A Man of Constant Sorrow

 

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I am sorry I havent written in a few weeks…

Life events have a way of giving or changing perspective, enlightening or suppressing emotions, giving one pause or setting one free.  This last week has been a complete disaster for me personally, leaving me overwhelmed, under the weather, lethargic, sad, and generally abandoned of feeling. Leukemia brings with it storied highs and tremendous lows, leaving its target families trying their best to muddle along somewhere in the middle.

The Saturday before last I toddled off to work as a very happy Ms. Jacy was home safe and sound, with children and a host of good friends checking in on her throughout the day. By noon a leukemia sized storm was brewing as she slowly began spiking a fever while feeling  a tad ill.  Refusing to admit something wasnt quite right (the hard-headed Cuban in her) she scoffed at my inquires and thwarted my meddling from afar. Finally after several rebuffed suggestions this woman of mine caved into peer pressure brought forth from one equally stubborn, very close family friend.  Against her own better judgement she climbed into said friends car and headed for the hospital.

Not a minute to soon

Upon arriving in the ER, blood was drawn, counts determined to be low and her fever began spiking at 102 degrees.  Jacy also began feeling a heightened pain around her Powerport insertion site in combination with redness and some swelling.  She called to give me an update, and as I worried about her well-being Jacy promptly cut me short, telling me to stay at work, all would be fine as our friend was staying with her.  What she didn’t know, what we couldn’t know was this was the beginning of a 6 day hospital stay that would bring more pain, tears, depression, anger, nausea, and hatred.  All emotions geared towards a level of care, a lack of information and a medication induced headache that would rival even the most severe pain ever experienced in her life.

Ms. Jacy had developed an infection within her port, most dangerous considering it is a direct line to her heart.  This brought an uneasy rest, fear and for a moment a feeling as though this just can’t go on any longer. Her days were filled with delirium, nausea and a much-needed (at times) drug induced sleep.

In a 6 day period I laid awake almost every night, worrying about her. Whether the infection was worse, whether or not the nurses (not chemo nurses mind you) had the right medications at the right time, are they administering blood transfusions at the right rates and have they given her the appropriate pre-meds prior to delivering the product. What are her plasma counts and if they are being taken into consideration why are her platelet counts so low? Yep every question I could think of running through my brain at all hours of the day and night.  Throw in taking care of the children, making sure they weren’t scared or worried about mommy being in the hospital again, ensuring the littlest one Parker understands whats happening since it seems every time he goes to school and mommy promises she will be home when he returns, she is not. Throw in household chores and our ranch (including one escaped horse at 3 in the morning), it was indeed a long sleepless week.

Now as I have said before, I wasnt alone. My barn people came through as always, allowing me the freedom to only do a limited amount of chores, and the flexibility to leave at the drop of a hat. Close family friends were always on other end of the line, asking, pleading for anything they could do to help.  And last but not least the constant array of giving people who have helped with dinner for our family.  I am incredibly thankful for you all..

But my brain, that dirty little Dura-matter, neurological, master piece floating inside this thick head.  If only I could shut it off for more than an hour, it would be grand.  If only I could turn off the constant questioning, turn down the vast medical knowledge that spins so freely inside.  Tricking me, scaring me, giving me panic attacks in the middle of the night! If only..

To sleep an entire night without nightmares, or wake up sweaty and cold reaching, feeling, to find no one there only to remember she is housed on floor two, room 213, alone, crying, sleeping, covering her head with ice and wondering why this is happening to her. Wanting to hold her, make it all go away, pretend it’s never happened. Is that too much to ask?

I am usually very positive, bringing the uplifting thoughts and prayers, trying my best to understand the meaning in any moment or given time. But  lately it is getting harder and harder.  Watching her cry, feeling her sorrow, asking herself; why me? Feeling utterly helpless.  I am a fixer, it is in my nature.  If there is a problem I fix it, I don’t wish to sit around and ponder a problem, cry over the problem, I just want to fix it! I can’t fix this! I can’t take it away! I can’t make her feel better about herself! I can’t help her to understand how beautiful she is, both inside and out! Cancer is chipping away at her confidence. Her kiss is still the same, her smile is still the same, her eyes still light up my heart! Cancer can’t possibly take those truths away! But it is trying very hard mentally.

So I can’t fix it, a hard pill to swallow, and with that, my sorrow continues.  

I was raised to believe a good husband protects his wife, shields her from ugly, sadness and pain.  That as her partner it is my job to carry this load. My responsibility to take her hand and lead her through this journey, minimizing the painful effects, bearing that burden.  But what you don’t know, what you don’t understand until you are lying in bed with a million medical “what if’s” running through your head is Cancer don’t give a fuck how you were raised. Cancer doesn’t care what your ethics are, or the belief system by which they are supported. Cancer only cares about cancer, tearing down its host from the inside out, one cell at a time. Cancer teases its victim and family with good days then pummels them with bad.  In the end, you lay there, ice on your head, missing your loved ones, crying because you are alone, listening to machines beep and click, while nurses poke you, prod at you, and take your vitals every 15 minutes, yet you remain trapped in a room you cannot leave.  Oh you want to leave, the door is right there, but that I.V. octopus has its tentacles forced deep down within your veins, keeping you from moving any farther than the restroom. Humiliated in an open back robe, red sock slippers and mesh net hospital underwear.  In the end cancer not only feels like its killing you, but as though its killing your spouse as well.

I know, its tearing me apart on the inside. Many days there is a smile upon my face, but deep down, I am not there, my sorrow holds strong as I think about my wife either in the hospital or at home, dizzy, forgetting things, some days struggling just to walk down the stairs. Cancer is a rat bastard and I hate it! I hate what it represents, I hate the chemotherapy (yes I blame Cancer but in reality it is really the chemotherapy) killing my wife slowly from the inside out, I hate that it is quietly wreaking havoc on our children, reaching out with its bony finger of gloom,  forever changing our lives.

I hate feeling like a man of constant sorrow.

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Listen up pumpkin!

My dearest daughter:

You are well spoken, smart and can talk the ear off a deaf priest. You are slowly entering the pre-teen years and this of course means my shot-gun is polished, oiled and ready for action! It also means boys, mean girls, real friends, fake friends and of course more boys! As your father (and a member of the opposite sex who was also young at one time) I am struggling to find helpful advice, nuggets of wisdom to answer the many questions about life as an adult bringing you forward into this world of contradictions safely.  Wisdom that will mold you, shape you, ultimately defining who you become as a woman.  One would think by using my personal experiences you might glean valuable information into the future but our world has changed drastically and yet oddly enough in some respects remains painfully the same.

Hypocrisy

In the world of today you my daughter will be expected to stand strong, ooze intelligence images-18and roar loudly until  heard! Of course this is only after a man has spoken because you are after all a woman with a small brain, with a brain a third the size of us men, its science. (sarcasm)

You will be expected to work twice as hard, put in long hours and strive to be the very best at what you do. Then watch as male counterparts do half the work with a quarter of the effort while enjoying the same benefits associated with higher pay and owning a penis.

images-21 images-19You must learn to dress appropriately for a job. Unfortunately in our world that means treading a fine line between appearing as a stiff uptight bitch or an easy boob busting slut. It doesn’t matter what you choose someone will find you to be one or the other and depending on your choice of careers that could be advantageous, purely disastrous or end with your own reality television show. Fingers crossed for that last one!!

