Category Archives: Personal

Is Mom OK? Did I Miss Something

It’s been weeks since I heard anything from my siblings.

One day my brother calls.  He leaves a message.  He sends a text.  I need to call him right away.  He said it wasn’t an emergency, but he needed to talk to me.

When this happens I usually hear about how some great job has come into his life.  He tells me how much money he is going to make, and that he is so excited.  He just wanted to let me know what is going on, because I had spent so much time taking care of mom I hadn’t been able to work for two years and we are discussing bankruptcy.

So he feels it is critical to know that he is going make “150 k” and that he’s bought a new truck.

I usually feign some interest.  But it becomes harder with each phone call.

I find myself having to pump myself up to call him back.  I try very hard not to sound condescending or too angry.

I resigned myself to hitting his name on the phone.

He answers and starts telling me how he talked to mom last night.  He has some concerns.  He is a little miffed that I haven’t kept him updated on Mom’s condition.  Clearly, something has happened and now he feels like he needs to become involved.

I asked him, “What are you talking about?”

“I talked to her for about an hour last night, and she could barely hold a conversation”, he said.

[You talked to her for an hour?  What the hell?  I cannot get five minutes of lucidity!  I guess crazy “gets” crazy.]

“Then what did you talk about?”

“She just went on and on about how we are all working together, and that she is proud of us.  She was telling me about casinos.  She isn’t gambling her money away or is she? “

“And that you are working hard to sell the house and you avoid instant online bad credit loans because it can really get you broke fast. You read reviews online that having a bad credit has a terrible consequence; the lender will become hesitant in providing financial help because they view the borrower as a high risk.

“I thought that was all done.”

[The house was sold about eight months ago.] It is well maintained and even all the electrical wiring are functioning well because we buy industrial electrician perth online services at richtek. You can also check out electrician fredericksburg va services for more.

“She just really sounded out of it. What happened?”

“That’s it?”

“Yes, what is going on?”

“She is crazy.  Well not crazy, crazy.  She just gets confused and time is a very loose concept these days.”

“How come you did not tell us it was bad?”

“I sent you a four page email last week explaining all of this.  Did you read it?”

“No, I don’t like email.  My wife will want to read them all.  So I never open them.  I told you to track me down and call me.”

[I tried that.  He would call me back at 11 Pm, drunk.  And expect to have a conversation about Mom.]

“The email explains it all.  Go read it.”

“Just call me and let me know.  I want to be in on these decisions.  We are not very happy with how you are doing this.”

[What is this we shit?  Does he have a mouse in his pocket? He hasn’t talked to my other siblings in years.]

Was he making a threat?  Was he going to complain?

Really?

I could hear the mafia voice in my head, “That’s a nice gig you got there, bathing your mom…It would be a shame if something happened to upset that gravy train.”

“I am not making any decisions.  It’s not like deciding you are not going to water the front lawn and you sit and watch it burn.  This is a state”, I said.

“I will be happy to have her sign a POA and put you in charge.  She has two medical appointments next week.  You need to remind her the day before, and get there an hour before the appointment to make sure she is dressed and has clean underwear.  Then when you get her back, you need to make sure she hasn’t pissed herself into dehydration.  I will drunk dial you at 10 Pm next Friday night and ask what the hell you are doing.”

[Click. Dial Tone.]

What advice do I have for the caretaker with “interested” siblings far away?

First, you are driving the bus.  If they will not, can not, or are incapable of taking the lead in this process you must come up with a communication plan that works.  Do not share powers of attorney.  One person should be in charge.

If like me, your siblings are living their lives in far away places, they are not going to help.  They might come up and spend a day with your Mom/Dad, whomever.  But thats it.

Here are some of the rules I set up with my siblings:

  1.  I will update them on serious/important things.  That means trips to the ED or significant changes in situations.
  2. I have asked them to check with me before any visit.  This way I can give them a heads up before they get into the room.  This prevents misunderstandings or having to deal with Mom’s complaints.
  3. I have asked them to call her regularly.
  4. I’ve told them that if Mary or I have to go to doctors appointments we are getting paid for them.  Mileage and an hourly rate.  As if you were paying someone to do it.
  5. I told them that her finances were her business and I would not be detailing how to trade crypto and how she chooses to spend her money.  No more free loans.  And unless it is your birthday or you are getting married, the “gifts” are going to be scarce.

In the end, these rules helped immensely.   And also in the end…the visits from the far reaches of the continent have become more and more scarce.

