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Those things physical

As I have aged over the past fifty or so years, I look back at the varying physical challenges that I have overcome. Many of my friends, Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and other special forces share these memories. For me, those physical challenges included Marathons, Half Marathons, working in the fishing industry, Tough Mudders, even basic training in the US Marines. All of them had their own unique obstacles and all had some blocking point that had to be overcome. As I look back, probably the most challenging of them was the UNQ platoon in basic training for the US Marines. This isn’t part of the normal training within boot camp. This was, well, unique to a small band of schmucks that couldn’t qualify with the M16 on qualification day.

I was in second phase of Marine boot camp, snapping in at Camp Pendleton when I caught pneumonia for the second time during several “pit calls” (we will get to that in a minute). While in the Navy hospital at Camp Pendleton, I had some young Marines warn me that I may get recycled, but if they offered me the “UNQ platoon” which is short for “Unqualified” that I would be better off getting recycled, and under no circumstances should I pick that platoon. They didn’t say why, but the impression that I had was that the UNQ platoon was a “super bad” place to end up at for any period of time. One of the thoughts that echoed quietly in the back of my head was that “First and foremost, all Marines are basic riflemen, and the Corps takes great pride in that”. That alone should have been a red flag. To discredit the Corps by not being able to do something as simple as shoot a rifle was about as bad as it could get.

snapping-in

I returned to the rifle range, to be greeted by one of my own Drill Instructors, Sgt. Rovenek, the “good DI” who was now the Senior DI for this “UNQ Platoon”. These were recruits that couldn’t qualify with the M16-A1 rifle during qualification day. So, instead of going on to Mess and Maintenance, the Marines instead created a platoon for the “non-hackers”. Sgt. Rovenek told me I had a choice, get recycled (again, due to pneumonia) or stay with him and the UNQ platoon and I could catch up with my regular platoon during ITS (Infantry Training School).

Hell that was an EASY call; I told him I would go with the “UNQ platoon”. I had already been in boot camp for three weeks longer than I wanted to be due to two weeks in Balboa hospital with bi-lateral pneumonia and I had NO intent of staying any longer, much less getting recycled to another platoon.

I am not sure if he smiled or frowned, but either way, the decision was made. Sgt Rovenek assembled the platoon of “unqualifying f****” on the first day and in his normally loud voice he pronounced that we owed him one hundred bends and thrusts at his cadence, and if we failed to deliver on that? We would owe him two hundred bends and thrusts, and each time we fail, it would be one hundred more on top of whatever we owed him. I knew that we could bust out one hundred easily, so no worry about that issue.

Over the two days of shooting, I noticed that ALL the DI’s were very reserved in their treatment of us “unqualified f****”. I qualified the first day, high expert, and most did, a few did not. However two days into it, we all qualified. Sgt Rovenek, true to his word, marched us to the “pit” at the snapping in range. This Pit sucked. It was about four maybe five inches deep of very fine powdery dirt. It was kind of like what women’s make up is made of; very fine, very light, goes everywhere you don’t want it to go. We assembled our weapons outside the pit and marched into this “dirt circle”.

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We began with bends and thrusts. Hands go down, feet go out, feet come back up, and the body goes up. “One Two Three Four, I love the Marine Corps”, along with other entertaining chants, and this went on to the count of about ninety something when somebody screwed up. Now? Two hundred bends and thrusts. All the while the other two junior Drill Instructors are in your face, screaming, yelling and doing very well at just pissing us off.

We were about 45 minutes into this “thrashing” when Sgt. Rovenek uttered the words “STOP!”  “SIR STOP! AYE AYE SIR!” was our response. He had us run to the ladder-well (stairs) going down to the .45 caliber pistol range, beating each other with our covers (hats) to knock the dirt off.

We then ran across the .45 range, twenty yards or so, up the other ladder-well, went into the concrete head (bathroom) that was 50 feet from the stairs, washed ourselves off as best we could, used the head if you had to, and get into formation outside the head. We were so relieved; it was OVER! Holy crud, that was a tough thrashing! “Forward march” were the words, and then?

“Column left” and right back into the pit. And we went at it again. DI’s yelling, screaming, and kicking dirt in your face, pushing you down with a boot on the back. Recruits scream, some started crying, others just getting angrier, many in a pretty serious daze. Another 45 minutes goes by, we are up to about 500 bends and thrusts when we do the same thing again, run to the ladder-well, hitting each other with our covers, across, back up, into the head, out into formation and then? “Forward march” then? “Column left” and back into the pit we went.

This was repeated over and over from about 0700 until chow time around 1100, at that point? We were mud-caked, sore, beat, angry, tired, and owed who knew how many bends and thrusts to Sgt. Rovenek. But we were thrilled, the thrashing was over. We chowed hard, seriously starving after that kind of beating and as I got into my second mouthful of that outstanding noon chow it dawned on me… We had nothing, absolutely NOTHING to do for the next three days. NOTHING.

