The Grey Area

Over the last several years a strange phenomenon has occurred within my personality. It’s as though forces are conspiring against me to change who I am and how I think. On one side, my inner Betty feels as though I haven’t aged at all! Looking through these eyes, it’s really hard to believe that 50 is right around the corner because my brain still perceives our world with the wonderment of a 20 year old. On the other side wisdom garnered from age has taken hold, expanding my view points, quelling my youthful rage thus allowing me to become softer and gentler when it comes to this world’s constant bombardment upon my soul.

But something HAS changed. I really don’t believe it is a change solely within me. I believe whatever “it” is has been going on for a long time with little notice from the public. Similar to a small leaky pipe, nothing anyone notices at first then after time a small spot of condensation makes you think; hmmm, should probably take a closer look at that? More time passes and occasionally you stroll by the leaky pipe, noticing there is now a puddle. You think damn I really need to do something about this, yet you keep on without attempting a repair. One morning you wake up and the entire downstairs is flooded in three to four inches of water! What the Hell is your first thought! How did this happen! How do we fix this! The damage irreparable!!!! Its then you realize it was within you to make a small repair long ago when you had a chance. But you didn’t because it was time consuming, required effort, and you really couldn’t be bothered. You knew the right thing to do, you chose not to do it, hoping no one would notice and now it is costing you.

That change in us all for which I am speaking is known as living in “The Grey Area”.

When I was younger I did not notice this phenomenon as much probably because I pushed the envelope every chance I could without recognition of any wrong doing. Although lately it seems to me we as a society have let “the grey area” become more of a reality or fact than left as just that; a grey area of interpretation. Something for fodder, or a disillusioned discussion between participants without a clue. Now that I am older I have acknowledged we all know how to recognize a problem, to fix a situation as it arises or interpret right from wrong. We all know or should know the law and how it reads or is understood pertaining to almost any behavioral moment or simple civil situation. We all were taught or should have been taught the basics in regards to following rules/laws put in place for our own safety and or protection. Yet for some strange reason they no longer seem to matter anymore. For some strange reason it feels as though we are all working against ourselves, living within this grey area of life.

I will use the most simple of examples being a Californian.

The California stop

That’s right a grey area rule breaking motion that went from an occasionally seen abnormality usually kept to the slip of a brake pedal when approaching a stop sign to a repetitively normal operation perpetrated by almost every motorist on the road today! Don’t believe me? While filling your car with fuel, do so at a gas station corning a four way, two way or single stop sign intersection. Watch, just watch! I hedge to bet one in every ten cars actually stops, waits then goes. Even when other traffic is present each car will try their hardest to keep moving forward leading to a “me first” mentality! This is also extremely prevalent while driving our fire engine code three! I cannot tell you how many people pull out in front of my fire engine while we are enroute to someone’s emergency! The reason? They California stop the intersection! No look, no care about anyone else, just tap the brake and go! Once in my lane of travel with me rapidly slowing down, only then does said motorist wonder what that annoying sound is behind them, only to look, panic then pull off the roadway finally allowing our engine to pass!

Here is another example, unfortunately it has to do with driving again.

A newly minted driver can only carry family members as passengers for the first six months before being given the nod to terrify their friends with newly tempered driving skills.

Yet I cannot tell you how many kids I see rolling through our local high school parking lot whom I know personally have not crested the six month mark and are driving around with their friends! It’s now become a grey area! A standard for acceptance! The excuses usually sound like this; It is ok, only this once dad, really it will save you guys from having to pick us up later! Aren’t you glad my friends have their license, look at all the trips we’re saving you guys and all the other parents too!

How about underage drinking?

We drank as kids and survived right? So therefore it must be ok to further that wrong by allowing it for our kids! Plus it totally makes you the cool parent who really just has our children’s best interest in mind? Right? But in your “Grey Area” mind this theory only works as long as every child leaves their keys upon arrival to your casa party central! Wait I know how this plays out inside that Grey Area void! It is so a counter balance thing, you are countering the whole underage drinking issue that you created by keeping them from driving home drunk? Grey area wins again! Good for you sport; good for you!

It is the same with so many other issues as well, from politics to law enforcement, from raising your kids, to how we treat our educators, we continually are pushing those boundaries using these grey area themes as a crutch! We have behaved this way for so long many things have naturally become the norm! Unfortunately it’s allowing our society to morph into an incredibly self-centered and rude place that’s fracturing into separate cells! Our cascading inability to care for others or place others first because we have accepted our ability to do whatever we want as long as we don’t get caught is more prevalent than ever before! Yet when we do get caught we cite example after example of others prospering from the very same infractions as if their examples of getting away with things makes everything ok! No recognition of wrong doing because you were working within a grey area of interpretation.

All of this weighs heavy as I see it time and again, not just as a parent but in my job as well. If we are going to remain a civilized society centered of progression and not regression it is our responsibility to stand up and say enough is enough! No more television shows tearing us down with attacks upon women, children, race or gender. No more allowing our politicians to live under the standard of; do as I say not as I do! No more allowing people into public office who don’t uphold our countries constitution and that is from the local city mayor upward! We have laws for a reason, we have standards and ethics that must be followed, it our job as parents to instill these attributes upon our children and if we continue to give in at every sign of a bump in the road or transgression interned upon us then yes we will turn upon each other as simple little grey area’s here and there converge upon each other building into one dark giant nasty storm!

Then much like a tornado siren sounding after an F5 has hit the ground it will be too little, too late. All we will have left is a giant mess and many pieces to pick up.

 

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Michael J Fox ruined my life…

for love or money

Being a child of the eighties was something that well, only us children of the eighties fully understand. It was a time of freedom, rebellion, exploration, awesome music from all genre’s, cocaine and money. Lots of money. Ok lots of cocaine too but that’s neither here nor there! We as a nation oozed money, it poured from our skin like Don Johnson sexy sweat! Our country was thriving on a robust bond market, a sizzling hot Wall Street, real estate, and oil, black gold, Texas tea. Our parents (or so history would have you believe) were reaping the benefits of an administration that fostered free trade along with the opening of borders and capitalism. Dancing in the street led us all to be a bit Footloose.

A country had emerged from two decades of war, drought, protest, reform, political unrest and of course who could forget the gas crisis? Line after line of cars waiting, hoping there was still gas left when their turn arrived at the pump.

Our youth of the sixties fought racism, fought for woman’s equality and against war, people of the 60/70’s cared more about social reform than capitalism believing higher education created unequal social classes, while caring for one another through shared progress brought much higher rewards. Citizens struggled with the after effects of Vietnam and in doing so turned their backs on soldiers who were struggling mentally when they came back ashore. A recession in the 70’s showed us higher interest rates, and economic instability with most Americans struggling to earn enough money to survive. Our country was tired, emotionally spent having put forth so much effort in finding balance, only to be rewarded with a lying president (Nixon) who stepped down, cover-ups, just plain dirty politics and a new administration (Carter) that did nothing to create or foster stability.

I remember these times well. Worrying about how much money was left at the end of the week and where it should be utilized. Do we buy more gas that we can’t get or food for the table? My parents arguing about money and finances, over interest rates and fees, they were always working just to survive.

When things began to turn around in the eighties it became clear Americans were looking to become more self-involved as opposed to socially invested. Americans were looking for relief in any way shape or form. That relief appeared in the form of fantasy. But like many Americans Fantasy has a way of mimicking reality.

