Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ready Thyself, For The End Is Near

I've had a couple of minor scares recently involving health issues that have made me pause and think about things. The first came a few weeks ago when my wife had to have a mamogram, and the second came a few days ago when my neck developed a small, painful lump. Fortunately neither turned out to be serious, but the anxiety and fear generated by each made me wonder how people who have terminal conditions maintain their sanity when told there is no hope. My father was anxious and probably fearful when he was given the news, but in the days and weeks before his death he prepared himself and faced it calmly. I don't think I could do that. Although I've always thought that death was an option when things got too bad, being told that it was coming- without any control of the event on my part- is something that would invoke the white-hot terror that sometimes washes over me in the middle of a panic attack. There must be a shock mechanism which kicks in toward the end to keep our minds from dwelling on the finality of the situation or, as in the case of my father, a great faith that we will be taken care of as we journey on toward the next life. Even as I sit here writing this the anxiety builds in me, wondering whether or not I will have enough faith when that time comes, knowing that questioning my faith means not having enough.
I was talking to a co-worker yesterday whose brother and his wife both have cancer. She said that his wife was sent home from the hospital because there was nothing more they could do, and that she was only given a few days more. The couple are expecting a grandson soon, and the woman was asking them to choose a name for the baby before she died, to give her comfort perhaps. Maybe one little thing that she can tell herself she got to do before she died, to know the name of her grandson.

To digress quite a bit here, and I apologize but this is something I have to get off my chest, I don't think the doctors have the right to tell someone that they have x number of days or months to live, or that any condition is hopeless. When my mother was diagnosed with diabetes the doctor told her that she would go blind. Almost immediately her vision started to fail, where it had been perfect to that point. I think the power of suggestion from someone who my mother trusted so much had given her no hope of keeping her sight. When my father was told he had cancer - from the same doctor- he resigned himself to his fate and became a different person right then. Even though he had shown no symptoms and had been fairly active before, he now sat around the house, watching tv and waiting to die. In four months from the time he was told until his death, the only symptom that showed up was a sore throat that he got from when they put a tube down his throat for a biopsy. It saddened me to see him just waiting like that. I suppose most would say that he was preparing himself in his own way, and maybe he was, but I think the doctor's death sentence made him spend his last few months living life less fully than he would have wanted. I hope no doctor ever gives me a sentence like that because I know I'll be the same way. I'd rather have a glimmer of a chance than to feel like an inmate on death row, knowing the exact minute he's going to die, knowing for certain that he will not be around to see the dawn of the next day.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Arguments, Lost Clothes, Crowded Bathroom... It Must Be Sunday

As usual, the kids wouldn't start getting ready for church until the last minute... or rather, the last five seconds. When I get tired of telling them, then get tired of yelling at them, I start a count and if they haven't gotten on their feet and started moving by the count of five they get a spanking, so they almost always are scooting when I reach four and I hardly ever give spankings anymore. Actually it's only on my youngest that the threat works. The older one gets threatened with taking his car keys.
We made it there on time, but only by a couple of minutes and surprisingly found an empty pew where we could sit together.... close to the back. I have this thing about sitting close to the front. I get a little claustrophobic and much prefer the back of the church where I'm not surrounded by two hundred people. This has been a point of disagreement between my wife and I because she likes to sit close to the front. Today she had to work so it was just Nathan, Ryan and I going to church, so I found a seat toward the back.
Having carted three boys to church for years, I have come to expect a certain amount of embarrassment every Sunday, but today was pretty much uneventful. No one picked his nose through the whole mass, no gas was passed noisily, everybody's pants stayed up, and no one knocked the collection basket on the floor. My seventeen year old, Nathan, wore another pair of torn pants, but at least his shirt was nice.

