14 January 2017

Year one ends with cancer

My first year in England is nearing an end in a fashion I didn’t really want. It was two years ago, that I was leaving a hospital for the last time before I returned to work. In no time at all I regained my strength and the depression of hospitals and clinics left me.

Now instead of returning to work I am leaving work. And instead of being out of work for two months, I’ll be unemployed for at least three months. And for the first time in my life, I’ll go from caretaker to patient.

Two years ago, when I got sick and was told something is wrong, my worst fear was that it was cancer. In fact one of the reasons I avoided doctors for so long was that fear. I almost felt a sense of excitement and relief when I found out it was my heart and not cancer. That’s right. I was happy to learn my heart was the problem and it wasn’t cancer.

Fast forward two years, my heart is strong and healthy. My stamina and endurance is back, but now I have been diagnosed with cancer. Cancer of the tonsil… a form of throat cancer. Actually, it couldn’t happen in a better way.

My heart surgery showed me how strong I was mentally and how I could cope on my own, with keeping appointments and managing my medications. When I first left the hospital I was taking over a dozen different medications that were given at different times of the day and night.

I also have witnessed what cancer can do to others, so I feel halfway prepared for what lies ahead. The good news about it is that the cancer was caught early. The oncologist said, “there is no evidence that it has spread.” So, while I’ll have chemo, once a week for seven weeks, it won’t be as bad as it could have been. And during this time I’ll also be having six weeks of radiation therapy.

A new adventure in my life. One that I have said in the past that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy is now part of my life. The advantage for me, which at times makes me very grateful and other times makes me feel sad, is that I won’t be doing this on my own.

I have a strong wife, who already has shown her talents for being a great caretaker. Besides being loving and concerned, she is showing her ability to be strong and strict and not letting me become a victim.

All in all, a new walk in my life. A new challenge and a new adventure. One I wish I didn’t have to experience but now that it is upon me I’ll attack it with all I got and defeat it. Cancer may be in me, it may be a part of me, but it will never be me.

16 October 2016

Remembering the good

How does a person, any person deal with grief? Can everything be placed in an organized folder in our mind and dealt with in a day? Or a week? Or a month? No one has an answer and no one can give an accurate way to deal with grief.

I recently lost a brother and while we weren’t close, it still has affected me. Memories of the past, which are few and fantasies of what could have been.

I do believe in the old saying of never speaking ill of the dead. I have no need to do that. Read my books or past thoughts from previous writings and you will know everything that has happened.

After 40 years and now one death, it is time to remember some good things. Not to belittle Mike’s contributions to my life but with our age difference we really didn’t share many good times together.

Mike served America in the Vietnam War. I was 10 years old while he was there. I don’t remember letters he wrote or what I may have written to him. I do remember when he had a leave and decided to visit Australia, instead of returning home. I never really thought about it to just now but even then we did our best to stay away from home.

Anyway, while there he found that prices were really cheap and he mailed home – piece by piece – a state of the art stereo. I remember my dad setting it up and I played with it. That’s right, a valuable stereo and I was playing with it. I remember making recordings with his reel to reel recorder. Roughly six months later, when Mike’s tour of duty was over and he returned home… he saw first hand how much I enjoyed playing with his stereo. He never shamed me or made me feel guilty about playing with this valuable piece of machinery.

Within a week, he brought home some wood and plywood and made a beautiful cabinet for it all and he let me help, as much as I could anyway. I did get to stain quite a bit of it.

Mike was home for just about a year when I asked him if he would be my confirmation sponsor. As I knelt at the altar and the priest came in front of me, I could feel Mike place his hand on my shoulder. I was so proud to have him as my sponsor. He was a war hero… at least in my eyes… and here he was saying he would guide me in the ways of the church.

After Mike settled back in and went back to being a citizen with a full-time job, he invited me to go on a fishing trip with some of his work colleagues. It was deep sea fishing and though I didn’t catch anything it was a trip that opened my eyes. It was a father-son gathering. Mike didn’t have any children, yet there was enough of an age difference that for the first time I saw that we weren’t your typical brother relationship. And in reality, for most of my childhood, Mike was more of a dad to me than a brother.