New television formatting arrived and with it shows like Dallas, and Dynasty were on top of the Nielsen ratings chart. Fading away was American staples like All in the Family, Chico and the man or the Jefferson’s; these shows broke new ground showcasing America’s struggle with diversity and acceptance. These shows handily worked at creating a better vison for America through entertainment. The eighties arrived and popular television shows turned self-centered, focusing on money, wealth, fast cars, lavish homes and expensive clothes. Changing the face of what America perceived as being American. Intertwined in this new gluttonous direction was a story line focused on the philandering practices of each cast member, showcasing a need for greed in both monetary and the flesh. We were a country desiring an escape. So many years of war, hate, death, struggle and need. The eighties came and took that from us each and every night corralled in either 30 or 60 minute segments.

As a child I too felt the pain. We never spent a lot on food, clothes or shoes. Food purchased was just enough to feed us in hopes dad had a good week on the road. (He was a salesman during this time) The change in the way I perceived how life should be lived came with a little family television show called Family Ties. It had everything I described above, as its two main characters were children of the 60’s now raising a family in an 80’s world. Struggling with a former social conscience while enveloping themselves in an emerging capitalistic society.

Their son Alex Keaton was an upstart young Republican, fighting against his parents democratic values, learning along the way that when you merge the two an amicable resolve can always be found. It peaked my interest as I identified with young Alex. A lad who didn’t have much but wanted more despite his parents trying to create a well-rounded giving child. It became my first taste of a capitalism fantasy.

That fantasy grew as most movies around this time also focused on the imaginary cash flow that Hollywood felt every American was living with during the Reagan era. Every high school film focused on kids coming from households either struggle or affluence. Either way you and your friends would end up driving BMW’s, Ferrari’s, Jeep Grand Cherokee’s and Porches. It was Weird Science but girls were at the ready and no one seemed to ever wonder where the money came from unless it was Risky Business. We all knew what pot held that cash! Of course if things didn’t work out the way you had planned there was always a Breakfast Club nearby to reignite friendships and ease your disturbed young mind. Or you could just have a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The world would stop, just for you because you were young, smarter than your parents and that combination always led to success.

But during this time as we emerged from high school wondering what awaited our young eager minds, we were not met with BMW’s or Ferrari’s, rich girls or money. I was met with three jobs, working hard just so I could find my Bright Lights Big City. It was hard and tiring, leaving me many times sleeping on the side of the road in my work truck, or in my own car at the back of my dad’s restaurant.

Why? Why did I work so hard? Because I had a dream. A dream to one day be successful, own a BMW, live in a giant mansion and become the Secret of my Success. Michael J Fox had shown me that it was as easy as being a part of a family that always did the right thing, having a dream, sneaking into a large company, assuming another’s identity while dating the boss’s wife or girlfriend then once inside the inner circle just woo many wealthy investors with you childlike wit and charm! Bam! Money and success are all yours!! On top of that if you have to choose For Love or Money you can’t lose! Education be damned! Our ambition will win out every time!!! It was the eighties remember!!! Michael showed me time and again through different directorial visions that is how it’s done!

Unfortunately my brain believed all this could be true and as I worked hard providing ideas while trying to prove that I was willing to go that extra mile, work 14-16 hours a day looking for just a snippet of financial excess. Something happened. The truth, I was nothing more than an employee. You see the movies and television told me hard work paid off, long days, endless hours helped you get noticed and ultimately afforded you a seat at the head table. But 90% of the time it does no such thing. Don’t get me wrong, you are valued, I never felt as though in some small way I wasn’t valued at the jobs for which I worked the hardest. But unlike what Michaels movies had taught me, there was no monetary reward at the end of a hard day. That to this day is held for the exceptional family member, investor or capitalist. Not the hard working outsider. Of course maybe I just didn’t work hard enough, or my ability to recognize opportunity wasn’t sharp. Either way I walked away with only the satisfaction of doing a good job. I only wish I hadn’t been brain washed to believe there was more. For that Michael J Fox you crushed me.

Today, I have an enlightened social conscience, a family that makes the Huxtables look lame and I am trying my hardest to instill a solid work ethic combined with education so when my four children hit the world after college they have an ability to choose between a capitalist lifestyle or a socially conscience one. Hey maybe I’ll have one of those children that can do both, you know that ultra-rare animal, the one that leaves you in awe whenever you gaze upon its presence; the philanthropist? One can only hope.

So as I creep up on my 50th year, struggling at times to make ends meet, still keeping just a slim hope that Michaels words, ideas and strategies might just pay off. I think; Fuck it!

In the end I could never stay mad at you Michael J Fox! I guess you really didn’t ruin my life and your movies allowed me to dream big. I try to share dreaming big with my children because of you and truth be told you are still one of the funniest actors I have ever seen. Hopefully my children can figure it all out. Succeed where I have failed. Heck someone has to take care of me when I get old, and they are not allowed to warehouse me in a convalescent home! I will not be put in an institutional Cocoon but prefer instead to be On Golden Pond.

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And so we say goodbye..

Quietly we slipped into town. It had been a while since I last stepped foot in my hometown of Sonoma California and as we meandered through streets filled with wandering tourists my memory tried hard to visualize this once peaceful quiet place as it was many years ago. This town still holds a certain charm, a quaintness which unfortunately now feels like a false front. Gone are homes actually owned and lived in by people downtown, instead each cute little cottage or early 1900’s home is filled with one type of business or another. Gone is that small town feeling where mom and pop mercantile line the plaza. Instead the city is surrounded by winery getaway bungalows, tasting rooms, restaurants, and high end hotels catering to those with wine adventures on their mind. Oh there are a few small business breweries, diners and stores but for the most part as you drive in it no longer has that small town charm but more of a high dollar Los Gatos feel.

The traffic was horrendous and as we pulled into Duggans for dads memorial service it was evident no one held an ounce of patience for driving across this very congested portion of the city leading to downtown. Standing outside for a moment before walking in to face family and friends I did soak up the Sonoma sun and smiled, remembering how blessed I was to grow up here. Something I have never taken for granted.

Once inside mom and I placed a few pictures around, made sure everything was in its place while beginning to welcome people with open arms. Last night I had decided for me at least this was not going to be a sad event. Dad wouldn’t have wanted that, besides I have learned over time there is no reason for us to cry or be sad. The only reason we cry is for ourselves, our own misery with someone we love being gone forever. Our loved one feels no pain, carries no worry and would only want those of us left behind to smile, remembering the good not the bad.

After many, many hugs, some wonderful conversation, and several well placed jokes we came inside and began the service. Our pastor was fantastic, light, charming and funny he brought a warmth and glow to this occasion that was desperately needed. Family sat in front and when it came time to speak, my mother did her very best to relay how she felt and followed up her recollections with directions for after the service.

Next it was my turn and I have to say, I was pretty nervous. I started with a joke. Dad and I had spoken on several occasions about memorials and funerals. Our running gag was never had either one of us heard a family member walk up to the podium, thank everyone for coming then slam their fist on the table, look the audience in the eye and say: John Doe so and so was a Son of a Bitch!!!! So that’s what I did by sharing that story! Thankfully the room laughed and just like that my nervousness melted away just a little. Pulling a prepared statement from my jacket pocket I cleared my throat, steadied my vocal chords and began to read:

What I learned from watching my father.

Many things can be said about Robert Franceschi

He was a charmer when need be.

A friend for life once you worked past his often times gruff exterior.

A hard worker

He loved 49r football

He was my dad

But it’s not the image he portrayed that matters to me, instead it is what he taught me from witnessing his actions as opposed to his words. For we know as young emotionally charged youth we fight against our parents every chance we get. Yearning for freedom of our own, to make our own decisions without help from our parents so called “words or pearls of wisdom”. No it’s what I witnessed, without words through silence filled deeds and actions that resonates so very deep within my soul.