If you know anything about the Catholic Mass you know it's a set ritual with not much deviation. When my youngest son, Ryan, was about three or four I told him to stay in his seat while I went to Communion. I went up and took Communion and went back to my seat, only to see that Ryan had made his own trip to the front of the church and was now coming back into the seat. When Communion was over the priest made an unprecedented trip to the middle of the congregation... to my pew. He had given Ryan a host, not sure how old he was (Ryan was a good sized boy), and didn't know what he had done with it, whether he had dropped it or eaten it. Thankfully, he had eaten it or else we would have had backtrack his path looking for it. The priest was quite upset and I was mightily embarrassed. Just another story to add to our list of Sunday adventures.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Secret Life of Uncle Ray

When I was about thirteen or so I was staying with my friends, two brothers who were a year in age on each side of me. They had a family friend who came to visit them often, an older man-about 70 then- who lived on a farm a couple of miles away from them. He was someone who always looked as if he was almost asleep, and talked in a mumbling sort of way. The boys often went to help him out with the chores, and that was the case on this day, with me tagging along. There wasn't much to do in the way of chores that day, and they soon decided to show me "Uncle Ray's" attic, with Ray leading the way. We climbed the stairs to the cluttered, dark room full of stacks of magazines and newspapers. On further investigation I saw that most of the magazines were Playboy, Penthouse and the like. There were drawings that he had done - he seemed to be quite an artist- of couples engaged in sexual acts, nude women, and drawings that looked normal until you unfolded them and it turned into an orgy. He pulled out a box full of films and played one of them - this was way before vcr's so it was a silent film. I felt very uneasy the whole time. Although everything was like a treasure trove to a pubescent boy it felt very wierd with an old man openly showing us all that stuff. It got a lot wierder next when he pulled out an attachment for his sweeper and asked me if I wanted to put that thing on my schlong. I declined and shrank to the farthest corner of the room while one of my friends gave it a try. Thankfully we left shortly thereafter with him taking us all back to my friends' house where their mom fixed dinner for Uncle Ray and us, none of the grownups suspecting that their sleepy-eyed friend had opened our eyes, or at least my eyes, to the fact that old people could hide such secrets behind their jovial, trusting faces.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Changing America

A few weeks ago I was talking to one of the delivery drivers who come in the store and we got to talking about immigration. His children go to school in the city that is our county seat, into which there has been a large influx of immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala within the last ten years. A lot of them are illegal and most find employment in the nearby chicken farms. It seems the city is going out of their way to not only make these people feel welcome, but to cater to them by providing more assistance than is available to any longtime resident. The driver was saying that in his daughter's preschool class the children are being taught in Spanish as well as English in order to keep the immigrant children from feeling left out. He was furious that his child was being made to learn the language of foreigners to this country, instead of them having to learn ours. I can't say that I blame him.
The whole idea of people violating the law by sneaking into the country without going through the proper channels, then being treated like important guests instead of criminals is a slap in the face to people like my grandparents, who came here from another country, gained citizenship legally, and worked hard to provide for themselves without assistance from anyone in any government agency, all the while having to learn the language and customs of this country, and being thankful for the chance to do it. I'm not against immigration when the immigrants go through the legal processes to gain entry to the country, but I'm astounded at the number of people who are willing to let the illegals sneak in, then provide them with aid of all kinds while our own citizens cannot get help for themselves. The immigrants in our county seat comprise 1.33 % of the population of the city. Hardly enough to deserve changing the curriculum of the teaching classes and a black eye to our democratic principle of "majority rules".

