The mystery text

 

Hey, I am a bachelor this weekend. I’m staying with my girlfriend in Dover but she has art class from 8-4 Sat and Sun. I want to meet you for lunch and catch up.

I stare at my phone, No name and I don’t recognize the number. This person clearly knows me. After pondering the myriad of negative consequences of responding “who the hell is this” I went ahead and did it anyway. Who is this? It’s ten O’clock at night and I now have to wait and see if I’ve just offended an old friend. In need of immediate gratification, I hoped that I would get an answer soon.

While I impatiently waited for my answer, it occurred to me that I recently lost my phone and all of my contacts. I’m terrible with phone numbers and spoiled by the option of going into “contacts” and just pushing the button next to the name. Obsessing, I sent another text. Lost my phone recently and most of my contacts, sorry if I don’t recognize the number. Who is this?

It’s Eric.

Eric, former co-worker and good friend. A relic from my past life. We chatted by text for a few and set up a lunch for the following Saturday. After we concluded I found myself experiencing a rare emotion, anticipation. I haven’t had much to look forward to lately. It will be good to see him.

I arrived at the restaurant on time. I had suggested the restaurant, a local watering hole with good burgers and cheap beer. At 26 miles door to door, it was still the closest place for me to go to drink beer and people-watch. As I walked in, Eric waved to me from the far corner of the room. He looked the same as always; moon-faced, greying hair, big belly and a genuine smile. I walked over, said hi and he stood to greet me. Fuck the handshake, I gave him a man-hug.

As we sat, he immediately commented on my appearance. He had never seen me with a beard. The last time he saw me, I was clean-shaven, in pressed pants, a 75 dollar shirt and shiny shoes. It makes sense that the pallid, scraggly bearded guy in jeans and a sweatshirt, shivering despite it being 65 degrees out may have unsettled him a bit.

We made small talk for a while. He asked a bunch of questions about my “transition to NH life” but they were really all thinly veiled attempts to find out what the hell had happened to me. After some small talk I finally asked him “so, what prompted this invite?”

“Well, I think of you often regardless of how often we actually speak. And I do follow you on Facebook” his voice fading towards the end as if to convey a hint. I got it immediately, he had seen the link to an article I had posted recently. It was an infuriating article about CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) patients and dialysis patients being “entitled” and not as sick as people think. Written by a dialysis nurse, it was a senseless and incredibly insensitive affront to all who suffer from an invisible illness. It pissed me off enough to share with the caption “really? because it’s kicking my ass right now.” Because I have been basically nonexistent on Facebook lately, this post stood out to Eric and grabbed his attention. I felt bad, I’m not one of those people that post their laundry on FB to elicit sympathy or pity. I posted it out of frustration.

I was at that point sitting in front of the last person on earth that I would ever complain to. Eric has been through so much in his life, not the least of which being his daughter is dying of Anorexia. For as long as I  have known him, his daughter has been sick and it has torn him apart. He has resigned himself to the fact that she will never recover. She has failed to thrive outside of a hospital environment in 6 years and her current situation is considered permanent. As a fellow father and friend, I have always felt compelled to ask him about her. He knows that I have a “is it better to ask or not mention it?” mentality and I lean towards asking because I want him to know that I care. He always responds with something along the lines of “I’m losing her.” It breaks my heart to this day. Yet, here he is sitting across the table worried about me.

He wanted details, so I gave them to him. Straight to the point, no holds barred, I spared no detail about the events of the last 10 months. He listened patiently, asked the occasional question, sipped his coffee and picked at his Reuben. He was clearly taken back by my accounting of recent events. I shifted the conversation to him. I asked about his daughter. He updated me, there was no change. She was in a psychiatric ward with little likelihood of leaving. I could see the heartache on his face. After a brief pause, he changed the subject to the good old days at the office.

We talked for at least an hour about work. We talked of memories of our time there and the characters we worked with. We rehashed funny stories and updated each other on the whereabouts and antics of some shared contacts. It was a fun trip down memory lane. But in the back of my mind, I was flashing back to some of the incredibly powerful moments he and I had shared, some good and many not so good. As we spoke, I was transported to another time. A time that seemed so long ago but was less than a year. The days when I was working, contributing and feeling good.

