Thursday, November 17, 2016

Cancer Sucks

     My first memory of this scourge was when my grandmother became sick. I was seventeen the last time I saw her lying on a couch. She was a breathing shell of the beautiful, vibrant woman she had been just a few months earlier. It was so horrifying to me that I have tried to avoid seeing loved ones and friends off as they get near the end ever since. When my grandfather was a few months away from passing, I visited him for the last time. His horrible cough and seeing blood come out of his mouth was bad enough. He told me everything he could remember about our family history; the good, the bad , even the ugly. After that visit we talked on the phone, when he could, but I never saw him again. mercifully, he passed while I was on maneuvers out in Utah in June of 1988.
     Sometimes you have to be there. It's so heartbreaking to be at a point where you wish they would give up, just to ease their suffering. There have been miracles. My own mother was diagnosed in 1999 and for the next 5 years it was touch and go. At one point she was given less than 3 months. Yet she beat it and has been in remission for 11 years. Why her? How? I don't know and neither does she. Her story is the exception it seems. They still call surviving ten years "beating" it. The fear of it returning is always there, and that alone is a form of torture.
     Over the years, the list of friends and family lost to this nemesis has grown to be so long it's too heavy to read. Many of the firefighters and police officers I knew when I was in those professions have fallen victim. So too some of the veterans I served with. Children, friends, favorite Aunts and Uncles, cousins, coworkers, casual pals; the list goes on and on and it doesn't discriminate. As I am writing this, many of those names and faces are coming to the front part of my memory. All were brave. All were taken. For many, you could point to heavy smoking habits, being exposed to hazards unknown at the time, bad genes. All those reasons do not explain the huge number of victims today. I even had my own scare a couple times but was fortunate to not have had to do any real battle with it.
     Tonight I am on the verge of having to say goodbye to another. A soldier, an airman, a combat veteran, a cop, a truck driver, a husband, father and grandfather. To so many of us, a friend. He has a beautiful family, and he is way too young to be saying goodbye. As recently as a couple weeks ago, the strength of his voice on the phone masked the agony his body was going through. It may have taken his physical being away, but not his spirit. He was given two weeks three months ago! He wasted none of the time given, but it was so short.
     We all go through our lives, working, raising families and arguing about politics or a ton of other things. Yet this is always out there, randomly pouncing when we least expect it. Will there ever be a day when we have beaten this? There are over 7 billion people on the Earth right now. Shouldn't we be able to put the best minds together to put a stop to this? Shouldn't we want to? Awareness walks and fundraisers are fine, but shouldn't there be a political will to solve this? Wouldn't that be something to see if all the politicians who put so much energy into fighting each other actually put all their energy into solving this instead?
     In the near future, my friend will be gone and his memory will join so many others. In a few weeks after that, I, like everyone else, will lose my focus on the enemy until it rears its ugly head again. It will reside in the sub conscience, once in awhile whispering a threat as you wonder, will it come to me?

Cancer Sucks!
    

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hey Snowflake, Time to Grow Up

     When you were in preschool, they made you play with gender neutral, safe toys, and dressed you in layers of protective clothing so if you fell, no bruise would come. Temper tantrums were met with pleadings by the adult that you "please" behave. Timeouts and safe spaces were set up so you could express yourself. If you had a conflict with another child, you were evaluated and labelled.
     By the time you were six, you were already being managed by medication and made to sit in class with other kids, who may or may not have been at your reading level. In T-ball you weren't allowed to count runs and no one was allowed to get hurt. In elementary school, recess was monitored to make sure you played "nice" games and of course, if you had a conflict or exhibited signs of not conforming, you were evaluated and put on medication to manage your "extra" energy. At every turn you were told you were special, while at the same encouraged to believe that no one was better than you, at anything. In Pop Warner, Little League, Gymnastics or any other activity, you were closely monitored to play by the rules and to get along. Of course you always earned a trophy because it wasn't nice for some kids not to have one. You are all special after all.
     By the time you were a young teen, you demanded the best gadgets, the nicest clothes, and of course you had to have a car when you got your license. No jobs though. It wasn't safe to mow lawns or, heaven forbid, shovel a driveway in the cold. Besides, jobs might get in the way of a busy social life, or maybe your grades might suffer. Couldn't have that happen, right? When your grandparents tried to tell you your parents they were doing more harm than good by spoiling you rotten, you laughed behind their backs and ignored their old fashioned values. After all, the things you were accumulating were magically coming from some far off land where your parents went every day, and they never complained to you. Instead they fought with each other and in many cases there was a divorce. Jackpot for you though, right? Now you could accumulate twice the loot using parental guilt at an even higher level. When you were given your first smartphones and told to stay in touch, you indignantly declared your independence and started acting even more like the self centered little brats you had been made into. How dare the person who paid for the phone actually want you to use it to say hi to them. So what if your parents had to work two jobs to support your ever increasing needs, wasn't that what parents were supposed to do? Bedsides, you are special and deserve it all just for having been born.
     In college, you met teachers who agreed with you that you are special and no one is better than you at anything. Wouldn't want to feel bad right? You sop up every thing they teach you without once considering there may have been other answers or views. After all, if you believed it in your head, it must be true because you are special.
   Then an election comes along and you put all of your heart and soul into rooting for one over another. Any bad information about your pick is ignored as lies and any good qualities about the other pick is also ignored, if you even hear about it in the first place. Then election day comes and something really bad happens; your pick doesn't win! How could that be? You are special and smarter than everyone else, so how could your pick lose? You are shocked, catatonic even. You wail, you cry, you scream, yet nothing changes. The outcome remains. Your whole life you have been trained to believe you are special and always right! Except by your grandparents. Remember them? The ones who tried to warn you? The ones you ridiculed and ignored? Yeah, those folks. They never told you you were that special, did they?
     You see snowflake, the world really does not give a rats ass about you or your views. The world is actually a very hard place to exist in. Loss and pain are very prevalent and yes, there are billions of people who are better than you, at everything! You are not special in any particular way. We are all here trying to make the best of a very hard, time limited, journey. So what are you doing now? You are collectively having a huge temper tantrum like you did when you were two and someone took your favorite ball away. What is the collective response from society? At first you are coddled and allowed to vent your frustrations. There is a limit though and you are finding that out now, aren't you?
You are being arrested, dispersed and getting told to shut up by an ever growing number of impatient adults. "How dare they do that to such a special group!", you think.
    Well snowflake, it's called getting your ass slapped. You see, your grandparents were right. If you had had your ass slapped when you had your first tantrums, you might have learned those lessons already. Yelling, screaming and breaking things does not work on the world like it did on your parents. It's called growing up and it's way past time all you snowflakes learn that lesson.