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

My Little Genius

When my youngest son was about two it became apparent to us that he was different than the other two in a slightly peculiar way. All our kids have their own ways of being special, but we could tell Ryan was something else. He became fixated on sweepers when he was two. He would push the sweeper around all day, or find something he could substitute for a sweeper and push that around. If there was a commercial on tv that had a sweeper in it he would stop what he was doing and point to the tv saying "sweeper? That's a sweeeper. Yeah that's a sweeeeper". I remember once when he was throwing a fit in Sears I took him to the vacuum cleaner display and his interest was immediately shifted to pushing the demos around the sales floor while my wife finished shopping.
When he was four his interest was shifted to the weather. He would watch the Weather Channel all the time, and he knew all about clouds, tornadoes, thunderstorms and most everything a seasoned weatherman knows. He loved books about it too, so we got him some with pictures and read to him. One day he came with my wife to see me at work. He started telling everyone in the break room that they'd better be careful because there was a supercell developing that might bring heavy thunderstorms. The people there were slightly astonished that a four year old was giving them such detailed weather forecasting.
His next obsession came when he was about six. We had gotten him an electronic board that had all the presidents on it. When you pushed a certain button it gave a lot of different facts about a president. He would stay in his room for hours on end playing with that, and within weeks he could tell you any fact about any president. He could name them in order, tell what their wife's name was, what years they served, where they were from ... everything that was on that board he knew. Expanding on that resource, we got him one of those boards that had states and the capitals, along with information about each state. He memorized everything about the states too. He had started school by this time and it seemed like the routine of his classes had an adverse affect on his learning, as he seemed to pick certain things he liked and excelled at them, but lagged behind in others. He started having attention problems in class, and we took him to a child psychologist who first treated him for Attention Deficit Disorder and prescribed Ritalin. That didn't seem to help, and made him very emotional. A year or so later he was re-diagnosed with Asparger's Syndrome, a form of autism. This diagnosis seemed to fit his symptoms, explaining his behavior and lack of concentration.
The last two or three years he has frustrated his teachers. While he's staring out the window or has his attention anywhere except his studies, he somehow manages to absorb the lessons and usually knows most of the material from his day in class. However, he has a lot of trouble taking the time to do things like, write neatly, and even though he's reading at a ninth grade+ level it's a struggle to get him to pick up a book. Unfortunately, now his obsession is with video games, and he can tell you anything about the ones he plays, but it makes it even harder to tear him away from them to do homework.
As he's getting older - he's 11 1/2 - It's getting more and more difficult to direct his interests in a way that will help him to learn and grow in a positive direction, but as a parent it's my job to keep trying.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Ketchup Runs Slower When the Lights Go Down

I don't know what it is lately, but I'm so tired all the time that I just want to sit and do nothing when I come home from work. I usually end up falling asleep while watching tv by about seven o'clock. It might be the cold weather, since I'm out in it a lot, or it could be that I have an unknown illness (I'm a part time hypochondriac, so I'm always thinking something is wrong), or it could be the dreaded A.G.E. factor which my wife is leaning toward in her opinion of my predicament though I think she's wrong.
I think it's probably a combination of things, mainly the winter weather and lack of sunlight. It is depressing, although this month is moving along faster than most Januarys do, and I hate feeling like a slug. I can't wait for Spring.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Blabberings

I'm hoping for a lot of snow tonight and tomorrow. They're calling for a bunch up north, around Lake Erie, but I don't think we're supposed to see much. I'm ready to go sled riding... as soon as I procure a sled. Oh, and it's got to get colder too. I went out to the land last night and tinkered around, cut some wood and built a fire. It was soggy and wet all over, but still fun. I haven't been able to do anymore toward building my tepee, but it would be great to have that up when it snows. I got all the material and have all the poles cut, but it's been too cold and wet to do anything. If I get energetic tonight I might get the canvas ready to sew.

Our Christmas tree is still up. I was going to take it down my last day off but the wife insists that she take it down because she's afraid I'll smash all the branches down flat. I did finally take down the outside lights, which wasn't much of a task since we only had them around the porch. I want to get the tree down so we can get this place cleaned.

My car needs a new water pump. It's either that that's bad or the thermostat. I bought a thermostat because that's cheaper that a pump, but when I went to change it I saw that I was going to need an engineer's degree, a lot of expensive tools, several days of free time, a lot more coffee, and a wide open space where I could throw tools when I get mad. So I decided it would be easier to change the water pump, but since the weather isn't suitable to doing that right now I guess I'll just stick to driving the car short distances. Luckily I only live less than a mile from work.

A new competitor in the grocery business opens its doors tomorrow, so it'll be interesting to see how busy we will be. Our store is getting ready to expand, so there's a lot going on at work right now, even though January is a slow month. I need to get busy looking for new employment. Being a procrastinator by nature I've been saying that for a few months now.

The next weeks and months are going to keep me on my toes. We have a lot to get done to the land, like getting it leveled and having a well drilled, then a little later on a septic system put in. My second son graduates this year, so that'll be a huge expense. We have to get this house ready to put on the market, which means spending a lot of money.

My second son is having a Halo party in the basement tonight. That should be interesting. Make that annoying. The youngest is going to a Klondike Derby for scouts tomorrow, and I can't get him to do anything to get ready for it, so he'll probably be running around at six in the morning trying to find what he needs. A Klondike Derby is where the scouts compete in various winter events, like trying not to freeze, or trying to loosen a tongue from a flagpole. They usually get a neat little patch and the flu to bring home.

