Till We Get the Healing Done

If you’ve never listened to the above album, I highly recommend it. Good stuff. The title of this post is one of the songs on the album.

* * * *

I’ve said something like unto this in many of my posts, I fell in love with her the moment I saw her. And while that is true on a superficial level, I’ve been a victim of the total agony of love only three times in my life.

Apparently that adage about the third time being the charm is true. Lea was the third of my deep loves. Maureen was the first. There was a second gal I might write about someday, we’ll see…

My lovely supermodel wife and I have been together for almost three decades, but there was a time when we almost didn’t make it.

It happened in 1995. We had survived our vacation from Hell in April. Lea had survived abdominal surgery #4 the year before, but she ended up having an ileostomy with an external pouch. That small, but enormous, detail changed everything in my wife’s world.

She fucking hated it and everything about it. She never felt comfortable with the external pouch, and it showed. She almost always looked tense and tightly wrapped, and she had been like that before she had anything to worry about. My lovely supermodel wife took it to a new level, and her self image was altered on a level even I couldn’t comprehend.

By chance, she saw a very small advertisement in the Sunday newspaper about the Barnett Continent Intestinal Reservoir, and decided to go to the seminar. After that, she was a woman on a mission.

The BCIR is a surgically created internal pouch. Google it if you need more information. I’m pretty sure that’s what I had to do, but the bottom line is if she had this surgery, her external pouch would be replaced by an internal pouch made out of a portion of her small bowel. There are only a few hospitals in the United States that perform the procedure. Lea’s gastroenterologist was more than happy to write a referral for her. Then she took on our healthcare insurance company.

Our insurance company thought it was an elective surgery, but Lea was able to convince them it wasn’t just a cosmetic surgery in her case, and she had recommendations from her her doctor and her employer backing her up. For all I know, Lea is the only person that has ever achieved this. Blue Cross/Blue Shield finally agreed to foot the bill and they covered the entire procedure.

All. Of. It. And it wasn’t cheap.

Lea’s boss was far more supportive of her than my horrible boss would ever be. He went to bat for her to help get the insurance company on board, and he approved the month she’d need off for her surgery, and an additional two months for recovery and rehab without so much as a blink.

The BCIR people expected anyone having their very specialized surgery to bring one support person along for the ride, so to speak. In lieu of me, our darling daughter, Abigail, flew to Florida with her mother to be at her side during the surgery and recovery program. They would be in St Petersburg, FL for three weeks in August.

* * * *

It wasn’t the three weeks apart that was the last straw. It wasn’t even another surgery. Lea appeared to be stabilizing from her lengthy major flare up of Crohn’s disease, and it was slowly becoming quiescent. But…  She had appeared to improve in the past, only to take two or three steps back each time.

My buddy, Dan, was working a job in the Twin Cities area at that time, and he crashed at our house during the week, and drove home for the weekends. We spent most evenings while my wife and daughter were out of town drinking beer and talking about guy stuff. And even our discussions weren’t what pushed me over the edge.

Dan is my friend, and a good guy, but he didn’t understand the disease or its pathology. Nor was he in love with my wife anywhere near as much as I was. But he could probably see how worn out I was better than I could. He mostly wanted to see me happy again.  So, we drank and joked and laughed, and I have to admit, it felt really good just to be able to do that.

I would turn forty in 1995. In a previous post I stated that my drinking problem started becoming more of a problem when I turned forty, and five years later it would be totally out of control. I cannot discount my alcohol abuse as a factor in my mindset, as much as I would like to. But neither can I blame everything on it, although that would make the rest of this story so much easier.

For three years Lea’s illness tore up our lives, much like it tore up her body. She almost died at least three times, if not more. We had somehow gotten through the worst Crohn’s could throw at us, and we were both still standing, if barely.

Lea was getting better, maybe, hopefully, possibly, probably–I was afraid to think anything would ever get better on the offhand chance that thinking it would jinx everything, and we’d have to start all over again. For all I know, Lea was equally spooked and gun-shy. I can’t imagine she felt any different than I did in this regard.

The simple truth was this: I was completely exhausted from three years of essentially neverending high stress levels, living in two hospitals and visiting our house, and wondering if this was the time that her illness would win out and claim another victim.

I hadn’t run out of love for my wife. I’d run out of everything else.

* * * *

I was actually relieved that I didn’t have to go to Florida with Lea. We talked every day, and she gave me daily status updates. The surgery went as smoothly as it could. She had never had such effective post-op pain control in her life. The nurses were as good as the nurses at Fairview Medical Center, or better. She was in good hands, she was doing as more better gooder as anyone could expect, and I felt like I could relax for the first time in three years.

The only thing that wasn’t perfect was the hurricane that was going to hit Florida while Lea and Abi were there. I had never been in an hurricane, and I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to see that.

Hurricanes don’t make it to Minnesota. Remnants of hurricanes did make it to the Phoenix area while we were there, but the remnant of a hurricane is a rainstorm, and I’ve seen plenty of those in my lifetime. I doubt I’ll encounter an hurricane down here in the Lakeside area.

Lea said it was a pretty uneventful event to her. The hospital was constructed to withstand the winds of an hurricane; neither she nor Abi were in any real danger, but just in cases the staff were ready to evacuate everyone at a moment’s notice. Lea said she’d never seen rain like that before in her life. Abi mostly slept through Hurricane Erin.

The rest of Lea’s hospitalization went smoothly, and my girls came back home.

* * * *

I’m sure my memories of this aren’t completely clear, mostly because I don’t want to remember it. I’ve asked my wife to help fill in the blanks in my memory. It seems to me that within a couple of days of returning to Minnesota, Lea was back in the hospital.

That, was the last straw for me.

I made an appointment with a divorce attorney. His initial consultation was free, and he said it was always easier to try to work things out with your spouse than to get a divorce. Lea had owned our house before we got married, and she would keep the house if we didn’t stay married. He told me to seriously think it through, and to contact him again if I needed him.

Then I drove to the hospital to tell my wife I wanted a divorce.

* * * *

I really had no idea what I was going say. In the first two times I’d been deeply in love, it wasn’t my idea to end the relationship. And I was beyond conflicted regarding my intentions with Lea. We weren’t just in a relationship, we’d been married for almost seven years.

Not only that, I was her mother’s angel, and by default, I had become her father’s angel, too. That’s not the kind of thing you just blithely walk away from.

We had survived three years of pretty much living hell, life and death, endless illness and hospitalizations. It’s possible Lea checked herself into the hospital when she returned home because it was probably the safest place in the world for her. I have no doubt–even though she was improving and she’d just had a surgery that would greatly improve her life–she was scared out of her mind.

To this day, I am amazed and humbled by the dignity and grace she demonstrated when she was so incredibly ill. I know I could never have done that. Lea’s nurses loved her. If our positions had been switched, my nurses probably would’ve thrown me down the stairwell.

Nonetheless, I informed my lovely supermodel wife I had met with a divorce attorney. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her, I just couldn’t live on the edge anymore.

Lea was probably surprised, but I think there was also a part of her that had been expecting something like unto it. Women are spooky that way. She cried a little, but mostly we talked. She regrouped quickly and gave me an option I hadn’t considered.

“Give me six months. I’ll either conquer this, or it’ll kill me. But give me that much time, and then decide what you want to do. Give me six months. If you still want a divorce then, I won’t even fight you.”

Writing this, it seems like a pretty good option to me, and I probably jumped at it as an acceptable alternative to divorce and being homeless. I didn’t really want to get a divorce, I just wanted something like my life, and my wife, back. However, at the time I didn’t think I’d have either.

Lea says I rejected her option. And left. She called her dad and told him what happened and cried on the phone for hours. As emotionally distant as Dave was, I can only imagine his response. Lea says he didn’t have any idea what to say or do.

I have no problem believing that part of her story. Dave was the Mount Everest of emotional isolation. Not even Tenzing Norgay would’ve been willing to scale that emotional wilderness.

It was probably one of the worst nights either of us had to endure. Lea probably cried herself to sleep. I’m not sure I slept. But when I went to the hospital the next day I gave her an option that must have come to me in the middle of the night.

“I can’t watch you die anymore, but I’ll give you three months.”

I had no hope I could last that long. I had no hope she would either.

* * * *

In retrospect, this is one example of God answering prayers in His perfect time. When hope fades, and all else is crumbling around you, God remains. Lea was released from the hospital. It would be the last time she was admitted for a Crohn’s related inflammatory process.

I’m not sure that was a miracle, or if the beast in her belly had finally worn itself out. But either way, our prayers were heard, and answered.

The worst three years of our lives had ended without fanfare. Even if there had been fanfare, I doubt I would’ve believed it. It would probably take me at least a year, or more, to relax and stop waiting for any more shoes to drop. I think when this chapter of our lives finally closed forever, it felt like I’d been hit by Imelda Marcos’ entire shoe closet.

Lea’s been hospitalized for other reasons, mostly blood transfusions secondary to incredibly low hemoglobin levels. Lea’s gut is kind of like unto the Kīlauea volcano, she’s more or less constantly oozing blood, and it’s something that needs to be monitored even today. But the beast in her belly had finally run its course, and while it has reared its head from time to time, it has never tried to devour her from the inside out since 1995.

Flash forward twenty-two years. We’re still together. We can’t imagine our lives any other way. And that BCIR thing Lea fought so hard for, it was worth it. It would’ve been worth it if we had had to pay twice the amount our insurance company did ourselves. It’s made an huge difference in Lea’s life. I’m not sure how she would’ve recovered to the extent she has without it.

Thank you, honey, for giving me an option that was brilliant on the level of something that only a genius could’ve come up with. Thank you for staying with me when I totally lost it and tried drinking myself into a coma. Thank you for supporting me when I finally decided to get a grip and face my demons.

It’s been mostly sweet, and you were the sweetest of all. I wish we’d have another thirty years together.

A Weekend in Wisconsin

It was probably the year after my mother-in-law died. Lea and I took a trip to Wisconsin in early Summer to spend the weekend with Bill and Leslie on their farm outside of Ettrick, WI.

Ettrick is about as rural as you can get in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin can get pretty darn rural, dontcha know. It’s part of the coulee country, a bunch of hills and valleys carved out of a huge plateau by a ga-jillion streams and rivers over a few centuries.

It’s a very scenic place to live and raise goats and stuff.

It wasn’t the first time we had visited the farm, but I think it was the first time Bill and Leslie took us on a tour of the area. We went to some of the Amish shops, and a few antique stores. And we went to the Furniture Bar. You could drink beer while you shopped for furniture.

I thought it was the coolest store, ever.

And it was the first time I ever went to an horse pulling contest. An horse pull is just what it sounds like. A team of horses is hitched to a dynamometer, and they pull it.

A dynamometer is a weighted sledge, and the weights are increased as the competition progresses. The team that pulls the most weight the farthest wins.

It’s kind of like unto a tractor pull, except it’s not as loud, and horses are used instead of tractors. I saw my first tractor pull in Wisconsin too, at the World Famous Blair Cheese Festival.

Possible Little Known Fact About Living in Rural Minnesota and Wisconsin: almost every small town in has a summer festival of some sort. It’s something to do instead of hang around with your livestock, and you get to drink a lots of beer. The suicide rate would probably skyrocket if not for the summer festivals.

I enjoyed the tractor pulls. I took a lots of pictures, and because I carried an expensive camera I was given access to places most spectators couldn’t go. If anyone asked, I told them I worked for National Geographic.

I loved the tractor pulls, but I loved the horse pull more. And the reason for that was mostly because of the announcer.

He was a guy in his sixties or seventies. He wore a pair of bib overalls, a flannel shirt and a John Deere cap. It’s too damn bad this isn’t an audioblog because it was his voice that made me fall in love with the announcer.

“Yah, how’re you guys doin’ out there! Yah, real good! Well, I’ll tell ya what, we got a real good show for ya here today. We got a bunch a good teams competin’, the sun is shinin’, we got a lots good food to eat. And is there beer here? Oh yah, we got cold beer, too!”

All of the competitors were local farmer guys, and the announcer guy knew each of them and their teams.

“Okay. Comin’ up first is Larry Jenson and his team of Belgians. Larry’s been workin’ his team for the last four years or so, ain’t that right, Larry? Yah, well, I guess I better go back to school then. It’s been seven years!

“Now, Larry won here last year, but he’s using a new horse this year. He had to put one of his team down, so we’ll see how the rookie does.”

Those horses are very well trained. They trot to the front of the sledge, back up, and once they’re hitched up, they pull for all they’re worth. And they are not cheap.

“That’s a good pull for Larry! Looks like the rookie’s gonna be okay, there! Okay. Comin’ up next is Willie Olson. I’ve known Willie since he was in high school. He married my niece, Karen. They got a real cute family now, and that team of Clydesdales is one of the prettiest teams in the county.

“Clydesdales are the Budweiser horses, and has anyone seen my beer? What? I drank it? Well, we’re gonna have to take a break here just as soon as Willie finishes his run.”

I can’t remember how many teams of horses competed that day, but they were all beautiful animals, and they all pulled for everything they were worth. Occasionally there was an error hitching the team to the dynamometer, and the driver (?) would be pulled from his seat on the dynamometer, and then they had to be stopped and rehitched.

“Whoa, there, fellas! Looks like one of those premature exclamations or somethin’!  Okay, let’s give ‘er another try there boys!”

In between pulls, the announcer guy would talk about anything that popped into his head.

“Hey! Did anyone find my beer out there? Oh yah! Thanks a whole bunch there, Vince. About time you bought me a beer!”

And he encouraged people to try the food.

“Yah, is anyone gettin’ hungry? The women from the Rotary Club were up fryin’ chicken all night! I’ll tell ya what, that’s the best damn chicken I’ve had in my life! What do we got to go with the chicken? There’s potato salad. And do they have baked beans this year. Yah, a course they do! And there’s bread and butter. And pickles! And is there anythin’ ta drink? Oh, for the love of the Packers, yah, we got more beer!”

I hadn’t quit drinking yet, so I was happy to hear there was more beer. And he was right about the chicken. That was very tasty.

“Okay, whose up next? Dave Wilson! Hey, Dave! How’s your wife and my kids doin’? What’s that? You know I’m deaf in one ear and I don’t hear so good with the other!”

I shot three or four rolls of film that day. Lea and I talk about looking through the thousands of photos I’ve taken over the years. I have them in a cedar chest that weighs about half a ton. If we ever get around to doing that, I’ll post some pictures on my Facebook page.

“And here we are, ladies and gentlemans, the last competitor of the day, Frank Gilbertson. I can’t tell ya how many times I’ve been at Frank and Irene’s house. Irene is one heckuva cook, and no one can dance a polka like Irene!

“Frank has a pair of Percherons, you don’t see a lots of them so much no more. Okay, Frank! Take us home!”

I couldn’t say who won the horse pull. But it was a weekend I’ll never forget, mostly because of the announcer guy.

He was the best part of that weekend. Even better than the Furniture Bar.

Yet Another Brief Treatise on God

I’ve mentioned before that I think about God a lots. God has my Muse by the you know what’s today, so today my Muse must be Polyhymnia.

I’m sure I contemplate God for many reasons, but I think my brother-in-law, Bill Pfaff, summed it up best when he said, I think it’s part of our DNA to seek God. I don’t know if that’s true for all us or not, but it’s true for me. I’m sure most of my Christian friends would say it’s also true for them.

I don’t know if they ponder the nature of just who and what God really is a deeply as I do. They are people of much greater faith than I. They probably don’t have as many questions a I do, and if they do, they probably don’t have the same exigent need for answers that I have.

God said a lots about Himself in the Bible, and that’s a good thing. He isn’t likely to answer any of my questions Himself these days. So, let’s take a look at what He had to say.

* * * *

God is a spirit. Or, God is Spirit. That’s what John writes in his Gospel. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma. It can also mean breath or wind. Wind is one of the forces of nature, much like God Himself. And like unto the wind, much of what God does isn’t visible to the human eye.

When most people think of God, they don’t imagine Him as a roiling ball of air. I don’t. I am created in the image of God, and I don’t look like a roiling ball of air. Most of the time. And I probably haven’t looked like that since I was in my twenties. So, my God has to have a body, though I imagine He’s quite a bit taller than me.

Whether God is a spirit or not, He is certainly the source of Spirit. This is supposed to be a brief treatise, so I’m going to simply define spirit as all those things that aren’t of the flesh. In other words, things not of this world. More on that later…

God also says He’s one of a kind. I am God, and there is none like me. I don’t dispute the uniqueness of God. Just what God means by this has been speculated about endlessly by a lots of really smart people for centuries. I’ve certainly never seen or heard of anything else like unto Him. And I think of Him in masculine terms because that’s how He describes Himself.

God also says He has no beginning, nor will He have an end. The only way that statement could be true is if both parts of it were true. Anything that has a beginning has to have an end.

I can’t imagine anything that doesn’t have a beginning. I’ve tried. The only thing I can come up with is God somehow existed before Time started being measured, and that’s the only way His statement could be even obliquely true. If I were to ask a theoretical physicist if someone could actually exist outside of the TimeSpace continuum, I’d probably give him or her a stroke or two.

But mostly what I think is this: even God had to have a beginning.

My pastor friends used to say something like unto this: God doesn’t need anything from us! And as you might expect, I had a response to that. Then why are we here?

I think God actually does need something from us, and I think it has something to do with that whole has no end thing. Form always follows function. So, how does our form relate to God’s purpose, and the functions God will require of us.

If you’ve never thought of that before, maybe it’s time…

* * * *

God is a space alien. While that might sound like the stupidest fucking thing you’ve ever heard, think about it this way: He’s not from around here, is He? And because God isn’t from Earth, by default, that makes Him an alien being of some sort.

And yes, I’ve watched several episodes of Ancient Aliens on the History Channel®. And I thought the same thing you did, especially about that guy with the wild hair. Those guys, are freakin’ nuts!

But once I came to the conclusion that God wasn’t what most Christians thought he was, that only left were all the things they didn’t think. And because God is essentially is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, well, pretty much anything goes.

I suppose it’s possible God that flies around in a ginormous spaceship called the Kingdom of Heaven, but I have no evidence to support this. However, if that turns out to be true, it wouldn’t surprise me much.

Remember the prophet Elijah? I’ve often wondered why God took him up to Heaven on a chariot of fire. Maybe it was because God needed to find out if an human being could live on his spaceship. And then He found out in order for a son of man to survive aboard the starship Kingdom of Heaven, God and man had to form a symbiotic relationship…

Well, I did do a lots of drugs back in the 70’s. And the 80’s.

God says He’s not human, so in that regard, God is totally alien to us. Perhaps He’s the last surviving member of His kind, a race of God-beings that inexplicably disappeared. Maybe they destroyed themselves, somehow, and that would actually explain a lots.

God seems to know a lots about warfare, among other things. It’s been my experience that waging war is a skill that has to be learned. I didn’t know squat about it before I joined the Army. Waging peace is relatively easy compared to waging war. All you have to do to wage peace is respect others and leave them the fuck alone.

And I can’t believe God just knows stuff. He probably had to gain His knowledge the same way anyone else does. He had to learn it, and He had to learn it somewhere.

There’s one other possibility: I’m essentially using a computerized device to write this treatise. I have access to a lots of information and knowledge, and I can download a couple buttloads of info onto my tablet. But the idea that God is nothing more than a computer is too crazy even for me to believe. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a few patients tell me God is a supercomputer…

And there’s this: while my Galaxy Note 2® might have access to a lots of information and knowledge, it contains no wisdom. And if God is nothing else, He certainly appears to be wise beyond our ability to measure.

* * * *

God has a Timeline. Everything that’s created has an expiration date. Milk. Medications. You. Me. The dinosaurs. This planet. Scientists have theorized that Earth will be destroyed in a couple of billion years, so go ahead and buy that pair of really cute shoes now.

I’m serious about the shoes. I’ve been married to a supermodel for almost three decades. I understand the importance of cute shoes.

Even God might have an expiration date. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, and there’s a lots of really smart people that have speculated on what he meant when he said that. Was he talking about Heaven, or the heavens, as in the sky?

I might have had a timeline or two in my life, but nothing as serious as God’s. Think about this way: Everything happens in Mark’s time, right? Isn’t that what everyone says? No, they don’t. Everything happens in God’s time. And God’s timing is always perfect.

As much as I’d like to argue that point, I can’t. In my own experience, I’ve had too many examples of the perfectness of God’s timing to be anything but humbled by it, and awed. He may not have answered my need as soon as I would’ve liked, but He has always been there for me.

God allegedly exists outside of Time, and therefore Space. How someone not constrained by the strictures of Time can have any respect for it is beyond me. And yet…

Here’s something to think about. God created everything, right? But suppose he wrote a code into everything He made that was activated at a specific point in time. Stars died, new elements were created. Planets were formed. Ecosystems were born. Living organisms appeared and evolved, and fourteen billion years later, humans arrived.

And somehow, we ended up being the pinnacle of God’s creative plan.

And because we’re so cool, God raised one of us up out of the desert and made him our King based on his perfect service. And that made it possible for at least some of us to join Him, somehow, some way, some day.

Regarding that day, Jesus said he didn’t know when it would happen, only the Father knew. It’s this statement that led me to believe Jesus wasn’t on board the good ship Kingdom of Heaven at the beginning of its voyage.

And the reason God alone knows this date is because of the code, the runes He wrote into the gutrock of the earth, that will be activated at the prescribed moment in God’s Timeline.

That clock is ticking. Someday, perhaps even in my lifetime, the alarm will go off, and then the world will run swiftly to great tidings.

And then, quite possibly, all hell will break loose on a level that has probably never been seen on this planet before.

Or not.

I’m not a prophet. Yet. I have no real idea what’s going to happen.

The Time Machine

I used to facilitate a lots of groups back when I was a psych nurse. Just in cases you didn’t know this, there are two types of psych nurses: those that love to lead groups, and those that don’t. There’s no middle ground.

That’s the truth. You can ask around if you like.

I loved doing groups. Probably not a big surprise there. I did groups on mental illness, medications, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, cardiac health, whatever. I did groups on stuff no one had ever heard of before, like, the Ghost Dance of the 1890’s.

Maggie, did not like groups. She hated them. I worked with Maggie at the MVAMC. She wasn’t one of the best nurses I ever worked with. In fact, she was probably one of the worst.

Maggie would come to work early and check out her patient assignment, and then she started charting. Before her shift started, and before she even assessed any of her patients. She wrote the same two sentences on all of her patients:

Met with pt. Says he’s okay.  XOXO, Maggie.

Something like unto that. Everyone knew she did that, even her patients knew she did it. She spent most of her shift sitting behind the nursing station drinking coffee and taking cigarette breaks. Marj, my horrible boss, knew Maggie’s charting routine. And this is what she did about it.

Nothing.

Marj was an horrible boss in more ways than one.

* * * *

Want to hear a funny Maggie story? She had come in early and had done all of her charting before her shift started, as usual, and one of her patients had a seizure around the end of our shift. We called a code and ran down to his room to take care of him. And Maggie said this, “Goddammit! I just finished charting on this guy! I’m not writing another note on him!”

And everyone in the room stopped what they were doing, and turned to look at her. Even the guy having a seizure…

Another Maggie story. One of her patients had a condom cath, and she was supposed to remove it. A condom cath is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an urinary catheter in the form of a condom. You unroll it you apply it, and it sticks to a penis like glue if it’s applied correctly. There’s actually an adhesive on the inside of a condom cath.

I probably put that catheter on that guy, so it was properly applied. Maggie had never removed one, so she asked me to come along. She told the guy what she was going to do, grabbed the tip of the catheter, braced one foot on the frame of his bed and started pulling, like she was trying to land a blue marlin or something.

I just about died to death. And you should’ve seen the look in that guy’s eyes. I made Maggie stop, and took it off myself. That guy thanked me every time he saw me.

And, one last Maggie story. Patient assignments were done by the charge nurse. I decided to have a little fun with Maggie one day, and assigned her to lead groups. Maggie just about had a fucking seizure.

“Are you kidding me!” she confronted me when I walked onto the unit that day. “I’m going to walk in there and look like an idiot for the first time!”

“Oh, it won’t be the first time.” was my response.

* * * *

One of our patients at the MVAMC was a guy we called Forrest Gump’s Smarter Brother. He kind of looked like Forrest, and although he was smarter than Forrest, it wasn’t by much. I can’t remember his real name, but he wanted us to let him use our time machine so he could go back in time to undo some horrendous mistake he had made years earlier.

I can’t remember what he’d done, but wasn’t something of all that much consequence, as least as far as the staff was concerned. I think most of the people involved in the care of FG’sSB all thought the same thing: Hell, I’ve done worse stuff than that! That wouldn’t even be in my Top Ten!

It probably wouldn’t have been in my Top Twenty-five. Or Top Fifty.

The Time Machine is the classic novel written by H.G. Wells in 1895. It’s been adopted into several movies and TV shows. My personal favorite is Time After Time, 1979, starring Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen. It’s a romantic thriller where H.G. Wells travels to the future chasing Jack the Ripper.

I thought it was a great movie.

At any rate, a lots of staff members at the MVAMC talked to FG’sSB, and they all told him the same thing. We don’t have a time machine, but he refused to believe it. He was probably a little delusional, that guy.

Psychosis and delusions generally go hand in hand, like anxiety and depression. But I don’t remember him being that psychotic. He just wanted to use our time machine, and he was convinced we had one, probably somewhere in the basement. Where else would you store a time machine?

Delusions are incredibly difficult to treat. A delusion is a fixed false belief, and once a delusion is born, it never really dies. You know, like that one guy who wants to be a prophet someday.

According to some psychologists, all religious beliefs are delusions. And, the popular response to that would probably be something like unto, Um, not mine. Those other guys, maybe. But my God, is real!

I wasn’t FG’sSB’s nurse, but I had heard about him in report. One day, one of the docs had just spent about half an hour trying to convince FG’sSB we didn’t have a time machine, and I started laughing.

The doctor was one of our residents, and he walked over to me. He said something like unto he didn’t think this was funny, and added if I thought I could do a better job, I was more than welcome to take my best shot.

So, I did.

“Yo, FG’sSB. Let’s talk. You’re right. We do have a time machine.”

“What!?!” the resident doc shouted.

“I knew it!!!” FG’sSB exclaimed.

“But let me explain how time travel works. Have you ever heard of the Law of Equilibrium and Balance?”

“N-No…”

“It’s the primary principal of time travel. In essence, you can’t go back in time to undo a mistake. The only thing you can do is replace the mistake you made with a different mistake. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, I think so…”

“That’s why the Federal government won’t let anyone use the time machine anymore. They tried it a couple of times. The Feds have made a lots of mistakes over the years, right?” I said, and FG’sSB nodded his head in agreement.

“Look. I’m not supposed to tell anyone about this, but I used to be a data analyst for the CIA, and I had access to all kinds of super top secret files. The Feds have a base somewhere in Greenland, and that’s where they did their tests with the time machine. The first time they tried to change something in the past, the Nazis ended up winning World War II.”

“No way!”

“Way! The Nazis ended up developing the atomic bomb before we did, and they nuked America off the face of the planet.”

“Wow!”

“So the Feds learned something from their experiments. You can’t actually fix anything by going back in time. You can only make things worse. They ended up having to go back and repeating their first mistake again to fix the shit they tried to fix! There has to be balance, get it?”

“Oh. I didn’t know that. So, if I went back in time…”

“You’ll only make everything worse. Do you still want to use our time machine?”

“Um, probably not. I don’t want to make things worse…”

Home run.

The best part of that, the resident doc came up to me and said this: “That, was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.”

* * * *

I have no idea if there’s an actual Law of Equilibrium and Balance. And while time travel is theoretically possible, I’m not sure it’s actually possible. But it sounded convincing enough to FG’sSB that he abandoned his quest to travel back in time, and he was discharged shortly afterwards.

And I probably wouldn’t have tried that intervention on everyone, but I knew it would work with FG’sSB. You can’t talk someone out of a delusional belief, but maybe you can use their delusion against them, so to speak.

There was a guy named Steve that was a frequent flyer at the MVAMC, and every time he came in he accused the nursing staff of trying to kill him, and there would be an investigation. So I said this to him, “How many times have you been here? The nurses here are highly trained professionals. If we really wanted to kill you, you would’ve been dead years ago.”

He never accused another nurse of trying to kill him to death.

* * * *

I’ve met more than one person that wished they could go back in time and undo some of the things they had done. I’m sure I’ve wished I could do that myself.

One of my desperately seeking time travel patients was Kathleen. She was at Aurora, and the first time I met her she was laying in bed, crying. I checked on her several times, and that’s what she did all morning.

