A fathers love…

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Nine days until life comes to an end.

Ok not really, but when I ponder the ramifications of this emotional moment in time, nine days from right now; it feels as though a portion of my life, one held so closely to my chest will inevitably come to an end. My heart is breaking, even though my exterior is strong, even though I show no care in the world towards the upcoming moments, even though it is how things are supposed to be and even thought this is what we have prepared for over a very long period. Like a sliver you hardly notice at first, time passes and it slowly augers into your skin a little farther with every movement until eventually you can’t help but notice it, notice it’s agonizingly minute annoying pain. Then a week maybe two, it’s in far too deep to do anything now. It is beginning to hurt.

July 11 1996

A baby boy was born into this world. He was pale, screaming, shivering, with 10 fingers and ten toes. He was perfect. Six months straight he screamed, six months straight he cried, I swore I would never have another child; this was it for no adult should endure such torture as this child provided for six long months! Then one morning I awoke to find we had slept the entire night! Oh it was a glorious feeling, an entire night’s sleep, no rocking a child for hours on end, no midnight cup of coffee and long car ride to reignite his sleep filled head, no sir, all night long just me and my sheets all bawled up into one!
Jumping out of bed in a panic! Heart rate busting through my chest! Scared to death as I acknowledged the real reason sleep had been with me all night long! Rounding the corner into the nursery, Bear my Rottweiler by my side nervously barking, I was expecting the worst! Oh how the imagination wanders in a matter of seconds when fear is involved! Smothered by his own pillow, SIDS death, head wedged in between side rails of our crib. The evil of a first time parents fear (especially a firefighters) was reigning king upon my psyche! Yet standing, pajama bottoms on, dog by my side eyes gazed upon this infant jail cell, there laid our boy, happy, pink cheeks, cooing. All was right with the world.

He never cried at night again.

Just kidding, but after those first six months Cody James Franceschi never made a huge 321613_2371954104839_641442329_nfuss over anything again (ok except for saliva). YES there was a small period after a biology class where he learned about saliva that an unexplainable debilitating fear overtook his body and every time he felt saliva forming in his mouth he thought he was going to die! It was hilarious!

Growing up he remained fairly quiet, studious, with a shy charming way about himself. He traveled through elementary school with many of the same struggles as most children, Sixth grade being the hardest for him; un-organized, frustrated with his grades, but somehow he just became quieter, figured people out and what they needed from him. Cody began to read nonstop, anything and everything he could get his hands upon and he grew. He played sports; baseball, basketball and once he entered Jr. High cross-country his athletic course was plotted.

We slowly watched this quiet child develop this wickedly dry sense of humor that many of his friends enjoyed. During jr high I realized he was the Ferris Beuller of his group. On campus talking with teachers and other students it became rapidly clear there wasn’t 200116_1004284233947_3369_nanyone who disliked this kid. No fights, no quarrels, every social group knew of him and not one person had anything bad to say. He was and is; “a righteous dude”
He became interested in hunting, fishing and archery. Cody remained surrounded by a very core group of friends including one he shared the very same birthday. In eighth grade he was voted male student athlete of the year, it was an amazing moment, but our Cody downplayed its significance, just like he has downplayed every single activity he has excelled at since.7525_1231633557538_3887792_n

High school held no surprises, no serious troubles with his studies, no girl problems to speak of, he continued to run cross-country, eventually making it to state his sophomore year, then again his Junior year only to give his spot away to a very close senior friend stating; we were so close in time, I ran for him earlier in the year and it just seemed right, it is his last chance ever to go to state and run. I have a chance to do it next year. I have 1962732_10203278372304070_1868046438_nnever been prouder of my boy than I was at that moment. He traveled to Haiti with me that year on a mission trip. Watching this boy become a man before my very eyes, kind and gentle with the locals, yet labeled by the Haitian people we worked with as:” the boy who works like a man”. At a meeting with the local town’s people one evening we held a question and answer period and one of the men stood up and wanted to know in a very aggressive voice why Cody never spoke. It took some creative wording on the part of our interpreter to calm this man’s emotions as we suspected he felt it was disrespectful to not speak or engage in such meetings. But we all stood strong that Cody was just shy. Once the village figured this out to be the truth, is when Cody’s work ethic became one of much discussion. The men accepted him and all of them wanted to work alongside my son.
During his senior year he was voted team captain and he did a very good job. Boosting people’s spirits and quietly, silently with his dry sarcasm, saying just the right thing at the perfect moment to get the very best out of someone. He also ran his personal best at every cross-country event, but as he improved so had many others across the state and in the end, he went to state, but only to support the two runners who made the cut. He was proud of what he’d done this year on the XC courses, but Cody’s pride is a silent one and once cross-country was over, it was over and out of his mind. On to the next challenge life will bring. 217942_10151147319311649_1513114350_n

Cody obtained a driver’s license at 16 and took right to the roadways. My fears of adolescent lead foot syndrome for which I had been afflicted where not to be as friends would tell of seeing my son driving around town to which he was affectionately referred to as: driving Miss Daisy. 424626_4540849645872_1564129365_n

He has wanted to be in law enforcement since 6th grade. One time he met with a family friend who works at UC Davis and participated in career day on campus. Our son sitting with a FBI recruiter at 12 years of age in a suit and tie learning every step it takes to become a member will forever be a story I cherish.

Taxidermy, archery, shooting, raising pigs, riding motorcycles, quads, mountain bikes, wake-boards, off-road skateboards, hiking, are just a few of the things he loves to participate. He is much more adventurous than me, much more assured of his direction, yet leaves conversation about himself locked up like a vault. 59253_1507280874813_2469541_n

Cody will head to Humboldt State University in the fall. He has finally chosen a plan A and a plan B for his education. His major will be criminal justice with a minor in environmental sciences. Plan A; finish the four-year college, obtain his degree and apply for CHP. Plan B; finish the year college and become a game warden.
Either plan sounds fantastic. I am so proud of our son, for years I have touted the strength every man wishes they held deep inside, that unbreakable, solid as a rock man who won’t shed a tear over his son moving on with his life. Walking out that door to the world we tried so hard to protect him from while educating, preparing and hopefully guiding him in the right direction when this moment came.