Well, I didn't have anything to write about (in case you couldn't tell) so I just rambled on, sorry. Unless you want to hear about how long I took in the shower or if I pooped today or some equally interesting topic I will end my ramble and hope you are having a great day!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Just Another Town Along the Road

I suppose our little hamlet here is like thousands of others across the country. Someplace an out-of-area person would pass through and barely give it a glance, maybe using it as a reference point to know when to switch highways on your journey east or west, but probably driving past the town without even knowing it exists. Indeed, our claim to fame, so to speak, is the railroad which passes through the town, and in earlier days was an important source of industry in these parts. It transported coal and clay from the nearby mines and sent it to all parts of the country. Our town earned the name "Dreamsville" from soldiers riding the rails who stopped on their way to or from deployments during the second world war. It's something the town higher-ups have capitalized on, and we have a railroad festival every year to celebrate, even though railroad usage has become a mostly-forgotten mode of transportation. The warehouse right by the tracks even has DREAMSVILLE in giant letters written across it. For a few hundred dollars and the correct social status you can join the railroad committee and hobnob with the rest of the town snoots, planning things like Polar Express train rides, or steam engine shows. Neat things, to be sure, and if you ever happen into town during one of the events, by all means do stop and visit... but it's not something most people put on their travel planner. I guess every little place wants to be recognized... wants to be more than it really is. Taking advantage of its history is the way our town tries to be more than just the place where the highway splits.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Whiter Shade of Pale

I've written often of my dad, a man of great faith and devotion to his family. He worked two jobs most of his life plus handled the farming duties. He was a hero in my eyes. A man to be emulated in everything he did... except his driving.

The earliest memory that I have riding with him was coming home from church late one evening with all of us piled into our station wagon. He slowed down at the stop sign where our road crossed the highway and kinda glanced, deciding that car barreling down on us wasn't a threat at all. I was in the back and didn't see, but my brother, sisters and mom yelled, screamed and ducked as he continued across the highway with the sound of screeching brakes and a horn blowing about three inches from the back bumper. "What are you yelling about? I know what I'm doing". Over the years he became infamous for his close calls and his obliviousness to the terror bestowed on his children when he drove. I don't recall whether he had any accidents or not, but I do remember riding with him a few times when I was a little older and having some very nervous moments. I was fourteen, I think, when he let me ride with him on his route a couple of times. He worked for a dry cleaning service the last ten years of his employment, and his work was hard and tiring. He was always hurrying from stop to stop and viewed a stop sign as more of a suggestion than a law. I remember him driving through town speeding toward a light that was red. I looked over at him and yelled and he slammed the brakes on, skidding to a stop. He'd been almost asleep, tired out from the long day and hot weather.

His horror rides were something we had a good laugh about, but only if we made it through alive, which all of somehow managed to do.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Unbreakable Bonds

When I was sixteen and working for my brother-in-law I had to take a new guy with me on the job and show him the ropes. This was janitorial work, so not a lot of technical skill required. Nevertheless, over the next few weeks about the only attribute he showed was the ability to show up for work, which wasn't hard since I - or my bil or both of us- would pick him up at his house. Since I was in school during the day and there were always jobs that needed done during the day, he spent a lot of time with bil. Gradually, the weeks turned into months and he was still employed and still hadn't mastered the fine arts of cleaning, like; not leaving streaks on windows, not upsetting a mop bucket once a night, and not operating a floor scrubber without being tossed around like a rag doll. I wondered why my bil hadn't either gotten on him to improve or gotten rid of him. The months turned into years, although I had gotten another job when I was eighteen, he still was working, and had become my bil's right-hand man, even though my bil would swear he still couldn't do anything right and would nag at him. They became something of a familiar sight around town, my bil, who was 6'4" and his scrawny helper who stood about 5"1", cleaning windows or sitting in the coffee shop. Many years later, after the cleaning business disappeared due to my sister and bil's divorce, they still hung out together, fishing or going out drinking, right up until the time bil succumbed to his illness and passed away. I often wondered how their friendship had solidified itself so.

It reminded me of the relationship between two characters in the Joseph Wambaugh novel The Choirboys. The two characters were both police officers who had served together in Vietnam then joined the force together, although it seemed apparent to everyone that the older, better officer couldn't stand to be around his partner. When the story unfolded, a secret from the war was revealed that had kept them together because the older one unconsciously depended on the other, and the diminutive one felt an unselfish obligation to look after his buddy, knowing that one day again he'd be needed to fulfill his destiny.