At noon, I went into her room and said, “Hey, Kathleen. If you want something new to cry about, your lunch is here.” She got up to eat, and eventually stopped crying. And then we talked. Kathleen didn’t want to go back in time to change one thing in her life. She wanted to change all of it.

“Let’s say you could do that. Do you really think you wouldn’t make any mistakes if you could live your life over? As near as I can tell, everyone makes mistakes. I know I have. But those are the things that taught me my most important lessons. I might have had to repeat some of those lessons a few hundred times before the lights came on, but I wouldn’t be who and what I am now if not for those lessons learned.”

And then I told her about FG’sSB. And I told her some of the stories about my crazy life.

“And he believed your story about the time machine?”

“I’m evidently quite a convincing liar.”

“You must be. I can’t tell if you’re telling the truth or not.”

See? I told you.

“And you look pretty well put together now.”

“Years of putting together the pieces of my life. And now it’s your turn. Time to get your head out of your ass and get moving. Go take a shower. You’ll feel better.”

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife and I went for a walk down the Malacon in Ajijic yesterday. We’re planning to go for a walk down the Malacon in Chapala tomorrow. It’s supposed to prettier than the one in Ajijic, and the Malacon in Jocotopec is supposed to be the prettiest of them all.

I’ll bring my camera, and take a lots of pictures. I’ll post them on my Facebook page. This place is incredibly beautiful.

That should help me achieve better balance and equilibrium in my new life. I had no idea transitioning into retirement would be such a tricksy thing. If I had known that, I would’ve planned a little better, maybe. I might not have believed it.

There’s a couple of football games today to determine which teams will meet in the Super Bowl. I think Jim and Veronica are hosting a Super Bowl party. I’m going to make chili. It’s the only thing I cook anymore, but it’s the best damn chili you’ll ever have.

It takes a couple days to make the World’s Best Chili. If you want the recipe, let me know…

Let’s see if I’m any closer to being a prophet. Falcons over the Packers. Patriots beat the Steelers.

If I’m right about that, I’ll make a Super Bowl prediction.

Becoming…

I started thinking about the word becoming yesterday. It can mean something flattering, especially in regard to appearance.

That’s a very becoming outfit!

That’s not the definition I’m thinking of. It’s mostly used by women and spoken to other women, and if it were directed to me, it would indicate I’m wearing something that probably makes me look very ladylike, and that’s not at all something I’m trying to achieve.

It can also be the process of coming to be something different, or of passing into a another state.

That’s the definition I’ve been contemplating.

We’re all becoming something, and hopefully, something better. I think what I was becoming was a pathetic sissifated sniffle-snaffle whining crybaby, wandering in the dark. And that’s not what I want for my life. It’s not even what I wanted when it was the only truth of my life.

I’ve been blessed with a lots of friends that took care of me when I was incapable of doing so myself. In retrospect, that’s what Raoul and Nadina did for me back when they welcomed me into their home and fed me. And there were a lots of others through the years. I doubt I’d still be alive if not for them, so to all of you, named and unnamed, thank you.

Last night my lovely supermodel wife made spaghetti, and there’s nothing that will fill the emptiness of of one’s soul as deliciously as Italian food.

And then I did the dishes. I don’t cook, so I clean up.

There’s something therapeutic about cleaning up. It doesn’t require much thought, just repetitive scrubbing and rinsing until everything is clean once more. And that’s when my epiphany hit me.

Some things need to be cleaned. Some things do not.

It would appear I started cleaning out my closet, the place I chose to store the darker memories of my life. But as I was cleaning up after dinner last night I asked myself this question: Why?

And I asked myself that because of a question a friend of mine asked after she read one of my very dark posts. Who the hell is your Muse?

Just in cases you were wondering, there are nine Muses, and it took me a moment to realize she wasn’t asking me to identify which daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne was fucking up my life, and hers.

If that had been her real question, I’d pick Melpomene.

Her real question was, What in the hell do you think you’re doing?!?

And my internal response was, What have I done lately that would indicate I have any idea what I’m doing! And that’s when things started coming into focus.

As another friend of mine observed, I have lived a crazy life. And while some of that stuff is funny, a lots of it is not.

Thank you, Maureen. Thank you, Lorrie. I’m better now. I slept something like unto the sleep of bronze last night, and sleep is one of the most restorative things ever invented.

You know what else is very restorative? A hot shower. I feel better today than I have in over a month. Today, life is good again, and I’d like to keep it that way.

* * * *

So, back to my metaphysical closet of horrors. I can’t undo what I’ve done. Unfortunately. I may have originally thought I’d be doing something therapeutic by trying to clean out that space of fifty thousand shades of black, but I’m thinking now that I may do more harm than good in the attempt.

I mean, do I really need to clean that closet out?

In terms of physical closets, why does one clean a closet? Well, to get rid of stuff one doesn’t use anymore, and to make room for stuff one does use.

I’m not planning on putting more mean-icky-nasty stuff into that closet, so I don’t really need to create more storage space, do I?

No, I do not.

One of the things I learned as a psych nurse was not to take on other people’s burdens. For one thing, they weren’t my burdens, and even if I were willing to carry them, it’s not an effective intervention. Personal burdens cannot be transferred from one person to another.

Another thing I learned was more isn’t always better. One of the things psych nurses do is dispense medications, and sometimes nurses can develop a very narrowly focused field of vision.

For example, confusion can be a common reason for someone to be admitted to a psych facility, especially if the person in question isn’t normally confused.

I think confused is my natural state.

Confusion can be caused by a lots of things, and a very narrowly focused nurse might think the only reasonable treatment is to medicate the piss out of a confused patient. But what if it was a medication that caused the confusion in the first place? More meds would only make it worse.

I’m sure there were times when I fell into that trap, but there were also times I did not, and would advocate for what is called a medication holiday. Stop everything. If it’s the meds, the patient will start improving very quickly.

It was worth a try. More often than not, it worked.

There’s another thing I learned as a psych nurse. When you find yourself at the bottom of an hole, stop digging.

* * * *

Mental illness is a tricksy beast to battle, mostly because Psychiatry is such an imprecise science. We can’t pop open the skull and replace the worn out or damaged parts of the brain. If we could, I would’ve replaced mine a long time ago.

We used medications, and talk therapy, and refocusing and redirecting. And we did a lots of reminding about boundaries because that’s an area a lots of psych patients have problems with. And sometimes psych nurses do, too.

As a psych nurse, you have to have boundaries, lest ye be pulled into darkness and lose yourself. It’s like saving a drowning person. You have to be careful or might got dead yourself in the process.

It gets even tricksier when the person you’re trying to save is yourself. Until I inadvertently fucked up my life, I wasn’t even aware I needed saving.

Life is all about choices, and I can control the choices I make. I’m sure I made a mistake when I decided to do some metaphysical cleaning, but I don’t have to compound it by continuing to do something that isn’t beneficial to myself to anyone else. I’ve already done enough damage to myself and others to last a couple of lifetimes.

When I started my blog, I did so as an avocation. It’s become more of a vocation, and that has to stop. And it most definitely has to stop going in the direction it’s been heading. The last thing I need to create is a written record of all my crimes and misdemeanors.

As I recall, I spent most of my life trying to avoid that outcome. I really need to follow the very good advice many people have given me over the years and get my head out of my ass.

I need to refocus. I need to redirect myself. I really don’t need to revisit the darkness hidden in my metaphysical closet of horrors. I put all that crap in there for a reason, and I need to respect that.

I choose a different path today. I choose the Light. I’m sure I still have plenty of available storage space for good memories, and if I don’t, I know how to make more.

I have a lots of power tools in the old tool box now, and I know how to use them.

Into Darkness

I almost feel compelled to apologize for my last two posts. One of the people that reads my blog commented, Who the hell is your Muse?

I’m wondering that myself. I do know this much about her. She’s not from Mexico. And I know this because she doesn’t speak Spanish. If she could do that, she might come in handy some day.

When I first started writing my posts, they were cute, sometimes poignant, but mostly light-hearted and funny. I miss those days.

I think things started drifting in a new direction when I wrote about my stay in Dallas. And when I opened that door into darkness, a whole lots more darkness than I anticipated came flooding out.

I didn’t need to start writing about my heart of darkness to know it was there. But I don’t think even I knew just how deep, and dark, it was. You want to hear something funny? There are stories inside of me that make my last two posts look like a trip to Disneyland®.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I need to be inspired in order to write. It has to feel right to me, even when there’s nothing right about the subject at hand. And where I used to feel uplifted and energized by my posts, I sometimes feel like a dog that has been beat too much of late.

I couldn’t sleep for two of the last three nights. I spent most of this morning curled up in a ball on the couch, wondering what the fuck just happened.

My lovely supermodel wife is probably going to have me committed to the nearest psych facility if I keep this shit up, and if she doesn’t, our cat will.

The ultimate cause of this distressing situation isn’t the darkness inside me. It’s the bringing it out into the light, and assessing it honestly. I could write a whole lots of stories about opening up rescue shelters, getting kittens out of trees and putting band-aids on boo-boos, but none of it would be true, and as skilled and talented as I used to be at fabricating truth, that’s not what I am anymore.

And I guess that begs the question, Then what are you?

I’ll tell you what I am. I am scared. I am almost terrified at times. I am not what I thought I was, and I’m not sure what the hell I’m going to do about it. I am far more broken than even I suspected. I am far more vulnerable than I could ever feel comfortable being.

Perhaps this is what happens when you become too adept at managing your defense system. You move one piece that had been perfectly placed for decades, and the next thing you know, you’re being overrun and your back is to the river.

Everything happens for a reason. I’ve been telling myself that a lots. It’s not helping. If there’s a reason for this, I’d love to know what it is. Now. Not twenty years from now. Unfortunately, that isn’t something under my control.

I don’t have the energy to write a lots of stuff today. Nor do I have the desire. I just wanted to say this, and sleep. And hope for a better tomorrow.

The Seventh Commandment

For the more than casual reader of my blog, one thing has probably become very apparent.

I had a real talent for doing stupid stuff.

It’s an odd incongruity, an oxymoronic contrast to my otherwise high intelligence. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for that. Please let me know if you ever figure me out.

In a previous post, I stated that I had broken all of the Ten Commandments, save one. To the best of my knowledge, I have never murdered anyone. I’ve certainly thought about it, and if Jesus is correct, then thinking about it is essentially the same thing as doing it. And if you count my suicide attempt, I’ve certainly tried to murder someone, even if the intended victim was myself, so there’s plenty of proof of intent. Maybe I’ve broken them all after all…

Spoiler Alert!!  This will be the most sexually explicit post I’m ever going to write, and there’s a whole lots of swear words, so don’t try to say you weren’t warned.

* * * *

To set the stage for this tale of the endless stupidity of my youth, I was in the Army. It was after my court-martial. I was no longer living off base with Raoul and Mike, I was living back in the barracks, in my old room. I was court-martialed in February of 1976, so it was probably around August of that year.

I’ve talked about my good friend, Raoul, before. He was an Hispanic Texan that was about ten years older than me, give or take. Raoul was kind of married. I mean, he was married, but he and his wife had what I can only describe as a volatile relationship. His wife, Nadina, might have been more than a little crazy. Well, that was according to Raoul.

Whatever the truth of that was I’ll never know, but as a result of the his crazy marriage, Raoul was kind of a nomad. Sometimes he lived with his wife, sometimes he lived in the barracks. Sometimes he lived in an apartment, or a rental house, or a trailer. He moved in and out of his house several times while I knew him, and I think I moved in with him at least twice when he wasn’t living with his wife.

I can’t remember how long they had been married. Five or six years, I think. I know it was less than ten.

Raoul moved into the barracks for the first time long before he advised me what to do when my van broke down and I incurred the wrath of my XO, who was backed up by the full weight of the US Army.

Then, I think, he moved back with Nadina. I know Raoul and I were living in a rental house together while I was going through my court-martial. And I know he moved back in with his wife when that ordeal ended.

I don’t think he was ever very clear about the source of their marital discord. But he appeared to blame his wife for all of it. Oh, it’s that time of the month again. She’s just like her mother. Didn’t you know? All latinas are fuckin’ loco en la cabeza, amigo!

Why do you stay married to her? I asked him once. Are you kidding me? You’ve seen her! She’s a fucking goddess! And when I say fucking goddess, I mean fucking goddess. Jesus and all the saints, amigo! I’ve been with a thousand women in my life, and she’s the most incredible piece of ass I’ve ever had!

So, there was that.

I’m not sure what else went on between them, but it clearly wasn’t all sexual bliss.

Raoul moved into the barracks for the second or third time at the time this story begins. But there was a different reason why he moved in that time.

“My fucking wife is having a fucking affair! And she’s going to divorce me! Can you believe that shit! That pinche puta!!”

That’s how he explained it to me. I think those were the exact words he spoke.

“What?!? That’s fucking…nuts! She’s crazy about you! How do you know she’s having an affair?” I decided to ask.

“No! She’s just crazy! And I know she’s having an affair because she fuckin’ told me she was, that’s how I know!!”

“Jesus. Christ. That’s fuckin’ cold. I’m–I’m sorry to hear that. Did she say who she’s having an affair with?” I decided to ask another question.

“No! The fuckin’ whore wouldn’t tell me who she was fucking! I have a couple of suspects in mind, and if I ever find out for sure who’s been fucking her, I’ll fucking kill him!!”

I had a pretty good idea that my high school sweetheart would read my last post, and I have to admit I was more than a little anxious about what her response would be. But I hope to God that Raoul never discovers my blog, and if he does, I doubly hope to God he never reads this post. I have no doubt he would make good on his vow for revenge.

I knew exactly who his wife had been fucking.

It was me.

* * * *

There have been many times in my life when I wished I had paid just a little more attention to detail when I tried to kill myself. If I had only severed my radial artery…

There are other times I wish I had built a cabin somewhere way out in the middle of goddamn nowhere and removed myself from all contact with everyone. That certainly would’ve decreased the chances of me ruining anyone else’s life.

Right now, I wish the long, complicated stories of my stupid life were very simple. And short.

There’s a backstory to this, of course.

When I finally decided to try to move on after the dissolution of my relationship with my high school sweetheart, the first couple of women I dated were fabric free shoe models. In other words, strippers.

Those relationships tended to be short, but intense, and all about sex. That was fine with me. I wasn’t capable of much beyond that.

My first relationship with a woman that wasn’t a stripper was with Theresa Besicca. She was a WAC at the Headquarters Dental Clinic. She was the only woman I’ve dated that was a lots taller than me. She was three or four inches taller than me, light brown hair, really big…eyes.

Theresa really loved to play racquetball, and she was very good. She had more or less demolished all of the guys at the clinic, except one, and none of them enjoyed getting their asses kicked by a girl. She challenged me to a game, and I accepted.

She totally kicked my ass, but unlike every other guy she beat, that only made me try harder. We started playing a lots of racquetball, and then we’d have a couple beers. We became friends as she taught me how to play racquetball.

I was lousy at racquetball at first, but Theresa was very good, and she was also a good coach. As I got better, our games became more intense, and because we were friends, there was a considerable amount of trash talk between us. And then came the day I made a preposterous proposition to Theresa.

“If I beat you, you have to have sex with me.”

“Ha! What do I get if I beat you?”

“Then I have to have sex with you.”

Theresa stood there for a long moment, looking at me, sizing up her opponent. And then she slowly nodded her head.

“Okay, but if I win, you have to do everything I say. You have to be my slave!

For a moment I thought about letting her beat me, but then I imagined her wearing black boots and a big strap on dildo, telling me to Bend over.

Yeah, she was going to have to earn that.

“And if I win, all you’ll have to do is get naked.”

“I’m going to eat you alive, little man.”

“Bring a big spoon.”

That, was one helluva racquetball match. She won the first set handily. I barely won the second. And I smoked her in the third.

Theresa honored our bet.

After that, we still played racquetball, but not as often. We had discovered a different form of exercise. Theresa still loved playing racquetball, so she needed another regular partner. And she found one. My good buddy, Raoul. He was a pretty good player, and they started making lots of racquetball dates. And then they moved on to a different form of exercise…

* * * *

As much as I loved and respected Raoul, I never understood why he stepped out on his supermodel fucking goddess wife. I never would have done that, so maybe that’s why I can’t understand it.

Nadina was a beautiful Hispanic porcelain doll of a woman. She was about my height, hair as dark as obsidian, dark brown eyes. She was younger than Raoul, but older than me by a few years. The length of her hair changed a few times while I knew her. It was really long, then very short, then she grew it long again. She was small, slender and perfectly proportioned. And, of course, I fell in love with her the moment I saw her.

Nadina had once been in the Army. Raoul met her when they were both stationed at Fort Sam Houston. She had been a surgical technician. Like me, Raoul fell in love with her the moment he saw her. Unlike Raoul, Nadina had no intention of making the Army a career. When her term of enlistment ended she became an housewife, taking care of the beautiful home she and Raoul lived in. After she was discharged from active duty she talked about to go to school, but rarely left the house. She wanted to have a lots of children, but was unable to conceive.

She might have been Bipolar, Raoul thought she was, but I never saw any signs of mania during the time I knew her. To be sure, I’ve done my own a psych assessment on her over the years. She’s still kind of a gorgeous mystery to me. In retrospect, I think Nadina was the most attractive, possible nymphomaniac, chronically unhappy person I’ve ever met, but I haven’t been able to come up with anything better than that.

I would spend a lots of time hanging out with Raoul and his darling wife at their house. We drank a lots of strawberry margaritas, Nadina’s favorite drink. And we smoked a lots of dope while Raoul and I played chess.

During those times, she appeared to be happy and content to me. I had a very difficult time believing Raoul when he told me how crazy his gorgeous wife was, but in retrospect, I think Raoul played his part in her kookiness, whatever it might have been.

Be that as it may, they were both really good people, and they were a very welcome refuge to me during that time of my life. I was an emotional basketcase, and I would be one for years. But they welcomed me into their house and their lives, and they helped keep me alive when all I mostly wanted to do was die to death.

* * * *

Theresa also helped me. Our racquetball matches were probably the most consistent exercise I ever involved myself in. And if I was concentrating on playing racquetball I couldn’t stay focused on how miserable I was. And I actually started feeling pretty good.

Theresa was the first woman I told the story of the scars on my wrist to. It was after our titanic match, winner take all. Literally. We had showered at her cute little bungalow off base. She didn’t like the barracks. Too many goddamn lesbos…

Whew! Probably no strap ons then, I thought.

We were naked, and sitting cross legged on her bed, and she asked about the scars on my wrist.

My scars have faded to the point that they’re probably not as noticeable as I always think they are. But they were much more noticeable forty years ago, especially the largest one. It takes time for scars to fade, and because the ER doc did such a lousy job sewing me up, that wound ended up having to heal by granulation.

It’s a slower process, and the resulting scar is much larger. And because of that, it was very red to reddish pink for what seemed like forever to me.

I remember covering my scars with my left hand to hide them when Theresa asked me how I got them. I didn’t tell her the very long story I wrote yesterday; I told her the highlights, if they can be called that. When I finished, she very slowly reached out and moved my left hand, then very tenderly kissed the scars on my wrist.

A tear ran down my cheek.

Four decades later, I am still moved by what she did way back then. We made love for a very long time. It was the first time that act meant something more than just sex to me since Maureen.

I think that was the first time I thought I might be able to live again.

* * * *

I couldn’t have had a long term relationship with Theresa or anyone else at that time of my life, and if I didn’t yet realize that, Theresa certainly did. That may have been one reason why she decided to have an affair with Raoul. I’m guessing. I never asked her about it.

The fact that Raoul was convinced he was married to a certified bowl of Hispanic fruit loops probably gave him all the incentive he needed to see just how green the grass was on the other side of the fence. As to how I learned about their tryst, that was easy.

Raoul told me.

* * * *

“I played racquetball with your girlfriend yesterday.”

“Yeah, I know, but she’s not really my girlfriend.”

“Yeah, but you’re having sex with her.”

“So.”

“So, I thought you guys were kind of a couple…”

“Yeah, but it’s not that serious. I mean, it’s like this: If I were to call her and say, ‘Hey, can I come over? I want to fuck your brains out.’ And she says, ‘Um, now’s not good. I’m fucking the Marine Corps Band.’ My response would be, ‘Okay, how about tomorrow?’ And that would be that.”

“Seriously? I’d be pissed that she was fucking the fuckin’ Marines. Go Army!” he said, and we laughed. We were driving on the range roads, smoking a joint on our lunch break. “What about me?”

“What about you?” I asked. I had no idea what he was trying to tell me.

“What if I had sex with Theresa?”

“Why the hell would you want to do something like that? You’re married to the most beautiful woman on the plan–Wait! Did you have sex with my girlfriend?”

“I thought you said she wasn’t your girlfriend!” he said. I started laughing, then Raoul joined in.

“Seriously,” I replied. “I don’t care who she fucks, as long as she saves some pussy for me. But I gotta tell you, what you’re doing is dangerous. You’re gonna ruin your marriage. You’re gonna fuck up your life. You’re gonna end up living in the goddamn barracks with a bunch of losers, like me.”

“Hey, you’re not a loser, amigo. You’re just a kid with a broken heart. You’ll get over–whatshername–”

“Maureen.”

“Yeah, Whatshername. You haven’t lived as long as I have. You have to forget her! Move on! Don’t tell me you think you two are going to get back together! Jesus Christ, Rowen! Get your head out of your ass! You’re gonna have to trust me on this one, but you’ll fall in love with someone again someday. And after you’ve been married for awhile, you’ll find its possible to love more than one woman at a time.”

“That, is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard. You’re gonna have to trust me on this one. I may not know as much about life or the Army as you do. But I know about love. And you don’t fuck with love, ever! If you do, love will damn sure fuck you back.”

* * * *

I have to say, I’m very proud of that observation. I’m equally proud of the fact that Love backed me up after I said it. I can only wish this was where my story ended, but I still had a commandment to break.

I genuinely wasn’t upset that Raoul had sex with Theresa. We were not in a committed relationship. For all I know, she had sex with every guy she played racquetball with. I was by no means faithful to her. I still dropped in to see at least one of the fabric free shoe models I knew.

I didn’t feel any guilt about having multiple partners when I was with Theresa, but the weird thing was, I felt guilty having sex with any of them because it felt like I was cheating on Maureen. Yeah, try to figure that fucking mess out!

I’m not sure how Nadina found out about the infidelity of her husband, but she wasn’t stupid, and she was a woman. She knew. Neither Raoul nor I knew that she knew when we were having that conversation, but that would change in a very short time.

* * * *

Raoul had to go to Fort Sam Houston for some training of some sort, and he had to be gone for a week. While he was gone, he wanted me to do something for him.

“Hey, can I ask you a favor, amigo?”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“Can you swing by my house while I’m out of town and check on Dina? I mean, I keep a gun in my bedside table, and Dina knows how to use it. Hell, she’s a better shot than me! But I’d just feel better if there was a man around the house, especially in the evening. I’m going to be partying a lot, and I’m not going to call Dina once I start drinking. It’s a married guy thing. I’ll call her during the day! Just drop in and check on her, that’s all.”

“Yeah, I could do that. Maybe I can teach her how to play chess…”

“Forget it. I’ve tried. I end up playing myself. And I’m not suggesting you move in or anything, just drop in once or twice and make sure she’s okay. Okay?”

“Okay!”

* * * *

I can’t remember what day Raoul decided to head for San Antonio. Saturday, maybe. Sunday, probably. I figured Nadina could take care of herself for a day or two…  I called her on Monday.

“Hey, how’re you doing?”

“Oh Mark! I’m so glad you called! I was going to try to call you after work!”

“What’s up?”

“I was wondering if you could come over this evening. I’ve got margaritas chilling…”

As odd as this might sound, I didn’t really care for strawberry margaritas all that much. The only reason I drank them was because Raoul and Dina did, and they contained alcohol.

“Sure. Do you need me to pick up anything for you?”

“I’ll see you at six.” Click.

I popped three or four Percodan before I went to check on Nadina. I was using pills pretty heavily by this time, and one or two just wasn’t cutting it anymore. And my use was just getting started. I rang the doorbell at five minutes after six.

“You’re late!” Nadina laughed as she answered the door. She was barefoot, wearing a T-shirt and tight jeans. Her hair was probably just past shoulder length at that time. She had a bright smile on her face.

The margaritas were already poured, the glasses were sweating. She lit a joint and we smoked and she talked. We drank and she talked. I had known Nadina for probably a year or so, but I think this was the first time she really talked to me.

Most of the stuff I knew about her I had heard from Raoul. And whenever I visited them, I mostly talked to Raoul. Dina might add some comments occasionally, but mostly she was quiet. She had a lots to say that night. I mostly nodded my head from time to time, like I would as a psych nurse listening to Harold ramble on and on at when I worked nights.

She told me her life story. I sat back and tried to keep up. I’m usually pretty good at remembering things like this, but I don’t think I can remember much of anything she said. I was hypnotized by her eyes, the brightness of her teeth, and the sound of her voice. I was mesmerized by her curves.

Nadina sat kind of sideways on the couch, one shapely leg curled under the other, one bare foot on the floor. Her body was facing mine, and I mimicked her pose so I could face her.

It just occurred to me, she reminds of someone. I would see a perfectly wrapped, hot little body like that a few years later when I went to Dallas with Shorty. Martha! Sonuvabitch! Maybe that’s why I ended up falling so head over heels in love with her!! Martha subconsciously reminded me of Nadina!

Wow. That was really weird.

Nadina was the perfect hostess. She refilled our drinks. She lit another joint. When the first pitcher of margaritas was empty, she made another. And she lit another joint…

“I rolled these today. Ray doesn’t think I know how to roll, but I can do a lot of things he doesn’t think I can do. Would you like another margarita?”

“Yes, please.” I said. She poured more slushy pinkish red drinks for both of us, then she said something I’ve never been able to forget.

“I know Ray’s been fucking your girlfriend.” and she turned her head to look me squarely in the eyes. “I know that’s what he’s been doing with her. And I know you know it, too. I know you’re Ray’s best friend, but you’re my friend, too. Don’t you dare fucking lie to me, Mark.”

I sat there for what had to have been an hour, trying to figure out how I could get out of the house without her noticing. But she had her eyes locked on mine, and she didn’t blink. And I knew if I so much as blinked, it was as good as a confirmation on my part. And how did she know all the stuff she said she knew? That, was spooky.

If there was ever a time I wished I could say, “Scotty, beam me up!” this was one of them. I stared back into her dark eyes, and I knew I whatever I said to her, it had better not be a fucking lie. There was only one thing I could say.

“She’s not my girlfriend.” I said. It wasn’t a lie…  It really wasn’t much of anything. I didn’t confirm her assertion that her husband was having an affair, but I didn’t say anything to deny it, either. So, it wasn’t what I said that initiated what happened next, it was how I didn’t say it.

“I knew it!” she whispered, very softly. I expected her to start crying. That’s what any other woman would’ve done, right? “I have to go to the bathroom.” she said. And she smiled! “I’ll be right back.”

I think I was so stunned I didn’t know what to think. And I was most definitely stunned.

“I want to thank you for being honest with me.” her voice floated down the hallway into the living room. She was in the bathroom in the hall, and she must have left the door open. I could hear her peeing. “I know that wasn’t easy for you, and I appreciate it.”

Well, she was right about the not easy part, but I didn’t feel very good about what I had done, no matter how much she appreciated it. She flushed the toilet and washed her hands.

“But you know what I think? I think what’s good for the gander is good for the goose.” Her voice grew louder as she walked back toward the living room.

“I think it’s the other way around.” I replied. I decided I needed a drink, and reached for my margarita. And then I froze.

“You know what I meant.” Nadina said. She stepped into the living room, struck a little pose, and smiled. She was totally naked. And then she said another thing I’ve never been able to forget. “I want to fuck your brains out.”

* * * *

There can’t be any confusion as to what happened next, can there? Raoul may not have been completely honest with me about the reasons for the marital discord between he and Nadina, but that part about her being a fucking goddess, that, was not a lie.

* * * *

I called Nadina on my lunch break on Tuesday.

“I’m baking lasagna. You hungry?”

“I could eat.”

“And I have dessert, too!”

“Oh yeah? What did you make?”

“Pie. It’s really moist, and creamy!”

“See you at six.”

“Make it five.” Click.

She answered the door wearing an apron, and nothing else. She insisted I eat first. And then I had dessert.

* * * *

I called her on my lunch break on Wednesday.

“How are you feeling?” she giggled.

“Sore. How about you?”

“Horny. I’ve been playing with my pussy all morning. She really misses you.”

I finished my deliveries in record time that afternoon, and my van didn’t break down. After a couple erotic wrestling matches with Nadina, I wondered how Raoul had the energy to play racquetball. Or even get out of bed in the morning.