Understand my daughter that sexual harassment training has been developed for your protection. Thousands of hours (and lawsuits) have helped define the workplace for the modern woman! Yes thats right men did that through idiotic blunder and sexual abuse! You are welcome! Now you must sit through countless hours of training, helping you to understand the protection afforded you from yourself, from others, from a boss,  a secretary, heck in some states even your dog.  You will have the security of knowing sexual harassment does not go both ways, even though the two-way street of male harassment by a female co-worker is discussed during class. You have nothing to worry about because no self-respecting man will ever stand up and say he was sexually harassed by another woman. In the mans world that’s known as moving up the ladder.

In this modern liberated society, where are all human beings are supposed be on equal plains, you must remember your place my dear! It doesn’t matter that you hold a full-time job, or are a CEO, my daughter when you get home after a long day you must ensure household bathrooms are scrubbed, dishes done, laundry finished and dinner placed on the table by the time your “man” gets home.  Why? Because that’s what society has learned from every advertising agency across this country. Every television sitcom since beerbefore Leave it Beaver!  Just turn on the TV and notice who the advertising is geared towards.  Hint: It isn’t men, domestic partners, children oh no! It’s all geared towards women still running the household and slaving over every aspect of their families life! But of course its easy to see why, because while watching these advertisements women are either married to the stupidest man in the world, are struggling single mothers or are surrounded by little genius children who dare not lift a finger out of fear Harvard will call cancelling their tuition. Wait no that is real life, so forget that, you are screwed.

Your love life can no longer revolve around finding a partner, falling in love and living happily ever after! Todays woman should date as many men as they want, date them all at the same time (they do on the bachelorette) play mind games with them as though you are on survivor then cast them aside for fun! Hell it’s what men have done for years so good for you! Marriage is an oxymoron anyways! But be prepared, as with your male counterparts you will be labeled a variety of names and most of them posted to your Facebook page, or at least linked to it! No longer just fodder for someone’s amusement inside your inner circle, by the water cooler at the office or gossip within the grocery store or PTA meeting. Now there is a Facebook page dedicated to your demise. Don’t worry only 500 likes so far. If you are lucky it will hit a thousand before the day is out moving you up in social status! Good job Snooky!!!

Eat to stay healthy, or skinny, or skinny and healthy! You know what I mean, our society has plenty of chocolate covered everything to help you keep that unwanted weight off while pandering to your obvious weakness as a woman for sweets! So plunge into those chocolate fiber bars or 0 calorie yogurt cups that help with digestion.  Hey they are allimages-22 there to ensure you become much skinnier then you really need too, helping you fit into that size 0 dress. You know why? Society says so fat ass.  The modern-day, Abercrombie and Fitch social scale of lard goes something like this; Size 4 you are a pig! Size 5-blimp! Size 10-rehab for food addiction.  HEELLLLOOOOOO!!!! Size 0,1,2 or 3 and well its obvious you aren’t eating enough and in need of serious help you crazy bulimic! But shit its ok because you look FABULOUS!!!!! Remember Binge and Purge!!

AAhhhhh my little strudel, don’t get discouraged at least your man can eat what he wants when he wants and that should satisfy you emotionally.  Remember if a man looks a little overweight he is considered “slightly out of shape”.  If a man has a belly of any proportion images-23its obvious he is spoken for and well taken care of by some generously loving woman. If a man is sculpted with chiseled abs its quite obvious he is either gay,  bi-sexual or a slutty player in which case you should have no contact with this handsome prick what so ever. (Just ask your father)

Drink beer and belch with the boys, you will be forever known as a rude, classless hick. (Tomboy)  Drink wine and hang with the girls you are of taste and elegance ( Snobby Bitch). Drink hard liquor at the bar and you are a “Ball buster”! (Dyke) Don’t drink at all? (Square) In which case you might as well spray yourself with man repellant, cause you soda water sipper are probably a granny panty virgin. (not that there is anything wrong with that)

Speaking of underwear. Thongs are the greatest underwear ever invented! Just ask any guy they will tell you! What they wont say to your face is once a thong is spotted you are labeled, easy, a tramp and everyman is looking for that little Y at the top of you dress line or peeking out from the edge of your “skinny” jeans the moment you walk in the room and bend over.  Like a heard of wolves searching for a wounded rabbit your scent tracked and observed from the quiet corners, crowded tables and single seats lining a images-24room! In the mans world it is a rite of passing to be the first reporting a thong sighting! Yet hhmmm, you never seem to catch a woman drooling, slinking around behind men looking to see if they catch a glimpse of those Hanes briefs or boxers? That’s right the thought of a vagina cradled just so, far outweighs a mans premonition in regards to the banana hammock as Gods gift for all women to behold.   But don’t worry sexual harassment be damned at some point the truth about you both will come out! Can you say office Christmas party or coffee corner drivel?

Drive a Subaru, Miata or 4×4 truck and you are self-righteous, country hick or gay. Drive a mini van and you are a soccer mom, drive a high dollar foreign car and you are a mafia wife (well taken care of).  A man can drive what he wants (except the Subaru) and he is either thrifty, fun-loving, intelligent or a hunter. Sucks huh?

When you do decide to become a mom life gets better in the social world of today. The mini van is a must or else you wont fit in with the cool moms. (competitions to see who can haul the most kids to meets, games etc..)  If you and your husband work and raise kids your husband is a selfish bastard and you will always be seen as frustrated and incapable of handling all the challenges associated with basically being a married single mom.  If you put the children in day care you are heartless, uncaring and shouldn’t have brought children into this cold, hard world. But don’t worry, because your full-time working husband is still selfish and insensitive in regards to your emotional suffering.  If your husband stays home to raise the children and you return to a full-time position, well then society thinks your husband is a complete failure and shame on you for forcing him to stay home and take care of your kids! That’s right my dear it’s a lose, lose for everyone, especially the children.

I could go on an on but this is just a small sarcastic glimpse at what awaits you as an adult woman in today’s world.  So my advice to you is this.  Remember your dad is always here for you and will support you anyway I can, then tell the world to kiss your ass and do what you want to do! Live life the way you want to live it, heck that’s what I did and so far its working out just fine….

Seriously though stay away from the chiseled abs guy, he is only into himself and he is nothing but trouble plus I am not ready to turn a nickel in a state facility for hurting him badly.

Love,

Your DADUnknown-14

Strike three! You are outta here! Or should be?

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Well my darlings, I must apologize for being absent for the last three weeks.  Between work, little league baseball, 4-H, the ranch and life in general there has been little time for me to pony up to a computer and write (no I still have not moved into the modern age and purchased a laptop or tablet).

So whats bothering Betty tonight? What has ruffled Betty’s skirt and driven her to break the silence of the last three weeks? Unfortunately its baseball.

I say unfortunately because I believe baseball to be the last bastions of pure sporting left to behold. Baseball has and always will captivate me, leave me bewildered and mesmerized as play after play with all its strategy and purity is performed before my very eyes.  I love it! So when my children ask if they can play little league baseball of course the answer is yes!

Now I am no virgin to the ways of little league baseball! The politics, coaches hoarding players and building teams to hopefully ensure a championship! What ever! The name of the game is winning, and winning is what it is all about! Betty coached for 5 years in various levels and thoroughly enjoyed watching kids build their skills and feel success as plays were massaged, rules enforced and just for a moment greatness was felt! The building blocks of success for the young! Heavy sigh…..

