One year ago….

I really wasn’t prepared…

Oh I thought I had taken all the precautions necessary for a major surgery.

As I stated previously, before the surgery I was quite literally in the best shape of my life! So surgery be damned, I wasn’t changing a thing! I continued eating right, kept myself in excellent shape, and continually tried focusing on the positive as opposed to dredging myself through self-doubt and inner despair.

I believe I even talked a really good game! Like a salesman expounding upon the virtues of a product! Telling those close enough to me to be in the know that the odds were in my favor. Building upon the very statistics I despised while regurgitating knowledge obtained from my surgeon. But let’s face it, at night I was a complete and at times uncontrollable mess.

Often times as I closed my eyes during a moment of peace or reflection; it looked like the end, it smelled like the end, it tasted like the end and that last tasting of my perceived reality was hard to swallow. Many times I’d walked this pathway as a proposed rock, the shoulder, the crutch, carrying the very same sorrows or concerns of my loved ones. Many times I had been told all the facts and how whatever the medical complication was it was a walk in the park. Yet too many times I sat and watched painfully as it all went to shit!

I tried to become prepared, I really did! Sending the two youngest off to their grandparents so they wouldn’t become a part of this hysterical medical machine. Hoping and praying they wouldn’t need to witness the aftermath of another parent in really bad shape post operation. Carefully my will was wrapped into a nice neat little package and distributed accordingly. The house and all the animals were in good hands, taken care of for the next month without worry. My bedroom had been remodeled in anticipation of my return complete with refrigerator, microwave and a lazy-boy recliner which sat you upright through an electric motor.  All of this necessary as I wouldn’t be allowed to come downstairs for two weeks at the earliest. This was due to the physical strain it would place upon my system post operation.

I was reminded constantly just how weak I would become, how hard it was going to be to breathe, how important it was to do respiratory therapy each and every day. The thought of being immobile, in need, a useless weakling that couldn’t care for himself, I could not bear yet I treated jokingly! I really began to believe those who struggled through these operations did so because they were old, out of shape, and didn’t care for their bodies which is what most likely landed them in this position in the first place. I know it was arrogance, but it was a façade I placed upon myself to help me believe I could accomplish this feat.  Nothing no matter how scared I really was could change the fact that I needed to believe, I needed to know I was coming back, and after all I had been through in life, there was no way I was abandoning my family now! I was strong!

Yeah about that….

I stared at the ceiling tiles that morning in the hallway. They rolled me inside one of the operating rooms, I remember the nurse being super nice. In a matter of minutes an I.V. was in place and my hands were strapped down behind me. I don’t even remember if I was told to count backwards. No laughter, no goodbyes or see you in a bit, no God Damn Van Halen! Yeah; no turning back now. Everything, my whole world simply faded quietly into black.

Waking up, well I don’t even remember the first time I woke up. Lyn’s said it was when they removed my intubation tube. (I just realized typing this my heart rate has doubled, maybe I am a little traumatized?)

This is what I remember from my 7 day stay in the hospital.

My chest hurt! Fuck it hurt! It hurt badly, but through modern chemistry and my desire to look tough in front of my girl (I failed miserably) I remember trudging through some pain that I probably shouldn’t have.

My stomach bloated with air continued to do so for several days. My abdomen hurt, it stretched and I went a few days longer than I should have before my intestines decided to awaken and resume operations. It was touch and go for a bit, and I never want to go through that miserable experience again either.

I had to walk during my physical therapy. The first day was next to impossible and I struggled with the fact that a few days prior I was this healthy strong man who could have run a marathon and now I couldn’t make it to the door of my room without wanting to collapse. Dizziness, nausea, the inability to breathe, wanting to vomit and full body weakness is what greeted me whenever I would stand.

On day two of physical therapy I got pissed at the therapist who kept telling me after ten or twelve steps I needed to lean against the wall! Several times I would explain that we didn’t need to stop, yet she would order me to the wall citing it was in my best interest. Fuck that! I walked off on her and did the circle around the whole quad as a giant F-U! She left and I collapsed in bed exhausted having gone far beyond my capabilities. But I did it and it was a win for my mental wellbeing.

A female night nurse who kept calling me “papi” drove me completely bonkers. How you feeling papi? You need pain meds papi? You want me to get you more pain meds papi? Then as if I didn’t have a say, she would dose me up like a stone cold heroin addict! Oh yeah, she dosed me up so bad one night I thought I was going to die. My morning nurse Andrew after talking with Lyns recognized what was happening and saved my ass! He was my favorite of all the nurses who cared for me. Of course Lyn’s figured out the crazy night nurses game and was all up in her shit about her improper patient care! I never wanted to see that woman again.

I wish Andrew could have been my primary nurse the entire duration of my stay. He understood every minute aspect of my condition and adjusted shit accordingly. I felt safe when he was around and more importantly so did Lyn’s. There was also a nurse near the end of my stay named Chelsea. She was amazing and I felt safe when she was around as well. There is something to be said about nurses that know and love their job. They make a difference every single day.

I learned that I am 100% a horrible patient! The very worst! You know the kind that throw it in you face with statements like; I know myself better than you, you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do! Yeah I was that guy! But I think that behavior as far as I am concerned arises from having been a care giver to others. Strange I know, but truthful none the less for you see we as caregivers have a standard set in our heads and expect the very same in return, but quickly you learn that the work world you live in is yours and yours alone. It is not how the rest of the world operates and others standards which may or may not be less, equal or superior to your own are theirs and they surely would believe your level of caregiving was most likely inadequate.

I learned the importance of letting new people inside my life. Lyn’s was there for me from day one. She never wavered, she took time off work to care for me, she took it upon herself to ensure my care was top notch all the time and she never left the hospital! Not once, not one moment, not one second, anytime I looked to my right, she was always there with a tired, worn out sleepy smile. If I moved she was at my side seeing if I needed anything. She cheered me on when I struggled and cheered for me even louder when I succeeded. She celebrated my stubbornness and never let me forget the reasons I was still alive. I will forever be grateful for the love and compassion she showed me along the way.  She taught me a term that we use between us to this day.

Every day, every way..

I also learned that true friends are just that, true. Those that learned of my operation later on weren’t offended for me keeping it to a tight nit group. Those who knew, kept the lid quiet and my recovery was peaceful. It was a time of renewal for me and my inner circle, a time of growth as people became closer and new people entered my life. It was a time to stop and see things differently. No longer always on the go as fast as I could helping, caring and worrying about others. No longer hearing alarms several times in the middle of the night, running calls at midnight, 1, 2, 2:30 and 4 am. Barley getting sleep some nights while getting 3-4 hours another. It was time to stop and be thankful I was in fact still alive.