From watching my father since the moment I can recollect his life lessons rang true, teaching me…

It’s never too late to re-invent yourself – Dad struggled and worked hard every day to support his family and even when things didn’t go his way he never gave up. We were never rich, often times just barely having enough money to get new school clothes was a burden but my dad did what had to be done and if that meant going from a salesman to a barn builder, a store owner to a restaurateur then that’s what he did. Was he scared? You’re damn right he was, but he always tried and it’s because of him that I have never been afraid to try something new, reinvent myself, morphing into a new side job or purpose and I will sell my last belonging to make sure my family always has what they need.

A love of animals- My dad loved animals, he loved horses, dogs, cats, birds and ostriches. Oh he complained like hell about them, especially my mom’s dogs! But when he wasn’t complaining and no one was looking that tough guy wall came down and he would sit with a dog/cat on his lap or a bird on his shoulder. When his last horse passed away he was devastated for as he put it; Goldpiece was the only one who listened to me anyways.. I love my horses, dogs, chickens, pigs and cats. They are part of my family and whenever they hurt, I hurt. It’s because of my father’s spirit for animals that I care about them as much as I do. I couldn’t imagine life without pets and livestock roaming our property. Whether for riding, petting or putting dinner on the table they are a huge part of our lives. And yes whenever that damn SPCA commercial starts and Sara McLaughlin begins singing while sad puppy eyes stare back at you through the tv screen well I am here to say you just may find it raining only behind my glasses.

To sing whenever possible. I know right? No one can picture my father standing tall in front of a crowd singing his heart out. Well he didn’t, but what I learned was no matter how difficult a day’s become when a song comes on the radio that you love don’t be afraid to belt it out! For you see many times I witnessed his day/mood go from bad to good with nothing more than a good country song and some alone time inside the Ford truck recording studio traveling down Hwy 12. The power of song is amazing, you don’t need to know how to sing or even sing well but for those two and a half minutes you are George freaking Strait and no one can take that away from you. I drive my kid’s nuts to this day singing every song that makes me happy as it billows from our cars speakers. When I am through I always have a slight smirk upon my face.

A genuine appreciation for the automobile. Dad loved cars, all kinds, makes and models and that love trickled down to me. From the time I could walk I can remember staring at this truck, crawling around in that car and listening to my dad tell stories about not having much money so one time he painted a car with a roller and brush. When dad purchased a restored 1936 Ford and brought it home it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. With its swoopy fenders, giant bug eye headlights and sparkling chrome grill that car was to me what was right with the world. Soon after a 1941 Mercury arrived and not long after that a 1921 Model T. The two latter cars are in my garage awaiting the day they will travel the roadways again with the same regal status they once held within their time. Nothing made my dad smile more than when he drove one of his old cars.

Nothing in this life is given to you and hard work pays off. Shake a man’s hand when you see him, look him in the eye, your word is more important than anything you possess. If not for watching him work the way he did while trying his best to keep things running at home I never would have learned the patience needed to understand the old adage of “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Yes you can risk it all by taking loans and building your place into the very best place it can be from day one. Or you can work hard, recycle materials and slowly, without debt build something from nothing, hopefully leaving some form of legacy for your children to inherit. I am working hard to teach my children those very same values.

And lastly but most importantly

Marriage isn’t easy- That’s right, marriage is in no way shape or form easy and if you believe it to be some fairytale story you are sadly mistaken. But what marriage is, is filled with mistakes, sometimes big ones! And with those mistakes also come huge successes, both of which help forge a bond between you and your significant other. Learning the ability to say you’re sorry so another doesn’t emotionally suffer and learn to accept apologies in return, forgiving all wrong doing while never holding a grudge. Giving of yourself wholly to your spouse and your family regardless of time, place or series of events. Remembering that someone you love, loves you back no matter what and with that love comes good times and bad, but it’s how we handle ourselves that create true memories lasting a lifetime. Not posed pictures hanging on a wall staged like a portrait session in the woods, but memories of moments alone, together, surrounded by smells, sounds and sights. From the moment you first met to your final kiss goodbye 55 years later. Marriage isn’t easy but done right, marriage is life fulfilling and holds rewards like no other….

I am sure there is a dozen or so more I could recite, but this is where it ends. I know he looks down upon us all, free from pain, free from his broken down body, free from stress and doubt. I pray his spirit sends a sign to my wife so she feels his comfort, knowing he is alright with her not being here to help celebrate his life. I pray he is surrounded by old friends, family and those he cherished. I pray he feels our love and rests easy knowing we are ok, for sadness knows no place when your job here on earth is done.

We celebrate who he was and the legacy he left behind.

I love you dad…

When it was over I was relieved. Sitting down and listening as my Aunt and Uncle spoke, then watching as our former neighbor stood in front and said something that rang so true of my dad. If I was ever in a fight I would want Bob right behind me. Along with; Bob always did the right thing. That indeed was my dad. To hear it from another adult male figure from my young adolescent life was indeed fulfilling. Dad always did the right thing, no matter the cost and if you ever witnessed my fathers rage then you definitely knew you wanted that man in your corner when the shit hit the fan. Not because his anger was a dangerous thing but because as stated prior, dad always did the right thing. That extended to his ability to control and corral that anger, putting it to good use when the moment arose. Usually leaving a UPS driver or two with a need for an underwear change should they be found guilty of speeding on our road.

At the end of the day we had a very nice lunch at Rossi’s, it was such a pleasure to see so many faces from our past. The ability to reconnect, tell tall tales, have a few laughs while surrounded by so many special family members and friends will keep my heart warm for a long time to come.  Its just to bad that life has engulfed us so, that we may only see each other at weddings or funerals.

Either way thanks to all those who gave up their Saturday to pay tribute to my father. I know he was looking down, smiling and wondering just who in the hell was going to pay for the whole damn thing!

God Bless you all..

Tomorrow the adventures continue as the Franceschi clan loads up and heads to Saratoga to spend the day with their mother…

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Every minute of every second of every day…….

 

I have not written in a while and for that I apologize. Today while thinking about my children, watching the news and looking into the eyes of some of our youth. This came to me. I don’t know what it means, but once I started typing I could not stop.

Every minute of every second of every day, we grow older. Life moves before us at an astonishing rate, faster than our minds are able to fully comprehend. In reality we stand frozen facing the hourglass of life, witnessing what appears as agonizing seconds, thunderous ticking of a tock, movement that seems to stand still as life revolves at a pace that is not to our liking and yet we breathe.

Breathing an absurdity that is our arrogance. For as we breathe we continue to expire and yet no reality of decay meets comprehension. It is within our egotistic nature to face the hands of time and laugh. Laugh through our young mouths as we expire, laugh with our condescending young minds as we inhale, laugh and laugh some more, for we fear not what may lay ahead when youth is our only guide. We fear not what lies ahead when youth is our only means, we fear not what lies ahead for we have never known otherwise.

Every minute of every second of every day we are older, we are wiser, and once age has gripped us tightly we slowly become irrelevant. The youth of this world hears not what we say, they hear not what we have to offer, and they fear not the repercussion of blind foolishness. Though we have learned through experience, though we know from pain, though we still struggle with suffering, we have mentally surrendered to the tick tock, we stand brave faced into the hands of time ignoring what we could never have known and yet we are to be considered by youthful brigades as obsolete.

