And then, like that, he was gone…..

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Last night I did one of the hardest things I have ever had to do… 

I left my son at college. 

Hold on you say: THAT is one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? Through all your life experiences, work related and personal, all you have had a hand in or dealt, that was one of the hardest things you seriously have ever had to do??? 

Me: yes..

Cody James Franceschi was born on July 11, 1996. He came out with the cord wrapped around his little neck and an interesting shade of purple illuminating his hue. After 30 seconds of delivery room panic he was placed in front of me. The moment I held him, I swore I would never leave his side.  I didn’t care if he grew up a monstrous felon, I would never, ever leave this boys side.

and I haven’t… Until now.

Having children is a cruel fucked up joke! You spend all this time planning, preparing, and making lists. You swear to all within range he will be better than you, raised properly and through due diligence turn 18 and head off into the world a well rounded individual due to those 18 years of unwavering efforts. The little bundle of joy arrives, you hold him and instantly this macho, puffy chested, kick a puppy bravado melts away.  

What was I saying about being tough, having a firm hand, kicking his ass out when he is 18? Boogie, boogie boo! What a sweet little man; is he cooing? Did he just make a pee, pee? YES! MY BOY JUST MADE A PEE PEE!!! HE IS A GIANT AMONGST MEN, A LEADER OF THE PEE PEE FREE WORLD!! LOOK NURSE, LOOK! NO OTHER LAD HAS PEE’D SO FAST AND SO WELL IN ALL OF YOUR CAREER! RIGHT???

You bring him home, don’t sleep for nights, but one look in their faces and its all ok isn’t it? Over the first couple of years there are more sleepless nights, something like 5,000 dirty diapers that need to be changed (didn’t know you held a degree in waste water management did you) snotty noses, first trips to the doctor, and the crying, oh my goodness the crying; and thats just you 10603680_10204623672698324_6162773971597865019_naround midnight in the fetal position on the floor, let alone the kids whimpers. 

Things move along, they go to school, make new friends, have parent teacher conferences, a few teacher, teacher conferences that you might find out about later, and in the middle of it when you are struggling to help them with homework because lets face it, your college education is out the window; unbelievably after all this you can barely function at a fifth grade level! Then what?? You and your spouse come up pregnant again! Whoopieeeee!!! Oh well we got this now so whats one or 3 more over a 10 year period. Right?

Middle school comes and you watch his heart break over a girl who moves away, you stay tough, tell him she wasn’t the first and she wont be the last. Spend countless hours sharing tales of the heart and the woe involved hoping he can glean some valuable information. But he remains strong and yearns for her anyways. He does date a few other girls, but lets face it, you always remember the first girl you liked. 

IMG_0522We begin to see his excellence arise as he comes home with awards, both scholarly and athletic.  His whit becomes sharper, his laugh is developing, a voice changes.

Then one day he is in high school and you are left wondering how this happened? Four years, you have four years left with what was a, 9 pound bundle of joy just yesterday. Thats plenty of time right? Yeah, four years is a long time so all is right with the world. 

Four years of 0 period, cross country, band practices, the fair, raising pigs, FFA, homework-tons of homework! You look around and it feels as though life is spinning out of control! His dry whit has now formed an attitude which in reality is his testosterone testing the proverbial waters. He becomes an avid bow hunter, loves

taxidermy, duck hunting and fishing. He is running at a 100 miles and hour and so are you! Helping coach his team just to spend more time with him, meeting more kids you think are awesome and their equally awesome parents. You keep trying to make his hobbies a priority but with three others at your beck and call, all in their early stages of adolescent development those moments he held your sole attention are becoming harder and harder.  He gets his drivers license and a hunting dog, then just like that it begins…

He slowly starts heading out without you. He doesn’t need you anymore to get him out to hunt, fish or mountain bike, and you being the ever busy, trying to be all to everyone dad let it happen.  