No matter the pain, no matter how hard it was to do simple things, I always reflected, learned and did my best to thankful. Like walking from the recliner I slept in for two months to the bathroom. I hated sleeping there, but the reality was I couldn’t lay flat, I was lucky to have it, and I could have been in the hospital but I wasn’t, I was home. Or needing to breathe into a stupid fucking tube for respiratory therapy! God I hated that stupid fucking tube, but the reality was I needed to for my lungs to get stronger, to help keep pneumonia away and the sooner I reached certain goals the sooner I would begin to grow stronger. To simply being able to eat more than a spoonful of food. That was indeed a hard one, but I did, even when I didn’t want too and after depleting myself to a gaunt 158 pounds it didn’t take long to return to 205. Staring at the wall, not moving much, watching movies and healing was my new pastime. It was boring, I don’t do well sitting still, but I did it and was thankful to still be alive.

It has been a long hard road over this last year and Sunday the 28th was my one year mark, my new birthday. I still am nowhere near 100%! Oh like I stated, the weight is back on and I am much stronger, but my heart still jumps to 120 bpm for no reason at times, and I still have episodes of A-fib when startled. I can only do a challenging task for a little while and then I need a couple hour break, I also can no longer take the heat. If it hits the 90’s and up I get a little nauseous.  I can sit in it, I have done a little fishing on hotter days, but for the most part I get really tired and it feels hard to breathe.

But all of that aside, I am here still. One year later. Still breathing, still kicking, still ornery and still able to witness my children’s lives. I don’t know what the future holds. I miss my station, I miss my crew, and yes even though it was beginning to wear thin, I miss the calls, the excitement, and the ability to help another human being during the toughest moment of their lives.

I’m still scared.

There are so many variables with this operation in my case. I could be back on the table in a year or five or ten? Nobody knows. But the one thing they all know is that it will happen eventually and I will need to go through this all over again. The key to my life right now is no stress. Stress places a greater chance the valve will be replaced sooner than it needs too.

Have they not met me???? I am nothing but a ball of stress!!!!!! All the God Damn Fucking Time!!!!!!

Phew… Deep breath… Good air in, bad air out…….

The aneurysm repair so far shows it was done flawlessly! That brings great peace of mind. But that damn valve repair will haunt me forever. I am on baby aspirin every day to prevent clotting right now. Terrified to go on blood thinners, yet it is a very real possibility that I need to live with.

So we move forward. Like I always say; get up in the morning, put both feet on the floor, stand up, and always take that all important step forward. Don’t sit back down, don’t cry over your bullshit, just square up those shoulders and move.

Life is to short and regardless of what you are bombarded with daily on television, or Facebook or from some of your weaker minded friends, to damn beautiful to do anything else but enjoy.

If you don’t believe me, do like I do and get up at 5:30 am to watch the sunrise. I promise, you’ll be thankful you are still here as well.

30 days..

Over the next month, I met with doctors, health professionals, and people from work. Every person I met I felt as though I was saying goodbye. I hugged, I smiled, I behaved as though nothing was wrong. Then once alone I would cry.

 My girlfriend was amazing! We did get the very best doctor there was for this procedure due to her efforts. We were told we had a very favorable outcome according to those in the know. After one appointment in particular it was explained that I had the arteries of a 20 year old! All positive things!

Lyn’s helped me finish the will. With my son Cody as the executor and my three best friends all holding certain positions within, I knew the children, ranch and animals were well cared for. Signing it, having it notarized, watching friends sign it, was incredibly sobering.

There were a few fun moments.

At my angiogram the nurse and I were talking and he asked what I would like to listen too as I drifted off to sleep. I responded, can we play some Van Halen please?

As I rolled into the room Sammy was screaming on the overhead speakers. That gentle, gracious kindness to a scared 52 year old man I will never forget. My eyes are wet thinking about how much the gentlemen from that room calmed me down, and let me drift off on my own terms. I am forever grateful.

Lyn’s asked me to list all the things I wanted to do in life but never could. When I asked why? She simply stated, because you have more than earned them!

The reality; it was something else to look forward too. To think about living for beyond the operation date. Something other than worrying about my family, my children, my very small circle of friends, all for whom I have no desire to leave. It was a new tomorrow, sunlight at the end of the tunnel, an umbrella from the rain. She was shielding me while providing mental warmth.

Daily I would melt down, daily she would ask me:

Where am I?

I would respond: right here…

Where am I going?

I would respond: nowhere

Then (not ashamed to say) I would cry again..

She would look me in the eye and say, I expect the same from you. You are not going anywhere, this all will be fine, you have the best surgeon, you are in great shape and healthy. This will all be over soon and you will be back to being you.

I chose during this time to silence myself from social media, and from this blog. To keep this procedure to myself. Some would (actually some did) say it was selfish, I should have asked for help from those who cared. But to me, after all I went through after my first wife Kim passed away, and after running through the gauntlet with Jacy’s battle, I simply wanted to fall away. If the operation went south, if they failed to save my valve or botched the aorta transplant, to me nothing would have been more beautiful than to simply draw myself into darkness. Fade to black. No one needed to know.

I had done things right for once, the kids were to be well taken care of, and my friends are my friends because they would understand. The only things that bothered me most was the loneliness the kids would have for eternity because they had lost so much! Between losing both their moms and now their dad; what a fucking mental train wreck for all of them.

Speaking of mental train wrecks! I ended up telling the kids after my first appointment with the cardiologist. Jake and Cody both were home and I asked them all to please sit down on the couch for a family meeting. The looks on their faces, my god I will never forget the looks on their faces. It took a while for it all to settle in and when it did, there were a few questions. I did my best to answer everything honestly. It was so very hard to look them in the eye. I was ashamed I could not be their strength any longer. I am their father, dad, and the foundation for this family yet here I am, just as vulnerable as both their moms. Not the man they thought or I believed they knew me to be.  

And then there was Lyn’s, this whole surgery thing bothered me for Lyn’s as well. Sure we were a fairly new couple, but simply put; I knew that pain all too well. One day someone you love or care for is there and then they aren’t. It’s mortifying, draining, scary, and leaves you always wondering what if.

What if they had lived a full life? What would they or we have become? What would the world have held in store for them/us? Questions that would never be answered.

A whole month, from diagnosis to operation. One trip to the ER because of some strange chest pains in the middle. A whole, long messy, shitty, emotional month. I was scared to move, to breathe, to cough, to lift, to ride my horse, to sit on my motorcycle, I was terrified of every single ache and pain that moved through my chest, I was afraid to live, in reality I was mentally living to die. My entire mindset was just that, counting down the days until surgery, counting down the days until I die, counting down the seconds until I said my final goodbye.