Friday, January 12, 2007

REO Speedwagon - In My Dreams

This is one of my favorite REO Speedwagon songs. Not crazy about the video, but the song is one of their best.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I'm a Tramper

Since the holiday season is past us and winter depression is trying to worm its way into our lives I thought I'd write a summertime reminisce... to get my mind off the cold.

Every year at our farm we had to put up hay so the cows would have something to eat in the winter. Usually we did this twice a year unless a drought or severe rain kept it to a single cutting. We were never well off financially to be able to afford one, and our farm wasn't that big, so we never had a baler, we put the hay up loose. The way it worked was like this; Either dad or one of my older brothers would cut the fields, then let the hay lay to dry for a few days. Then came the raking. That job took two people. One to drive the tractor and the other to ride the rake. The person operating the rake had a bit of an adventure, for the rake was an old one where you had to sit on a seat in the middle of it and pull a lever which raised the tines when the rake was full. The seat was always loose, which didn't help when you're trying to maintain your balance going over bumps, hoping you don't fall and get run over by the rake. When all the hay was raked into rows everyone would grab a pitchfork and gather the rows into large stacks. That was the start of the fun for the younger kids because we'd always run and dive into those stacks. Next, it was time to pick up the hay and load it into the trailer or truck. The older guys would toss it in the back, and after the truck got about halfway full the little kids did their job. The youngest kids were always the 'trampers'. We would walk around smashing the hay down to make room for more. It was something that was a lot of fun, a hayride in the middle of summer, but you had to be careful not to get a pitchfork in the leg when they threw the hay up to you. We were always excited when we got to be trampers. After the truck was piled so high that no more would fit on it would be driven up to the barn. Our barn was up a little ways on the hill, so to get to it you had to make a bit of a sharp turn and give it gas to make it up. One year my next-older sister was riding on the hay when dad went up the hill. With the truck swaggering back and forth from the ruts in the path a big chunk of hay - and my sister- slid off the top. I remember my brother racing over and digging madly through the hay to find her, screaming and crying but unhurt. From then on we weren't allowed to ride up to the barn when they were taking the hay up. So when the truck pulled up to the barn it parked under the haymow. There was a large opening at the top of the barn, then right below that was a small opening. We had a giant claw on a rope and pulley that was lowered from the large opening and guided by someone in the small window into the haystack, then clamped and lifted up and into the opening and dropped in the middle of the haymow. Someone would then stack the hay up on either side of the loft. The rope and claw only worked about half the time, and when it didn't the hay had to be thrown up through the small window and stacked. After repeating the routine a couple dozen times through the day, making hay wasn't as fun as when we started out in the morning. When I got older and had to do a lot of the tossing it definitely wasn't as fun as being a tramper. But still... how I miss those times.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Regrets and Shortcomings

I guess everyone looks back at their past and finds a few things they'd like to change. I'm no exception, in fact I'd like to do a lot of it over again, but I tend to think things happen for a reason, so there must be some purpose behind my life so far. I wish I had been more aggressive though, in my younger years. My youth was spent in an almost Amish-like passiveness when it came to dealing with other people... other kids, mostly. I only got in a couple of shoving matches through school. It might have helped my confidence in myself greatly to get in a few fights, even if I got a few teeth knocked out. It wasn't as if I got picked on a lot, maybe because I was big enough to take care of myself, but there were a few times that stick with me like a sliver of metal that's lodged deep beneath my skin. Times I wish I would have kicked some ass, or gotten mine kicked if that was the consequence. One of these was in Phys. Ed. playing volleyball in seventh grade. I missed the ball or something. The next thing I knew was kicked in the back by one of the eighth graders for missing the ball. I didn't do anything about it, even though I suffered a cracked tailbone and had back problems from then on through my life. I should have decked him, and if it happened now I definitely would. Another time was on a bus trip back from an FFA outing where we got to watch our teacher castrate one of his hogs. I hated riding the bus, it always gave me a headache, so I had my head down resting on my forearms when someone took a thick, hardbound book and smacked me on the head, almost knocking me out. I looked around and saw a bunch of the illiterates that were a couple of grades ahead of me sitting a few seats back laughing like it was the funniest thing they'd ever seen. Even though I was outnumbered I should have stood up for myself then. I didn't.

