Yesterday, I had the unfortunate (and trust me, completely accidental) experience of going on a date with a Nazi sympathizer. This bizarre and highly unexpected situation had me thinking a thought …
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain.
One week has passed and I’m back here blogging. Touchdown.
I’ve actually been doing a lot of writing in the last week. I started by publishing a short story on Amazon Kindle: The Gunman who forgot who to shoot. It’s about a 1800s gunman who, ah, forgets who he’s supposed to shoot. Guess that was kinda obvious. The gunman has stroked out so he not only forgets who to shoot but has some trouble with his pistol on account of the stroke.
Say what you will about the idea, I don’t know of any other stroke westerns.
I also got some heavy lifting in on a longer short story that might turn into a novelette or novella. I expect to have it done by Labor Day and will be calling on my friend Shelagh to edit it. She just doesn’t know this yet.
It feels good to be tapping this stuff out. I’m not worrying about the business of getting this stuff read; I’m just dialed in on pumping the stuff out.
Working on this stuff, I pulled out a quote I’d jotted down from Mark Twain a few years back. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”
Hmmm. A few things came to mind as I read and re-read this.
My first thought was how freaking cool it would be to have people quoting you years and years after breathing your last.
Second thought was wow, how long can ‘why’ take? Is it clear or is it one of those things you only realize later? Does that second important day come and go only to be appreciated near the end of life? Do some, many or even most of us never find out why?
Thinking about this ruined about an hour of my day last Thursday.
And when my head stopped spinning, I decided that I don’t care if I ever find out why. Or if there even is one why.
This week I’m just going to keep tapping on the keys and try to pump this next story out. If why strikes me, I’ll drink a toast to Mark Twain and consider myself all the better. If it doesn’t, I’ll just keep thing away.
Some things grab you by the throat and just won’t let go.
You fight for every trickle of breath you can coax in and you punch, scratch and kick with every scrap of fight remaining to loosen the grip of the thing, swearing that if you ever break free you’ll never ever get within a mile of its grip again.
It’s been a year since my oldest and I drove from Edmonton, AB, to Toronto, ON where she’s now living. This shot is in Colonsay, SK. Time keeps ticking.
Sometimes the thing is a monster – like the bitch of a stroke that wreaked havoc on me six years ago.
But sometimes the vice grip is more subtle. Like time.
My youngest turned 20 in April. I’ve been in a tail spin ever since. I now have two daughters in their twenties.
It’s not a vanity-aging thing.
It’s just a brutal reminder that the clock keeps ticking. And with every second, minute and hour I keep realizing that there’s so much that I haven’t done. Stuff I feel I’m meant to do.
So why don’t I do it?
Tick tock, tick took.
My old English teacher – John Rollins – keeps coming back to mind. His farewell note to me at the end of grade 12 was a dagger about the sin of wasted time. It seems too benign to be a sin. But I think it may be the greatest one of them all. Is there anything worse than not doing something – wasting talent, wasting opportunity, missing the chance to help somebody, letting down your friends and family? All this by not doing something.
I’ve heard it told that as fond as the Devil is of history’s greatest villains, his best work over time is done by folks just sitting back. More evil is done by what’s left undone. It just sort of slowly happens, like rot.
I kept Mr. Rollins’ note for a long time. I eventually took it to heart on almost every level. Accept when it came to writing. That all changed after I stroked out, dealt with the pain of losing my words and then scratched back to the point where I could read and write again, albeit with the aid of technology. I published some stuff, started blogging and then…
Here I am – after getting a second chance — wasting time again. I’ve only taken my rekindled writing so far. I’ve either been too lazy or afraid of failure to take it all the way. A book sits waiting for loads of edits. Stories sit locked in my brain. I’m going weeks and months between blogs.
By contrast, in the weeks since my last blog, Anna – my youngest — went off on a trek around Europe with two friends. Kristina – my 23 year old — took off to start a new adventure in Toronto almost exactly a year ago. No fear with these kids, at least not enough to hamstring them.