Breathing in we struggle with ignorance of youth along with an hypocrisy that is born of our own. For through inspiration knowledge falls away, sloughing from the skin of an aged arm, what little remains unused, thrown to the wind by the deafness of youth. Exhalation of life reveals that our future is of our own making; its remnants left from advice unheard throughout our journey of youth. Elders ignored, a blind eye turned to the very history we were scorned for not abiding.

The world, our future, our children’s future can never be realized until the hand of youth joins with the strength of age. Youthful creativity meeting elderly knowledge, young love and passion mixed with aged temperance, wide-eyed exuberance with sometimes narrow but skilled guidance. One melded with another, not two separate living beings fighting for space and time to no real conclusion.

Every minute of every second of every day we grow older, and unless we understand a world will always turn, a day will turn to-night and then to-day again and soon what came from nothing will return to nothing. There will never be a unified progression.

We all leave this world with only what we chose to share.

I choose to share love, wisdom, peace and tolerance for all. Some days are harder than others, the fight for tolerance on all levels is tough, but I have been guided by many great people who imparted wisdom that remains heard though they are gone. Hopefully my children or the youth, will understand, listen and realize that one day they too will be older, they must share, understand and guide others.

For every minute of every second of every day will soon be over.

What else do I have to leave behind, what else do we all have to leave behind but love?

 

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2015- I cant wait to meet you.

AND NOW A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE…

On January 1, 2014 I wrote this piece, posting it on the 2nd. My 2015 post is at the bottom of the page..

The Face of Leukemia 2014

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2014 Day 1……..

364 days to live.

364 days to wake up every morning, count our blessing and live. 364 days to write a new and exciting story! You see my dearies pontificating New Years resolutions involving the standard fare of weight loss, higher education, finding love, spending more time with our children, adding onto the house, finding a better job, saving more money, vacationing more, visiting family and friends and so on and so on is just not my style this year. But watching my wife live is.

364 days, until I can count 365 more days of life lived, 365 days written into the history books of our family. Cancer has this funny way of cheating you from a reality lived by so many others, changing the way your life story is told.  Cancer also has a way of sticking in your craw like an annoying persons laugh or an itch you just cant scratch.  It’s there, no one else can see it, no one else can feel it, only those who have it, or love someone burdened by it understand, yet the rest of the world just goes on with its business of worrying about resolutions for which a majority will sadly never achieve.

A new year a new fear.

We are winning this battle! Jacys superwoman body has done incredibly well! The last bone marrow draw showed no signs of Leukemia swimming in her blood, lurking in the darkness like an evil monster. Consolidation therapy starts on Monday and she will begrudgingly return to the hospital for 5 days of chemotherapy.  Her strength is back, she is feisty as ever, feeding horses in the morning and an occasional walk in the afternoon! (rumor has it she was spotted jogging on a levee, but its only a rumor) The next round of therapy will knock her down again and from what we understand recovery gets harder each time she finishes a session. She will come home weaker and a little sicker. Chemotherapy is not for the light-hearted, these patients (my wife included) are my heroes as I have witnessed the strain it places on the human body.  Yet Super Jacy has never deterred from her mission. Kicking cancers ass one cell at a time!

A fear still remains though. What if it (Leukemia) comes back? What if her white blood cell count doesn’t recover? What if she catches a common cold during these periods, (something that could kill her) what if?????? These are fears we will live with for the rest of our lives.  Every cough that arises, every sniffly nose, every fever, every-time she feels run down, for the rest of her life she will need to go have blood drawn and see the doctor. 3 more times to go, 3 more week-long sessions, three more weeks of hell.  In the end, a small price to pay to live. Jacy promised me she loved me enough to beat this, she is keeping her word.

Day 1…. Today began our 2014 journey and Jacy spent it the only way she knew how.

It was a day filled with visiting friends, making her children laugh, planning a birthday party for her son and wondering whether or not to shave the small patches of hair fighting against the laws of chemistry. Little strands hanging on for dear life, trying their very best to make my wife look like a chia pet. Biggest decision of the day? Shave the head or let those little hairs grow only to meet an untimely death in 4 days.

With the beginning of a new year I wonder about the thousands of other spouses, significant others, and children all living and loving someone close to them with Leukemia. I worry about the ones who struggle to support their loved ones without the means of expression such as writing brings to me.  Do they lay in bed at night afraid of the darkness, wondering how long, why them, all while scooting a little closer to the one they love just to feel their body heat. Are they ok, do they know its ok to feel the way they feel, can they find peace? I am sure they do and I am just rambling, but its in my nature to worry about everyone and everything.

So welcome 2014! I welcome you with open arms (and Betty’s arms are plenty big enough) for the hug of a lifetime! 2014 we hope you are filled with many misadventures, happiness and love! But most of all 2014, we pray you don’t leave us reeling like your bastard predecessor 2013 did! But if you do, not to worry, the story you tell will be interesting none the less…

364 days… The story begins right now…

images-18And what a story the year 2014 became.

2014 was indeed a year of highs and lows and yes I embraced it all with open arms.

Leukemia, sickness, emergency rooms, a torn up knee, a hurt back, a bum shoulder, my horse injured yet again.  An old friend lost while other old friends struggled to understand why?

A senior headed off to college, a Freshman headed to Nationals for rodeo, a daughter no longer scared of horses and trying her hardest to train them herself. A littlest son, discovering his love for art, painting, drawing, and creating.

Hundreds of new friends, family members united, a wife who Kicked Cancers Ass and cheated death!

2014 was indeed a challenge; it has left myself feeling many years older than my earthly age. I am tired, worn, raw, broken and quite frankly even though there were scattered good times, very glad to see it go!.  This year found me working hard at remaining mentally strong throughout the first half while floundering physically during the second half. It was indeed a struggle to keep a positive attitude at times, but thankfully I had an entire village of people supporting me, something I will never forget.

Highs and lows, isn’t that what its all about? Highs and lows?  We travel this pathway of life learning, absorbing, growing and hoping one day we understand what it all means. Changing, evolving, sculpting our little piece or niche that we can point to and claim as our own, our destiny, our end game.

I don’t know what’s in store for this year 2015. So many things swimming in my head about life, the future and what it may or may not hold for myself and our family. What direction our lives should take, both personally and professionally. What lays around the corner, hiding in the darkness? Are more demons waiting to rear their ugly heads, further terrify our souls or is this family finally going to see a silver lining surrounding us for some time to come? My fingers remain crossed…

Either way there is one thing I know for sure, I am and always have been a believer in new beginnings; that each day you arise from slumber a fresh day awaits you like a clean chalkboard, an empty etch a sketch, or a blank canvas just waiting for your creation.  No matter the pain felt inside, no matter the physical or mental limitations holding you down, and no matter the baggage carried by others in your name. A new day awaits. But one must remember, with a new day comes a responsibility to create, otherwise it is just that and nothing more. Only your vision achieved through hard work and positive thinking can mold an unforgettable day, a brighter week and eventually with time and practice a spectacular year.

No one can hand you these skills, no one can will you an outcome, steal success for you or force you into making changes you need to succeed. Just you, only you, and only through an ability to let go of the past and look forward to a brighter future.

So even though I am tired, worn, raw and broken, a new year is on the horizon and with it, anticipation for 364 more days of creation…

Betty thanks you for following me in 2014 and wishes you all the very happiest of New Years…. 2015 here we come!

 

The man in the mirror, the dad staring back….

man in the mirror

Every day starts out exactly the same. Rising from my bed, a slow shuffle carries my hurting body into a bathroom where I come face to face with the one person I fight with the most.

Me.