* * * *

I didn’t call Nadina on my lunch break on Thursday. I called her first thing in the morning. And at nine. And at noon. And every chance I got. When I rang the doorbell, she didn’t come to the door.

“Mark? Is that you?” her voice called out.

“Yes!”

“Then, come in! The door’s open!’

She was naked, sprawled across the couch, her legs spread wide.

“See how much I missed you? Did you miss me?”

“Yes!”

“Show me how much you missed me!”

And I did.

* * * *

By Friday, I didn’t have to wish I could got dead. I was pretty sure I was going to die to death. And I didn’t even care that I would go straight to Hell. I started taking four or five Percodan at a time. I could hardly walk. I thought my dick was going to fall off.

I called Nadina around 10:00 AM from one of the clinics. She sounded a little distracted, maybe. She wasn’t at all as…friendly…as she had the previous days.

“I’m out of weed. So I called Brian.”

Brian was the guy Raoul bought weed from. He was a civilian that worked on base. I can’t remember how Raoul met him, but Raoul had a nose for weed. Brian looked like Fat Freddy of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. We used to tease him about that, but he had good weed, and he almost always had some to sell.

“I have weed. All you had to do was ask.”

“Oh, I didn’t think of that. You always smoke Ray’s weed when you’re here…”

That was true. But that’s the kind of guy Raoul was. However, whenever he dropped in at the barracks he insisted we smoke mine.

“So, do you want to get together tonight?”

“Oh, yes! Yes, very much!” and her voice brightened appreciably. “Brian said he’d be over about four…  Why don’t you come by then.”

“Great! See you then!”

“And don’t be late this time!” Click.

I was outside her door at 3:55. I recognized Brian’s car as I pulled up, so I knew he was already inside. I was about to ring the doorbell, when I heard Nadina scream. I opened the door and saw Brian mauling Nadina, trying to kiss her. There were two glasses of water on the table, and an ounce of pot.

“Hey! What the fuck do you think you’re doing!” I shouted.

Brian was startled by my appearance. Nadina must not have told him I was coming over. He let go of Nadina, and she ran down the hallway.

“Hey, Mark! It’s not what it looks like! She–” And then Brian froze. Nadina had come back in the room, and she had a gun pointed at Brian’s head.

“Get out of my house, you motherfucker!”  she screamed.

“Hey! Heyheyhey! I’m leaving! I’m leaving! Just don’t shoot!”

Brian ran out the like Usain Bolt, only faster. Nadina followed his exit with the gun in her hands. He almost hit my car as he roared off. Nadina let her arms drop, but held on to the handgun. She was trembling.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Close the door, and lock it.”

I did, then I rushed over to her, and she just about flew into my arms. The tears I had expected to see four days earlier appeared now, and they would not stop.

“I can’t believe he did that to me!” she sobbed, and even I knew she wasn’t talking about Brian.

* * * *

Nadina eventually stopped crying, and then we had sex, if you can call it that. It was sex at its most primal level, and we fucked like lions! We were locked together for easily seven hours. We probably took bathroom breaks, and drank margaritas, but I don’t remember much of anything except being inside her, and her wanting more.

I remember taking a shower at about 6:00 AM. Nadina stood in the bathroom and watched me. She had a very satisfied smile on her face. She had put on a lacy little white robe. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the end of our affair. I was almost too weak to stand. If I had known our affair was over, I probably would’ve wept in relief.

“When my husband asks, this is what you tell him…”

I went back to the barracks and slept like a man that had been in battle for a week. I don’t think I woke up until Sunday.

* * * *

I know Raoul called me on Sunday. That’s the only reason I know I didn’t sleep straight through to Monday. I was sitting at my desk, naked. My dick wasn’t black and blue, it was black and purple! And it hurt! If I had had any razor blades close by, my dick probably would’ve cut itself off.

“How was your trip?” I asked.

“Fine. Business as usual. Did Dina tell you about Brian?”

“She didn’t have to. I was there.”

“See? I told you it was a good idea for you to check on her!”

“I thought she was going to shoot him!”

“Nah, I’ll probably shoot him first. At the very least, I’m gonna kick his Fat Freddy ass! So, how often did you come over?”

“Um, I called her on Monday. She made lasagna on Tuesday, so I came over for that.”

“She’s a good cook, huh.”

“Dude, I’ve eaten at your house a thousand times!”

“Yeah, she’s a good cook, huh.”

“She’s a great cook!”

“When else were you here? Did you see anything?”

“Um, I called her Wednesday. I dropped by the house on Thursday for about an hour, and I was there Friday for pretty much the entire night.”

“Yeah. Yeah, that was good. Thank you for taking care of my wife.”

“Yeah, just doing what you asked. How’s she doing now? She was pretty freaked out the last time I saw her.”

“She’s okay. I got back in town about noon on Saturday. And you’re not going to believe this, but she fucked my fuckin’ brains out! I mean, I thought she was trying to kill me!”

Raoul was right. I couldn’t believe it. Nadina must’ve had a crotch made from titanium!

“You’re a lucky man.”

“Yeah. So, what’re you doing? You wanna play some chess? I picked up a couple hits of acid…”

“It’s gonna have to be another time, man. I’ve been hitting it pretty hard this week. I need rest.”

“Yeah, okay. Well, see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, tomorrow.”

* * * *

Monday was business as usual. I went back to delivering supplies. Raoul went back to making dentures, and playing racquetball with Theresa. I don’t think I ever played another game of racquetball in my life.

Theresa’s term of enlistment ended that September, and then Raoul quit playing racquetball, too.

I don’t know if Raoul ever kicked Brian’s Fat Freddy ass or not, but he did find a different supplier for his weed, some guy named Lloyd or something, and I never saw Brian again.

I was a frequent guest at the home of Raoul and Nadina. Raoul and I played a lots of chess, and we all drank a lots of margaritas and smoked a lots of joints. And I took more and more pills. They were easy for me to get, I had half a dozen dentists writing scripts for me, and because I was in the Army, they were free.

Nadina wasn’t as quiet around me as she had been prior to to Raoul’s training trip, and he mentioned something about it a couple of times.

“He saved my life! Do you think I’m going to treat him like a stranger?” was Nadina’s response.

That satisfied Raoul. And it more than satisfied me. I was like unto a goddamn hero! But whenever we were alone, like, when Raoul went to the bathroom, or went into the kitchen to make another pitcher of margaritas, Nadina and I would pounce on each other like tigers, and kiss as much as we possibly could in two minutes, then assume positions of posed nonchalance before Raoul returned.

I have to admit, that was a pretty crazy time for me. I’m not sure if I fell in love with my friend’s fucking goddess wife or not, but I almost forgot about Maureen for a couple of months. And the reason for that was mostly I was worried that my friend would find out about me and his wife. And the only thing that really made that worry go away was an handful of pills.

Actually, worried doesn’t doesn’t come close to describing the sum of all my fears. I was closer to terrified. I wasn’t afraid that Nadina would tell Raoul she had an affair with me, though that was certainly a possibility. What terrified me was the greater possibility she’d confront Raoul about his affair with Theresa.

I was actually kind of confused about why she didn’t do either. I know I talked to her about it. I think her response was something like unto, Don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing.

In October, Nadina dropped her bombshell on her cheating husband that she had been having an affair, and kicked him out of her house for good. She filed for divorce, and moved back to Texas. She was from the Corpus Christi area, and she moved back in with her parents while she figured what she was going to with her new life.

I went to see her one last time before she left. She couldn’t afford the house she and Ray had lived in, and she sure as hell didn’t have anything keeping her in Lawton anymore.

I’d like to say we had twelve hours of sex, but we didn’t even have twelve minutes of sex. We sat on the couch and held hands, and talked. She explained some of her rationale to me. She could have told Raoul she was having an affair earlier, but that would have made me the prime suspect.

She wanted to protect me. That’s why she didn’t confront her husband about his affair. I would have the only suspect in that case.

“However much I hate Ray right now, I have nothing against you. You told me the truth when you could have lied. You chose me instead of Ray. You were my only friend when I needed someone to be there for me. You gave me what I needed, when I needed it. In more ways than one.” She flashed a sly smile, and winked.

I told her how much I was going to miss her, and that I’d never forget her.

“I know you won’t.” she said, and she smiled again, but there was sadness in her eyes. And she kissed me. “I know you’re going to have a lot of memories about me, but this is the one I want you to remember the most. Your friend, kissing you goodbye.”

Clearly, I have other memories of Nadina. But our last kiss, it’s the one I treasure the most.

* * * *

Raoul moved back into the barracks, and that’s where we were when this story started. I bought a really nice camera with lots of lenses and stuff, and a metal Copal case from Raoul. And his stereo, and speakers.

He needed the cash because he had ruined his marriage and fucked up his life.

I became his best friend, and he became my best friend. We took many trips to Texas. On one of them, he would break my glasses, I would break his arm, and jump out of a speeding car after he turned into Satan the devil.

If he ever suspected me of having an affair with his wife, he never came right out and said it, but we talked about it a lots, and I was quick to point out I had been the one who warned him he was playing with fire when he fucked with Love. And I had also been the one who had saved his wife from being raped.

* * * *

I’ve occasionally wondered if Nadina set that whole thing with Brian up. He started to say something before Nadina pointed a gun at his head. If she did, she was damn good, and then she probably was every bit as crazy as Raoul claimed she was.

I choose to believe she wasn’t crazy, no matter what her husband said. After all, she never told Raoul she knew he was having an affair…

* * * *

“Yeah, you were right about that. You’re a pretty smart guy.” Raoul said. We were getting drunk in my room, listening to his former stereo. Dozens of pictures of my former girlfriend looked down at us from the wall.

“I’m not that smart. My girlfriend left me for a loser named Rick. How sad is that?”

“Oh yeah? My wife left me for… I don’t even know his fuckin’ name! How sad is that!” I want to find that sonuvabitch and, how do you say it? Kill him to death? That’s what I want to do! Hey! Would you fuck my wife?”

“What kind of question is that? She’s your wife. No way, man”

“Well, suppose she wasn’t my wife! Would you fuck her then?”

“You mean, I’m walking down the street, and I see Nadina, standing on the corner or something.”

“Yeah, like that!”

“Is she married?”

“I don’t know. What difference does it make? Would you fuck her?”

“So, I walk up to her, and say, ‘Hey baby, I got about ten hours to kill, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than in your pussy. Do you think that would work?”

“On Dina? No way! Answer the question!” he demanded, and sat up in his chair, staring at me. I sat up, and stared back.

“Look dude, the only way I would ever fuck your wife is she would have to come up to me, totally naked, and she would have to tell me that she wanted to fuck my brains out! Now, can you imagine that ever happening?”

“No. No, that would never happen…”

* * * *

See? I told you I was quite an accomplished liar.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

There are times when God has my Muse by the short hairs, and there are times when my Muse has me by the short hairs. Today, it’s the latter. In my short history as a blogger guy, these posts have not been much fun for me.

I couldn’t sleep last night, and that’s never a good sign for me. And there was another oddity. All of the dogs in the neighborhood were barking, and they did so until about 4:00 AM. There’s been a lots of bands and explosives and stuff at night, but the dogs have never behaved like unto that before.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time, as I measure time. It’s going to be painful to me. And probably to Maureen. She’s my former high school sweetheart, and this tells the story of the dissolution of our relationship.

We broke up almost forty-two years ago, but some parts of this tale I remember like they happened ten minutes ago. Other parts, I wouldn’t be able to recall if my life depended on it.

Memory, is a funny thing.

But I do remember this. I fell in love with Maureen the first moment I saw her our freshman year of high school. This should come as no surprise to anyone that reads my blog on a regular basis.

It seems to be the only way I fall in love.

* * * *

I enlisted in the Army after graduating from Loyola, and went to Basic Training at Fort Ord, CA in July of 1974. I learned to march, and shoot an M-16. I was a pretty good shot. I was well on my way to earning my Expert badge on the rifle range, when I received a letter from my high school sweetheart.

I had received a lots of letters from Maureen. And she had received many from me. I saved all of them and read them over and over. But this letter was different. Maureen wrote that she had met another guy. I read her letter just before I went out to qualify for my Expert badge, and I probably missed every target.

My drill sergeant chose to feel very disappointed in my performance–I had had the highest score of anyone in my company on the rifle range–and he had me do a lots of push ups to help me get my mind right.

I doubt I ever thanked him for his concern, but thank you, Drill Sergeant Byrum. That was really nice of you.

Maureen’s next letter said nothing about this other guy, nor did any of her following letters. I called her as often as I could from the phone booth outside the barracks, and she assured me everything was fine between us.

After I completed Basic, I was given a least two weeks of leave until my Advanced Individual Training began in the beginning of November. I flew back to Missoula around mid-October to see my high school sweetheart for the first time as a member of the US Armed Forces.

My sister, Colleen, was living in Missoula with her first husband, Rod. I had lived with them so I could complete my last year of high school in Missoula, rather than have to start over at a new school in Minnesota when my family moved back there at the end of my junior year. I think Colleen picked me up at the airport, and if she did, Maureen may have been with her. This is one of the things I can’t remember.

At any rate, Maureen and I had a very joyous reunion, whenever it was that we first saw each other again that October. I spent every waking and every sleeping moment I could with Maureen. She was studying to be an X-Ray Technician at St Patrick Hospital, and she had an apartment across the street from the hospital.

I vaguely remember being at my sister’s house, but I think I spent much more time with Maureen at her tiny apartment. We missed each other. A lots.

Maureen had class and clinicals during the day. I have no idea what I did while she was at school. I did meet her classmates, but the only one I remember was a stunning redhead with long hair. I think her name was Kelly…maybe…  Maureen tried to study, but I’m pretty sure I was able to distract her. We had really missed each other.

We would go out drinking and dancing in the evening, and some of our friends from high school would meet us at the bar. I seem to recall a semi-epic Halloween party at one of our favorite bars that booked decent bands. I’m going to say we were both ready for me to go Fort Sam Houston, TX for AIT when the end of October rolled around. I departed for Texas secure in the knowledge that we were still together as a couple, and our love for each other was strong.

* * * *

I celebrated my nineteenth birthday all by myself in Texas. I graduated third in my class, and received a promotion to PFC at the end of my training. And seeing how it was so close to Christmas, the Army gave me another couple of weeks off, and I flew back to Missoula through the worst storm I’ve ever flown through.

I think everyone on that flight prayed the entire time we were in the air. The turbulence was unreal. I kissed the tarmac when I got off the plane, and then I kissed Maureen. This was an especially joyous reunion. My sister and her husband were there. All of my closest friends in high school were home from college for the holidays. They were all at the airport to greet me, too.

One of Maureen’s sisters and her husband had flown to California for the holidays. They were going to be out of town for a couple weeks and they had asked Maureen to stay at their house while they were gone. Maureen asked me if I wanted to stay there with her.

It was Christmas. I was essentially living with my favorite person on the entire planet. That holiday could not have been any sweeter for me. It would be one of my most treasured memories for a very long time.

There was one dark spot. Maureen and I decided to throw a big holiday party at the house, and essentially invited everyone in our class to come. It was probably the last time our class got together like that until reunions became popular.

I know I got really drunk at the party. And I know Maureen wasn’t too pleased the next day. But that’s all I can remember. I’m sure I did something stupid, after all, this is me. I probably tried making out with all of our female classmates, or humped their legs. Or both. It wouldn’t surprise me.

This was perhaps the first warning shot my addiction would fire across my bow, but like any great athlete in training, I ignored the pain and kept on going.

* * * *

January, 1975. I reported to my permanent duty station in Fort Sill, OK. Toward the end of the month, I went for a walk in the rain because I missed my girlfriend, and broke my ankle.

Life. One thing happens after another, and before you know it, everything goes to hell. And that’s what happened in late April. I got another letter from Maureen. The mysterious guy she had met back when I was in Basic Training had reappeared, and it was evidently much more serious this time.

I told my CO I needed some personal time off immediately, and because I was still an exemplary soldier, he gave me a week off without hesitation. I called Maureen to let her know I was flying back to Missoula. She seemed surprised that I was coming to see her. I also called my sister to let her know I was coming.

My sister, Colleen, and her husband, Rod, were starting to go through the throes of their divorce. Colleen wasn’t going to be in town, but she would leave a key on the porch so I could stay at her house. I have no idea where Rod was, they weren’t together, and he wouldn’t be at home either. I did have two cars to choose from for transportation, and that would be about the thing I’d have going for me.

I think my flight landed in Missoula around 7:00 PM on May 2nd or 3rd. No one met me at the airport. It was one of the loneliest moments of my life, ever. For all time. I took a cab to Colleen’s house, and stared at the walls for a few hours.

Maureen had been at a Gordon Lightfoot concert with Rick, I think that was his name. To this day, I fucking hate Gordon Fucking Lightfoot, and I’ve hated almost every guy I ever met named Rick.

Well, I’ve never claimed to be sane.

Maureen came over to break up with me after the concert. She told me that was why she came over when she arrived, but then she added something like  unto this, “That’s why I came here, but I just realized I’m still in love with you…”

So, we didn’t break up that first night. I’m not sure that’s a good thing or a bad now, but it was better than anything I could’ve hoped for at the time. We didn’t break up, but we didn’t exactly get back together either. All I knew for sure when she left was she was still my girl. Kind of.

Vague Musical Reference That No One Else Will Give A Damn About But Me: How Long by the British group Ace was getting a lots of airtime in Missoula at the time Maureen and I were going through our shared angst. It reached No. 3 in the US charts. I cannot hear that song without becoming an heartbroken teenager again. And the answer to that musical question ended up being since about August of 1974.

Maureen was no longer living in her tiny apartment across from the hospital. She had moved into a big place with a couple of girls from our high school class, Colleen and Priscilla, so on the odd occasions that I went to see her there, well, it was very odd.

I knew a lots of Colleens back when I was in high school. There was my sister. And the Colleen I took to the Prom. I have a vague memory of talking to her at her dorm on the U of M campus. And there was Maureen’s roommate, whom we both knew from high school. And at least one more more Colleen from our class. And my buddy Dave dated a different Colleen…  And after that time I think I’ve met two Colleens in forty years or so. I may be wrong about this, but I think Roommate Colleen introduced my then girlfriend to Rick, the guy my girlfriend would leave me for.

Maureen’s roommates did their best to comfort both Maureen and I during what was an extremely ackward situation for all of us, and that ackwardness was only accentuated whenever I was around. We had all gone to school with each other, we were all friends.

It was a painful experience for all of us. And then a very strange thing happened one night. Roommate Colleen and I were talking in her bedroom, and then we weren’t talking anymore. We started kissing.  And Maureen walked in on us. A situation I didn’t think could get any worse, did. I think I mostly stayed away from Maureen, Colleen and Priscilla’s house after that night.

* * * *

I didn’t have a lots of close friends back in high school. I wasn’t a Jock, and I wasn’t a Brain. I was kind of a Nobody until Maureen entered my life and made me a Somebody. She was the most important and incredible person/event that had ever happened to me in my young and haunted life.

Our first dates were double or triple dates. We got to know each other kind of vicariously through our mutual friends, and it wasn’t until we started liking each other that we started going out all by ourselves.

I was in love with Maureen from the moment I first saw her, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. We kind of joked around about it, and we might say something after we drank too much cheap wine at the drive in. And then, like it does in all romantic tales, it really happened.

We went to go see Live and Let Die. I can no longer remember the exact date, but the movie was released in June of 1973, so we probably saw it in early July of that year. Whatever day/date it was, that was the night Maureen told me she loved me for the first time.

I still remember the astonishment I felt at hearing her say those three words to me after the movie. And then she started crying. I told her I loved her, too, but I did not cry. I thought I might got dead from an overdose of Joy.

The fact that anyone could love me, especially Maureen Ann Browne–it proved there was a God, and He did more than answer prayers, He was an honest to God miracle worker! If Maureen could love me, maybe there was hope that my life wouldn’t always be some kind of fucking disaster. And if that was true, then Maureen had to be an angel. She was certainly as beautiful as an angel, and that is not an exaggeration.

Maureen was one of those people that other people couldn’t help but notice when she walked into a room. She was probably the same height as me, long dark brown hair, deep brown eyes, and the body of Venus de Milo, with arms. I thought she was the Goddess of Beauty and Light, and that’s not an exaggeration either. And she was spookysmart to boot.

Back when I was young, I believed you needed to have another person to make you whole. And I had found that person. As a result of my belief, I desperately wanted to be with Maureen, always and forever, but I also understood her position when she was trying to decide her future, and mine, almost two years later.

We were no longer physically together. She was living in Montana, and I was stationed in Oklahoma. And I was going to be in Oklahoma for another two and half years! I couldn’t just tell the Army that after giving it a lots of thought, I no longer felt being in the military was the best career choice for me, and I just wanted to go home and be with my girlfriend.

Well, I suppose I could’ve said that, but I knew the Army wasn’t going to be at all swayed by that sort of a plea.

I  knew where I wanted to be when Maureen decided what she was going to do with her life, and that was with her, but I had no tricks, no aces up my sleeve. I couldn’t make her choose me. So I anxiously waited for her to make up her mind, and while I waited, I hung out with the one other best friend I had in Missoula, Dave Nelson.

Dave was my first friend in high school. We practically became brothers. And Dave did what any guy would do when his best friend’s life was melting down. He introduced me to a few girls he knew, and we got drunk with them. We went canoeing, and got drunk. We went fishing, and got drunk. We drove around town in my sister’s Toyota Corolla or her husband’s Toyota Land Cruiser, and got drunk.

In retrospect, mostly, we just got drunk. Young guys. We didn’t have a lots of tools in the old tool box, eh.

* * * *

On the 8th of May, Maureen made her decision. She had most likely known all along what she was going to do, but that was the day she decided to tell me. She invited me over to her house and made me a really nice meal. I think we had sex, one last time. It was probably my going away present. As far as presents go, that’s a pretty nice present. But it wasn’t the same–there was no making love involved–and I don’t think either one of us enjoyed it anywhere near as much as we had in the past.

“I’ve made a decision.” She started out saying something like unto that after she had done everything she could to soften what would be the cruelest of blows to me, and that was all I really needed to hear. “I think we should break up. It’s not that I don’t love you anymore. It’s the distance and being apart.” She may have said more, she probably did. I didn’t hear any of it.

“Okay. I understand.” I said something like unto that when she finished.

“That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Aren’t you going to fight for me?!?”

I don’t think I had any response to that. Who was I supposed to fight? Geography? Rick? Time and Space? The Army? Her? And what was I supposed to say? She already knew I loved her. That didn’t seem to be tipping the scales in my favor, and that was all I had to offer her.

I’m sure I should have said something. I should have said anything! But I had nothing to say, no answer to her demand. She had chosen someone else over me, and there was nothing left inside of me. Part of me got dead that night, and it stayed dead for a very long time. Actually, I’m not sure it ever came back to life. Maybe it was never there, that’s a possibility, too.

I drove back to the empty house I was occupying, and all I wanted to do was die. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that empty. I didn’t think it was wise for me to be alone, so I called my best friend. The one who had just stopped being my best friend.

I’m not sure if I talked to Maureen that night or not, but I did talk to Dan. I think he was Roommate Colleen’s boyfriend, and Dan did something extraordinary. He came over to talk to me, face to face, and kept me alive that night. We drank a lots of beer, of course, and talked all night.

I’m not sure if I ever thanked him, but thank you, Dan. That was a stand up thing to do.

* * * *

Friday, May 9, 1975. I was supposed to fly back to Oklahoma the following day, but I couldn’t do it. I called my CO, and he extended my leave for another week after listening to my tale of heart wretching woe.

I went out with Dave that night. I was a single man on the prowl, so I sat at the bar and cried in my beer. That’s pretty close to the truth. I was about as much fun to be around as a suicide bomber.

I no longer remember which bar we went to, but Dave and his girlfriend were there, and probably another girl Dave was hoping would distract me from my misery. The fact that I can’t remember her name indicates how successful she was. And just like that rainy January night in Oklahoma when I was overcome with despair and loneliness, I suddenly couldn’t stand being around anyone, and decided to go for a walk.

It wasn’t raining that night in Montana. I had nothing to impede my progress as I left the bar and marched in the darkness toward my sister’s house, which was on the far end of town from the bar I’d been at. I didn’t care. I probably would’ve walked all the way back to Oklahoma if the idea had occurred to me. Nothing slowed me down, I looked neither to the right or the left, until I ran into the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

The county fairgrounds are huge, and they’re surrounded by a tall wire fence with strands of barbed wire running across the top. I could’ve walked around the fairgrounds, but I was young and drunk and pissed off, and no goddamn fence was going to stand in my way.

I climbed the fence, and walked across the fairgrounds until I reached the fence on the far side of the grounds. I had conquered the first fence without an hiccough, so I scaled the second, but this time the fence fought back. As I was coming down, my right hand got kind of tangled in the barbed wire.

I sustained a wound on my right hand/wrist. I was bleeding, but not too badly. I ignored it until I reached my sister’s empty house, and I took a look at it in the bathroom.

I spent a fair amount of time staring at my reflection in the mirror. The abhorrence I felt toward everyone in the bar transferred itself to my reflection. The feelings I had been struggling not to feel  since the age of seven boiled over.

I saw a pack of razor blades on the counter…  My wrist was already bleeding…  Might as well open that sucker up and let everything out…  I knew I had to cut between the tendons and ligaments on my wrist…

My first few attempts were pretty lame, but that fourth one, that stuck gold. I was actually surprised I cut as deep as I did, but that feeling faded almost immediately. I didn’t feel anything after that, not even pain. I laid down on the floor, stretching my right arm out away from my body. I didn’t want to accidentally lay on it and impede the flow of blood out of my body, and said goodbye to my life and this world.

* * * *

A little background information here. It sounds as though I had done a lots of research into how to kill myself, and that is not true. One of my Army buddies was a guy named Joe Parnell, and Joe had spent some time in prison.

Life in prison isn’t anywhere near as much fun as they make it look on TV, and Joe decided he couldn’t take another minute of being incarcerated. So he slit his wrist. I noticed the scars on his wrist one day when we were getting high at the barracks, and asked him about them.

It was Joe who had explained the dynamics of cutting one’s wrist correctly to me. And that was why I extended my arm. Joe said he would’ve died to death except for one little thing. He didn’t extend his arm, and the weight of his body diminished the blood flow out of his body enough that he was still alive when the guards found him.

He said it was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. Even stupider than the stupid stuff he’d done to get his ass thrown into prison.

* * * *

It was weird. Great descriptive term there, but I lack any other word or phrase, and I’ve thought about this a lots.

I felt someone shaking my shoulder, waking me up. Leave me alone! I thought, but the shaking sensation persisted. I woke up and turned to see who was disturbing me.

There was no one there. Just a kind of ting-ly feeling in the air. It gave me goosebumps. Actually, it still does. It just did.

I saw my wrist, and the pool of blood on the floor. I have no idea how long I had laid there. I knew this was wrong, and stupid, and I needed to do something to stop it. I called the local crisis line, and told the person on the other end I needed urgent help, and I had no transportation.

While I waited for someone to come get me, I wrapped a towel around my wrist so I wouldn’t bleed all over everything, and cleaned up the pool of coagulating blood on the floor.

I’m pretty sure I wondered why I was still alive. I have given that a lots of thought over the years, and this was what I eventually concluded: I got lucky. I somehow managed to miss every artery in that area of my right wrist, so instead of quickly bleeding out, I more or less oozed however much blood I lost. The pool of blood I cleaned up was about one foot wide and maybe a foot and a foot and an half long.

Obviously, I didn’t lose enough blood to got dead, but it was enough to make me feel very lightheaded while I cleaned up. There was another reason I didn’t got dead, and that will be revealed shortly.

An orange Volkswagen microbus pulled into the driveway, and a hippie looking guy drove me to the St Patrick Hospital ER. My wound was cleaned, and sutured, and then the doctor asked me what I wanted to do. He could admit me to the pysch unit, but if I promised I wouldn’t try to harm myself again, I could go home.

I know, right! All of my psych nurse colleagues will have an hard time believing this. I would feel the irony of that for decades to come.

“I’m good. I made a bad decision, but I’m past that. I’ll go home, and sleep. I’ll be okay.” And I meant that. I would think about taking my life countless times over the following years, but I would never make an intentional attempt like that again.

The sun was coming up as the hippie looking guy drove me back to my sister’s house. I cried tears of joy to see that sunrise. And I told the hippie looking guy about the angel that woke me up, and saved my life.

“Wow, that’s far out, man. God must have another plan for you, man. That slash on your wrist looked pretty bad.”

That, was the other reason.

It was at that moment I started to believe God really did have a plan for me. I hadn’t narrowed it down to becoming a prophet yet, but I was alive, and I was alive for a reason. That was the precise moment my quest for God and the Truth began.