So whats grinding on me about little league at this very moment? What has me screaming  bullshit towards the ump over a bad call that was obviously a strike? Jumping up and down like a crazed fan who just saw a double play for the first time live?

PARENTS AND COACHES

Ladies and Gentlemen in all my years I have never and I mean NEVER seen such a poor example of sportsmanship from both parents and coaches alike! Every night at the ball field there is some Al Bundy wanna be still reliving his 4 touchdowns in a single game illustration_2010_01_09_rockwell_inside_artfrom high school! This fool at the top of his lungs is screaming at a teenage umpire about how that last call was shit! Every four letter word in the book is thrown at this poor hapless youngster who is just trying to pass down his love for the game through umpiring only to become emotionally damaged by some fat ass 40 something threatening to kick his ass for a bad call made on his kid! Hey fat ass guess what little junior is not the next Buster Posey! He may never wear a Yankees uniform and unless I missed something, little league is supposed to be fun! Not much fun when old dad is near cardiac arrest over a call made by a child just trying to do the right thing and not even getting paid for it!

Then there is the upper leagues, “Majors” where ball playing really gets serious! My sons team is 18-2, no other team is close, yet it never ceases to amaze me the shit talking that goes on from both parents and coaches of the defeated teams.  On the field coaches are acting like asses! Yelling at their kids after a loss things like; you are a disgrace, you make all of us look bad, do you like being losers because that is just what you are a bunch of losers! Or better yet, when one of our kids get on base near the opposing teams dugout, coaches from the opposing team are belittling our players! Are you kidding me? Heres and idea, practice! I know novel concept huh? We practice six days a week and the kids cant wait to get together because thier caoch makes it fun! Holy shit FUN on the ball field, thats just unheard of!!!!

ladies and gentlemen the last time I checked these were kids. Kids who play baseball on break between classes in school, kids who would play where they want, when they want, with or without us adults intervening, kids who pretend they are major league stars for only a moment while up at bat! Kids who play for fun! Thats right they play because it isUnknown-8 fun!!! So I pose a simple question, why have we as adults decided the game is all about us? Why have we as adults taken it upon ourselves to put pressure on these kids to perform to standards that can’t be met, and most important of all why are we as adults admonishing them, belittling them and treating them like shit when they lose, instead of being the coaches we are supposed to be and working with them to create better players, better sportsman, and better human beings all through the venue of one of the greatest games ever played? Why?

I watched two grown men from opposing teams almost come to blows over a supposed “bad” call the other night! Not only was it an embarrassment for the teams, it was an embarrassment for the adults and it sure as hell was an embarrassment for the children. I know in the middle of the game I wouldn’t want to look up while at bat to see what all the commotion was about and find my dad poking some guy in the chest calling him an asshole! What the hell?

So all you part-time dads, Al Bundy’s of the world and all around abusive, small-minded, low self-esteem losers, listen up! Its baseball! It’s supposed to be fun, your kids are supposed to have fun win or lose (yes losing is no fun, but teaching a child how to lose with dignity only to win again at a later date is priceless) then leave the park feeling good! Not feeling like they are losers, or their coach hates them, or they let their parents down, or wondering why little Barry Bonds jr.’s dad is being arrested and hauled off to jail for beating the shit out of little Derek Jeters dad over a bad call.

Pull your heads out of your asses parents and lets allow our children to PLAY BALL!

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Will you let deaths door remain open?

 

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Death:

Noun
The action or fact of dying or being killed; the end of the life of a person or organism.
An instance of a person or an animal dying.

So cold, callous and final is death, therefore the definition holds no particular glamour, no allure or promise of grandeur. Blunt and to the point, finality, end of subject.

But what death really means is so much more to those affected by its looming presence. Opening deaths door scars you emotionally; death leaves one wondering how, or why? What could this person have done differently changing the course of history, altering this ones “end of days?”

Death means nothing to those who are gone, but means so much to all who are left behind.  Family members grieve, friends despair, acquaintances wonder what can be done to support those in anguish. A circle of emotional extremes travels through anyone and everyone who ever spoke the name of the deceased.  And that’s ok, its how we process the loss of a being we will never lay eyes upon again. That in and of itself is truly hard to comprehend.

All living things have an expiration date. Its like the elephant in the room. We know it’s there yet we refuse to talk about it.  I surmise the only reason it’s so hard to wrap our minds around is because our expiration date is unknown. We walk through life as though we can live forever yet in reality our next step could very well be our last. This alone could and should leave even the faintest of hearts terrified!  For the smallest of acts such as opening a window to the outside world  may lead to ones own extinction .

But in reality fear of death or someone dying unexpectedly doesn’t leave the majority of us human beings terrified at all. Sure we wonder about it, the where’s, why’s and how’s but it doesn’t stop us in our tracks, leave us helpless, lying on the floor in the fetal position. Why, because we have been bestowed with a phenomenal gift! A gift so great we should all be grateful for obtaining its possession! That gift?

Memories.

Memories are amazing! I as most, have lost a few people I cared deeply about in my life and what astounded me personally was the flood of wonderful memories after their passing.  Its strange really, many of those memories were completely forgotten about until after my loved ones/friends death.  Hundreds of fantastic, laughter filled, teary eyed, warm and comforting memories! The human brain continues to baffle me with its amazing complexity and instantaneous ability to work in the right way at exactly the right time.  Combine that with a few good friends/family members, some wine and a photo album or two and stand back! Not a dry in the house and laughter combined with a strange reaction known as smiling will ensue! Does it replace a good old-fashioned hug from someone you love? No. But I bet you remember some of the nicest hugs you ever received from that person.  Does it replace sipping a cool drink while partaking in an awesome conversation with the recently deceased? Nope, not a chance! But I guarantee your memory will allow you to lay in bed at night fondly remembering long conversations from evenings past?

Listen I am not saying memories are a perfect cure-all for an aching heart.  It hurts to lose someone! It hurts deep inside, it hurts on the outside and for a period of time it feels as though the pain may never go away.  But instead of letting the finality of deaths definition eat away at your soul; choose to remember, not forget. Choose to laugh and smile chasing away the effect left you by the grim reapers blackened robe. Let memories take ahold and guide you through the darkness into a place of light and understanding. A place where even though they had nothing to do with the timing of their passing you can forgive them for being gone, still love them for what they brought into your life and cherish ever single wonderful memory you have to reflect upon time and time again.

Remember; everyone, no matter who they are had a redeeming quality! Never at one wake, one funeral, one celebration of life have I heard a single person stand up to eulogize the deceased and say: “place-name here” was a god damn son of a bitch! I hated that bastard so much I am glad they are dead!

So grab those memories, smile and remember; celebrate all of their life experiences no matter how big, no matter how small, remember they loved you as well and in the end remember most of all how lucky you are to have spent what ever time the good lord afforded you with that person.  Our time here isn’t promised, we should never ever sweat the small stuff, tomorrow may never come and memories last forever.

DEATH nor its meager definition can take that away from any of us.

 

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In memory of Grandmother Rosemary

One of the few women I have ever met who lived life on her own terms and could flow into a room effortlessly while stealing the show with poise, grace, intelligence and kindness.  May she rest in peace…..