We had worked together for nine years. It was a tumultuous time for both of us. He had been there years before me and was “king of the hill” in the sales department. By the time I joined the company, he was struggling and his relationship with our mutual superior was strained. Over the years, we formed a bond over our disdain for the megalomaniacal, Machiavellian despot with a Napoleon complex we called “boss”. Despite not being in sales, I helped Eric with his accounts when possible. I saved a few for him and it helped forge a solid bond. That was a fortunate turn because I would be promoted to be his manager after 3 years and it can be an awkward situation transitioning from co-worker to subordinate. He took it in stride and in turn, I treated him with the respect that he deserved. We became close friends. That friendship would soon face a mighty test.

to be continued…

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My Walden

Many of our greatest American poets and writers penned their best work while admiring a body of water. Robert Frost was inspired by hiking the woods in both winter and summer and waxed poetic about the beauty of the seasons in New England. Henry David Thoreau was inspired by the serenity of Walden Pond. Reading Walden as a young man I could relate to the notion of hiking through thick woods, to come upon an opening in the thicket and stumble upon an oasis. A body of water, glimmering in the summer sun, or the frozen surface glistening in the sparse hours of daylight while in the throes of winter. They both convey such a calming image that inevitably leads to a moment of reflection and wonder. I have 2 bodies of water that invoke the spirits of Frost and Thoreau. One is Ossipee Lake, which I am not in sight of year round. The other is my beloved duck pond.

The duck pond is the single one thing that makes the lot we live on graduate from great to awesome. It captivated my mom and dad when they bought it in the 80’s. The lot is two acres but is surrounded by wetlands which mean that despite not owning it, we have the luxury of enjoying another three acres with the security that it can’t be built on. Our view is ours to keep.

The house was clearly constructed with a view of the pond in mind. The main entrance, two sliding glass doors, and many windows all face it. I find myself drawn to the pond year round. Many mornings I have had coffee on the deck and spotted a deer or two that ventured to the water line for a drink. It teems with birds of all kinds, mostly Canadian Geese, and Mallards but occasionally the great Heron with the six-foot wingspan will swoop in like a Concorde Jet landing at a Municipal Airport. I love the birds, all of them. It pleases me to the core to see the small V-shaped ripple in water as a solitary duck makes its way across the pond.

At night, the pond shifts gears from quiet oasis to a bustling ecosystem as frogs loudly make their presence known, crickets (Cicadas?) create a cacophonous symphony, and the industrious beavers work tirelessly at their latest monument. It is deafening in early spring but like everything else, you get used to it.

With the late Spring in New England this year, I have looked eagerly to the pond each morning for signs of my favorite season. The pond tells all, year round. In the fall, the decreasing bird population signals the approach of winter. In the early winter, the encroachment of ice indicates the arrival of winter. In the spring, I monitor daily the receding of the ice and the return of my beloved birds. This year, the pond didn’t give me what I wanted, despite my constant pleading. By the middle of April, it was still in the throes of winter. And then, I think this week, Spring suddenly showed up. The ice is gone, my birds are back and last night the Crickets were deafening, much to the pleasure of my ears. Spring is actually here, I saw both a Wasp and a Tick this morning while walking the dog.

This afternoon, I had a coffee on the deck and admired my pond. My ducks are there, the sun reflected on the ripples suddenly brought on by a light but satisfying afternoon breeze. I have not been outside much lately. My sickness has made me tired, weak and cold. On days that I used to wake early and race outside, I have found myself sleeping late and spending my waking hours under a warm blanket. As I sipped my coffee, reflecting on my life recently, it occurred to me that my beloved pond can serve as a powerful metaphor for my life.

The seasons are fundamentally about change. In New England, we always have four seasons (sometimes in one week) and we can count on it. Change is inevitable. I see it coming by studying my pond. This Spring, my pond shed its blanket of ice and welcomed back all of the creatures that depend upon it. It embraced the change and is now doing what it is supposed to. Today, I shed my actual blanket for the first time and took a step, albeit a small one, towards shaking off the cold, grey winter that has occupied my soul for months. Like my duck pond, I let the sun hit me and I eagerly absorbed it, seeking enough light to allow it to warm me, reflect off of me and have enough in the tank to shine it for those that depend and count on me. I need to welcome back the desire to go on as if the urgency of a coming fall and winter was fast approaching. It is indeed that urgent.