Over the years I've learned to take care of myself better, although instead of high school fistfights people expect you solve differences by stating your point and coming to an agreement in a grownup fashion. I've found that my earlier passiveness has affected me in that I will let the minor problems go until they build up so much that I sometimes explode about something seemingly meaningless, when it's really a culmination of all the little things. Had I managed my anger in a more constructive manner earlier in life I might be able to deal with the small problems as they come up, avoiding the complete meltdown which tends to lead people to think I'm a nutcase for blowing up over something so trivial.

Well, the Buckeyes played football like they had eaten too much Christmas ham and just couldn't move. It was a pretty sorry-looking game and not a good ending to a great season, but hats off to the Gators, they did everything right.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Lord Knows Clothes

Going to Sunday Mass is always an ordeal at this house. Usually its everybody trying to get into the bathroom at once to get ready, or being forced into the bathroom to get ready, and there's always a lot of yelling, arguing, stomping and slamming doors before we finally make it out and pile into the car. They say that the hour before church is the most unholy hour of the week, and that proves ever so true at our house. Someone is always trying to sleep in, or feigns illness in order to stay home, and no one can ever find anything to wear. This morning's catalyst of my hair-pulling episode was my middle son. He came downstairs in a pair of jeans his girlfriend had gotten him for Christmas. The knees were ripped out and the back of the legs were faded. I told him to put on something decent to wear, and that's when the argument started. At seventeen, he naturally thinks he can do pretty much what he wants, and short of tackling him, stripping him and dressing him at ten minutes before church started about the only thing I could do was to verbally try to convince him to change. It didn't work, and he stayed in the bathroom until time to go, when I yelled that it was time to go. He didn't come out, and being angry and refusing to let him make us late I herded the youngest son out the door ahead of me and went to church. He came into church about three minutes later, wearing those ratty-looking jeans. I can't really say I was embarrassed because over the years my kids have done so many things that made me want to crawl under the pews and out the doors that a pair of torn, faded jeans only had me letting out a sigh of disappointment. Afterward I sat him down and tried to explain that church isn't a place to try to be cool and that we dress in good clothes because being able to worship once a week is something we should try to look our best for. Not for everyone else to see, but to show the Lord that we think enough of Him to look our best for Him. I think he took it about the way I would have when I was his age... about half listening, although if my dad told me to change or else... I would have changed.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Knocking on Heaven's Door

What's your closest brush with death? I've been trying to think of what mine might have been and I think I've been lucky all my life to have very few close calls. Of course there are probably ones that I didn't even know about; a crazy lunatic has me in his gunsights and his rifle jams, a driver runs a red light just after I go through the intersection, I shoo away a mosquito that's carrying the West Nile Virus, or a dozen different things I could never think of. I guess the one thing that scared me the most was the day after I got my dirt bike when I was 18.

The day that I bought my first motorcycle, my only dirt bike, I brought it home very late in the afternoon. In fact, it was dusk when I started riding it. Our house sat in a valley and we had fields right in the front of the house, then across the fields was a creek, and right on the other side of that were more hay fields on the side of a hill. I took it on the hill first, and rode around in those fields until it got too dark to see (the bike didn't have a light). So then I came down and rode through the fields in front of the house in darkness for a long time before quitting for the night. The next day when I went out to ride some more I saw my tracks from the previous night. I'd ridden within a couple of inches of our disk, forgetting it was even there. In case you don't know, a disk is what you pull behind the tractor after you've plowed to break down the dirt. It has several rows of thin, heavy, metal disks that turn as you go. If I'd have hit that the night before I would have been sliced into many bloody strips. That might be the closest I've come to departing this world.

Another incident was when I was hunting and my brother-in-law was behind me. We were walking through the woods when his gun suddenly went off, blowing up the ground behind my feet. "Oh, I guess the safety wasn't on" was all he had to say. Had we been stooping to go through brush or under a tree branch when that happened the gun might have been pointing at my back. My BIL was a fun person, but not safety-conscious at all. Yet another gun-related incident was when my nephew pointed a loaded, ready-to-fire gun at my chest with his finger on the trigger. Not on purpose, but a hair bit more pressure on that trigger and I'd have a lead souvenir in my heart.