They don’t seem hung up on what’s practical versus what’s possible.
I believe this, too. I just don’t act on it. Why?
I recently spoke at a conference for speech language pathologists. If you looked at me six years ago, this would have seemed impossible. But there I was, putting together words that made sense despite having had my brain fried by the stroke and my words taken away.
If I can do that, maybe I can be more like my girls?
Step one was publishing a short story on Amazon Kindle yesterday. The Gunman who forgot who to shoot, under the name T.J. Seefeldt. It’s a very short yarn about a stroked out 1800s western hit man. More shorts are coming soon.
I’ve always been a fan of short stories and novellas. I still re-read Hemmingway’s and Steinbeck’s all the time. And Elmore Leonard’s. I only discovered his short stuff after years of reading his novels. The great movie 3:10 to Yuma is based on the short story of the same name. The Hernando Tellez short, Just Lather, That’s All is amazing in how much it says with such economy of words.
I pumped out quite a few short stories myself years ago. But I couldn’t find any place for them. I got discouraged. This seems to have changed these days with Kindle Singles. We’ll see.
After my bride’s amazing news that she’d kicked cancer’s ass, I started thinking about ‘why.’
Not right away.
At first I was just happy. Thrilled for her. Ecstatic for my girls. Jazzed for me.
But after awhile I started to get sore.
Why did she have to go through all of this? The pain, the fear. It was awful for her.
Why did my kids have to live this nightmare? It was frightening for them.
And why me? I’m sick of this shite.
My parent’s deaths – mom passing away before she could meet her grandkids – cancer battles for Pat, a stroke for me. It starts to wear on a fella.
In this state I can’t seem to stop myself from torturing my mind with more ‘why’ questions.
Why do some people seem to escape all tragedy? Why are their lives so charmed? Why do they have it so easy?
At this point, I can’t stop myself.
Why do some of us live with so much while so many more live with so little? Why do those with extreme wealth and resources want to hoard it from so many others? Why do those goobers – alleged goobers – implicated in the Panama Papers believe that it’s OK to cheat to keep even more of the wealth they have to themselves? Allegedly, that is… I don’t want those alleged goobers coming after me, I couldn’t afford that J.
Why don’t they flinch when they walk past a homeless man or when they hear about the dollars needed for research to fight cancer, stroke, heart disease…
Why, why why?
But asking why is a mugs game. Why doesn’t matter.
Why not? is a better question.
How many great athletes and musicians were told they weren’t good enough? Many of those who responded with why not? instead of why me? went on to be game changing athletes. Or to write music that has impacted people world wide.
I think we need to learn how to bottle why not?
Spurred on by Patricia and my girls, it was why not that helped me relearn to read and write when the stroke took away my words. Why not? helped me to reboot my brain to the point where I could pull out of it the melon power that I needed to make a living, to be a real dad and a husband again. It wasn’t just why not? There was a lot of rehab, a lot of great therapy, a lot of a lot of things.
But it all started with why not?
On another note, Today –April 9 – is my first born’s birthday. 23. And for the first time in all of those years we’re apart on her birthday. Very sad. She’s in Toronto working on the final strokes of her masters.
While it is very sad not to be with her, I’m so proud of all that she’s doing and I’m so excited to see the great places it will take her. Thank God for Face Time and cheap long distance.
Happy birthday, Kristina!
It was ten years ago today that my dad breathed his last breaths.
With me and my sister Shelly sitting at his side in his home in Innisfail, Alberta, he left us. As death goes, it seemed peaceful enough. But I know that it was at the end of months of physical and emotional agony. I was with him much of the time.
I can’t believe that it’s been a decade without him.
It makes me sad that he’s had to miss my kid’s growing up. It makes me angry that my girls couldn’t have him for longer in their lives. But knowing that he still has so many people thinking of him so fondly all of these years later gives me piece knowing that he lived so well.
My dad always taught me, usually without me realizing that he was teaching me. He even did so in dying.
