And then, like that, he was gone…..

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

I left my son at college. 

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

Me: yes..

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

and I haven’t… Until now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it happens.

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

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

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

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

Here is the second cruelest part of the joke. 

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

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

So many asked yesterday if I cried?

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

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

I balled like a baby…….. 

JACY 20

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Graduation Day

This week has come and gone, a moment in time a memory for recollection. 13 years of life, tied so closely with friends, teachers, sleep overs, field trips, sporting events and many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I cant believe this day arrived so soon and left in such haste. Your school life started out simple enough; tears of separation, happiness upon returning home from a half day of school. Full days and mounds of homework, new friends, old friends, friends who moved, sadness and joy. Skinned knees, new bikes, scooters, baseball, the park. Swim meets, wrestling, cross-country events, awards, disappointment, contentment and successes.

Days where I felt we were losing you, days were we knew it was all going to be alright and days of unbridled pride watching you do what you do. Time spent, heart-broken, filled with sadness as reprimanding you or having to raise my voice while losing my temper as a last resort secretly brought me to my knees. Reflections of my father I choose to leave hidden in darkness. Time wondering if I spent enough time with you, if you needed me and I just didn’t pick up on it or if you are content with the time we have spent together? Happy with how it has all turned out?

Here we sit third row up, middle section staring directly at a stage you shall soon cross with pride. I didn’t sleep last night, worried I would over sleep and miss the opening of this venue to stake out my territory, claim a prime vantage point for this most important of days. 5 am I rose, fed our animals then slipped off into the morning, ensuring our seating success.

It has been a hard year for our family, we have all struggled, physically and emotionally and you son have not been immune. Yet somehow you kept a level head and completed this 13 year journey all on your own.  I sat staring at that stage, wondering how it must feel for you? What emotions are worming their way through your brain?

This is after all a very special day, no pressure or anything. The 100th class to graduate from Dixon High School, The first in our family to head off to college and thirty years to the day from when your father finished high school. To say I am proud of all you have done, accomplished and survived at such a young age is an understatement. You are my hero son, there is nothing more I could ever have asked for in regards to you.

A friend at work asked if I was going to cry during the ceremony, and of course a terse “no” came quick and fast.  Not losing any man points within the confines of my firehouse, no way! In truth, I didn’t cry, but not because any lack of emotion existed, or due to a hardened soul. Instead my chest was filled with immense pride, for you had done it! You graduated high school, you applied to and were accepted by the colleges of your choice, you asked for help when you needed it and handled any issues you felt you could handle alone.  You son don’t need us to hold your hand anymore and that is nothing to cry about! Instead it is a sign of success for us as parents, it is what this entire journey is all about! Creating, molding, testing, and yes being frustrated with this living being, this boy you brought into the world. Hoping and praying in the end you have done all that you can to ensure when he walks out the door he will do the best he can, stand upon his own two feet and find a world not molded by callous misplaced prejudice, but one molded by his own experiences, using your guidance as a key. Nothing more.

You walked across the stage, the principal read your name; cheers from family and friends erupted and echoed through the stands. Cody James Franceschi high school graduate. A summer lay before you, a weight has been lifted and the relaxation of a job well done is definitely showing across your face. I love you son and I always will. Your mom and I have done everything within our power to help create this person you see in the mirror. We know you have become your own man, but know this. The phone is always in your pocket, we will always be at the other end of the line and just because you will no longer be able to walk out your bedroom door to ask us a question doesn’t mean you cannot find a quiet place and call us, anywhere, anytime. For though we have worked hard to get you to this point, your mother and I have countless reams of knowledge to share with you still. In the end my hope is you will still need us, still feel as though you can ask us anything, whether near or far, what ever it takes we will be there. You are our son, there is no other like you and for that we are incredibly thankful to God! We love you…

Now lets talk about the second week of August when you go off to college.

Wait! What is this wet stuff streaming from my eyes? There is something in my eye! There is something in my eye! “sniff sniff”.

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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’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

stars

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

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.

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.

Unknown-3

 

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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