The day is growing closer.

Strangely as of late I no longer see the man he has become. When he walks into the house, I hear his prepubescent squeaky voice talking to me. His cheeks are round; he’s small and needs his daddy. My heart breaks as I realize how long it’s been since I was able to cuddle him on his bed and help him get to sleep after a bad dream. Stroking his hair while telling him no bad monsters can get past me, I promise! He doesn’t cry anymore when he is hurt, he builds things on his own, fixes things on his own and even though he is messy as hell and it drives his mother and I crazy, he cooks on his own!

He is my first-born; he will always be my first-born! A vision I dreamed of over a 9 month period, wondering what he would look like, who he would become, praying this little life308369_2387626496639_979319657_n would grow to be just like me, but in the very same breath praying to God he wouldn’t. As he progressed, learning from his successes and mistakes there were many restless nights where I was left wondering if I was failing him or leaving him with good advice, solid guidance. Nights spent outside away from them all (there are 4 children total) head in hand sobbing, feeling overwhelmed, disgusted with myself for yelling, screaming like my father had done to me, punishing, demeaning, saddened, worried I was screwing him up permanently. Yet finding solace in showing him it’s ok to admit when you are wrong by apologizing when those moments had gone too far with harsh words.

251527_10150300192451649_2825994_nI look at him, watch his soft emotions change on a dime, from sweet and funny to harsh and jagged, noting the very same attitudes shown from myself at his age. The need, desire to spread his wings and fly, but not knowing how without actually having to leave this home, his sanctuary, his place of solace all alone in his room, beloved dog cricket by his side.
He must go. It will be far away and his mother and I will hate it at first. Overtime it will become easier as our family gets accustomed to his absence. Yet his spirit, his soul will always live in our home. I know the very first night I open his door and he is not there I am going to cry. It will be very reminiscent of when I drove a stick shift for years. After purchasing my first automatic, I spent the better part of a month still slamming my left down to an empty floor. No clutch in sight.

I am pretty sure I am going to spend the better part of a month, shutting a door to an 250602_4091191164691_1963527086_nempty room and longing just to say goodnight while giving him a hug that only he can give back (and if you have had one of Cody’s hugs you know they are awesome). 18 years gone in a flash, a whole lifetime to him, a moment in time that’s come and gone way too fast for me. His father, the most important man in his life, I have stood strong for 18 years, showing him how to hopefully be a good man.
I cried tears of joy when he came into this world, into our house, into my heart.
I will cry tears of joy when he heads off to college and quietly I will cry tears of selfish sorrow for the empty space he will leave behind.
One day hopefully he will understand.
It is a fathers love….

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Leukemia an uneasy rider…

Unknown-2Grasping, clawing thin air, holding her chest she weaves back and forth, side to side. A look of terror covering her face, showing blaring signs of confusion, her eyes wildly searching the very corners of our room. My chest hurts, I can’t catch my breath, somethings wrong honey, something is really really wrong! Am I hot? Do I feel hot to you? James? James? James I can’t hold myself, where are you? Somethings wrong, somethings really wrong! My stomach hurts, my stomach hurts real bad, James? Somethings wrong (speech beginning to slur)

In fact something was wrong, very wrong. I was alongside of my wife as she jumped straight up from what seconds earlier had appeared to be a sound sleep. Starting a downward progression, a health scare that would for a few moments challenge my ability to cope, compensate and help this sweet woman through the opening moments of what would become a 12 hour medical journey.

Me: Babe I am right here, right next to you, what is wrong?

Jacy: I am hot, I don’t feel good, something is wrong (speech slurring), where are you?

Me: I told you I am right here, do you need me to call 911?

Jacy: No, somethings wrong, somethings really wrong, I don’t feel good, my heart is beating out of my chest and I can’t breath! Somethings wrong (repetitive answering)!

At this point Jacy began slurring her words even more! Her eyes rolled around within their orbits and she forced herself into a tripod position that was wobbly at best.  I began to panic! My head was spinning, what do I do, do I call 911, what is wrong with her, she isn’t speaking to me, holy shit is she dying! It felt like an eternity, sitting there staring as my wife’s body began shutting down, doing things I had never seen it do before. I wanted to open a window and scream for help! For some reason my phone wouldn’t bring up 911 and every time I tried my fingers fumbling from shaking, inadvertently locked the device, rendering it useless until I could hold one digit still long enough to manipulate the finger scanner. I by all accounts upon reflection was that guy! A swearing, stuttering completely useless basket case.

Then something happened. A recollection, a memory, a proverbial light bulb flashing over my head like a Las Vegas strip sign! And like the flip of a switch the realization struck me: I don’t need help! I am the help! Yep that’s right folks, through the heart pounding, fear laden panic of watching my woman disintegrate physically and mentally I recalled a somewhat important fact. I know what to do! I am trained to deal with this very situation! Holy shit! HELLOOOOOOOO MCFLY!!!

That is right, apparently when the patient is someone you love, that one person you have pledged your life too, the human being you swore in front of God to love till death do you part, you tend to forget important information like, well uh like you are a firefighter with 18 years experience as an EMT! You have evaluated, and helped prepare for transport more sick people than you care to remember! Triaged, treated and transported every type, diseased, ill, injured, trauma, heart attack, respiratory distressed, overdosed, ingested, kidney failure, cancer ridden, etc… human being on the planet! So why on earth are you dropping the ball on one of the most valuable patients ever to be in your presence?