Another thing starts to happen as well. You trust him.  No accidents, no tickets, he is where he says he is going to be, comes home when he says he will be home, takes care of the house for you while you are gone, and stands side by side with you when building fence or the barn, or fixing something all without you asking him. He doesn’t have to do it, he particularly doesn’t care for the ranching side of things, but he wants to because its valuable time he is sharing with you, without making it a big deal. He has befriended a wonderful man through his mom who owns a kennel and a 3 year friendship, work equity relationship arises. This man (Steve) teaches him how to train bird dogs in exchange for work. He takes Cody under his wing and treats him like a son. A father couldn’t ask for more.IMG_0828

He still leaves the shop a mess, and forgets to mow the lawn occasionally, drives his mom and I crazy while exerting his unrequited knowledge on occasion, but he is always there at home. You watch him branch out into training and boarding his own dogs. His love for canines, all canines is amazing, they all flock to him without question and he can get them to do pretty much what ever he wants. “Thanks again Steve.”  He idolizes you, your training abilities, knowledge of classic cars, guns and stuff. Every boy should have that one adult that is not his dad or mom to look up too. Just so they know dad/mom aren’t completely full of shit. 

End of the year parties, graduation, kids you both have watched from 5-18 all still friends patting each other on the back happy to have finally finished high school.  Its an amazing time, filled with laughter, high hopes, and the prospects seem endless. What college will they be accepted too, what branch of the military are they joining, where is the Tech school they are attending. The conversations are inspiring and so fun to listen too.. You smile, proud of them all, feeling like they are your kids as well. An accomplishment for sure. 

Then it happens.

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You arrive one Thursday morning with another family to move him into his dorm. He is rooming with a life long friend. The son of one of our closest friends, so it feels extra special. The 10550937_10204634312364309_4595586460827221397_nexcitement is palpable, the boxes are torn apart, belongings placed carefully around the dorm. Then it hits you just a little, this is THIER room. Not a room in your house, not a void of space for which they can hide and try their best to avoid following the rules. This is THIER room.  It is perfect. It smells like 30 years of boys who came before them, the carpet and tattered dorm furniture are mid 80’s at best. But they have arrived, 18, adults and out on their own 5 1/2 hours from home. They are free!

I am proud, so very proud of the man Cody has become or is still becoming. I am overwhelmingly proud of all he has accomplished through his tenacity, his mothers help and besides my fumbling self. 18 years ago I felt I had all the time in the world with this boy, now as I sit and write this, my head is filled with every single wonderful thing we have done together and as a family. His brothers are going to miss him so, Parker idolizes Cody and Jake has really needed his guidance this last year. I have not seen them yet to see how they are handling this huge IMG_0717change in our family dynamics. But even with all the memories, the family time, the brotherly and sisterly bonding. I feel like I may have missed out on some things.  

And this is where raising children becomes the cruelest of jokes. I have also come to realize, he doesn’t need me anymore..

Oh I will always be his dad, he will hopefully call me for advice and want to talk now and again. But he no longer NEEDS me. It is devastating and crushing my heart….  

Here is the second cruelest part of the joke. 

Somewhere over the last year, he became my friend.  I didn’t realize it until this morning when I was making coffee and he wasn’t there, strolling out in his shorts or PJ bottoms. You see pretty much every morning I am home he walks out and says; what’s up pop? Then has a cup of coffee with me and we talk about hunting, or guns, or cricket (his dog) or the fire department. We talk like two grown men as opposed to a father and son. 10394559_10204636401056525_8503219086095135140_n

My friend has also been there every evening to say goodnight as both of us are always the last to go to bed. I took it for granted, and today I realized short of school breaks the first year, then trailing off as he gets his own place next year and develops his own life, he will no longer be there or here or what ever the case may be. He wont be stopping by the station anymore to say hi and hang out for a while between school or practice, or asking if we can go fishing, hunting, shooting bows, another series of events I assumed would always be there. He wont be around anymore to save my bacon when things fall apart schedule wise around this busy ranch. He is grown, we fostered him, loved him, guided him, argued with him and now he has succeeded and is gone. My son, my friend, is on his own and the silence within these four walls this morning is deafening. 

So many asked yesterday if I cried?

