Life Goes On After Lessons Learned

Sometimes, life bites us in the arse and we turn around, surprised and, perhaps, more than just a little knocked off our not-so-proverbial feet.

I prepared. I tried to do everything right. And yet, so many things went wrong.

While driving up Nawth to attend my nephew’s high school graduation, I had an accident. Traffic was heavy but going at a fast speed. There had been the usual “Why are we suddenly going 50mph??” places so, like a good driver, I kept distance between me and the car in front of me. Near Woodstock, VA at mile marker 285.5 on I-81 at about 6pm, the car in front of me slammed on their brakes. I knew they did because the back of their car was hopping and fish-tailing. I put on my brakes and went to the right, into the right hand lane, so that if I didn’t stop in time, I would go beyond them. I didn’t want to go to the left, into the median, because of gravel and grass not helping me to stop. But my rear-wheel drive truck went into a slide. The back of the truck, an ’03 Chevy S10 Crew cab, slid to the left into the grassy median. When it did, I could not correct the slide. I knew, in that brief moment, that I was going to crash. I knew.

According to witnesses, the truck slid a few feet on the two driver’s side wheels, lay on that side, continued to skid, then rolled onto its top. I do not know if it rolled again or just landed on its top. I hit no one else. No debris hit anyone else.

During the slide, my left elbow hit the highway and I felt it get road rash. Then the next thing I know, the visor is in my face. It takes a few seconds for me to gather my thoughts. I didn’t realize I was upside down until they (the bystanders who stopped) reached in to unbuckle my seat belt.

Before I would let them do that, though, I was saying over and over, “Where’s Quinn? Where’s my dog?” Someone removed Quinn (who never made a sound) and then someone unbuckled me. I assumed my left arm was hamburger or at least broken so I tucked it under me and rolled out of what was left of my truck. Someone comes back and says they need the leash. I say backseat. They reach in and I see someone take the Flexi leash. Someone else is saying don’t move her further (meaning me). My neck is resting on some guy’s foot. He is shaking. Just as the paramedics get there, someone comes up and says “Don’t panic, but your puppy ran off”. Yeah, don’t panic. I try to get up but so many hands held me down. And, really, I don’t think I could have gotten up. I am told later that only my shoulders and head were out of the truck and I was twisted because of the way I rolled out of it.

The paramedics had to get creative. They needed to brace my neck and back yet because of my position, they couldn’t get a collar on me. So, bless their hearts, they used towels. And, really, I couldn’t move once it was all on. Once they got that on, they then concentrated on getting me on a back board and getting me out of the truck. (meanwhile, one of the tires was leaking and screaming that high pitched sound) All the time they are doing this, I am saying “I can’t go, I need to get my dog.” The paramedics assured me that I couldn’t do anything, that the trooper would look, that others were already looking. Against my wishes (but for my own good), I was extracted and taken to the hospital.

My time at the hospital is kind of blurry and not very pleasant. But what I remember is this: my painstakingly accurate spreadsheet of my medications on my phone was worthless. They needed something fast. And trying to resize the spreadsheet constantly wasn’t working. They wanted me to tell them my allergies. I couldn’t remember them all. A print out in my wallet case (which the trooper brought later) did not include my allergies.

I had the ICE app on my phone that listed medications and allergies. Did I think of it? No. Did they ask if I had one? No. I have a MedicAlert bracelet (several actually) and a necklace. Where were they? In my bag. By the time I thought of it, they no longer thought it necessary to know all of my history.

My arm is not broken and was barely bleeding. I was offered no ice pack. At one point, I was on the back board still, waiting for results of something, and I am bawling. My phone is across the room. I have no button to call a nurse. I called out about 4 times before someone heard me. It was not a busy night. She gave me my phone and left. I feel so fucking alone. My Quinn is missing. Lorna is 6 hrs away. Kevin (my brother) and his wife are still several hours away. I punish myself by refusing all medications but ibuprofen. So they don’t take me seriously, thinking I am not in that much pain. I am discharged at midnight with a prescription of ibuprofen. No diagnosis, not warnings or things to look out for. One of the papers talks about nightmares. Another talks about how to care for a bone contusion. At least I knew then was was up with my arm.