I stopped eating and put my fork down. I realized what was about to happen to us for the next three days and the rest of today, we were going to thrash. And that is ALL we were going to do. I quit eating, and focused on drinking water… and not too much, I had seen what happened if you puked in the pit, you got to cover it up with dirt, and then? Put it in your pockets.

Been there, seen that. And no thanks. I nudged one of the guys I had made friends with, and told him what I thought. He said “No way” they won’t do that. I said ok, but I wasn’t taking chances. When we finished chow, most of the guys were fat and happy at that point, in mud caked utilities and covered from head to foot in half inch deep cracked mud. Our faces were grime streaked from sweat and fine powdery filth. The other recruits were content, chow was had, and they had survived a serious thrashing. We began marching back to the pit, and one by one, I saw the lights come on. Every recruit there had an epiphany. We had just been introduced to WHY you don’t go to the UNQ platoon.

For the next three days we spent close to 6 hours  a day or better in that pit, bends and thrusts, grenade drills, push-ups, side straddle hops, or being cockroaches that bury themselves when they die. Grenade drills involved running as hard as you could across the pit, and when the DI screamed GRENADE! You dropped like a rock into the dirt. Then when he yelled CLEAR you got up and started running again, full tilt boogie. I saw recruits puke, cry, pass out, get revived and start again. That was a thrashing that is probably the worst the military has to offer including Hell Week from the Seals or any other elite force.

By the end of the week, almost all of us were barely able to get out of the rack, and our utilities stood in the corner by themselves. I don’t know that the dirt ever came out of those “cammies”. The “UNQ Platoon” was a serious motivator…. And Sgt. Rovenek motivated the hell out of that entire platoon. It took me days to recover from that kind of beating. I didn’t know it was possible to exercise that hard, and still keep moving. Shortly after we left the rifle range, we caught up with our platoon for ITS. Infantry Training  School.

ITS was the Marine equivalent of the Navy Seals “Hell Week”.  By far, the UNQ platoon had been my “Crucible”. Today, the Marines have changed ITS into the “Crucible” where you are given little sleep, little to eat, and pushed to your limits physically, mentally and emotionally. Many times in that pit I questioned what in the hell I had got myself into, but? Quitting was never an option. Giving up was never an option. This is what separates the recruit from becoming a Marine.

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Camping, Cancer, Facebook, Friendship, gun control, guns, Hiking, Marine, Social Media, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Whistle

I have a whistle on my keychain. My brother had borrowed my keys and asked about it, I told him it was a long tale, and I would share it at some point. Well, he got away without me explaining that story so, here goes. That whistle has significant meaning to both my wife and I, and most of her family. Let me explain, this is going to take a minute.

Going back to the 80’s when my wife and I first met, in high school. We were the average love struck teenagers and we were each other’s “firsts”. Yes, that “first”. Our first time was in the front seat of my orange Mustang Ghia (no jokes about how it wasn’t really a mustang now). We were parking one evening after visiting with a friend, Larry Clark. We had some Jack Daniels and coca cola, and were talking to Larry about his current life’s events. He and his wife were having problems, pretty significant ones, that unknown to us at the time, led it his suicide in July of 81. He was my best friend at the time, and had said nothing to me about his intent.

Larry

Anyhow, as we were about to leave Larry’s he said, “Nope, you can’t leave drinks behind” and Lynda reached over and downed the entire glass. I was shocked. Lynda never drank much, but wow, she put it down like a drunken Marine. (I became one of those in July of 1981). We went to our usual parking spot and things, well, things got carried away. We had both held back on crossing that “line” for quite some time, but she decided we were ready. Even today, when we see an orange Mustang car of any year we get quite the laugh.. and the smile.

I enlisted in the US Marines without telling anyone. I had been thrown out of high school three times and finally decided that school wasn’t for me. I had a problem with authoritative figures. So what do I do? I get my GED and run off to the recruiters and end up joining the US Marines. Lynda was rightfully hurt and angry. But I explained to her that she not only would have talked me out of it, but I had no where to go. I had no education, and the economy was in the toilet. In  a big way. A few days later I left for San Diego, and essentially said good bye to Lynda for 22 years. I spent many years wondering where she was, or who she might be with, and how she was doing. I knew I had screwed up.

mom lynda me

 

That same July, Lynda’s dad, JD Smith, sat down the the breakfast tableand calmly turned to her and asked her if she was still a virgin. You could have dropped a pin and it would have been as loud as a gunshot. Lynda looked back at him and said, “Well dad, I won’t lie to you about something that important, no I am not”. JD’s next question as he eyed the shotgun behind the door was, “Where is he”? She replied that I had just left four days earlier for the US Marines. JD got up from the table, walked outside to the porch and sat down and cried. He didn’t speak to Lynda for two weeks after that.

