Have you suffered any trauma?

About three months ago, I was nearing a mental breakdown (or, at least, that’s what it felt like – you ever feel like your lungs are gonna pop and your heart beat right out of your chest?), so I got on the Google machine and searched for a shrink.

Side note: Why are they called shrinks? What gumped-up algebraic equation turned psychiatrist into shrink? This is what happens when you mix the alphabet with math.

After the massive search engine purposely skewed my results by filtering out any conservative shrinks (hey, that’s that big tech does, according to the fair and balanced talking heads at Fox News), I found a number to call. I punched the digits into the dial pad of the 6.2″ pocket computer I carry around with me and, after struggling through the stupid-ass auto-attendant, I finally got to a human who scheduled an appointment for me.

Another side note: Why do I have to press numbers to speak to a human? Why can’t a human just answer the damned phone to begin with? Every one of us spams the 0 until a subpar human actually answers.

That appointment was today. Good thing it wasn’t an emergency, huh?

The appointment consisted of light interrogation. I say light because, hey, at least I wasn’t waterboarded. I had to go through my family history of mental illness and basically a condensed memoir of my life so that she could get some semblance of the road that led to the broken human before her. Then she hit me with the question about trauma.

Have you suffered any trauma?

My immediate thought was, “No, I haven’t suffered any trauma.” I mean, I’ve never been seriously injured. I’ve never had any near-death experiences (that I know about, anyhow). No traumatic events ever happened to me. I was never abused…

Wait.

I started turning things over in my head, which was rough because I forgot to spray with Pam first. Trauma, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Different events affect people differently, so what may be traumatic for one person may not be traumatic (or as traumatic) to another. Humans aren’t made with cookie cutters, after all.

I thought back to my 7th-grade year, which was pretty traumatic for me then. My mom was arrested and placed in a mental institution. Her arrest was due to events that occurred at my school, so all the kids bullied me. Okay, not all, but enough so that my teacher assigned me a buddy specifically to keep an eye on me and my mental status. I ended up seeing a shrink, in group therapy, on medication, and nearly institutionalized myself.

So, I did suffer through a traumatic event.

I thought ahead a few years to when I was 20. It wasn’t physical abuse (at least, not until I tried to leave several years later). It was emotional abuse. I tried to end a relationship I didn’t want to be in – several times. Each time I tried to tell her I didn’t want to be with her anymore, she threatened suicide. I finally stopped trying to leave when she shotgunned an entire bottle of Benedryl one night. I endured her emotional abuse, suffered through her bipolar episodes (she didn’t seek treatment until after I finally left 9 years later), and was physically assaulted in later years – many of those instances after I left and occurred when we would exchange custody of our children. Traumatic? Probably. I’m sure all of that broke some pieces off of my mind.

How about that? I was abused.

Near death experience? Honestly, I don’t know how close to death, if at all, I ever really was when I had thyroid cancer. But cancer is always carrying a death threat. Like American Express, it never leaves home without it. All I know for certain is they dissected my neck to get my thyroid and cancer cells out of my body. As a result, I have a scar across my neck that required 16 staples to close and makes it look like I survived a hanging. My body hasn’t been the same since then. I’ve still yet to regain the physical stamina I had before the surgery. Maybe I never will. I also went through radiation therapy, which permanently damaged my salivary glands. The loss of my thyroid seems to have triggered a case of gout in my right foot. Often times when I take the meds required to treat all of this shit at night, I feel like I’ve eaten an entire meal. Traumatic? Maybe. Maybe not. Sure felt fucking traumatic to me, though. Sometimes, it still does.

It’s weird. All these things happened to me, and I’ve never really considered their impact on me. Or how others may perceive them. It was just crazy shit that happened to me. I never considered anything that happened in my first marriage abusive until I wrote about it, and everyone who commented expressed how abusive it really was. I mean, I never really knew emotional abuse was a thing. Sure, she assaulted me, but never really hurt me. I was kicked and punched, but she wasn’t physically strong enough to injure me. The one time she could’ve seriously hurt me was when she threw a picture frame at me, but luckily, she missed.

Before today I never really stopped to consider whether or not the events that took place during my 7th-grade year were traumatic or how they shaped me (or de-shaped me). It’s just something I recall sometimes and think, “Yeah, that year sucked.” But how exactly did it shape me? Are those events and how I was treated by so many people the foundation of my misanthropy? Who knows?

I’m not sure where exactly I’m going with this anymore. I’m not sure how to end it, either. I guess after I stopped to ponder everything I’ve endured I was shocked to find that, yeah, I have gone through some traumatic events in my life even if it doesn’t always necessarily feel like I’ve had a traumatic life. It was surprising that my gut reaction was to deny anything awful ever happened and I had to actually analyze these events to see them for what they truly are.