And like that the light switch flipped! Questions changed, responses changed, and within a few quick seconds, just by shutting off my emotional side, I had determined my wife was either in the midst of a possible life altering allergic reaction to the Neupogen injection I had given her not more than 50 minutes earlier or she was mid TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) Layman’s terms; a minor stroke! She met all the criteria for both! Confused speech, altered level of consciousness, rapid heart rate, pale, cool diaphoretic, loss of muscle function to a side of her face, blotchy redness on the chest and involuntary muscle movements. Yep mirroring symptoms to the point, one could have invariably irritated or influenced the other.

UnknownSo I did what any man in my position would do, could do, or hopefully would think to do. I threw her in our car and headed to the emergency room! Now hold on, before you put a hand over your mouth and yell at me through the computer screen: Why didn’t you call 911? Its simple math really. I live exactly 7 minutes from a level 2 Kaiser hospital. It took me under a minute to get her in the car. That is 8 minutes. It takes 1 minute to reach dispatch from my phone, another 30 seconds to dispatch our engine in combination with a responding ambulance for a ride out to my house that is at best 12-14 minutes.  After toning out the call it takes an average of 2-3 minutes for crews to look up the address and get out the door. That is a total of (rounding) 18 minutes to receive help. By the time they would have gotten to my house we were already in a room being treated. It was scary, it was risky, it may have been stupid on my part, and I would never under any circumstances pose that any one person take that risk upon themselves, but it was done, and we were in the ER, safe and sound!

Arriving at the hospital, she was wheeled into the waiting area where she promptly declared BATHROOM!!!!  Mario Andretti would have sure been proud at that way IUnknown-1 was moving when I passed that crowd (gratuitous Charlie Daniels plug). Sliding sideways into the first bathroom, Jacy began vomiting, and vomiting and crying. A very nice security guard came in and helped me take care of her, while the registering nurse took my word we were who we said we were and put us right into the system.  Within seconds we were relocated to the triage nurse who stared confused at my patient transfer rundown in regards to my wifes medical condition. Moving like a rabbit the triage nurse wheeled us into the ER and as we turned the corner it was obvious which room we  were destined as two nurses feverishly wiped everything down with disinfectant! (special germ precautions for Chemotherapy patients) Then as we drew closer my heart leapt with joy as I recognized the smiling friendly face of our RN (registered nurse). It was one of the moms from Jacys school. Jacy had taught her daughter and my wife was one of her favorite teachers. Truth be told her daughter is one of our favorite students! I say ours, because my wifes students are my students too. Over the years I have come to know most of them by name and when ever I see Jacy at work they all talk with me, give me high fives and generally bring out the dad in me! I am Mr. Jacy! They all make me smile, but some make me smile more than others and this little girl is one of them.

Things moved very rapidly, I helped where I could and stayed out-of-the-way when I needed too. Just as things began to slow down a bit another surprise walked through the door. One of our firefighters who works as an ER Tech was also on that night. It was fantastic to see his face, my fears were quickly calmed as now there were two people who knew us, knew my family and genuinely cared for my wife.

Thus began a long night at a Kaiser ER. Needles here, blood drawn there, chest x-rays, CAT-scans, blood pressure, oxygen, 3 I.V. bags of fluid, antibiotics, and the best damn treatment I have ever had at a hospital. I cannot emphasize enough how well we were treated! The on duty ER doc that night was funny, charming, with honest concern for our well-being. She was the kind of person you hope to meet someday outside of work to share a drink and a few laughs! I am forever in Kaisers debt.

12 hours later we walked out the back door. Ok I walked, Jacy shuffled. We slowly climbed back into our car, and drove carefully home. The final diagnosis? Undetermined, but it was narrowed down to either a minor TIA or an allergic reaction to the Neupogen.  A phone call later that evening from Jacy’s oncologist would confirm most likely the latter. Yep I still got it!

Returning to our house we walked upstairs, my goal was to tuck her into bed and watch her sleep for a while ensuring all was good. Apparently being up for 28 hours doesn’t agree with my aging body anymore because the next thing I know its 4 hours later and I am in bed looking at her sleeping peacefully. Getting up, I kiss her forehead, thank God for getting us through this day and say a little prayer for all who helped us the night before. Walking downstairs my mind cant help but ponder how many more times we will travel this road, how many more scares will we survive? How many more long sleepless nights will we endure? Then I realize, it doesn’t matter, because no matter how many more “times” there are, we will win in the end. Jacy continues to kick cancers ass and I will continue to do what I can to support that ass whooping!

Sleep or no sleep, fear of confidence, vomiting or solid good health, it really is as simple as that… There is no other option…

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Leukemia’s house of horrors!

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Phase two of AML treatment. The beginning of ongoing chemotherapy or Consolidation Therapy (CT) as it is known.

So what does that mean? Quite simply it means that Jacy’s immune system has bounced back to epic proportions. But because the original treatment was a bombardment of all aspects of AML she was exposed to many different drugs that all had different jobs.  Thier goal was to kill everything, both good and bad! The nuclear bomb of cancer treatment! The primary drugs classes for this procedure fell upon Alkylating Agents and Antimetabolites.

Alkylating Agents: 

Alkylating agents directly damage DNA to prevent the cancer cell from reproducing. As a class of drugs, these agents are not phase-specific; in other words, they work in all phases of the cell cycle. Alkylating agents are used to treat many different cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, multiple myeloma, and sarcoma, as well as cancers of the lung, breast, and ovary.

Because these drugs damage DNA, they can cause long-term damage to the bone marrow. In rare cases, this can eventually lead to acute leukemia. The risk of leukemia from alkylating agents is “dose-dependent,” meaning that the risk is small with lower doses, but goes up as the total amount of the drug used gets higher. The risk of leukemia after getting alkylating agents is highest about 5 to 10 years after treatment.

Antimetabolites:

Antimetabolites are a class of drugs that interfere with DNA and RNA growth by substituting for the normal building blocks of RNA and DNA. These agents damage cells during the S phase. They are commonly used to treat leukemias, cancers of the breast, ovary, and the intestinal tract, as well as other types of cancer.