Now, fast forward 22 years later and Lynda and I had reconnected. We were going to Grand Junction, Colorado from Anchorage Alaska on my R1150GS BMW motorcycle to visit everyone in Colorado and then finish moving my stuff to San Diego. It seemed like a great visit, I was getting along with everyone, even JD welcomed me into the fold. I was ecstatic, I was about to have a second family, and I had history with them, knew them all. Little did I know what history was about to unfold.

bike

JD decided that we needed to go to town and pick up some items, who knows what, and invited Dan Hudson, Lynda’s uncle along. We walked out to the drive in front of the house, David, Lynda’s brother, was sitting in his wheelchair (He is a quadriplegic from a three wheeler accident) on the front porch, facing the GMC truck we were about to climb into. You see, JD had zero business driving, he was getting up in years and his eyesight was nothing to laugh at, so Dan opened the driver’s front cab door and jumped into the driver’s seat.

JD had a three door truck which had some limited seating in the back portion of it. He opened both doors on the passenger side and leaned in to clear a space for me to sit on. He was pushing pillows and other items they had brought for the trip from Roswell, New Mexico to Grand Junction Colorado. He was eager to be on the road to pick up whatever it was he needed, and I passingly noticed that Dan had found something on the steering wheel. He was staring quite intently at whatever it was and suddenly his head ducked down to the steering wheel. and…….

  TWWWWWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEETTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT   

The whole fucking world exploded into the sound of a whistle. Now, I mean the loudest damn police whistle you have ever heard, it shook the windows on the truck, hell even the windows on the house! I mean HOLY MOTHER OF GOD loud. It went on forever. Then?

Silence.

But JD shot out of the back of that truck as if his hair was on fire from the smoldering lakes of lava in hell, and that all the imps from that same godforsaken place were on his ass, and they were going to drag him straight to Hades for all the evil and wicked things he had ever done. You could almost see those demons in your minds eye, where they were all over his back and shoulders, screaming, cackling and laughing, well intent on putting him up in front of Satan for every thing wrong he had ever done. I could see them clawing and scratching, just trying to get a grip and drag him into the depths of that dark dank hole in the earth….

Well, JD was not going to go quietly, and not without one HELL of a fight. He spun around, away from the truck, and I could see his eyes, heck it was impossible not to see his eyes. He had glasses like coke bottle bottoms that magnified those eyeballs a hundred fold, and all I could see in those huge orbs was the total fear of those imps reaching for his soul. He was so scared that he couldn’t even scream, all he could get out was, “NNNNNYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!” and he saw me. No actually, he didn’t see me, what he saw was something blocking his escape from all those demons that were upon him, and there was nothing in this world going to stand in his way. NOTHING. Not God himself would have been able to slow him down. Those eyes that belonged to JD were huge, bulging, and in complete and utter panic, and I happened to be standing in his way.. that was not going to work for JD in that moment.

I saw his right fist come up out of the south forty and “biff!!” he caught me in the chin. All this as I spun to get out of his way. It was a weak grazing blow from a 72 year old man to the chin, kind of like a light whiffle bat catching me on the edge of the jaw, but it caused me to rotate, giving this rocket propelled devil magnet, a way out, and he looked like a man with his hair was on fire and his ass was catching. JD flew past me in such a manner that the wind sucked me into his wake. And he was gone.

Just like that. I mean gone. and me? I was standing there totally dumbstruck still trying to figure out exactly what in the hell had happened. I looked back towards the truck and there in the front seat with a police whistle dropping out of his mouth, was Dan, and he was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. He had tears streaming down his cheeks and the look of someone who had just pulled off the gag of the year. My eyes glanced sideways to the house, and David, Lynda’s brother, sitting in his wheelchair had tears streaming down his eyes, and his problem? He was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe either.

JD? at the other end of the yard… Eyes darting madly trying to figure out where all those imps that just about had him were gone. Patting himself to be sure they didn’t take a piece of him to hell for a taste test. I looked back at Dan, and now he was doubled over from laughing so hard, and Dave? Still couldn’t breathe. I kept wondering if these two jerks were going to pass out from laughing so hard. I still hadn’t figured it out.

You see, JD had this police whistle on his steering wheel just in case.. He had fallen years before during a cold November day in New Mexico in his “back forty” and had broken a hip. He couldn’t get up, and couldn’t make enough noise for anyone to hear. He almost went hypothermic before a friend happened to stop by and found him freezing to death outside. After that? He carried a police whistle in his truck just in case that ever happened again.

Dan found it on the steering wheel, and knowing that JD was as jumpy as a tick on methamphetamines, he knew blowing that whistle for all he had would scare the bejeezus out of JD.. and it did. Worked like a charm, JD turned into a rocket propelled devil magnet and I just happened to be in the way. A sock to the jaw, I moved, and so did JD, at just under sonic speed.

After all the laughter died down and after JD’s heart rate got down to 200 beats per minute, we all laughed, shook hands and went inside to share the tale. After everyone else quit laughing, someone, not sure who said something to the effect, “Hey JD, guess what?” “You got to sock the guy that fooled with your daughter”. And in that moment? JD kind of processed that thought and his chest swelled, and he said “You know something?”

“You’re right”

Shortly after that I received a wooden plaque from my future parents in law. When Lynda and I had reconnected, I had asked for their blessing of our marriage. It took them awhile, but guess what?

I got it… Once her mom got over the huge shiner that Lynda had when we showed up at their house, but that?