I have three scars on my right wrist, two fairly superficial, one very substantial. It’s about two inches long, and maybe half an inch at its widest point. The ER doc did a crappy job sewing me back up.

I’ve told a few people the entire story of how I got my scars, and several more a very condensed version of how I got them, but mostly I try to keep them from view.

* * * *

In retrospect, I probably should have just gone back to Oklahoma, rather than prolong my misery and hang around Missoula for another week. Dave showed up at my sister’s house early Saturday morning to check up on me, and saw the bandage on my wrist.

“Jesus, Rowen! You stupid sonuvabitch!! What the fuck did you do!!!” he said. I told him everything.

“Well, there’s only one thing to do. We’ve got to get you out of here.”

I can’t remember everywhere we went, but we drove my brother-in-law’s Land Cruiser, and we eventually ended up at the Aber Day Kegger. The ADK was a monster beer bash sponsored by the University of Montana. It was legendary, back in the day. A lots and lots and lots of kegs and a lots of bands and live music. Thousands of people went to the ADK.

My right wrist was bandaged. I was wearing a T-shirt and a long sleeve wool shirt. But it was very warm that day, and I rolled the sleeves of my shirt up to cool down a little. I was alive and the sun was shining. I sat on the mountainside drinking beer and listening to the music. I think I actually felt almost not totally miserable for the first time in a week.

And who I did run into in that crowd of thousands of people?

Rick and Maureen. I think that was the only time I met him. We might have even shook hands. I can’t remember for sure.

“What did you do?” Maureen asked when she saw my bandaged wrist.

“It’s nothing.” I replied. Something like that. Rick stepped away and let us talk. I don’t think he was all that happy to do it, but he did, and that was very nice of him.

I eventually told Maureen a very condensed version of events, but enough for her to know it was no accident. She said she would’ve been devastated if anything had happened to me. And I know I thought, Good! Then you’d know how I feel!

I told her to have fun or something, and walked away. I stayed mostly in that general area, hoping to decrease the odds of us continually running into each other throughout the day.

Dave gave me a little pep talk at the ADK. Maureen wasn’t the only girl on the planet. There were millions of them out there. I’d meet a lots of girls, and all of them would be better than that fuckin’ two-timing, backstabbing bitch. I can’t remember how long Dave and I stayed at the kegger, and I can’t remember anything of what happened after we left. I’m pretty sure I actually slept that night.

When I woke up the next morning, I tried to make some sense out of everything that had happened. I stared at the self-inflicted wounds on my wrist. I remembered seeing Maureen at the ADK. I remembered the music, and Dave’s pep talk.

I decided I would take Dave’s advice and try to move on, and I would try like hell to hate Maureen, and fail miserably at both.

* * * *

I spent the last week of my extended vacation in Missoula howling at the moon and getting drunk with Dave. He did his best to cheer me up by trying to hook me up with girls, and I was such a pathetic mess I mostly talked to them about how much I loved the woman who had broken my heart into a hundred million pieces, like unto the Portland vase.

She was the girl of my dreams, literally.

Before I ever started dating Maureen, I dreamed about her almost every night. And it wasn’t a daydream dream where I imagined us being together. She would come to me in my sleep.

I can’t remember if I dreamed about her while we dated, but I probably did. I spent almost every night with her for two years after we broke up. I would dream of her with decreasing frequency as the years lengthened. I think the last time I dreamt of her was just before we moved to Mexico.

I’m guessing the next time she visits me in a dream she’ll tell me she’ll kill me in my fucking sleep if I ever write another post about her.

Ah, my once beloved, I am so sorry for any pain I’ve ever caused you.

* * * *

Maureen and I would talk several times on the phone that last week. I’m not sure we talked in person. It’s possible…  She listened politely while I cried and whined on her shoulder, like any best friend would. I was such a pathetic lovesick whining crybaby. It embarrasses me to think about it now.

It was really nice of her to do that, and I’m not joking when I say I was a pathetic sissifated sniffle-snaffle mess of an human being.

All good things must end, and so must all lousy things. The days and nights of that week flew by relatively quickly. This time I had to return to Oklahoma.

Saturday, May 17, 1975. Maureen came over to see me at my sister’s house before my flight back to Oklahoma. We both cried. And cried. And cried. I think I used up two decades worth of tears in two hours. I told her I would love her until the day after I died. She told me she would probably always love me too. She may have taken me to the airport. That’s also possible, but again, my memory fails me.

That was the last time I saw Maureen.

I’ve been back to Missoula several times since then. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope I’d run into her somewhere in town. Alas, it was not to be.

I would eventually stop crying and start dating again. I would break up with some of the girls I dated after Maureen. Some of them broke up with me. Either I grew tired of them, or they were tired of me, but there was no ambiguity about saying goodbye on anyone’s part.

That was perhaps the oddest thing about our breakup. We didn’t break up because we no longer loved or cared for one another, or one of us no longer felt that way. We broke up despite the fact that we were both still in love with each other.

It would take me at least five years to realize Maureen and I had actually broken up, and that’s why every relationship I was in during that timeframe failed.

It would probably take me another five years to realize that Maureen and I would never get back together again. And if my high school sweetheart didn’t think I was a pathetic lovesick whining crybaby, she probably will if she reads this.

I carried that torch for a long time.

Time heals all emotional wounds, right? Well, only if you make a choice that you want to be healed.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you may have noticed I am somewhat of an hopeless romantic. I have stated that I still have affectionate feelings for some of the darling women I dated before I got married.

I even have affectionate feelings for one woman I never actually dated.

Somewhere deep inside me, I still love Maureen, too.

I haven’t seen my former sweetheart in over four decades. Do I love her now like I loved her then? No, I don’t. Neither of us are nineteen anymore, thank God. We’ve traveled thousands of miles on different paths. She has a family, and children, and grandchildren. I doubt very much she’d trade any of that for what we once shared.

I’ve been married to my lovely supermodel wife for almost three decades. We have a great life together, and I wouldn’t change a thing that got us to the very satisfied and comfortable place we are now. We are, and always will be, very much in love. I cannot imagine my life without her.

There’s no going back to that place again, and it would be foolish to think it could ever be recreated. The flames of Love are like unto snowflakes, each unique and different. And once a flame goes out, it’s extinguished forever.

And then there’s this: there’s no guarantee that if we had decided to stay together back then, we’d still be together now. Given the path of self-destructive behavior I was walking back then, I probably would’ve destroyed her life as well as mine, and then I really would’ve had to end my life.

Plus, she would most likely be the mother of my children, and there’s no telling what sort of price the world would have to pay for that. I was cursed by my own mother, and even the thought of Mark Junior running rampant on this planet sends chills down my spine.

Everything happens for a reason.

Only God sees everything perfectly from beginning to end, if even He does. But the reason for this chapter of my life hasn’t been all that important to me for quite some time. Now that I’ve purged this chapter, maybe I can file it away in my Do Not Open Again Ever File.

My Muse and I can both move on. And I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

Prom

I mentioned in a previous post that I went to the Prom three times, twice in high school, and a third time a couple of years after I got out of the Army.

I went to Loyola High School in Missoula, MT. With a name like Loyola, you know it has to be Catholic, and it has to be Jesuit. It was an all-boy school, but right across the street from Loyola was Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school.

LHS and SHA were essentially one high school in everything but name, and buildings. Loyola was a nondescript two story brick building that looked like an outhouse compared to Sacred Heart.

Sacred Heart was an huge, antique-looking wooden building, three or four stories high. It wasn’t just a school, it was an historical landmark, and I think it used to be a convent. If you wandered the hallways on the top floors, you could find the rooms where the nuns or acolytes used to sleep. There were beds in some of the rooms. It was one of the coolest buildings in Missoula, ever.

The two schools shared classrooms and faculty. The cheerleaders for Loyola’s sports teams came from Sacred Heart. And the Loyola boys tended to date the Sacred Heart girls. LHS and SHA merged to officially become one school the year after I graduated, and moved to a new location.

The Loyola building is still standing, empty. It’s kind of sad. The old Sacred Heart building is now a parking lot for St Patrick Hospital, and that is very sad. I just about went into shock the last time I visited Missoula in 1999.

So many memories, good and not so good; that relatively idyllic time so long ago–before life started kicking me in the balls and my first dreams died–all turned bittersweet and more poignant in the realization that time waits for no one, and nuns can be even more mercenary than me.

It’s really too bad they were allowed to destroy that building, but they saw their opportunity to get rid of it, and they took it, those bitches.

* * * *

I wasn’t planning on going to the Prom when I was a junior. I didn’t have a girlfriend. And I was ridiculously shy around any member of the opposite sex. Well, it was high school…  There was one girl I wanted to ask out, but she was way out of my league, and there was no way I could even think about asking her out without dying to death in the process.

On the night in question, I was with my good friend, Andy Hyde. We dropped in to see one of our lay teachers, a skinny gal with long curly hair. I think her name was Rose, maybe…  I can’t remember how the subject of Prom got into the discussion, but it did.

I think Andy already had a date, MaryAnn Marshall. She was a rather buxom blonde who didn’t attend Sacred Heart. And I think he was probably trying to get me to go to the Prom because I had a car, and then he and his date could ride with me and my date.

I had a 1963 Dodge Dart stationwagon back then. I was the only one of my group of friends that had a car, so…

At any rate, following the strong encouragement of everyone in the room, I called Colleen Dowdall with the telephone in Rose’s kitchen and asked her to the Prom. It was a jump ball as to which of us was more surprised. It was probably the first time I had ever spoken to Colleen in the three years I had been going to school with her.

Colleen was a tiny girl with very long brown hair. She was attractive, and super smart. I had some classes with Colleen, so I knew who she was, and she knew who I was, and that probably surprised me. I saw myself as essentially invisible most of my time in high school.

I was probably the Guy Most People Would Forget in my class.

Colleen didn’t have a date for Prom. She was thrilled that I called to ask her. And that’s how I ended up going to the Prom the first time.

* * * *

Prom Night! I wore a powder blue tuxedo, and I totally rocked that sucker. Andy and I picked up our dates, Colleen and MaryAnn. We went to the restaurant at the Edgewater Inn, which might have been the nicest restaurant in Missoula back then.

Missoula has probably become the hipest, most eclectic city in Montana, and there are a lots of fine dining venues available now. But way back then it was a cowboy university town, and I doubt there were many hip places anywhere in the state.

I think some of the menu items were written in French, and I probably tried to impress my date by ordering in French because I was taking French in school, Je vais avoir l’éléphant à la mode, et un ordre de parapluies sur le côté. Thank God the restaurant was out of elephants. And umbrellas. Our server suggested I try one of the steaks instead.

After a delicious meal, we probably drank some beer in my car before we went to the Prom to dance the night away. And then a funny thing happened. Colleen and MaryAnn went to the bathroom, and when they returned, MaryAnn sat next to me and Colleen sat next to Andy.

“We decided to switch dates.” MaryAnn explained. “Colleen really likes Andy, and I think you’re really cute.”

So Andy and I and Colleen and MaryAnn kind of made history by being the first Prom date swappers at our high school.

And to crown the night off, we all went to the Go West Drive In Theater. Andy and I worked at the Go West, so we went there to show our gay bosses our dates. I think our gay bosses fell in love with dresses our dates were wearing.

I spent the rest of the night in the backseat of my car kissing my new date and playing with her ample chest. My time with MaryAnn would be brief. She would meet another guy she thought was really cute, my other good friend from high school, Dave Nelson, and MaryAnn and I were fini.

* * * *

Fast forward to senior year. I was dating my high school sweetheart, the beautiful and talented Maureen Ann Browne, the girl I didn’t think would give me the time of day one year earlier.

In one of those odd twists of fate, Colleen and Maureen were the best of friends, and I think it was Colleen who suggested I ask her friend out. I did, and I couldn’t believe she said, Yes! We kind of hit it off, and we went out a few more times, and then we really hit it off. We started seriously dating, and were a couple throughout our senior year.

I remember it as one of the happiest times of my life, and that simultaneously brief yet endless time with Maureen was probably the most head over heels in love that I would ever be with anyone. That whole first love thing, you know…

For my second Prom experience, I wore a light gray tuxedo. Maureen and I would double date with Andy and Colleen, but I think my buddy, Dave Nelson, and his date also rode along with us. I don’t think he was still dating MaryAnn. She probably dumped him for yet another really cute guy…

However many of us there were that night, we all went to eat at the restaurant at the Edgewater Inn again. Our server recognized me said he could check with the chef, but he was pretty sure they had just received a shipment of elephant. And umbrellas.

I ordered a steak. In English.

We probably drank beer in my car after our meal. Or Boone’s Farm! Remember that shit? God, that stuff was awful. But we drank it by the fuckin’ gallon. And then we danced the night away.

There was most likely another trip to the Go West, and our gay bosses fell in love with a different set of Prom dresses.

I know I spent that night kissing Maureen. She was very good at kissing. Almost exactly one year later, I would see Maureen for the last time in my life when we decided to break up.

I would shed tears like unto an hurricane of heartache and grief and loss. I had never cried like that before. Or since. And because I was young, stupid and heartbroken, I would try to intentionally take my life.

* * * *

Fast forward four years. I would go to the Prom for the last time in Minnesota, and I can probably thank Shorty Girtz for that.

Shorty owned and operated a service station in Rice, MN. And all the local potheads and misfits tended to congregate there. Shorty tended to bring home strays, I think that’s how someone described it. And one of the strays he brought into his station was Meredith.

Meredith was a senior in high school, and Shorty gave her job standing behind the cash register. I don’t know if she even knew how to open the cash register. She described herself as Shorty’s office manager, whatever the hell that meant. She may have tried to organize Shorty’s business, but it would’ve been easier to to colonize Mars. By building a bridge to walk there. From Earth. Meredith didn’t last long in any capacity at Shorty’s.

At any rate, there was a reason Meredith worked at Shorty’s, and she fit in perfectly with all the other misfits. And then came the day that I dropped in at Shorty’s to find his office manager crying uncontrollably in her boss’s office.

“Hey! What’s going on, Meri?” I decided to ask. I had a tendency to do stupid stuff like that, especially if a woman was crying. It would take me a few years working as a psych nurse to not be effected by a woman’s tears.

Somehow, between sobbing breaths, Meridith was able to inform me that she hadn’t been asked to the Prom, and she more or less wanted to die.

“Is that all? Hell, I’ll take you to the Prom if you’ll stop crying.”

“REALLY?!?”

And that was how I ended up going to the Prom for the third time.

I rented a black tuxedo, and took Meredith to a really nice restaurant on the Mississippi River called Portside. I asked our server if they had elephant à la mode.

“I could check with the kitchen…” she said. And she was serious. I ordered a steak, and a bottle of wine. I think I was able to talk our server into allowing my date to drink a couple glasses of wine, even though Meridith wasn’t of legal drinking age. It was the Prom!

I don’t really remember much about my last Prom, except I fell in love with Meredith’s best friend, Jackie. I would end up dating her for several months. She was a lots of fun for awhile there. When Jackie and I parted ways, I started dating the Banana Split Girls.

I won’t be going to another Prom in this lifetime, not even as a chaperone. I don’t think they have Proms in Mexico. I should talk to someone about that. It would give the Mexicans another reason to celebrate, and I have never seen a group of people that loves to party as much as the Mexicans do, including bikers.

I have to say I had a good time at all three Proms I attended, and I hope my four dates had a good time, too.

Gots To Go Shoppin’

If you’re wondering what Stevie Ray Vaughan has to do with a story about shopping, you can thank my former colleague, but still my good friend and mentor, Sondra Roberts.

She misheard the lyrics to Cold Shot.

And that’s a cold shot, baby became Gots to go shoppin’.

Yeah, I don’t know how that could happen either. I mean, Stevie Ray doesn’t look like someone overly preoccupied with his wardrobe to me. Nor does he strike me as the sort of rockstar guy that would write a song about shopping. But, thanks to Sondra, that’s how I hear this song whenever it comes on the radio.

I listen to a classic rock station out of Guadalajara when I’m in my car. 90.7 FM. They play SRV on occasion. And I love how they introduce the Beatles. Juan, Pablo, Jorge y Gringo!

Not really. I made that up.

* * * *

A little status update for those of you that have been worrying about my back. It’s better. It’s not as good as it once was, but it was almost totally messed up for about a month, so it’ll hopefully continue to improve.

Anyone want a brown leather captain’s chair? Low mileage…

I’m evidently adjusting to a life of leisure, and that’s a good thing. This is what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life.

I still find it hard to believe that we’re living in Mexico. We loved living in Minneapolis, except for freezing to death in the winter, which lasted forever. It was colder than a mammoth’s ass.

My darling daughter, Abigail, had a friend that lived in Florida. Abi called her friend one winter’s day, and told her friend it was forty below.

“Below what?” her friend asked.

“Below zero…”

“Oh! I didn’t know it could go below zero!”

Yeah, that actually happened.

So when Lea was offered a job in Arizona, we moved to Phoenix because it was warm. And I hated the summer. It was hotter than Christmas. On the sun!

The average annual temperature in the Lakeside area is 75°. It’s pretty hard to beat. No need for air conditioning, no need for a furnace. We do have a gas fireplace to take the morning chill out of the house.

* * * *

We went shopping in Guadalajara today, me and my two retirement wives. It’s something the ex-pats living in the Lakeside area do about once a month or so.

Guad, as the ex-pats call it, is about forty miles northwest of Lakeside. It’s the second largest city in Mexico, and it has all the Big Box Stores that Americans can’t live without, like, Costco® and Home Depot®. And Starbucks®.

We went to Costco® today. There are some advantages to buying in bulk, like, fewer trips to Guadalajara. But shopping in Mexico is vastly different than it is in the States. Mexico is a cash based economy. Most places don’t accept credit/debit cards. The Big Box Stores in Guadalajara do. Probably another reason why the ex-pats love to shop them.

Granted, it’s better to pay cash than charge any item you buy, but I haven’t carried any sizable amount of cash for a couple decades. I’ll adjust, but it’s still very different.

If there’s one thing I miss about America, aside from family and friends and speaking English, it’s the convenience of the shopping experience, especially online shopping. I love Amazon.com. Amazon exists in Mexico, but I haven’t figured out how to send them $16,000 pesos electronically yet. By the way, that’s about $800 USD. Your money goes a lots farther in Mexico.

* * * *

As a married guy, shopping was one of my least favorite things to do when I first got married, and that was because of the difference between the way Lea and I shopped.

I viewed shopping as a rescue mission. You locate your target, you secure it, and you get the hell out with as little bloodshed as possible.

I would go grocery shopping at 2:00 AM because there was no one else in the store. I could fly down the aisles, fill up my cart and be checked out in twenty to thirty minutes.

Lea, on the other hand, viewed shopping as an all day joy-filled retail adventure. It wasn’t about the kill, it was the chase. Except grocery shopping, she hated grocery shopping, too.

But shopping for anything else, was heaven to her. To me, it was hell.

I can’t remember what the occasion was, but my lovely supermodel wife needed a new dress. She described it to me as we were driving to the mall, and I found her dress in five minutes.

“Okay, let’s buy this thing and get the hell out of here!”I said.

“Um, no. Now we have to compare prices. And I’m going to need shoes. And maybe a little clutch purse. And probably a necklace. And earrings…”

I wanted to die.

We went to, like, twenty stores. Lea couldn’t find another dress that she liked as much as the one I found in five minutes, so five hours later we went back and bought the dress. Then we went to three or four shoe stores, and the only good thing about that was she was able to find the shoes and all the accessories she was looking for at the same shoe store.

* * * *

I can’t blame anyone but myself for our furniture shopping experience. Lea said she had something she wanted to talk to me about, and she’d been thinking about it for awhile.

If you’re a recently married guy, or you’re about to get married, if your significant other says something like that to you, pay attention!

Unfortunately, I decided to go to my Nothing Box and think about tits, or food, or something. But I was pulled out of my reverie by this line, “So, what do you think?”

I didn’t want my lovely supermodel wife to know that I hadn’t been listening, so I said, “Yeah, sure. Whatever you think.”

“Okay! Let’s go!!”

“Um, where are we going? I decided to ask.

“To buy new living room furniture!”

Yeah. That actually happened, too.

We sold that furniture when we moved to Mexico. I can’t remember how much we paid for it, but I know the people we sold it to got the deal of the century.

* * * *

We’re going shopping at the Ajijic Farmer’s Market tomorrow. I love the Farmer’s Market. There are several open air markets down here. They’re all pretty cool.

I don’t hate shopping as much as I once did. Mostly because my lovely supermodel wife has changed her shopping habits. She has become as mercenary as me.

We’ll be in and out tomorrow in twenty minutes. Cash only.

Fine Dining

Back before I became a nurse, and a married guy, my idea of fine dining was anything my mom cooked. Well, there was Prom. I went to three Proms, and I took my dates to really nice restaurants.

I doubt many high school kids read my blog, but you’re an young man in high school, and you’re planning on going to the Prom, don’t take your date to Denny’s® if you want to get laid. You’re not even going to cop a feel if that’s the best you can do.

My lovely supermodel wife would introduce me to the concept of fine dining, and fashion, and style, and taste. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be anywhere near as suave and sophisticated as I’ve become if not for her. Provided I’ve actually become either one of those things. It’s hard to tell with me.

I’m not sure when my education in the Culinary Arts began, but I remember it as the first time we went to Morton’s of Chicago.

If you’ve never been to Morton’s, start saving some cash now, and make a reservation. You’ll probably need both, especially the cash. Fine dining doesn’t have to be expensive, but it’s rarely cheap, so keep that in mind.

Most fine dining establishments have a dress code, though that’s changing. But I would recommend getting dressed up. It should be a special experience, and you’ll want to dress accordingly.

Morton’s has an à la carte menu. It’s a French term meaning, ordered by separate items. I thought it meant from the cart because a very attractive young woman came to our table with a cart that had a lots of food on it, and that’s how we ordered our meal.

On her cart was an amazing array of steaks and vegetables, and the largest lobster I had ever seen. The very attractive young woman would pick up an attractive steak wrapped in clear plastic, and describe it in glowing terms.

It was the first time I had seen a presentation like it, and I was enthralled. The very attractive young woman was wearing a very stylish low cut black mini dress, and she had really big…eyes. I loved watching her bend over to pick up the next very attractive steak and describe it.

And I loved watching her catch the lobster.

Little Known Fact About Live Losbsters in an à la Carte Menu Presentation: lobsters can’t be trained to sit and stay, like a dog. The very attractive young woman explained that the lobsters were usually semi-frozen because a cold lobster tends to not try to run away, but she had been displaying steaks and stuff for awhile, and this lobster was pretty thawed out. All he wanted to do was get back to the nearest ocean.

So, the very attractive young woman with the really big eyes would hold up a very attractive steak and describe it in glowing terms, then reach for the lobster and put it back on a silver tray before it jumped off of the cart and scurried under the nearest table.

It was so darlingpreshadorbs, and I wouldn’t know that term even existed until I met my darling work daughters about twenty years later.

The very attractive young woman was able to complete her descriptions of the very attractive steaks, and keep the lobster from escaping by bending over a lots and placing the runaway lobster back on the silver tray.

I was actually praying the lobster would escape because I would’ve loved to have seen the very attractive young woman crawl on the floor trying to catch the lobster in that slinky, skintight mini dress she was wearing. I probably would’ve started throwing money at her, which my lovely supermodel wife told me would’ve been incredibly inappropriate.

And then the very attractive young woman showed us the vegetables we could order as side dishes.

“This is our baked potato. It’s from Idaho, of course.” she said, holding up a potato about the size of a fucking football.

“There’s no way I could eat that.” I replied, and ordered the broccoli. When my meal was served, I got two heads of broccoli. Clearly, conservation of resources isn’t a big priority at places like Morton’s.

I have dined at a lots of really exceptional restaurants over the years. The food is usually to die for, and the service is almost always beyond compare. I’m sure it was also expensive as hell. It’s called fine dining for a reason.

I’ve had better meals than the one I had at Morton’s. I’ve even had better steaks, which is my idea of Nature’s perfect food. But our experience at Morton’s is at the top of my list of great dining experiences.

I absolutely loved that presentation with the runaway lobster. And I still wish he had gotten away.

How to Save a Life

As a nurse, I was given the opportunity to save at least a couple of lives during my career. I never had to talk someone off of a ledge or anything cool like that, but I did talk to a lots of depressed people and helped them try to find a reason to keep living.

That’s really the key to surviving a serious bout of depression. Not killing yourself. Suicide greatly decreases your chances of ever getting better. And it really, really messes up your family. Suicide is never a good idea. Talk to someone. Get some help. Do something!

Please.

When I was a nurse, I was certified in CPR. I think it’s probably a requirement for most nurses nowadays. I went through periodic recertification every year or two. And you need that refresher training, unless you do a lots of CPR. It was a skill I had to utilize only a few times in my career.

I think the only time that I may have saved someone with CPR was at the MVAMC. It was in the dead of night, of course. An old manic guy had collapsed in his room, and one of the other nurses discovered him laying on the floor, unresponsive. She called out for help, and all nurses on the floor went running.

If you don’t perform a lots of CPR, it’s kind of a tricksy thing. There’s a series of steps you’re supposed to follow, but in an emergency you tend not to remember them, and you can’t call a time out to check the manual. Adrenaline takes over your brain, and you just react.

This guy wasn’t breathing and I couldn’t feel a pulse, so I started chest compressions. And, I probably broke half of his ribs. That’s actually normal, especially with an elderly patient.

If you’ve never had a broken rib, or a lots of broken ribs, it kind of hurts like hell. And that’s probably what revived the old manic guy I was working on more than anything else. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes, and then punched me in the mouth, splitting my lower lip open.

Oscar Wilde was correct, again. No good deed goes unpunished.

I’ve unsuccessfully performed CPR a couple of times. Unlike TV, where everyone needing CPR survives and lives happily ever after, there’s about a 10% success rate in reality, and not everyone that survives lives happily ever after.

That’s why healthcare professionals have Advanced Directives and Living Wills, and 80% of us are DNR/DNI. If I collapse in front of you, just step over my body and keep on walking. I will fucking sue you if you even think about touching me.

I’m serious. I may punch you in the mouth.

I was a psych nurse, and there’s a little known fact about Psychiatry. The vast majority of our patients were sincerely depressed and suicidal while they were being assessed for admission. And the moment they learned they were going to be admitted, they were no longer suicidal.

In order to get admitted, you had to meet criteria. If you so much as whispered the S-word, you had to be admitted. And believe me, our patients knew the drill. Getting into the hospital was their primary objective. Their lives had gone to hell, and the hospital was their sanctuary and refuge.

There are many anxiety provoking aspects of psych nursing, but one of the worst is a patient that sincerely wants to kill themself after they’re admitted.

If someone truly wants to kill themself, they’ll eventually find a way. It’s true. I could suggest you talk to someone that committed suicide, but…

Our objective as nurses was to make sure they didn’t find a way to kill themselves while they were in the hospital. I had four patients take their lives while they were on my unit in my thirty years as a psych nurse, and it was a traumatic experience for everyone, staff and patients, every time.

I performed CPR on two of them, and I knew both times I wasn’t going to be bringing either one of them back. You don’t have to be a coroner to know when you’re looking at a dead person. They became organ donors, so they were able to help others in that regard. I do not recommend this method of organ donation, ever.

Life and death, they become part of the job when you work in healthcare. You win some, you lose some. You go on, or you quit because you can’t deal with it anymore.

But what if you’re not an healthcare professional? And you don’t have a lots of training? What if you’re just a guy riding your bike to work one morning? Then you might be my brother, Tom.

* * * *

My brother used to be a cook at the Perkins® restaurant in Sauk Rapids, MN. Like me, when I was I nursing school, he had a car that started about half of the time he wanted to drive it, and when it wouldn’t start, he rode his bike to work.

It must’ve been a morning that his car wouldn’t start, hence, the bike. And as he was pedaling his way to work, a panic-stricken woman ran toward him, screaming.

“Help! Help me! My son! I think he’s dead!” And she pointed toward a pickup truck in the yard, then ran to the house to call 911.

Her son was a teenage boy, and his head was stuck in the door of his truck, which was up against a tree in the yard. There’s a bit of a backstory to this. The boy was teaching his younger sister how to drive his truck. I’m not sure why they were driving in the yard, but it was Minnesota…

So, his sister was driving, and her brother was walking beside the passenger side of the truck, with the door open, giving her instructions on how to shift the manual transmission. I’m going to guess everything was going fine, until the truck got close to the tree. It was a really big tree.

