Why now? Why?

“So this is how it ends?”

“My name is Inigo Montoya… prepare to die!”

And the swords just start flashing like flint hitting steel.  A fantasy for me, since the reality of the conversation was so much worse.

“We’re going to stop treatments for a bit.  See if we can let your body rest and hopefully come up with a better plan.  This isn’t the end, but what we’ve tried just isn’t working any longer.”

Gee thanks, I guess I can sleep better at night knowing that we’ve tried but failed.  Actually when I look at it that way, there is a somewhat positive spin to that.  Trying and failing, better than failing to try?  But the results are the same no matter what perspective you place on things, ultimately my body is going to shut down little by little and then we get to answer one of the great mysteries, ‘Where do we go when we die?’  What lies ahead, what came before, is anything certain in life?  Sorry that last sentence is a line from some lyrics that keep racing through my head.

I’ve known this information for a week now and have kept it completely to myself.  Not a phone call type things with my family and since I don’t talk to my friends anymore, no one has heard yet what the plans are.  I need to go home for a few days to help my brother with something, a life change of his own, but a much more positive one.  That’s what I’m letting them worry about, good things.  Nothing can change my information.  That knowledge can be learned we it’s ready.

So I plan with the lawyers, make sure everything there is in order.  My mind thinking about the beginning of Mission Impossible, the show not the movie.  A line of det-cord sparking towards a bomb.  The timing unknown.  And it doesn’t scare me anymore.  It hurts, it is frightening in many ways, but there are things to be done.

Before leaving my house last, I boxed up some things and labeled a few others on their reverse side so that they end up in the hands of the right people.  I’m not worried, the person who will handle that I trust to do the job.  I picked someone who barely knows some of the recipients, no emotions to be tugged.  Hopefully some people will understand why I kept some handmade card for a decade or more, and why it is now being returned.

This blog is going to go sideways for a little bit while I continue to process all of this.  So many changes lately, time to figure out where to be, and who to be.  Angry, sad, frustrated, just accepting of it [which is the worst part because accepting something of this nature while admitting to having bouts of depression usually gets people’s spines all twisted up!].  I want to fight, but I also know that other things will get pulled into the fray of that action.  Just because I need to know something doesn’t mean that I’m ever going to know it.  A really hard thing for someone like me to handle, I’m going to once again have to sacrifice for someone else.

About the only thing that sticks in my mind is hoping that I will be reunited with a few people in whatever sense.  I’m not a religious person, but maybe there is some small chance?

What season am I looking forward to?  Any of them!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In the Summertime.”

Valuing the Person

I’ve grown up in a time when my parent’s generation was well documented due to sweeping social changes followed by periods of economic growth.  Books, movies, anything you can think of has been written about the late 60’s through the end of the 80’s.  Studying the past so we don’t repeat it?  I’m more concerned with the next generation, the connected to technology by not to each other group.

Shoot me a text when you’re ready!

Can you email me your idea?

Oh, there’s an app for that.  Why would I do that myself?

Being 43 isn’t old by any stretch, yet I think my view might just be old fashioned.  I like talking to people about plans, or work, or some other thing.  Yes, text messages have their place.  But not as the only form of communication between people.  People coming up with grand new medical ailments from people hunched over their phone walking, bumping into people and barely uttering an “Excuse me” while they continue talking about the Instagram photo they just uploaded of their lunch.

I know my mother likes to keep in touch with people via Facebook.  Sometimes I wonder if she is more of a stalker.  Her generation, and my mother in particular, founded the basis for many of these things.  But the outright addiction my nephew has to his iPod only means that there will come a time when the 12 year old version of him [still some time away!] will be addicted to his phone.  For Christmas I set up a Google Voice account for him so he could make limited phone calls to people, and only when attached to the home wi-fi.  Add in Netflix, Disney to Go, several other things on his iPad, Kindle Fire, various other people’s devices they allow him to use and he is surrounded by too much technology.

My feelings are well known about receiving bad news via text.  DON’T DO IT, SHOWS A LACK OF RESPECT!  We are no longer growing together as a community the ways these tools were envisioned.  The economist in me would want to beat into your heads about how Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, the list continues only care about selling your data as a income generator.  It’s why I only post three times a year on Facebook, can’t help with the Google thing; an android based phone is collecting data even when it says it isn’t/

Don’t get me wrong, when my neighbor’s kid sends me a text with some photo attached I love it.  But that happens a few times a year and only when he wants to make me laugh at him.  The little girl on the other side walks over and talks.  It may not be but for a few minutes, but she talks.  Hopefully we are getting back to that on some level.  But I also think it has to do with her parents, they want her to be fearless and that means sometimes talking to the weird guy next door.  [although lately I get cards since I’m not actually there.  Still cards!  When did we stop doing that?]