Is another story

 

 

Categories: Emotion, Facebook, Family, Friendship, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Relationship, Social Media, Soul, Soul Mate | 1 Comment

Christmas! (and Landmines) and Angels Galore

Well, we have settled (for the time being) in Grand Junction, Colorado. We decided to park it here in Colorado for a plethora of reasons, however the main reason was that Lynda is pursuing her Masters in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The cancer she was diagnosed with, and sentenced to, has been dealt with, a stage 4 prognosis that western medicine states that there “is no cure” seems to have been cured.

Lynda

Now, we are always reluctant to scream out “CURE” as cancer can be a sneaky bastard. so we go with NED.. (No Evidence of Disease). We have been in Colorado for what, a year and a half? 6 months in Breckenridge two winters ago, and last year here in Grand Junction. It has been pleasant, and we seem to be settling in nicely, but one never knows what the future may or may not hold. The past, however, is a different beast.

Lynda and I finally retrieved our stored “stuff” in San Diego, of which, included our Christmas decorations. We were both really looking forward to putting up the tree with our own stuff, and items with history to them. I began pulling the boxes from our shed and garage, and Lynda began putting them up including the fake tree

“click”

“What was that”?

“Hmmm hmm hmm” listening to country Christmas music we laughed and guffawed, eager to setup our home in the best of the festive new year.

BOOM

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Landmine.

I opened a box of ornaments, and staring me in the eyes was an ornament that Connie, my first wife who I lost to pancreatic cancer, was lying. It hit me like a brick. The date on the ornament was  1997 and I found myself propelled back to our home in Alaska, putting up the tree, along with my two cats, Einstein and Champagne, and I was acting a fool watching the two cats bat the balls around or chasing tinsel. Suddenly I realized that those days were long gone. She was gone. As were my cats. And I know that doesn’t sound like much, but they were my first family… and they weren’t coming back. It hurt.. soul deep.. something that is expected to last a lifetime? Doesn’t.

Connie

I  have spent much of my life trying to anticipate what was coming next, simple things like how long my truck would last, or heck, even if the stock market was going to go up or down.. you name it, I have continually failed at guessing what the future holds.. But I sure as hell didn’t foresee Connie dying, or my family vanishing one by one. I mean, yeah, I know that the cats had an “end of life” time on them, but while you are living the life, we simply don’t comprehend that end.

my einnie 2

And when it happens? It is as if your world suddenly stops spinning and there is this “Holy shit” moment that is impossible to describe.

At the same time, Lynda stepped on one, and it was an ornament that her mom’s picture was on. It was an emotional scene. We didn’t break down and lose it, but neither of us were far from it. Then? Top all that emotional energy  and with the fact that based on western science, Lynda shouldn’t be here either.

At that point we decided to go get me some coffee… (any excuse to take a breather). It is at moments like these that we realize how tenuous our lives are here on this planet, and all of us should celebrate each moment we have with ones that we love.. Because sometimes that 100 years you are given at the start of life, suddenly becomes a lot less.

We took the break, did some reminiscing, took stock of where we were and where we are. Dabbed our leaking eyes, steeled our hearts, and went back to it again. This time? Not so bad. the initial blasts caught us off guard, but only for a moment. I think that our experiences, our losses, have taught us to cherish what time we have, however much that may be, and to be mindful of our pasts, to not repeat any mistakes we have made over the years. and we both have made our few.

This year, we celebrate 10 years married, 12 years together, a record for us both. It has been by far, the best years of my life. I shudder to think what would have happened if Lynda had lost her fight as Connie lost hers. I won’t waste anytime contemplating nightmares, but I will, however, share a story about what I consider to be an angel among us.

 Angels – you never know when they might pop up.

 

Lynda was in bad shape. She was officially stage 4. This is terminal in any doctors book. And with breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone, it is a fast moving prognosis.

We had gone to Arizona to get her treated holistically by a naturopath Dr. Joe Brown. First, don’t let anyone tell you that holistic therapy is any less painful than allopathic (standard medicine). This was not the case for Lynda.

Lynda was in pain from the shots she received, and was not doing well at all. We had no idea if we were winning the war on her cancer or losing it. The xrays showed a spot on her shoulder that we refused to have biopsied, but we were sure it was cancer that had metastasized. This is commonplace for breast cancer..

The therapy was very expensive and insurance didn’t cover any of it. This was all out of pocket. We spent somewhere around 50-70K treating Lynda. We had cashed out our savings, our retirement and were going all out. For me it was an easy choice. I can survive without retirement, but I wouldn’t make it long without my wife.

I was working 4 ten hour days in San Diego, then driving to Mesa, AZ when I got off work and stayed with Lynda until I had to go back. I would go to therapy with her, hold her at the townhouse that her brother had bought earlier that year and let us use for free. (It was a rental property for him that he had just purchased). I will never be able to thank David enough for that place for her to stay.