Meanwhile, Lorna had figured out Facebook and had posted about what had happened and that Quinn was missing. And Quinn pert near went viral by morning. I started getting calls from people asking where should they start looking. And I’m like, “Mile marker 285.5 but who are you?” Two women met us at one of the “cross overs” (those roads that connect the two sides of the highway) and we discussed options. We gave them Quinn’s blanket, food bowl, and some food. They would set up a place for her to return to. The DOT Driver Assist guy stopped at one point to ask what we were looking for. He took notes. The county Animal Control guy met with us and sent us to a road under the highway that had a creek running nearby, thinking she wanted to get out of the heat and went to water. The Shenandoah County dispatch person was patient through all of my calls to her. My GP Nicole Ogg was friends with a GP in Woodstock. That friend happened to have another friend and patient who was the head of the County Shelter. People who knew people who knew other people.

We all kept looking but Kevin (my brother) and his wife Colleen had to get home. And I was really messed up. My arm was huge, my back was screaming, my head was pounding, so many parts of me hurt. We made the decision to head to NJ (it was only 4hrs away). We stopped at the accident site and called for Quinn over and over, just like we had been all morning. All of us frustrated we had to leave. It started pouring rain. Absolutely pouring. We saw the two ladies setting up the tarp over Quinn’s blanket and food at 285.4. We saw a DOT truck stopped just up the road but they were doing shoulder work and we thought nothing of it.

Just up the highway from Woodstock is Winchester. As we neared the exit, Kevin was trying to figure out how we could stay longer and keep looking yet still get Colleen and him their medications (they left home with nothing). Just as we passed it, my phone rang. It was the DOT Driver Assist guy. He had Quinn. He was at mile marker 285.8. He had seen us across the road but lost us in the heavy rain. He didn’t want to leave to go get us, afraid we’d lose her again. He thought she was a bear cub until he got closer.

We turned around and raced back but the heavy rain kept us from driving too crazy. I got another call. The State Trooper was there and they were trying to at least keep her in place until I got there. She was scared and fear biting. I got another call. She was in the Trooper’s car. I cannot tell you how I felt. I just can’t. I mean, I didn’t think we would find her that day. No one did. She was a puppy. Frightened, lost on a four lane highway when she had grown up on a one-lane road. She was lost in the median but at some point that morning, had crossed to the northbound side. We stopped to get her blanket, hoping it would calm her. It was soaked. Kevin wrung it out, grabbed her bowl, and we hurried.

And there she was. On a leash held by the state trooper. My girl. She was soaking wet, covered in green balls and other seed heads. I pulled off five ticks on our way to NJ. Kevin thanked both men many times since all I was seeing was my girl.

So what could I have done differently?

The wreck itself. Rear-wheel drive trucks are stupid. All that power on an empty box when it should be up front. Once the rear wheels hit the grass median, it was over. So not much I could have done there. I had too many loose things in the truck. My laptop bag was open. The case of water bottles was on the front seat, open. Quinn’s toys. Her bag. All of that loose in a sliding, rolling vehicle equals a mess. Where was my wallet? The one with the information they needed? Not in my pocket. Not in my bag. But in the toss bin thing in the console of the truck. Next time I travel, more things will be tied down and better contained.

Losing Quinn. I had them take her out first. She had on a collar and a harness and was attached to a tether hooking her to the seat belt. She slammed into the back of my seat, I do remember that. The harness is not for seat belt use, but more for walking and anti-driver distraction. Meaning keeping the dog out of the driver’s way. Quinn was kept within the vehicle. All she had (besides ticks) was an eye injury that our vet believes happened during the accident and not later. A seat belt harness would have kept her from hitting my seat and perhaps kept her from injuring her eye. Although there were a lot of things being tossed around and any of them could have hit her. As for her getting lost, that was beyond my control. We thought she was dragging the flexi leash but we found it in the truck later. When she was found, she was not wearing her harness but my guess is she chewed it off. I don’t hold any grudge toward the person who had hold of her. She’s stronger than she looks.