Maybe it has to do with all the therapy I do for various things lately, but I value the conversations.  My friends growing up didn’t have cell phones growing up, we talked in the car.  We talked in the mall, movies, just about anywhere.  And sometimes to the point of being thrown out of a place.  Watching people stare at their phones while at dinner, why go?  You can ignore each other at home for cheaper!

Every single person on the planet has something to offer.  It might not be world altering, and it might just be nonsense to some; but without hearing people we lose so much.  You can’t text emotion, those silly little icons waving or crying don’t cut it.  You have the phone in your hand, why not just dial it?

As I was getting at, we will never learn anything about each other or ourselves the more we hide behind a keyboard.  Believe me, I’ll got something going on right now that is begging to be let out.  And I know I have to wait until I can see the person face to face.  It wouldn’t be fair any other way.  Again, valuing the person and their emotions more than just sending out a group update.

So, my worries about the next generation being cyborgs with cellular implants may one day come true.  I just wish they all put them down for a little while and had a conversation.  Might even bring some form of proper grammar back?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.”

She Tricked Me!

After getting my stuff settles I see this note on the table asking if I could help set up a few things so that they could put on a show.  The week of drama camp has now ended and someone wants to show off her newly acquired skills.  Just put everything together that we laid out in the living room and wait for us to get ready.  Basically someone wants me to set a table and wait.  Nothing new about that in my life.  Five minutes work and I’m resting in a chair anxious to see what the entertainment is going to be.

The shaking of my shoulder jars me for a second because I hadn’t realized I had drifted off for a bit.  More like an hour, but no one seems to have minded.  For some reasons beyond me I can smell food in the distance but can’t quite place it.

“Could you sit down at the table for me?”  Susie’s got on a crushed velvet dress that I assume she borrowed from a friend.  It’s a little too long and a little too big for her frame.  I can’t help but notice the shoes as well, a few inches higher than she normally stands.

“Okay, I’m guessing we are doing some type of interactive scene?  An interesting choice, but this is more like dinner theater.”

The stereo starts to play some piano music that feels familiar, until I realize that someone had been taping me last week and it was me playing.  I can hear my mistakes, mostly just fat finger placements since I’m experiencing minor tremors from certain medications.  But who cares, only I know.

“Dinner is served!”  The words full of pride and hope, maybe some nervousness.

The plates are full of salad and berries.  Nice start!

Her best friend is playing the roll of waitress and I’m starting to wonder if anyone else is going to join us.  But the table is set for three people.  Maybe I’m the test run for their performance.  Uncle Lary is so much less intimidating than the family at large.  But then the conversation starts.

“How was your day?  Camp was fun, but I’m glad it’s over.  This boy kept following me around and it made me feel weird.  Just let me know if you’re done with the salad, there’s more to come.”

“Susie, what are you guys up to?  I thought this was going to be some test run, not that I don’t appreciate the food.  I really am enjoying what you made, but what’s the deal?”

“Okay, you don’t get out very much.  I know why, we all know why, but sometimes you need more than work and going to the doctors.  Gram said you used to be the funniest person, but I only see that when you try so hard sometimes it’s not funny.  I can’t do much about the other things, but Dad said you would love it if I just offered to make dinner one night.  I thought you’d turn it down, make you sad or something.  I tricked you like you tricked me with those cupcakes.  I still want to know if you made them or bought them!”

I’m speechless at this gesture.  While a plate of spaghetti is placed in front of me, I just need to excuse myself for a few minutes.  Bathroom break!

The mirror is shaking or possibly it’s me.  No, my hands aren’t grabbing the towel, so it’s definitely me!  Get your stuff together, this is a good thing.  Get back out there before you make someone feel nervous or even worse.

“Susie, this is the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a very long time.  You know that, since you said you got the idea from your Dad.  You know that your aunt was the first person to ever make dinner for me.  At least someone who wasn’t related to me.”

“I know, you’ve told me that before.  But I just wanted a nice evening.  Please don’t be upset.”

I’m not upset, no where near that.  I’m so grateful that I want to pick her up and hug her.  But I’m still working on that whole adult/teenager relationship and where things are comfortable.  My choice is one I make very rarely, I go over and kiss her on the top of the head.  There are only a handful of people I do this do, it’s the closet thing I can get to saying “Love you” without the awkwardness that sometimes goes with it.