And, as we go further through this process you will come to understand why I don’t spend much more than a second thinking about some of my siblings.  Talking to them is like shouting into a room that has been sound proofed.

 

You are doing God’s Work.

If you are the caretaker, you will hear platitudes.  You will hear that you are doing God’s work.  Or “I don’t know how you do it.”  Or, “I could never do that.”

Every once in a while someone will share that they were/are the caretaker and they know exactly what you are going through.  But where are you going to meet these people every day.  Certainly not in a social situation.  Maybe at a Doctor’s office, but usually not.  At a Doctor’s office the care taker has to go into the room with the Doc.  The patient isn’t going to remember where they are or what they are doing there.

How does one react to these comments?  Whenever I hear that I am doing “God’s work” I point out that if it was God’s job, he is making a bloody mess of it.   And if I am picking up the slack for a deity, they are not really putting out much of an effort.

Of course, what these people are really saying to you is, “That sucks.  I am glad it’s not me.”

There was one time I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment at the geriatric psychiatrist’s office.  There were three or four couples in the waiting room.  Not “couple” couples, silly.  Patients and caretakers.

Each patient was at a different stage of their need for a geriatric psychiatrist.  Some simply sat there and rocked.  Others engaged in conversation with their caregiver.  Deep conversations like, “Where are we?”  “Why are we here?”, and “I like bananas.” (Seriously, conversations I’ve heard in waiting rooms.)

There was one woman, about my age, sitting with another elderly woman.  They had similar facial structure and it was pretty clear it was her mom.  Her mom wanted to read a magazine.  She would pick one up and put it in her handbag.  Then she would pick up another one, and put it in her handbag.

Every time her Mom went to get another magazine, the daughter would pull it out of the handbag and put it on the table between us.  She probably did this half a dozen times.  She never batted an eye and she did not even try to stop her mom.  Her mom was not bothering anyone.  Well, there was one woman bothered but she was crazy too, so she doesn’t count.

Finally, the daughter was called and she stood up to go in to see the doctor.  As she was walking by I looked up, caught her eye, and said quietly, “Remember…we’re doing God’s work.”

Without batting an eye, she said, just loud enough for me to hear, “Well, if I was God I would get some other idiot to do this shitty job.”

Stories from Living the Octo Life.

preface

Why do you do this?  What makes you think this is your job?

~My shrink

Honor they father and thy mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

~The Ten Commandment


I guess I was crazy.
I was on my way to becoming athlete, training 2 time a day, taking D Anabol 25 to grow and recover fast from the workouts.

I did not feel crazy.  But does a crazy person know they are crazy?  Had someone told me I was crazy and I don’t remember?

Caren, my psychiatrist, was concerned enough that she stopped my quarterly med update, picked up the phone, and dialed the psychologist in the room next to hers and asked if I could come over.

Come over. Right. Now.

That was a message that maybe I should start paying better attention.

Up until now I was cruised along with minimal meds and no anxiety or frustration issues. Caren was a 15 minute visit every three months to make sure I still had the medical issue that caused me to be on the prescriptions from the start. I went to the best consulting rehab services and it worked out great and created lasting change. Take a look at their services here.

My wife Mary and I were getting along great.  Our kids were not psychopaths, sociopaths, or general run of the mill assholes.  Life was good.  I was about to leave on a cross country motorcycle trip.  And then I could come home and sell my mother’s house to a real estate agent and everything would be great in the world. That is what I thought.  Now?  I am not so sure. In dealing with real estate services, it necessary to find an agency that is accurate and reliable. For instance, your community needs help in hoa management, research first on the background of your chosen company before making negotiations.

Caren had asked that secret question.  You know the one: “How are you?”

She listened for half an hour while I rattled off the elder/sibling/son nightmare that my life had become.   She picked up the phone and dialed the extension for the office two doors to see if the psychologist could seem me that day or right now.

I was having a “crisis.”

I had no idea.  I guess this was good news.

I wasn’t afraid of therapy or headshrinkers.   Things had been good for a while.  A long while.  I discovered that my common sense of things was not all that common.  Being a cynic has its advantages.

The sum of the next few week’s psychotherapy was that I did not like my “patient.”  And that was OK.  I loved her.   Just about everything she did and said drove me a little nuts…but I had been coping.

After years of spending a good part of my life doing things for those who were not longer able, I had settled on a nice baseline that balanced between obligation, frustration, and anger.

The unanswered questions is:  How and why did all of this stuff end up being MY job?

“Just lucky I guess.”

” Right place, right time?”