Well I am glad to say I held it together, that is until this morning when I tortured myself by walking to his room ( a reflex response to our daily coffee routine) looking in, seeing only his hunting dog, lying on the bed, sad, wondering why Cody’s truck was here, I was home and Cody was not. It was more than I could take; she doesn’t understand whats happening, the boy who slept alongside her everyday for three years since adopting her, is now gone and I cant explain to her why or that he will be home in a few months or that she will move with him next year when he gets his own place. The emptiness of the room became the emptiness within my heart, knowing he will never truly live here 100% again. This will always be his home but no longer will he reside within its walls everyday, something apparently I have taken for granted for 18 years.

So there I stood, shoulders slumped, no Cody lying on the bed, room half empty of his belongings and a sad dog who had surrounded herself with her favorite play-toys. 

I balled like a baby…….. 

JACY 20

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The Face of Leukemia (December 2, 2013)

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Another couple of days spent sitting patiently watching her sleep. For some this could become tiresome or even boring, but not for me. Time trudges on, as the thought of her waking to speak with me, even for just a little while weighs heavy with anticipation!  A second of lucidity, a moment, a glance, the chance to press her cheek against mine long enough to feel close again.

Through all of this, I am reminded that as her husband it’s my job to care for this woman.  It is an honor to ensure she has all she needs and it’s my privilege to do so. But none of that would be as easy as it sounds if it weren’t for all the wonderful people who continue to support our family back home. To continually be humbled by the kindness, care, love and empathy shown to us by our friends, co-workers, acquaintances and strangers is overwhelming to say the least. But I am and I thank you all..

Saturday while staring at the east Kaiser wall an epiphany overcame me! So after a little one on one discussion, today with Jacy’s help the two of us acted upon that revelation.

This morning my wife woke up, shuffled her way into a shower, did her hair along with a little make-up. Now this of course took all the energy saved up from a solid nights rest that one participating in chemotherapy could muster, but that did not deter her from participating in this master scheme. A phone call, some texting, our kids taken to school without the slightest knowledge (because loose lips sink ships), and I stealthily rolled into the parking lot of Dixon Montessori Charter School at 0800.

At 0815 I cleared the threshold of Ms. Jacy’s classroom with nothing more than a smile, a cell phone and one iPad mini in hand.  The students were gathered together and a simple question and answer period began. You see Ms. Jacy (as most already know from reading my blog) was hauled off to the hospital right after returning home for her lunch break on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday. Although her students knew what was happening through reports on Thursday and Friday, they had not seen or spoken with the teacher they have all grown to love since.

That was about to change

Jacy’s students know me either as Mr. Jacy or Firefighter James, Ms. Jacy’s husband. So not a lot of time was wasted with useless questioning about my presence. The kids were excited to see me and to hear the latest news, especially in person. But when I held up the iPad and explained my plan the place went nuts!

Now it took me a few tries as I am not the most advanced person immersed in the world of technology. But for the rest of my life I will never forget the sounds of joy that came from each and every student when I turned the iPad around and there was Jacy’s smiling face looking back upon these students. They cheered and clapped and screamed HELLO! A few “bomb-diggities” were tossed about freely! It was fantastic.  She could see all of them and they could see her. I stood as still as I could holding the iPad up so she could take in the room and they could feel as though she was right there with all of them.  This woman truly loves these kids, all of them and they love her! She has spoken of them everyday since being incarcerated in the Kaiser hospital system.  She told them all about her stay, what was happening with her and how much she missed them! It was grand.

When we were finished,  looking down and saying goodbye into the iPad, she beamed at me with a look of happiness. The look on her face warmed my heart, but being the ever gruff man I am supposed to be I choked back a bit of mist in my eye, told her I would see her in a couple of hours and hit the end button.  Walking out of the classroom I knew Jacy had just received a good old-fashioned jolt of uplifting spirit! Something we all need from time to time, but more so for her right now.  Looking back, pretty sure some skipping was done on the way back to the car. Maybe even a selfie high-five?

This week is going to be a long one. There are more complications like the persistent headache that never goes away, continued fatigue and weakness, there are also some sporadic nosebleeds which have us worried just a bit.  She can’t bleed as there is no way for her blood to effectively clot, so she has been receiving blood and platelet transfusions.  Friday is D-Day and it cant come soon enough. It’s when we find out whether the first round of chemo did the trick! There is a long road ahead for us and every time we meet the doctor I feel as though it is preparation for the road to get longer. But never the less we will travel this road and hopefully meet some really wonderful people along the way. Hopefully we can spread the word about Leukemia and the effects it has on its victims, their families and friends.