It doesn’t matter whether I am at work or home, this process is exactly the same. Some days I like this person more than others, but for the most part we argue and fight constantly. I don’t know where my inner animosity arises but it is a part of who I am, what I will become and it stands in the way of every decision ever made in my life.

And I wonder.

Am I the only person fighting this inner fight? There is no guide book to a person’s life. Yes there are numerous books one may immerse themselves in to obtain information, but a reality remains that we as human beings spend our entire lives accumulating information making informed or by the gut decisions. Then we log our successes or failures away in that little brain of ours for which we only use a tenth of its actual power only to repeat the process all over again. Some will triumph and some will continue to flounder, drowning in the very mediocrity forced upon ourselves through a lack of conviction and confidence. Many will rise above, hearing the honesty associated with help offered while others will hear only what they want to hear. The wall of pride and stubbornness combined with an ever increasing annoying little voice in a man’s head telling them when they to look in the mirror; they are doing it all wrong!

I am a combination of both.

Pride, unearned, inexperienced, accumulated pride has kept me from growing to a potential that for some strange unexplained reason I know is within my reach. So how do I overcome this mountain placed before me?

There is a yearning deep inside my soul to help people, it has always been there, whether through deeds or a good story which may make them smile. My need to make someone feel better, help them through a crisis, fix a problem and carry their weight has indeed been a blessing and a curse all at once.

Since I was a small child fear ruled my life. The fear of failure, embarrassment or someone calling me out publicly kept me largely in the shadows. As I grew I found storytelling to be a release from the doldrums of my normal life. Real stories, occasionally twisted and spun with colorful exaggeration enticing a listener to pay attention, find something they could relate too or swim within the humor associated. As an adult there was more than storytelling needed as I began to feel a yearning to “walk the walk” instead of merely talking the talk. More action, challenges, more times I was told; you can’t. This of course only drove me to prove not only “I could” but I could do it better and faster sharing my experiences along the way hoping to entice others into taking a chance.

Writing came back into my life (Thank you Pam Adams SVHS creative writing teacher) and awakened something left for dead a long time ago. Words, the English language, a glorious medium to share, read, listen in one’s own voice and learn. Where else but through the written word can one interpret their very own story or piece of advice and come away with a mental picture that belongs solely to them? Definitely not by having it prepared for the recipient by a producer or videographer. That is left for the movie makers who wish us to just sit and absorb. Never questioning what we are witnessing with our eyes, for we are their captives, listening, absorbing exactly what ever feeling, emotion or storyline they the producers wish us to walk away with. Slowly becoming mindless drones.

So here we are today. Before I sat down, I was yearning for a story, any story, I have over ten written and carefully placed in file and yet not a one of them in my opinion are good enough for anyone else’s eyes. Walking into the bathroom to wash my hands before sitting down this afternoon and type, I find myself staring once again at the man in the mirror. A Walter Mitty like expression cast upon my face. But what does this man staring back want from me?

It is a known fact this man doesn’t have all the answers, he stares back with the very same intensity thrown his direction. Brow scrunched down, eyes on fire, wrinkles now taking the place of what was once smooth, chubby skin. He no longer feels any burden to prove anything to anybody but instead wants desperately to help someone, anyone, learn from all his mistakes (and there are plenty). The argument begins! How do I do it, why do I want to share and does anybody really care?

Then like a slap across the face it comes to me; what if there were fathers like myself, men staring in the mirror trying to find an answer, tired of listening to educated prophets explain what their inner most thoughts should be. Exactly how you are supposed to behave, picking roads you are supposed to travel, explaining the experiences and stages of life you are supposed to partake. What if dads or soon to be dads just wanted to hear from someone who has experienced portions of life that in fact may relate to them on a more personal level? Made mistakes and found answers the HARD way and although success is a measurement only you as a person can scale. Maybe just maybe someone might learn something that sounds reasonable. Not contrived or demeaning.

Stories and advice that are important and ring true; not because someone holds a Master’s degree and spent $100,000.00 dollars doing so (something I haven’t nor ever will do). But advice given and received in turn from someone simple, someone struggling, someone who believes the best knowledge gleaned comes from a hands on approach, a set of listening ears and a kind heart.

Someone who stares into the distance and wonders why?

That is what drives me to write, what I personally want to share, and that is why I started this blog, started chronicling the journey my family has taken through my eyes.

Please share your experiences on my blog, please share so others may share too. My wish is one day this blog has so many dads, moms, parents talking and expressing themselves over every decision, choice, rant, story involving our lives, our children that we can all laugh, cry and share our time as one, as a virtual family, then maybe there will be a few less men staring in the mirror, looking at the deep lines in their faces and the grey hair upon their heads wondering if they have done it all right.

The man in the mirror will be someone they really want to see…

man in the mirror two

 

#dads, #stayathomedads,#sharinglife

It’s time to get UP!!!!

 

 

dogs

Every morning starts the same in our little ranch house. My wifes alarm goes off at 5am….

(long pause for effect)

Now having an alarm clock rattle off at 5am is nothing spectacular, it happens in millions of homes across this great nation everyday. Hard working people groping in the dark for a pause button, sliding their feet onto the floor, struggling to find the light switch. Wandering around unfocused they are, until that first cup of jo hits the lips, (ahhh so good) then begrudgingly getting on with  their day. Off it into the land of commuter travels or out to start feeding at the crack of dawn a new day welcomes them all.

What happens in our house though, this morning I found rather amusing. Yes it has been happening forever, and no I have no idea why it took until this particular morning for it to hit my funny bone just right. But this morning it did.

So as most of you know, my wife and I take rescue dogs from the SPCA that need a “final” evaluation before meeting Mr. Doggie Reaper.  It is an amazing thing to handle a dog who has lost their mind living in San Francisco (I know goes without saying huh?) and watching them turn around to become cheerful loving animals after a couple of days running free across 40 acres. Humans do it all the time; leave the city and head out into the country, I believe they call it “camping”? After some work and a specified period of time is even more amazing when they are re-homed and we see them popping up on FB living it up with their new families. It, as can be expected is also sad when they fail and there is no hope for change;  yet we rest easy knowing it would be sadder still if they were never given a chance/a opportunity at life.

Every Morning as I stated earlier my wifes alarm goes off at 5am.  Every morning at 5:01am the dogs, which by the way are almost 50 yards away from the house begin barking like crazy! It drives us nuts and we always worry about it bothering our neighbors. Now we have joked between us that somehow these furry heathens know we get up at 5am, somehow these mutts can sense it is 5 freaking am and we need to get our sorry asses out of bed to come get them.  What the holy hell? Cant they just let it be for 15 minutes so we could at least make a feeble attempt at hitting the snooze button? But ohhhh nooooo; 5am alarm goes off and at 5:01 so do the dogs! BARK-BARK-WOOF FREAKING WOOF!IMG_1186

Until this morning I had no clue what was up. How this could be, I know dogs are smart, but even when it is a fresh lot of new ones this happens.  How on earth do they know?Then like a ton of bricks it hit me. Some mornings when it is new dogs the barking is not that bad, a bark here, a bark there, but right now we have three bird dogs and a cattle dog out there and it is off the freaking hook! It has been since day one!  Hmm three bird dogs and a cattle dog??? What could it be????

Oh yes I failed to mention my wifes alarm is the sound of BIRDS HOLLERING, SQUAWKING, CHIRPING, HONKING, WHINING, SQUEAKING AND EVERY OTHER SOUND A BIRD CAN MAKE!!!! IT SOUNDS LIKE THE FREAKING AMAZON JUNGLE MIXED WITH A DUCK BLIND!