Today, like Frost and Thoreau, I have found inspiration. I don’t know if they ever sat on the edge of their beloved oasis’s with a heart as heavy as I have of late but I can see how it inspired them to put it to paper for others to read and enjoy. It has certainly inspired me to do so, and I hope someone will enjoy reading this. It may be just a blog, but it could also be the first entry in a great epiphany in which a lost soul gets his mojo back.

Imagine that, all this about a bunch of ducks.

Fallen Idols

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I always thought that losing an icon was a terrible thing. I sadly remember that stretch in 2016 when several musicians and actors that dominated the formative years of my life started dropping like flies. FB was flooded with people my age imploring God and the Universe to stop taking our idols. Prince, David Bowie, William “Father Mulcahy” Christopher, Gene Wilder, John Glenn, Arnold Palmer, Dan “Grizzly Adams” Haggerty, Muhammad Ali, the list is so terribly long and sad. But they all left a happy memory with me if not a reminder that life is fleeting and I am getting older. I always could reflect on their impact on my life and smile. It’s not the worst thing in life.

The worst thing is actually finding out that someone you looked up to is not the person you thought they were.

I had the pleasure of being great friends with a guy who was the son of a professional basketball player. A Boston Celtic, the replacement for the great Bill Russell, Mr. Hank aka “High Henry” Finkel. My friend had grown up in an affluent neighborhood North of Boston populated by many famous Bruins, Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics players and he knew all of them and their kids.

When I first met him, I was enamored by his childhood friends and I prodded him constantly for info on them. I am not a celebrity chaser at all, I just wanted to know more about some players that I grew up idolizing. In particular was a certain baseball player, an absolute legend from the 70’s and 80’s that my Dad and I practically bonded over when I was a kid. My friend told me, actually warned me first, that I wouldn’t like what he had to tell me. I insisted. He told me a harrowing tale of a guy who smiled for the cameras and the fans but mercilessly beat his wife and children on occasion…losing streaks in particular. I was crushed when I heard this, as an adult mind you, that an icon of my youth was a great ball player, but a very bad man. Not one for hindsight, I’m pretty sure that I wish I had never learned this.

We live in the information age, as the saying goes. I contend that in some cases there is such a thing as too much information. I stop short of wishing for ignorance but I can think of so many instances where “new information” or “old family secrets” have destroyed a person that at one time gave me a warm and fuzzy. From the late Uncle that you just learned cheated on your beloved Aunt, to the knowledge that a young President that used to reign over the empire of “Camelot” was actually a pill-popping whore-monger, the list is almost endless and equally sad.

The job of role-model is a barnacle on the hull of celebrity. To be fair, other than elected officials, it is unrealistic to expect actors, athletes, musicians, etc., to be anything more than human. They’re really just people like you and I. I fondly remember the scene in a Bronx Tale, where Sonny challenges young “C” on his idolization of Mickey Mantle. “Does he pay your rent? No, he’s just a regular guy. What’s he do for you?” The boy was disillusioned, but it was the day he realized an important truth. That Mickey Mantle was just a ballplayer.

But OJ Simpson was just a football player…and he almost divided the country in half. And cost me a friendship.

I used to go to the same Barber Shop every Tuesday in the 90’s. I had hair back then. I was good friends with the Barber. Every haircut consisted of small talk and I would always find myself drawn to his wedding picture on the mantle before me. The tall, thin white guy with the pretty African American Wife. I never thought twice about him being married to a black woman. Then the OJ trial happened, and you can only imagine that Barber Shops across the country buzzed about it for months. One day, as the trial was close to an end, my Barber and I became engaged in the conversation as well. I offered up, in my own informed opinion, that I thought OJ was guilty. The room got colder than my ex-wife’s side of the bed. My haircut was over and I was asked to leave. I resisted, asking my friend why he was acting this way, and he said “You know my situation! How can I interact with you now?” I was stunned. I asked him:

“By situation…do you mean that because your wife is black then you have to support OJ? That’s preposterous!”