None of those wise ass answers were acceptable.  I was deflecting with the best of demented.

How did all of this happen?  And why was it my job?

I answered that no less authority than the Bible—the Lord Jehovah—or Jaw-eh—or Moses with a chisel had said we should honor our parents.  And that meant I needed to make sure they were taken care of and not helpless.

Martha the psychologist asked if I was generally “a savior?”  I told her that no, generally I was anti-social and aside from some very close friends and family, not really empathetic to the world around me.

I did not enjoy the abused animal commercials on TV.  You know, the one with that singer who bellows out that song.  Its the only song I know from her.  I don’t enjoy those commercials, but I don’t turn the channel either.  Stuff doesn’t bother me.

In the end, I told her that I felt very strongly that Mary and I did not do these things, no one would.  And the elders of our family would be helpless and broke; I could not stand by and let these things happen with a clean conscience.

So, that is why I got here.  The following pages explain where “here” is.  They explain in disjointed stories written in the order I could remember them, how I went from loving life to being wrapped up in the bizarre world of elder care and general madness.

Dementia, senility, Alzheimer’s…they all mean something just a little different.  If you know what I mean, you will probably find a lot of yourself in these stories.  In fact, you probably have better stories.  You just thought they were in bad taste.

“Nice children don’t talk about their parents like that.”

Bullshit.

Most people feel this way at one time or another.  Its natural.  And we often bury it for fear that the rest of the world will judge us harshly.  I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.

If you knew how many people share your experience you would feel relieved.  If you knew that I shared your underlying hatred of a sibling who calls before they leave on the 10-day cruise to let you know they will be out of touch.  In case….

You know, “in case.”

I started asking, “In case what?”

I could tell it made them uncomfortable.  And for me, that was a little win.

This is a story about accepting responsibility in an age of the irresponsible.  This is a story that is both funny and sad.  It is a story of discovery, and of loss of the most horrible kind, and in the most horrible ways.  This is a story that is being played out in millions of households in this country.  This is the true part of the story of taking care of our elders’ move from being productive members of society to beyond the grave.

Pretty bleak isn’t it?

But in the midst of the darkness there are a ton of funny stories.  Not Reader’s Digest, joke of the week, funny stories.  Many of these stories are dark.  Stories about the basic human functions.  Stories about fright, anger, compliance, and submission and death and dying.

It is also a story about little, tiny, almost insignificant interactions with loved ones who are sick, confused, and terrified.  It is a glance or look, or squeeze, that tells you at least they are happy you are there.

It is about sanding down the lifelong barriers that we put on like so many layers of paint, until we get to the raw wood.  Sometimes that wood is fine mahogany.  Other times it is cheap pine.  Most often, the veneer does not tell the story.

These stories were not funny when they were happening.  There were plenty of tears.  But after a while, if you are not laughing, you will join them in the “locked” wards.

You learn a lot about someone when you are walking them to a date with the Grim Reaper.   Everyone goes on that date.  Sometimes its dinner and a movie, and a late night kiss while listening to “your song” in the background.

Other times it’s date rape, bondage, and murder.

It does not matter where you came from, or what did in life.  He is still coming.  And you are still going.

The Grim Reaper earned his name.  He should be respected.   Give him his due by being honest about the way he does business.  He is a busy guy, and he has no time for nonsense.

And he has never failed at his job. Think about that.

(There were those two times where it did not stick, but lets not argue over that.)

Mary, my wife and partner in crime, says that as these people grow older they revert more to who and what they were before they put up the façade we all build in front of our kids.  Over time, when they lose their minds, they lose all filters.  They become child-like.

If you ever want to know what your parents were like when they were young, be their caretaker.

The good people get nicer.  The whiners, whine more.  The crazy, get crazier.  The self-absorbed become unbearable.

If you are the caretaker…they focus on you.  And they spend their days collecting their anger and frustration.  And then they dump it on you.  Congratulations, you are the championship coach getting doused by a Gatorade cooler, full of their bullshit.

Before you get too far into this story I must tell you something.  It is important for you to understand.  And you must believe me.

I love these people.  Honest to God, “Walk through hell for them”, love them.  “Put your life on hold” love for them.  “Respect and defend them,” love for them.  “Allow them to go into that good night without rage,” love them.

“Never let them die alone”, love them.

Bookmark this page.

You will want to keep referring to it.

You are going to be calling me a liar in about six pages.

There are times when you are going to think I must hate these people.  You will think that I could not possibly love people this close to me—people I’ve respected most of my adult life—and then turn around and tell these tales out of school.