So as you can see these are some pretty harsh buggers and can make a person very sick while performing their duties. The problem is even though they kill everything and Jacy’s counts have rebounded with astounding veracity there still could be stragglers. Evil doers hiding, lining her sacred DNA, waiting to join up forming an alliance, then pouncing on her fresh new unsuspecting immune system!.

Because of these sneaky little bastards we are in Consolidation Therapy. So what is Consolidation therapy(CT) ? Well I am glad you asked, Consolidation therapy is:

Treatment that is given after cancer has disappeared following the initial therapy. Consolidation therapy (CT) is used to kill any cancer cells that may be left in the body. It may include radiation therapy, a stem cell transplant, or treatment with drugs that kill cancer cells. Also called intensification therapy and postremission therapy.

So as you can see Consolidation therapy (CT) is very important. It is the clean up crew of cancer treatment. The crew that cleans up the stadium after a ball game. The squad that ensures a scene is all clear after a major crime. The Firemen that perform salvage and overhaul after a fire. The-oh well you get the point.

Jacy’s CT consists of Cytarabine. Now one may think WHOOO HOOO, only one drug instead of 4 or 5! But let me tell you this one is just as evil as the rest. You see when taking Cytarabine you must first be medicated with pain and anti-nausea medications! Because if you aren’t, hello toilet! Watch me steer the porcelain bus! Pray to the Sloan valve gods! Kiss the tile floor!  To make matters even worse some patients will develop a fever, body rashes, red eyes, and of course exhaustion.

During treatment your doctor will test your blood on a regular basis. Not just to see if Cytarabine is wiping out any stragglers but checking your kidney and liver functions ensuring it’s not killing more than it should.

But hey whats a little vomit, itchy skin, red eyes, exhaustion  and possible kidney damage when it means you will live! Right! Am I right?images-19

Luckily enough Jacy only had a few of the symptoms and is doing remarkably well! She is going to beat cancer, we are witnessing it first hand. She is going to become stronger and live a long and happy life.

So how do they administer the CT treatment? I am so glad you have inquired!

It is done through a port placed just under your skin. Since she has to under go three-week long treatments over the next three months in the hospital, instead of placing a Picc-line (acronym for Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) into her arm every time she comes into the hospital an out-patient surgical procedure is performed to place a small port (PowerPort) just under the skin for easy access to a vein for administering drugs. (see picture)port.illustration220px-Portkatheter_Röntgen

On Monday we arrived at the hospital at 7am for admission. Jacy’s surgery was scheduled for 11:30 and by 1:00 she was wandering back out into the lobby. Procedure finished, right side of her chest numb, black and blue and swollen. She was supposed to start chemotherapy at 3pm but by 5pm we still had no room available as the hospital was full.

Around 7:30pm a room finally opened up, we got settled and lucky for us two of Jacy’s favorite nurses where on and had been assigned to her for the evening. Watching her start the pain medications and anti-nausea drugs, we knew it was going to be a long night.  Jacy felt I should go home to be with our children, and like a good husband I did as I was told; but only because I knew she was in great hands. Kissing her good night, looking into her gleaming eyes, little did I know the hell she would go through not more than three hours later.

0800- Jacy calls me gravely voiced and sounding weak; asking if she was ok; she says no. You see the PowerPort site was so swollen and inflamed no one could make contact with the palpation points to locate the insertion site. They grabbed it manipulated it, poked at it trying to insert the PowerLoc infusion device and nothing. Now imagine 12 hours earlier someone cut open your chest in two different places, inserted a device through one opening just under the skin then fed a line down into a vein at the other insertion point, then sewed it all up and sent you on your way. Now pain meds have now worn off, it hurts like hell and people are grabbing it, pulling on it, doing everything they can to stick a needle inside of this bruised swollen section of skin! Not maliciously mind you but trying their very hardest to perform this manuever quickly because underneath this swollen, inflamed area and little plastic device lays a 146 pound woman screaming and crying in pain! Proclaiming to all that will listen this pain is worse than childbirth! (that is saying something)

Both of Jacy’s nurses were crying too as they both love my wife and the thought of her hurting was crushing them inside. One nurse refused a doctors suggestion of going straight into another vein to start the procedure because she knew Cytarabine had a high probability of collapsing the vein at insertion point. They were wonderful advocates for my wife. After four failed attempts over a few hour period, additional pain medications and a lot of prayers, one of the nurses asked Jacy if she thought she could bear one more attempt. Through gritted teeth, screams of pain and sobbing tears from all involved they got it first stick. Chemotherapy started.

The nurses all met with management to implement some changes in regards to the insertion of the PowerPort device. The Powerport device is usually inserted a few days prior to the patient receiving treatment. This allows the insertion site to recover, swelling to diminish and a healing process to develop a good strong foothold before someone pokes it with a needle. Through the dissipation of swelling the palpation points are also easier to locate. It came about that all patients with same day insertion will have the adjoining PowerLoc insertion device put into place. No more torture sessions for patients to start Chemotherapy.

Today Jacy is doing much better. First round is going very well and she feels like a prisoner trapped in a room. At least this time she wont be trapped there for 21 days.  She comes home on Saturday night or Sunday morning. She will be confined to her room until her white cell counts rise to normal levels. She will be extremely immunocompromised. She will be extremely nauseous, she will inevitably become a tad bit cranky, but she will also be one step closer to beating this disease. One step closer to returning to a normal life, one step closer to seeing her students and one step closer to placing this chapter of her life in the books.

She will have kicked cancers ass.

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Random thoughts on life and Leukemia

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Last night while gazing upon the stars at 1 am after our 5th medical response in a row my brain began reflecting upon life, its crazy highs and sock you in the gut lows. In a matter of 40 minutes myself and our crew had lent assistance to a wide generational swath of our local society.