June 27th 2019

Lyn’s and I head to Mercy hospital. I am having my body shaved today by some stranger in a small room while they poke and prod, take samples of blood and prepare me for tomorrow’s grand finale! Uncomfortable is the word to describe how I feel yet strangely to this day it doesn’t even come close to how I felt.

Clean as a whistle we head out for one last meal. We laugh, we joke, and we have a very good time. Heading home the rest of the evening is spent with kids, family. I still feel like I am saying goodbye. Like a death row inmate having the proverbial last meal.

That evening, I don’t sleep very well.

June 28th 2019

Lying in a cold hallway, staring upwards at the tile ceiling I am waiting my turn.

You never know…..

In one of my favorite movies; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, (Queenie) Benjamins adopted by fate mother proclaims; you never know what’s coming for ya.

Floating aboard my cousins Bass Boat very early Saturday morning a mere two days since diagnosis, I felt the need to push all my emotions down deep inside. Control myself, place my mind in the right space so as to look forward, beyond my current issues. Then with confidence firmly choose the correct rod, the right lure and hunker down for a long day’s grind. I could not under any circumstances allow myself to wander into the land of death, possible death, my heart failing, the surgery becoming botched, my family falling apart, my pathetic life unraveling before my eyes. It was as if the angel of death had arrived and was sitting alongside me. Taunting me, calling me out for all my misgivings, while allowing one or two last chances to get things right in this world. It was a daunting emotional mind fuck.

Tony and I were fishing in a very well run tournament series (NewJen) and there was no place I would rather have been at that very moment in time. Fishing is my escape from the world, and being as though I am competitive as fuck, it was a double win for me that very morning. 80 teams around us, the sun just beginning to rise over the mountains and off in the distance the national anthem is being played. 160 or so men, women and youth took off their hats, placed them over their hearts, standing upon the bows of their liquid rocket ships, some singing along, others with their heads slung downward, it was a thing of beauty. We were seconds from blast off, moments from 70-80 mph runs towards our first opportunities for greatness. It is what I live for and not only was I privileged enough to do it that very morning, but with family, my cousin standing alongside me.

Not going to sugar coat it. I was terrified as fuck when we ripped across the lake. Knowing sometimes is so much worse than not knowing. All I could think about over and over again was the doc telling me the size of my aneurism. Too big to live my life untouched, not big enough for emergency surgery, but large enough surgery needs to be done in a rapid timely manner. I can now no longer go do the things I did before. You know simple things like running, lifting weights, oh wait sorry; lifting anything over 5 pounds! Carrying things for your girl, the way I raised. Yeah pretty much no straining in any way, yes that includes pooping!!! Whatever you do don’t strain while doing that!!! Could you imaging pulling an Elvis on the toilet!! Its laxatives every day for me!!! But as we ripped across the lake, every bump, swell or rocker left me holding my chest and wondering why. Why me?

My whole world changed that weekend.

As I was fishing, Lynnsie was back at the cottage with all the kids. She promised them a fun filled adventurous day. Lucky for us we were able to get a cottage with a dock so my Bass Boat was out front in the water and that is where all of the kids spent the majority of the day. Fishing, playing, pretending to be in a tournament of their own. Why was this so lucky? Because while they were making their own fun, Lyn’s spent the entire day, holed up in the bedroom, laptop in hand, mired in research. She learned everything there was to learn about my upcoming procedure, how it was performed, the percentages of those who survive and the percentages of those still making it post op. She also researched within our medical system as to who was the very best doctor to perform the surgery. She wasn’t taking any chances. She would later tell me when presented with all the evidence; you have lived through so much, been in so much emotional pain, you are not going to die on my watch, you don’t deserve this bullshit. I don’t care what anyone tells me, we are getting you the best, you will come out of this alive and I will be right by your side. No arguments, no feeling sorry for yourself. She then handed me a piece of paper stating; this is him, this is the guy and I don’t care that he is the best, which will make it difficult to see him, I will get him to see us.

Tony and I had a fair day fishing, not our best but enough to keep us in the points. By noon I had put my fears away and was really focusing on our task at hand. By the time we rolled in, I was still lost back in a life of normalcy, when we got in the truck to head home, through our normal banter of fish lost or what could have been, I focused on the learning points of the day.

We hit the driveway to our cottage and as I walked in the door turning to wave as my cousin drove away, I grabbed a beer, sat down and was instantaneously transported back to Thursday, the words, the facts, and the diagnosis. I started dwelling on fucking percentages.  Have I ever explained through this blog just how much I hate god damn percentages!! They are numbers derived from testing subjects, cases gone both good and bad, they intentionally are loaded to favor hope. But hope is just that; hope. It is neither fact nor science. It is an emotion, a response to someone’s idea of what might keep you interested or holding on. Hope is a falsehood, a misnomer, a correction of fact to illicit a response. Hope is fucking bullshit because in the end you can have all the hope in the world, but real life tangible fact will always rule the day. I have lived through hope, held onto hope, awoken every day regurgitating statistics leading to hope. Every time fact and science slapped me square in the face with no remorse. Every time through prayer, love, pain and hope I was let down. Every time, I hoped, I ended up placing the person I loved more than anything in the ground. Hope can fuck itself.

There I was, surrounded by family, drinking a beer, looking at the woman who has quite possibly saved my life by forcing me to go to the doctor and all I can think is its all bullshit. Her statistics she worked so hard on all day, the doctor she is telling me about, the procedures, how the procedures are done and their survivability rates, yeah all I can think about because I am clearly not listening is I am going to die, this isn’t going to end well. It never does let’s just face it, it is my turn to die. The angel of death rides shotgun, it’s just a matter of time.

Staring at her. My lip begins to quiver, snot begins to roll from my nose and tears fall hard like rain. I am shaking all over. The kids are outside and so move to the bedroom and hide. The children know nothing and we aren’t going to tell them until we have met with all the doctors and have a solid plan in place. I look like an infant, sobbing, blubbering, expelling so much trapped emotion. I just don’t understand and no matter how many times I am told just how lucky I am it doesn’t matter. Not feeling lucky today fuckers! I have chosen feeling sorry for myself and have resigned myself to the fact I deserve too, right here, right now and for some time to come. I want so badly for the angel of death to quit following me. Or crazy thought; maybe I am the angel of death, and it’s time for me to go. Taking every soul I have acquired over 25 years both professionally in the fire service and in my personal life with me. You know the ones trapped in my head dancing along with the ones I loved.

The next few weeks until my appointment with the cardiologist were to be the hardest of my life. Living in the unknown, trying to not look up procedures on the internet. Wrapping my head around the whole thing. Looking at my children without crying and feeling horrible for them again. What if they lose me, what if their whole lives are forged in hate and despair from losing their parents. It just isn’t right. Trapped in a strange purgatory of not being able to go to work, not being able to work the ranch, ride a horse, a motorcycle, a tractor. Fear of any large jolt or bump dissecting my aneurism kept me regulated to sitting in a chair doing nothing. Not a great way spend time when you don’t have all the answers.