My medical information. Oy, I cannot believe all my planning and it doesn’t work. For now I will be wearing the MedicAlert necklace or bracelet at all times. And I will ensure their information is up-to-date. And I will remember I have the ICE app. Duh.

Lessons learned. Life goes on. Bumps and bruises heal. The truck can be replaced. Quinn and I cannot. Life goes on.

Canine Comparisons

It is amazing how much bigger they are in your head.

Quinn is now the age Joella was when we got her. And in my mind, Quinn is much smaller than Jo. Jo was bigger, taller, goofier in her long-legged adolescence. So I went digging through my plethora of saved images and found a handful or so of Joella from that age. None are very good. They’re poorly scanned copies of prints since, back then, digital photos were not a thing. And I know I have hundreds (thousands?) photos of Jo, just not digital.

Jo’s long legs were a sign of the future. She was growing too fast and developed panosteitis, a painful “growing pains” condition some dogs can get. We changed her diet several times in an effort to curb it but the damage was already done.

Jo also was different in personality. She was withdrawn, quiet, and not very trusting for several months until she figured out we were it. Her previous family thought she was stupid and must have told her that on a regular basis. They gave her away to an acquaintance of mine who trained dogs (and was their trainer). She had her for about 2 weeks then gave Jo to us. Her training methods were brutal. I found this out when she came over to show me how to get Jo to walk loose leash. I was horrified. Very much the “I am the alpha dog, you will do what I say” crap. I’m surprised Joella didn’t have a broken neck by the time we called it quits. We never had her over again. I don’t even think we’ve spoken since then.

We had to work with Joella for a long time to get her confidence up, to instill in her that she was a wonderful dog and we would never hurt her or treat her bad like she had been in the past. She was a dream to train because she would do anything for praise. She wasn’t food motivated (pain.in.the.ass) but tell her she was a good girl? She’d do anything. Jo grew up to know over 30 service dog specific cues (requests) in addition to the basics (although her recall was on her terms).

And I miss her every day.

Then there’s Quinn. She does not have Jo’s baggage. We have closely watched Quinn’s food intake to prevent the growing pain thing. And we have called her a good girl, loved on her, treated her with kindness since the day we brought her home. And the breeder is reputable, has good lines, and loved Quinn and her siblings. Quinn is food motivated and is just now desiring pets and praise as we train. And while they are both the same breed with similar markings, they don’t really look alike.

I like that they are so different. I like that when I look at Quinn I see her, not a ghost of Joella. I like that I am forced to rethink how to train a service dog. In some ways, they are very alike. They can’t help but be. They share some Rottie quirks and hard-headedness. And I like that, too.

I love both my girls. Quinn has wiggled her way into a place in my heart next to Jo. She’ll never be Joella. She’ll never have that same bond I have/had with Joella. And that’s okay. Because she’s formed her own unique place and links.

these first 2 are pre-digital images


digital

Wixing Mords

(this post was supposed to appear a few days ago but there were…issues.)

I don’t know the trigger for it when I can’t speak worth beans. Words come out in a jumble, out of order, misspelled, and, most often, the wrong words altogether. Sometimes the wrong word and the right word are close sounding. Like today, L and I were talking about the dog lot. She was mowing it and we were discussing when to scoop the poop, before or after she mowed. I wanted to say she could “scoop the poop after, easier to see”. But I kept saying “spook goose easier”. Sometimes I just laugh and move on but there are times when I get really mad and it just makes it worse. I could see the words spelled in my head but when I tried to read the words, it didn’t come out right. Luckily, L is a decent interpreter of Paulaisms.

Had another later. I wanted to ask where in a book she had stopped. I’m trying to remember how badly I mangled it. Something about “way the where” with some other words that were several words smerged together. L could not figure out what I was saying and we finally gave up. None of the words made any sense in any way. It wasn’t a rhyming error this time. About a half hour later, I turned to her and asked again, and it came out right.