I do love them.

I hate what I dealt with.  I hate how much this impacted my life.  I hate how relatives who could have helped did not.  I hate how the world has become averse to responsibility.  Old school responsibility.

I hate how I cannot use my four weeks of vacation to take a vacation.  I hate how I have to hide the mail because there are thieves and ghosts out to steal their money.

I hate how I’ve spent many more hours taking care of them then they ever did taking care of me.

And I am never going to get that back.

So, I love the people; I hate the situation.  And when I am faced with a situation I hate, I laugh at it.  I try to find the funny stuff that makes the situation a little more bearable.

I am sure you know the saying, “If I were not laughing, I’d be crying.”  And when everything is a stressful mess, one should look for things to laugh at.  Sometimes it’s the absurdity of what life has become.

If we are bringing up old sayings, this one seems appropriate: “If you go looking for something, you are likely to find it.

If you are easily offended or if you think all little old ladies are charming, please stop reading now.  You are not going to like these tales.  Really, stop.  We all hate you.

If you are the sibling to the person “in charge” of your parents, keep reading.  You may learn something.   Those of us left in charge secretly hate you too.  At least most of the time.

If you are the person “stuck” with the caretaker job, sit back and enjoy.  You deserve to laugh.  We’ve walked in each others shoes and we get it.  In the end, you are likely to tell me that this was “nothing.”  And you could tell me stories.  I would love to hear them.

A few years ago I was catching up with a friend from high school.  I found out he had been his Dad’s caretaker for the past four or five years.  His mom was elderly and she could not do any of the physical stuff for his Dad.  He is one of three sons and a daughter.  He is the one who did not go to college, but he worked in the trades and he was successful.  He was a great guy, a wonderful father, and apparently a fantastic son.

Based on discussions with his siblings, He had taken over the job because he wanted to.  His siblings would have come home for the weekend to help.  If he had just asked.  They would have taken Dad to his doctor’s visits, if they were during the weekend.  And, coming up for a Wednesday morning would not work, because those were busy days.  And the kids had sports all fall. So, they would love to come up, but they just cannot.

Anyway, if he needed help, all he had to do is ask.

And so on.

Until his Dad died.

The family all came for the wake.  All of the children stood in the receiving line, greeting old friends and relatives.  They were all very sad.  Their Dad was a nice guy.  I recall hanging out at their house forty years ago. Even though a house is already old, as long as it is well maintained, the foundation is secure and safe. If you’re interested to have a renovation, underpinning services by globalreblocking.com is recommended for they have the experts in such installation/repairs.
  He was a nice guy and it was sad that he had to suffer for years.

While this was no picnic for my friend and his siblings, it was tougher on his Dad.

The morning between the wake an the funeral, the children gathered at the church to plan the mass.  There were four of them.  The priest asked who was going to carry the father’s urn down the aisle.

The daughter, who was the oldest said that she, being the only daughter should carry him.

His oldest son suggested that as his namesake, he should carry him.

The youngest son, said that maybe as the baby, he should be the urn bearer.

My friend said nothing.

This went on for about half an hour.  It doesn’t sound like long.  But think about watching a sitcom for half an hour.  And all people did was talk about how they were “more qualified” to carry a ceramic urn down the aisle at a church none of them had attended for decades.

And they had the rest of the service to plan.

Finally, my friend slapped his palm on the table to silence the bickering.  He had heard enough of how all of these people had suffered from afar.

“I’ve been carrying him for the last ten years, I am going to finish the fucking job.”

I knew exactly what he felt.

Except I knew it times seven.  Yes, seven.  There are now two left.  Just two.  They ask about each other every time I sit with one or the other.  It’s a Mexican standoff.  And it’s going to last forever.

I’ve already explained to Mary how this is going to end.  I am going to call the funeral home to come get the last patient.  I will send my sister a text with the name and address of our funeral director.  She will spread the word to my brothers. They can come get her whenever they want.  They can arrange to bury her when its convenient.  I will pour a glass of nice bourbon.

The news will go into two newspapers:  One in our town and the other where she lived for the last thirty years.

And then, I will drop the mic.

And walk away.

The story ends when they are gone.  Or when I am.  I think right now that might be an even money bet.

In my fantasy, I walk off the stage with Mary and go enjoy ourselves to round after round of hearty applause.  Cheers even.

As a good friend and one of my first bosses used to say, “That’s your asshole talking, your head knows better.”

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My Message to a Millennial

[A very long response made to a reddit poster about “my generation.”]

What generation do you think I am?