HOLY SWEET MOTHER MARY JOSEPH! THAT’S IT!!!!

It is no wonder these dogs are going crazy at 5:01, it hunting time! Its time to chase the elusive fine feathered friend! Its game time and these mutts are no longer sitting on the bench! Riding the Pine, keeping the kennel warm! No sir, the sound of my wifes alarm reverberating at decibel level 9 through our always open bedroom window which faces the kennels is the starting pistol to their local track race! The green flag has waved and the race is on! It’s no wonder they act like fish in a feeding frenzy, zombies stuck on a fence looking at fresh meat, children 30 seconds before the end of school! These poor thoroughbred bastards are in the starting gate just waiting for a bell, the GO sign! And that is just what they get! Birds! The sounds of Birds! Lots of birds! different kinds of birds, styles of birds, just one full minute of birds, teasing them with every smooth fake synthetic, sound! The most primal of instincts, jarred awake from deep inside every dog that graces our door! Simple recognition for the ever aware bird dog. But for the new dog who has lived its entire life within the confines of an apartment, surrounded by hordes of people even when traversing the wide open spaces (sarcasm) of a city park, these sounds must be like the equivalent of a persons “first” high! That feeling when the buzz sets in from a shot of whiskey or what ever choice of poison your body prefers! (not judging)

cooper

 

Yep it all makes perfect sense now. I can rest at ease every morning no longer feeling anger for their stalwart commitment. It is not the dogs fault for their tuned up crazy behavior, it is ours. Like dangling a donut in front of a group of cops or a bucket of ice cream to a hoard of firemen. There is just no stopping the horrific aftermath.

Birds….

 

My little angel might be no angel at all…

What you are about to read is an opinion; it is not a solution, it is based upon expressed emotions pondered for a specific amount of time. We (as a society) are allowed opinions afforded us through the first amendment to the United States Constitution. Although we are afforded these rights, I will never abuse that privilege. I have and always will take very seriously what ever opinion is put forth by my ever spinning brain.

I purchased a laptop, and promised stories would continue, I wrote a few relatively funny snippets about parenthood but just could not bring myself to post them. Why? Life got in the way, and my sense of humor has been affected.

Over the past couple of weeks since posting my last story a multitude of events have transpired both locally and nationally  leaving me wondering what the hell?

  1. A warning comes down from the federal government stating that ISIS is now looking at soft targets.  That is right; no longer are we safe in our homes as operatives are now individually targeting military personnel, (first and foremost) police officers, politicians and firefighters.  We now have terrorism at its very core.  When you become afraid to post with pride what you do for a living through social media, walk out your front door, and fear for your family’s safety.  Our country has a serious problem. Note I said “fear” because that is the root of terrorism. It may never happen, it probably will never happen, but the fear is always there, always present.  For this I have no comment other than to shake my head in sadness for our country.
  2. School shooting in Washington.  We have all read or watched the reports.  Teenage boy gets together with his closest friends during lunch like he does everyday then pulls a gun from his backpack and proceeds to shoot them in the back, in the middle of the cafeteria, with all to see.
  3. Teenager walks towards a high school, back pack containing a handgun and several rounds of ammunition.  A friend of said teenager feels comments he made the previous day are of concern, notifies school administrators that this teenager had in fact made credible threats in regards to coming to school and shooting several individuals, including a teacher that very day. (this is all para-phrased) Long story short-cops look for teenager, teenager finds them first unloading several rounds into unsuspecting patrol car, barely missing the police officer inside. Short chase ensues, face off happens, teenager ends up with a superficial wound after being shot (public knowledge) by police.
  4. A young girl decides she has had enough.  After some discussion with her mother she disappears from home, the police are called and a missing persons report is filed. What no one knows or could have known was this girl proceeded to walk towards the train tracks and step boldly in front of a 70mph Amtrak train. I say boldly because it takes a certain amount of resolve/inner pain to willingly step in front of a moving train. It makes me nauseous just thinking about it.  It was my shift, my guys responded to the incident, and all though it is not the first time nor will it be the last time for our crew dealing with such a morbid scene along the railway. It has forever changed the face of suicide for each and every one of us. Her reasoning for taking her life stemmed from bullying.

These four things all happened with in the last few weeks.  I have screamed at the television, written a few things in regards, decided the tone was all wrong and deleted the subject matter. I as have all of you, have sat patiently while political pundits cast stones in all directions away from any responsibility their own party may bear.  I am frustrated, confused, disgruntled and angry! As a parent it makes no sense to me why we can’t create solutions! Instead we all sit by as the news media (who cares not one bit about finding an answer through non bias reporting, but instead thrives on ratings and if there are none then the story disappears forever) gnaws on the raw meat that is our emotions. My emotions are raw as well. I have pondered and pondered, written and as I stated before, erased. My blog has always been about my life, the life of my family, the fun and exasperating moments along the way. I never want anything on my page to become a political debate as it takes away from the fun.  Unfortunately this is still about my family as I have been affected personally by each of these 4 stories. Number #1 is self-explanatory. The shooting in Washington, #2, only in relation to #3 as my crew responded to this incident, and the “what if’s” rolled fast and furious afterwards. What if he made it to the school? What if-it turned into a mass shooting are we prepared? What if- my son was one of the victims could I have continued to do my job? Number #4 was also my crew and opened my eyes to what is out there, pulling my head from the sand and re-evaluating my own personal responsibility when it comes to our children. Remember these are only my opinions, and although many may disagree I am open to any conversation that is held respectfully on these topics.