Sometimes they come out that bad because I’m tired. Or have a headache. But most times its just…because.

The scariest is when I substitute words and have no clue I am doing it. My most famous is saying bathtub instead of picnic table. I said it four or five times before L could convince me there was no way we were ever putting a bathtub outside on a concrete pad. Every once in a while, I’ll still say bathtub. Another is I kept calling the riding mower a vacuum cleaner. I can almost see the connection there at least!

This is a problem I have had for, like, ever. A few years ago after Mom’s brain tumor thing, I had my brain checked out. Something we had always laughed at suddenly became not so funny. And because of the stress I was under during that time, my speech was really twisted. My neuro and I decided that my already existing problem was being made worse by a medication I am taking for migraines. And since I was enjoying not having as many migraines, we decided to not mess with it. Now that the neck surgery has happened and a lot of my headaches have stopped, I hope to see him again soon and maybe we can start decreasing that med.

I’m thinking about giving this gift to one of the characters from BGCFA. When I get around to writing it, I’ll have plenty of experience to create her word spaghetti!

Riding the Waves

Because my muscles are always tense, when I hurt myself, it is always a bucket of fun. The spasms and pain wash over me like waves. Sometimes they go fast like small ripples. Other times they hit like white capped breakers, eroding me away as they slowly pound their way over me.

Today my guardian angel earned its wings.

Today I had picked up Whisper from the vet and we were on our way home. We were coming down Monticello, a curvy road connecting Weaverville to the river. Another road, New Stock, intersects it not too far down. It was a busy time of day and there were several cars lined up to make a right from New Stock onto Monticello (which would put them coming toward me). And there was one car that wanted to make a left. I saw him. He should have waited until he could see around the other cars but I knew he would not. I knew, I knew! I knew he was going to pull out so I slowed down. I thought he was going to prove me wrong but, alas, he did pull out in front of me but he waited until the last second to do so.

I slammed on my brakes, my tires screaming, and stopped with the hood of my truck right at his passenger door. Did he stop? Nope. Did he wave an “oops, sorry” wave? Nope. Did I shit my pants? Nope, but I think Whisper did! I was furious. Absolutely furious. Had I not been able to stop, I would have hit him hard. I was doing the speed limit, but that doesn’t matter, not at that angle. I checked on Whisper (she had flown forward to hit me in the shoulder) and we continued on. Just a short bit down the road (as in almost within sight of the intersection) he makes a left and I laid into the horn again, just for spite. Yeah, I’m a meanie.

That’s when I realized I had trouble raising my arm to hit the horn. The arm that Whisper had hit. When I saw him coming out, I had both hands on the wheel and was turning to the right to avoid him if I could. But when I heard Whisper skidding forward, I had put my arm out to catch her. Her body had impacted my shoulder and upper arm fairly hard. And now that arm was not happy. Neither was my neck.

I felt the waves start now that the initial anger and shock were over.

Luckily my phone was within sight on the floor. I couldn’t reach it but I could see it was face up. I was able to get Dragon (a voice activation app) to text Lorna and tell her I was in trouble. She was already on her way home. I heart Dragon!

By the time I was home, my right arm was useless. My right foot, the one that had slammed on the brake, was feeling sprained. My back was burning, my hip was in spasm. And Whisper was happy to be home! Lorna let her run around a bit, watching to make sure she was fine (she is, other than a cold belly from being shaved).

It’s been almost 6hrs now and the spasms have stopped. Just my neck and the right side of my upper back are still pissy. Vicodin and Baclofen are my friends.

Don’t Ever Break Your Neck

This turned out to be longer than I thought it would be so I just made it another blog post.