Thyroid Cancer: My Journey Thus Far

Hey, cancer. You're terminated.

At this very moment last year, I was lying unconscious on an operating table, my neck opened wide as a surgeon evicted my thyroid and a few dozen lymph nodes from my body. They had violated the terms of my bodily lease, and so they simply had to go. There was no other way to set things right.

The procedure had been dubbed a neck dissection. That’s not frightening at all, right? I mean, I dissected animals in high school. No big deal. Except, those animals were dead. I had to do it, though, for I had discovered a few short days beforehand what I had suspected for weeks: that lump on my neck was cancer.

Emotionally, I was caught somewhere between numb and scared shitless leading up to surgery. I had been operated on only once in my life previously, and that was a simple procedure in 2nd grade I can scarcely recall. On multiple occasions after my diagnosis, I locked myself in a bathroom and cried. What would become of me? If the worst came to fruition, what would become of my children? Would they be okay?

My medical team all said the same reassuring things. “It’s very treatable!” “Thyroid cancer has the lowest mortality rate.” “If you were going to get any cancer, this is the one to get.”

I heard that last statement multiple times. I understand the purpose of that statement, but really? Like I won some kind of fucking cancer lottery because I developed the least deadly form of cancer? Yay me? It was still scary as fuck. I’ve known way too many amazing people who have died far too young due to this monstrous curse. Hell, in just the last year, cancer pulled two people I knew well into an early grave.

When I look back at words I’ve written regarding this entire ordeal, it still doesn’t feel real. I read those words, and it’s like I’m reading about some other guy’s struggles. Some strange internet dude who also masquerades online in stormtrooper armor. I mean, that can’t be me. I don’t have cancer. But it is, and I do. And I still haven’t wrapped my head around it. I still don’t believe myself when I tell, um, myself, that I have cancer. It feels like a lie. Or a breaking story on Fox News.

My mind has a tendency to be dramatic. In my warped view, every molehill is a mountain. As I was carted away one year ago, wearing naught but a hospital gown and an IV, I vaguely remember saying goodbye to my family members, wondering if I’d ever see them again. The drugs had kicked in by the time I was in the operating room, its haunting white walls having no effect on me at this point. All the what-ifs and what-could-go-wrongs evaporated as anesthesia and sedatives saturated my body.

Despite the conspiracy theories my mind had been peddling, the operation was a success. A month later, I had radiation therapy and a follow-up scan, which showed two very minuscule spots of thyroid tissue. If everything went according to plan, the radiation terminated them like Arnold.

Despite the good news thus far (well, the news has been good other than the diagnosis), I’m still struggling with some things. My Synthroid dosage is still being adjusted. I am forever fighting fatigue. In August, I had some issues with both sides of my face swelling up. After two weeks on antibiotics for suspected dual salivary gland infections, it was determined that this was a side effect of the radiation therapy, which I may or may not have to battle for the rest of my days. Essentially, the radiation therapy attacked my salivary glands. My cheeks are still very tender. If someone presses against my face during a hug, I have to pull away. I still have some trouble eating dry foods such as bread, cookies, or chips. My glands can no longer produce enough saliva to break food down, and dry foods stick to the walls of my mouth, making it difficult to swallow. This is not necessarily a bad thing since it keeps me from eating these types of food (most of the time), and none of those foods are really healthy anyhow. Nowadays, I look at chips and think, “Meh, not worth the trouble.”

Now that a year has passed since cancer’s eviction, it’s time for me to go through my follow-up scans to determine if surgery and radiation therapy successfully completed their tasks. That means I have to stop taking the Synthroid and go on a low iodine diet for several weeks. That means I’ll be even more fatigued than I already am. That means enduring an extremely slim cuisine selection. It’s shocking how many foods contain iodine. That also means another trip to the UC radiology department to swallow a radioactive pill so they can scan my body to see what, if any, thyroid/cancerous tissue remains. That means I can once again sing along with the Imagine Dragons’ song Radioactive and not be fibbing.

Frankly, until an appointment with my endocrinologist last week (when she totally threw off my groove by reminding me of these upcoming procedures), I had almost forgotten that I had been diagnosed with cancer and had not yet been declared cancer-free. Other than struggling with fatigue and Synthroid dosage adjustments, I haven’t had any treatment specifically targeted towards cancer since April. I have been living life as I normally would (COVID restrictions aside, of course) during that time. It had not occurred to me that there may still be cancer cells lurking somewhere in my body like tiny little assholes invading the capitol.

By March, I should have the results and a better grip on what the rest of my life will look like. In the meantime, I’ll try to stay positive. And sober.

Chinese Whispers

I love watching family videos. I can sit for hours sifting through videos of my children and never tire of watching them. I didn’t own my first camcorder until the twins were 6 years old. They were born in 1999, so smartphones weren’t yet a thing. My one lament (okay, it’s not my one lament, but it is my biggest) is that I have no videos of the twins before they were 6 but have hours of footage of Baby C’s entire life.