 

 

 

A road of regret, remains a road to be traveled

 

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As a young lad (birth-14 years of age) I wandered through life pretty much afraid of my own shadow.  If you challenged me to attempt some feat of greatness, my heart rate would quicken, cold sweat would drop from my pores and my body would slowly move backwards, quietly exiting the room unnoticed.  A period of time passed where I was so gifted at being one with the group that my great Houdini disappearing act would completely go unnoticed. Group would participate, I would disappear, group would reassemble, I would reappear and all would believe that I too had partaken. Mission images-3accomplished!

I don’t know why I was this way, some say it was fear of failure, others believe it was fear of rejection and then there is a feeling of possibly not fitting in with a group of your peers. As an adult who can look back upon this period of my life with an objective eye, it seems to me the fear of embarrassment for not doing well or having someone poke fun afterwards is what kept me over in the corner praying not to be noticed.

Either way, my unwillingness to participate in anything of substance left me stuck in a strange mental place.  My inner Betty would scream a not yet coined Nike catch phrase of JUST DO IT!!!  But self-preservation mode would always overpower even the slightest inkling of actually following through on anything.

As I grew into my late teens-early 20’s I took a very drastic turn the other direction! But instead of trying new challenges of substance, I slowly became the poster child for foolishness!  To this day I am surprised my parents even claim me as their own.  Instead of dwindling into the corner of a room I became the mouthpiece for the entire room and the room next door.  My personality had changed to the point if I was not front and center, the focal point of attention, a moment of chaos would be created allowing you to notice little old me! images-5

Once again looking back from the perspective of an adult. I had become Marty McFly. Dont you dare call me chicken! Dare me to do doughnuts with my truck in the high school parking lot! Go ahead, dare me! You don’t think my truck can do 120 mph? Dare me, go ahead! images-2Whats that there’s a party tonight on the other side of town and I am grounded for a week! Dare me to steal my own truck, push it down the driveway after sneaking out and join the fun without getting caught! Heck I don’t even care about getting caught anyways, so dare me! Just Unknowndare me! Are you kidding me, you think that girl is out of my league! Dare me to go over and talk to her! Chicken you say, did you just call me chicken! Nobody calls me chicken! (By the way, got my nose relocated a few times as I was never a very good fighter)

Now with this new-found attitude came a side effect that as a child/teenager I had never intended.  I alienated many good, long time friends, I hurt the feelings of many other very close friends and I hurt some family members feelings. All of which I regret greatly to this day. I was kicked out of my high school, let back in and almost kicked out images-4again. My mouth almost always wrote checks my personality couldnt cash and I am pretty sure I drove my parents to alcoholism. Yes, I was that kid. If there was a story to be told, well I told! (sometimes with a great deal of embellishment) If there was a joke to be played, I played it! If there was a covert mission to take part in well then “Good morning Mr. Phelps”! I wanted, no I needed to be front and center if that didn’t happen then I acted like a little jerk! A little jerk that had just been called chicken!

My 20-30’s something happened. I calmed down just a bit and some of the wall flower came back in.  I found myself still wanting to prove something, to someone, anyone, so my mouth was regularly engaged in self promotion. The problem was there was no back fill! At no point and time could I bring myself to actually finish many challenges my mouth had started!

Example:

  1. Tried saddle bronc riding. Loved it, but was too scared to compete. Big regret!
  2. Could have purchased my own truck and started my own company. Looked at one financing option. threw up my hands and quit! Big Regret!
  3. Raised my own cows for two years, could have grown the operation but instead, got scared and quit! Big Regret!
  4. Wanted to live on my own longer in my early 20’s. Got scared of being alone. Big Regret!
  5. Joined the military, was promised a certain job, when I didn’t get it, I walked away, even though I had already been through MEPS and was waiting to swear in. Big Regret!
  6. I have owned over 20 motorcycles in my life. My goal was to travel the United States on one of those bikes. Yet I could never bring myself to plan a trip! A regret I hold to this very day!
  7. Plenty of chances in my early youth to travel to Europe on the cheap. Was terrified of the unknown. Regret!
  8. Three times in my youth I could have gone sky diving. One of my biggest fears is jumping out of a perfectly good airplane! Excuses abounded for those three times, all while speaking of how easy sky diving would be! (except for just recently when offered I really/honestly could not make the date) Regret!

Everyone has regrets from their youth, these were just a few of mine. The difference is I was continually my own worst enemy.  Always talking up the subject with no substance to back the proposal.  As I reached my 30’s though life and my attitude really started to even out.  The temper sub-sided ( you could call me chicken and I wouldn’t be offended), my personality had tempered just a bit. The latter half of my 20’s was filled with successes, the early part of my thirties was filled with growth, personal tragedy, more growth and knowledge.  My life was really coming full circle and I now felt there wasnt as much to prove to anyone.

Moving into my 40’s and challenges were around me everyday, I no longer shrank into the back of the room or stood out front pounding my chest screaming look at me! I pick new challenges one at a time and do my very best to create some form of accomplishment! It has been a very rewarding decade so far.  Sounds great right? Like I should be very proud of where my life is headed. The problem?

Two things. First, I now feel as though I have an enormous list of personal challenges to accomplish and I am running out of time. I am also finding new activities that I love so much I wish they had been discovered in my 20’s so I could thrive at them for another 40 years! Second. I now see the very same issues I had as a young lad in one of my sons. He is struggling to find himself, and in doing so is traveling head first down the same road of disappointment his father traveled so many years ago.  There is nothing I can do to stop him for he is every bit as head strong and stubborn as the old man himself! We have talked, I have warned him, given him examples of my failures and successes and yet away he goes! It’s like watching a semi-truck plowing straight towards a stalled school bus and knowing there is nothing you can do to halt the inevitable destruction that shall ensue from a collision.

As one parent to many others the point of my long-winded tale is this; How do we get our children to experience life, listen to advice and learn from their successes and failures without repeating the same horrible mistakes of our youth. Or do we sit back and just watch the bus crash, hoping we can triage the incident successfully afterwards?

Anyone? Beuller, Beuller, Beuller……….

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Dont touch me! STRANGER DANGER-STRANGER DANGER!

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You know, lately I have been feelings as though our world has been going to hell in a handbasket! ( Yeah I know it’s a dated expression) 

But nothing and I mean nothing has sent me further over the edge than the following story!  It received little coverage, little debate and apparently WE as a society have said this is ok!

Really?

Before Betty fires up her stove as smashes down her ladle please read, enjoy and if, as a parent, future parent or aspiring to be parent you don’t feel sick to your stomach than maybe I am just getting to old and outdated for today’s society.

 

Huffington Post D.C.

Maryland School Bans Hugging: St. Mary’s County Public Elementary Schools Ban Hugs, Birthday Party Invitations And Homemade Food (UPDATED)
Posted: 03/18/2013 1:22 pm EDT | Updated: 03/21/2013 4:51 pm EDT

From the same state that suspended a 7-year-old for turning his Pop Tart into a Pop Tart shaped like a gun, comes a ban on hugging.

Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports on the new guidelines for visitors, parents and students for St. Mary’s County public elementary schools:

Birthday invitations should not be handed out at school, Hall said, because students who are not invited could have their feelings hurt. She said school PTAs could develop phone and email contact lists, with parents’ approval, to distribute.
Foods for celebrations should be limited to store-bought items that contain ingredient lists so as not to interfere with children’s food allergies, according to the rules.