“Don’t ever break your neck.” That line was said many, many times by Russell Reno, my maternal grandfather. When he was in the military (Army-Air Force), another Private pulled a practical joke. He jerked down and back on Papaw’s helmet, breaking his neck. He wasn’t paralyzed or anything, just broken bones. It limited his career in the military, though. He was stuck in the states and grounded. When he got older, he would rub his neck and say “Don’t every break your neck”. He said it so often, it became a family slogan.

And no, I’ve not broken my neck. I’ve had “issues” with it for eons and it has finally degraded to the point that surgery is the next step. I am partly relieved because FINALLY something is getting done. And I am partly freaked out because ew, gross, surgery!

But let’s back up a bit. A bunch of fine, beautiful, wonderful, giving folks donated toward my goal of getting another dog to train as a Service Dog. But nothing has come from it yet. Getting that puppy has been a rocky ass road and I thought I had reached the destination at last. But, nope. Rebekah James (Redyre Rottweilers) has a beautiful female Rottie named Giggles. Giggles was to do the deed and produce her first litter. Except she came into season sooner than expected (before all her exams were done) so it was put off. Meanwhile, a litter Redyre had by another female (KK) was born and was thriving. Then they got parvo from a neighborhood dog. Rebekah lost one of the pups and went deeply into debt. She swore she was not going to produce any more litters. She’d had her heart broken enough. So I went looking elsewhere while waiting to see if she was serious. I found Cathy Ruben at Silverhill. Another excellent breeder who has quite a few of her pet quality dogs out there being therapy dogs and service dogs.

Which brings me to about four or 5 weeks ago. Silverhill was about to have a litter born. I was about to send her a money order. And then my arm got heavy. And my hand went numb. And my forearm. I couldn’t type very well with my left hand. I had yet another MRI done. Now there were bone spurs along with the everything else wrong with my cervical spine. I went to see the orthopedist again. He recommended I have an epidural injection done. That’s when we realized that this time was serious. This was not a “go to the PT again” fix like all the other times. There was no way I could handle an 8 week old pup. I called Cathy Ruben and cancelled my request for one of her pups. That’s when she told me they had been born just a few hours before.

Dammit to heck.

I was this close to getting a puppy finally. This close!

Back to the neck. I had the injection and it didn’t work. It actually made things worse and brought back older symptoms that I’d not experienced in years. Like, my face went numb. Now that’s a lot of fun! Try it some time! And today (12/17), I saw the orthopedist again. I don’t like him very much but he’s supposed to be a good surgeon. His people skills stink. Anyway, it is time for surgery. Some time in January I will have an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). I could wait, let more symptoms appear or these get worse then do the surgery. The worsening or increase would definitely show the source. Or I could see if they go away on their own. I’ll hold my breath if you hold yours. Didn’t think so. As for the surgery, there is a high success rate that the symptoms will be alleviated. Not so high a success rate the neck pain and headaches will. By going through the front, there is little cutting and a lot of moving stuff out of the way. Gross but there it is.

As for the puppy, Silverhill hopes to have another litter in the spring and…Rebekah and Redyre has decided to breed Giggles after all. As soon as I heard it, I sent her an email immediately, demanding (yes, demanding) to be put on the list. I even said I would take a nasty male dog if there were no females. I was disappointed (such a mild word for what I felt) I had to put off getting a pup again. Finding a good breeder is extremely difficult. I was even looking at one in Canada and one in Berkeley California. But there is no way I could have a puppy right now, not with the surgery coming up. I should be recovered about the time Giggles’ litter is born (that is if she even gets pregnant).

So we will start getting the house ready for my recuperation. Maybe even get a 2nd opinion on a few questions I have about the surgery itself. It feels good to be FINALLY moving toward getting this neck fixed. We’ve been going to Carolina Spine for over 15yrs now, just for that.

Please God, Don’t Let the Baler Break

I have been thinking of duality lately. Duality of personality to be specific. When we go about our lives, we act differently in our various roles. How we act at work is often not how we act at home. Yes, we must behave differently due to societal norms and constructs, but I am discussing more on a primal level. An actual personality difference. We see that often in the media when someone goes nuts and kills someone. Many people who knew him say things like “I never would have thought him to do that” but others, perhaps those closest to him or those who saw him in a different role, would say “oh hell yeah, I can see him doing that”.