When I was a child, our family was lucky enough to have a camcorder. My dad filmed our soccer games, Christmas mornings, and family reunions. I’ve been feeling nostalgic since mom passed and decided to raid my dad’s old video cassettes and copy them to my computer. Not only so that I could watch them, but to preserve them. VHS is a dead medium. You can’t find VCRs anywhere anymore.

Left: Camcorder from the 80’s. Right: camcorder of today.

It was a good thing I did, too. Two of the cassettes came undone after I rewound them. With the magic of scotch tape, I was able to get them working well enough to copy to my desktop.

Watching these videos was awesome. I relived some fantastic childhood memories. I saw some wonderful folks who have since gone to heaven. I heard their voices once more. Saw their mannerisms. I got a small glimpse into my youth and what I was like as a child. I used to be cute…

One of my favorite childhood stories to tell is how my youngest brother tried to show me and my brother Revis up when we both were having difficulty flying one of those cheap styrofoam airplanes. In fact, I even posted the story to my old blog:

I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get it put together and play with it. I raced outside and removed it piece by piece from its packaging, and carefully assembled it. When I had finally completed it, I stood proudly holding my newly constructed styrofoam airplane high.   I headed out to the yard in between our house and the neighbor’s house, where there was ample room to fly the plane, and the ground was relatively flat.

I ensured my father had the video cassette recorder rolling before I attempted my first flight. I reared back and let her go. The plane flew! Straight into the ground. Undaunted, I picked up my plane and made another attempt, only for it to nose dive straight into the ground once it left my hand.

My younger brother, in an adolescent display of machismo, stepped over to me. "Here. Let me try."

I mentally shrugged, and I handed him the plane. I just wanted to see it fly. He cocked his arm back and let it rip. And the plane flew! Straight into the ground. He tried one more time but produced the same failure. Enter my youngest brother. "Let me try," he said pompously. He picked up the plane from the ground, took a couple of steps back, and let her fly. And the plane flew! It flew in a loop! And then hit him in the back of the head. All recorded on our trusty camcorder. I love modern technology.

As I was copying our old VHS tapes to my computer, I found the footage about which I wrote and was shocked at just how different my “memory” of that incident is.

First of all, I was not even there when this happened. It was just my two younger brothers. Just to reiterate, I was not present for an occurrence my mind tells me I was. I’m not sure what devilish sorcery this is, but I’m not amused.

Secondly, there was no contest. My brothers were just taking turns, trying to get it to fly. You know, like good, well-behaved children. I don’t recall any of us ever being so well-behaved.

Lastly, my youngest brother did not strike himself in the head with the plane. It was Revis who threw the plane. My youngest brother was actually standing a bit behind and to the side of him. The plane just looped back as soon as it left Revis’ hand.

The only thing in my “memory” that actually happened was my dad filming my youngest brother getting smacked in the back of the head with a styrofoam plane. It is still a hilarious childhood memory, even with the knowledge that my mind somehow butchered almost every detail of it.

We all played Chinese Whispers when we were in school. It was used to make a point. We’d gather in a circle, or maybe even form a line. One person would then whisper a sentence into the ear of the next. Then that person would do the same. And so on and so forth. Then, by the time the sentence was whispered into the last person’s ear, it was a completely different sentence.

Experts theorize our memories work in much the same way. I had never had an opinion on this one way or another until discovering how drastically my mind altered one insignificant memory. I’m suddenly suspect of my mind.

Obviously, my mind altered that memory, and I don’t have the slightest idea how or why that happened. How did I unconsciously decide to rewrite reality? At what point did my conscience decide I had been there despite my absence? It’s evident that I only knew of this occurrence because I watched the tape. 

The article I linked above theorizes, “Take storytelling for example. When we describe our memories to other people, we use artistic license to tell the story differently depending on who’s listening.” There’s a huge distinction between artistic license and complete fabrication. I’ve told that story the same way for as long as I can remember. I was completely shocked to find out I wasn’t even present for something I remembered.

In my search for nostalgia, I found something completely unexpected: my brain is a liar. I’m left to wonder if my other childhood memories actually happened as I remember them or if my brain has been telling stories.

What say you, dearest reader? Have you ever discovered that you remembered an event incorrectly? How did that strike you?

2020 Vision

I remember the first time I watched Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland and wondering when, if ever, Alice would reach the bottom of the rabbit hole. The agony of the unknown and the fear which accompanied it are pretty much how I’ve felt for most of this year.

Recovering from Cancer

My body has slowly been healing over these past few months. I underwent radiation therapy in April, and subsequent tests have shown that the surgery removed all but a couple small specks of thyroid tissue. Those two tiny pieces which remain should be neutralized by the radiation.