It’s kind of difficult to imagine how something like this could actually happen, but the girl drove the truck really close to the tree–the passenger door of the truck was right up against the trunk of the tree–and wedged in between the door and the body of his truck was the head of the teenage boy, with the tree trunk as a giant doorstop holding the kid’s head hostage.

“His head was really fuckin’ stuck! His neck was caught between the door and the chassis and the tree. It was something so stupid even you couldn’t have done that!” Tom said, when he described the incident to me. “I tried to pull him out, but I couldn’t. So I ran around to the driver’s side. The girl that was driving was scared shitless. She was white as ghost. She had one foot on clutch, and the other on the brake, and her legs were shaking like crazy. Her brother was making all these weird choking noises, and his face was purple.

“I told the girl to shift into reverse, and she said, ‘I don’t know how!’ She was beyond freaked out, you know? She couldn’t fuckin’ move! The truck was in gear, if her foot would’ve slipped off the clutch, she would’ve chopped her brother’s head off, just like that.

“So I reached across her, and shifted it into reverse, then I lifted her leg just enough to engage the transmission to back the truck up. And when her brother fell to the ground, I reached in and shut the truck off, you know, so she wouldn’t run him over.

“I don’t know how long the kid had been stuck like that, but he didn’t look good. I mean, I thought he was dead. He wasn’t breathing, and his face was all purple and shit. I figured he needed CPR, you know, but I wasn’t gonna kiss him! So I just pushed on his chest, real hard, and then he started breathing again. And then he started looking better, and not all purple and shit anymore, and that was a big relief.

“I could hear sirens coming, so I figured an ambulance was on the way. So, I got on my bike and went to work. I didn’t want to be late.”

And that’s how my own bro became the Unknown Hero of Sauk Rapids. And he probably saved that kid’s life. I know his mother thought Tom had saved her son’s life. And his scared shitless sister did too.

I’m not sure if that kid ever tried teaching his sister how to drive again, but I doubt he ever tried teaching her by walking next to the truck with the door open again.

Tom wouldn’t stay the Unknown Hero. The next time he had to ride his bike to work, the entire family came running out of the house to thank him when they saw him pedaling down the road. They more or less adopted him as their official Wonderful Guy. A few years later when Tom almost got dead from a motor vehicle accident, they all came to visit him at the hospital.

* * * *

The accident my brother was in was because of something stupid Gary did while driving his car, and Tom was his passenger. Dan, Shorty and I would hear Tom’s version of the story, and Gary’s. Tom’s version won. And Gary was officially stupid, stupid, stupid.

Gary’s car was totaled in the accident, and his leg was smashed all to bits. He had to be put back together with metal rods and a lots of screws. He would spend close to a month in the hospital.

Tom had been hospitalized overnight for observation, and there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with him, so he was released the next day. I think it was a Sunday. I drove down to whatever little podunk town Tom and Gary had been in at the time of the accident to pick my brother up.

Tom and I were roommates at that time of our lives, and that would’ve been around January of 1980, I think. I had just started surgical technician school. We had an apartment across the street from the Vo-Tech.

A night or two later, my brother started complaining of severe abdominal pain, and his belly looked like a damn watermelon. I possibly helped save Tom’s life by recognizing his spleen had ruptured and got his ass to the St Cloud Hospital where he had emergency surgery.

Tom has never forgiven Gary for almost killing him to death.

But we all did stupid stuff back then, me and all of my friends from back in the day. Tom, Gary, Shorty and Dan. It’s probably more than a few miracles that any of us are still alive today.

Shorty almost killed me more than once, and he almost killed Dan to death and wrecked his motorcycle beyond all repair once. Dan almost got me dead at least once. I have no idea how many times I almost killed my best friends. You’d have to ask them. But we saved each other’s asses more times than any of us can count.

And that’s pretty much what life, and friendship, are all about.

The Kingdom of Heaven

It would appear God has my Muse by the short hairs. Maybe that means something. That would be nice. It’s not the most comfortable position for my Muse to be in, for sure. But, as in all things, it could be far worse, she could have a bad back…  On the bright side, once I get this out of my system, I’ll be freed to write about other things, unless God starts speaking to me.

Now that I think about that prospect, I’m not sure if I’m excited or terrified. I guess it would depend on what He has to say.

* * * *

Back when I was a psych nurse, I would occasionally engage my co-workers in religious discussions. As I said, I spent a lots of time thinking about the subject, and it was probably safer than talking about their tits.

Except with my ex-work wife, former Wonder Twin, Tara Grant Molden. She could talk about either subject with the same amount of ease. What a gal!

But one of my colleagues said something like unto this one day, “I go to church, but it’s a bunch of Biblical stuff, and who can understand that?” I know, right! And she was smart! Nice tits too, by the way. And one of the most confusing Biblical things was the Kingdom of Heaven.

When Jesus started his ministry, he did so by announcing, “The Kingdom of Heaven is upon you.” That’s what the Good News was. I guess it’s still the Good News.

Okay, class. What do you need to have a kingdom?

A king!

Yes. And what else?

A queen?

Maybe. What else?

A castle, with a throne?

Sure, why not. What else?

Um, subjects?

And that’s pretty much it. A kingdom is a group of people united under, and ruled by, a king. And that, was the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus was sent by God to create a divine government.

Somehow, that message has been diluted down over the years, and I think we can thank the Romans for that. The early Christians certainly had to be careful not to step on the toes of the Romans, or Rome would have stomped back, with both feet.

The Roman emperors were, well, jealous of anyone trying to usurp their status and power. Some of them were actually paranoid about it. The last thing the emperor wanted was a rival to his throne, even if that rival was a dead guy who became a god.

So, Jesus the King, was replaced by Jesus the Savior, and only a few-ish early Christians became martyrs, instead of all of them. And even though Christianity no longer has to worry about getting exterminated the Roman Empire, that message persists to this day. Jesus is mostly viewed as a savior first, and a king second, if at all.

But let’s review God’s purpose–what does God want? As near as I’ve been able to tell, what God wants, He tends to get.

“I have sworn by my own name; I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word: Every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess allegiance to me.”

That is the Book of Isaiah. This phrase is repeated and reaffirmed in the New Testament in Romans 14: 11. It is repeated again in Philippians, Chapter 2. 9, but this time, the focus is on Jesus. “Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Think of any novel or movie that has a king in it. Whenever any of his subjects are brought before the king, they drop to one knee in respect/allegiance and say, “My Lord.”  

Let’s go back to the vision of John in the Book of Revelation. Jesus Christ is about to return. He rides a white horse. On his head are many crowns. On his robe is written King of all kings and Lord of all Lords. It doesn’t say Savior of all saviors or Redeemer of all redeemers or Deliverer of all deliverers.

King of all kings. Lord of all lords.

When he returns, he comes to reclaim his kingdom.

This, I think, is the message the Holy Spirit will deliver. This is why you must listen to him. The King is coming. Everyone knee shall bow, every tongue proclaim; Jesus Christ is my sovereign lord.

There’s a word for failure to obey a king. It’s called treason. And treason is punishable by death.

* * * *

Most of the pastors I knew back in Arizona loved to talk about God, and Jesus, and faith, and stuff. After all, it was their job. But there was one topic none of them were wild about discussing, and that was the End of Times.

The end of the world has been predicted countless times down through the centuries, and there’s one thing that all of the predictions have in common.

They’ve all been wrong.

So, my questions to the pastors about the end were mostly deflected or ignored, and that was probably a pretty smart thing for them to do. I sent several pastors copies of my theory about the Holy Spirit and his role at the End of Times. The most complementary thing I heard back from them was my ideas appeared to have a strong Biblical and Scriptural foundation, but none of them had ever seen or heard anything like my idea before.

“Yes, I know. I’ve looked. I can’t find anything like it either.” was my response. And because it was something not seen or heard before, it was impossible for them to accept it as something that could be true.

I don’t choose to feel disappointed in them. I don’t know if my idea is correct. If I knew I was right about this, my reaction would probably be different.

So, I pray, and I think, and pray some more. And all I hear is a ringing noise in my left ear. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from God in my mind. And even if God did speak to me, that would hardly make my idea more acceptable to anyone else, even a pastor. Actually, especially a pastor.

They think they know more God than anyone.

* * * *

Jesus said, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail.”

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? How else? You have to work for it. Jesus explained it like this: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him,  ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’

“And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’

“But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

If I am nothing else, I am persistent. I’m not sure where it’s gotten me…

The most obvious question is, What am I supposed to ask for? Ask to be shown the Way. What am I supposed to seek? Seek the Truth. Well, why do I have to look? Because the Way and the Truth are hidden.

Jesus explained it this way: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.”

I’m not sure about the childlike part, but I have been described as ladylike. Maybe that will suffice.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.”

And what did they hear? They heard his voice.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.”

The most beautiful illustration of this comes from the Gospel of John, of course.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

And that was the precise moment she realized who he was. It was the way he said her name. I love that story.

* * * *

Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. And sometime prior to the end, Jesus will send the Holy Spirit to gather the sheep that can hear his call. This idea came to me back in 2010. I was convinced at the time that the Holy Spirit would appear any minute! And, then he didn’t.

See? Not a prophet.

Nonetheless, I’m convinced he’ll show up someday. I hope I’ll be around to see it. And when he comes, he will gather together all of the sheep that hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they will come to him when he calls. And those people will be the first subjects in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, how does one get into the Kingdom of Heaven? For that, I think you have to be able to hear the invitation.

Jesus used the parable of the Great Feast to explain: “The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great wedding feast for his son. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servants to notify those who were invited.

“But they all refused to come. So he sent other servants to tell them, ‘The feast has been prepared. The bulls and fattened cattle have been killed, and everything is ready. Come to the banquet!’ But the guests he had invited ignored them and went their own way, one to his farm, another to his business.”

When the Holy Spirit comes, I think he will invite those with ears to hear to the mother of all wedding feasts—the marriage of Jesus Christ to his Church. You may be invited to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, you can choose not to attend. But not only will you be invited to the great feast that has been so long in preparing, you will have a seat of honor at the groom’s table.

You will be seated right next to the King. From where he sits, Jesus Christ can lean over, take you by the hand, look you in the eye and say, “Thank you for coming. It means a lot to me that you are here.”

Pretty cool, huh?

* * * *

Jesus warned us repeatedly, “I will come as unexpectedly as a thief.” I’ve talked to many people about this passage, including several pastors. Most people assume Jesus means he will come when we least expect it. That is true, but Jesus almost always has multiple meanings whenever he speaks. So let’s break this down.

What does a thief do?

Well, thieves steal stuff, is that it?

If everything on earth already belongs to God, why would he need to steal his own possessions? What do we own, what quality do we possess that God does not already have in abundance? Jesus probably didn’t mean this.

So, what does a thief look like?

Who knows? Don’t they wear a disguise?

Now you’re on to something.

Keep your eyes, and your mind, open. Listen. And try to be ready.

Truth in Advertising

It’s Day Two, post-therapeutic pummeling at the magic hands of Diamond Dave. Other than the stiffness and soreness associated with my therapy, I’m actually feeling better. It appears that the captain’s chair in the living room has been ruled in as the primary suspect for my back problem.

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that this chapter is coming to a close, and they lived happily ever after…  That’s how a fairy tale ends, isn’t it?

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife thinks I need to stop writing about God and my delusions of becoming his prophet someday. There’s a part of me that would like to do that, too. I have a lots of stories that are ricocheting around inside of my head, clamoring to be written.

But I am a writer driven by my Muse; she more or less dictates what I write. And she wants this. We’ll see what she wants tomorrow…

I should preface my remarks by stating I am not a Biblical scholar. I’m a guy that has done an inordinate amount of reading about religions and gods and Popes and saints, mostly while I was busy sinning. I find the subject interesting, and while I read about many gods, my primary focus was on the Christian God. He’s the one I believe in.

I probably think more about this subject than I do anything else, including tits. Or food. I’ll probably have to turn in my Man Card. And my Guy Card. I probably wouldn’t be allowed into the He-man Woman Haters Club if the Little Rascals found out…

I claim to be a Christian, yet I doubt many things that other Christians hold to be the undisputed truth. And you might be tempted to ask this question:

Why do you suppose that is, Mark?

And that, is a very good question.

I know I’m not the only Christian that questions some of the things written in the Bible. A lots of Christians do. And religion, if nothing else, is mostly a matter of what one is willing to believe, and the amount of faith one is willing to invest into any given belief system.

What separates me from most Christians is this: When confronted by something in the Bible that is difficult to explain, my Christian friends will say, This demonstrates the awesome power of our God. And I say, Yeah, I don’t think that’s how God works. I see God as more of a scientist than a magician. Faith without science is, well, superstition. Science without faith is…statistics.

I have no doubt that God speaks through the writings in the Bible. There’s a powerful message inside of those pages. God clearly had a lots to say at one point in time. I choose to feel more than a little disappointed that He hasn’t had anything new to say for a couple thousand years.

From my point of view, if there was ever a time for God to step up and say something/anything, that time was last year. Maybe the year before…  And yet, He remains silent. To the best of my knowledge, we humans do not possess the ability to compel God to do anything.

I know a lots of people of much greater faith than I will probably ever possess. And they are very good people. I admire most of them. They read the Bible every day, and practice their faith, except when their football team is playing. Then all bets are off. Just win, baby. I used to be like that, but I’m a Vikings fan. There wasn’t much to cheer for after the first five games of the season.

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. It is said to be inspired by God, and I don’t doubt that at all. But it was written, and rewritten by men, and that is most likely where my doubts arise.

The ancient group of peoples that eventually identified themselves as the Hebrews didn’t have a written language when God first started interacting with them, and they didn’t write anything down for a very long time. They had an oral tradition, stories were told and passed down from generation to generation.

I am a storyteller. My friends and I used to share stories about our exploits, and those events rarely happened in a vacuum. So when Gary did something stupid, there were usually witnesses. Gary’s version of the story would differ from my brother Tom’s version of events. Or when Shorty did something stupid, Dan would have his version of Shorty’s escapade. So we would drink beer and smoke a joint, and listen to the various versions, but there was one common thread at the end. The best version always won.

And that’s probably how things worked back then, too. No, we don’t want to hear Uncle Shlomo’s version of the Great Flood. We want to hear Uncle Joel’s! His has all the animals, two by two!

So when the Hebrews started writing stuff down, they took the best versions available, and those were the stories that ended up in the Old Testament of the Bible. The first Bible wasn’t compiled until the 4th Century. There were a lots of religious writings floating around back then, but a group of men got together and decided what would be in the first Bible, and what wouldn’t.

There’s a truckload of apocryphal writings that didn’t make it into the Bible for a multitude of reasons, and some of that stuff is interesting as all get out. The Book of Amos is in the Bible, so is the Song of Solomon for that matter, whereas the Book of Enoch is not. Many of those rejected documents were burned by the Church, and we may never know what secrets or insights were destroyed for all time.

* * * *

The New Testament is the most recent addition to the Bible, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have better documentation of the books in it. Take, for instance, the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. No one knows who actually wrote the Gospels, but most experts would agree that the guys who they’re named for probably didn’t write them. Matthew and John were followers of Jesus, so they would have first-hand knowledge of Jesus and the things he said and did. Therefore, anything with their name on it would have more credibility than say, the Gospel of Bob.

Mark and Luke would have had to have gotten their knowledge secondhand at best. At worst, they made stuff up. And Luke appears to have had a real talent for the dramatic. Well, so does Matthew for that matter.

Mark’s Gospel was the first gospel written, probably about the time the Romans destroyed the Great Temple of God in Jerusalem in 70 AD. And that would mean it was published roughly two years after his death.

In addition, the earliest gospels were written in Greek. Any following versions in other languages would have to be translated, and then you have to consider the skill of the translator. Have you ever heard the term lost in translation? If not, you should probably get out more.

Jesus is commonly depicted as the son of a carpenter, right? But Judea during the time of Jesus was more or less a desert, and so, there weren’t a lots of trees to work with. The Greek word that was translated as carpenter, tekton, roughly means one who works with his hands.

There’s no doubt Jesus was a teacher, but a teacher, any teacher, can only teach what he or she knows. Jesus told a lots of parables when he was teaching, but none of them are about carpentry. You can check for yourself. A lots of them are about guys working in the fields. Jesus was more likely a day laborer in the fields and vineyards of the wealthy farm owners in Galilee.

I’ll admit it’s a small thing, and it may not be important. But if small details can be missed, so can others. And the Gospels are just about our only source of information about Jesus. Their significance cannot be overstated.

Aside from possible translation issues, Mark’s Gospel was edited at least twice, mostly because the original author didn’t say and they all lived happily ever after at the end. The original gospel ends with the women followers of Jesus finding the empty tomb, but they told no one what they discovered because they were too terrified. The End. Not exactly the ending you’re hoping for if someone is telling you a story about a guy that rose from the dead.

All of Mark’s Gospel is included in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Those two gospels would embellish the story of Mark, and added a version Jesus’ divine birth, and more stories about his parables and healings. And that thing about his birth, well, Jesus was a king. Right?

In short, they are much better stories. And as a storyteller, I can assure you that’s all that matters. But as much as the more better gooder stories of Matthew and Luke are than Mark, they all pale in comparison to the Gospel of John.

You almost have to wonder if the other guys were in the same classroom as John after you read his story. It’s like comparing Dr Seuss or Nancy Drew to James Joyce.

John’s Gospel is believed to be the last of the gospels written, probably twenty or thirty years after the Gospel of Mark. All of the gospel writers had one similar objective–they wanted to convince their readers Jesus was the Son of God, and he was the Messiah. But the Jesus presented in Mark is vastly different than the Jesus presented in John.

Take a look at this scene when Jesus is arrested from Mark.

Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane on his knees, desperately praying to God for his life. He is deeply troubled and distressed. Judas shows up with a bunch of nameless guys holding swords and clubs. Judas kisses Jesus, Peter draws a sword, and chops off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus performs his last miracle, then rebukes the men sent to arrest him, and is arrested.

Thirty years later, John writes this:

Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane, but he is not on his knees. He’s standing up, calmly. He is waiting. And it was night. Judas shows up with a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards. Jesus confonts the men sent to arrest him, and they fall to their knees. Peter chops off the ear of the high priest’s slave,  whose name is Malchus, and Jesus rebukes Peter for interfering in the job he was sent to do, and then he’s arrested.

When I was trying to become a rich and famous author, one of the questions I was most asked was, What sort of audience are you trying to target? And my response was, Um, I don’t know. The kind that would like to read my book, I guess…

But I’m going to guess the gospel writers had a better idea of who they were trying to target. The gospels were mostly written to convert Gentiles to the new religion, particularly Romans, because Rome controlled pretty much the entire area around the Mediterranean, which was the center of the Western World.

They weren’t written specifically to convert the Jews to this new religion, though no Christian would mind if that happened, but for the most part, the Jews didn’t want anything to do with this radical off shoot/sect of their religion. After his death at the hands of the Romans, the followers of Jesus, the Messiah tried to gain supremacy of the Jewish faith, but were ultimately rejected by the Jews because of a difference between reality and expectation.

The Messiah the majority of the Jews were looking for was a warrior that would free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans. They wanted a Jewish Alexander the Great, not the son of day laborer who talked about loving your fucking enemies, and giving away your earthly treasures. What kind of messiah did that?

Each successive version of the gospels made this new religion, Christianity, more and more separated from the religion that spawned it.

When Jesus is on trial, is it Pontius Pilate that wanted to kill him? No way! Pilate doesn’t want to have anything to do with this innocent man. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, it’s the high priests and a crowd of people that call for the death of Jesus. By the time of John’s Gospel, it’s the Jewish high priests and the Jews that are doing it.

In a previous post, I stated my position that Jesus committed a form of suicide by cop, and forced the Jews and Romans to execute him because that’s what God wanted him to do. And in doing so he served God perfectly, and man became God.

Jesus died his bloody death, but not to save us from our sins. He did so because it was what he had to do to become the King of Heaven and Earth.

For All Have Sinned

I was raised Catholic. I attended parochial schools most of my life. I was an altar boy. I went to Mass every Sunday. And as a result of my Catholic upbringing, I’ve been pretty sure of one thing.

I am going to Hell.

It used to scare the piss out of me, but it doesn’t make me lose any sleep nowadays. I’m not as evil as I once thought I was. And I’ve made a serious attempt to change my attitude and my behavior. I’m at peace with what I’ve become. I can only hope that God is good with that.

I don’t have a lots of options. If Satan is God’s prosecuting attorney, I’m sure he has an open and shut case against me. My best defense would be to plead for mercy, and hope God is as merciful as He claims to be.

I’m not a righteous man. I do not walk with God at all times. I cannot say I have a lots of faith. Most of the time I wonder what God is up to, and hope that He knows what He’s doing. I’m confident that God would have plenty of reasons to be disappointed in me if that’s what He chose to feel.

Based on what I learned in school, I am a sinner. And based on what I learned about sin, I’m evidently quite good at sinning. If lying were a sin, I might be more better gooder at sinning than I am at anything else.

A sin can be defined as any immoral act that can be viewed as a transgression against God. That covers a whole lots of territory. And anything with a definition that vague is going to be open to a wide variety of interpretation.

Something that I perceive as no big deal, like homosexuality, might bring out howls for eternal damnation by my neighbor. Someone else might look at dancing as the Gateway to Hell, whereas I think dancing is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, even if you do it naked in front of a bunch of people you don’t know.

Which of us is correct?

When Jesus spoke about sin, he didn’t seem to have any issues with homosexuality or dancing. He mostly spoke about loving wealth too much, and infidelity. And he often said, “Your sins are forgiven.” so he clearly didn’t need to got dead before anyone’s sins could be forgiven.

And while just what a sin is can be debatable, almost every Christian can agree that the wages of sin is death. It says so in the Bible, and most Christians tend to think if it’s in the Bible, it has to be true, whether they understand it or not.

I would like to point out that the only person in recorded history that didn’t sin also got dead, so I’m trying to think of anything where the wages aren’t death. And the only thing I can think of is death itself.

But, Jesus died for our sins!

Okay. What does that mean?

Um, that is one of the mysteries of our faith!

Great. We’re back to that.

It’s questions and answers like that that made me walk away from organized religion. And for those of you that don’t question these things and simply believe, I don’t know if I admire you, or feel sorry for you. I can only speak for myself. And for me, I have to a better answer.

Seeing how almost anything can be viewed as a sin, thankfully, there are a lots of ways to atone for one’s sins. When I went to confession, I had to say a lots of prayers as penance. Three thousand Our Fathers and another three thousand Hail Marys, something like that.

The Jews used to sacrifice animals at the Great Temple in Jerusalem. A whole lots of animals. The Jews were apparently quite good at sinning, too. And then the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 AD. I’m not sure what the Jews do now to atone for their sins, but I’m sure they haven’t stopped sinning.

I’ve often wondered if the Jews somehow were able to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem, would it once again be the House of God, and would He reside in it as He once did. And would the Jews resume animal sacrifice like they did in the olden days?

But, I digress…

And then Jesus came along and died for our sins, but that didn’t eradicate sin any more than the Great Flood eradicated evil. So, just what was God’s purpose in doing these acts that seemingly didn’t accomplish much of anything? Sin and sinners, evil and evildoers are not extinct, so what gives?

Christian theologians have argued that Jesus’ death on the cross purchased eternal life for those that believe in him.  I’m sure the Jews, and the Muslims, and the Hindus, and every non-Christian would beg to differ on that account. And for all I know right now, they could be correct. Nothing in regard to this has been proven.

From my point of view, there’s only one way that Jesus’ death could actually save us from our sins, and that would be if our sin was being separated from God.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus said that to his followers just before he died. I’m going to guess that just what Jesus meant by that has been widely debated, only because almost everything he said has been widely debated. But this is what it means to me.

Jesus was a man that became God. He was accepted into the Family of God based upon his perfect service to the Father. And because that door was opened for one of us, it can potentially be opened for all of us.

And perhaps that is God’s ultimate goal, a population of perfect people living in harmony for once, and forever. I’m guessing. It’s all I can do. I haven’t heard any voices in my head telling me this. I have been hearing a buzzing noise in my left ear, but it’s only tinnitus, and it’s probably from getting my jaw broken almost a year ago…

As near as I can tell, God is the only entity that has eternal life, unless Betty White or Keith Richards dies. And if you would like to join Jesus hanging out in Heaven with God and the angels, he’s the only way in.

Such a great privilege isn’t given away, it has to be earned. And the rite of passage to attain it is pretty much a bitch. Unless you happen to like being scorned, and mocked, and threatened, and beaten, and flogged, and crucified.

There probably aren’t a whole lots of people that would endorse those as some of their favorite things. And I’m not sure one has to endure all of those things in order to achieve this exalted status. There might be other ways, and then you have to wonder why Jesus did it the way he did.

So many questions, so few answers. And none of them are universally accepted as the Truth. If I hadn’t quit drinking, I’d probably have to get drunk.

The ultimate answer to my questions lay somewhere before me, and hopefully they’re somewhere along the path I’m on. I really don’t want to have to come to the realization that I’m just as lost now as I ever was. That, would totally suck.

But aside from loving stuff more than God, or being unfaithful to your spouse, there’s only one other thing that I know to be a sin.

Remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

So, don’t do that.

And Deliver Us From Evil

I had my third session with Diamond Dave today. He performed his usual therapeutic assault on my body. And he also gave me a lots to think about.

Diamond Dave suggested I start sitting in a different chair at home. The fact that I haven’t gotten a lots better is somewhat confusing to both of us, so there has to be something still aggravating my back.

We have a couch, a love seat and kind of a captain’s chair in our living room. I rarely used the captain’s chair in Arizona, but it’s been a different story down here in Mexico. Lea and her kit-ten have taken up residence on the couch, and I started sitting in the captain’s chair. I figured it hadn’t gotten much use in the last nine years…

I had actually considered the chair as a possible suspect for my back problem prior to my appointment today. We’ll see how this plays out. Today, I’m semi-sprawled across the love seat, looking at the mountains on the other side of Lake Chapala. It’s quite lovely, actually. And once my back settles down after getting pummeled, I may even feel lovely myself.

The other thing David suggested is that I wear shoes whenever I’m not in bed. I think the chair is a much better suspect for the back pain I’ve been experiencing than my tendency to walk barefoot. But I’m willing to try anything if it means I can put this behind me.

That was interesting, but today’s major topic of discussion was energy.

* * * *

I may have mentioned this before, but I find Diamond Dave to be a rather interesting guy. And I’m pretty sure he’s a guy. David likes to wax philosophic about any number of subjects. And while I’m not sure exactly what sort of training one has to endure to become a Bowen Therapist, I think understanding energy flow has to be part of it.

I’m going to condense most of what David said into the next few sentences. After that, it’s all me. Humans are incredible energy generators. Think of feelings. In essence, a feeling is nothing more than emotional energy. The energy we generate can be positive. It can be negative. And it can be evil.

Now, as a guy, I am hardly an expert on emotions. If you doubt this, you can ask my wife. Guys have three basic emotions. Okay. Not okay. And pissed. We experience varying degrees of pissed, and these are expressed by the swear word in front of the word pissed. Guys can also be happy, but we use the word tits when we’re in that state of emotional bliss.

As a psych nurse, I knew something about emotions. Mostly that you need to tone yours down, okay? Most of my patients were emotionally out of control, that’s why they were in the hospital. And my job was to help them get a grip.

Unless they were evil. Then my job was to make them disappear as fast as possible and make sure no one ever spoke their name out loud again, ever. Or the evil people would be back.

I didn’t meet a lots of evil people as a psych nurse, but I met far more than I would’ve liked. Evil people are flat out scary, even when they’re trying to be nice. Actually, that might’ve been when they were at their scariest.

The two most evilest people I ever met were two people that had separately set themselves on fire. On purpose. They, and everyone else on the planet, would’ve been better off if they had been given another gasoline shower and a lit cigarette to finish the job. You might think that harsh, but I don’t really care what you think. Not about this.

There were very few people that effected me the way those two did. I would’ve killed them if I ever ran into them on the street. I’ve given this a lots of thought, and I’m pretty sure that’s a true statement. Seriously, I would’ve gone over the curb to run them over with my car while they stood on the sidewalk. And then I’d call the police and wait for them to arrive, but only if the burned people were dead. Otherwise, I would’ve kept running them over.

* * * *

As a Christian, I was raised to believe in evil, a very evil spirit named Satan. Once I decided to walk away from everything I had been taught about God, I also walked away from my belief in the devil. I was never able to stop believing in God, but I find it almost impossible to believe there’s an embodiment of ultimate evil anymore.

This is not to say I don’t believe in evil. I do. Evil exists, and it is very real. I fear its influence on the world in which we live appears to be growing stronger. I may not believe in Satan, but I’ve encountered some weird stuff getting lost seeking the Truth. Satan or not, there are some evil-ass things lurking out there in the darkness.