I was exhausted. We were in financial binds that Lynda knew nothing about, we were looking at losing our house, most of our cash, and I was truly surprised that she still had a job.  Emotionally I was trashed. I was tired from the driving back and forth to CA, but I hoped that I showed none of this in front of Lynda. I told her from the start I was her “rock”. I would hold the course when nothing else could. She could stand on me, hold me, and I would always be there for her, no matter what. And if she got too tired to fight the battle? Somehow, I would find a way to fight it for her.. no matter the cost.

I had just left her at the townhouse, and was heading back to San Diego. I found a cornerstore to gas up at. I reached in my wallet and was scrounging for cash or card. We had spent a fortune, and money was starting to get tight. I think that was an understatement, it was tight… Medical expenses were stacking up, the house payment was looming and I was stressed. I stepped out of the car, swiped my card, and started pumping gas. Out of nowhere, this black guy comes around from in front of my truck and starts talking.

The first thought that goes through my head is “Shit, I am about to get mugged”. And as he stops, and begins to speak, I “SEE” this guy. I will never be able to explain this, but here is this guy, my height, but muscular, I mean in really good shape, dreadlocks, dressed neatly. I mean not ghetto, not all thrashed like most bums, but cleanly.. and he is asking for money. any change I can spare. but what has my attention is the aura of this guy. His presence… Suddenly?

The world gets small. and quiet. one minute I can hear the traffic, the planes people talking on their cell phones, doors to cars opening and closing and suddenly?

Nothing. Not a sound. It was as if time was displaced.

It is as if the universe just took in it’s breath, and is waiting to see what I do. In that moment, I was convinced I was looking at an angel. I can’t explain it any other way, and I am not a Christian by any stretch. But somehow this guy was a turning point in my life.. How I treated him would be given back to me… Ten Fold.  I could turn him down and send him on his way, and I was convinced that if I did?

The same would be done to me. I too, in some way, would be turned down. When I say that, I mean that if I decided to brush this guy off like I normally did most people begging for money, the universe would treat me the same way… Brush off any requests that I had made. Including the life of my wife…

I stopped him, told him to hang on a moment, and went into the store. I could see his shoulders sag a bit, and his smile lose some of its shine, and the world seemed to go a little darker. I went to the ATM and pulled out what I could afford to give, and then some. I went back and placed the bills in his hand,  and told him that it was what I could give.

The smile he put forth lit the area up. Suddenly the world was in motion again with the sounds and smells filling the air. He hugged me, thanked me for the cash, and walked away. I turned to look at my truck then back to where he had headed. He was gone. I mean POOF. He should have had another 200 feet to go, but he either moved quickly or something else happened.

At that moment, all the anxiety, fear, anger and sadness was gone. I mean gone. And filling it was the absolute certainty that my wife and I would be together for a long time. Lynda has often questioned how I can be so sure about her health. How can I not question everything? and in that, I can only reflect on that moment, that I had met something, someone that I could never explain, but the interlude left a lasting impression.

Now, since then we have had our challenges, and our scares, but today? she is still by my side, still healthy, and still my first and last love in life. That guy that I met? May very well have been just a bum and I was just tired and exhausted. Me? I like to think that it was a test. A challenge of my basic humanity, of who I am as a human being.

And like that test of my humanity, so are these “land mines”. they are a test of the love we still hold for those that have passed, and our love for those that are with us still. Not all landmines kill, some reaffirm our lives and our humanity

What I would ask of each of you that read this, reflect some, and hold those near you a little closer this year, and the strangers that you meet? Help where you can, you never know who they might truly be.

Merry Christmas to all. Be kind, open your heart, and help where you can.

 

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Cancer, Emotion, Facebook, Family, Friendship, like, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Relationship, Religious, Social Media, Soul, Soul Mate, Spiritual | 4 Comments

Grenade… How quaint

You know, I just saw a quick cut of a movie called “The Faults in Our Stars” about a young girl with cancer and her life story. (I have avoided it like the plague as I don’t need any more emotional roller coaster rides from hell than I already have, thank-you-very-much)

She explains to someone that she is a “grenade”, and that, my friends is a pretty good descriptor. What she missed is, that she is a faulty grenade, as the pin is pulled the the timer?

Hand-Grenade-Pin-Out-848915
has a mind of its own

Anyone who has had the word “cancer” and their name used in the same sentence understands exactly what I mean. When someone does that to you, suddenly you become a grenade. A faulty one. You may go off, you may not. The pin may get reset, or you may stand there for years, staring at that fucking pin and that damn grenade and wonder, “Exactly when are you going to explode”?

Then the clock starts. You don’t know how much time you  have. Nor does anyone else. But a lot of them step away from you pretty quick or hide behind life avoiding the blast if they can. At least limit the damage they will experience. Tick tick tick.. fucking life’s clock just keeps on going. In the meantime? You stand there staring at the pin trying to figure out exactly why it got pulled and whether or not you can put it back in.

Then the circus begins.. A true three ringed circus, clowns and all. The doctors that are looking at another grenade, working to slow the timer. Nurses poking and jabbing, they too, doing what they know how to do to slow the tick tick tick of that fucking grenade. Then you begin to wonder, what can I do? what can my spouse do? what can anyone do? and in the background of life you hear that god damned timer still ticking.