From devastating self-destruction both mentally and through chemical intervention to an actual emergency need in conjunction with a health care system abused by those neither willing nor able to understand its legal ramifications, the resources lost, nor the world that actually doesn’t revolve around them personally. A true sampling of consensus within a short period of time.

Becoming judgmental is an easy undertaking, fighting the urge to prejudge individuals upon first encounter is hard. Being a fireman the communities trust is put in our hands to always do the right thing. See people for who they are not what they have become. We are allowed glimpses of people’s lives that would otherwise go unnoticed. That is a large responsibility. Some days it weighs heavier than others on my heart, as my eyes witness these revolving cross sections of our society I go home upset or unhappy with what I have seen. Thus the judgmental aspect forms and memories that cannot be erased etch themselves into my psyche permanently  like a scar for all to see, left for me to pick at from time to time for no other reason than because it exists.

Staring into the nights sky, pondering what it all means, fogging up my brain. Reliving experiences from my life, candid moments, snap shots and like a Grisham novel this story is all sewn together with a fabric of revelation. Every moment finding a place as to why. Why it happened, when it happened and that it happened to me. There is a meaning and the meaning determines not just who I am but WHAT I am or have become. The people in my life I hurt, loved, helped, shared experiences with and what I learned from each and every individual who has crossed my path, set eyes upon my craggy face.

Shaking my head as if my brain was an etch a sketch hoping to erase an unfinished drawing, I can’t lose this feeling that all is not enough.  There is more life to be lived,  we are trapped in a stereotype of how life should be lived and for the most part succeed out of learned habit. But what if there was more? We have one life to live, we are not guaranteed any days here on this earth, trust me I have held the hands of many who were cheated, watching those last moments fade away in their eyes, lives unfulfilled, potential disappeared, erased forever.

Yet the world still turns, it feels no repercussion from human losses. Sun rise, sun set, society still moves, people still awaken, babies are born, buildings erected, mountains moved and society trudges on. Eventually who you are or were, is destined to become a faint memory or forgotten. It is life and life goes on.

I live a life of fear. Fear that I will never be good enough, fear that my children may perish before me, to be forgotten before they had a chance to become something, anything that leaves a mark no matter how small upon this world.  Fear that my wife may lose this battle with Leukemia at some point, leaving sadness and despair to rage within our family. Fear that I will perish before I find what this longing is deep within my heart that whispers; no screams at me there is something more. A mark, a substantial mark that I am supposed to leave upon this earth. Complete narcissistic view I know, yet it lingers deep within my soul. Maybe I am already leaving that mark and just don’t see my hand to spite my face? Fear that she (my wife) will know the pain of losing me, carrying an ache, sorrow and agony with her for the rest of her days.  Fear.

So I stare up at the stars and I wonder why? Why do I feel this way? Why cant I be happy with the here and now. Why I worry about how much time I have left or lack there of? I wonder how I can be better, a better father, husband and friend, a better co-worker, I wonder why?

Remember those days when you felt as though you had the world by the balls? There was nothing to stand in your way, no mountain you couldn’t climb, no one was going to say no to you! Do you remember? I do.

If you don’t understand the feeling I am referring too, just look at your child. Not your self-absorbed teen ager; your child. 1-9 years of age. Before society, television and friends ruin their ability to think on their own, be creative beyond our walled off perceptions. Give a child an adult sized problem, one requiring and answer and you will see imagination, inspiration, out of the box thinking and a confidence just waiting to be tapped. But as they grow older that ability goes away through structure, through habits neither right or wrong learned from observing ones elders. That feeling you had as a kid of being able to daydream all your problems away. To look deep into a problem and come up with the craziest most unorthodox suggestion known to man. To be confident.

That is the way I feel about Leukemia in my life. I don’t have Leukemia, but when my wife suffers, I suffer, when she hears news both good or bad, my emotions grow raw with glee or anger. I refuse to hear the word no. There has to be a yes to this struggle. I refuse to believe that my wife wont beat this disease. I refuse to listen to statistics and the medical dribble that often accompanies those numbers. And to date she is winning, we can see the finish line and victory looks great!

I feel as though my wife has the world by the balls! That she has another opportunity, showing the world she is unbreakable. That feeling has inspired me, left me in awe of her positive attitude, her out of the box thinking. She unknowingly has allowed me to reconnect with my inner child. There are no problems that cannot be tackled without imagination. She has left me finding the positive, loving all who surround me, laughing just a little bit harder, saying thank you a whole lot more and remembering that life is a gift to be cherished. I kiss her on the head every night while she sleeps, the smell of her skin soothing my soul. She has and is all I will ever need.

And so I am left staring at the stars, at one in the morning, wondering if there is or could there ever be, more………

kids

The Face of Leukemia (December 7, 2013)

 

IMG_2037Hair:

We trim it, grow it, wax it, shave it, style it, comb it, do crazy things with these human DNA carrying follicles for attention. Hair, its funny we don’t really think all too much about hair as it’s an assumed portion of our anatomy. From the day we are born all of us walk through life with hair of some kind layering our bodies; some more than others and some less than others by choice, but hair none the less. imagesCAQUXXXU

But there is an elite crowd of human beings walking this earth. They belong to a very special club. A club that no one wants to join, no one person is standing at the clubhouse door banging fervently to get inside. No one..  Yet rumor has it close to one million people are card-carrying members of this fraternity.  One million people have come as close to death as you can get then climbed their way back inheriting a lifetime membership along the way. One million people. Think about that for a second….

So what do these one million plus club members have to do with hair?

They don’t have any! That is right, not one single follicle, not a stray, a sprig, a whisker or unkept eyebrow. It hasn’t been shaven down to the epidermis or plucked by a crazy tweezers wielding lunatic. Every single hair, all 140,000 strands of color enhanced, vanity driven strands are gone.