“Well, you believe he’s guilty because he’s black, don’t you?” How do you argue with that kind of logic? I paid for my haircut and I haven’t seen him since. I guess I’m a racist. My real takeaway is that many in the black community couldn’t accept that such a positive role model as OJ could be guilty of such a crime and their disappointment had morphed into anger and denial.

Facts:

I was disgusted when I heard that Bing Crosby beat his kids.
I was bothered when Eddie Murphy got busted with a tranny prostitute.
I was let down when I found out that our founding fathers owned slaves.
I was pissed when I learned Obama went to a church led by an America-hating minister.
I was disappointed when Mark Maguire and Barry Bonds did Steroids.
I was horrified when Michael Richards went on a racial tirade onstage.
I was shocked when Mel Gibson went off on an anti-Semitic public rant.
I was embarrassed when our president was caught on tape talking like a frat-boy about molesting women.
But at the end of the day, It’s just the new norm. People are not what they seem and they probably never were. The latest and perhaps most disappointing entry of late is Mr. Bill Cosby.

Bill Cosby is a unique story. He was a role model to millions of people regardless of skin pigmentation. He didn’t fall into being a role model, he set the framework. He kept it clean, he worked with children, created positive Television programming, spun wonderful yarns of his beloved wife Camile and his flawed but great kids. He did cable comedy and only swore once. He even defied stereotypes and created a hit TV show about a powerful, affluent power couple with a bunch of kids. His superpower was solving any major issue in 22 minutes once a week. A true icon, I admit I looked up to him.

Today, I just looked at him as he did the “perp-walk” from court after being convicted on all charges of sexual assault on a multitude of female victims. Yup, good ole Dr. Huxtable was dropping Mickey’s in their drinks and then slipping them his famous “Pudding Pop”. Another disgraced icon to contend with. A younger me may be disappointed or disillusioned, but this me is not. He’s just a man. A flawed man. A ruined man. My only disappointment is that I allowed myself to look up to him.

Nothing surprises me anymore. In this age of endless information and instant gratification, I can’t even control what I know about people. My real role models have always been the non-famous among us; the great teachers, hard-working parents, and broke philanthropists who volunteer their time and energy to bettering the world. Celebrity is a height that can only lead to a long fall and a painful landing. My advice, keep your feet planted firmly on the ground secure in the knowledge that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The long ride home

The windshield wipers keep rhythm as I adjust my seat forward to make sure I stay awake for the drive home. The heater is on high and I’m still cold. The hot coffee in the holder next to me is calling my name but I’m fixated on the double yellow line, all senses working overtime to get home safe.

This is just one more in a series of post-hospital visit rides home. I’ve done so many that they have become a ritual. I review in my head the events of my stay, even those leading up to it, evaluate how productive it was and ponder the next step. This ride is unlike the others, I am not as optimistic about a positive outcome as usual. In fact, I have a very confident feeling that I will be back in the hospital soon. I’m not being negative, I’m just being honest with myself.

Like the yellow line in the road, the events of the past few days are a blur. Thursday morning I drove to a follow-up appointment for my ongoing pneumonia. To say that I felt like crap is a huge understatement. I arrived 20 minutes early and it took me 15 of them to muster the courage to walk a hundred yards to the front door of the medical building. The heat emanating from the vents in my truck was warming and sedating me, the thought of walking through the freezing rain that was hiding my Spring seemed a daunting task. I finally got out of my truck and made the walk. By the time I got to the front door, I was done, bent over and gasping for air. People were staring. I walked slowly to the elevator and tried to compose myself.

I checked in and waited patiently to be seen. I wouldn’t be seen for 20 minutes but it didn’t matter, I fell asleep in the waiting room. When my doctor came out to greet me, a mere ten minutes elapsed before an ambulance was called to move me to the nearest hospital. 2 hours later Dr. Quackadoodle MD decided that because my vitals were ok he would ignore all of my Dr.’s notes and send me home as healthy. Discouraged but not surprised, I have always been a medical enigma, I prepared myself to go home. Then a cute as hell nurse came in and said she was moving me to X-ray. I wasn’t sure what had changed but I went with it. Once my X-Ray was reviewed Dr. Quackadoodle MD decided that I would be admitted. Pneumonia in both lungs. DuhWhat do these people think, that I’m here for fun?