I chose to write a will.

It was strange and quite possibly one of the most realistic, grounding moments of my life.

To die or not to die, that is the question. Quickly enough we would know the answer.

Because you never know what’s coming for ya….

Doctor says what??

April 25, 2019

Working a structure fire in one of our neighboring cities I was partaking in the almost mundane task of lowering a ladder from the “C” side of the structure. Nothing big, I had help and it really was/is a job that after proper training becomes the equivalent of putting your pants on every day, (I mean if you wear pants, like pants, you know, that sort of thing). I had developed a pretty significant cough that week and unfortunately it kept rearing its ugly head. Feeling as though it was nothing more than allergies due to this specific time of year my cough was “kind of” being controlled with medication, but it certainly made firefighting a little harder.

At the halfway point of lowering this particular ladder, something “popped” in my right shoulder. Not like a balloon or a pressurized bag, but more along the lines of let’s say; a guitar string letting go. I knew right, deep down inside there was a problem. Oh I stretched it, didn’t make a thing of it, rotated my arm a couple of times and shrugged it off to being older. But yeah, there was a problem.

The better part of this year I worked out like a mad man. Starting in January with eating right, and swapping to a mostly vegetarian diet. Then running, stairs and eventually weights. This lifestyle change had in fact worked wonders!  Not without struggle though, it was hard, taxing, and I was always dizzy or nauseous after each workout; but for real, I was quite literally in the very best shape of my life! Down three pant sizes, lots of muscle and very, little fat! One side effect to the effort though was these uncontrollable muscle spasms or shaking after each workout.  A little scary at times but I simply chalked it up to effort. In the end, I felt great!!!

So how could such a simple task like lowering a ladder take me out?

Upon returning to the station the On-Duty Captain was notified as the pain was intensifying and my range of motion became more limited. For the record; I hate putting in paperwork! I hate looking broken or weak! Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to do this job and our injury/workers comp system is deplorable! In my humble opinion it favors those who don’t want to go back to work and challenges those who do want to go back or at the very least, need too!  

2019 was going to be a better year, it was supposed to be BETTER I told myself over and over again. This is nothing but a strain, nothing but a simple, every day strain associated with physical work. I’ll be in and out of the doctor’s office and the guys will be giving me shit in a few hours. Right? I climbed into one of our utility vehicles, started the motor….Damn! I’m such a fucking pussy….

Long story short….

Right glenoid tear, cracked ball, strained muscles. I’m officially off work with full restrictions for movement or use. Soooo the much hated workers compensation game began.

Playing by the rules, I began visiting the workers comp doc on a regular basis; who I end up really liking by the way? I began moping around the house, feeling all sorry for myself. Can’t do chores (stupid), can’t ride horses (stupid); can’t sleep because of the pain (stupid) and worse of all? I have this cough that makes my shoulder throb when it’s at its height of coughy, coughy land (fucking stupid)! I’m angry, hard to be around and really not feeling well about myself and life in general. Touche’ 2019, Touche’

Oh yeah that cough…. That fucking pain in the ass cough!

Let’s talk about that shall we? Huh? You in? Ok well, to bad here we go…..

A few weeks go by and my cough is so bad that I am soaking the sheets in sweat at night. Not just damp, moist like a hot summer’s night next to your favorite person; actual pools of sweat. My head is pounding, I can’t breathe and I am up all night struggling.

Lyn’s daily has been suggesting I see a doctor, of course I am balking at it. I’m 53, work in emergency medicine and this fireman isn’t jinxing himself by going to the doctor? Ok, so maybe I should put the bullshit aside and go, but I am not going too. Why? Because I am a stubborn, know it all, self-centered man who obviously knows more than anyone else! Yeah that’s right I just called myself out! But it is the truth. I’m a rigid asshole sometimes..

Finally after much coercion I agree to make an appointment with my general practitioner. Of course I totally don’t! I agreed to it, but never said when! Ha! Yeah that went over real well with her too.

After another week of showing my lungs to the world each time I tried to breathe, the cough just wasn’t going away. Everyday Lyn’s asks if I have made that appointment. Every day I make some lame ass excuse as to why I haven’t. One morning all my excuses and bullshit came to an end.

May 08, 2019

I awoke that morning drenched as if I had taken a dip in the hot tub and rolled right back into bed, then for fun had a kid throw a bucket of water on me to seal the deal. My coughing had gone on all night without a break. Sitting on the edge of the bed wondering if I should try and sleep or just roll over and die, Lyn’s tells (not asks) me to go to the ER. I try pacifying her with a; I’ll walk in and see if there are any openings with my GP. I’m not taking up time in the ER. It’s just a cough. Through searing painful heat ray lasers shooting from her eyes, I glanced up, her arms were crossed and I knew that was the wrong answer.

Here is a little background; Lyn’s works in one of the busiest ER’s in Northern Ca. She worked on an ambulance before that and is no slouch when it comes to patient care. She was no longer looking at someone she cared for feeling a little ill. She had given me all the leeway she was going to give hoping my 25 years in emergency medicine would wake something up inside me where I might say; hey stupid! You probably should go to the doctor! Then do something really crazy like, oh I don’t know, actually following through with such an amazing idea that I thought up all on my own like a really big boy. Let’s face it, in a nutshell, she was finished with my half ass excuses and was treating me like an unruly patient in her charge. Rightfully so.

I was told with stern love and kindness to get off my ass and go to the ER. I tried to pawn it off and it was reiterated that I needed, right now, to get off my fucking ass and go to the ER! If I did not do so by the time she got off work, she was going to beat my ass (not hard to do in the state I was in) load me in the car herself and take me to her facility! Yeah the red headed inner Irish devil child had come out! In retrospect it was kinda sexy…

Being a man who had successfully navigated two previous marriages I knew instantaneously when to fold my cards, push my chair back, stand up and walk from the table. I told her, no I promised her over the phone I was headed to the ER. I always keep my promises.

Parking the car I slowly walked by the front glass doors of the ER. Peering in like a kid trying to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus without being caught, before me lay an empty waiting room. I had told myself if the ER was packed I was going to keep walking over to my GP’s (General Practitioners) office and try to get squeezed in that day. Intent would have been met and no one would be the wiser. But there I stood, staring at an empty ER waiting room. It was a sign.

Walking through the door to triage nurse meets me and asks; how can I help you today.

Me: Are you busy

Nurse: we are open 24/7

Me: (kindly) not what I fucking asked! Are you busy?

Nurse (taking me by the forearm): I think you need to sit down.