The smile from her face it nice, her friend is giggling from the entire situation.  Teenagers!!!

I’m holding on to these little things in life, small moments where I can just lock out the other things weighing down on me.  It’s not a parade or balloons or even a day on the calendar most people would be caring about.  I honestly don’t know how many of these moments I will get in my life moving forward.  But that’s another topic for another day.

That dinner meant the world to me, I didn’t know the adults were in the kitchen the entire time making sure it went smoothly.  Dealing with everything this little celebration, or special dinner, or whatever someone looking in might call it; I know I needed it.  I’m sure everyone else did too, they just knew I wouldn’t turn down a smiling kid.

Thanks Susie, it was wonderful.  Love you!!!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Celebrate Good Times.”

Falling Down…

Yesterday while I was walking down the hallway, I fell.  It was without warning and certainly not something I would have preferred to do.  The upside was that I was at the hospital already just heading to an appointment.  The downside was that I forgot how to get back up.  It’s not that my brain was confused beyond the point of where I realized I had impacted the tile floor, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get back up.  Then I was faced with a decision, sit there on the floor trying to maintain a small sense of dignity or grab a railing and pull my butt off the ground.

It could have been seconds or minutes before someone walked up to me and asked of they could help.  The fogginess in my head had me just nodding my head in some direction.  I don’t know if it was up and down, or left and right.  So this nice lady just sat down next to me and waited for me to speak.  Maybe she saw some confusion on my face or maybe she just saw that there was some fear that if I did stand up again, I might drag us both to the ground.  So we sat.  For a while.  I missed my appointment.

She said all of the right things, offered to go get different help if I thought I needed it.  But I just continued my silence while we sat there.  People now walking by and being gently waved off when they asked if they could help.  At some point a wheelchair showed up for me to be made slightly more comfortable while other tried to convince me to go get my head looked at.  I smiled and laughed it off, but inwardly was glad that someone had taken the time to just rest a hand on my shoulder and ask.

I’m a big fan of letting people fail at a given task.  Not something that is going to hurt them, nothing dangerous, but I have always figured that they are going to gain more by learning it for themselves than having me do it for them.  That’s why I just let my nephew fall of his bike, asked him if he was okay and then told him to get back at it.  I took my ex shopping for tires for her car, knowing that she was going to get frustrated.  But I knew if I did it for her, she wouldn’t gain that relationship with the retailer.  One that paid off well for her.

Failure is part of life.  Falling down and wondering how to get back up, wondering if you should get back up is a major theme.  The world does at times give you more than you can handle, regardless of some platitude saying otherwise.  People do need help, I just seem to have forgotten how to ask.  So I sit on the floor trying to understand what I can do next!

With all that life has handed me this past year and a half, I have pushed away everyone so that they no longer have to worry about me.  Ran away to find a fix that I’m not sure I couldn’t have gotten while sitting on my couch.  I’m so afraid of hurting someone that I’m hurting myself in ways that are going to be more permanent than any disease is going to inflict on me.  I may have been on the floor in that hallway, but I am also still sitting on that floor while writing this.

Eventually I got down that hallway to my appointment, they had heard that I was the guy on the floor.  So they waited, just asked the next person if they were ready to go.  Life moving forward because it has to.

While we figured out that I just got dizzy from not eating enough and medications doing their best, I can’t help but wonder about the woman who sat there with me.  She wasn’t nervous, didn’t get irrational about my not being able to talk, she just offered a hand to a guy who had fallen.  In the end I returned her smile and went behind the door.

There are going to be times when help is just going to materialize before your eyes.  Some person who extends a hand and keeps it there.  The lesson I’m trying to remember is that I can reach out and take it.  Allow them to do for me something simple, genuine.  The world has enough darkness I keep forgetting that simple rays of light do exist and sometimes they just want to help pick you off the floor.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.”

It’s Damn Difficult!

When the sun is just coming up, it’s when the worst of the emotions are felt.  That dreamless sleep has ended for me and I’m trying to find the things to look forward to in the day.  For years I would jump out of bed and get into the office, meet up with the ex for coffee around 9:30 before she headed to her office and I would be in a great mood.  Most of the time.  The silence of the office allowed me to get a few things done without people asking questions, the phone quiet for the most part.  Everyone knew I was there, but let me be.