I’m beginning to feel like myself again, while the world around me is falling apart. Well, at a seemingly more exponential rate. A pandemic rages across the globe like wildfire while, at least in my part of the world, many deny its existence, or at the very least, do not consider it a threat.

Reopening School

My girlfriend and I were faced with a tough decision at the beginning of this school year: to let our children go back to school or have them attend school virtually. 

Virtual is the no-brainer option because these last few years, I’ve watched the flu make its way through our schools twice a season.  Virtual is the no-brainer option because children stick their fingers into their noses and mouths and spread their germs (and bodily fluids) like peanut butter all over bread. Virtual is the no-brainer option because I’ve been in the nurse’s office when a student enters, sent up due to flush cheeks and a fever, and says mommy told me not to see the nurse today. My girlfriend was that nurse.

Was…

Virtual is the no-brainer option, except that means someone would need to be there to supervise them.

We made the difficult decision for her to quit her job for a multitude of reasons. Being the school nurse meant she would almost assuredly be exposed to the virus. She has RA. Her daughter and my twins have asthma. We didn’t feel comfortable taking the risk. We also needed someone to stay with our children during the day as they attended school virtually.

It hurts because she loved that job and working with children.

Why schools are opening at all, boggles my mind. If there’s one thing at which children excel, it’s spreading germs. I’ve been a father for over 20 years. When my children have gotten sick, 99% of the time, they caught that illness from school.

I’ve heard the arguments. I agree that our children must be educated (although hearing Republicans go on and on about how crucial education is while they cut funding to schools is a post for another time). However, I don’t agree that education is more important than health. There’s still so much we don’t know about this pandemic. New studies are showing that there could be life-long health issues associated with contracting COVID-19, even if you survive. 

Pandemic

While I was finding out in January that I had thyroid cancer, the world was finding out about COVID-19. As I write this, the latest stats from the CDC state that 5,340,232 US citizens have contracted the virus and that 168,696 have died from it.

The worst part of this pandemic, sadly, is not the fact that we’re in a pandemic. The worst part is that the pandemic has become a political device, another tool with which the left and right can turn to manipulate public opinion. Meanwhile, the recommendations of infectious disease experts at the CDC are being criticized by the right and “debunked” by YouTube jockeys who claim to have done their own research on the virus. 

I’ve had multiple back-and-forth’s with random morons on Facebook (I shouldn’t have engaged, but the sheer stupidy of these people wouldn’t let me ignore them) where people tell me wearing a mask should be a choice even though the mask is meant to keep the wearer from spreading the disease. I’ve been told when quoting statistics from the CDC that my numbers are incorrect (where else would I get the numbers?). I’ve seen so many people claim that they won’t be wearing a mask because a mask mandate violates their rights, and they are not sheep. I’m not sure what freedom is being infringed by being forced to wear a mask, but MY right to live healthily is being violated by any asshole who may unknowingly have COVID not wearing a mask while out in public. Also, the sheep analogy really confuses me. The sheep who don’t follow the shepherd end up eaten by the wolf…

Death

Though it happened in 2019, I’ve still felt the passing of my mother throughout 2020. I’ll break down at random times during a song or when I see her picture. I struggled mightily on Mother’s Day, her birthday, and on the anniversary of her death. As if losing her wasn’t enough loss, my girlfriend’s aunt, to whom she was extremely close, passed away in June – another victim of cancer. 

Other Health Issues

At my regular check-up in June, I found out that my cholesterol is slightly above the acceptable range, so I had to start taking medication to reduce that. In the last month, I had to have an abscessed tooth removed, and then, a week later, I developed an infection in my saliva gland as a result of the procedure. I’ve been on pain meds and antibiotics for the past three weeks. I’ve had more health issues in the last year than the previous 42 years of my life.

Politics

I’m scared of this election cycle. Trump is as unstable as a thunderstorm, lies blowing from his mouth like destructive gusts of wind and idiotic remarks and childish insults striking from his Twitter account like lightning. Despite how radical he is even to his own party, they still refuse to condemn him. Worse, my hopes that the DNC would put forth a viable candidate died when they stifled Bernie’s campaign (again) and somehow rigged it so that Joe Biden would get the nod. Maybe they felt he has a better chance since he’s more centrist than Bernie, but my problem with Joe is that he’s got some of the same red flags as Trump. He’s been accused of sexually assaulting women. He’s prone to childish outbursts. He’s got no filter. He’s ancient.

Lastly, if Biden wins, it is likely Trump will not relinquish his hold on the oval office. When asked if he would do so if/when the time comes, the most encouraging answer he’s given so far is, “I don’t know.” That is horrifying.