Satan is a Hebrew word that means opposer, or adversary. In the Book of Job, Satan appears in Heaven as kind of a prosecuting attorney if you will, that God allows to test Job’s faith. Satan is hardly the embodiment of ultimate evil. He appears to actually have been God’s ally.

According to Christian belief, Satan was thrown down from Heaven. Jesus said he witnessed this event. And because Jesus said this, it has to be true, right? Jesus was quite good at saying one thing while meaning something completely different at the same time. But if satan simply means opposer, well, this statement could mean that nothing that opposes God is tolerated in Heaven, and nothing more. And it still makes sense.

My dad didn’t live in Heaven, but he had a rule very similar to the above stated concept. My house, my rules. Anytime you decide you don’t like my rules, pack your bags and get the hell out.

I’m not sure when Satan transformed into the black-hearted sonuvabitch he is today. It was Satan that tricked Eve, right? No, it wasn’t. Satan is not mentioned as being in the Garden of Eden. There’s a serpent in the Garden, but the serpent isn’t named Satan.

There’s a common myth that Satan the devil used to be an angel of light named Lucifer that fell from grace and was banished from Heaven. And there’s the story that the fall of Lucifer came about because he refused the command of God to kneel before God’s masterpiece of creation, Adam.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan famously states, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” I’ve given this some serious thought about that scenario. I probably would’ve done the same thing as Lucifer. If any of those myths are true, Lucifer/Satan doesn’t appear to be evil, he appears to be some kind of genius. With morals, and integrity.

He probably has me beat.

The Greek word for Satan is diabolos, which means slanderer. Satan is described as the father of all lies. However, lying is not a sin, and God doesn’t seem to have had any problems with the fact that all of the people He initially chose to interact with would lie about something, or even a lots of things.

From my point of view, there’s nothing that opposes the Will of God quite as perfectly as human will, and pride. And if that is true, then Satan lives and breathes inside of all of us. If I do this, it will please God. But if I do this other thing, it’ll please me! To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, Lead me not into temptation, for I can find it all by myself. In my experience, if Satan does exist, he’s never had to break a sweat to get me to “sin.”

I also find the concept of sin interesting. At this point in my life, I think the only real sin is thinking we’re separated from God. And as for the Ten Commandments, those are the building blocks of an happy life. If you do these things, your life will be much better. I have some experience with this. Personally, I’ve broken nine of the Ten Commandments, and my life was pretty much a mess.

One of the most amusing things to me about getting back into the church is the current Christian view about Satan, and how he is constantly seeking to distract and derail good Christians from their faith. Satan, it seems, has all kinds of spooky superpowers.

My darling daughter, Gwendolyn, told me this story about a Women’s Breakfast she went to at her church. There were electrical issues at the facility, and one of the organizers said, “Well, y’all, I guess Satan didn’t want us to have pancakes this morning…” Because, apparently, there’s nothing that will precipitate a crisis of faith like not being able to eat pancakes. Especially in Texas.

* * * *

There’s one other illustration of evil in the Bible. It concerns the Grigori, or the Seven Watchers. The Grigori were a group of angels that were supposed to keep an eye on God’s human children, and teach. But somewhere along the way, while the Grigori were, you know, watching, they noticed that the daughters of men were totally hot, and they started doing a lots more than watching.

The Grigori weren’t evil, they were good angels. Neither were the cute and adorable farmer’s daughters the Grigori had sex with. The Muffys of the ancient world couldn’t help it if they were irresistible to angels.

But their children were evil in a way that the world had never seen before, nor presumably, since.

And that’s not where Noah and the Ark come in, if you believe this story. God didn’t want to wipe out the human race, he wanted to wipe out the mutant children of the Grigori and the cute and adorable Muffys of ancient times. And behold, there was a great flood.

God apparently chose to feel some sort of remorse afterwards, and promised to never flood the earth like that again, and created the rainbow to remind Himself of His promise, just in cases, God forbid, He forgets.

We should probably all pray that rainbows never go extinct.

And one last word of warning. If you ever encounter an angel, whatever you do, do not have sex with it.

It’s Good Work (If You Can Get It)

I’ve been working on a few projects around the house for the last few days. Our dining room chairs need to be reupholstered, so I’ve been removing the staples, the hundreds of staples, that secured the old fabric to the chairs.

It’s been slow going, but there’s no deadline for me to finish this task, so I have that going for me. My back is still bothering me, and I have to pace myself. I do about one chair a day. I’ve finished four, and have two to go.

The current fabric is a kind of hideous blue, and the only reason it’s an hideous shade of blue is it doesn’t match anything else in our house. Lea wants to put a faux animal print on our refurbished chairs, I think it’s leopard, and that will totally match the jungle themed niches in the dining room. The finished product will be darling, I’m sure.

I’ll post pictures on my Facebook page when it’s all done.

I’m also planning on building a goldarn thing in the carport bodega. Bodega is a vague-ish Mexican term for a storage area. There are two bodegas at our house. The carport bodega is the smaller of the two. The larger bodega is down the patio stairs and to the right. It’s where I keep most of my tools and our Christmas decorations.

Goldarn things are immensely useful. They have a thousand and one uses, and can be made out of anything, and can be pretty much any shape. I’m planning on making my goldarn thing out of wood in a rectangle shape with a couple of doors on the front, and I plan on storing kit-ten supplies in it. I’ve got a couple of other ideas I’m kicking around, but nothing has crystallized yet

However, Lea has forbidden me to start working on any of my projects until my back is better. This could take awhile. To give you an idea how bad it is, I didn’t even argue with her, not that I would’ve won even if I had offered an argument…  I’ve basically had two pain free days since this started, and today is not one of them.

I’ve been watching a lots of HGTV and the DIY Network since I retired. That makes me a consistent viewer, not a master carpenter. I’m not interested in knocking down any walls to create a more open concept. Besides, we’re renting this house. I doubt Planet Janet would be pleased if I decided to do any major renovations her lovely house.

I’m kind of an handy guy to have around the house. I probably inherited that talent from my mom. My dad wasn’t very handy when it came to fixing anything. In fact, whenever he had a tool in his hand, we would make popcorn and gather around him to watch. It was better than cartoons.

My handyman talents were something my lovely supermodel wife didn’t realize or appreciate when we first got married. She was actually pretty handy, too. However, once she realized this, she bought me a truckload of power tools, and I’ve gotten a lots of use out of them over the years.

Acts of Service speak volumes to Lea, it’s her favorite Language of Love, but what she says she appreciates most is that I don’t overestimate my skills and take on a job that surpasses my talents.

Major plumbing repairs? Um, I’ll call a plumber. Electrical issues? Not going there. I peed on an electric fence at my grandparents’ farm when I was a kid. Once. I’ve had a very healthy respect for electricity ever since.

I did a lots of stuff around our house in Minneapolis. It was built in 1921, and it needed a lots of repairs and maintenance. Lea and I painted every room in our house. Twice. I painted the master bedroom three times, and added crown molding. I built a whole lots of shelves in the basement for storage.

Little Known Fact About Storage Space: The amount of stuff you have will automatically expand to fill the storage space you have available.

I made the end tables that compliment our coffee table. They’re all made of old barn wood, and while they’re technically not antiques, they look old as all get out. And I made an entertainment center to hold my TV and stereo equipment.

Not bad for a guy that had a hard time making a chopping board in shop class.

My home repairs in Arizona were mostly limited to my garage, and I did a lots of stuff out there to make it more functional, and create more storage space. The house was essentially a new house, and didn’t need much of anything from me. I limited myself to minor repairs, like repairing cosmetic issues and touch up paint jobs, though Lea and I did install a custom closet system in the master suite.

It wasn’t a lot, but it created the illusion I was providing a valuable service. That’s basically what I do now. And it gives me something to do. By the way, if you plan on doing anything like unto a repair, buy a pair of overalls and put some tools in your pockets. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, you’ll look like you do. And sometimes, that’s all you have to do.

One of the things I learned when I worked Gero/Psych was many of our patients had lost their sense of purpose after they retired. As a result, they became depressed, or started drinking a lots.

Having too much time on your hands is not a good thing. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. I didn’t know the devil even had a workshop. Maybe that’s where platypuses came from…

Much like God, people need to have a purpose. After all, we’re created in His image, are we not? Purpose appears to be a necessary component of life. Like, oxygen.

Yeah, it’s that important.

More than a few retired people I’ve talked to have had problems transitioning from their work life to their retirement life.

I had nothing to do!

Most of us dream of the day when we’ll have nothing to do, right? And then we discover that doing nothing is, well, boring as hell. And when that’s all you have to do, it can be overwhelming. It may or may not have been the reason why my back is just about killing me now. I still like to think I’m better adjusted than that, but I cannot deny that my back is a disaster area right now. And the fact that there was no identifiable cause only makes it more suspicious.

And while the concept of doing nothing being stressful and difficult to adapt to might sound like the stupidest fucking thing you’ve ever heard, let me assure you, it’s not. They call it a retirement plan for a reason.

Like it or not, what we do for a living becomes a big part of what we are. When you meet someone new, What do you do? is probably going to be in your top five questions. And the answer to that question had better be something. Especially if you want a second date.

If nothing else, working for a living gave me a reason to get out of bed and practice good oral hygiene. And it paid the bills. It also allowed me to start saving for our retirement, and I would encourage anyone that reads this to start doing that, if you’re not already doing so.

I took a lots of pride in what I did when I was a psych nurse, and I had high standards of performance not only for myself, but for all the people on my team. You better bring your ‘A’ game. That was one of the reasons people liked working with me. They knew I would do my job, and that made it easier for them to do their job.

Almost everyone wants to do a good job doing whatever it is they’re doing, even strippers. And if you don’t mind having a bunch of strangers seeing you naked, in terms of technical difficulty, taking your clothes off while you dance seems like it would be one of the easiest jobs ever invented.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from one of my co-workers. As I was sitting on the floor outside of my DON’s office waiting to clock in, she said, “I was so happy to your car in the parking lot this morning! I knew I was going to have a good day because you’re here!”

It doesn’t get much better than that. I almost had a multiple orgasm. And speaking of that little troll, one of the reasons I hated working with her was because I ended up doing half her job, along with all of mine.

I don’t receive many compliments for a job well done these days. For one thing, I don’t really do much anymore, and I don’t get paid for the things I do. I’m not going to be getting any more promotions or bonuses. The most consistent task I’m responsible for is cleaning out the litter box every morning, and does my cat ever thank me? No. The ungrateful little feline…

And watering my marigolds. They’re looking pretty good, now that the gardeners know not to fuck with them again. Ever.

Our self image is greatly tied to our ability to do something/anything well. And it’s not just how we view ourselves, it’s how others view us, too. We are judged by the quality of our work. It starts in grade school, and it never really ends. Fair or not, that’s just the way it is, and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

So, go forth, and be successful. Do good work, and take pride in what you do. Bring your ‘A’ game, every day. If you’re contemplating becoming a stripper, send me a demo video, I’ll let you know what I think. Be one of those people that makes the lives of your co-workers better. Don’t be a troll that makes everyone groan when they see your car in the parking lot.

Success is measured by your accomplishments, and nothing else. No one gives a damn about the shit you almost did. What do you call the team that almost won the Super Bowl?

Losers.

A Few More…

Remember Muffy, the cute and adorable teenage farmer’s daughter?

She went to see her doctor for her first pelvic exam. She changed into an exam gown and laid on the exam table, and her legs were in the stirrups.

The doctor placed a speculum in her vagina, and she squirmed around a little in discomfort.

“You look a bit uncomfortable.” the doctor said. “Would you like something to numb that up?”

“Yes! That would be great!”

So the doctor puts his face in her crotch and says, “Num num num num num!” 😃

* * * *

A guy dies and goes to Heaven. There are two lines outside of the Pearly Gates. The sign above one line reads Men Who Were Henpecked While They Were Alive. The line below that sign was two or three miles long.

The other sign read Men Who Weren’t Henpecked While They Were Alive. There’s one guy standing under that sign.

St Peter is checking everyone in at the gates, and looks up to see this one guy standing in line all by himself.

“Excuse me,” St Peter said. “Why are you standing in that line?”

“My wife told me to.” 😅

* * * *

Three guys are killed in a car accident on Christmas Eve going home after the office Christmas party. St Peter meets them at the Pearly Gates.

“Welcome to Heaven, gentlemen. In order to get into Heaven tonight, you’re going to have to show me something that represents the Christmas season. It could be anything, but it has to have something to do with Christmas, okay?”

The first guy reached in his pockets, and pulled out a cigarette lighter. He lights it and said, “Christmas candle!”

“Well, it is Christmas…” St Peter said, and let him in.

The second guy reached into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys. He jingles the keys and said, “Christmas bell?”

“That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is Christmas…” St Peter said, and let him in.

The third reached into his pockets and pulled out a pair of women’s panties.

“Tell me, young man,” St Peter said. “How do those represent Christmas?”

“These? These are…Carol’s.” 😎

* * * *

Four nuns are killed in a car accident. St Peter meets them at the Pearly Gates, and says, “Welcome to Heaven! Now, before I can let you in, each of you have to answer a question. And the question is, When you were alive, did you ever touch a man’s penis?”

The first nun steps up and says, “Yes, I did. But only with my fingertips, and that’s all!”

“That’s okay, Sister.” St Peter says. “Just soak your fingers in the basin of holy water over there.”

The second nun steps up and says, “I touched a penis, too. But all I did was give my boyfriend a handjob, that’s all! And then I became a nun!”

“Oh, don’t worry, Sister. Go soak your hand in the holy water.”

St Peter looks up, and the last two nuns are punching each other and pushing each other trying to get to the front of the line.

“Hey! Hey there! What’s going on here?!?” St Peter shouts, and one of the nuns says, “You don’t expect me to gargle with that stuff after she sits in it, do you?” 😓

You Want To Do What?

I’ve been way too serious of late. So, here’s one of my favorite jokes.

* * * *

A guy comes home from a long day work at the pickle factory. He has a worried look on his face, and sits down at the kitchen table. His wife comes into the kitchen, and says, “Hi honey! How was your day?”

“I’ve got a problem.” he says after a few moments. “You can’t tell anyone about this, but I really want to stick my dick in the pickle slicer at work.”

“Oh, honey! You can’t do that!” she said. Her husband had been blessed by God, if you know what I mean, and as a result, so was she. “I mean, the pickle slicer?!? That sounds like a really bad idea!!

“You think I don’t know that! It’s a really, really bad idea!”

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe you should see a doctor…”

“Oh, that’s great! Now you think I should see a shrink…”

“No! Not if you don’t want to, but honey, the pickle slicer…”

“I know, you’re right. I’ll tell you what. If this feeling doesn’t go away in a couple of days, I’ll go see a doctor.”

“Okay, but promise me you’ll be careful.”

The next day, the guy comes home from work. He still looks worried, and sits down at the table again. His wife rushes into the kitchen.

“How was work?” she asked, then held her breath.

“It was hell. I tried to ignore it, but I still want to stick my dick in the pickle slicer at work.”

“I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment for you. I’m really scared for your–I mean, you!”

“No, not yet. If it doesn’t get any better tomorrow, I’ll go see the doctor.”

“Okay…but promise me you’ll be careful, please! I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to your—to you.”

The next day, the guy comes home at noon. He sits down at the table, but he no longer looks worried. In fact, he has a big smile on his face.

“Honey? What’re you doing home so early? Is everything okay?”

“Honey, I tried to fight that feeling I’ve been having, but today I just said the hell with it, and I did it. I stuck my dick in the pickle slicer at work!”

“Noooooooooo!” his wife cried, and then she looked at her husband. He didn’t look like he was, you know, injured. “Well, what happened?”

“Duh! I got fired.”

“Well, what happened to the pickle slicer?”

“Oh, she got fired, too.”

The Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Way back when I was young, I took a lots of strange paths while searching for the Truth. I discussed God and all things Divine with anyone who was willing to discuss these matters.

When I was in nursing school, I didn’t have to walk very far to meet some of these people. A few of them knocked on the door of my apartment.

Two young Mormon female missionaries knocked on my door and asked if they could talk to me about their religion. One of them said something like, “Our founder, Joseph Smith, started our religion because God talked to him!”

“If God talked to me, I’d start my own religion, too.” I replied.

“Oh!” they giggled, and looked at each other. “We never thought of that!” I asked them to come back after they had a better idea of what they were doing. I never saw either of them again.

The second such experience I had was with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the young blonde haired woman at my door had the most beautiful big blue…eyes… I had seen in awhile. She was also wearing a lovely light blue sweater. I was pretty sure I heard the voice of God when I saw her.

I was pretty serious about becoming a Jehovah’s Witness for about a year. But once I realized I was never going to make it to the Promised Land with the blue eyed blonde, I went back to being an hopeless sinner.

It wasn’t until we moved to Arizona that I found more discussion partners, and those all came courtesy of the church we were attending. The non-denominational Christian churches we attended back then were big into something called Small Groups.

These groups usually met once a week, and we discussed a lots of topics, and the discussion one night was about the Holy Spirit. I had been doing a lots of reading about the Holy Spirit, mostly because I had no idea who or what the Holy Spirit really was, so at the end of the discussion, I asked this question, “Can anyone tell me what the true purpose of the Holy Spirit is?”

And, no one could. So I said, “Okay. I’ll write something up and email it to you.”

That was when I discovered the limitations of organized religion. Religion is great, as long as you think the same things that everyone else in your religion believes. Creative thinking is not greatly appreciated in religion, and new ideas about God are practically viewed as heresy. Even today.

And that’s what happened to me. No one in my group wanted to discuss my treatise on the Holy Spirit. One of my group members even walked out of the room when I tried to get my group to discuss it. He was also the pastor of the church, so…

* * * *

At any rate, this is what I wrote:

It starts in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24: As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

I submit for your consideration one obvious fact. All of the pre-conditions Jesus stated have been met. Every one of them. False prophets, wars, famines, earthquakes. The first sign of the end of times is false prophets. However, if there are going to be many false prophets, there has to be at least one true prophet.

I kind of figure that God is not going to throw his children to the wolves.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he protects his sheep. Jesus tells his followers he will send someone before his return in John, Chapter 13: “I tell you the truth, anyone who welcomes my messenger is welcoming me, and anyone who welcomes me is welcoming the Father who sent me.”

Okay. Simple enough so far. One of the things I learned when I rejoined the church is Scripture needs to be seen in the context in which it is written. John, Chapter 13 is the story of the Last Supper. Just before Jesus says this, he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him. And just after Jesus says this, he tells his disciples that one of them will betray him.

This line has no relevance to what happened before, nor what happened after. The only thing John didn’t do was put it in neon lights.

That’s what I see when I read this line, but I appear to be the only person that can see it. I’m like a dog that can see the colors of the rainbow, but dogs can’t see color. As my wife and most people I’ve discussed this with have been quick to point out, I am not a learned Bible scholar. I’m a drug addict alcoholic who thinks he’s seen something that no one else has.

And then he tells his followers who his messenger will be in John, Chapter 14: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him.”

God will send the Holy Spirit into the world in much the same manner that the Father sent the Son. John, Chapter 1: The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

When the end times begin, the Holy Spirit will make his appearance, but because no one on earth is looking for him, not many will recognize him when he comes. Let me ask you this, have you been looking forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit with eagerness and expectation?

Of course not. You didn’t know he was coming. You’ve been looking forward to the second coming of Christ, not the first appearance of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will have a mission. Jesus continues in John, Chapter 14: “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” And in John, Chapter 15: “But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. “

Before Jesus began his ministry on earth, a man named John the Baptist appeared in the Judean desert saying, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The Holy Spirit will have much the same mission of John the Baptist.

Jesus explains this in John, Chapter 16: And when he [The Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. But wait, there’s more: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”

There’s a Biblical word for foretelling the future: Prophecy. And if I ever become a prophet, it will be because of this.

In summary, at the beginning of the end of this age, to counter all the false prophets that will appear, one true prophet will come. He will testify about Jesus, lead into all truth, and he will reveal the future.

That, my friends, is the true purpose of the Holy Spirit. But here’s another thing about the Holy Spirit you didn’t know. He actually appears in the Bible as a person.

It happens in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 1.

10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast… When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man.

The Son of Man was the title Jesus used to describe himself. John, the disciple of Jesus, probably knew Jesus in every stage of his development. They most likely grew up in the same area; they probably played together as children. John was one of his followers. John was present at the Transfiguration. John saw Jesus after his resurrection. If there was one person that would recognize Jesus, that person was John. Yet John doesn’t say it was Jesus that appeared to him. He says someone that looked like Jesus appeared to him.

That someone was the Holy Spirit. As near as I can tell, I’m the only person that sees this, too.

John gives us a description of what Jesus will look like when he returns in Revelation, Chapter 19: Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True…  His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God…  On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.

John also describes the person that appeared to him, someone like the Son of Man: He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.

Similar, but different.

The person standing in front of John speaks to him. “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

But, isn’t Jesus is the First and the Last. He died, but lives forever and ever. Why would the Holy Spirit say that?

“He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard.” Jesus didn’t come to testify about himself. He came to testify about the Father. The Holy Spirit will not come to testify about himself. He will come to testify about Jesus. He will say exactly what Jesus tells him to say.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells John he has seven messages for seven churches. And at the end of each message to each church is a separate message: “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is telling us this: one is coming before me, and you must listen to him. If you do, you will be victorious. And I will give you some pretty impressive gifts.

“Vanna, show them what they’ve won.”

Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

Didn’t we hear that before? Oh yeah, when Jesus returns, he will have a new name too.

To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end, to them I will give authority over all the nations. They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots. They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star!

All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”

All right, go ahead and say it. “Well, that’s very… interesting.”

I think it is. For most of you, if not all of you, this will be difficult to accept because you were never taught to believe it. And when it comes to God, what we believe dies ten minutes after we do. But the truth remains the truth, whether you believe it or not.

“Okay, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

No. You won’t.

If you can’t hear this truth, it isn’t going to make any difference what you see. You still won’t believe.

* * * *

And that, is my incredible revelation about the Holy Spirit and the End of Days. As usual, I have no proof of any of this. And while I can assure you I am not lying to you when I say I believe this to be true, I think it’s also safe to say I made all of this up. And by that I mean this is all my idea. This is not something I read in another book and decided to incorporate it into my belief system.

This, belongs to me.

As usual, you don’t have to believe any of this. I won’t do anything with garden hoses to you if you don’t. But if what I say is true, I’m the only person you’re going to hear it from. And this could be important. But only if I’m right. And as you should know by now, I am not a learned Bible scholar.

I have no idea how to prove if I’m correct.

And then there’s the flip side. What if I’m wrong? Then it would be better if I had never been born, and in this matter, this is one area where I would never intentionally deceive anyone.

So, am I a true prophet, or a false prophet? There’s a very simple test..

A Few Heretical Thoughts on Jesus

You may have noticed that I my thoughts about God are, perhaps, a bit different than yours.

Well, I did do a lots of drugs back in the 70’s.

I was raised in the Catholic faith. And then I decided I needed a better answer than, My son, that is one of the mysteries of our faith. So I decided to do my own research in my search for God and the Truth.

As a Christian, any search for God has to include Jesus Christ. None of us Christians would be Christians if not for him. Even if I were not a Christian, Jesus casts a pretty long shadow. The impact he made on the world is impossible to deny.

One of the first discoveries I made was Jesus didn’t have much of anything to do with the creation of the religion named after him. That mostly falls on a couple of guys that never met Jesus: one was a Roman Jew named Saul, later named Paul, who wanted to kill every Christian he saw. And the other was a pagan Roman emperor named Constantine, who wanted to kill his rivals for the throne of Rome.

If not for the efforts of those two men, there probably wouldn’t be any Christians today. At the very least, Christianity would be one of those kooky little religions that you might hear about on a National Geographic special on TV, instead of being the largest religion in the world.

It’s debatable whether or not Jesus had any idea of the impact his life would make on the world while he was alive. He didn’t set out to create a new religion when he started his ministry. All he wanted to do was reform an old religion: Judaism.

It’s hard to find any information about Jesus outside of the Bible. The only documentation about him or his life that we know of exists exclusively in the New Testament.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I love John’s Gospel. It’s so beautifully written. Jesus is often referred to as the Word of God, as well as a multitude of other names and titles.

The first Christian documents were written in Greek, and the Greek word for Word is Logos. It’s an interesting word, and it has at least five different meanings. But the best definition of it is purpose.

Many people have interpreted John’s Gospel to mean that Jesus–the Word–was God, and that he came down to earth from Heaven and took on human form to save us from our sins. But substitute the word purpose in the opening sentence of John’s Gospel.

It still makes sense.

And who else, if anyone, embodied God’s purpose more than Jesus? Go ahead, I’ll wait…  As near as I can tell, Jesus is the only human that hasn’t given God a reason to choose to be disappointed in him.

Jesus did everything that God asked him to do, and he executed God’s purpose perfectly. Not only did Jesus hit a home run, he pitched a no-hitter in the process.

I sincerely doubt that Jesus was hanging out with God in Heaven before he was born here on earth. Jesus was a man, he was just as human as you are. Look at the the way he described himself to his followers. The Son of Man. But I want to take that one step further. Jesus wasn’t just a man, Jesus was a guy! Look at the people he hung out with. Fishermen. Misfits. Drunks. Prostitutes. Outcasts. Losers.

Only a guy would hang out with a squad like that.

In a previous post, I made the assertion that God is probably capable of lying. And even if He isn’t, I know for a fact that men are. I find the fanciful stories about the birth of Jesus hard to believe. According to one of my former pastors, there are 365 Biblical prophecies about the Messiah, and Jesus fulfilled them all. But Jesus never claimed he was the fulfillment of all of the prophecies.

His followers did.

Jesus wasn’t the only guy that ever claimed to be the Messiah. There were hundreds of guys that made that claim, and some of them even lived at the same time as Jesus. Most every Jew that ever lived knew about Messianic prophecy. All you had to do was take a prophecy or two, and show how it related to you. If anyone besides your mother believed you, you were a messiah.

And that’s probably what the guys that wrote the Gospels did, except they didn’t take a couple of prophecies, they took them all.

Granted, they had compelling reasons to do so. After the destruction of the Great Temple of God in Jerusalem, there was a power vacuum in the Jewish world. The Temple priests had been at the top of the hierarchy, but without a Temple, there didn’t need to be anymore Temple priests. The followers of Jesus were fighting for the supremacy of the Jewish faith.

It was a battle they would ultimately lose, but while they were in the fight, they fought with any weapon they could get their hands on, and what better weapon can you wield in a religious war than an honest to God Messiah?

What separates Jesus from the poser messiahs are two things: he was an enigmatic teacher, and he could perform miracles. And even in those departments, Jesus wasn’t unique. He wasn’t the only holy man/teacher in the country, nor was he even the only miracle worker.

I encourage you to check this out yourself if you find yourself scratching your head while you read this. I’m quite an accomplished stretcher of the truth. And I have flat out lied about many things in my life. I could be making all this shit up. You can never tell with me…

There’s really only one thing that made Jesus the International Man of Mystery and Wonder that he is today, and that one thing is his resurrection.

The fact that Jesus was crucified isn’t even unique. The Romans crucified hundreds of thousands of people during the time their empire existed. It was one of Rome’s favorite ways of sending a message to their least favorite people. I could probably write a book about the crucifixion, but if you want to read about it, read John’s Gospel. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I’ve read John’s Gospel more than any other book in the Bible. It really is the greatest story ever told.

Judea during the time of Jesus was a Roman territory with several distinct regions. Each of these regions had a different Roman governor. Jesus spent the three years of his ministry traveling around the country to spread his message–there was no social media back then–and to also stay one step ahead of the Romans.

It didn’t take any special prophetic talent to predict what would happen to you if you pissed off the Romans, and if there was one thing that Jesus accurately predicted, it was the fact that he was going to be killed.

Jesus spent his entire ministry trying to avoid getting killed to death, until the last week of his life. Then he did everything he could to make sure he didn’t leave Jerusalem alive. There’s the whole Who really killed Jesus thing. Was it the Jews? Was it the Romans? I think Jesus made both groups kill him, and in that sense, Jesus committed a form of suicide by cop.

Jesus was, if nothing else, a very charismatic and persuasive guy. His arguments pretty much made anyone that had a question or a bone to pick with him shut their mouths, tuck their tails between their legs and run for cover.

But what did he say when he was on trial for his life?

Not much of anything. And none of the few words he spoke were denials of the crimes he was charged with.

Even if Jesus had presented any sort of defense of his actions, it’s doubtful it would’ve made much difference to Pontius Pilate and it’s also doubtful Jesus actually appeared before Pilate. Little Known Factoid about Pilate: the Romans actually removed him from power in Judea for being too cruel.