I still have that anxious feeling to go racing from the bed.  Years of habit still dictate part of my schedule.  Only this time I am left with the combination of knowing me day begins with a selection of drugs and possibly diverting myself for some other medical treatment that I just can’t do on my own.  The process requiring someone with a level of skill I don’t possess and don’t want to.

There are lots of great things about the morning, more than just the sun rising and setting colors aflame.  The world smells different, lawns covered in dew, flowers getting their first taste of nourishment, my dog doing her thing while I pace back and forth wondering if this is a quick trip or if we’ll be here awhile.  On the weekends it was an opportunity to sneak out of bed and go for a run, then come back and make breakfast for someone else.  I get to do that now, but it’s more about filling my time.  Trying to occupy myself in the spaces where I used to do other things.

I read a few emails with subject lines like “Still on this side of the dirt?”  This coming from a former mentor who just doesn’t know what the right things to say are, but it’s great that he is attempting to anyway.  I still enjoy that cup of tea every morning.  Something about feeling it pressed in my hands is comforting, a sense of normalcy?  My friend’s granddaughter making her way around the kitchen before she heads off to drama camp for the day.  Not that she needs any more theatrics in her life, but it’s nice to hear sounds again.

For me and my companion, depression, the mornings are just the hardest part.  We know something different is out there but finding it is at times too damn difficult.  I can’t help if the thoughts of “Hey the world is good this morning”  become “Hey, are we going to end our day back in the hospital because you fell down again?”  It’s not that I want to obsess about those things, but there are days when it just can’t be helped.  I force the covers off and start moving from fear of a time when I won’t be able to again, for whatever reason.

Three newspapers, multiple articles aggregated on my tablet, and I end up reading the article about a young lady who goes to The University of Missouri and how she has been detailing her life with depression.  It’s a wonderful read, she should be proud of herself, but I know she’s not.  Like many things in life, it’s another one of the cries for help and understanding that people with depression need to make out loud.

https://hpwritesblogs.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/www-thesemicolonproject-com/

I know that reading my own blog for people can be depressing at times in it’s own way.  My jumping between cancer and my missing my daughter, it’s hard to read.  It’s hard to write and it’s hard to feel.

Hopefully there will come a time when the mornings aren’t tough.  When they are back to being about getting work done and that cup of tea.  My dog is my mother’s problem at the moment, but she secretly enjoys it.  Her “Grand-Doggie” curling up at her feet.  But believe me, I’m grateful for the smile across the table I see most mornings.  She may grumble about it being early, but it’s nice to have that company even for a few minutes.

Let’s wrap this up with a quote from a movie, one I consider to be worthy of repeating –

These things are good: ice cream and cake, a ride on a Harley, seeing monkeys in the trees, the rain on my tongue, and the sun shining on my face. These things are a drag: dust in my hair, holes in my shoes, no money in my pocket, and the sun shining on my face.  Rocky Dennis from the movie Mask.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Golden Hour.”

Checklist of Hopeful Thoughts?

Oh how I remember sitting by the radio trying to find the right mix of music to tell some girl that I liked her.  An evening spent borrowing music from some people, waiting for the DJ to play a track I just had to have.  So much effort put into a little piece of myself that you would nervously hand to someone the next day.  Partially because you worked so hard, partially because you didn’t want it burning a hole in your backpack from any delays.  The friends who might have helped you, egging you on, or possibly sending you to your doom.

Most of the people I meet these days have some connection to the hospital and therefore know a little more about me than the average person might learn.  The ups and downs of dealing with life written on all of our faces.  Lots of people plugged in to headphones listening to something that takes them to a better place, a different time when they might not have been forced to wait.

My tape would be a mix of melancholy and crazy.  Even in those tapes/CDs/iTunes playlists I like to throw in something crazy just to get the “What the heck is he thinking!” reaction.  My go to track would be P.D.Q. Bach’s “My Bonny Lass she Smellith”.  For those who are wondering what the Bach connection might be, there is none.  Just a guy who was a fan and created a persona.  But that track has been present in at least 5 different tapes over the years.

Lately I’ve been listening to a sing called “Paradise Lost” and as you can tell someone who reading too much Dante before putting pen to paper.  It’s about how foolish pride caused a person’s downfall.  Well, that captures me lately.  My own mistakes coming back to kick me in the backside.

There would also be Genesis’s “Land of Confusion”.  The video is pretty funny, that’s the one with the puppets!  Some days I have picked left when right was the easier path, a simpler way of handling things.  Being so wrapped up in not knowing how to proceed some days, or even if I can proceed has left me without solid footing.