Sit down I did, and at that moment I realized while seated I was placing myself in a tripod position to ease my breathing  and that I was in fact speaking in 2 and three word sentences with sweat dripping on the floor. I was sick, real sick and for the first time over the last several weeks, through all my excuses, becoming a little worried.

They (ER staff) took me immediately, chest x-rays done and a breathing treatment started it was fairly obvious I was battling a solid case of pneumonia. Heart rate up, jitters from the albuterol, I was finally starting to catch my breath when the doctor came back to have a word with me.

Doc: Hey James, so we were right, you have pneumonia. We will be sending you home with some medication to treat it along with doses of albuterol, but there is something else. We spotted a dark shadow over your heart so you are being sent to CT for a better picture. Is that ok with you? I laugh and say no problem doc, ask anyone my heart is two sizes to small (Grinch reference) so I’m sure it’s nothing. We both chuckle and off to CT I go.

Two hours later.

Doc comes in and leans against the wall.

Doc: James, it is confirmed for sure, you do have pneumonia.

We both laugh at the absurdity of the re-diagnosis.

Doc: But there is something else. You have a T.A.A.

For those who do not know what a T.A.A is, it stands for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.  In a nut shell, the garden hose that feeds my heart is ballooning and ready to pop. If it pops, I’m dead in under thirty seconds! That’s right, I will bleed out on the inside. Nothing anyone can do.

I look him in the eye and say; you can’t tell me that doc, you can’t tell me I have a T.A.A! You know what I do for a living! You can’t tell me that!! I promptly begin freaking out!

He says; James because of what you do for a living, I told you that way. I know you know what it is and what needs to be done. He calms me down, gives me all the specifics and reminds me that in fact I am the luckiest person in the building. They caught something that has no known signs or symptoms. In the medical world it is known as the silent killer.

I walk out to the parking lot in shock. The sun seems brighter, the air smells different. Holding it together, head held high, I make it to the truck. To that date, longest slowest walk of my life. Once inside, I start it, turn on the A/C, hang my head behind my dark tinted windows and cry. A lot.

I text Lyn’s to give her the update. As soon as she is able to process what I have just told her, she clears it with her team and runs outside to call me. I am sobbing and sobbing hard, I can’t breathe, and I’m coughing, crying, and speaking in two word sentences again. All I can focus on is every call at work I responded to where the person/patient had an aortic aneurysm. They died. Even the few I went on that were post operation, yeah……they died. What the fuck! What the holy fuck! Yeah I know doc reminded me I was the luckiest guy in the building at that very moment because they found it in time but I sure didn’t feel lucky! I feel fucking cursed! So god damned fucking cursed!!!! Fuck you 2019, fuck you God, fuck everything!

Lyn’s pulls me back in, reminding me she is there for me, she isn’t going anywhere, and she is going to do a ton of research. She tells me we will find the very best doctor for this procedure, acquire him and everything will be fine. She reminds me that there is no way I have survived everything life has thrown at me without surviving this too. Calm down, breathe it will all be ok.

She has a way about her. I don’t know what it is but she has this consistent way of talking me off the ledge even if it’s momentarily. She is also a thorough planner and I know the planning is about to begin. Someone is going to be taking care of me, something that never, ever happens. The fact that it’s early in our relationship and she isn’t running away, is mind blowing. She says she is all in. Over the next several months, it will show just how “all in” she has become. I learn I am a lucky man once again.

Hanging up the phone, I proceed to spend the next hour calling my three very best friends. The three men in my life I would gladly give my life for in return. I tell them the news, give them all the prognosis and each one of them find a way to make me laugh. You know why? Because that’s what real friends do. They have your back no matter what and you have theirs. We will be that way until we die.

I place the truck in reverse and start my way out of the Kaiser parking lot. I’m terrified, certain I am going to die, worried about what I am going to tell all four of my already emotionally damaged children. Fuck me. What I am going to tell them? They’ve lost their moms’ and now they are most likely going to lose their dad! Haven’t we done enough? Hasn’t my family been through enough already!! Why?

I’m driving up 505, sobbing again. The pain is real, I am scared of the reality I am about to face. Little do I know just how scary things are about to get…

Dually..

My son brought him home one day while I was at work. Which coincidentally seemed to be where I was during most large events or life changes that revolved around our family.

He was black and tan, no bigger than a handful, full of energy and completely against what I thought my son was worthy of at the time. His name was Dually. He was a kelpie mix, a mistake from a breeding that shouldn’t have happened. He was cute as hell, full of energy and I wanted nothing to do with him.

You see Jake already had a dog. Jack. Jack came to us in a similar fashion (as in I was at work and had no say). After a year or so, Jack just kind of fell off the boy’s radar and Jack more or less became my dog. Now here we were again, a puppy, the dog of his dreams and I just knew with a stubborn, stingy old man heart that I would be taking care of another damn dog in a year. Cynical yes, but with cynicism comes truth. Little did I know how right and wrong I would be all at the same time.

Dually turned out to be smart as hell! You could teach him anything with only a few tries or corrections. He not only got it, but he never forgot it. The two of them (Jake and Dually) were inseparable. Where ever Jake was Dually was not far behind. He learned to work cattle quickly and went to every roping with jake, happily riding shot gun or inside the trailer. At rodeo’s if I was looking for my son, I’d just walk down the alleyways belting out his recall whistle. My son to this day has no idea how many times that dog narc’d him and his buddies out! One time after not getting an answer on Jakes phone and realizing the locater had been turned off, I whistled down an alleyway to see Dually’s little head pop out from under a stock trailer. Walking over quietly I peered into the trailer to see him and all his friends huddled around a heater, telling lies and laughing. Now I am no moron, of course they were hiding and drinking beer, but all I could think of was it could be much worse. When I was his age, it definitely was, so I simply chalked it up to memories they would never forget and kept a close watch.

Jake went off to college the next year. He came back a few weekends here and there but over time the trips became fewer and fewer. Dually was depressed, moping around the house and ranch. I had grown to really like him a lot. It was such a hard year, Jacy was dying, and the house was inundated with people all the time. The pressure to be everything to everyone was mounting and most days I felt as though I was going to explode. Even with writing this blog, detailing every experience, I was pushing down so much hard emotion. Days were long and the nights were longer. I always tried my best to put on a good face or when called out for my appearance proclaimed I was simply tired. Truth; I was alone inside.

One day I loaded dually up and took him to the beach. He was so happy! He ran and played, we hiked and it was then I knew, my son was losing his dog.

Dually slept on the bed next to me, he got baths, his teeth brushed, treats and lots of exercise. He went with me everywhere, and I mean everywhere. To quote the world famous Forrest Gump; we were like peas and carrots!! Ha ha!