That’s like unto being expelled from the Nazi party for being too anti-Semitic. Pontius Pilate wouldn’t have needed a reason to kill Jesus. And that whole washing his hands thing? Hollywood couldn’t have scripted that scene better if they tried.

Jesus’ lack of a defense was essentially a triple-dog dare to the Jewish and Roman officials. His first dare was the cleansing of the Temple. And his double-dog dare was his preaching in the Temple in the days just prior to his execution.

Never dare a Roman to do anything. They’ll do it. Twice. Jesus was executed, just like he planned, and then came the reason Jesus is still relevant today.

He rose from the dead.

If that is something that didn’t actually happen, then we Christians are the most pathetic people that ever lived. We are the punchline in the most hideous practical joke ever unleashed on this planet. And if that is the case, someone needs to shove a garden hose down God’s dick.

But for me, the resurrection has to be real. Everything I believe about my God and my place in His world revolves around the fact that Jesus is God. And for me, he became God after his resurrection. God adopted Jesus into his family. That’s like being adopted into the House of Windsor, only better.

And because of that, all of us have the opportunity for a new life. It’s a good thing. My old life was pretty much a disaster. And because Jesus became the adopted Son of God, there now exists the possibility that you could be adopted by God, too.

And that, is pretty damn mind boggling when you think about it.

I’m clearly not your average Christian. I don’t believe everything in the Bible is true. I don’t believe God is as All-anything as He claims to be. And I don’t believe Jesus was always a God.

But the things I don’t believe in no way diminishes or detracts from the things I do believe. That God is great. God is good. And his purpose is ultimatey designed for our benefit. And, I believe that Jesus Christ is the King of Heaven and Earth. That’s really all that matters.

The rest of that stuff. That’s a bunch of stuff for people to argue about.

Another Brief Treatise on God

I’m trying to figure out what to write about today. I’ve had a few ideas floating around, but none of them have crystallized into much of anything.

I think God may win. Big surprise there, right?

One of the ideas I heard about God when I decided I needed to get to know more about Him was that God was in the Creation Business. And that might have been true. Once.

It’s called the Big Bang, not the Big Bangs.

And I don’t know if God actually had anything to do with the Big Bang, or if He just happened to be in the neighborhood when all the fireworks went off and He decided to take credit for it. After all, He does call Himself the Creator.

I see God working in the Recycling Business. He invented the most successful energy recycling program, ever. None of us would be here now if God hadn’t started recycling the energy of dying stars roughly fourteen billion years ago.

You talk about a long term plan…

The fact that God works s-l-o-w-l-y tells me that God is not a proponent of the Theory of Evolution. He’s a proponent of the Law of Evolution. And if it’s a Law, there’s a mathematical formula for it.

Take, for example, humans. If it weren’t for a few tweaks in our DNA profile, we’d all be a bunch of talking bananas.

If God did in fact set off the Big Bang, He is the greatest mathematician, ever. And if that is true, then mathematics is the true language of God. You were right, Frank Herbert!

One of my patients at Del E Webb Medical Center was a semi-famous math genius guy who had helped figure out some vague formula about something or other. I looked him up on the Interweb. He really was semi-famous.

One of the things he told me was the word mathematics was a Greek word that meant knowable things. I’ve never been very good at math. I was actually kicked out of one my math classes in high school.

“Yeah. I would’ve chosen a different word for it.” was my response.

It would appear that mathematics, not love, is what really makes the world go round. And God probably didn’t even need a slide ruler to figure that out.

* * * *

Philosophers and theologians and whole lots of really smart people have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out just who and what God is. One of the worship leaders at the church I used to attend was fond of saying that God was incomprehensible. And that is simply unacceptable to me.

Hey, if math is knowable…

I’ll tell you what’s incomprehensible about God. The Trinity. No one can understand it, though there have been plenty of attempts to try to explain it. The whole Holy Trinity thing is a human construct. Some guy named Tertullian came up with the idea, way back in the 3rd Century. Eighteen centuries later, it doesn’t make anymore sense now than it did then.

One goofy explanation I read went something like this: I am a man. But I am a father, and an uncle and a brother. So in that sense, I can be viewed as a trinity of some sort.

However, all of those aspects of me clearly inhabit the same body, but in God’s Trinity–Father, Son and Holy Spirit– are three very distinct and separate entities. Jesus said he was sent by the Father. He never claimed to be the Father. Nor did he claim to be the Holy Spirit. He said he would send the Holy Spirit.

I’ll have more to say about that, but not today. Today, I would like to take a moment to try to blow this whole Trinity thing up, once and for all.

When questioned about the Last Day, Jesus said this: “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”

If Jesus and the Father were truly one, they would both know the same things.

Boom! Mic drop.

The flip side of this is if Jesus and the Father are one, and they both know the same things, then Jesus lied when he said he didn’t know the day or the hour that the world would end.

That’s how I see that.

There is another telling thing about God. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

God clearly isn’t much impressed with us. That’s like when someone breaks up you, and they say, It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s you. It is all you.

This is the statement that made me think God just might be a little crazy. After all, who do you know that doesn’t think like you do? Besides your husband. Or your wife. Or your parents. Or your kids.

Crazy people, right?

I mean, we’re both totally sane, right?

You know what? Forget that.

* * * *

Moving right along.

The first recorded name of God in the Bible is Elohim. It’s an Hebrew word, which makes a lots of sense because they were God’s Chosen People. But Elohim is a plural, and a plural is more than one, no matter which language you speak.

The Trinity isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. You can look it up if you like. But the Seven Spirits of God are mentioned in a couple of places in the Bible, and I think that’s beyond significant. Seven is God’s perfect number. What if God isn’t one, or even three, distinct personalities, but seven?

That’s just something for you to think about. Like almost everything about God, I can’t offer much proof of anything about Him. And you should remember that I don’t claim to be a prophet. That, is something I can prove.

* * * *

When Lea and I moved to Arizona, we encountered more than a few obstacles in our path, and we struggled to find our way. My lovely supermodel wife suggested we start going to church. At the time, if she had suggested we start robbing banks, I probably would’ve agreed with her. So going to church? Yeah, I could do that. If nothing else, it’s a whole lots easier than robbing a bank.

As a result of Lea’s decision, I got to know a few of our pastors, and that gave me an opportunity to bounce some of my questions about God off of these knowledgeable men of God.

Can God ever be surprised?

No. That was their response. Because God is all-knowing. But, He can be disappointed.

No, He can’t. That was my response. And here’s why.

The pastors I talked to were quick to point out the human tendency to, for lack of a better term, fuck things up. And when we choose to do stuff like that, we disappoint God every time. And no one really wants to disappoint God, do they?

Okay. Suppose you have a roommate. And your roommate has been stealing money from you, and you already know this. So you decide to test your roommate, and you leave $100 on the kitchen counter, right out there in plain view. And then you go to work. Or the gym. Or something.

You know that money is going to be gone when you get back, and when you return, the $100 is gone. And you think, Oh, I’m so disappointed!

Disappointment, at its most fundamental level is an emotional response. And that makes it a choice.

In the situation above, you have prior knowledge of the end result, so you cannot be surprised that your money disappeared, nor can you be disappointed. The outcome can’t make you disappointed.

It makes you a goddamn idiotface moronhead for thinking you could trust a thief, but you have to choose to be disappointed.

I rather doubt that God makes many decisions based on emotions. If He did, we humans, all of us, would’ve been killed to death by God a long, long time ago.

If God truly is All-knowing, the last thing He could ever say is, I didn’t see that coming! Nothing could ever surprise him. Nothing could really be all that disappointing to Him. After all, He already knew that Han Solo was going to die before Episode VII: The Force Awakens was even made.

There’s a part of me that hopes God isn’t All-knowing. I would think that that kind of knowledge would make life very boring.

And boring, well, there’s nothing worse than a totally boring life.

The Long Way Home

If you are the one person that has read all of my blogs, I should probably buy you a beer. Or invite to spend a week or two at our spacious and beautiful retirement home in the even more beautiful Lakeside area.

I probably won’t turn into Satan if you decide to vacation here, but you might want to limit the amount of LSD you take, just in cases. I can promise I won’t pull a gun on you. And you probably won’t contract the Philadelphia flu, though Montezuma’s Revenge is always a possibility in Mexico…  And I won’t tie you up and stab you with a really big needle, or shove a garden hose down your dick.

The only reason I mention these disparate items is because all of them were things I saw, or were things that happened to me while I was in Texas.

I’ve been writing about the vacation from hell my lovely supermodel wife, her sister and I experienced way back in 1995 when we drove down to the bottom of Texas to help their father clear his house of his dead wife’s possessions after her death.

Driving vacations are twofold in the way they unfold. There’s the joyous drive to arrive at your highly anticipated destination part when your vacation begins. And then there’s the dreaded now we have to drive all the way home part as your vacation ends.

There’s usually a whole lots of fun and frolicking somewhere in between anticipation and dread, and that’s one reason why the dread part is so dreaded. You’re usually so exhausted from having fun, the only thing you want to do is sleep for forty-eight hours, not drive.

Neither Lea nor I, or her sister for that matter, could say we had had that much fun during our vacation. The sisters had cried their way through every room and closet, every nook and cranny in their father’s house as they sorted out their mother’s stuff into piles of stuff to keep, and stuff to get rid of.

We had all been struck down by the Philadelphia flu, and Lea had ended up in the hospital just this side of hell in the process. And then there was Andy, Leslie’s goat killing, hostage taking, leg breaking horse, who had lost his head in more ways than one. His misadventures would reverberate through Bill and Leslie’s lives for years to come.

And let’s not forget Muffy’s pants.

Leslie’s sudden change of plans would spare her from the dreaded drive home, and that was probably the only good thing that would come out of our vacation for her.

I can’t say I was dreading the trip home, except for the whole driving a big moving truck thing, and the having to tow our car behind the big truck thing. I had never done that before, but I figured it couldn’t be that tough. Guys nowhere near as smart as me did it everyday, and if someone named Rubber Ducky could do it, so could I.

The days after Leslie flew back to Wisconsin went by quickly. Lea and I hung out with Dave. We rented a big yellow Ryder truck, and a towing dolly for our car. We loaded truck with Leslie’s Stuff. And Lea’s Stuff. And we got rid of the Stuff No One Wants.

Dave had a lots of experience with driving a big rig and towing another vehicle. He owned a motorhome, and he had towed his car behind the motorhome all across the country.

Dave gave me three valuable rules for our trip.

“Now this truck you’re driving is much bigger than anything you’ve ever driven, and you’re going to be towing your car behind it. So give yourself plenty of time and space if you have to stop. This thing is not going to stop on a dime.

“And it’s not going to turn on a dime, either. You have to make wide turns, you understand? Just like those eighteen wheelers do. Don’t try to cut any corners, or you’ll probably lose half of your car.

“And the last thing is the most important. You can’t back up when you’re towing your car. So when you stop to get gas, or sleep, or whatever, make sure you can drive straight out of any place you pull in to, you understand? If you don’t, you’re going to have to take your car off of the dolly, and then you’ll have to unhook the dolly from the truck before you can even think about turning the truck around. And then you have to hook everything back up again.

“So be careful! Because it’s a real bugger if you have to do it, and it always happens at the most inopportune moment, of course.”

I really liked that car. It was a 1994 Mitsubishi Galant four door sedan. Metallic Forest Green, and it had a spoiler. Of all the cars I owned after I lost my little red sportscar in the fire that burned down my parents’ house, I probably liked that car the most.

Dave had good advice, so I damn near took notes. But that ended up being the extent of what he had to say about driving. Give yourself plenty of space when you stop or turn. And don’t drive into anywhere that you can’t drive straight out of.

Piece of cake.

And then Dave said something that caught me by surprise.

“You know, Lea is Wanda’s baby girl, and Wanda used to worry about her baby girl because that’s what mothers do, and Lea was living alone in the Big City, you know.

“And then you came along. Now, I’ll be honest. I didn’t quite know what to think of you when I first met you, but I tend to reserve my judgement about people, and that’s just me. But Wanda loved you–she said you were her angel–and that, well, that was good enough for me.

“But I’ve known you for awhile now, and I’ve gotten to know you better. And there’s no doubt that you love Lea, and she clearly adores you. And you’ve been there for her through some tough times.

“You’re a good man, Mark. You were Wanda’s angel, and, well, you’ve become mine, too.”

I’m sure I had no response to that. When Wanda told me I was her angel, I had an immediate response. I might be a lots of things, but I’m pretty sure an angel isn’t one of them.

Wanda could care less what I thought. I was the answer to her prayers, and that was all that mattered to her. But now I had somehow become Dave’s angel, and I have to admit, that mattered to me.

One of the truths about married life is you are rarely good enough for your in-laws, like, they’re royalty or something, and you’re fucking Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. But I had somehow transcended that status. Not only had I hit an home run, I had scored a touchdown, and an hat trick!

“I kind of doubt I’ll ever be an angel, Dave. But I’m working on that being a good man part. You won’t have to worry about Lea. I’ll take good care of her.”

“That’s all I needed to hear.”

You know what? Dave wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

* * * *

I think we picked up our rental truck on Monday, and spent the day loading that sucker up. The truck was quite a bit larger than what we needed for the stuff we were going to take back to the top of the country. The only reason we opted for a truck that big was for towing our car.

Dave gave me an hands-on in-service about connecting the dolly to the truck and hooking up the electricals, and putting the front wheels of our car on the dolly to tow it. It seemed simple enough…

We said our good-byes to Dave, and hit the road on Tuesday morning. It would probably take us three days to get back to Minnesota, but that would give me three days to rest and recuperate before I returned to work the following Monday.

It was the last time Lea or I would ever travel to Dave’s house.  Leslie would make one more trek down to the bottom of Texas, just before Dave died in 2011, but she would fly down. And fly back.

I remember being a little nervous as I drove the truck towing our car out of the driveway. You always wonder if you hooked everything up correctly, and you hope you did. After you’ve been driving for about an hour and nothing goes wrong, you relax and almost forget you’ve never done this before.

After a few hours, you give yourself a trucker name.

Ten-four there, good buddy! You got the Yellow Ryder over here on the flip-flop. I’m carrying a load of precious momentos, and I got my best girl by my side. We’re heading for the Great White North, so I’m keeping the pedal on them double nickels, and I got my eyes peeled for Smokey!

My lovely supermodel wife was smiling. This was going to be okay. I told Lea that I had become Dave’s angel. She was quiet for a time, and tears welled her eyes.

“He told me how much he loved me before we left. I think my mother’s death has changed him. He wasn’t like that when I was little.”

The only thing that concerned me was where my wife was sitting. She had moved from her seat to the cooler I had placed between our seats in the cab of the truck. She said she was too far away from me.

That was kind of cute, but the cooler didn’t come equipped with seatbelts, so if I had to come to a sudden stop, I was pretty sure Lea would end up flying through the windshield. And I doubted Dave would consider that taking good care of Wanda’s baby girl on my part.

But I didn’t have to come to any sudden stops. The first leg of our journey home was uneventful, and the miles flew by. And by. And by. If you’ve never driven across Texas, it seemingly goes on forever.

Our plan was to drive from San Benito to Dallas, and spend the night with Gary and Mary. Gary was my buddy that flew up to Minneapolis after Lea’s second surgery to save my life. He was living in Ferris, TX, a suburb on the southern end of Dallas.

Gary and I go way back. He was one of my brother Tom’s friends in high school, and we started doing a lots of stupid stuff together after I got out of the Army.

I can’t remember how he ended up in Texas, but he did. And then he married Mary. And then they had a kid. Spoiler alert! They would have another one nine months later. Yep. Our visit to Dallas would be a fertile one.

I hadn’t seen Gary in awhile, and I was looking forward to seeing him again. You know, drink a few beers, tell some stories, and just relax.

Lea grew tired of sitting on the cooler, and wanted to drive. I filled her in out Dave’s Driving Tips, and she took over somewhere around Austin. So Lea was driving when we hit the outskirts of Dallas at rush hour, and the route we were supposed to take to get to Gary and Mary’s was under major construction.

By the time Lea had traversed the detour, and all the twists and turns we had to take to get to our destination, she was pretty much done with driving on this trip.

* * * *

The first leg of our journey was under our belts. We had made it to Dallas. We sat out on the yard and sipped some adult beverages. I think we even listened to an album by Supertramp. They were Mary’s favorite group back in the day.

We had a meal that couldn’t be beat, and quite a few more beverages. As a result, we probably got off to a later start than I would have liked the next day.

Wednesday, April 19, 1995.

We had driven through Dallas on our way down to San Benito. Leslie had been praying for death after succumbing to the Philadelphia flu. I know I had some random thoughts about my vacation with Shorty bouncing around inside my head as I drove, but most of my attention was focused on not hitting any of the cars flying by us on the freeway. Rush hour traffic in Dallas, is a real rush.

I think the amount of traffic started thinning out a bit once we reached Denton. It was around 9:00 AM, maybe. I asked Lea to find some appropriate traveling tunes on the radio. But there was no music that morning. There was nothing but news reports. Something had happened in Oklahoma City. There had been an explosion.

A very big one.

The initial reports were chaotic and confused. It might have been a gas leak. It might have been a meteorite. Whatever it was, it had destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were dead.

“Jesus. That’s crazy. A gas leak? That wouldn’t destroy a building that big. No way.” I said.

But you know what would? A yellow Ryder truck, the same size as the one I was driving, filled with explosives.

As we continued to listen to the reports, it occurred to me that our route back home went right through Oklahoma City, if anything was still moving through Oklahoma City.

“Get the map. Find another route.” I said. “We’re not going anywhere near Oklahoma City. I don’t care if we have to go through California. Find another way.”

I can’t remember the exact route Lea decided on, but she plotted a course around Oklahoma City that eventually brought us back to our original course just outside of Kansas City.

We were on the road for thirteen hours that day. We checked into an hotel at midnight, and we were back on the road at 4:00 AM Thursday morning.

* * * *

I can’t remember how many times I thought things couldn’t get any worse on this trip, but I know I was wrong every time.

It was a gray, cloudy day, and windier than hell on Thursday. I had to fight like two hells to keep the truck on the road. I was buffeted out of my lane more than once, and one of those times resulted in me careening rather close to a really big truck.

It wasn’t intentional on my part, but the truck driver’s response was. He decided to play a little trucker tag, and inched his rig toward mine. And he kept on inching.

Now I had a dilemma. This guy was clearly going to keep on inching closer to me because every time I slid to the right, so did he. So I decided to bail out and head for the shoulder of the road.

The shoulder of the road wasn’t in the best of shape, and we hit a lots of bumps and stuff. I was pretty sure we lost our car, and slowly came to a stop, then went to check on my car.

I was surprised to see it intact, but checked all the bindings and electricals, just to make sure they were still working, and those all checked out. I noticed were getting low on gas when I got back in the truck, lower than I thought we were, so I planned to stop at the very next gas station we saw.

We were in Southern Iowa by this time. The warm, shiny weather of Southern Texas had been replaced by a gray chill, and the clouds looked like rain was in the forecast.

I saw a gas station an heartbeat too late, but there was a Walmart or something like that, and all I had to do was drive around the back of the store and I could pull in right next to the pump.

“I don’t think this is going to work.” Lea said, as I headed for the back of the store.

And, she was right. I think I just about started crying.

There was no exit from the back of the store. I had broken Dave’s Third Driving Tip, and I was fucked. I was going to have to take the car off the dolly, then unhook the dolly from the truck, turn the truck around, reconnect the dolly, and put the car back on the dolly, and then find another gas station because there was no way to get to the one I missed.

“Oh, honey.” Lea said. “I’m sorry. At least it’s not raining!”

And then it started to rain.

* * * *

My lovely supermodel wife is really good at four things. No, five. Wait a minute, six. And, she’s really good at that, too. Okay. My wife is really good at a lots of stuffs. And one of those things is shopping.

The first thing she did after we got married was throw out most of my clothes, and she bought me a wardrobe. I’ve gotten a lots of compliments over the years about my style and taste in clothing.

That is not me. That’s Lea.

So when the rain started falling as I started the process to get us back on the road again, I was probably more fashionably equipped to handle the situation than I had been, ever.

I had a lightweight fleece jacket on, and more or less matching gloves. I had plenty of freedom of movement, and I stayed warm. Plus, I was so pissed off I think the rain evaporated the moment it hit me.

I’m sure it took me at least an hour to unhook everything, point the truck in right direction, and hook everything back up. I was able to find a different gas station before we ran out of gas, and that was pretty much the end of our adventures on what we would come to call our Vacation from Hell.

There are a couple of small details.

When we reached the Minnesota border, the rain turned to snow, and it snowed all the way back to Minneapolis.

About a month after our trip, we got a letter from the FBI. They noted that around April 19th, we had rented a big yellow Ryder truck, and we were driving it near the proximity of Oklahoma City, and the FBI wanted to know why.

I had hung onto that letter until we moved to Mexico, and then I figured it was time to let go of that, too.

I’ve let go of a lots of stuffs over the years. But I’ve hung on to a few things. Like being a Vikings fan. And wanting to be a prophet.

I should let God know that at least two of his masterpieces thought I was an angel.

It might make a difference. You never know…

Andy

Before I get started, a couple of things.

I need to fill in the back story about my lovely supermodel wife’s family dynamics before she shoves a garden hose down my dick and makes me cry a lots.

As you may know, my wife is the baby of her family. Her sister, Leslie, is eight years older than her. There was a brother in between them, David.

He killed himself when he was twelve.

Leslie and Lea were never best friends when they were young, simply because of their age difference. Leslie was more of a surrogate mother to her little sister than she was a friend, or even a sister.

I’ve made some references to the fact that my father-in-law wasn’t any easy man to like. He had a short fuse on his temper, and was prone to fits of rage, which I attribute to his untreated PTSD.

Dave had mellowed somewhat with age by the time I met him, but my wife told me stories about what he used to be like, back when she was a girl. Dave was downright mean and scary. He yelled and shouted, a lots. He broke stuff, on purpose. And he punched people, mostly his wife. And his son.

My parents spanked my ass a lots when I was young, but that was the extent of their discipline when I acted out.

Young David probably wouldn’t have dared to act out. A simple mistake would result in a beating. The penalty for intentionally misbehaving might well be death. And that’s probably what led to his decision to take his life at the tender age of twelve.

Lea and her family were living in Cannon Falls, MN when it happened. Dave and Wanda had gone to work. Leslie was fourteen at the time. David was twelve, and Lea was six. I can’t remember the circumstances, but they were all at home on that winter’s day.

The kids were horsing around as kids will do, and as is often the case, a piece of furniture sustained some damage in the process. The coffee table in the living room. It took me at least fifteen years of almost begging before Lea agreed to let me buy the table we now have in our living room.

David knew what was going to happen when his father got home, and decided he couldn’t take one more beating. He got his .22 rifle out of the closet, loaded it, and pointed the barrel at his head.

Lea sat next to her brother on the couch and pleaded with him to stop. Leslie stood on the far side of the room and said nothing, watching.

I didn’t think he’d actually do it, she would say during the one and only time I remember the sisters discussing what had happened in my presence.

And I knew he would, was Lea’s response.

I can see her, almost as if I had been there myself, a terrified little girl running through the snow in stocking feet, running down the street to flag down the first passing motorist she saw, tears running down her face.

And there was blood.

I may have fallen in love with Lea the first time I saw her, but it was the stories she told that sealed the deal for me. That she could pass through a fire so immense, a storm of such intensity, and survive…

* * * *

When viewed from this perspective, the weird dynamics of Lea’s family don’t look quite as weird. The fact they had any dynamics is probably some kind of miracle.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention while my wife was fighting her lengthy battle with Crohn’s disease, Leslie was also fighting for her life against a different opponent. Breast cancer.

Those Covington girls. You don’t want to mess with them. They are survivors, and so much more.

Lea and Leslie have grown much closer since the death of their mother, and father. They’ll never be best friends, and they both know that, and they are both at peace with that. But they are sisters now, and they call each other from time to time.

We used to go Bill and Leslie’s farm on a semi-frequent basis before they sold it, and before we moved to Arizona, then to Mexico.

Bill and Leslie came to visit us once in Arizona. I hope Bill and Leslie decide to visit us down here in the beautiful Lakeside area someday.

I can show Bill where the goats live.

* * * *

Okay. Where was I?

This happens to me more than I would like to admit. Last night, I walked into the bedroom to help Lea turn down the bed, and I forgot why I went into the bedroom before I got there. I went into my closet and started changing into my pajamas.

“Hey! Aren’t you going to help me?” Lea asked. So I went back to the bedroom to help with the bed, then forgot I had been changing into my pajamas.

So. Where was I?

Oh yes. I had helped my lovely supermodel wife escape from the local hospital where my father-in-law lived, down in the bottom of Texas. She had survived her bout of the Philadelphia flu, and she had survived the doctor who couldn’t believe she had Crohn’s disease, despite the fact she’d had four major abdominal surgeries, an ileostomy, and least two doctors in Minnesota that didn’t have any questions about her diagnosis. And she had also survived the fat slob of a nurse who had been too busy to take care of her.

There would be no adverse reactions for Lea from sneaking barefooted out the front door of the hospital in broad daylight, wearing little more than an hospital gown. Once the stomach flu passed, all she needed was her regularly scheduled meds at the times she was supposed to regularly receive them, and Lea could do that without any assistance from anyone.

Lea told her family what had happened to her during her brief but endless stay at the hospital while I more or less told the hospital administrator to go fuck himself, and then it was Leslie’s turn.

She also had a story to tell.

At the time my wife started feeling the first assault of the Philadelphia flu, my sister-in-law had been on the phone with her husband, Bill, the man who would unintentionally infect us all with the GI bug he had picked up on his last business trip to the City of Brotherly Love.

I’m not sure just where in the world Bill was when he called, but he wasn’t on the farm in Wisconsin anymore. And that was why he had called. Something had gone terribly wrong, back on the farm.

And that something was Leslie’s once cute miniature horse, Andy, whom was no longer cute, nor even remotely miniature anymore.

Andy had inexplicably morphed out of being a darlingpreshadorbs little horse about the size of one them Buttweiler dogs, into a bad tempered teenaged mutant medium-sized thug of a horse. Andy grown to roughly the size of an adult deer, and probably weighed close to three hundred pounds. And to prove how much of a badass he’d become, Andy had killed a goat just before we jumped in the car to start our trek to the bottom of Texas.

Bill figured Andy’s sudden behavioral changes could be attributed to the fact that he was transitioning from a colt into an young stallion. What Andy needed was the calming presence of an older father figure horse that could kick his ass when he got too boisterous. Or, he needed his balls cut off.

Unfortunately, there was no such horse living at Pfaff’s Happy Acres, just a bunch of dwarf goats, and they were clearly no match for Andy when he decided he wanted to be a bully. Nor was there any time to have Andy gelded. Bill was a business consultant, and he had consulting to do.

Bill had made arrangements with one his neighbors down the road. They had a teenage farmer’s daughter, I’ll call her Muffy, who was on spring break from college or something, and for a few dollars a day she would swing by the farm and take care of the tiny goats and the mutant miniature horse, and the cats that lived in the barn, and the mangy looking dog Bill had adopted.

It was only for a week. Bill would be back on the farm on Friday or Saturday night.

I don’t think I ever met Muffy, but just because I can do this, let’s say Muffy looked like Christina Aguilera, back when she was a genie in a bottle. And because Muffy was so cute and adorable, Bill warned her in all seriousness to be careful around Andy, given his predilection for unpredictable behavior.

That last part really did happen. And then Bill flew off to go take care of business.

Earlier on the day that Bill called, as Team Covington was returning from Mexico, Andy had somehow gotten out of his pen in Wisconsin, and had trotted down the driveway into the road. And he decided he would claim that part of the road as his own.

There wasn’t a whole lots of traffic on the road that ran past the farm, but there was some, and on that day, a school bus full of students needed to drive past Pfaff’s Happy Acres to drop off some kids a bit further down the road.

But in the middle of the road, stood a horse. It’s not an uncommon occurrence in the country. Livestock get out of their pens all the time, and the locals know how to deal with it. The bus driver honked the horn, that usually worked, but Andy shook his head and stood his ground.

As in all small towns, the bus driver knew Bill and Leslie, and everyone else up and down their road for that matter. She told her passengers to stay on the bus, then went out to put Andy back in his pen. She was a middle aged country gal, and she knew how to handle large farm animals.

Andy allowed her to walk up to him and grab his halter, and he even cooperated with her when she started leading him back to his pen.

And then, he changed his mind. Andy had evidently grown tired of the whole domesticated horse thing, and decided to become a lion, a tiger and a bear, all at once. And he became fierce!