The next 4 days would consist of what has become a familiar pattern. I was told about my declining kidney function. No shit… read my chart. I would answer the same questions about my medical history over and over again. Once again read my fucking chart. I would talk to sub-par doctors who knew less about my condition than I did. My repeated requests for them to consult with my Transplant team would go largely unheeded. After several days of antibiotics, surprisingly good hospital food, too many naps and far too much television Monday rolled around. I asked my nurse on her morning rounds what progress I had made and to speak with the doctor on duty. I wanted to know what the plan was. Five minutes later, she relayed to me the doctor’s words…”Do you feel well enough to go home?” What kind of bullshit answer is that?! I wanted to discuss blood counts, creatine levels, a second chest X-Ray to see if there has been a change…not assess myself! No, I don’t feel that much better. Walking back to bed after taking a leak has me sucking wind, that is not progress. It was explained to me that my blood counts had improved and that pneumonia has no real treatment regimen except rest and antibiotics which can be accomplished at home. Good enough I guess, get me the discharge papers.

My takeaways of the visit flash in my mind like the lights of the passing cars.
I’ll probably be back in the hospital soon. Brace yourself.
I received some amazing care from the nursing staff. While I wasn’t thrilled with the doctors, the nurses and aides were great. Caring, nurturing, and professional as well as sounding boards for my lame Dad jokes, they made my stay easier.
I am grateful that my oldest daughter drove 50 miles and picked up my youngest daughter to come see me. Their support was much needed and appreciated.
I am a little perplexed that my youngest son didn’t even text me. Perhaps my years of trying not to worry them have succeeded with him, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
It was the first time my wife wasn’t bedside arguing with my doctors. She was working doubles all week and she’s now my ex-wife. Things have indeed changed.

I arrived home around 7:30 and hopped in the shower to wash the hospital off of me. The activity and steam winded me to the point that I had a coughing fit so violent I vomited in the shower. Hanging my head in the shower, as I hung my head in the ER so many days ago, the only words I heard were those of Dr. Quackadoodle, of the distinguished medical practice Dewey, Not listen, and Howe saying “Do you feel well enough to go home?” reverberating in my head.  Yea, sure. I really wish I had handled that better. I suppose I can address it the next time I’m there. The way I’m going how long can that possibly be?

I’m not feeling bad for myself, I’m just feeling bad. This won’t last, I will feel better at some point, I have to. My posts will be more positive, I promise. This is my process, put it to paper and then put it in the past. Soon, if it is meant to be, the good days will again outnumber the bad.

 

 

 

Day 3 of the 3 day challenge

The rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.  – Thanks again Steve                         (
    (MSich Chronicles)
  2. Share a post each day for three consecutive days (3 quotes total)
  3. Explain why you like the quote
  4. Nominate three bloggers to play along

Today’s quote comes from my Grandfather Mellen Barnes. One of the biggest influences in my life, his memory is with me every day. He was a wonderful, simple man who never took anything, except being a virtuous man, seriously. His wit and dry humor sustained an entire family for decades and I would like to pay homage to him. Today’s quote is not unique to him but he was the first person I ever heard say it:

“I’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a train.”

This quote is significant to me because it, of course, reminds me of him. A man like no other from a generation that can never be duplicated. Everything to him was ripe for satire and the goal was a laugh. Today I am still at a low point but thinking of him and his corny jokes sustains me.

Here are 3 bloggers I would like to ask for a great nugget of food for thought

1) Morpetheroad by Michael. This is a great blog and Michael is a real nice guy as well as supportive and encouraging to other bloggers. His blog features a variety of content from original works to writing challenges to poetry. He is not afraid of taking risks and it shows. A sample. Give us a gem Michael, it’s not an award after all.

2) Gail, author of Moonlight Reflections. This is a great blog, full of varied content but brimming with positivity and old-fashioned values. Anything from food suggestions to candid posts about parenthood, sample here, it’s always a good read. Give us a gem, Gail.

3) TonysBologna. Here is a guy who tells it like it is. I really can’t say higher praise than he is just funny as hell and a lot of what he writes resonates immediately with me. I started following when I read this post. C’mon Tony give us one some of your faves.