Another time was one I don't remember very well. Ok, not at all. It was when I was born. I was a breech birth, and they didn't do C-sections like they do today. My mom said she was in labor with me for three days and I almost didn't make it, and I guess she almost didn't either. Very similar to my oldest son's birth, where my wife's and his heartbeats both almost stopped several times before they did a section to get him out.

All in all not that many serious scrapes with the grim reaper. Something to be thankful for, maybe somebody is watching over me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I'm not usually a person to judge people quickly or to slap a label on them, but I'll write a little about one of the people I have.
A few years ago my son graduated from the D.A.R.E. program in sixth grade. That's where the school brings in a police officer to teach the kids to stay off drugs. At that ceremony the guest speaker was a former police officer and current bank president, the person I'll refer to as Mr. Asshole, or Mr. A. He earned that distinction from me for something he'd done not long before that.

My mother-in-law married a man shortly after my wife and I got married. The man she married, 'J' was basically a good-hearted person, but had many shortcomings. His daughter had married Mr A a few years before, but they rarely visited J because he was an embarrassment to them, being handicapped and on government aid, and married to my wife's mother, whose sons were in jail. As the years went by, Mr. A and his wife grew richer and moved into one of the historic mansions in town, while J's health diminished to the point where he eventually lost both his legs to diabetes, along with the use of one arm. Also, my MIL and he had gotten divorced, but both moved into the same duplex, she on the top floor and he on the bottom. It was a convenient arrangement, since they still depended on each other- she would fix him dinner and help him bathe and so forth and he would give her money when she needed it and keep her company. When we went there for the holidays we always went to both places, since J was fond of our kids and always got them gifts. The whole situation worked out better than it had when they were married. During this time Mr. A's wife, J's daughter, only came to see him a few times-usually to ask for money- and never invited him to their mansion. When J went into the hospital for liver failure it was obvious he wouldn't be coming home again. Shortly after his daughter found out how bad he was, Mr. A, the rich bank president, used his influence to get J declared incompetent and had his wife appointed as his trustee. This was done without any type of hearing, which is required by law, and with J still in full control of his senses. Immediately, Mr. A and his wife and her brother backed a U-Haul up to J's front door and loaded all his possessions up to be divided among them. He had a piano that he was so proud of, having been quite a musician in his younger days. The last thing J knew before he died was that his piano and all his worldly possessions were being taken from him without so much as a word from his daughter, thanks in large part to the greed of Mr. A.

So skip ahead now to the awards ceremony where Mr. A is the guest speaker. He was talking about a class that he had when he was a DARE instructor and a student in that class. Meaning to paint her as an obvious deviant, he described her as fat with wrinkled clothes and thick glasses. As if everyone would immediately recognize anyone with thick glasses as being the criminal type, and as if he had any business judging other people. This was in a Catholic school where kids are supposed to be taught tolerance of everyone. Maybe it was because I knew his part in his father-in-law's dying hours, but that statement infuriated me and only deepened my dislike of him.

Mr. A is still a big shot bank president, involved in the church (the same one I attend), and influential in the happenings of the town. I often wonder what people would think if his family affairs were brought to light. It probably wouldn't make a difference, people choose to see what they want to see in people. When I see him I see a greedy, self-centered asshole, and there's not much that would change my opinion of him. I might go to hell for thinking like that, but so be it.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


In my dreams I often find myself at some very high place where the only way down is to fall. Last night was one of those dreams, this one involving a bridge over the Ohio River which seemed to be several hundred feet high. For some reason there was no guardrail, I was walking across, and halfway across I was suddenly on only a section of the bridge which wasn't connected to anything else and I had no way off it. I awoke to waves and waves of panic. The panic I experience from nightmares is a little different than when I'm awake, because with every wave pain shoots down my legs into the bottoms of my feet. So there I lay for about five minutes with spikes stabbing me in my feet, trying to wake up and forget the dream so I could go back to sleep. That didn't happen, and I spent the whole day in sort of an anxiety filled daze. I hate when a dream stay with you all day like that.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Dedication to a Lost Friendship

For someone who helped me keep my sanity when times were tough. Happy New Year Debbie.