  1. More gun laws- More gun laws are not the answer. I would like to say they are but they are not. The answer: allow our police officers to do their jobs, then hold the courts accountable for not upholding the strictest of sentences when these laws currently in place are broken!!! We don’t ever hold our court system accountable! It amazes me that a drug offense is stricter than a gun violation. Our country screams for justice, why are we not starting with the justice system! We knee jerk react instead of planning for the future in turn we allow another idiot politician to revel underneath his own fodder, founding a bill in their
    name so he/she can pat him/herself on the back a little more.  Here is another idea, how about a revision of all laws currently on the books in regards to guns? I bet there are many that are redundant or have no bearing what so ever in this supposed civilized society! Listen people a sign at school that says this is a no gun zone doesn’t mean shit to an angry person hell-bent on vengeance.  And if it’s not a gun, then maybe its a crossbow, or a knife or what ever that angry person is using in the commission of a crime. Hell a weapon is not a description used solely for guns as the news media would have you believe! A weapon is any object used in the commission of a heinous act.  I get it, put up the sign which creates another charge added to the suspect, but that leads us back to my original complaint! Our justice system. Now before you get angry with me, I am neither pro-nor anti gun.  I am for reasonable people making reasonable decisions when it comes to our future as a society. Something I feel we have lost.
  2. Bullying- Ok so we have all been bullied at one time or another in our lives. If you have read any of my stories than you know in high school I was a bit mouthy (yes that means I bullied a time or two as well).  Got myself into trouble and at times ran scared (being bullied in return).  The ability to handle those situations and learn from them is what made me the person I am today, it developed my character.  We as parents cannot protect our children from everything and at some point they (our kids)  need to learn to stand up for themselves, hopefully with our help and guidance. Although that all sounds good and fine, it is not happening, the problem lies with our current way of living, our social structure, the need for rapid gratification! What is the problem, the root cause you ask?  Social media and a severe lack of respect! Not just for others, but for ourselves! Our children are not equipped for what lays in wait for them on the internet, like a wolf hiding in grandmas dress waiting for little red riding hood to come through the door, so does the internet. We have provided our children with too much! To much freedom, too much trust, to many  electronic gadgets with windows to a world we just can’t keep shut from prying eyes! Television shows  that exemplify treating your best girlfriends like shit, talking behind their backs, having sex as a social status in school! Teenage girls portrayed as sluts, hookers, meat for young boys to have anyway they wish and whenever they want! And if you don’t give it up, you are anonymously trashed on every social media site available! FB, Yik Yak, KIK, Snap-chat all there to post how she was a slut, what degrading acts you performed on her (or really didn’t but by lying about it you keep your rep), why she should sleep with your friends-oh hello snap-chat! Here is a picture of her naked everyone, I took it with my cell phone camera! I promised I wouldn’t show any one, but I lied! Also On the Snap-Chat front, girls willingly sending pictures of their boobs to boys! What the hell! It’s no wonder bullying is such a problem! Dont believe me?                               I will use Yik-Yak as an example. I downloaded the app, set my geographical area to the center of my town, within one hour I knew where to go for drugs, who was looking to score, what girls were hoes (yes I even knew a few of them) whose ass was so hot it needed to be (one boys own words) POUNDED! I now know the description of several shapes of a penis’, the detailed description of both what its like having inter-racial sex and sex between boys, what group everyone wants to kill at school, who the hottest teacher is everyone wants to sleep with, and so one. And I really mean SO ON!!! Oh and let me add I only chronicled the boys here, the girls are just as descriptive, mouthy and vile. As a parent I have never been so disgusted by what I read in a very short period of time.  Did we talk this way as teenagers 35 years ago? Hell yes we did, not to the extreme I am reading here, but yup! It happened. The difference is it was between us, our small group, done in person and if you crossed the line it was handled then and there, either with apologies afterwards or some smoothing over that took a few weeks.  Today they are all hidden behind a veil of secrecy, they can say what they want without retribution, it gives them power! It creates monsters that have no repercussion for their actions. The ones with no conscience, or parental guidance will only grow bigger and stronger until someone decides they have had enough, choosing to step in front of a train as their only option, as opposed to seeking help, receiving that help and living.

Unlike the gun control debate where I only provide a suggestion; I think I have a solution to help us begin to conquer our social media related troubles.

  • We can start by eliminating cell phones from campus.  I am sorry your little angel is at school and you need to get ahold of them right now, but guess what? THEY ARE AT SCHOOL!!!! We didn’t have cell phones at school in my day and our parents got along just fine without us! If little Johnny needs a message from you then go through the office! Its called the chain of command. Something we use to a T in the fire service.  If you don’t allow your school to guide and control the motions and activities of your child while they are on campus then you are circumventing the system and empowering your child. You are telling your child they are more important than the lesson being provided which in turn takes away from the respect due towards the instructor inside the classroom.  Eliminate phones and you eliminate distractions, kids texting kids, taking pictures, surfing the internet. Dont tell me your little one would never do that, because I guarantee if given the chance they will. If we can’t take them away (cell phones) maybe just as a few of these social apps restrict their use while near a school campus, we jam all cell signals within the same specified area, neutralizing the temptation. Just a thought.
  • Mandatory bullying class- a class taught by adults, sharing their experiences being bullied. Bullying doesn’t just happen to children, it also happens to adults, if we are to become this great civilized society, an example to all around the world then why aren’t we educating ourselves in regards to the destructive nature of bullying.  Why are we not recognizing the life long damage it can create? Why are we not empowering the weak, celebrating the strong and bringing them all closer together.  Our society currently crushes the weak, watch any teenage show on Disney and prove me wrong. We are teaching our children to cast them aside instead of standing up, protecting them, and showing compassion. Our children, parents and siblings should be supportive, creating change, providing a better society that thrives on pushing forward mankind, people’s rights and ability to thrive. It sounds nice I know, I also know we can’t save everyone, but education has and always will be the key.

So there it is, its off my chest. Like me or hate me, agree or disagree. I felt it had to be said. I am tired of fearing for our world and what we as adult are allowing to happen. I am just as guilty as the next person. My children are just like yours and given the same opportunities will follow the very same paths without proper guidance from their mother and me.  In the end, it comes down to this, we are trying our hardest to raise respectful, well-rounded children who understands the needs of others. It’s a hard enough job parenting with both of us working multiple jobs and running from one kids sporting event to the next, but it is what we signed up for and we all need a little help now and again.  I also never want to see another young child take their life, or see a kid who is so frustrated they feel killing someone or there fellow students is the answer. Because it never is.

Betty is sad………

 

Lip Foliage

kid stacheIt started out strangely enough as an act of laziness.  It had been 4 days since my last encounter with a razor, the face had become stubbly and rough.  There was no ill-intent, no malice aligned discord, no social stance of support or injustice to be had. Instead it became nothing more than a middle-aged man deciding he just didn’t want to shave anymore.  Besides, it could never happen anyways, my entire life at one point or another had been spent trying to grow one! Secretly hoping and praying as a lad that one hair would turn into two, two to four and four to a five-o’clock shadow!

So with the skill of a veteran barber from the old neighborhood I shaved it all…..except what lay conspicuously over my upper lip.

Maybe this time will be different I thought! Maybe it will grow and look really cool? Yeah…. Cool like Clint Eastwood or no wait; super cool like Rollie Fingers, Tom Selleck, or maybe even Wyatt Earp!! Oh yeah I could see it now, laying there across the upper regions of my mouth, big, bold, so tough it carries its own zip code! That’s it, I must try! But WAIT!! Do I quaff this soon to be surely beast with the stylish subtleties of a Ron Burgandy or stretch her out sly and snakey with a hint of country charm like Sam Elliot? So many choices, such inner excitement at the mere prospects laying before me!

Over the next few weeks every morning I rose from bed, walked into the bathroom and carefully started cultivating my follicular garden of manliness! I am not sure if I could really witness its progression or wanting it to finally happen so badly was allowing my vision to become superhuman! Zeroing in on one hair after another choosing them for a specific length, size and girth! But there I stood, staring, combing, wondering, if this would be the day? Oh don’t get me wrong, I had tried many times in the past, only to feel like a freak show! A clump of hair here, a spike or tuft there, some of it red with Irish rage and other portions brown with a Caucasian curse.

Inevitably they all met the same fate, to spikey, to scattered, to ragged; all of their untimely ends were met at the hands of Gillette.

Then one day I woke up, made my way into the bathroom as I had done so many times before, partook in the very same ritual as any other day, but this time I could see it without the light on!! Yep that’s right, a natural wonder in the making, right there, just under the confines of my inhalation portholes, perched upon the ledge of a saliva sanctuary, running down both sides of the devils curl lay what I had been dreaming of since puberty!

My very own mustache!!!

And not just any mustache mind you, a super MANLY mustache, the kind of mustache that makes women quiver and men perish from envy! (not really it just sounded good) Best part? It was mine!! A fine cross between Sam Elliot (Ok if Sams was a little smaller and well not quite as thin) and Officer Dangle from Reno 911 (but only in color, not the whole looks like Ned Flanders thing)! Yes sir this thing, much like an unattended garden was owning my face!!! It felt great! It felt AWESOME! Like; like I should ride a horse with a cowboy hat on (oh wait I already do that) or maybe throw on a “cut’ grab my Harley and ride!! (Hmm I kind of do that too) Gosh I really feel like I am not getting anywhere here? Maybe, it’s cool enough I can finally be in a band? Yep that’s it, new cool handlebar mustache obviously means I should be in a band! Right! There are lots of cool singers with big burley manly mustaches like this one! Let’s see, I know there are at least a couple? Think…. Think….