You research, study, learn things about health and life that you really wish you hadn’t. and not sure exactly what to believe as half the shit on the internet is someone trying to make a dime, and statistics are made up 73% of the time on the spot. The deeper you dig the more confusing it gets. You hope for something, anything to help silence that ticking sound that is scratching at your brain like a splinter in your hand that you can’t get out. It is maddening. And still you hold that fucking grenade and pin…

Hand-Grenade-Pin-Out-848915

 

Slowly, if you are that lucky, you realize a couple of things. While you are driving yourself mad trying to stop  that fucking ticking sound, you can forget the single most important thing that you should be doing…

Living

Each tick is a moment wasted if you aren’t doing what you truly love. Each tick is something you cannot get back. Time is a commodity that you cannot trade or earn, you get what you get. So for those of you out there reading this? If you think cancer patients are the only folks holding a grenade in their hand waiting for that horrific moment that it decides to go off?

They aren’t the only ones.. You might want to look in your hands and see that each of us have pulled that pin, and time, for all of us is winding down. Cancer patients may have a shorter run of it, they may not. After you read this, you might want to re-examine where you are and what you are doing. If you aren’t doing what you love to do and who you love to do it with?

You might wanna change that before that fricking grenade in your hands goes off.

crater

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Resilience

I read a post on the New York Times today, about a lady, Lisa Boncheck, who recently died from metastatic breast cancer. In the world of cancer, this is not unusual. In fact, in almost every case, when you are diagnosed with metastatic cancer of any kind, the diagnosis is almost always fatal. In fact here is the quote that I read years ago.

“The American Cancer Society (ACS) states that the five-year survival rate after diagnosis for stage 4 breast cancer patients is 22 percent.”

Other quotes are considerably less, and, as the years progress, the survival rate drops over time. It truly depends on a multitude of variables, and for some, just dumb luck seems to be the case. Each person picks their mode of therapy when first diagnosed with cancer, of any kind, and personally I do not believe there is a right or a wrong, only what works for that person.

Sometimes the patient gets lucky and they find a therapy that kills cancer outright. Others are not so fortunate. Still, others find therapies that function for a while, then, like a bad penny, the cancer re-appears and the patient is given options from everyone. I know we certainly were. And while everyone, including the health care folks, mean well, it is a very, very personal fight. I know, I have watched my mom fight lung cancer, my first wife Connie fight pancreatic cancer, and finally my high school sweetheart and my wife of almost 10 years fight breast cancer as well.

And being the “support guy” I could not, cannot tell you how crazy that battle is. I have watched each of those ladies fight the most personal war of their lives. Each trying to find a way to come to grips that this mortal conflict was both private as hell and as public as it can be. Everyone wants to know how you are doing. Privately each of these ladies could bare their emotions to me. At least to some degree, each holding back what they feared would topple my sanity. On the other hand I was also the sounding board for the fear that held them in a lover’s embrace. Fear of life, fear of death.

On one hand no one wishes to die, to throw off these mortal coils and see what happens next. On the other hand, to live in constant misery of chemotherapy and radiation, each a miserable wreck on the body, in the far reaching hope that somehow this might be the answer to a cure. That by some miracle, walking through this physical hell you might obtain the brass ring in the merry go round of life and get to stay for just a bit longer. And in all honesty?

That is one fuck of a long shot.

Then there are friends that try to help, and like me, find that there is a serious lack of words and honesty. You can’t allow the elephant in the room to grow any larger, but day by day, bit by bit, that elephant fills the room. Until it is much to late to even acknowledge it, and suddenly that elephant is gone, as well as the person that was hiding it.

The lady that wrote her blog and had a lot of followers was brutally honest and descriptive of her experience with breast cancer. I have read only bits and pieces of it, as I find it much too easy to let my mind revisit days of lying with Connie as her cancer marched on with the sounds of gestapo boot heels in the corridors of my mind. It is all too familiar to allow myself to re-visit, so to me, it is something to avoid. Her words and her actions were much the same for my ladies, painful, loving, and honest. An honesty that escaped my Connie.

My mom was beyond forthright, she tackled death with as much energy as she tackled life. When she realized that time was rapidly fading (and long before the movie “Bucket List” came out)

bucket-list-quote1

She determined that she would take care of her “final arrangements” and was calling all the funeral homes in Albuquerque. She finally called one who explained to her that it would cost about nine hundred dollars to cremate her, then there was the container which would vary in cost from three hundred to several thousand. She popped off “Why can’t I just come out in whatever box I am in”? and the response from the curator was “That would hardly be appropriate”.

She laughed and told him, “I am gonna be dead, I could care less what I come out in”. “In fact, hell, you could take me out in a coffee can”. then she summarily hung up the phone and turned to my younger sister and told her “That’s it!” “You can put me in a Folgers Coffee can”.. “Just make it Gourmet Blend” and off she went.. laughing the entire way. And, what remains of her ashes are in a Gourmet Folgers coffee can to this day.