The coolest thing about this dog and believe me there were many really cool things about this dog was his ability to sense things. I had sleep apnea at the time. If I had a night where I quit breathing. Dually would jump on my chest and wake me! He would then stand over me until I recognized him, kiss me once on the face, go to the foot of the bed, curl up and go back to sleep. At first I didn’t know what he was doing. I put it together after realizing the only times he did it, I had a severe headache when he woke me up. A sign I had been oxygen deprived for some time. He was my very special friend.

Even though it was him and I all the time, when Jake came home he never flinched in covering that boy with love. His faithfulness never wavered. Jake would always be “his” boy. It was amazing.

Sitting on the park bench I kept staring at the picture of my dog lying still on the pavement with the caption; He dead. At first I thought he was joking, that dually was actually sleeping out front in some weird contorted body position. I knew the truth by staring at the pic, but couldn’t grasp it. I called Parker and when I finally reached him through his choking tear filled pleas, Parker proclaimed it wasn’t a joke. Dually was dead.

Somehow that morning, Dually had escaped from the backyard. Parker realized he was gone and found him out in front of the house. Before he could get to him, while rounding the corner some asshole in a green Chevy truck hit my dog, full force, and dead center running him over with both the front and back of the truck. I know this because Parker saw him do it, saw the truck bounce into the air and the bastard never let off the gas.

Parker watched him die out in the middle of the street. Parker pulled him from the street, dragging Dually to our front porch. Covered in Duallys blood he tried calling me several times, because he didn’t know what to do. Where was I? Helping, always helping, doing my job, not home with my family where I should have been. Not able to answer the emergency call from my panicked, scared and heartbroken 14 year old son who had just seen something he shouldn’t have seen and was believing it was his fault. Yeah at work we stopped the structure fire that morning, we saved the house; we did our jobs. Here I was miles away and had just lost the one thing that had saved me, saved Jake from going crazy as we watched my wife, his mother die over the last several years. Who was going to save us now..

So I sat and cried.

A police officer came over and asked if I was ok. Was there anything he could do to help? I told him no, there wasn’t, I had just gotten word my dog was killed. He looked at me the way most would. With kindness and understanding, but also with that look. You know the “it’s just a dog” look. How could he know, how would he have known what this dog had done for me, for our family and now like everything else in my life that I grew to love he was dead, gone forever! Is this my destiny? I get it, he is a dog, but fuck! Is everything I love supposed to die? I am I not supposed to love anything at all? Am I fucking jinxed?? I mean whats next? This woman I am seeing; is being with me a death sentence for her as well??? Jesus H FUCKING Christ!!!!!!!!

I spent several minutes on that bench, trying to process, fighting the fight or flight urge to get out of there, wondering how I could escape. Then like I have done so many times before, I swallowed hard, stood up, and shook it off pushing every emotion I had down as hard as I could so as to not show weakness. I walked over to rehab, grabbed up my crew and we went back inside for overhaul relief.

Coming home I pulled up front. There he was, my best friend, my partner in crime, lying there on the concrete. He was still, stiff, and flies were making there way around his crushed skull and missing teeth. There was blood in the street, blood on the concrete. I cried so damn hard. It was painful. I didn’t know what to do. Parker and I hugged, I told him it wasn’t his fault and we would all be fine. I called Jake, I don’t remember that conversation and I am glad I don’t. When I think about that call all I feel is pain. Lots and lots of pain. That dog had saved him right in the middle of his mother dying. Dually was a gift from his mother against my wishes. I would find out much later it was because she simply wanted him to be loved unconditionally after she was gone. Pain, lots of pain.

I took the backhoe and dug a hole for him by his roping horse buddy Twoey. We had lost Twoey to a freak accident earlier the year before. I spent an hour carefully digging that hole. Something that probably should have taken only twenty minutes. It was clean, perfectly shaped and just the right depth. I laid him gently in the bottom of it and something strange happened to me.

Laying down next him inside that hole, I thanked him for everything he did for myself and Jake, I cried some more. He should have been off to the side watching me dig like always. He wasn’t supposed to be dead! It took me twenty years to love another dog after the death of Bear my first dog. Dually was it! What the fuck! I don’t know how long I was down there, but I heard a soft sweet voice coming from the edge. It was Lyn’s, my girlfriend. She came over right after work, she knew I was in a bad place.

Calmly, quietly she reached out her hand for me to come out of the hole. I told her I couldn’t, I couldn’t leave him, he never left my side and I wasn’t there for him when he needed me. Gently she reached out again, took my hand and asked; what can I do?

I came out of the hole. Hugged her, sobbed on her shoulder, crying like a child. I just couldn’t do it, there is no way I can do it, I mumbled over and over again. Lyn’s asked me what it was I couldn’t do.

Bury him. I just can’t put the dirt on top of him, I just can’t say goodbye. Especially like that, as if he was nothing.

Lynnsie grabbed my face, looked me right in the eye and said something I will never forget.

Maybe his time here was done. He came and did what he was meant to do. He cared for you and Jake, he brought you both exactly what you needed and now it’s time for him to go. Now go be the man I know you to be and finish what you started. He’ll always be with you.

The first bucket load was hard, the second a little less so, and before long I was grading the finish.

I sat for a while, looking over the pond with him. Feeling lonelier than ever. Wondering how one human being could hate another human being that he had never met more. Hatred is a powerful thing. Even now, writing this, I have no forgiveness for the fucker who took my friend from me.

I thought a lot about Dually in the days before finding myself lying in a cold hallway awaiting my turn. Wondering if someone would play Van Halen for me once we were inside.  If this went wrong, would I see him again, would I see everyone or anyone at all? Would I wake up and be even more heartbroken. I had my family, I had my closest friends and now I had Lyn’s, but I didn’t have my four legged buddy who could brighten up the roughest of days with nothing more than his presence. It was selfish but it was sadness drawn from love.

April 25, 2019 a mere five days later.

It all begins….

The final curtain call

The singers have sung, the dancers have danced, the orchestra has bowed, arisen and stepped away. The curtain has fallen.

Life is filled with chapters, our stories yet to be fully written. In reality we are but a show, actors or animals upon a stage for all to see.

It seems to me that as we grow older and our lives become intertwined within the workings of this world we actually may live in seasons. Seasons hidden so very deep within these so call chapters of life.

And so life goes.

Winter came upon us, leaving waste to our landscape. Unlike days of old, thanks to technology and the advancement of care within our structured society we knew the storm was coming and had braced ourselves for quite some time, thereby lessening the brunt of its blustery arrival. Easing fears in regards to the trail of waste it may leave behind was indeed a luxury. Letting us, the recipients of such travesty decide whether to allow this storm to rage uncontrolled or hunker down and get through it. It allowed us the opportunity in preparing to stand tall and rebuild our lives or possibly hide in obscurity for as long as we needed if not forever.