I am the same generation as our President.  While some charts and tables have me a Boomer, I am on the very tail end, on the cusp.  I share many more traits with Gen Xers.  Having lived my life dealing with the mess the Boomers make of just about everything, I do not consider myself a Boomer.  And today, its all about how you “identify” isn’t it?

We grew up having the smell their ass. We watched their stupid hippie shit.   We watched the war protests, but we were way too young to deal with it.  (At least the Boomers knew how to protest, have a riot, and get shit done.)  We watched them take over the supervisor and manager roles before us.  We watched them “go for it” during the roaring eighties and nineties.  THEY were the Masters of the Universe.  Not us.

Gen X’ers always had racially diverse classes and schools.  Jim Crow was long gone.  We did not have race riots.  We did not protest much.  We are a cynical bunch.  “Our War” was the Gulf War I.  We won it.  And we went home.

We bought our first homes during the economic horror show of the late 1980’s and early 90’s.  Our first mortgage rate was 15%, adjustable.  And we were thrilled to get it.

The Boomers were the rat going through the snake.  We came afterwards.  When we showed up, the people dealing with us were just sick of kids, in general.  They were worn out.

We worked for the Boomers, and did better than they did. Now I watch them pushing carriages at the local Walmart because they bought that McMansion and got a home equity loan that I sold them for 135% of their home value. They wanted everything with free money. They use  quick payday loans on the internet which my generation will never understand.

So, let me make some observations about the mess you are in now.  And, if you did not notice….its a real mess.  We’ve been talking about it for years.  You are just starting to live it.

You guys whine at colleges–and do not let the press in because you don’t trust them to get your convoluted and stupid message out.  I saw a protest story from Amherst College.  Their list of things they were protesting was literally thirty DIFFERENT things.  I guess Amherst doesn’t have a marketing course or a communications course to be as good as the professionals from https://the-indexer.com/seo-companies/.  One issue.  One protest.  Focus!

You guys did not learn that lesson. Your teachers did not teach you about life. They taught you what they think you need to know.  They taught to the test.

You guys do not understand basic life skills. You guys get out of college and cannot manage your lives. You rely on methods that are impersonal and imperfect, when you should be relying on building real life networks of real people.

You should be learning how to learn from successful people and study how they did it. Not because you want to repeat their success…but because you want to evolve and adjust to get to their end point more efficiently and with helping more people along the way.  You seem to hate success.  Is it because profit and money are bad?  Or is it because you can’t have it.

I like Reddit because you can find a lot of great news, funny stories, and I get to see how you 15-30 year olds think.

It is hilarious to see the range of little kids thinking what college they go to matters, getting an asshole teacher that expects results, seeing their view of ‘fairness’ crushed by the real world, and their sad stories of slutty sexual relations and how they are sad that no one can get along. I see you bitch to the government about student loans. (You obviously do not know where the loans came from…you want the government to give you money, and then not pay the government give it back!)

I see how every institution gets destroyed in favor of those that were popular in the turn of the last century. Churches are going down in flames. Youth groups are looked as pedophile targets.  Tell someone you were a Boy Scout and they look at you funny.  Tell them you are an Eagle Scout, and you are labeled as a weirdo.

I watched how you played sports in high school…not for the team work, sportsman ship or enjoyment. Your parents had you going to $1500 summer sports camps so that you could get a full boat to college. Not knowing that there was a lot more money to good colleges on academic scholarships.

I saw that many building and institution are now installing surveillance cameras because bad guys are growing in numbers. There are many cctv installation companies such as SecurityInfo (https://www.securityinfo.com/) to enhance safeness and privacy.

Your means of communication are sloppy, inconsistent, and cloudy as hell.

[Edit….I appreciate that I left “hell” misspelled in the original posts.  I was replacing “fuck” so my wife would not get mad at me.  I guess I should have just left the original.]

What are penny stocks? You are constantly offended by stuff that wasn’t intended as offensive–but since you never actually “speak” to each other you cannot tell. You take EVERYTHING literally, but you are not literal.

Look up the outrage over the use of the term niggardly. A perfectly good old English word. But try using it in a conversation on a college campus.  Try using it in a blog.  Clearly I am not niggardly with my use of words.

Unleash the Kraken, and let the outrage fly.

I often direct an Millennial to call someone. Its like asking them to pull a barbed hook out of their ass. You are programmed to text or email. Calling is faster, more effective, and you can actually get a sense of the response.

You think that every obstacle in your way: financial, political, social is “HUGE”, serious, new, and that you are the first generation to come across it. Check out great article for more info.