Parents visiting the cafeteria should not hug or touch children other than their own, nor should they discipline other children, the guidelines say. Parents should also not walk with their child when he or she leaves the cafeteria.

Other changes include limiting recess visits for parents, prohibiting visits from siblings and a new ban on approaching teachers in person to schedule meetings. Visitors must also now check in with the front desk and have their photo taken. The complete list of rules can be read in the Best Practices on School Visitors document.

The rules were chosen by a panel of parents and teachers over four meetings.

To the best of our knowledge, the school has no current plans to ban Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or award-winning books.

This isn’t the first school hugging ban. Schools in Oregon and Florida banned two people wrapping their arms around each other in 2010. For a variety of reasons, the act of expressing emotion with physical contact was also banned in schools in New Jersey, Brooklyn and New Zealand in 2012.

Are you freaking kidding me! I cannot walk with my child, I can only hug my child and not his best friend who looks to me as a father figure! I cannot comfort a child who has fallen and is crying in the hallway as a concerned adult! Or assist the lost and crying child out front who can’t find their mommy! I am sorry but what the holy HELL!

Yes that’s right ladies and gentlemen your local PTA and school board are taking our little futures and pushing them one step closer towards assimilation! Lets teach our children to continue down a mired pathway of insensitivity, callousness and just plain cold emotion! Dont you dare point that bony finger of judgement at me for being angry! You all want to persecute the bullying child yet in the very same breath teach that love and compassion are forbidden within school walls?

You say we need to embed kindness and diversity but let anybody hug a child other than the proposed finger printed and background checked parent during a prescribed time and place tells of the exact opposite! We all need to emphasize the importance of sharing, giving, and respect! But unfortunately now when your child needs love, attention and emotion, a teacher can only remove them from class, point them towards Broom Hilda the school nurse ( no offense to all the wonderful school nurses out there just a reference since your hands are now tied as well) who then sets them on a cold fiberglass chair while mom or dad are notified of their childs emotional needs!

No that’s OK American school systems! Lets continue down this blasphemous path of callousness, coldness and anguish! Yes sir! Move forward (separate subject but tied to this subject just the same) with more of everything is the “teachers” fault! No personal responsibility on the parents behalf! Lead the way school administrators with your obvious collective of higher educational thought process by continuing to pander to a lowest common denominator by punishing the caring, the thoughtful, the loving, and the watchful eye of parents who care about not only their children but all children because we know, and remember the pain and hurt associated with being a small child alone in a large place such as school! Now not only will little ones become callous and cold but as they age they will have learned to show no emotion or caring when another child is hurt or scared! Instead laughing, pointing fingers, verbal assaults and even pointing thier little cell phone/cameras to video, then placing this travesty on You-Tube for amuesment!

Oh wait; that is already happening! I digress….

Heres and idea, and yes I am now going to lump my hatred for our school system allowing parents to blame their teachers for the lack of education their precious little bundle of joy may or may not be receiving as opposed to reprimanding parents who cannot be bothered to raise their own children with manners such as, oh lets shoot one from the hip here; RESPECTING YOUR FREAKING TEACHER AT ALL COSTS!!!

Yes I am wandering off again, grrrrrr, so back to my brilliant simple idea: There is an old saying which I still adhere to this very day. “It takes a village”.  If a child needs a hug-ask if you can give them a hug! Then point them in the right, responsible direction! (I know images-1shocker huh!) If a child is misbehaving in class; give the teacher back the power to reprimand said student! Man if I was rude or disrespectful to a teacher in my day… POW! I got it when I got home! If we don’t teach our children to respect teachers RIGHT NOW they are going to grow up disrespecting all forms of authority! It starts with parents, then teachers, moves up to bosses, cops, firefighters, employees, and right on down the line until we (society) just ends up having no respect for anyone or anything! This is simple human nature people!!!

QUIT QUIT QUIT ALLOWING OUR SYSTEM TO PANDER TO THE LOWEST OF THE LOW! Yes the boogy man is out there! Yes everyday a child will disappear, be molested, murdered, hurt, and bullied. Do I want that? NO! Does it make me furious? YES and it should you as well! Is the answer taking away human compassion from their little psyche’s? NO! The answer lies within us! Stop thinking about how this (raising our children properly) inconveniences us as adults! Quit expecting the school system to do it for you! Stand up for your children! Put away child molesters for life! Anyone who harms or murders a child needs to be put away for life! Send the message this society will not run scared! This society will not allow this to happen anymore without dire consequences! This society will no longer tolerate bad or inappropriate behavior from children as well as adults.

UnknownWe all need to put our foot down and say: I AM MAD AS HELL AND I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!!!!!!

These children are our future! Do you want our future filled with continued callousness, disrespect and hatred for all who walk this earth! If so then I see no other alternative but to lay down and let the Terminators bring us to extinction.

Where are you John Connor when we need you?

Am I crazy, am I wrong? Lets get to talking about this for I feel as though we are on the precipice of social collapse and all we are willing to do, is stand by; let it happen and point a bony finger, because it is obviously someone elses fault.

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Betty needs a hug!

UPDATE, March 21, 4:45 p.m.: Southern Maryland Newspapers Online reports that the no hugging rule was only meant as a suggestion.

St. Mary’s public schools are backing off immediately implementing rules for visitors that initially limited homemade food and hugs for students from anyone other than their own parents, Superintendent Michael Martirano said this week.
What were called “best practices” for school visitors outlined at a school board meeting last week should have only been recommendations, he said, and they were incorrectly announced as new rules that would go into effect immediately.

Lets keep it going people! This school district came to thier senses but others remain in effect and even more have implemented or are about to implement this type of distorted thinking!

Can you? Could you?

 

Today, if you will indulge me; I feel as though I need to take a little break from writing about the trials and tribulations that befall a family of six living on a farm.

There have been no postings from me for a few days now because; well to be honest I have been in a bit of a funk.  Then last night it hit me, after a long conversation with a dear friend, my brain flooded into neural overload and like riding a DeLorean back through time, images once again began to appear. I don’t like it when they arrive as they do so without cause or care, but it was at that moment I realized it was time to write about them.

These images are like none anyone would ever want to see.  They haunt me from time to time and ruin just about every moment of my life in some strange way or another.  They come and go as they choose, sometimes in the middle of the day, other times late at night.  When I am asleep they wreak havoc upon my subconscious awakening me to sweat, cold and fear.  Some nights they are so real I have to walk our house, stepping into every room while telling myself; “it is just a dream.”  There are other times when nighttime dreams become so bizarre it seems they should be uses as the basis for writing a novel. As though notes should be created, characters molded and then reap the rewards of a story well crafted.  But even as bizarre as they can become I am still able to recognize the truth within their core.

As many of you who follow my blog know I am a firefighter.  As a firefighter there are certain things we just don’t talk about amongst ourselves or our family.  Or when we do we try our best to find the humor in a sad or sick situation.  Laughter has always been the best medicine and if we can find just one thing humorous about any incident we then take a moment to laugh at ourselves eventually feeling better about the outcome. We (firefighters) also refuse to discuss these “things” outside of our close-knit circles. Leaving the general public in the blind, it is done out of fear for the reaction it may evoke. But truth be told we are our own worst enemies, therefore I am about to break that rule and hopefully you will understand why in the end.