The storm came, the storm passed and now the seasons have indeed changed.

I have written on this blog for 8 years. Starting with my very first posting in 2011. My how the writings have changed, the author has grown while expanding upon a gift that has been given and received. To look back upon what started as a place to express my feelings as a father, husband and friend, to chronicling my wife, her sickness and ultimate demise. To share with anyone who chose to read it a sense of humor about life that some welcomed with open minds while others wondered what the hell I was thinking as they scratched their noggins. Yes also mastering the ability to arise emotions from even the hardest of readers was also a plus truth be told.  It really has been an amazing journey. A perfect documentation for my family to look upon long after I have left this earth.

But like most things, it must come to an end.

I have chosen to stand upon my own two feet, to move forward with my life, to live and yes I have even chosen to love again in finding a heart that met mine, a mind that challenges my thought process, a strength that holds me up when I am feeling bombarded or down and a knowledge that family comes first. We should all be so lucky! It is what life is about contrary to some popular belief.

Life should never be lived cowering under the shadows of others, the expectations created by those who have never walked in your shoes, but merely watched from a distance, judging only to fade away when the time was right. You only have one life, therefor only surround yourself with those who want nothing but the best and expect nothing in return. The kind of people who are positive and caring, for every day should be greeted with a smile, a deep breath and the knowledge that this is the one and only life you have therefore you should take it by the horns and ride it for all it is worth because your tomorrow may never come. I have seen it too many times where one loved one kisses another and like that, in the blink of an eye, they are never to be seen or heard from again. The grim reaper leaving its calling card, blackening their hearts, destroying their lives. Something I have sworn to never allow happen to myself.

Part of this season changing, part of a new crop (my life) growing comes from tilling the earth. Turning under empty soil in search of the rich nutrients I need to flourish. Which for me means it is time for this blog to end.

I have tried time and again to write the last couple of months. Nothing flows, nothing feels right and as I write this now I feel a giant weight being lifted from my shoulders. I must put this in the past, let go of all the negativity and allow the seasons to change thus creating a new chapter for my life.

Thank you to everyone and anyone who took a moment out of their lives to read this little blog. It has been a mental pleasure and a mind game of the highest proportions! It has been some of the best parts of my life and some of the very worst.

But it is time to go.

I will start a new blog eventually. I am not sure exactly what or how but I do know my need to write is strong. When it happens I will post it here for anyone who is interested in following along. The writing style will remain the same, the stories will be changed to protect the innocent!! Ha, Ha!!

So with that Betty bids you all a fair adieu.

She has said all she needs to say and as she lays down her proverbial pen, closing her laptop for the very last time she reminds you all to always have faith.

Goodnight, good luck and farewell…

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

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

It is the lonely that comes from silence.

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

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

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

The white noise is everywhere.

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

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

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

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

The permanency of it all is so overwhelming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have always been a man of my word.

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

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

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

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

If you love someone, I mean really love someone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A million no mores………

Where are you?

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday was the start of something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You were my everything…

The California Stop

I want to talk to you all about something important.

The future of our world.

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

Hmmmmmm???

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

No, that comes off as narrow minded and degrading…

WAIT! I got it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where the hell did the California stop come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Cue heavy thinking) Hmmmm????

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with just a little luck.

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

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

But hopefully you all get my drift…..

 

 

An Incredible Journey

I am on an incredible journey and I don’t know why.

Why was I chosen to walk this path filled with so many unexpected surprises? Why do I struggle with the same challenges day after day, feeling as if there is no reprieve? Why I am even allowed a new morning when others for who I look up to, revere or admire are facing their last days or have simply vanished, passing from their earthly constraints.

Every day I awaken, place my feet firmly upon the floor and stand up. I then make a conscious decision. Do I carry on, or give up? Do I meet the day’s challenges or pull the sheets over my head and cry foul? Do I continue to regress emotionally or do I say fuck this, square up my shoulders then throw a middle finger towards an overwhelming temptation to just quit?

Lately it has definitely been the latter. I’ve been putting on a good face while struggling to get out of bed then smiling the smile, telling the same old jokes, letting the actions or words of some bring me down and basically feeling as though I should be giving up. I am not happy, not happy in one little bit.

The darkness has crept in and I haven’t seen any light for quite some time. Between the duties of caregiver to my wife, caregiver to the public and struggling to remain a vigilant father while my children struggle with their own feelings for which they have no knowledge or control over in regards to our current situation. I have slowly faded away. Not all at once, but little bits at a time.

It feels like constant darkness in my head, every moment of every day and there has been nothing I can do about it.

So you begin to ask; if there is so much darkness why do you proclaim this an incredible journey?

Because like it or not, hate it or love it, detest its existence or clamor for more, it is an incredible journey!

As human beings it is our job to grow and share. It is not a right, you are not rightfully given another day on this earth. You have no right to prosperity and wealth, you have no right to a job, a house, a marriage, a life of any kind. You have to earn it!! Then grow and share through the process!

That’s right, I know this may come as a shocker to some, but your life is earned. What you have accomplished by the time your final day comes (and it comes for us all) is 100% purely up to you!

My grandmother came to me in a dream last night. (Don’t get all; holy shit he’s gone off the deep end) Although I know dreams are a conglomeration of memories, subconscious thoughts, neural transmissions and blah, blah, blah. It was exactly what I needed at just the right time.

My grandmother on my mother’s side was a very interesting woman. She graduated from Stanford during a time when women were considered less than men. She dated a few notable individuals of the time. She made her own way through life when in her forties her husband, my grandfather died of a heart attack. She had a very successful career in finance when women were considered nothing more than secretaries and used her skills to set an example. She traveled the world going where she wanted when she wanted with nothing holding her back!

As a child I vaguely remember her stories about life, travel and the many lessons she put before me. Whenever we visited she used buttons to teach us about money, plants in her greenhouse to teach us about life, books to teach us about literature and conversation to teach us about the human equation. I woke up this morning wishing I was 8 again so I could hug her and listen more intently.

She wrote a book about her life. I have it on a shelf. I have read twice and when I awoke this morning it dawned on me that I may need to read it again. I need that emotional connection, to relearn what it means to be me, throwing caution to the wind, standing up for and protecting my ethics, beliefs and way of life no matter what anyone else says because my life is mine. To help stay on track, for in my heart I still believe that we all learn from one another’s triumphs and mistakes. During this crazy time where our socializations seems to only focus on a small device that spews nothing more than negativity an hate tearing the very fabric of this country. Maybe one small voice, writing about his struggles in an obscure seldom read blog could remind us there is a positive, no matter the circumstances and that choice would mine to make. No one could take it away.

