance, traveled back in time over the last several hours while sadly staring at the wall I come to the hardest part of this whole circle of life bullshit.

I no longer have a dad, and the little kid inside this aging man is crying his eyes out, holding a pillow across his face to muffle the tears wanting nothing more than his daddy to come home and play basketball with him one more time.

Just one more shot dad, it’s not dark yet I swear…….

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