Death, dismemberment, murder, burned and injured people, the stupidity of human nature, sickness, physical abuse (spousal, child, partner etc), drug dependency, alcoholism, and the myriad of sick and twisted things human beings can do to each other and themselves. Not just once in a while, not just what is perceived as truth in the news, but on a daily basis.

We see it all, and no matter how much we try, what we see never goes away and there is nothing anyone can do about that.  Oh sure we have Critical Stress Debriefings (CSD) to help us deal with our emotions.  Everyone sits through them and nods their heads like sheep (me included), each one stating we are “OK”. We have councilors at our disposal, both through our agencies and as part of our health care package, and they do a fine job of once again helping you to understand the basis for your concern, the pattern behind your thoughts and a mental picture of how to evaluate then project the positive image you desire hoping to remedy a current mental hindrance.  But the fact still remains the same. These “things” we see never go away, burned in our skulls for eternity.

When starting in the fire service 18 years ago us probationary firefighters lined up for a presentation from our Chief.  He proceeded to tell us there were incidents we would never forget and mental pictures that would stay with us for life.  Our job was not for the weak of heart and over the length of our careers would weigh on us heavily.  As young cocky cadets we laughed that nervous laugh that so many young people do when puffing out their chests to show manly superiority.  Then afterwards we all joked around with comments like; “that will never happen to me” and “what kind of wuss would ever be sickened by blood and guts”.  Then off we went into our careers to face the unknown secretly praying we WOULD see it all! Just to prove him wrong.

And over the years I have seen plenty and it hasn’t been pretty.

Now I am not complaining by any means! I LOVE my job! It really does define who I am as a person. This career has become everything I ever dreamed it would be and there a thousands of people we have helped during the very worst day of their lives. But over the last couple of years with all the budget constraints, people losing their jobs, and money becoming tight, we (firefighters) have consistently come under attack from the general public, politicians and just about anyone who has an axe to grind. I don’t mind, what I have done, what my fellow brothers and sisters have done over the years far outweighs any mealy mouthing some politician can do. But when its the public, the very people we care about, or when its people you actually know who live within your response area and have protected for many years with pride. Well I don’t care who you are it just hurts. 

So let me move forward by saying, this job has never, ever been about money, (although I found it interesting today that a sheet rockers income per hour is double mine)it has never been about the reported “days off” even though we work almost double the reported “easy 10 day schedule” we supposedly keep.  This job has never been about the retirement. Although, never will I cower and lower my head as so many do when the topic of our supposed “Golden ticket” retirement comes up.  Like we as firefighters should be ashamed of the retirement system we fought so hard for and “hold onto your hats people”; paid for out of our own pockets! Not 100% funded by the people’s money as continually reported by those willing to throw our futures away! Yes we can retire at 50! So what! Statistics show time and again the majority of us will be dead from carcinogenic cancers, blood borne pathogens, and heart attacks within 10 years of retirement! And the majority of us won’t get the luxury of retiring at 50 anyways! It’s just an option there for the lucky few who have 30 years in by 50!  The vast majority of us will work until we are 60-65!

But even after all that, even after we have been bashed for being recliner sitting, engine polishing, self-proclaimed heroes who live off the tax payers dime! I wonder if any of them understand the little mental gift we have all been given from minutes, hours, days and years of seeing the things we see? Is there a dollar amount for that? Is there? Then I wonder while their mouths are engaged and their self-absorbed brains are frozen could they do it? I don’t mean the job, but live through the after effects? Could you? Can you? Seriously, I am not trying to be malicious or indignant or even belittling, but could you?

Can you stand in your driveway watching your son drive away knowing the number one cause of teen deaths their first year behind the wheel is vehicle accidents? Then have your mind flooded with horrible images from every accident involving teenagers you have responded to over the last 18 years resulting in death, dismemberment and sorrow, transposing your sons face upon those that perished and their ghastly outcome!  Can you sleep when he isn’t home yet? Will you stay calm when you can’t get a hold of him on his cell phone, while more images pound at your brain? Could you?

Can you board a plane without starting to sweat and sit quietly during engine throttle up without a care in the world while secretly you are observing every exit, profiling people’s personalities so you will know if this plane goes down who you will have to be very direct too while helping get survivors off the plane.  Or are you able to make the flight without multiple panic attacks about it plummeting into the ground killing all aboard.  Can you sit there and not picture a fire churning its way down the center aisle, burning people while you stay low, trying to figure out how to help? Can you?

Can you hold an infant enjoying its very innocence without wondering when it will die? Seeing in its eyes the very infant you tried to save gasp its last breath of air, taking it off its dead mothers chest. Holding it, trying not to cry because you know the end is near for this precious being.  Handing the infant off to a transporting agency after doing all you can then shrugging off a feeling of helplessness and proceeding to the next victim during triage and perform your job flawlessly? Could you, would you?

Can you crawl through blazing hot temperatures in 50 pounds of gear without being able to see your hand in front of your face?  Feeling your way through a burning home, counting your time inside, monitoring how far you have gone, trusting your training and your partners skills. Hopefully finding the seat of the fire rapidly, stopping the beast from growing.  You sweat, curse and pray, sometimes it’s so hot it drives you to the floor, on your belly, but you are close so you press on. Then when it’s over you sit looking at the degraded building and its cheaply made materials that fail in half the time from a mere 20 years ago and picture the roof collapsing on you and your crew.  The Chief coming to your house, sitting your wife down and patting her hand while she cries because you are gone. Your children are fatherless, your wife is a widow and you are no more.  Can you think about that? Can you?

Can you watch your family time and again go on trips without you because you don’t work an 8-5, Mon-Fri schedule? As they turn out the driveway you are reminding them to please call if there is any trouble, to call when they arrive, to call whenever they go somewhere, anywhere.  Why? It’s not because you don’t trust them it’s because where ever they go you need to know if trouble lurks around the corner. You hate feeling this way but you do! Whether hiking, bike rides horse back or even plays dates in the park. The moment they are gone, can you let them go without seeing disaster strike at every turn? Can you?

Can you ever go to a barbecue and not smell burned flesh? Can you?

Can you perform CPR in front of an entire family sometimes successfully, sometimes to no avail and not feel moved by the crying, children sobbing, wives praying, husbands asking why, while holding the newest member of the family? Can you sit with a husband who just lost his wife of 45 years and hold his hand? Tell him you are so sorry while only having an inkling of the pain he is about to go through all while knowing it wont be too much longer now until you respond to him passing away as well? Can you hold a daughter whose mother just died in front of her from a diabetic reaction. Can you do that until the father gets home then go through it all over again? Can you turn and tell a family grandpa has gone and how sorry you are but there was nothing you could do to save him? Can you?

Can you give medical treatment to an abuser without prejudice? Could you?

Can you look a little girl, dying of cancer in the eyes time and again telling her it’s going to be ok? She knows you are lying, you know you are lying, but strangely it makes you both feel a little better. Then watch over time as she fades away, eventually succumbing to her disease and feel some remorse, somehow attached or remotely responsible? Can you do it?

Can you pull up to a random medical aid just in time to watch a man pull a hand gun out and shoot himself in the head? Then rush to his side without worrying if he is still alive and may shoot you! Then calmly do your best and try to save his life?