“Along For the Ride”, the theme of having been a parent, child, friend, uncle, all of those things.  Sometimes there are those times when you just have to learn that things are going to happen.  They are going to be wonderful and horribly scarring, possibly at the same time.  Life gives you more than you can handle at times, but as long as you accept that there are going to be these bumps in the road, you can get through it.  A life lesson I’m trying to understand myself.

Another of those Dream Theater tracks that are going to have to go on “As I Am”.  This is a lesson I tried to learn, but failed in spectacular fashion.  Learning to accept who you are, with all of the warts that goes with it.  Trying not to fight someone because you believe something, that you’ll never change their mind because they are who they are as well.  Being close minded to life, never learning that something different might be available, that’s a whole level of paralysis I fought for years.

A companion to that track would need to be “Answer Lies Within”.  Overcoming all of that self-doubt, trying to convince yourself that moving forward will keep you from getting stuck in the mud, just plain trying.  It a hard lesson when you are surrounded by people who at times tell you there isn’t much time to do certain things.  The longer you wait, the harder they will become.  But I’d like to think of a future that is by my side, walking hand in hand with me.

Let’s just call this side A of our cassette and leave it at that.  Introspection seems to be on the calendar today, maybe teaching someone around me that there are positive outcomes even when you are experiencing the worst that life has to offer.  My mother told me last night that she wishes I saw things differently, wasn’t so dark and damaged.  Quite a statement for her to make.  Maybe there is one last track I need to would be “Learning to Live”, looking for the innocence that life once provided, a voice in the darkness leading me towards better things.  How I once reached for love, but now I need to reach for life.

Damn maybe this is the tape I should give a therapist.  I would love to see the picking apart of my brain following that listening session!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mix Tape Masterpiece.”

I Looked Like That?!!

Let’s say this isn’t the most flattering picture I have ever taken, but than I don’t have many pictures sitting on my computer of myself.

Basketball

This would have been the summer of 1987, not long before something changed that affected too many aspects of my life.  One that continues to hang over me to this very moment.  I was at basketball camp, the same camp I attended every summer hoping that someone would help me learn to elevate my game to a level I wasn’t embarrassed to try dunking the ball.  I was at the typical tipping point for being able to physically achieve that goal, but my mind just had some hangups about the process.

In the picture I’m 6’4″ tall and about 185 pounds.  Big for a kid of 15 years.  The t-shirt did come with sleeves, but I removed them so I could both fit in it and be able to move around with the ball.  My little brother was the only other person from my school who went here, so I was learning from guys who I eventually would be playing against.  The coaches once told me if I felt like moving, they would gladly coach a guy like me.  I wanted to learn.  I never expected to go to college for it, and I never did, but I really just wanted to learn.  I was desperate to learn more about the game.

Baseball came easy, basketball not as much.  I never really learned how to control my body.  Damn those teenage years!

I know from my memory that I was walking forward to accept an award for being the most improved player from that week.  Like I said, hobbyist at best.  Baseball really ended the week before, so I wasn’t out shooting at the hoops before that week.

But this is where we get better information about everything I am.  This picture was taken on a friday, by the same time the next day i was in the hospital being told about my first experience with cancer.  I had gone to dunk the ball and lost my footing as I came back down, broke my knee cap.  Shattered it like a pie plate falling off the counter.  It’s currently made of Dupont Ceramic.  A long summer was ahead of me.

After all the chemicals, promises and life-saving procedures I was better.  I was lucky.  When I went back to school that fall was when I met someone who helped me in ways that I still can’t fully thank them for.  She pushed me in directions I didn’t want, made me try when I didn’t think I could.  Her sitting there while I walked out on the basketball court after months of nothing was helpful.  Patre made me try, even though we both admitted later we knew I wasn’t ready.  That I couldn’t keep up with others, and that most people were letting me get by them just to avoid hurting me.

Right now I’m living with her parents as I go through yet another round of hell.  We share that whole daughter loss thing that makes us family.  They help in a way no one us has been able to, or maybe willing to; it really does depend on who I’m talking about.  Patre’s been gone a long time, her influence hasn’t stopped in the ensuing 27 years.  She saved me from myself back then and her family is fighting with everything they have to try to save me now.  That gift is more important to me than any I have ever received!

That picture was a fun time, it led to some things that helped and some that didn’t.  Without having fallen that day, I may have not known how sick I was until it was beyond anyone’s ability to fix, to help me.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Snapshot Stories.”