And at times he even spoiled me. When he returned from Vietnam, he had brought home three boomerangs that he purchased in Australia. They were gorgeous. Hand carved, with art work engraved in them. Being a kid, I begged and begged to have one. And Mike eventually gave me one… which as a kid, I never really appreciated. I promptly took it outside and began playing with it, watching it fall to the asphalt on the empty parking lots where I tried to perfect the art of throwing it, until finally it just shattered into pieces.

Mike flew on helicopters while in Vietnam and got to meet many celebrities doing USO shows. He once sent me home a flyer for an upcoming show featuring a half dozen baseball players. He got everyone of the players to autograph it. Two of the players I remember till this day – Tug McGraw and Denny McClain. It was a very valuable piece of Americana – which as a kid I never truly appreciated. Looking back at it now, it is quite an honour to think that while flying in a helicopter, in what were very stressful times, he thought of me.

How truly sad, that as brothers, all of us, we were never mature enough to realize that what happened wasn’t my fault, or his fault, or anyone of our faults. Our parents were alcoholics, whose destructive behaviours affected us for the majority of our lives.

I wonder how many people have died filled with shame and guilt for things which they had no power over? As alcoholics, my mom was out of control, my dad was out of control, and they were in control of me. And while, my brothers were able to physically escape, I do believe my parents were in control of them as well…

The end of a fantasy

When I decided to move to England, I realized that I finally was burying a dream that I had for over 30 years. That dream was for my family, my brothers and myself, to be reunited. I thought about it for quite awhile and I came to the conclusion that reunification was never going to happen.

All of us had spent our entire lives in America and nothing to date has brought us together… so why did I have a dream that we could some day become a close family? This was the ultimate delusional fantasy of mine.

I spent over 20 years living in Nebraska and I had brothers travel through the state and relatively close to where I lived, yet they couldn’t find the time to stop in for a visit. In fact, during a phone call that took place over a decade ago, my one brother even said that, “We didn’t have the time.” So my time is worth less… so I am worth less… I am worthless.

These are the feelings I have had with my brothers for a majority of my life. Sadly, this defined most of my life. My self-destructive behaviours. My anti-social habits from alcohol and drugs which brought me comfort for many years until finally it too couldn’t bury the pain within.

So, I packed my bags and moved to England. I left behind a daughter, a couple of step-kids, four grandchildren, numerous friends and little else. I didn’t feel any guilt or homesickness when it came to leaving my brothers, their wives, and their children. The fact is, I didn’t know any of them.

Out of my three brothers, I could say I was close to one. I use the word “close” very loosely. I have met his two daughters. Once when they were 5 to 7 years old and then when they were in their 20s. This “close” brother I had seen twice in the last 30 years.

It only took eight months of me living in England to see that this dream died forever. My oldest brother, Mike, passed away at the age of 69. It did bother me… it did affect me… but not to the point where my life stopped.

What hurt the most was that I had no idea who my brother was. I had no idea what kind of husband he was or what kind of dad was he to his two sons? With that said, I really don’t need to know the answer. I wasn’t a part of his life for over 30 years why try and act like it was something different?

I did have one final e-mail from him shortly before I left America. I never opened it… that is… until he was dead. It amazed me. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t responding like my older brother, instead he spoke like a person who understood where I came from and he even apologized for not doing anything to help me as a child. To help me get away from the terror that was our parents.

I didn’t even feel any guilt for not opening that e-mail sooner. Those last eight months of Mike’s life, he probably wondered what I thought of that note and why I never answered it. To me, it worked out exactly the way our Higher Powers wanted it to. I spent most of my life, chasing my brothers waiting for some kind of recognition. Mike spent his last eight month’s waiting for a reply that never came.

I believe Mike was in a part of his life where he wanted to make amends, to rebuild bridges, and maybe somehow my dream became his as well. While reunification between myself and my three brothers will never take place in this lifetime, there is still hope for the next life.