That’s normal.

Every generation thinks that. Every generation eventually grows out of it.

Yours seems to be having some issues.  Your sense of “fairness” seems to be based on not only equality of opportunity, but you want equality of results.

In the real world that is not going to happen.

I guess the most amusing thing is that this is the first generation of parents who have access to their children’s personal lives far into their teens and twenties. If not their own kids, certainly their peers. It is hilarious to watch you painfully navigate the teen to twenty years.

Our parents never knew what my twenty something life was life. They never knew I was eating mac and cheese three nights a week. The never knew about my relationships that lasted hours, rather than weeks.  They never knew of my failures, only my successes.

This is part of growing up.

What is hilarious is that you think all of those things, and you think your solutions matter, or are going to work.

Your solutions do not matter.

Your solutions are not going to work.

In ten years they will. But not yet.

You have to learn how to lose and make mistakes. You have to stop asking your parents to help.

I see how the definitions of the “Fourth Turning (Strauss)” are coming to life in front of my eyes. You should look at it and make some plans accordingly.

Your generation is in for a rude awaking. The economy is far from strong. The debt load you are carrying is huge. And your knowledge of history, the economy, and wars is so dim that you are destined to learn a hard lesson.

Luckily, my generation missed the draft.

Yours will not only live to enjoy it, you will deal with issues HERE that will make Paris look like a picnic.

Your Loan payments back to the http://paydayloanconsolidation.net/ are being used to fund the EBT culture. If YOU default, where do you think the subsequent cuts are going to go. You guys have racked up $1 Trillion dollars in student loan debt.  5% of the total US Debt is student loans.  And that has been accumulated in less than ten years.

“All of this taken into consideration, no one should be surprised if way more than 23% the student loans that are in repayment are indeed “troubled,” which is precisely what is so terribly frustrating about the current news cycle.”

USA Today, August 23.2015

What I am most surprised at what has become socially acceptable is that you idiots have been allowed to amass $1.19 Trillion dollars in 10-20 year debt without the ability or possibility to pay it back.

What bank in their right mind would hand that money over to children?

And your parents, counselors, and colleges lied to you about what will happen when you graduate. Someone else will pay for it. As you get out of college…you become “someone else.”

THAT is the Boomers’ fault.

Gen X’ers got screwed.

You guys get really screwed.  Many, more of you will die because of this issue than us. The sad part is that our kids will ultimately pay.

They will fight the wars. They will pay the taxes.

It seems like this might just go on forever for you.

Rebooting My Life

Its been a while since I posted and a lot of stuff has happened.

Here are the things that are in my life today:

My older daughter is getting married and the planning has started. This is exciting news. I am sure that the planning process and the bumps in the road along the way will be interesting. We are happy to welcome Krieg into our family.

My youngest daughter is finishing her college degree and will be graduating from Alfred University in May. Sending out that final tuition check was a wonderful feeling.

April has been a nightmare so far. My job quest continues to flounder. Resumes are sent out and they get no response. I have interviewed, but for jobs that would be fun–but certainly not at the level I was before starting the photography business. Getting out of line means that a lot of folks get in front of you! And who would hire a “photographer” for their senior manager. Simply getting hiring managers to read your resume is a trick I evidently haven’t mastered yet.

My Mom has fallen ill again. She caught the flu and ended up dehydrated and after a four day visit to the hospital she finally landed at Mt. St. Vincent rehab. They are wonderful people, but it is an added stress that no one needed.

During lent I gave up Facebook. In order to fill the time I picked up studying for my Amateur Radio license. During the 40 days I started the process and took the three tests, ending up with my Extra License. I am working on learning what I can about the whole hobby. It is pretty technical and full of interesting folks.

All of these issues have given me great fodder for writing stories. So that is where I am going to start.

A name in granite

For as far back as I could remember the one stop on our annual trek to the family homestead was marked with a visit to the town center. Of course in this town, the center consisted of the Congregational church, a grange hall, the general store and the war memorial.

This town was too small for even Norman Rockwell’s attention. It did not have a railroad stop. Only recently did they open a diner at the intersection of the US Route and the State highway. They have an elementary school, but middle school and the union high school take the children at a young age and make them aware of life in the city.

Clearly, this is a town few people are from. No one moves in. The old farms are sold, overgrown, or cut up into lots for some development that dried up years ago.

But the granite monument sits in town square–a testament to a time when the farm families and loggers were plentiful. So plentiful that all four sides are inscribed with names of young men (no women) who answered the call to arms.