I’m a little uncertain about the details, but Andy knocked the lady bus driver off her feet, then tossed her around a little as she struggled to regain her footing and keep her grip on the halter. As she regained her balance, Andy pushed her up against a large fence post with his not so miniature body. Forcefully. By the time Andy was done showing the bus driver where she could get off, he had broken her hip and one of her legs in two or three places.

The kids on the bus had all been raised on farms, and they raced out of the bus to save their driver, but Andy chased them all back to the bus, and he wouldn’t let them leave.

More vehicles arrived to find themselves stuck behind a school bus being held hostage by a terrorist horse. The sheriff and the fire department were called to save the kids trapped on the bus, and to rescue the bus driver whose leg had been broken into several pieces.

It’s hard to negotiate with a terrorist, but it’s impossible to negotiate with a terrorist thug horse, straight outta Oshkosh.

The sheriff couldn’t get anywhere near the bus, or the horse. Andy had no intention of peacefully returning to his pen, and charged the sheriff when he approached. He chased anyone away that tried to approach the bus, or the injured bus driver laying on the ground nearby with one leg bent in at least two impossible angles. Andy had taken prisoners, and he wasn’t willing to let any them go.

The sheriff had a dilemma. Neither Bill nor Leslie were home, and he had no idea how to contact them. Their horse had become a menace to society. It had taken a bus full of children hostage, and had seriously injured the bus driver. He had to act, and he had to act quickly.

He got his shotgun, and walked toward the renegade horse. When Andy charged the sheriff, the sheriff pulled the trigger, and a shot echoed loudly across the fields and woods surrounding the farm. The children ran out of the bus. The fire department flew into action and rescued the bus driver. And some scientist guys from Madison showed up because the sheriff called them after he killed the psychotic terrorist horse. By Wisconsin State law, any crazy horse had to be tested for rabies.

And then the scientist guys had a dilemma. The rabies virus lives in brain cells, and nowhere else. The scientist guys could have taken all of Andy’s remains, but they didn’t need all of Andy to run their required tests, just his head. And Andy, well, he wasn’t a small horse anymore.

Seeing how Andy was dead and wouldn’t be needing his head anymore, and that was the only part of his body they needed…  It’s much, much easier to transport the head of a dead horse than it is to transport the entire dead horse, so that’s what the scientist guys decided to do. They left most of dead Andy laying in the driveway, and then drove back to Madison where their tests would eventually reveal Andy did not have rabies, nor did he have the Philadelphia flu.

He was just a misunderstood youth, an over-amped adolescent, a rebel without a cause. He was the Headless Horse of Trempealeau County.

And that would be the end of this story, except for a few small details.

You may remember that Bill had hired Muffy, the perhaps cute and adorable college coed farmer’s daughter that lived down the road to keep an eye on the farm while he was out of town.

I’m not sure where Muffy was on that day, or what she was doing, but she was nowhere near the farm when Andy decided to go rogue and terrorize the community. As she was driving home, cute and adorable Muffy decided to drop by the farm to check on the animals entrusted to her care, and found the headless body of a dead horse laying in the driveway. She pretty much shit her pants.

I don’t think she went back to Bill and Leslie’s farm. Ever. Her dad ended up taking care of the goats and cats and dog, and he probably made the arrangements to have the rest of Andy’s body disposed of.

I’m not sure if Muffy called Bill first, or if the sheriff did, but one of those two called Bill and told him about the demise of Andy the militant mutant miniature horse, and then Bill called Dave’s house to let his wife know her wicked horse was dead.

As for the bus driver whose leg had been broken into several pieces, she ended up having several surgeries to put her back together again. And that was good. However, she had no health insurance, and that was bad. She ended up with a whole lots of medical expenses she had no way to pay, and ended up sueing Bill and Leslie for an enormous amount of money.

It would take a few years for all the legal wranglings to sort themselves out, and as both parties were walking into the courtroom, a settlement was reached.

Bill had wisely added an umbrella policy to his home owner’s insurance when he had purchased the farm, and the however many hundreds of thousands of dollars they settled on was paid by his insurance company.

Lea and I would also incur some medical expenses while we were deep in the heart of Texas. Our health insurance covered the majority of it, but we were billed for the balance. And Lea was given the opportunity to tell the hospital administrator to go fuck himself, too.

* * * *

“Sonuvafuckinbitch!” I probably said something like unto that when Leslie finished telling us about Andy. And the bus driver. And the kids. And the sheriff. And the fire department. And the scientist guys. And Muffy. And her pants. It was probably the most exciting thing that had happened in that part of Wisconsin in the last fifty years. “Man, I told Lea I had a bad feeling when Andy killed the goat, but I had no idea it’d turn out this bad!”

See? Not a prophet.

To say our plans would require some renovations would be an understatement. Leslie had to fly back to Wisconsin as soon as possible. She would not be able to drive our car while I drove the truck we were going to rent to get all of Wanda’s stuff back to the top of the country from way down at the bottom of the country.

“I’m really sorry.” she said.

“Don’t worry about it. We’ll figure something out.” Lea replied.

There was one bright spot. Leslie and Lea had gone through Dave’s house like a pair of stormtroopers, and everything had been sorted, separated and mostly packed. Lea and I would finish that, and load everything in the truck we would rent. We would take care of the stuff to be sold or donated. Leslie suddenly had more than enough stuff of her own to deal with.

* * * *

Leslie flew back to Wisconsin the very next day to take care of the shitstorm of events related to her mutant miniature thug horse from Hell, and all the havoc he had unleashed.

We rode along as Dave drove her to the airport. Leslie and Lea went through a checklist to make sure they hadn’t missed anything. The last thing either of them wanted to do was make another trip to Texas.

We drove back to the house afterwards. I was going to miss Leslie. She had a way of handling Dave that neither Lea nor I possessed, not that Dave was a terrible management problem anymore.

But he did have his moments still, and Lea didn’t have the same technique her sister did. I was a pysch nurse. I wasn’t yet the elite nurse I would eventually become, but I was confident I could handle Dave if I needed to. And the tall Texas blonde ER nurse had just shown me a new intervention…

“Man, I still can’t believe what happened with that crazy horse!” Dave said, as he drove. He spoke for all of us. That was pretty fucking wild, no doubt.

“It’s been quite a trip so far, Dave. I think I’m going to need another vacation to recover from this vacation.” I said. And we all laughed.

Yeah, it was funny then. But in less than a week it wouldn’t be. Remember that thing I said about life? There might be times when things can’t get any better, but things can always get worse.

Yes. They could.

And, yes, they would.

Saving Captain Covington

One of the perks of working for the Federal Government is the amount of time you get off. For starters, you get all of the holidays. When was the last time you got Columbus Day off?

And, you get five weeks of paid vacation a year.

In April of 1995, I did something I had never done since I had started working at the MVAMC. I took two consecutive weeks off, but I did it for a good reason. My father-in-law had called, and said he needed help cleaning out his house after his wife had died.

Wanda had died the previous October after traveling all the way from the bottom of Texas to Minnesota to see her baby girl before her fourth abdominal surgery in three years. Wanda had had an heart attack after arriving in Minnesota, and needed another coronary bypass surgery before she could safely travel back to the bottom of Texas. She would die on the table in the OR, leaving a tidal wave of shock and grief in her wake.

My lovely supermodel wife called her sister, and plans were made. The three of us would drive down to the bottom of Texas and clean out Dave’s house. We would rent a truck, load that sucker up, then drive back home. I would drive the truck. Leslie would drive our car. Lea would ride with me or Leslie. Done deal.

Early Saturday morning on April 8th, Lea and I drove from our house in Minneapolis to just outside of Ettrick, WI where Bill and Leslie lived on their hobby farm, Pfaff’s Happy Acres.

I loved their farm. Bill had planted a bunch of apple trees, and collected himself an herd of miniature goats. He named all his goats after Biblical prophets. Amos. Isaiah. I think he even named one Elijah. And he had a girl goat named Ruth, of course.

Leslie had a kind of a miniature horse named Andy. Miniature horses are supposed to be, you know, small. But in the Spring of 1995, Andy went through a growth spurt, and had turned into a mutant, semi-large horse.

I was much taller than Andy the first time I met him. Andy was a few inches taller than me the second time we met. And he had developed a bad attitude.

As I was packing Leslie’s luggage in the trunk of our car, Andy grabbed one of the goats by the scruff of the neck and started shaking it around like a ragdoll. I raced into the house to tell Bill.

Bill was working as a consultant back then, and he traveled a lots. Bill had just returned from a trip to Philadelphia, where he had contracted a particularly virulent, though short-lived stomach virus, and he still looked a little green around the gills.

Despite his weakened state, Bill and I ran out to the barn to do try to save one of the prophetic goats from the psychotic horse. We were able to get the goat away from Andy, but we were too late to save it. Then Bill moved Andy into a different pen before he decided to kill any more goats, but Andy wasn’t exactly cooperative with the move, and Bill was shaking with anger and exhaustion by the time he was finished.

“I have a really bad feeling about this…” I whispered to Lea, as the goat we tried to save took one last gasping breath, and died. We said our good-byes to Bill, and climbed into the car, and headed off to San Benito, TX.

* * * *

It’s a little over 1500 miles from Ettrick to San Benito, and none of us felt like spending twenty-two consecutive hours in the car. Dusk was approaching when we reached Oklahoma City. We found an hotel in Purcell, OK, and checked in. We would resume our journey in the morning.

Lea and I were ready to roll early Sunday morning, but Leslie was not. She was pale and clammy looking. She just needed a few more minutes to compose herself. Before we hit the road, we stopped at a nearby Burger King for breakfast. Leslie took one bite of her breakfast sandwich, and turned a stunning color of green. She ran to the Ladies Room, and she stayed there.

“Maybe you should go check on your sister, and make sure she’s still alive.” I suggested to my wife.

“She’s laying on the floor.” Lea announced when she returned, and sat down to finish her coffee.

“What does that mean? Should we call 911?”

“No. She’s just being dramatic. She’ll be okay.”

This was my first exposure to the odd dynamics of my wife’s family. There would be more.

There was an Urgent Care office next door to the Burger King. I thought about dragging Leslie across the parking lot to be evaluated. She’s a much larger woman than her sister, but when Leslie finally emerged from the Ladies Room, she declined all offers of medical treatment, and crawled into the backseat of the car.

“Drive!” she ordered. I drove.

The next 700 miles were perhaps the longest miles of all our lives. Leslie was utterly miserable. She moaned and groaned and prayed for death.

“If she doesn’t shut up, I’ll fucking kill her myself!” Lea told me during one of our stops for gas.

As night started to fall, we pulled into Dave’s driveway. The first stage of our rescue mission was over. We had arrived safely, and more or less alive.

* * * *

Leslie looked a whole lots better on Monday morning. The Philadelphia flu had wreaked its’ havoc upon her, and then it was gone.

Lea and I slept in the guest room. Dave moved into his motorhome, so Leslie could sleep in the master suite. We usually went out to eat while we down in the bottom of Texas, except when Leslie or Lea felt like cooking. But I think those occasions were rare. The reason for our visit took an emotional toll on everyone.

Dave’s daughters surveyed the house like generals planning an invasion. They started sorting stuff into three piles: Leslie’s Stuff. Lea’s Stuff. Stuff No One Wants. The stuff no one wanted, like all of Wanda’s clothes, would be sold at a local consignment shop, or given away.

Leslie and Lea shed a lots of tears in the process. They understood the necessity of what they were doing, but it was tough duty.

Dave and I tried to stay out of their way as much as possible. He showed me his medals from the Army, two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, and casually told me how he got them. Dave had received a battlefield commission to captain during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir in Korea after all the officers in his unit had been killed to death. He had only been almost killed, and as the highest ranking surviving NCO, he instantly became the commanding officer of what remained of his unit.

Dave had to have been the luckiest unlucky bastard I ever met. He was at Anzio in WW II, which was one of the worst places you could be at that time. And he was at the Chosin Reservoir, which was one of the worst places to be, ever. For all time. He was lucky because he wasn’t killed or captured, but he was wounded twice. And he was an emotional basketcase for the rest of his life.

He showed me his pistol, a .45 automatic, and offered to let me handle it because I had been in the Army, and I could appreciate it. But I had seen one too many handguns up close and personal, the last one during my vacation in Dallas with my buddy, Shorty.

I declined.

Leslie and Lea would occasionally question Dave about what to do with a particular item. He almost always opted to get rid of it. The sorting continued daily, the three piles of stuff grew progressively larger. No one else started exhibiting the symptoms of the Philadelphia flu, and I thought the rest of us were going to dodge a bullet.

Leslie felt like cooking on Wednesday. She made beef stroganoff, and she made a lots of it. We had a meal that couldn’t be beat, then retired to the living room to relax. After watching TV for awhile, we all headed for bed. And I started feeling not so good.

I can’t remember how many times I vomited, but by the time I finished, I knew one thing for sure. I would never eat beef stroganoff again.

Being sick is one thing, but being puking sick is the worst. Ever. I’ve rarely been puking sick in my life, even when I drank to excess, and I did that a lots. If I had been prone to vomiting, I might have been inspired to quit drinking sooner because I fucking hate puking.

I eventually crawled into bed, and started praying for death, much like Leslie had a few days earlier. I tried not to moan or whine too much because I knew what my wife had endured when she had been trying to survive her battles with Crohn’s disease.

But I was miserable. I eventually said this to my wife, “Honey, I hope you don’t think I’m a sissy or anything, but I’m sicker than a dog, and… I… want… my…mom!”

* * * *

By the next morning, I was pretty sure I was going to live, though I was feeling very shaky. And then Dave came into the house from his motorhome. We took one look at each other, and knew we had both fought the same battle.

Dave thought we all needed a break, so we got into his car and drove the short distance to the Mexican border to do some shopping and stuff.

Leslie and Lea walked around some of the streets of Reynosa while Dave and I parked ourselves in a little cantina and tried to drink a beer. It was perhaps the least amount of fun I’ve ever had with a beer in my hand.

We ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Reynosa, and I actually started feeling better. I was ready to back to the cantina, but everyone else wanted to go home. Lea said she wasn’t feeling too good. By the time we got back to Dave’s house, the Philadelphia flu was beginning its first assault on my wife’s already compromised body.

Lea’s health, or the lack thereof, had been the intense focus of our lives for the three previous years. She’d had four major abdominal surgeries, and had almost died at least three times. She had had about one third of her intestines removed, and had ended up with an ileostomy and an external pouch.

I wasn’t a medical nurse, but I knew enough about my wife and her medical issues to know she wouldn’t be able to survive the ravages of the Philadelphia flu without professional help. At the very least, she’d need IV fluids and electrolyte replacement therapy, or the consequences could be dire.

Lea ran into the house and down the hallway to the bathroom as soon as we got back to Dave’s house, and as the rest of us walked into the house, the phone rang. Bill was calling, from wherever he was in the world on business, and he needed to talk to Leslie. It was an emergency!

I had an emergency of my own to take care of. I tossed the phone to Leslie, got directions to the nearest hospital from Dave–fortunately, there was a little forty bed facility just a few miles from Dave’s–and helped Lea into the car, hoping she could get the medical attention she needed before she started having seizures. She said her muscles were starting to spasm, and I didn’t think a full blown grand mal seizure was far behind.

The local hospital had an emergency room. I got Lea checked in, and started explaining her complicated medical history to the admissions clerk while the staff started taking care of Lea. The ER staff all knew Dave and Wanda, and they assured me they wouldn’t let anything happen to Wanda’s baby girl.

But I knew this was going to be kind of an ordeal, no matter what anyone said. When I told the clerk at the desk my wife had an ileostomy, this was her response.

Illy-what? Can y’all spell that for me?

Like most ER’s, this one was busy. I gave the clerk a list of all the medications Lea was taking and the dosages of all of them. It was a very long list. I made her make a bunch of copies, and I would hand a copy to anyone that had anything to do with Lea’s care while we were in the ER. I stopped every staff person I saw, and told them I was a nurse, and what my wife needed. STAT!

The nurses in the ER were actually very helpful, and Lea had an IV running with a potassium piggyback running in no time. She didn’t have the same issue with vomiting that I had had, but her external pouch needed to be emptied constantly.

Lea’s nurse was a tall Texas blonde. Besides my wife, she was busy taking care of at least three other people, one of whom was a big hairy guy that had been brought in by a couple of Texas Department of Corrections Officers.

I don’t know what this guy had done, but I’m guessing jail isn’t anywhere near as much fun as they make it look on TV. This guy presented with chest pain, but didn’t appear to be in any apparent distress as he strolled into the ER. He had a big smile on his face, and he waved at everyone, making sure they saw the handcuffs on his wrists.

Per hospital policy, the big hairy guy was restrained to a litter because he came in under police escort. He totally cooperated with that, but he had stopped smiling. Once he was restrained, the tall Texas blonde nurse explained what was going to happen in no uncertain terms.

A nasal cannula was placed in his nose holes, and he was started on O2. An IV was started, and labs were drawn, using the biggest needle the nurse could find. And she made sure she missed his vein with her first attempt. Then she informed the big hairy guy she needed an urine sample.

“I can pee in a cup. I do it all the time for my PO.”

“Nope, y’all can just lay back and relax. I’m going to cath you.” And she did, using a catheter about the diameter of a small garden hose.

The big hairy convict guy probably wasn’t in any pain in any part of his body when he walked into the ER, but after roughly thirty minutes of tender loving care from the ER staff, he was hurting in at least two places.

“Hey! Take me back to jail! I’m good! Get me the fuck outta here!!” And once his lab results came back normal, back to jail he went.

* * * *

Just between you and me, that was the most beautiful intervention I’d ever seen on a malingering patient, ever.

A malingering patient endorses a plethora of symptoms to lengthen their stay in the hospital. We saw this all the time in Psychiatry. Some of our patients wanted to stay in the hospital as long as they could, for a multitude of reasons.

Some of them were homeless, and if you’ve never tried living on the streets, it totally sucks. Some of them were trying to avoid going to jail, and I’m going to guess that probably sucks, too.

It might have been legal to restrain a guy and stab him in the arm with a really big needle a couple of times, then shove a garden hose down his dick in Texas, but it wasn’t in Minnesota. If we had been allowed to use those interventions, we could have easily cut our recidivism rate in half, if not more. We couldn’t even carry tasers, which I thought every psych nurse should be issued, no matter which state they worked in.

Seeing how Lea’s nurse was busy taking care of a guy that didn’t need any care, I decided to take care of my wife because she did, and I was a nurse, too. I grabbed a box of gloves and a basin, and I informed her nurse each time I emptied Lea’s pouch, or she vomited, and the volume of fluids she expelled each time. Her nurse was grateful for the help, and offered me a job.

One of the other ER nurses heard I worked in Psych. She came over to quiz me about her ten year old son, who had recently been diagnosed as Bipolar. I can’t remember her name, but she was probably a couple of years younger than I was. She was kind of attractive, and clearly overwhelmed by the situation with her son, and practically started crying on my shoulder.

That seemed like a weird diagnosis for a ten year old to me, and to her, for that matter. I suggested she get a second opinion from a real doctor next time, and spent close to half an hour listening to her. I wished her luck, then we both went back to work.

Bipolar Disorder is a terrible disease.

Lea’s condition had stabilized somewhat. Her nausea had passed. She was no longer vomiting. In fact, I thought she looked good enough to go home, and even Lea thought she was going to be okay.

But given the fact she’d had multiple surgeries and she had an ileostomy, and then there was her family history of heart disease…  The ER doctor didn’t feel comfortable discharging my lovely supermodel wife, no matter what we said. He wanted to keep her overnight for observation, just in cases.

And that’s where the ordeal started. Given Lea’s cardiac history, the ER doctor wanted her to be admitted to a monitored bed. The only problem was there weren’t any open monitored beds in the hospital.

Now, you might be thinking, it’s an hospital! Aren’t all of the beds monitored? A monitored bed is hooked up via EKG leads and highly sophisticated circuitry to an alarm system behind the nursing station. If something goes awry in a monitored bed, alarms go off and every nurse on the floor goes running to that room with crash carts and oxygen and a shitload of medications to save a life.

I used to work in Cardiac Care, and I understood the rationale behind the ER doctor’s decision. So we waited for a bed. And we waited. And we waited.

The first symptoms of the Philadelphia flu hit Lea about 6:00 PM. I had called Dave’s house a couple of times with updates. My last call was probably around 10:00 PM. Lea was doing better, but the doctor wanted to keep her overnight. Dave said he and Leslie were going to bed, but they’d leave the door unlocked so I could get in the house when I got home. They’d see me in the morning.

When midnight arrived, Lea was still waiting for a bed. She was getting a little upset with the wait. I was way past that.

I’m an incredibly patient man. You can ask around if you like. But this situation was beyond ridiculous. I asked to see the Administrator on Duty, every hospital has one, and I wanted some answers. I was informed she was busy, of course, but she’d be down to see me in a few minutes

When 1:00 AM rolled around, I demanded to see the AOD. Now.

She actually came running into the ER. She was a very sweet woman who apologized profusely in her darling Texas accent. She offered her condolences to us. Wanda had been a friend of hers, then explained the difficulties she was facing.

There were a limited number of monitored beds in her hospital, and they were all currently occupied. She had called in the maintenance team, and they were moving heaven and earth to hook up a monitoring system in one of the rooms to the nursing station so Lea could be admitted.

In the meantime, was there anything she could do for us?

Well, yeah, there was. It was incredibly noisy in the ER. It was filled with a lots of unhappy people. Was there any place to put my lovely supermodel wife that wasn’t as loud and busy while we waited for the monitored bed was being set up?

Yes! Lea could be moved into a room in the ER, and a real bed could be put inside the room. Lea would be more comfortable, and the room would be much quieter…

Lea said that would be fine. And the very sweet woman left to see that this was taken care of immediately. And it was. As to how long it would take for Lea’s monitored bed to be ready, well, that was a mystery.

When 2:00 AM rolled around, I was falling asleep standing up. I told Lea I was going to go back to Dave’s house. I hoped her bed would be ready soon, but she was at least in a quieter place, and maybe she could even get some sleep, but I had run out of gas. I had to go.

I think I finally got back to Dave’s around 3:00 AM. I would find out later that Lea would wait in that room for at least another three hours before she was admitted to her hastily assembled monitored bed.

* * * *

I woke up the next morning around 9:30 AM because Dave knocked on the door and told me Lea was on the phone. My head was foggy, and full of cobwebs.

“Come and get me!” Lea’s voice said. She sounded terrible.

“Are you being discharged?” I asked. I was a nurse. I kind of understood how hospitals worked.

“No! The fucking doctor here doesn’t think I have Crohn’s disease! He wants to run a bunch of stupid tests on me! I told him to go to hell!”

“How did he take that?” I decided to ask.

“He’s not very happy with me right now.”

“How’s everything else going? Are you getting your meds?”

I knew getting her meds right would be complicated. That’s why I handed out a list of them to everyone, hoping the floor nurses would get a copy and get them ordered.

“No! I haven’t gotten anything! Not even morphine!”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

I was so pissed I was shaking. I almost asked Dave for his gun.

* * * *

Lea wasn’t in the best of shape when I had taken her to the ER, but she looked even worse when I arrived at the hospital the next day. She was drenched with sweat, and writhing on her bed. I was a nurse, and I was a very good nurse. I knew what what was happening to her the moment I laid eyes on her. My wife, was going through serious opiate withdrawal.

I went to the nursing station, then tracked down her nurse in the hallway, and I tried to be polite, at first.

“Excuse me. I know you’re incredibly busy, but my wife is in that room down there at the end of the hallway, and you need to come see her now, please.”

Lea’s nurse was a young-ish slob wearing light blue scrub bottoms and a multicolored top about the size of a pup tent. She kind of shuffled when she walked, and her hair looked like it hadn’t been combed since March.

“Yeah, I’ll be down there just as soon as I can. I’m doing something right now.”

“I’m sure you are, but have you seen my wife lately? She hasn’t gotten any of her meds yet, not even her pain meds, and she’s going through withdrawal.”

“I haven’t had time to go over her meds yet. Like I said, I’m doing something right now.” she replied, not even bothering to look at me when she talked. And that was the last straw for me.

“You listen to me, and you better hear every word I say.” I said softly, but loud enough for her to hear me clearly. “I’m a nurse, too. So when I tell you you need to come to my wife’s room now, I mean right fucking now. And if you don’t do as I ask, I’ll have your ass in front of the Board of Nursing before your shift ends. Now, move!”

I appeared to have gotten her attention. She stopped doing whatever it was she’d been doing and turned to look at me for the first time. I nodded in the direction of Lea’s room, barely controlling the urge to push her down the hallway.

“Oh my word!” she said when she entered Lea’s room and saw my wife.”She didn’t look like this the last time I was here! Let me go check her meds. I’ll be right back, I promise!”

“That’s bullshit.” Lea said, as her slob of a nurse shuffled out of her room. “I’ve been like this for at least an hour!”

“Well, let’s give her a minute to fix this. Then I’ll kill her.” I said. I was only partially joking. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t ask Dave for his gun. Unlike Hillary, I probably would’ve used it.

In a very short amount of time, Lea’s nurse returned with a syringe filled with Demerol. She injected the drug into a port in Lea’s IV tubing, and by the time she shuffled out the door, Lea looked a whole lots better. My wife exhaled a huge sigh of relief, and smiled.

“That’s better!” she said.

“Can you walk?” I asked. I was making an assessment. Lea was wearing a hospital gown and a pair of panties. The only clothes she had with her were a pair of denim cutoffs, which I pulled out of the closet and handed to her. She didn’t even have a pair of shoes. I had taken her purse and the rest of her clothes home with me when I left the ER.

“Yes. I’m fine now. Why? What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking if I don’t get you out of here, you’re going to die.”

“Then get me out of here!” she said, and pulled on her shorts.

I disconnected Lea’s IV, and covered her IV site with gauze and tape. Then I started disconnecting the leads of the monitor. This was the tricky part. Lea was in a monitored bed, and the moment I started messing with her leads, all kinds of alarms would go off. A veritable army of nurses would descend upon us, and even her slob of a nurse would eventually shuffle back to her room to check on her.

But a funny thing happened when I disconnected the first lead.

Nothing.

No alarms went off. No one came running. And I got even more pissed off, if that were possible. When Lea was disconnected from all her equipment, we walked out of her room, down the hallway past her slob of a nurse, who was so busy doing something she didn’t notice us walk by her, and got on the elevator.

We walked out the front door of the hospital, my barefoot, hospital gown wearing lovely supermodel wife and I, across the parking lot, and I drove us back to Dave’s house. I think we laughed the entire way.

* * * *

Dave was waiting for us at the front door when we pulled into the driveway. He had a puzzled look on his face.

“Mark! The hospital is on the phone!” he said. His expression was also one of concern. “They said you took Lea out of the hospital without permission! They want you to bring her back, right away!” Lea was his daughter. And he had just lost his wife a few months earlier. I don’t know if he ever understood how many times his daughter had almost died in the last few years, but he clearly thought I had done something to endanger her life now.

“This is Mark.” I said into the receiver. Lea was explaining what had happened while she was in the hospital to her her father and her sister, and that way her family would know I wasn’t trying to kill her to death.

“Mr Rowen, this is the hospital administrator.” a male voice said into my ear. “I understand you and your wife have had a bit of a bumpy ride while you were here, but we would certainly like the opportunity to fix that. You’re a nurse, right? You have to know your wife is very sick!”

“Yes, I know.” I replied. “And I’d like to keep her that way if you don’t mind.”

“I…I don’t understand, Mr Rowen.”

“Yes. My wife was very sick, but your hospital did a great job and she’s doing much better now.”

“But your wife is still very sick.”

“And, she’s still alive, and I’d really like to keep her that way. However, if she had much more care at your facility, I don’t think she would be.”

“Now, Mr Rowen, that’s–”

“I agree. That’s more than quite enough.” I interrupted, and hung up the phone.

We had driven from the top of the country to the bottom of the country to help Dave do something he didn’t have the heart to do himself. And it was a task that nearly broke the hearts of my wife and her sister. They were clearing their father’s home of most of the items that reminded him of his dead wife, and collecting the items that reminded them the most of their mother.

We had all come down with the Philadelphia flu, and we had all survived. Even Lea. There had been one casualty, an innocent goat had been murdered by a homicidal horse, but that had been way back in Wisconsin, before we had actually set off for the bottom of Texas.

Thank you, God, I thought. And I also thought at least nothing else could go wrong on this trip, and that the worst was over.

But life is a funny thing sometimes. And while there might be times when things can’t get any better, things can always get worse.

Sometimes, they can get a lots worse.