I didn’t go to the funeral… I could of went. I flown across the pond enough to know that I could have been there the day before the funeral and pay my final respects… but why? Again, we had no life together when he was alive, so I’m not going to pretend it was all good just because he died.

Without my presence, reunification couldn’t even take place during death… and I feel really good and at peace with that. The 26th of October 1980, will live forever in our family history. It was the last time all four of us brothers were together at the same time. The reason? My dad’s funeral. Just two months short of 36 years, that Mike, Ray, Rich, and Dave walked together.

RIP Mike

20 September 2016

I Want A Job

Oh… a chance
another chance for a job
start the process
all done on-line
no person to person exchange
all that matters is what the computer shows

warehouse job?
mention… inventory, packing, picking
security job?
mention… keyholder, grounds, patrolling
type in the correct words
or the next step is nil

company approves… onward
exams come alive on the screen
need the answers now
follow the bosses rules or customer satisfaction?
tests reveal everything they need to know
final answers posted… press “enter”

stare at the screen… waiting… waiting…
“passed”… a deep sigh
and the wait begins
a couple of days go by
an e-mail arrives… interview set
the end is in sight

the day arrives… talk to three people
the future is in their hands
already so much work…
yet… no promises
a trial period… work for an hour
finally… all done

is there a job?
a future with the company?
anxiously waiting
yes… or… no
will I be the new cleaner?

19 September 2016

Celebrating Life... real life

September. A month that holds new beginnings and life for me. On the 3rd, I’ll celebrate one year of wedded bliss, in my new home – England. On the 4th, I’ll give thanks as I will celebrate 22 years of continued sobriety and on the 15th I’ll celebrate the gift of life as it will be two years since I had open heart surgery.

After reading what I just wrote, I sit here shaking my head in disbelief and in awe. I have been blessed with an amazing sobriety. It hasn’t always been perfect or picturesque but where I am today I realize that nothing would have happened without the “hiccups” along the way.

In twenty two years I have had two divorces. Whose fault was it? It doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is that I took that leap of faith and started a new life with absolutely no plan for the future.

When I got sober I was living in Seward, Nebraska and had a pretty good job and the security that came with it, yet I packed up and moved a 100 miles away and started life again. For the next 19 years, I called Beatrice, Nebraska home and went to new heights in sobriety and my work life. I was given so many responsibilities and used each one to further my career.

I had a simple life. The last six years in Beatrice, I lived in a small apartment, once again learning how to be a bachelor. I got out of debt and started travelling. No small journals. Big Ones. Across that little pond to the east that we call The Atlantic Ocean. I went to England. And after one visit I knew that somehow, some way, England would eventually be my home.

Not only do I love the country but I also fell in love with a certain person from that country. This gorgeous lady became my wife in 2015. While we live in England, we got married in Nebraska, so both of our birth countries will be forever a part of our lives.

When I got sober, I was scared, alone, and looking at spending some serious time in jail for actions that any
sober person would. Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I picture myself as an author. Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I see myself as the creator of two musical CD’s.

I never thought of life as being “alone.” In reality, I was scared to be alone. Yet, I learned how to do that the last six years I lived in Nebraska and I learned to enjoy and love my own company.

When I landed in Beatrice, Nebraska, I thought that this was it. As in, my final home, my final job. I was content to just live life in a manner that for me was a slow death.

So, once again, I threw caution to the wind and took that leap of faith and landed in England. And so far, that leap of faith has been wonderful.

The point is that sobriety has its fears and uncertainties, yet if I didn’t take a leap of faith and believe in my Higher Power, I probably would have ended up drunk again. I may have been able to stay sober without a Higher Power, yet I wouldn’t have enjoyed anything that life brought me.

I know I wouldn’t have written books, without a Higher Power. I know I wouldn’t have created musical CD’s without a Higher Power. I know I would have never ventured to England without a Higher Power.

And I doubt I would have survived my heart surgery without a Higher Power.