Police Brutality

Multiple black people have been murdered without cause this year by police officers in numerous parts of the country and most of those officers have not been charged with any sort of crime. People protesting police brutality have been countered by armed militia supporting police. The irony, however, was when armed militias harassed police when they felt their rights were being violated by being made to wear masks. The similarities are….nonexistent. Police in multiple cities have often instigated violence at otherwise peaceful protests, too. I don’t know what there is to argue about. Police who abuse their power should be held accountable. No excuses.

2020 Vision

Usually, having 2020 vision is something about which to be happy. It means your visual acuity is excellent, and you can see things clearly. But I must say…I see 2020 right now, and I’m not happy about it at all. This year sucked even before it dropped its gigantic LED ball in Times Square. I do not wish to see anything that happened this year with any sort of clarity and I most certainly understand how addicts start down the path of addiction. If there were something I could take to numb me to this pain without ruining my life, I’d almost certainly be gulping it.

Four Score (but really only two months) Ago…

I faced the most daunting challenge of my life.

A CT scan revealed that a 4cm mass of thyroid tissue had grown outside of my actual thyroid, and a biopsy determined it was cancerous, so on January 22nd, I went in for what my ENT described as a neck dissection.

I had only had surgery once in my life to that point, and that was in 2nd grade. It was a simple procedure to remove scar tissue from the malformed growth that emerged after having my fingertip sewn back on after a freak toy box accident. No, that is not a typo, sadly.

This was going to be vastly different. This operation would be much more invasive and would be centered around several vital parts of my anatomy. I was so filled with anxiety that my doctor put me on a beta-blocker a week before the procedure to reduce my heart rate and blood pressure.

The operation lasted 5 hours, and I was in recovery for another 2 hours. My thyroid was removed, along with 53 lymph nodes. I woke with 16 staples in my neck and looked like a reject from a Tim Burton movie.

I’m once again fighting constant fatigue. The effects of radiation therapy can last from 4 to 8 weeks. I can barely taste anything, and my neck and part of my right cheek have swelled back up.

BUT…everything is looking good. At least, that’s what they’re telling me. So, for that, I am thankful.

If all this suffering keeps me around to continue watching my children grow, I’ll gladly endure it. Okay, maybe not gladly.

As I slowly come back together, the world outside is falling apart. This pandemic has shutdown nearly everything, and C’s stepfather was diagnosed with COVID-19, despite not being tested due to a shortage of tests. So C’s stuck here with me while I’m hoping that 1) the diagnosis is wrong and 2) if it isn’t, he didn’t bring it here with him.

Aside: I’m not a medical professional, but I’m not sure why they wouldn’t at least do a flu test to rule that out first

To sum this rambling shitshow up, 2020 can go suck a big, dirty…toe. What a bunch of suck this year has been.How’s everyone fairing during these trying times? I hope everyone is healthy!

Cancerous Thoughts

I sat in an uncomfortable chair in the ENT’s office after a long day at work. Between the everyday stress of working and raising my youngest son, I had the added weight of a recent biopsy haunting me, the proverbial kick while I was already down. I suspected the results I would receive that evening would confirm what I somehow already knew to be true.

Thyroid cancer.

I have spent the last (almost) two months pushing thoughts of this from my mind. A mental shield. If I don’t, unhealthy thoughts run amuck like bumper cars in my head.

Would things have been so bad if I’d asked about that lump on my neck sooner?

Did all the alcohol I drank in the wake of my mother’s death fuel the spread of the cancer?

Mom always told me she felt like a burden to me. Did she somehow know that I would soon not be able to care for her? Is that why she gave up?

If the worst should happen, what would become of my children?

Pinch-hitting for Pedro Borbón, Manny Mota…Mota…..Mota……(sorry, a little Airplane humor there)

Those are the demons that try to intrude on my day to day life. Somehow, I’ve mostly kept them at bay. Whenever one of those thoughts creeps in, I kick it right back out. I’m not sure how. I’ve never been adept at clearing my mind of harmful thoughts, but it’s working for now.

It’s been five weeks since my surgery. I still have some swelling in my neck and under my chin. My incision, which runs from the left side of the base of my neck to just a couple of inches short of my right ear and required 16 staples to close, is still a little tender and puffy, but healing nicely. My strength is slowly returning, and my energy levels are gradually normalizing.

The hard part is over, but the journey is far from complete.

Next week I go on a low-iodine diet and stop taking my Synthroid in preparation for further treatment. After a week of that, I get two days of injections, some blood drawn, and then have to swallow a radioactive pill that should destroy any cancer which may still be in my body. I’ll have to isolate myself from physical contact for some time afterward, because I’ll literally be radioactive, and could poison anyone I have prolonged contact with.

I’m not looking forward to any of this, but it’s better than another five hours on an operating table.

The silver lining in all this suffering is that my long-term prognosis is still good. My endocrinologist believes my life expectancy will not be affected by any of this. So that’s something.