My biological paternal parent died last week. My father. My dad. My daddy. The man I once looked up to and wanted to be like. The one I would do anything for and often did. The man that had a duality of personality. Kenny Johnson would do anything for anyone that asked. He really and truly would. And he would ask for nothing in return. When we would be working on our farm and had our equipment out, we would go to another farm to help them do the same. It’s what folks did back then. He was well respected. He was prayed for (he did not attend church) but we was respected. He was a hero. A neighbor’s child had an accident and it was the quick thinking of my father that saved her. He worked all day at the glass plant then came home to work the farm. He was not one to be idle. He truly was a good, honest man.

Then there’s the other side. Kenny Johnson had a temper. And he directed it at his kids. No matter what he was really angry at, his kids were easier targets. Which brings me to the hay baler. Anyone who has ever baled hay with a square baler knows what I mean when I say they are the devil’s own nightmare. They need constant care. Constant watching. When they work, they work well. When they don’t, they are a pain in the ass. Spitting out 7 foot bales weighing five pounds or 2 foot bales weighing a hundred. And working in hay is hot, itchy, hard work. Back then, it was done by hand. The tractor pulled the baler which pooped out the bales. Then the tractor was driven with a trailer attached and folks picked up bales and handed to them to whoever was up there who stacked them carefully. It was driven to the barn where it was all unloaded and stacked again. Hot, itchy, hard work. I’ve seen my older brother hit so hard he was knocked off the driver’s seat of the tractor. I’ve been knocked so hard I saw more stars than I already was from the heat. All because the baler broke and dad was mad at it but took it out on us. Instead of teaching my older brother how to better drive the tractor through the field, he was hit. Instead of teaching me how to do whatever it was I did (or did not) wrong that time, I was hit. Same when we were planting tobacco. Or working any field or crop or task or whatever. We weren’t taught. We were beaten until we stumbled onto the right answer. Many nights I worked by the light of the truck, straightening up tobacco plants, my butt getting kicked every other plant, because I was taking too long. They were crooked because of how they were planted. I was being punished because the ground was too wet, too dry, or the planters were not paying attention. When we were out there, we prayed the baler worked. We prayed the tractor kept running. That the truck did. That the spreader did. That the weather holds. That everything goes right and Daddy doesn’t get mad. Please don’t let the baler break. Please don’t let daddy get mad. Please don’t let him take off his belt.

It wasn’t just in the fields that we feared him. It was at home. Dad drank beer. Lots of it. And he wasn’t a mellow drunk. We never knew then what would get him mad. I once spent over an hour looking for his carton of cigarettes that he demanded I look for. I looked everywhere. Couldn’t find them. I was getting the “If you’d looked everywhere, you would have found them so keep looking!” comment from him. Finally, I was standing at the front door, knowing I was about to get berated again, when I turned to tell him I really and truly could not find his damn cigarettes. That’s when I finally found them. He was right, I had not looked everywhere. I had not looked right by his fucking seat, right by his beer cans on the floor. And out of my mouth comes the sarcastic comment I really should have kept in my head. I was knocked out of the living room and into the kitchen where I slid across the floor until I collided with the cabinets. Mom stepped between the two of us and told him to stop. That I was actually right. The cigarettes were right by his hand and that he had driven me to smart off. Dad never hit me again. I think it frightened him a little that he had hit me that hard. And that I had finally stood up to him. Bullies are like that.

[I truly believe I am such a sarcastic person because of all the comments I had to hold in all those years. The “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” crap. There was no way I would have said what I wanted to say so I kept it in.]