Mom and Halibut

 

My Connie did not have such  a sense of humor. Her defense was denial. While she went through chemotherapy (what little she could tolerate) she simply would not speak of the finality of her disease. The cancer she had was pancreatic, and it was easier to say where the cancer was not, than it was to say where the cancer was. They had missed the diagnosis for probably five years or better. By the time they found the cancer, it was everywhere.

The oncologists were truthful, Dr Stewart informed here there was little they could do. Connie insisted on trying. and after repeating that comment several times to the doctor, I finally pulled the oncologist off to the side and explained to her that while I knew there was little she could do, “by god she would get on board and do something, if nothing else to give Connie peace of mind”. When she saw the anger in my eyes and my clenched fist, she got on board.

One hundred and sixty three days, and my girl was gone. We did all that western medicine could do for both Connie and my mom, but the hard fought battles were lost. In both cases, I closed off those last days in a very tightly sealed corner of my brain, only to revisit them in times of sorrowful loss and woeful memory. Something I do not allow myself to experience any more than I absolutely have to.

Connie

Then in 2006 Lynda’s mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. and shortly after that? Lynda was diagnosed with stage 3a breast cancer. My absolute worst fears had just returned. Understand this, there is little, if anything that I truly fear in this world. The last man I ever feared was my Marine Drill Instructor and during that training, I learned that there was no longer any reason for that trepidation ever again. Until I was faced with a demon I could not wrap my hands around.

Cancer is that devil. No person in this world can hold that emotive response over me. I either lose or I win in combat, but there is no need to dread it. But when there is a disease that threatens the one thing that you hold most dear and you discover that you cannot grapple with the bastard? That is the feeling of someone walking over your grave, and you are aware of it. To sit back and be able to do nothing is the hardest single thing in your life you will ever do as a caregiver.

Yes, I can research, I can study, I can chase down all the potential therapies day and night. I can discuss those until the cows come home, but other than that? There is nothing to kill that enemy, no way I can plunge a knife into it, wrap my hands around its throat and choke the life out of it. I can do nothing but be there. It is a sense of foreboding that I do not wish on anyone.

I also determined that if that is all I can do? Then perform that duty as best I can. Be the support, be that rock that my wife can depend on.. at all times. I think that for those that have played this role? you will understand more than most. It was an honor to escort my mom and my first wife to their next lives. and an absolute nightmare as the person being left behind at the door to that life.

Lynda chose a different modality. She felt that chemo and radiation were a bad idea. We went through a boatload of cash, a few friends, and drove some of our family nuts. She stuck with the concept that something was out of balance, and once discovered and corrected, that her body would heal itself. My skepticism was tempered by the fact that most who had chosen standard western medicine were dead. So to quote Albert Einstein, “Insanity: to do the same thing over and over and expect different results” echoed in my head. So I shut my trap and got on board. I researched we researched. We had trials and tribulations we had success and failure. But at the end of the day?

Lynda is healthy and still by my side.

Colorado Mesas

Coming back around to the start of this post. Some choice news editors had unfriendly or misplaced words for the lady who has just passed. Those posts seem to have been taken down due to the lack of civility or perhaps crass nature, I am unsure. But to those that criticize the writers of this new epidemic, and yes, cancer truly is an epidemic, I say this. Before you lash out with uncivil comments or some incredible argument against those that are fighting and are leaving their thoughts and hearts for posterity.

Try having someone use your name and the word “cancer” in the same sentence. It will change your life forever.

For you critics out there, that feel the need to hassle this gal at the last day of her life?

 

I leave this:

monkey 1

Namaste…

Categories: Adventure, Adventure Travel, Backpacking, Bail on facebook, Camping, Cancer, dislike.. a lot, Downhill Skiing, Facebook, Family, Friendship, Living Passionately, Love, Reconnection, Religious, Social Media, Spiritual, unlike | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Break Time

Over the past few years I have joined Facebook with a passion. A place to post funny cat pictures, make a political rant, and with any luck at least get people to think about some political issue. If I was passionate about it, smart about it, or had a fancy meme, maybe I could change some minds and attitudes. In fact, in a small way, I could change the fricking world!

I was wrong

Hes right

It turned out to be a place to spew my opinion and any one who dared question it I would launch with hastily looked up data from dubious sources and convince them (or me) otherwise. What a waste of time.. I mean that. I have spent countless hours wailing away on cyberspace where most folks, like me, toss out their opinion based on what they have derived from whatever sources and then argue to the nth degree over essentially this point.

It is totally out of our control. I can’t change the political winds of this world anymore than I can change the time of the tide. and the same goes for just about everyone on the other side. We rant, we rave, we point fingers and accomplish nothing. Not one single problem the world is facing is being solved by arguing on Facebook. I manage to alienate people, piss them off, or just get a LOL and off they go. and nothing was gained. This should not be my focus, yet like a deer to a set of headlights, off I ride tilting wind mills again.