Well, that completes this challenge. Check out these blogs, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Ciao for now…

Day 2 of the 3 day challenge

Now that I know what I’m doing, here are the rules:

1. Thank the person that nominated you.

2. Write one quote each day for three consecutive days (3 quotes total)

3. Explain why the quote is meaningful for you.

4. Nominate three bloggers each day to participate in the challenge

Thanks again to Steve at MSich Chronicles for the nod. Steve is a great writer and a goddamn warrior in the Chronic Illness community.

Here is my quote for Day 2.

I thought about quitting. But then I noticed who was watching
–author unknown
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This quote moved me so much when I first saw it and I was reminded of it today. I have been in the hospital since Thursday. I have had far too much time to think and I’m in a bad place. I have been consistently sick and I have been dwelling on the whole “quality of life thing. Having once crossed the threshold once already I am not scared of death and my thoughts are darker than I care to acknowledge. And then I get the call from my youngest daughter, the concern in her voice so omnipresent, her concern so unabashed, her love for her father so sincere…I was floored.

She is watching me, looking to me for inspiration, to tell her that everything is going to be ok. If anything was to happen to me she would be completely crushed. All of my children love me, but this one is special. I’ll keep fighting, for her.

I would like to nominate the following three bloggers to offer up their fave nuggets of wisdom.

1)The incurable dreamer. I love this blog. Self-effacing, funny as all hell, brutally honest and thought-provoking she really is a must-read. She had me at this post. Check it out, if you don’t laugh I’ll eat a bug. I would love to hear a few nuggets of wisdom from her.

2)Cage Dunn. This is a great blog. A storyteller, a published author and an extremely grounded writer who tells it like it is. I was hooked at this post. Check this blog out, you won’t be disappointed. I’m sure she has some nuggets of wisdom to share with us.

3) Biff Sock Pow. Biff is a favorite of mine. He has a great mastery of the nuances of absurdity. He can make a boring Tuesday into a funny as hell post. And he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Check him out, you won’t be disappointed. He had me hooked with this post.

Check out these blogs and we’ll do this again tomorrow…

Day 1 of 3 quote challenge

I was nominated by my friend and fellow blogger Steve, author of the always inspirational MSich Chronicles for this challenge. I would like to thank him for thinking of me, he certainly gave me a boost during a low point.

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person that nominated you.

2. Write one quote each day for three consecutive days (3 quotes total)

3. Explain why the quote is meaningful to you.

4. Nominate three bloggers each day to participate in the challenge

I thought of many quotes for my first quote and the temptation to go for the joke was definitely there.
“Indians, what Indians?” George Custer
“What’s this button do?” Christa McCauliffe
“I’m not as think as you drunk I am Ossifer” …ok that one is mine…but instead I want to quote and maybe introduce someone to Paul “Long Haul Paul” Pelland, an incredibly inspirational guy who is on a quest to ride one million miles on his motorcycle in quest of a cure for MS.

his quote is:

“I once was told a cure for MS was a million miles away,
so I thought I would just go get it and bring it back.”

This quote is significant to me on many levels but the appeal is obvious, he is not sitting back and accepting his fate, but instead he is doing something about it. I need to remind myself that there are people like Paul out there. When I feel beat down by my illness he is a beacon of light to get the fuck up and keep fighting. He is an amazing guy and I hope you check out the link I have provided.

I would like to nominate the following three bloggers to take this challenge and share their favorite quotes:

1)The “Wulf”, author of the fabulous Brandewijn Words. I know he has some gems for us. The Wulf is a wordsmith, a bard for our times. His poetry amazes me and on top of all of this, he is a hell of a guy.

2)Sparky Jen. She is one of my favorites. Her blog is so down-to-earth, full of wisdom, energy and positive vibes. And much in line with me, pulls no punches. She’s funny. I know that she has some nuggets to share, she is literally overflowing with enlightening thoughts.

3) Badparentingweb. Justin is a very funny guy, has a wonderful way with words and he has a great story to tell as a young parent and educator of today’s youth. I can imagine that he has some great quotes to make us say “I never thought of it that way…”

that’s all for today, I hope my nominees don’t get annoyed, it’s not an award after all…