My current situation has a myriad of balls all up in the air, a juggler’s nightmare as gravity brings them towards me at a dizzying pace! It constantly comes up in conversation when people say; I don’t know how you do it, in regards to the struggle associated with raising four children, working as a firefighter while caring for my wife with stage four Graf vs Host disease. Watching as she withers away, gets strong then withers away again. Is frustrated with the fact she is going blind yet bravely and with great fortitude works her way through daily activities for which she refuses to give up on. She is strong, brave and amazing.

It (the how do you do it comment) is a simple enough statement, it is never meant with any disingenuous undertone, and my response is usually almost always; it is what it is. I say that as to not offend anyone or hurt their feelings. But my real thought is; how could I not! This is my life, my family, my wife, what the hell else am I supposed to do?

I realize we live in a decaying society where it is easier to point a finger, post it on Facebook, complain publicly, give up and run away than it is to stay behind and fight for the ones you love! Fight for the life and family you have created! To me that is a sad moniker of what our lives in this country have boiled down too. If the going gets tough-make a spectacle then QUIT!

There are those that wonder why I write so openly about my personal life and if it affects anyone close to me.

Yes it does affect those close to me, but I have always felt deep inside it was my obligation to share everything. Why? Because I have yet to see one writing that adequately covers or assists the multitude of struggles and emotions I am feeling. Everything ever written in regards to being the spouse of a Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant survivor is generic! Nothing even remotely touches the many facets of life this horrible disease along with recovery post-transplant throws in your face. It is all glossed over as to not scare you. Well guess fucking what? Life is a scary thing, now throw in all the new challenges associated with a wife whose body is trying to kill her and well you better sack up and learn from someone who has walked the path! Stay firmly away from those who wallow in a dream world where after treatment life just carries on as if nothing ever happened!!! Which is where I think I come in, for those who want the truth and seek it through my writings.

So then I wonder do people think my attitude comes naturally. My ability to cope? To understand and carry on?

Because it takes work, patience and the ability to listen, not pass judgement when you can and keep an open mind. It takes and incredible amount of faith and that faith is tested, over and over and over again! This journey I am on reinforces all those things on a daily basis!

So then my mind digs deeper into that simple question of “how do I do it” and I wonder some more. Do people believe that being a firefighter comes naturally? That we are all born with some obscure kryptonite type gene that predisposes us to the atrocities of the human condition? You see, firefighting, that is the easy part! It always has been and always will be. You still need to understand basic chemistry and have a few years’ experience using those skills to know exactly when and where placing the right amount of water at the right time will put out the fire while saving lives and property. This professions education is real, the long hours studying and keeping those skills are mind numbing. As a firefighter you need to become proficient at a little bit of everything. Building construction, demolition expert, code compliance, hazardous materials, chemist, investigator, auto mechanic, auto technician, computer genius, locksmith, heating and air technician, heavy equipment operator, financial advisor, ER doctor, supervisor, pastor, councilor and truck driver. If you added up the salaries of all those things each member would be worth over a million a year and we can go into the private section with our degrees and make three times what we struggle to earn in our jobs, but that’s not why we do it. It is an overwhelming need to help people. But as if that load of constant learning wasn’t enough, and as I said, fighting fires using all that education is in fact the easy part, you know what the real struggle is? The thing that keeps us up at night, the thing that not one mother fucker prepares you for that haunts your very soul when you lay your head down on that pillow?

It is the endless onslaught of death that we must deal with on a regular basis. Dancing in our heads like ghosts from Christmas past. Dealing with them any way we can, through counseling, good friends and time away from the big green fire engines. It is also coming back the station and reading in the local paper that our city council doesn’t support us in the least. Or we are attacked by the public because we go as an engine company to the store to purchase our supplies which we pay for from our own pockets or that our retirement is some magical golden egg that is draining the state’s coffers when we pay an ungodly amount of money per month out of our own pockets to fund it. Its understanding and coming to terms with the fact we are not funded in social security therefore we only receive from social security what we put in prior to joining the fire department. But hey none of that matters as we lay our heads down at night, trying to erase all those horrible images while also knowing we are unsupported you know why? Because most of us won’t live past 60! It is a statistical fact we will all contract some form of cancer from all the chemicals and carcinogens we have absorbed or inhaled throughout the years! But no worries we’ll just keep pushing it all down deep inside so it doesn’t show when we get home! That way our families and spouses won’t see or feel our pain, so they can have that great husband or father home for few days all happy and cheery like normal families!! Right? Right?

Why do we do it? Why do we keep coming back for more? Because we wish nothing more than to make that one save, that one moment in life where a positive impact on another human beings life has been made. So despite being treated like shit by our public officials, living with our deepest emotions, we can rest easy knowing another is alive, enjoying their family because of the sacrifices we willingly made. Fulfilling our own prophecy through hard work and dedication. Bringing life full circle.

This journey has allowed me to witness my wife fight for her life while I hold her hand, struggle as she struggles and rejoice as she rejoices. We don’t always agree on the topic of rejoicing but through this journey I have learned the importance of shutting my mouth while allowing my spouse to find the joy she needs over little accomplishments. I have learned to keep my mouth shut as she sheds tears, relinquishing my need to fix things. For there is nothing I can fix and only a shoulder to cry upon or an ear to yell into is needed at that moment in time. I have found understanding I never knew I had as unwarranted venom flows from her mouth one minute and angel’s wings sprout lifting her high over her pain another. I hug her when she needs to be hugged and leave her be when she wants nothing more than her headphones and a television show she has seen 100 times so she can listen to it as her eyes will no longer allow her to watch.

This journey has taken a toll on my life and although as of late I have been angry over its direction, angry at the life we now lead, angry at myself for being so very fucking angry inside!! ALL THE DAMN TIME!! It is still my journey, I am writing (quite literally) my own story. It is up to me how it ends.

At the end of the day, when my time has come, I want my children to look back and not remember the struggle. But remember their father handled it all, with strength, grace, positivity, faith and a plan. Ok let’s face it a few good old fashioned Irish/Italian hot headed fuck you fest temper tantrums as well. Then I want them to be able to go to a bookshelf, pull out a well written book, open the pages and read the story of my life, their lives, and the lives of those who loved them unconditionally. I want them to ride along in this journey page by page and remember the way I remember my grandmother.

Does labeling this shit storm we live in a fantastic journey mean I will become more positive? No, it means I know who I am and what I need to do.

Will my mood cease to be down and at times dark? No, I am human and with that naturally comes forms of negativity. It is life.

The blog has been dark as of late because I have been struggling with so many emotions tearing me up inside. I am sorry I haven’t been able to share for those who reach out to me on a regular basis. Time to light it up again, hit that keyboards and continue along with this fantastic journey.

God help me…