Can you bury a friend and honestly say he is in a better place when all your training couldn’t save his life and you know the suffering he went through before perishing?

Can you drive down the freeway without wondering what car is going to crash, what bridge is going to collapse, what semi truck is going to jackknife. Whose car is going to survive the crash, how many people are going to die? Where are you going to swerve to avoid the problem? Do you do this?

Can you lay your head down at night and not fear the sleep that comes?

Our job is one we love; we do it because believe in the power of helping those who cannot help themselves! We are a myriad of Type A personalities, we are born to be helpers, genetically it is who we are. Yes we knew what we were getting into.  But what we didn’t know or possibly could have fathomed was the lifelong effects it would have on us, our marriages, our children and our ability to look at the world through innocent eyes.  Something every one of you possess whether you realize it or not. Something (my innocence) I would give anything to have back.  But in the long run I can’t have it back! I gave it away when I took my oath and there is no getting it back.

The other night I received an honorary coin during our annual awards night dinner for saving a life.  I have been a part of a crew who has saved a life (on record) every year since 2007.  Does that one coin make up for the countless others lost? Are we supposed to live by the mantra “people die every day what are you going to do”? I just don’t know anymore.

People tout us as heroes. We aren’t, we are like any other trained profession looking to use the skills we have acquired. Everyone needs a hero and I am ok with the title if it eases someones mind, but when I think of true heroes I think of our military! Men and women who wake up everyday, put on their boots and stand up for our country at all costs. Some people bag on our job, put us down, disrespecting our failures and our accomplishments. Yes everyone does have the right to their opinion it is a cornerstone to our countries foundation.  But before they run their mouths giving a public perception that is both false and unjust, I wish once they could see life through my eyes or the eyes of the millions of brothers and sisters walking this earth everyday feeling the very same way I do, carrying the same burden, shouldering the same load and doing it with a smile on their faces.

Could they carry this burden? Even for a little while would be nice.  Can you? Could you? Would you?

Thanks everyone for letting me vent. I am no greater than the person beside me, God created me that way for a reason. Maybe someday I will be by your side as well, giving you comfort and helping you in a time of need.

To those who walked this path before me I have and always will be in awe of the leather boots I fill… 

“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do believe that his is a noble calling. Our proudest moment is to save lives. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even of supreme sacrifice.”

Chief Edward F Croker FDNY (1899-1911)

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FTM*PTB* EGH* RFB

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A letter to my son…

 

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Dear son,

Life at twelve can seem incredibly hard, your day is long and filled with all the trappings of an almost adult life.

You wake up early 6am

Get dressed while simultaneously trying to gather your belongings for the day ahead.

Study last-minute materials for the big presentation at work- whoops, I mean study last-minute for the large exam you have at the end of class.

Have a cup of coffee to get going- whoops, I mean drink some OJ or maybe a glass of milk to help get the day started.

Shovel down breakfast while looking over the paper- gosh mixed em up again, shovel down breakfast while playing a game on your i-pod.

Run out the door screaming you are now late because no one let the dog out!- whoops again, you run out the door late because you forgot some homework and mom is backing out of the driveway as you run like heck to catch her!

Son believe it or not your day is filled with the very same social interactions that surround your parents.  Here let me help you out a little.

School                                Work

Bully———————-Boss, co-worker looking to get ahead, Bosses boss

Girl you like————-Co-worker, girl at the cafe down the street, etc..

Best friend—————Best friend

Friends——————-Friends, co-workers

Nerds———————I.T guys, maybe even your boss

Jocks———————Corporate, Boss, Bosses boss also can be interchanged with “bully”

Stoners——————-Stoners, mail room, janitors, window washers

Rockers——————-To many items to list

Country kids————-Country folks/adults

Principal——————CEO of the company

Vice Principal————COO of the company

Teachers——————In house training experts

Parents——————-Security

So as you can see you are dealing with the same social problems we are as adults on a daily basis.  The problem is your brain is just now learning how to handle all these various personalities. No minor task mind you and I for one do not wish to trade places with you in any way shape or form.  But there is something you must understand, and learn this one thing you must, because whether you realize it or not this very moment in time is truly one of the most important of your life.  The person you are becoming right now will dictate the person you will remain for most of high school! Yes you can change if it’s not working out, but for some reason if change is not made prior to high school it then becomes a long tedious four-year road of interpersonal struggle.

Why am I telling you all of this in a blog?

Because I have tried my hardest to tell you in person. Your head is hard and thick, your fortitude is deep and strong.  You have been mired in a very grey area for the last month, one where heading towards the dark side means meeting the expectations of your peers while heading towards the light means your family comes first and your friends will think you a loser. Social problems and decisions within that social sphere can impact how you feel about yourself and others. I understand that, your mom understands it, but we cant help you if you wont let us!

But the real reason I am writing you this letter is so some day when this emotional roller coaster you are on has come to an abrupt end and you step away from it woosey and unsure of what just happened you will be able to read this and know exactly how I felt.

I miss you son, I miss your laugh, your smile, the accepting way you were always willing to lend a hand.  I miss doing things with you that was just about us.  I miss being a family with you son.  Your brothers and sisters miss you! They are exhausted from fighting over every little tidbit of social interaction with you! I am not sure where you have gone, but your personality needs to come home.  The tension created by just you is unbearable!

Today was the last straw, the rolling of the eyes when asked to participate in this family, the disrespectful comments made towards you mother and I, the anger you have shown towards you siblings, it all ends today.

The punk flat billed hat you wanted so badly, gone! If it looks like a punk, dresses like a punk and acts like punk guess what? It’s probably a punk! Next to go is your phone, after that baseball and if we have too, I will bring you home and tutor you myself right through high school for you see son, as much as I love being like a friend to you when the times are good there is one thing I am above all else.  YOUR FATHER!

And with that comes the never-ending responsibility to ensure you grow up to become all you can possibly become! You will have manners towards your parents and teachers! Why? Because we raised you that way! You will become a productive member of society! Why? Because we raised you that way! You will give back to your community and strive to be a better person every chance you get! Why? Pretty sure you know the answer to this right about now.

Those “friends” you are emulating will come and go! One minute you will be their best buddy and the next you will be thrown to the curb for the next best greatest thing! But your family, we are here forever.  We love you, we think the world of you and we will do everything in our power to help you. Mess with one you get us all!

So in closing.

Tonight definitely sucked. You say things are gonna change. I hope so, not just because your mom and I miss you, not just because we love you, but because as your father its my job to ensure that a change gonna come…

Dad….

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A letter from the past…

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1,486 days until 50 years of age.

Recently while rummaging through some old keepsakes I came across a letter.  Now while most of us at some time or another have kept letters from old boyfriends or girlfriends, or  from our parents while we were away at camp, even notes from friends, this letter was a little different.

Wrapped in a dingy standard, business envelope it was thin, wrinkled and worn.  The writing on its face was faded and simple, addressed to me from me.  You see it was dated 1984. Mailed from the office of my old high school, a project straight from the bowels of a creative writing class.  Premise;write a letter to yourself to be opened when you reach 25. Address it to your parents home to ensure you receive it and be “creative”.