I would imagine from looking around that most would have answered that call with a stoic face, but inside they would be happy to get out of there–even if the horrors of some southern, European, or South Asian shit hole awaited them.

There, in granite, was my name.

Carved in stone.

With a star next it it.

Every year I would be brought there with my brothers and sisters. We would clip around the monument, hear how my uncle went away to the Pacific and died in the Philipines–killed in action.

Killed in action. Buried in a far away land. Never to be seen or heard from again.

What impression did they think this would have on a child who’s impression of war and the military was formed by a combination of TV shows (combat, 12 O’clock high, and Hogans Heroes), annual Memorial Day parades, and stories of my own father’s clandestine life in the Counter Intelligence Corps. Many former military people like guns so I found Best Airsoft Sniper For Sale: 2017 Reviews.

The stories were always fun. They never included any mention of fear. Of the screams. Of the smells. Of the long times separated from your loved ones. From the brutality of modern war.

I listen in awe. I looked at my name, carved in the granite at the town center and again over an empty grave in the cemetery on the hill.

Because of the tragedies that befell my dad in his childhood–orphaned at four years old and split from his family–the only family connection during my young years were these stones. Cold and immovable, these stones were both an inspiration and an my anchors.

My entire life it seems that I took on the mindset that I needed to finish “his” job. It was up to me to follow him “once more into the breach.”

Naming a child after a name carved in stone has a heavy duty affect on a child.

I dreamt of taking on the mantle. Heroes were smart, they accomplished tasks. They would attack their quests with honor and a sense of duty. Heroes do the right thing. It was a lifestyle I embraced. It fit like a pair of old leather gloves.

I supposed to be a good soldier, a brave man, taking on the odds, wrapping myself in the flag and rushing up the hill to take on the enemy.

Learning his heroic lifestyle was my goal. I would read everything, watch everything, listen to the stories and dream of being that guy. I had no choice. My name was carved in stone–and my family worshiped that name. I was named after a small god who required sacrifice.  I saw this as way to please my family.  To honor the family.  To redeem what had been lost.

By the time I was of age, I was focused.  This was going to happen.

Or so I thought.

Then I tried out the life I had imagined. It was not fun. It did not speak to me. As much as I wanted to put on a uniform, cut my hair, sculpt myself into a warrior, the more I tried–the less that life fit me. I rebelled. I fought the system. I loved my “brothers” but I could not follow them.

After years of thinking I knew, I realized I did not know. So I turned my back on that life. I realized that I could live my life without exacting revenge on people who had not harmed me, for a man I had never met. I owed nothing to the stone.

Now, thirty years have passed. The stone is still there. More names have been carved. Panels erected, names engraved, and too many stars scratched into the stone.

I still go there. I always go alone. I look at my name. It is impossible for me not to wonder. Did I do right by him? Would he be proud? Does he feel let down? Did I owe more to a man I never knew? A man whom I would now consider a boy, hardly older than a child.

I think that he would tell me that his was the ultimate sacrifice. He did not want to go. It was not his plan to die on a beach in the middle of an ocean thousands of miles away. It was his plan to grow old and raise children, love and live. There was so much to do that never got done. He would tell me that his was just a name carved in stone. His was no more or less important than any of the other names on any of the other stones across the country or around the world.

I walk away from that rock. I feel sad. Not because I let him down. The sadness comes from realizing the names, all of them, represent lives that were half lived and unfulfilled.

It is just a rock. It is my honor to keep the rock well trimmed. That is the best I can do now.

My head is held high as I walk away from the stone.

How are you getting away with all of this?

Bella and Sarge had a playdate.

 

The question of the day has to be, “How do you get away with this?  How does your wife put up with this?  What about a job?  Why aren’t you getting a job? How to make money?”

All of those are valid questions.

From my 12th birthday until last March 27th I never went more than a couple of days without a job.  The morning of March 27th I went into the hospital with an injury on my finger.  It had gotten infected to the point where I needed serious medical attention.  After four days in the hospital I left the hospital, but the requirements of my job (sitting in dirt at lacrosse fields, track meets, and baseball games) did not jibe with the restrictions now placed on me by my surgeon.

The decision to close the business had already happened.  It just happened sooner than I had planned.  I decided to take the summer off.    That turned into the fall.  I actually started looking for a new job in the fall.  But then I discovered “bitcoin.”