As I saw him deal with the frightening madness that hit him when the cancerous tumor took over his brain I saw something in his eyes and felt something in his spirit that told me that he wasn’t really as ‘gone’ as people thought.
In his last days, knowing the end was soon, I saw concern for those he was leaving behind outweighing his own fear.
When I stroked out four years later, his courage fueled me. I knew no matter what happened, I didn’t have to give in.
A day doesn’t pass without a lump in my throat at some point as I think of my dad. Never will.
Cheers to a great life lived. Great, because he touched so many people in such a personal and powerful way. What could be greater than that?
Six years ago today started with a sizzle.
Sadly, it was my brain that was frying. It’s the day I stroked out.
Few days go by without some reminder of my March Madness. It began months of craziness, confusion and fear. It really, really sucked.
But on this first Monday of Day Light Savings, I drink a solo toast, say thanks to whoever will listen and vow not to waste the time I now have with a well functioning brain. Well functioning by my standards, at least.
I’m often haunted by terrible memories when I think of stroking out. The confusion and fear of the first days was actually a pleasure compared to the fright that followed my earliest recovery. That’s when I was together enough to realize just how messed up I really was.
And that my shaky melon could keep me from meaningful work, make me forever dependent and cause me to fail my girls and my wife. Anna and Kristina were 13 and 16 when my brian buzzed. I felt they still needed me. And I wasn’t keen on the raw deal I was leaving my wife with, either.
Add guilt over what I was doing to my girls and Patricia to all of the other emotions.
But those bad memories aside, I’m also jazzed when I think of getting through those darkest months. That – with loads of help – I could get back to a meaningful life. That, while still unpublished, I’m writing the books I never penned pre-stroke. Every great experience feels like a bonus. Something I snatched back from the devil stroke.
So, with that, I’m going to make my toast, have my drink and put a little more into one of the books I hope will be on bookshelf soonish.
With as many years on the planet as I’ve put in, this seems a silly – or even dumb – question.
And yet, as I read recent headlines and ponder the fate of a few new stroke victims whose stories have come my way, I wonder…
Life isn’t all about money, but oh what money can do for our lives.
Or at least pay the way to get important stuff done. It’s easy to say that money can’t buy happiness. But that depends what you mean. Chucking cash at status simples and questionable gizmos ‘guaranteed’ to stop the ravages of time may indeed fall short. But if the bucks go into research that can save or enrich lives, then I’d say that the money has paid for a few smiles.
Take stroke. Please. Badambum (that’s supposed to read like the sound of the three drum beats that follow a bad joke).
Anyway, strokes have been around for a long, long time. In fact, Hippocrates – he of the MD oath – first pointed them out 2,400 years ago. All that time and we still know so little about stroke and other brain disease and disorders. Why?
A lot of it has to do with how much money there is – or isn’t — for research. It also has to do with getting enough bucks for treatment for victims where they need it and when they need it. I’m sure the same is true for other serious health woes. And I know we also struggle to get cash to the homeless, disenfranchised and struggling all over the planet.
Why? Maybe there isn’t enough money out there to go around?
But I doubt that after hearing some of the stories that have crossed the airwaves of late.
Especially adding to my doubt is the sad but true tale of the star NFL running back who has earned $49.7 million in nine seasons without spending a dime of it. Yes, you read that right. Buddy has raked in nearly 50 mil without touching a cent.
It’s all collecting interest somewhere while he gets buy on his endorsement deals. At least that’s what’s being reported and I haven’t heard any denials.
How responsible of him. He should conduct a workshop on money management for average folks. Or, better yet, for impoverished people trying to decide if they’ll buy enough groceries to last the week or make their rent payment.
What if this fella would crack open the vaults and send just a tiny bit of that cash to stroke research? Or cancer research? Or you name the research. And what if every multi-millionaire in the NFL did the same thing? And what would happen if the NBA, NHL pro soccer millionairs did the same thing?
I can’t prove it, but I have a strong feeling that we’d have a lot of cures to what ails us pretty quickly.