This of course is the norm when you are enrolled in the chemotherapy club, everyone’s worst nightmare right?  Its funny really when you think about it, we as a society put so much emphasis on our hair.

Turning grey or tired of your look- Color it, trim it, shape it.

Falling out- Rogaine

Thinning- Hairclub for men/transplants/comb over

Trends- Shave it, mohawk it, pixie cut, curls, bun, dreadlocks, cornrows, bob, etc..

And yet when it has all fallen out, what emphasis is there? To wear a hat or a scarf? As a chemotherapy club member you never have to worry about haircuts, dyes, styles etc.. All you need to worry about is whether or not your noggin stays warm.  There are thousands of hats, scarfs, and bandanas to choose from, or hey just step out like Mr. Clean and rock that shit!

Imagine waking up one morning and finding all of your hair-and I mean ALL OF YOUR HAIR gone. You are lying in a bed of your own hair. Pubic hair, pit hair, leg hair and arm hair and of course the hair from your head. What would you do? How would you feel? Would you smile taking the high road and consider it just another chapter in your already interesting life? Or would you curl up into a ball, terrified to walk amongst the hair gifted for fear of being spotted, ridiculed by the insensitive or pitied by the ill-informed. I am not making a judgement for one way or the other, but if I had my choice I am pretty sure a bitchen tattoo would make its way onto my dome, helping me to celebrate the obvious. I am still alive and kicking cancers ass! Now in no way am I advocating for my wife to get a tattoo on her head. It was purely a rhetorical question.

Why am I traveling down this little pathway? Because that is exactly what happened today. Jacy started officially losing her hair. Its coming out a thin handful at a time, and when she sits up in bed her hair looks like a dog when it sheds. Strands poking out of everywhere with strands littering her pillow. Staring at this and fighting an overwhelming urge to pull them out myself (it’s the ape in me) I found myself pondering those very questions. Thinking about all the times I cracked ignorant jokes about looking as a chemo patient to friends. How would I feel? How would you feel if this was happening to you?

Now luckily enough a sense of humor is what all of our friends and family have and my wife is no different. We have joked heartily about her losing hair and tomorrow I am going to shave it all off to save her from choking to death in the middle of the night on an unruly chia pet looking clump! But just the same it has changed my sensitivity level or judging from that last crack maybe it hasn’t? I digress…

Do you really want to know how much you love someone? Do you really want to understand if you or your partner are shallow and vain? Shave each others heads and see if one of three things happen.

  1. You both laugh until snot blows from your nostrils then fall into each others arms with smiles upon your faces.
  2. You realize in that moment you partner is hands down the most beautiful person you have ever known.
  3. You stare at each other uncomfortably acknowledging you are so shallow that you cannot see the beauty within. Only the trappings of what is on the outside.

Lucky for me as I stated previously this has changed my sensitivity towards others, and as far as my wife is concerned, well I have always seen the inner beauty of this woman. When I look into her eyes and kiss her lips there is nothing else. Bald or full of hair, when she smiles at me the world is a better place.  I don’t think she really knows the power her smile and personality carry in this world but I am pretty sure she is about to find out.

Anyways, Jacy already knows how to rock the bandana! That my friends is just freaking awesome!

IMG_2111

Kicking Cancers Ass once cell at a time!

 

 

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

Brain Freeze

Well my darlings let me take a moment to apologize for my current lack of substance! You see there seems to be a wee bit of a problem with my writing style lately.  There is none! No style, no words, no wisdom, no funny stories, no nothing! Just me, sitting behind my desk, staring into my computer screen wondering, hoping, praying that something, anything will end up written on this blank page before me. This usually ends up with me daydreaming about chocolate instead.

It actually isn’t even centered around what I may or may not have to say. There are tons of ideas swirling around in my head like fresh spun cotton candy! My problem stems from being able to capture these little gems as they whiz by from one side of my brain to the other.  Just when I think I have one of those squirrely little buggers captured for exploitation, my brain just FREEZES! That’s right all active brain matter freezes leaving me with the look of a pale-faced fresh corpse at the county morgue.

It also appears that my ability to type has lost its “mojo”! For some reason I went from a self-taught keyboard wizard to johnny hunt and peck! My thumb is whacking the space bar at random and my left hand seems to be encroaching upon the right hands territory without permission! There is a full-scale war going on between the two of them within the boundaries of 78 little tiles of statehood.  The flashing position line on my screen has advanced and retreated more times than I care to count! And for whattosugrste thatg theredsi nope   hope form e anyymogre? SEE WHAT I HAVE TO DEAL WITH!

I can’t tell whether Alzheimer’s is taking hold or I am just losing it mentally from stress? What was I rambling about again? Oh yes, Jello in the cafeteria is really quite good if you get it just after it comes out of the cooler.

Dogs and cats will never get along, women will always wonder why men feel the need to fix everything and children no matter how hard we try can and will never allow you to get out of the house on time.  Wait… sorry, sorry, my bad, wrong storyline.

So as I was saying, my brain is fried, my ability to cope shattered and I promise, any day now between a cup of coffee and a fifth of whiskey more stories about life, love and the pursuit of happiness, I mean children will be forth coming.

Heavy sigh…

Betty….

Reflection

Your eyes squeezed tight, small arms wrapped around my neck with the grip of a sailor, a body so small and warm, full of love, wonder and amazement.  I can do no wrong, say what I please and its funny. You love me.

A lizard in a hand, dirt under your nails; you ask questions about anything and everything.  Why is the sky blue dad, why are the stars bright dad, why do cats hate water dad, when is mommy coming home dad, why do you burp when you drink soda dad? They never stop these questions.  Secretly, even though I sigh the heavy sigh while moving in and around the house with you in tow, I like these questions.  You son are developing a sense of inquisitiveness that is inspirational. I answer each one the very best I can and the look on your face after each answer is priceless.  You love me.