The face of leukemia spares no one.  It belongs to your mother, your father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, friend, acquaintance, and stranger.  The face of Leukemia can attach itself to any and every person in the human race and it does not discriminate. The face of leukemia cares not about your age because, old face, young face, the face of an infant it still survives. The face of leukemia doesn’t care about your  financial status, whether you vacation in the Hampton’s or live in a cardboard box under a bridge.  The face of leukemia is driven by this disease and the victims it inhabits therefore the face of leukemia is and always will be you.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, what would I do if I had cancer? Who would I turn too. What questions would I ask? How would I react? Would I be ready to take cancer on and kick its ass without wavering?

I never asked myself those questions before now. But I have, and I am going to do everything in my power to make this a success for the woman I love. I am also going to tell everyone I can about leukemia, it effects, its signs and symptoms.  Then with a little luck, the power of positive thinking, prayer and the amazing skills associated with the many medical professionals we have encountered up to this point.

“The face of leukemia” will have a happy ending!

Because I love her face, and leukemia can’t have it anymore……

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Santa Claus or am I really baby Jesus?

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Ah the tinsel, the lights, Christmas music flowing from every car, coffee shop and grocery store around; People buzzing about trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone. The season is here, like it or not, we are enveloped in the Christmas season, may joy and laughter fill the air.

Sooooo on the topic of gifts let’s just take a moment to recognize the mangermain man by saying thank you baby Jesus, cute little baby Jesus all cuddly and snuggly in his precious little wool wrap, perfect in his Jesus like way. For if wasn’t for your birth on that magical manger morning sire, three wise men/kings wouldn’t have traveled from afar (really afar?) to bestow three (Super Lotto of the period) wonderful gifts of Gold, Muir and Frankincense! Whew, HELLLLOOOOO; can you say JACKPOT!!!! Cha-Ching!!

What’s that my little snow angels? Santa is the sole reason we receive gifts on Christmas you say? Not the baby Jesus you say! Well myimagesCAI541T4 misguided little peppermint elves how wrong you are! The jolly red man wasn’t always jolly and he certainly wasn’t always fat! He was a man like any other, only he did what any good christian would do, stole the concept from religions much cherished three wise men! Seeing a definite need (oh yes his heart was in the right place) he practiced giving (gifts, shoes, dowry’s, food etc..) for a while selling the image santaof nobility to the masses. Eventually he was sainted and became forever known as St. Nicholas! Flash forward 1,669 years, St. Nicholas’ image has passed from generation to generation evolving into the much celebrated fat man in a red costume, driving a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer! No really they are tiny! You would think they were huge with all those gifts and all but really they are tiny!rudy

Upon seeing positive results within multiple test markets (Poland, Turkey, the Netherlands) the idea of a St. Nick or Santa Claus was marketed to the right folks, obtaining copy writes to his likeness and catchphrases then sold, sold, sold and sold again slowly evolving into the much celebrated fat man in a red costume, atop a shiny red sleigh! Happy picture huh?

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                                         Wrong sleigh… or not?

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There we go that’s better….

Not being the greatest of mathematicians, I took it upon myself using the internet, ABC NEWS, and a few simple formulas to help me determine the sleigh was obviously developed by aliens or possibly held in captivity at Area 51 until our government could extract the compounds used to make this bitch fly! You see, Santa’s sleigh needssantas sleigh to travel 175 million miles in just under 31 hours (time/Dateline, staying under the cover of darkness and all), Santa himself needs to visit 1,178 homes per second-every second of those 31 hours.  That means when the “big” man arrives he has just 8/100,000ths of a second to park the sleigh, shimmy down the chimney, stuff the stockings, eat (what is hopefully delicious) cookies, drink milk, shimmy back up the chimney, get his parking slip validated, tip the valet and go! boltHusain Bolt I think you have a second career waiting for you when this whole world’s fastest Olympian runner thing doesn’t quite pan out anymore!