The next two weeks are going to be difficult, but hopefully, I can continue to keep the demons at bay.

Interview With a Trooper – Episode VIII

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted an interview segment (because reasons), so I figured I’d get another post on the wall. How’s everyone doing??

  1. What did you do for your last birthday? Idk, that was 7 months ago. I think the twins came over, we cooked out, and I had some celebratory drinks.
  2. What did you dress up as on Halloween when you were eight? Probably Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Either way, I was winning.
  3. What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was very young, a baseball player. In high school, a teacher. In my 20’s, the best dad possible. In the 30’s…same. Now, in my 40’s, I want to go back to my childhood.
  4. What do you call carbonated drink called? Call 911! I think the interviewer just had a stroke!
  5. What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?  Weird.
  6. What do you call your grandparents? I never met either of my grandfathers. Well, technically, that’s not true. One died before I was born, the other when I was two months old. So I did meet one of them, but I don’t remember it. Both of my grandmother’s I called grandma. Unoriginal, yes, but still loving.
  7. What do you consider unforgivable? Cheating, or any other form of betrayal from someone in whom you’ve placed trust.
  8. What do you dislike about living in your neighborhood? Nothing, so far. I mean, being this close to train tracks is somewhat annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.
  9. What do you do for a living? I do IT support in a K-12 school corporation.
  10. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and Turn? Try to get up and do something productive? I’ll normally either read or put on a movie I’ve seen a million times (like Star Wars) and eventually I’ll pass out.
  11. What do you do most when you are bored? Um, find something to do that isn’t boring. Duh.
  12. What do you find yourself always procrastinating? Procrastination.
  13. What do you like about your home? The roof is nice. It keeps out the rain.
  14. What do you love about living in your neighborhood? Um…IDK. It’s a neighborhood. I just live here.
  15. What do you love about your favorite TV Show? I don’t really have a favorite TV show. I don’t really have favorites of anything.
  16. What do you think about more than anything else? I’m trying not to think about anything these days. It keeps me from despair.
  17. What do you think about the most? Well, right now I’m thinking…how is this question any different than the one before it, and how it’s not, and that this is a stupid question.
  18. What does your name mean? It means I answer when someone says it.
  19. What drains your energy? What doesn’t? I haven’t had much energy at all these past few months. Hopefully, that will change as I recover from surgery.
  20. What dreams have you given up on as unrealistic? Having a child who doesn’t talk back.
  21. What female celebrity do you wish was your sister? Uh….I don’t know. I’ve never wished for another sibling. My family is already big as it is.
  22. What flavor of tea do you enjoy? I don’t really like tea. I pity the fool.
  23. What has been the hardest thing for you to face or learn? Hell, I don’t know. Even if you narrowed that question down to the last six months I couldn’t pick just one thing so much shit has been happening.
  24. What has required the most courage of you in your life so far? Walking away from my first marriage, methinks.
  25. What inspires you? I don’t know if inspired is the right term, but my children keep me motivated. Without them I don’t know what would keep me going.
  26. What is a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone? That my first wife used suicide as a tool to keep me from leaving her. I’ve written about it at length here, but it’s not something I shared with many people in real life. For some reason, I still feel a bit of shame about the whole ordeal.
  27. What is an ideal first date for you? Not having one.
  28. What is at the top of your bucket list? Creating a bucket list.
  29. What is good about how you are living your life right now? So far I have not given into despair.
  30. What is hard about being a parent? EVERYTHING.
  31. What is hard about not being a parent? NOTHING. I mean, that’s probably not true, but I’ve been a parent so long I can’t remember what it was like to NOT be a parent.
  32. What is on the walls of the room you are in? Pictures. I am surrounded by family pictures. I love it.
  33. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up? Coffee?
  34. What is one of the worse things that could happen to you? It already happened, I think.
  35. What is one thing that you’ve never revealed to your parents? See question 26…
  36. What is one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Why? Move. I hate moving and have moved way too many times in my life.
  37. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will? How easily irritated I sometimes can be.
  38. What is something most people don’t know about you? Me and Vader hang out and play Texas Hold ‘Em every Saturday night.
  39. What is something that amazes you? How people keep defending Trump and the actions of the GOP somehow blocking witnesses to his impeachment trial.
  40. What is something that scares you that you would never ever try? Jumping out of a plane. Or even flying in one.
  41. What is something you are gifted at? Sarcasm.
  42. What is something you look for in a partner? A sense of humor.
  43. What is something you wish you were gifted at doing? Writing.
  44. What is something you’ve never done that you’d like to try? Winning the lottery.
  45. What is the best compliment you have ever received? You’re a good father.
  46. What is the best part of your job? There’s a lot of things I like about it. The camaraderie with those I work with. Interacting with the students (most of the time). The freedom I have to run the network as I deem best and the trust that’s been given to me to do so. The list goes on.
  47. What is the farthest-away place you’ve been? Bentonville, Arkansas. That was an interesting trip…
  48. What is the first amusement park you’ve been to? Six Flags over Georgia, I think.
  49. What is the first app you check when you wake up in the morning? Depends on which notification is at the top of the list.
  50. What is the first book you remember reading? One of the Hardy Boys novels. When I was in middle school I read a bunch of those books.