Crying, screaming, it can’t be done dad! There is no possible way! Horrible shrieks of nonsensical gibberish spew forth from your mouth as time after time I push, you fall.  Peddle I scream, leave me alone you bellow in return, NO I retort; now point it straight and peddle the darn bike! Gritted teeth, glare of a thousand deaths and finally you are riding your bike! No more falling down, no more drama or tears, no more hearing “I can’t” leaking from your lips! You ride by me, big gaping smile, laughing, giggling, and then laughing some more. I have set you free, you love me…

Getting up to one knee, tears streaming down your face, I walk towards you fighting every urge to run. As a young person striving to become every bit the man you envision nothing would destroy your self-proclaimed reputation more than your father running towards you after you have fallen down. For the tears are not for any pain you may feel, a scrape, broken bone, or sprain. No the tears come from the second of fear you felt as this 1000 pound animal got the best of you, the tears also hold a smidge of anger.  Anger within yourself as you didn’t sit that ride; you knew better than to give to this studs unyielding ways but as he charged and bucked at another horse you looked where you shouldn’t have looked, pulled when you shouldn’t have pulled squeezed when you shouldn’t have squeezed and he got the best of you.  Oh don’t get me wrong, you rode him long and far (for that I am beaming with pride) but in the end the horse won out and that tear of embarrassment stings the most.  So up you stand dusting yourself off, clearing your spurs, wiping the dirt from your face.  Walking across the arena you gather him back up as he stands patiently waiting for you, wondering himself what just happened.  You have forgiven him because it’s in your nature, but he will not get the best of you again.  You ride by me; smile a dirt covered smile and then slide slowly back into the herd.  You love me…

Got one! A message relayed time and again from both sides of the boat as fish after glorious fish are reeled in, then landed.  My daughter on one side, my youngest son on the other with my oldest and middle son working the lines helping me keep tangles from happening and hooks filled with bait.  Somewhere in the middle of our journey I gave up fishing for myself.  The two older boys seeing their dad tire from keeping lines jump in to help take the pressure off.  We all laugh as the middle son talks my daughter into kissing the fish! But kiss the fish she does and then tosses back into his face! We laugh and laugh some more as stripers are caught and tossed back into the water. One child hooks a flounder and another lands the largest crawfish I have ever laid eyes upon! As the sun slips out of sight our old blue boat slowly putts its way back to the dock. Not a noise can be heard as they all stare off into the distance, tired, well fed and filled with family.  They love me..

You left in a hurry, a trip of great importance, wishing I hugged you one more time, I am left here wondering how things are going, what is happening, who you are meeting, if it’s all you dreamed it would be! Time ticks away and I act like it’s no big deal but inside my stomach is turning in knots! You have spent your entire life trying your best and with small adjustments here and there you always have succeeded.  I know this is what you want, I know it means a new start and I must let you go, but my heart aches at the prospect.  So I wait..  12 hours, 14 hours, like a faithful hound dog, I wait and wonder..  You send me a picture of you and your childhood friend, smiling from ear to ear holding acceptance certificates! You have succeeded like I always knew you would, my eyes are filled with tears, my throat is tight and dry, and soon you will be leaving us. It hurts but feels so good at the same time.  The first on my side of the family to get into a four-year college, your mother and I are beside ourselves!  Pride, joy, and excitement fill my senses as we look forward to all that awaits you.  As your father, you became everything I dreamed you would be and the world is just waiting for you to take it and do with it what you want.  I love you…

I am a lucky man to have four children to love; they have filled my life with emotions I never dreamed possible.  Each one of those paragraphs describes a moment spent individually with a child, starting then ending with my oldest.   These are moments that will forever resonate inside me for one reason or another; a look, a smile, a tear, some pain; They are all important and weave the fabric that is our family.

I am lucky to be so loved…..

 

 

 

Destiny

Staring across the counter I see a boy dazed and confused, sweat beads upon his upper lip, lost in a barrage of questions that he cannot bring himself to answer.  His schoolwork and grades are slipping, he does not know why. Time spent in a classroom he cannot answer to what; a combination of blame and distrust hovers thick and dark like smoke in the air. Homwwork or none, tests taken or not, assignments finished or lost, a blackhole appears to have swallowed his brain.

Wondering why he behaves in such a way, acting out with such fervor, withdrawing into a shell behind an impenertrable fortress of emotion. I realize he sees me, not for who I am or the counteless things I have sacrificed for him, but as I saw my father. Have I forgotten what it is like to be a child?

No answer will be good enough, the feeling of stupidity overwhelming, daunting, immoblizing all but the pounding beat of a heart. Knees shaking, rage seething, teeth grinding.  Taught to speak your mind yet not in the presence of an adult during certain times that is at best confusing, because children are to be seen and not heard.  Not a word seems to pass through that porthole known as a mouth without an excuse vilifying the moment. But why?

Does the hypocrisy of parenthood travel from father to father? Can I not grow as a man, become a father who stands upon my own two feet without repeating generations of mistakes? Am I destined to become something I chose not too simply because cause and effect have burrowed into my pshyche, leaving me with unwilling lessons learned then placed ever so carefully into a tool box deep inside my brain to draw from when needed.

He moves like I move, laughs as I laugh, is impulsive, irresponsible, idiotic at times.  Disrespectful on occasion with authority yet kind, caring and generous to those he cares deeply about. He strives to be the center of attention and will do anything for a laugh. But is this all a genetic flaw or is he gleaning all this behavior from watching me? Soaking in my every movement like a dry sponge looking for damp releif.

Not willing to concede this truth of generational discourse before I can snap back into reality it is to late. My voice has raised, growling like a starving half rabid junk yard dog the pale look of disbelief tells me more than a Stienberg novel ever could.

Have I set these wheels in motion? Will he truly become just like me? Has years of self made promises to become better than the parent before me flown out the door like yesterdays trash?