I won’t be solving the problem in fukushima, or the dog fighting in Detroit.  I can’t stop the cat killings in China or change the heading of our country. I sit and watch what I consider an irrational fear of everything that this country has become. We bounce from one emergency to the next. Gun control because of the gun nuts, no gun control because of the bad guys. Ebola in Africa coming to kill us all, some Haji in Iraq gonna shoot us all dead, School shootings, dog shootings animal rapings, in fact, words in cyber space are easily ignored, or liked and life goes on.

I understand that as I am as guilty as the next person. I try to stay above the fray, to focus on the good things, the up-worthy posts, or the cute advertisements about some guy making a difference while still remaining anonymous. you know the one, the guy who gets soaked by a water spout and  moves the plant under the water, rescues the dog and the beggars that he is giving money to, the little girl ends up in school. The ad is referred to as the “unsung hero”.

There is the point. He didn’t take a dozen pics of the little kid and post them on Facebook, he went home with a smile. What he did required action, not words. (Sounds like a song from Def Leppard)He didn’t go toot his horn about how great he was or what a good thing he did, he just did it. (and of course this is an advertisement, it is not real life). But the point has been made

But people do this all the time, take on a cause. Sometimes with success, sometimes not. I have taken on a couple, with mixed success. But each one had an effect on someone’s life. So, having some success has given me the desire to have a little more.. To help someone who can use it. To be “mindful” of other’s problems and do what I can to assist. I am not a world changer, not out to create a new order. Just out to make someone’s life a little easier. Give them a break, and maybe they will pay it forward. Maybe not.

I have become stunned at the amount of negativity on Facebook and the news in general. I know I shouldn’t be, as that is what sells. The next big drama, the next war, the next scary thing. Examples of that would be the following, you can pick your poison

  1. Global Warming
  2. Terrorists
  3. Anti-vaccines
  4. Ebola
  5. Russia
  6. China
  7. Syria
  8. Pot smokers
  9. Gay lifestyle
  10. American Taliban (hard core religious folks in the US)
  11. Cancer
  12. Venereal Disease (in any form)

facepalm1

All this negativity sells. The crap that the news agencies spew gets everyone in a panic for a couple of months, then it is on to the next made up disaster. I have tried to watch this without over (or under) judging. I have come to the conclusion that the news agencies rule the hell out of this country. They can start a panic, or create an issue where there isn’t one. Does anyone remember President Obama not wearing an american flag pin label on his jacket? The right would have hung him for being a subversive terrorist… oh, wait, they did that.

obamaflagpin

Back to my point. Somehow some obscure issue becomes front page news overnight with all the headlines screaming how we in the US are ALL about to die from Ebola! Measles! Terrorists! Bad Hair!

States-Seeking-CDC-Help-with-Potential-Ebola-Cases-640x480jpg

The part that I just find disappointing is that today? America has become paranoid and ripe with absolute chicken shits with zero spine. A group of people that get crazy about our politicians but never once have called their elected leader, or ever even sent them an email. I suppose that in addition to being a convict, a politician should have taken mind-reading 101. and THAT folks, is pointed directly at ME as well as anyone else that has this hanging over them. If we spent half the time writing our congressmen about our bitches and complaints, maybe something would actually CHANGE? So a new goal for me.. bitch as much to the politicians through their email as I did on Facebook.. (this should prove to be interesting) Make your congresspersons email as busy as your Facebook page.

On with the rant

A group of people that can go absolutely ballistic on another poster on Facebook, and god forbid that you agree with the one being targeted. I have seen people immediately stoop to cursing, ranting wildly, and in a sense, just lose their minds for a short while. Then I wonder what they are like in the real world. Is Facebook a place to put all civility aside and just run off until you spew out all your toxic garbage?

rant-and-repent

I have concluded that as much as I hate to admit it, I too have zinged those that disagree, after all, they dared to disagree with all the facts that I hastily looked up on the web, and since they are on the web, they MUST be TRUE!!!!! whoops, maybe not… dammit they were wrong.

In the meantime, the “shots across the bow” then label me as liberal, or right winger, or something else I can’t repeat here, after all this is a G rated site. Then everything goes up a notch as I am none of the above. My ideals have changed as the winds do, as the tide does. With experience and knowledge my opinions and actions have changed accordingly, and will do so again, I am sure.

So two weeks out and I don’t seem to miss the forray as much as I thought I would. In fact, I am finding less mental stress, more time to do things than bitch, and… working towards making my life better in hopes that others may follow. Will see what it all becomes. For those out there still pushing the envelope on social communication, a friend of mine, John Eberst, made a couple of suggestions should I ever decide to return to the social media world.

John, thanks for the quote: “What I decided to do is just not pay attention to any (most) conversation(s) that looked troublesome.  I turn notifications off on posts if they degrade and I stopped a lot of the group feeds that I was getting.  I miss some of the fun but I would get pissed off when people revert to name calling or some smug sophomoric argument.  The FB algorithms seem to be good and now I rarely see things that make me lose faith in our species”.

Well said my friend, well said.

Hippiness

 

Categories: Bail on facebook, dislike.. a lot, Facebook, Family, Friendship, like, Reconnection, Social Media, unlike | 2 Comments

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