My Mother’s Shoes

Ten years ago I took a day off of work to drive my mother to the hospital for an angiogram. I remember waiting for hours as the procedure crawled by, but not much else. At least, not until the doctor came in to give us the results of the test.

Mom had three arteries with over 97% blockage and would require a triple-bypass. To emphasize just how dire they believed her situation to be, they immediately admitted her. Meanwhile, I had been crying since the cardiologist uttered the words triple and bypass together as if they were one; like they somehow belonged together.

Once the doctor had finished delivering this dreadful news, mom looked at me and quietly assured me that everything would be alright. I can’t imagine what horrors must’ve been bouncing around in her head after hearing such news, or how she managed to put her fears aside and remain calm while she consoled me even though she was the one who had just been told her chest would be ripped open and the plumbing redone in her heart.

It turns out she was right, though. She lived for another nine years.

I may not have been able to put myself in my mother’s shoes then, but I can now.

This past Monday I was informed I have thyroid cancer. Given my mother’s plethora of medical issues I expected I would have some medical struggles as I got older, but I believed the struggles would be the same she endured. Heart disease. Diabetes. Or possibly a mental breakdown. One of those things. All of those things. Cancer, however, was not a blip on my radar.

Things have moved quickly. Within a couple of days I had surgery scheduled to remove my thyroid, a mass on my neck, and a few lymph nodes entrapped in cancer’s grasp. Once I knew all the facts, I shared them with my family.

While fear has reduced me to tears multiple times in the past couple of weeks, I decided to walk in my mother’s shoes. I was somehow able to stay calm while speaking to my children. I was calm because that’s exactly what they needed me to be. If I’m hysterical they’ll be hysterical. I don’t want their anxiety working overtime on my account. They have enough struggles with mental health as it is. That’s when I knew how mom did it. She was strong for us when we needed her to be.

I have assured my children everything will be okay, and, really, that’s the truth. The type of cancer I have has a 99% survival rate and typically removing the thyroid is the end of it. That being said, however, I understand my children’s fear because I’ve been where they are. I hate that I’m putting them through this. I hate that my father fears for me what happened to his sister 25 years ago. I hate that my brother fears the loss of another family member mere months after losing his mom. I hate that multiple times in the past weeks I’ve looked upon my mother’s picture and had to tell her I’m not quite ready to see her again, that my children need me. I know she understands.

Since the initial shock of my diagnosis has faded, my fear has dissipated. I’m still scared of going under the knife, but my doctors have assured me that I’ll be fine, and I believe them. I already have plans to get myself back into shape once I’ve recovered. I’ve applied for a promotion at my job. I have no plans to go anywhere. My boys need me whether they think they do or not, and I’ll be here for them.

As my parents, every teacher I ever had, and both ex-wives can attest, I’m a stubborn son of a bitch.

Fuck you, cancer. I’m not ready to go. I’m still walking in my mothers shoes.

The “Gift” That Keeps On Giving

The phone rang. It happens. My phone makes Star Wars noises that let me know another human being wishes to talk to me. Typically I don’t answer because talking to humans annoys me. This call, however, was local, and I was expecting some calls from unknown numbers so I answered it.

It was a nurse from the local hospital. She was calling to schedule a test my doctor had ordered. No big deal, right? I can handle this. I think.

She asks if we can do a preregistration over the phone. Sure, I thought, why not?

I verify my date of birth, social security number, blood type, gender, hair color, monthly income, insurance, weight, eye color, sexual orientation, gender identity, laundry detergent preference, and shoe size. She then asks me about my next of kin. For a moment I was puzzled. The test I was scheduling isn’t life-threatening and I wasn’t quite sure why my next-of-kin needed to be verified. Then they told me my existing next-of-kin was my mother.

My whole world stopped for a moment. I lost my voice. I couldn’t respond. I eventually asked if they really needed my next-of-kin or just an emergency contact. The very peppy lady advised me that Baby A was my emergency contact, but helpfully offered to switch them if I so desired.

I momentarily forgot how to speak again. Eventually, I found my voice and told her that my mother had passed away. Her tone turned somber for a moment as she apologized for my loss, but immediately turned peppy again as she advised me she would make Baby A my, well, everything.