Having lived through the dot com bubble in 1998-2000 I was well aware of the what the bitcoin bubble was, and that I could make some money without a whole lot of risk.  A few thousand dollars turned into several thousand dollars that turned into, well, a lot.  The IRS has been made aware of this–so I am not talking out of school.  I paid taxes on it too.  You see, I did learn lessons from the dot com bubble.  The proceeds are what is gotten me the motorcycle and is what has been carrying me through the past several months.

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So, from Mary’s perspective, the paychecks have never stopped coming.  And they won’t for quite a while. Money is there but you cant say, accidents may happen. its best to have a plan on preparing for future needs. payday loans direct lenders can be helpful in this aspect. I have the family “needs” too.

How does my wife let me do this?  Well, my wife doesn’t “let” me do anything; nor I her.  I have the best family in the world.  They respect my abilities and they accept my eccentricities.  Mary and I love spending time together, but she is also great about letting me “go walkabout” from time to time.  She worries about me.  But having me do it is better than having me whine about it.  And from what I have heard over the years, I am a world class passive aggressive whining asshole when I want to be.  In short:  Mary loves me.  She trusts me.  She wants me to have fun.  She would love to come with me, but she has obligations that I do not right now.  She knows that when I come home I will keep my word and get my act to work.

You know, after we go to Aruba.

But seriously, Mary knows this has been on my mind for a long time.  Once I got the motorcycle, she knew it was inevitable.  In fact, she brought it up.  If I take the trip now, I can be home before Elizabeth graduates from Springfield College in May and before our family vacation to Aruba at the end of May.  Then, sadly, I have to look for work and go back to wearing a suit and tie.

Getting a job.  That brings up a good question.  I have to spend a considerable amount of time  thinking about what I want to do.  I did the Cable TV thing for 15 years.  I did the banking thing for five.  I did the pro photographer thing for 11.  I was pretty successful all around.  Now, I want to go back to work for a company that I can help attain success–but without having to be in charge.

I learned a lot about myself and people over the past 11 years.  I know did a lot wrong, and I have seen how I did an awful lot correct.  But worrying about that is something I will deal with upon my return.

So that is how I get away with this.

Proper planning and preparation prevent piss-poor performance.  I make sure I have the important bases covered.  I make sure I have a plan.  I make sure that there are no surprises.

Plus I married the best woman in the world.  I love her.  And she loves me.

Captain Tripps in my throat.

For anyone who has read The Stand, by Stephen King, the phrase Captain Tripps will be familiar.  For the uninitiated, it is the name of the flu like disease that afflicted the world and brought about the end of the world as we know it.Bella and Sarge had a playdate.

I have Captain Tripps.  At least the closest thing there is to it.  It came out of nowhere and has had me on my ass for almost a week.  Last Wednesday evening, I was driving home from making the final payment on my new motorcycle and speaking to my wife on the phone.  I felt a tickle on the back of my throat.  The next day it felt like it was on fire.  Coughing up the crap in my lungs became painful.

By Monday of this week, it felt like someone had hit me across the very top of my chest with a baseball bat.  It hurt to breathe.  It was excruciating to cough.  This morning, the cough is better and it seems I am over the hill of this particular version of the good Captain.

But, I lost almost a week of planning for my trip.  It was all I could do to come downstairs and read a few posts and then go back up to bed.  But today, there is a little more juice in the motor.

So, here is the trip plan.

I am leaving April 9 and traveling through the first week of May.  The plan is to drive from Springfield to Philadelphia, then through Tennessee, on to Texas, over to Arizona, then Death Valley, and up to Yosemite–and back.  I had a trip completely planned with reservations and start and end dates.  But I found out I could not get bags for the bike for at least two weeks.  And Mary was a little freaked out my taking off so soon without  riding the bike at all.

And in hindsight, we will have a storm tomorrow so that would make traveling suck.

So, consider this Day 1 of the planning.  I leave two weeks from tomorrow.

Here are the items I need to gather and prepare:

  • Plan the route and make overnight accommodations for the National Parks and Big Cities.
  • Plan the Marriott points to ensure that cash does not come out of my pockets.
  • Put together the riding gear that will make the trip safe and comfortable.
  • Do some more refined research on where I need to be in order to see and photograph what I want to photograph.
  • Determine what equipment I will bring with me.
  • Practice packing
  • Put together a tool kit.
  • Figure out a communications and blogging plan
  • Put together a more refined and accurate budget
  • Order gas cards from my credit card rewards programs.

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I am sure before the day is out that list will have grown by another dozen items.  This doesn’t include the things I need to do around the house prior to my departure.  Even without a full time job, your work is never done.