A shoulder slump, a tear rolls gently over a rounded cheek as recognition of self made failure comes to fruition in his mind.

I cannot berate his behavoir towards his siblings or others as he reacts with the same exasperation that draws his eyes from within my shadow. An ear that listens quietly as tiraids rule upon a celluar network as if the conversation was considered private inside the confines of a truck.  Mimicking, learning, digesting any and all mannerisms that may help him in the future.  Me not seeing the ugly circle that may emerge from my lack of filter.

Staring across the counter he stares back as a young me and I stare back at him as my father, and there it is the circle is complete.

Destiny.

A letter to my High School Senior

A letter to my son the high school senior

As your father, I have spent an innumerable amount of time thinking about the inevitability of you becoming a high school graduate this year, heading off to college along with you walking out the door into the world as a man.  There for I feel as though it is time to “check in” with regards to the realities of life surrounding you these days.

Where are you mentally?

Do you feel as though your mother and I have prepared you for a life away from your family?

Have I presented a good image of not only a male figure, but a man for you to reflect upon and draw strength from when emotionally or physically drained?

Do you have an inkling of strife, injustice, immorality, ethical shortcomings, death, financial ruin, and some of the day to day struggle this world will lay upon you?

Can you keep an open mind and remember that everyone in this world deserves to be treated as a human being? No more, no less than you would treat yourself?

Have we taken the time to enforce a belief system which lets you see people for who they really are? Not the facade they may hide behind or trappings they live within, but who or what lies beneath? Separating the good from the bad, the kind hearted from the evil spirited? Can you spot an intelligent, well rounded person from a poop spreader at a hundred yards?

Here are a few things I think you should know.

This country is yours for the taking, by that I mean whatever suits you be it play, work or just day to day life, do it with fervor, passion, love and intensity as God has given you one life, no more, no less and we never know when our number is up. So do what you can for not only yourself but those who surround you and those who need your help.

When was the last time I reminded you it is better to give than receive? Not gifts of tangible make up, gifts of hard work, sharing, compassion and the best gift of all, love.

Remember that “love” is not just a word to be tossed into the wind like withered leaves of fall.  Today people use this word as a bargaining chip, it is held hostage for emotion, traded like commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. There is no way you can honestly love another unless you can love yourself. Like who you are, be proud of the things you enjoy and participate in with pride and never let someone else change that about you because then you are just living for that person and soon you will cease to become yourself. That is not love, I don’t know what to call it but love it is not, for love is a two way street where you are appreciated and enjoyed for who and what you are and that feeling is mutual. Love cannot be forced, sometimes love just isn’t there and that is ok.

Love is a feeling so strong it grips your chest, tears your heart, makes you cry at the thought of losing its powerful hold.  Love is a lump in your throat, sweat upon your brow, a smile behind your face, a caress that lasts forever yet only a second passes. Love will make you dance though you don’t know a step, giggle when all alone, long to be in the presence of that you love the moment you have left love behind.

Notice son, not one statement I have made compares love to sex, for sex is an act, you don’t need love for sex; you only need an urge and a willing partner. Oh many will try their best to persuade you that love and sex is in fact the same beast, but lo they are not, they are as separate as water and oil. Only the weak of mind combine the two, strongly claiming the one (sex) to be nothing more than love itself.  But love, true love will leave you weak at a touch, warm in the cold, happy even during the hardest of times. Love true love is what you have left when time grows short and the light grows dim, when you can hold someone’s hand asking for nothing more than that moment in time, love will guide your way.  You will learn all these emotions and figure out how to use and learn from them and one day, long after I am gone I hope you will smile at the love I have shown you.

Relationships are like walking a tight rope; sometimes the rope is large and easy. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt there will be no trouble and that rope holds strong and true safely carrying you across the pitfalls of any relationship. Other times that tight rope is small and shaky; your fears continue to evolve, leaving you wondering if you should continue risking it all, possibly even plummeting to your emotional death or do you turn around to find another rope more to your liking.  You will walk them both and all I can say is learn from each journey, so when the right tight rope comes to cross you step out with confidence that it will hold, leading safely across the relationship crevasse towards joy and happiness.

This country was built on a political belief system.  Do not under any circumstance let your friends decide what that belief may be.  There are many parties to choose from and you need to look deep inside yourself and determine which one best suits you.  I am fairly sure you know your father is conservative, but that does not nor ever will mean you should be.  As your father I welcome any choice you make and look forward to the intelligent conversations we will have over such a selection.  Truth be told, I call myself a Demublican.  Both Republican and Democrat as there are many wonderful ideas and strategies surrounding both parties.  Whatever you choose do not hide in the shadows, this country says you have a voice so use it while you can.

Stay healthy.  You will go through a phase in your young adult life where you will abuse your body by staying up to late, eating horrible food (delicious mind you but not healthy eating) and drinking way too much.  It happens to us all and the only thing I can say is never forget about staying fit, eating right, not indulging too much. Moderation is and always will be the key to social survival.

You will be tempted to do stupid things all in the name of fun and humor. Some you will get away with creating memories that last a lifetime, but remember before choosing to risk it all, ask yourself; is the juice worth the squeeze?

Always be a leader not a follower, stand up for what is right and admonish those in the wrong.

In conclusion

Remember your roots and those who helped you throughout this crazy journey called life and no matter where you are or what you are doing, I promise your mother and I are thinking of you as we will always be your parents.  You have been a joy to raise son, I can’t believe you are almost a grown man, the time has flown. I miss the little boy waiting for me to return to the fire house with a teddy bear in his hand.  I have enjoyed watching you succeed at dang near everything you have tried. You continue to leave your mother and I spellbound at the ease with which you make life appear.  We are incredibly proud of you and know beyond a shadow of a doubt what a fine adult you will become.  The door is always open; this will always be your home and remember our love for you is eternal.

I am and always will be proud to call you my son.

Dad.