Well being the pretentious Teaching Assistant that I had become, the whole thing seemed stupid and as such the writing was poignant to say the least. The letter was all of a 1/2 page written on wrinkled binder paper and said: Well asshole if you are reading this then good job! You made it to 25, now give yourself a pat on the back for still being alive.  Never thought you would make it past 21! You are still a loser. Hope you still have some friends to pester.  Loser!

So what does this all have to do with the price of tea in China and most of all my count down towards turning 50?

The letter drew a sad emotional response. Sad that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to write something pertinent, honest, heartfelt, whimsical or even just plain factual.  Yet I threw away that time being a punk to myself.  Shorting myself with an alloof flippant attitude towards something that could have captured the feelings of being a teenager in the 80’s.  A paragraph, a page, a note, a quotation, anything to show myself and the world development, growth and the ability to change, adapt and overcome life’s challenges and obstacles. To be able to map a path taken between the age of 17 and 25, from 25 to 46 and into the future.

Then I read it again and you know what, strangely that may be  exactly what I accomplished. Not eloquently mind you but looking beyond that moronic statement to who I was at 25 its there, you just need to read between the lines.  When I was young, I was a know it all, selfish, moody little bitch.  To be quite honest if my 46-year-old persona met my 17-year-old moronic self, I do not think we would like each other very much. I would probably kick my own ass! You see back then if we were friends, I was a loud joke cracking fool, if we didn’t know each other I hung back in the corners like a wall flower scared of his own shadow.  I was a contradiction of introvert and extrovert all rolled into one.  Some days you just never knew who you where going to get. In some ways I am still that way today, with the exception that as an adult hanging back in the corner of the room allows me a few moments to figure out who all the “players” are and how to approach people.

Getting closer to 50 has given me the chance to reflect on my life, where it has been and where it is headed.  I see a lot of the same attributes in my oldest teenage son and I am worried for him.  He is at a stage where emotions, testosterone and the inability to become outwardly friendly towards new people have paralyzed his ability to cope with strange situations.  He is moody and if you are his friend he is the dry witted life of the party, but if he doesn’t know you he clams up and can’t even muster the strength to say a word while he stares at the ground.

Part of me wishes my 17-year-old self could come back to life so he sees there is hope. As his father I want to protect him, but I know he needs to fall on his face to learn how to handle the rough edge of life.  Learning from every encounter, mistake, misfortune and success are the building blocks to a foundation that forms our adult existence.  I don’t know how to bring out the best in him, I don’t know how to tell him I went through all the same feelings as a kid without him tuning me out as his father telling the tale of walking both ways uphill in the snow barefoot to school.

But most of all I don’t want him someday to become mired in the fact he is closing in on 50 years of age  while reading a letter from some 17-year-old asshole known as himself….

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Father of the year?

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As parents we all make mistakes, its inevitable. Many times over the years I have reiterated the painful fact that parenting doesn’t come with a manual specific to you.  It is one of the hardest most demanding jobs we as a adults will ever work.  (my prevalent graying hair loss is proof) Yet despite our best intentions along with all the ups and downs, we cross our fingers and pray at the end of the day everything will work out just fine.

Over the years, through thousands of snap judgements, arguments and skull scratching moments there have been times my decisions havent been the most sound.  Be it exhaustion from the endlessmom bombardment our children’s attention requires, or just the sheer fact I really wasnt listening.   It remains a fact.  Times when I said or did something I wished I  could have taken back.  Worried I may have scarred a little ego or trampled even the best of efforts through my obvious ignorance.  It has been said; “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”.  But when you consistently strive to be the best parent you can be the odds are stacked against you.

So my question is this: What did you say or do while parenting that you wish you could either take back or change?

My example:

One day my 7-year-old daughter dragged all my baseball coaching gear out onto the backyard lawn.  Now this had been an ongoing problem as repeatedly there had been gear spread across our imagesCALM26LPproperty.  Being the ever vigilant, penny-pinching father every one of those items equated to a dollar sign and over the years we had accumulated quite a bit of high quality instructional aids for little league baseball.  Having coached ball for 4 years while my oldest played, the sanctity of these items was paramount to the future success of our younger boys as they too aspired to play baseball. Up until that moment I had assumed the boys were responsible for dragging this gear out and leaving it spread across our little forty acre parcel.  But now it was obvious my daughter was to blame.

The backyard was laid out perfectly with a throwing station, batting station and bases which formed up a miniature diamond. As she pulled a baseball from the bucket and wound up to throw towards one of two targets I leaned out the backdoor bellowing; PUT THAT STUFF AWAY!

She tried to say something to me but all I could do was point towards the garage and sternly say: I don’t want to hear it honey put the baseball stuff away!!!

Lip quivering and a dumbfounded look upon her face  she began mumbling about throwing, catching, hitting, what ever, I didn’t care she was a girl, girls don’t play baseball they play softball and their was no way she was going to play with MY baseball equipment!

I proclaimed in my sternest voice: PUT IT AWAY NOW OR RISK SPENDING THE AFTERNOON IN YOUR ROOM!

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Turning on my heels, door closing behind me I headed for a cup of coffee.  After brewing up a pot and pouring myself a cup I gazed towards the backyard once again only to notice nothing had been cleaned up! To make matters worse she was getting ready to toss a ball straight up in the air with bat in hand! Before my temper could rise or my body could clear the back door she tossed it up and actually hit the ball! That’s right she hit the ball! My seven-year old little girl not only defied my direct order to put all the gear away but actually hit the damn ball!

And it was sailing out of the backyard!

Standing slack-jawed in astonishment the “coach” in me held back as she did it time and again! She kept reaching into the bucket pulling out another ball and crushing it! Then just as I was about to walk out and see if she could throw (scouting report and all) she did theimagesCATII0SG unthinkable! She switched sides! Yep, not only had she crushed the ball hitting right-handed she was now sailing them out into the field hitting left-handed! Stop the god damn presses! Could it be we have a self-taught switch hitter living in this household?

Walking into the backyard, she turned and looked at me as if a prison sentence was in her future, but instead with a sheepish look upon my face I softly asked her to do it again! She nodded yes, hit the ball and with a smile on her face asked me if I thought she was any good? I laughed and said; yes honey I gina davisthink you are pretty good.  She asked me if I would play catch with her, so off I scurried to grab my mit with the exuberance of someone who just found out they were playing catch with Nolan Ryan!

We threw the ball back and forth a few times and amazingly she threw quite well! But what made it even better was her ability to throw both left and right-handed! Now don’t let me paint you a picture of a baseball/softball prodigy in the making, she definitely needed lots of work, but just to be able to do those things on her own without anyone showing her how was pretty cool. We ended up finishing the afternoon laughing and joking about her becoming the best baseball player around.

Her mother signed her up for softball later that year.  She had a good season and was an average player, (no hero-worship yet) but she still practices every chance she gets and can’t wait for the new season to begin!

What do I wish I could change?

By not recognizing my daughter as a person who loves baseball I inadvertently created a gender bias. As a father that is a giant FAIL!  “It wasnt about the gear it was about some notion that “girls don’t play baseball” not even recognizing the softball cross over or the pure fact none of that even mattered if she was just having fun.  What made it worse for me personally is the fact as a firefighter working in a male driven profession I am one of those guys who believe anyone can do this job, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, etc..! Shining moment of double standards! Father of the year? It was a humbling experience and as a parent a learning moment!

So the question remains: What did you say or do while parenting that you wish you could either take back or change?

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