How about the gross weight of the sleigh? I mean a rig like that needs to be agile and light! Made from the finest carbon fiber money can buy right? Someone must know the overall gross weight of this vehicle at the very least possibly California does since knowing means billing for registration and new registration leads to another source of revenue. Well don’t let the snowflakes melt from your cap just yet! Yes there is a calculation for this as well! Let’s say every child receives one two-pound toy,(hahahahahahaha one toy, that’s a joke) multiply that by 330 million children under the ripe old age of 18.  That’s 660 million pounds of toys! No wonder Rudolph’s nose is red! The lad needs to drink like a union dock worker after moving that much weight in one night! Wonder if Rudolph receives sopranoskickbacks to pad his stable when bags of toys mysteriously fall off the sleigh while flying over New Jersey? Aye yo Vinnie that damn reindeer dropped us another load! Youz better have is cut ready or your kids won’t be seeing any evidence of the Fatman on Christmas morning!

So there, the baby Jesus is the reason we have Christmas! The Santa story is absolutely charming and I truly don’t mind playing the big guy every Christmas morning! The straight up fact is it brings endless joy to all the little boys and girls across this wondrous globe of ours. With or without the help of Macy’s, Target and Wal-Mart. But doesn’t someone think maybe lying to our children about a fictitious person, from a make-believe place, who brings toys and gifts to all the “good” little boys and girls after making a list (segregation) and checking it twice might really be sending a bad message? Plus how do you explain the whole “he bad santa 2sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” bit? Sound like someone needs to be registered on the Meagan’s law web-site! Creeper!

 

I have decided since I receive gifts on Christmas morning I need to work on tricking my children into believing I am the baby Jesus instead!  Pretty sure I can pull of the three wise men part with a little help from my friends. Someone know where I can get some Frankincense? Maybe three camels????

 

My Words of Wisdom for the Day

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Ideas come and ideas go, but unless you write them down, organize their priorities and act upon them they will never become anything more than just an idea..

“Just” a thought I acted upon, carry on that is all….

My Words of Wisdom for the Day

 

Life should be treated like doing your laundry.  Every now and again you muck up something really good.  But instead of throwing it all away you give it (life) a good scrub, then start all over smelling great and looking sparkly clean. Just a thought..

Carry on that is all….

 

A fathers pledge….

 

To my daughter,

I pledge as your father too;

Always do my very best at protecting your young eyes and impressionable mind from the cruelties this world has to offer you.

Prepare you for life as an adult by allowing you to fail with gentle guidance towards success.

Tell you no and mean it.

Dance with you for no reason at all..

Allow you to be a princess when you feel like it, while celebrating the moments your tomboy rules the roost.

Understand that crying isn’t just for girls but big dumb old dads as well.

Not punch the first boy who dumps you and makes you cry. Unless you want me too?

Take you fishing without your brothers.

Teach you to hunt.

Brag about you not only when you are not around but when you think I can’t see you.

Have tea with you, even if that includes your horse and the two goats.

Hold your hand.

Take you on ice cream dates once a month.

Embarrass you in public. It’s just good clean fun and lends you to developing an awesome sense of humor.

Teach you all the devilish, sneaky and sometimes cruel ways of the adolescent boy.

Teach you all the even harsher ways of the mind bending adolescent girl.

Remind you on a regular basis that before someone else can love you, you need to love you.

Remind you that I love you.

Always answer the phone when you call no matter what time it is.

Pick you and your friends up anytime day or night if you have partied a little to hard.

Always call you “my little girl”

Walk you down the aisle on your wedding day without crying in front of your future husband.

Support what ever career choice you make, it’s not for me to like or dislike your choices, only to gently give you my opinion as an elder man with many experiences under his belt.

Teach you no matter what some friend, boyfriend, or stranger may try to convince you, your father will always listen to what you have to say. I may not always have the answer but I will do my best to find one.

Let you see me fail.

Always tell you the truth.

Remind you there are evil men in this world, but none as ruthless as your father when it comes to someone threatening, hurting, or stealing his daughters innocence, self-worth or life. I will find them and I will make them pay.

Try my very hardest at being a good dad, I will let you down on occasion as you will I. We are human therefor mistakes will be made, but as long as you know in your heart I will always love you there is nothing we cannot conquer together.

Love dad….