I got it! Freddie Mercury Yeah that’s it!!! He got tons of looks with his mustache! It made him cool! Didn’t it? Ok he was kind of wafey looking, and a little pale. Hmm. How about Frank Zappa? No, no maybe not so much, he was kinda weird too. Or Hey that Biker dude (Glenn Hughes) from the Village People! Yeah that’s still kind of cool isn’t it? Isnt it?? Man maybe not so much….

I know!! I can look like a FIREMAN!! FUCK!!!!!! I have got that one nailed and I didn’t even need a mustache!!!

Huh? What the HELL was I thinking?

After all those years of trying, having a mustache just wasn’t that great. The dog growls at you, the kids think you look weird, everyone greets you with “hey what’s that on your face?” Which is usually followed with the obligatory; Ah yeah man it looks, ah it looks g r e a t? And last but not least the wife stops kissing you. Something about having a brillo pad rubbed across her lips while a porcupine simultaneously wrestles with her cheeks! I don’t know the kisses felt the same to me.

So in the end my great mustache went the way of all my other feeble attempts, landing one grainy strand at a time in the bottom of a bathroom sink, taking all hopes of testosterone filled adventures and adoration from those around me with it.

All I am left with for reflection is a quote by the great scholarly mind of one Mr. Peter Griffin; with great Mustache comes great responsibility.

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Sadly I just wasn’t up to the task…..

mustache

When did I become the “old guy”

fire 13

Silence interrupted by deafening sounds created within a brain refusing to disengage from endless chatter bleeding forth through a radio stationed not far from where my head lays motionless. A county never sleeps, fire departments responding here, rushing there, fellow brothers and sisters not even being afforded the very moment my stupid brain will not allow me to enjoy. Head filled with echo’s of each and every call they’re responding too, returning from or currently enveloped. Where is my family? Are they home yet? Which district boundary are they traveling through? Or have they nestled peacefully into bed? Whose family is wondering the very same thing without the same general knowledge my ears are so privy too at this very moment? It is my curse, my sleepless, frustrating, torturous curse.

Then it happens, as it has thousands of times during my 19 years of service, the warble tones scream, letting everyone know to cease radio traffic for another 911 call is being dispatched, you wait and wonder? Will it be our tones? Is it our turn? And then our tones ring, forceful and true, setting off a chain of events that could only be described as a technological ballet. A printer springs to life, chattering away, printing the story of our impending response; a light shines brightly inside each and every room of this glorified 6 car garage/hotel, awakening us, blinding us from darkness in conjunction with a horrifying bell whose sound is remnant of electricity coursing through your veins. Doors open, computer screens spring to life and it all crescendos with us, moving from the dead to the undead or in my case no man’s land, the neutral zone, or as some would say; a grey area of lifelessness. Yes we all begin to move, from those who actually are blessed with an ability to sleep at the drop of a hat to station zombies such as myself. We move, swagger, stagger, stumble and charge forth like an attack straight from “the living dead”.

Meet at the map board, wipe the sleep from your eyes, then identify a map page, cross street, address number, a house, business, parking lot, freeway, intersection, country residence. How do I get there, which way is fastest, what type of call is this? Is it a medical aid, structure fire, vegetation fire, vehicle accident, mutual aid, automatic aid, haz-mat, or a public assist? Is this another call we will see in our dreams for years to come, will we return home feeling accomplished as our training has once again paid forth with huge dividends or will we laugh at some absurdity only humanity or the human spirit can bring during a ride home?

Through the final door, at the rig, is everyone here, what gear are we donning, is everyone seated, are seatbelts in place, have I unplugged the shore lines, opened the bay doors, started the engine so Cap (the captain) can get on the radio? So many boxes to check off a list wedged inside my head.

Making a right turn onto the main thoroughfare, I grab a glimpse of the two seated directly behind Cap and I. They look like kids. It’s hard for me to believe this time has passed, I am no longer the fresh-faced lad; heart racing before each call, nervous to ask questions, pie eyed wondering what will await us upon arrival. They look so young, so damn young and yet even though I joke about my age on a regular basis (I am only 48), in reality I am not that old; I do not feel old in any way shape or form. Yet here we are inside this Engine, I seated in the engineers position and one of my closest friends now my boss seated to my right wearing the “red hat” or Captains helmet. WE are no longer the long-term future of this department, the up and comers buried in classes, spending thousands of hours and dollars obtaining every certification we can load into a leather binder for future uses. WE instead are now this department’s core, the steady, the constant, dare I say it? (Swallowing hard) The old guys…

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My graduating academy class 1995

In what feels like a millisecond I went from riding backwards to driving, from taking classes to teaching classes, from becoming an Engineer to an Acting Captain. Some days I am considered middle ground between Cap and crew other days I am the Captain with those around me looking for direction and advice. Are you kidding me? When did all this happen? What myriad of events led to someone handing me a red hat and saying today this crew is yours? What person ever thought of placing me behind the wheel of a 44,000 pound rig, then running it code three (lights and sirens) through the busy streets of town unabated? It is lunacy I tell you, pure lunacy!

I talk with college kids, fire academy kids, our new kids, probationary, first year and second year firefighters too. They all look so fresh-faced, innocent, not damaged by what is to come. They all retain the very same attitude we had, the same attitude those who came before us had, and the same attitude all that will ever pass through these hallowed halls after us will have. One of ignorant bravery, one of unabashed cockiness, an attitude that says I am here to help, to learn and nothing will ever hurt me. How little do they know, for no matter how much you inspire, mold, guide or lead “it” (that attitude) will be with them until one defining moment in time forces them into change.

It is the same for us “old guys” we see it in each other’s eyes, feel it through our words, and absorb it through a hug, a hand shake, a nod, a bad joke, a look. It comes with time on the job, experiences that for some may seem the same but in reality each and every experience in this line of work is dependent on the job. Each wrinkle upon our faces has been earned, each grey hair grown from the memory of something we’d rather forget. Eyes once steeled, are now softer, kinder a tad more gentle. We can’t talk about some portions of the job with anyone else but our peers. They are the only ones who understand and where a young one will sit and listen to tales with dreams of someday having stories of their own, us old guys hope they do create stories of their own, yet secretly hope in the same breath some of those stories never come true.

The young guys are loud and brash, quick to jump on a topic, any topic and beat it up with theory, formulas and standard operating procedures. Watching them from a distance I can only chuckle as they work out their problems and only through the rationale of an old guy are shown an easier, faster, less labor intensive way of completing the very same job. The young ones, smash and break things to reach their goal, the old ones walk gently, using a “try before they pry” philosophy. The young ones talk loudly, while drilling each other for knowledge, the old ones walk softly and speak only when needed. The young ones let everyone know when they are promoted things will change. The old ones let anyone who asks know; when they retire things will most certainly change.

The fire service is a young man’s game there is no doubt, but you need the wisdom of the old guys to not kill yourself participating in such a wonderful career. Creating memories of your own is important, good bad or otherwise but developing a bond with these people, this second family, well that’s what lasts a lifetime. I love these guys, would do anything for them, passing on that aspect of the fire service is every bit as important as how we do the job.

I don’t know where I am going with all this, it just seemed odd to me as another night passed, another round of service calls were answered and as I looked into the baby-faced gleaming eyes of those young firefighters surrounding me. That I in fact had transitioned from a young guy to one of the very guys we looked up to 20 years ago and now these kids are now looking up to me. WTF!

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I hope, no I pray I can do a good job filling those boots.

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