I was in a good mood before this phone call. I had had a yummy breakfast and a nice, steaming cup of coffee (with extra caffeine!). This unwitting woman’s mention of my mother’s name derailed all happy thoughts I had and not long after I felt myself on the precipice of tears.

While I was at work last week a 27×40 collage I’d made of my mother fell from my dining room wall and broke. I came home from work and cursed the sight I beheld on the floor. I immediately ordered a replacement frame on Amazon. It arrived on Christmas Eve. I set to work moving my mother’s pictures into this new frame, but the damage had been done. This was my first Christmas without her. The pictures conjured memories of moments I’d never experience again. Her laugh. Her smile. Her ‘look’ she shot towards me any time I purposely said something she’d disapprove of just to get that ‘look’.

I lost myself in tears and pictures.

This has happened more times than I can count in the last few months. A thought. A song. A picture. A memory. The mere mention of someone’s mom. Something, anything, will trigger my memory of her and I’ll end up with tears running down my face as I scroll through pictures of her. I basically have a shrine built for her in my home now. The urn which holds her ashes sits on a bookcase with pictures of her and items from her funeral. These few items mean more to me now than anything else, save my children.

During her last few months mom would sometimes lament what a burden she was on me. I can’t lie: taking care of her in addition to all of my other responsibilities was challenging, but I would gladly face that challenge again if it meant I still was able to speak to her. To hear her laugh. To hug her. To hear her tell me she loves me. Any of those things. All of those things.

I will never forget her, obviously. She was, and still is, mommy. She carried me for almost 10 months. She fed me. Changed my diapers. Taught me how to walk. Washed my clothes. Put her foot down when I was out of line. Most importantly of all, she loved me unconditionally. No matter what idiotic choices I made in my life, she was always supportive.

This sucks. It sucks not having her here any more. However, I know she is now free. She is free from depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

I hope heaven is treating her well. She deserves it.

Interview With a Trooper – Episode VII – The Sarcasm Awakens

It’s been…a weekend. As I was getting dressed yesterday morning, Baby B called me and said a pallet fell on his foot at work and that he was in an ambulance on his way to the ER. Logically, I knew he was okay. He was calm and speaking casually. The voices in my head, however, started conjuring the worst. I rushed to the hospital and stayed with him while they reattached his toenail, stitched him up, and told him how to care for his broken toe.

While I was with B, the foster daughter we’ve had for two and a half years was moving out. Luckily she isn’t going far because she’s being adopted by my brother, but she’s still gone.

Twas a shitty day.

This morning I awoke to Baby C puking his guts out.

So much for a relaxing weekend. Namaste…or something…

  1. Pick one, monopoly or chess? Chess. Monopoly sucks and never ends.
  2. Pick one, Nike or Adidas? Nike, FTW!
  3. Pick one, Pepsi or Coca-Cola? Didn’t I answer this before? Pepsi tastes like Coke’s feces.
  4. Pick one, stripes or Polka dot? No, you can’t make me.
  5. Pick one, summer or winter? Winter! Let it snow!
  6. Pick one, texting or phone calls? Texting. Talking to humans sucks.
  7. Pick one, vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate. Tis the yummy. Then for something almost orgasmic, add peanut butter. You’ll thank me later.
  8. To what extent do you trust people? I don’t trust anyone, really. Not even myself.
  9. What about religion has changed for you as you’ve aged? That depends. I haven’t really believed since I was in 7th grade, and that hasn’t changed. However, I’ve become more and more jaded by religion as I’ve gotten older simply because of how judgmental and hypocritical people of religion are. People of any religion.
  10. What app do you use most? Email, probably.
  11. What are books on your shelf that are begging to be read? I got rid of my physical books years ago. I read ebooks now.
  12. What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life? Retail, security guard, fast food, customer service rep, manager, warehouse worker, and IT dude.
  13. What are some of your bad habits? Drinking, eating too much, cursing, staying up too late, procrastinating…I think that’s enough for now.
  14. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new? Humor, sarcasm, and intelligence.
  15. What are you reading now? This question….
  16. What are your best characteristics? I have no clue. It’s not for me to judge.
  17. What are your best physical features? Idk, I’m fairly strong, I guess.
  18. What are your favorite things about yourself? I think I’m funny.
  19. What are your nicknames? What do you prefer to be called? Um, I don’t know.
  20. What artistic endeavors have you tried & decided you were bad at? All of them.
  21. What aspect of your life needs tremendous improvement? Um, all of them.
  22. What book are you reading at the moment? The Stolen Throne.
  23. What book do you remember as being important to you? I don’t know that any book is important to me, but there are a few that I quite enjoyed. Timeline is my favorite.
  24. What color is your bedroom carpet? Tan
  25. What current world events are really troubling to you? All of them…

That’s all the time we have for today, folks. Tell me how you’re doing. Tell me something good. Tell me it’s all going to be okay…