I am a lot like my paternal parent. I can’t help but be.
– I have one helluva temper. I have worked hard to keep it under control. I know I have it. I know that demon lurks under my skin. I avoid situations where I know I can lose control of it.
– I like to think I will do anything for anyone. I believe in the pass it forward philosophy. I have been helped out along the way. And in return I have helped out others. I don’t think about what I will get out of it. I know that makes me sound like such a freakin’ good person. I’m not.
– And I can sweat in a snowstorm. When we hung tobacco, we could always tell where Dad was or had been because of the puddles on the ground. Of all his physical attributes, I just had to get that one, didn’t I?

So as folks talked about how great a man he was, I winced. Sure, he was. But that greatness is dwarfed by the damage he caused. Some can say he was only doing what he was taught. That he was raising his kids the way he was raised. To which I say bullshit. If something makes you uncomfortable, you find another way. If it doesn’t, then you continue it. So it didn’t bother him to continue it. And when my younger brother (who left the farm too young to really experience all this, thank you God!) said he hopes he grew up to be just like him, I really winced. No, Kevin, you didn’t grow up to be like him. You grew up to be better. When you had your first child, we prayed you would not be like him. You weren’t. You were better. You talked to Ryan as he had his many, many (many, many) tantrums. You didn’t beat him. Or scare him just by entering the room. You are a real father to both your kids. You did not perpetuate the cycle. Your kids will do anything for you. Not out of fear, but out of love.

Childhood memories are tainted when we look at them as adults. Those memories were formed by that child and still contained by the view of that child. The child in me both loves and hates Kenny Johnson. But both those emotions are overwhelmed by the fear of him. The memories I have of him are almost all coated in that fear of him. Even those that are of love, there is that fear. As an adult, I could have looked him in the eye and confronted him and those fears. I chose not to. I chose instead to protect my Self and never contacted him. I wish I could say “this even is what broke the camel” but there isn’t. It was several events that ended when he said “I won’t let you kids ruin this marriage like you did the first one.” It was his multiple affairs that ruined the first marriage, by the way. But it was his inability to admit fault and his attempt to pass the blame onto me that made me step back and realize he had not changed. That he was not going to hear what I was saying. At any point in all those years since, he could have approached me. He knew how to get in touch with me. Instead, he chose to purge me. I was never brought up in conversation. Family stories were told without me in them. It was as if I had never existed.

I chose to not go to his funeral. It was a big decision for me and I did not make up my mind (for the last time) until the night before. I am Southern. Not going to my own father’s funeral? I am damned to hell for that. But the benefits of going (which were numbered less than three) were not enough. I will head over to The Valley later and pay my respects my own way and without an audience.

Thoughts of Time

You know those motivational quotes with oceans or bridges in the background? The quote says something like “if someone is toxic, get rid of them” or something along those lines.

I did that. Got rid of someone “toxic” to me. I made the choice to take care of myself, to protect my Self because, when it comes down to it, no one can do that but me. It was not an easy decision and it was not done on a whim and it certainly was not made because some motivational quote told me to. I did it because this camel’s back was getting tired. The weight of time was heavy. So, I removed myself from a situation. From two people actually, although one was much easier than the other. Removing them removed an entire part of my life. A huge chunk of it was suddenly outside my reach.

Over the years, things changed and I often considered re-inserting myself into this person’s life. But I couldn’t do it. Telephones ring both directions. So do mail deliveries. This person could contact and call others but never me. Hell, I was never mentioned. And now it is too late. He died this morning. It is not regret that I feel. It is more like I am holding the scales, putting my care of Self on one side and this morning on the other. It is a cold, heavy scale to hold.

And then I am reminded of my invisibility. In removing myself from them, they removed me from them as well. It is as if I never existed. And that is a weird weird feeling. It was happening prior to me walking away. I just made it kinda official I guess. I’d been slowly phased out for years.

He was a strong man but with screwed up priorities. Wouldn’t take one fucking step in this direction. That’s all it would have taken. One wee bit of effort on his part to show me..something. I know he was given my contact info at least once. And I know he knew how to ask for it. But he couldn’t. And he didn’t. So he pretended I didn’t exist and now he is dead.

Dad, I never stopped loving you. How could I? I believe now you understand at least. I wish you had understood a little sooner though.