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Desperado

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           Tonight, the tumbling snow and frigid winds cut me to the quick, as I look back and try to forget.

           Just yesterday, I was but a boy, watching the same white torrent as it pelted against my window, no more than 50 yards from where I now sit. Of course, my heart was full then, of both hope and fear. I already knew the torment of being outside as the giant doors swung closed and the bitter winds reminded me that I was alone. So, what has changed, in the ten lustrum since?

            Rome still decays in arrogant pablum as the white smoke curls from the red tile pipe and rides the wind to Babylon… and beyond. To the Euphrates, once a friend, but conqueror in the end.

            And so, as the days grow short and darkness overtakes the land, I look back again, searching for the Path, unable to feel my heartbeat. My steed is winded and time thrusts its angry claws at me, mocking my resolve, as the masses strain to see,  faraway, gathered on the ancient cobblestones… searching for a sign.

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  December, 1967

              “Matty… Matty… MATTY!!!!”  The distant, angst- filled summons stirred the blond boy from his frozen stupor. He stopped, turned in his tracks, and squinted into the descending shadows as they stole the last warmth from the ice covered field.

              There it was again, only this time the 13 year old boy knew the voice and recognized the approaching figure with the flailing arms and the staggered, sliding gait. Even on sheer ice, Bobby was graceful. Strong. Confident.

                Matty sighed, and frowned, forcing the smile from his lips. After all, this had been a breach of sorts, he reminded himself. He waited, shifting his weight from one frozen foot to the other, as his best friend negotiated the last 50 yards across the icy tundra.

                  “Damn! Been looking EVERYWHERE for you, Koles! EVERYWHERE…” Bobby grinned, sheepishly, as he slid to a stop in his black Converses. “I… uh… thought you said… uh…”

                    “Oh,quit it already, Bobby! I was there, waiting like we said… like a jerk, for over an hour! I started to worry that something happened to you even… Until I saw Paul that is…”

                       “Paul?” Bobby said nervously.

                        “Yeah. Paul. You know, Paul! As in Paul, the guy you said you had to meet up with at his house to get your radio back from. The guy who knew nothing about that…”

                        Bobby raised his hand as if to interrupt and then dropped it just as quickly, as a look of despair crossed his face. He looked down at his sneakers and  mumbled something…

                          “Huh? I guess you didn’t think I’d run into him at the library, eh? “

                        “Damn, Matty. You oughta be a detective, or something…”

                          “Detective! Geezz… I didn’t even… Forget it. I don’t get it. I never lie to you. Why did you make up such a story? And then leave me sitting there wondering?” Matty’s voice started to crack as he struggled with the words… “Is it a girl, or somethin’?” His voice trailed off as he choked on the thought.

                           Bobby recoiled at that… “NO! It has NOTHIN’ to do with a girl! Cripes, Matty! You know me better than that! I was… Oh dang it, Matty! You’re gonna believe some crap like that? You know me better than ANYBODY! ” A bitterly cold gust of wind buffeted both lads suddenly. Bobby turned his back to it, but Matty stood his ground, searching his best friend’s face for the truth. Something was amiss. That, he knew. But, Bobby was obfuscating, and doing his best to end what had become an uncomfortable interrogation. For the 13 year old blond boy, it was too much as well. He hated the sickening feeling in his gut, at the moment. It was terrifying to even consider that something had happened between him and the one person who he trusted so much.

                        The tall boy brushed at his eyes with the back of his right hand, and swallowed hard. “OK. Don’t tell me then. It’s none of my business. Gotta get home. Ma will think I froze to death out here, and give my brother the Chicken a la King I’ve been thinking about all day.” What had started out as a statement of recrimination, ended in almost an attempt at a joke. He glanced at Bobby, and then started to turn away.

                       He didn’t get far… A strong hand grabbed him by his right shoulder and spun him around. Then, he felt the crushing bear hug of the wiry farm boy as Bobby drew him  close and refused to let go.

                      “You’re all I have, Matty. Don’t be mad, OK? . Please… OK? “

                       Matty still clutched his books under his right arm, but slowly they toppled from his grasp, onto the icy ground, as he struggled between anger and sadness, and then… A melting but uncertain joy. He cleared his throat and hugged Bobby back. ” How could I be mad at a jerk like you? “

                     A wry grin erased the sadness on his frozen face, as he inhaled the familiar scent of Bobby’s clothes and felt the velvety softness of the boy’s cheek against his .

                       Bobby heaved a sigh of relief and then he growled menacingly.  ” You won’t be sorry, Bub!  I promise!”

                     Both boys savored the moment for another few seconds until another cold blast of wind brought them to their senses. Darkness settled over the cold valley as the boys said their goodbyes and headed off in different directions, glancing back several times to catch one last glimpse, something neither one ever admitted.

                     There was only one week of school left before Christmas. And, the strengthening of a friendship that would last almost another eight years. To both boys, an eternity. At least then…

{cont’d in Part 2}

Writer’s note– written on December 15th of last year; left in draft form until now… tman <3

Perhaps

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 Dearest reader,

          I have to admit to a certain reluctance to begin posting here again, even if I still have many stories to share, and things to say. Actually, more than most will ever know, but that has been a theme throughout my life, so the avid reader will understand, if there are any left, that is…

       Without checking, I can’t recall the last time I posted anything, but it feels like a lifetime ago. For years, after all, I was posting at fairly rapid intervals.

         So, altho the ‘geniuses’ at the Apple store were stunned to see the worn keys on my laptop, to me, they seemed perfectly understandable, along with the chronic ache in my right shoulder; the result of never learning the ‘proper’ typing technique. You see, I am unique, or so it seems, in that respect as well. I hold my laptop in my lap, or braced against my bent knees when I’m lying in bed (like now), and reach across my body with my ‘typing hand’. My right one, of course!

         Doesn’t everybody??! No, eh? Hmm. No wonder…

        Well, it’s the way I learned, or ‘endeavored to persevere’, as it were :P

        So, I guess I could use the excuse that I was having trouble locating the proper keys to peck at, and that is actually true. The longer I was away, the harder it became to find my way.

         I’ve also adopted a ‘new’ device on which I spend most of my digital time- my iPad. It’s very cool, and more portable than my laptop, but I haven’t tried posting to my blog on it yet. I probably should have. After all, I originally bought it, partially to make my blogging easier. And, it does have a more functional ‘spellcheck’. More or less. But, I digress, as usual…

        You see, the worn out keys are more of a metaphor, in my mind. They became symbolic of my mental exhaustion, and the fog that enshrouds my enthusiasm. Something that got progressively worse, despite the terrible battle I waged against it.

          I won’t reveal every detail, because the battles are being fought on many fronts, but suffice it to say, by the end of last summer, I felt like too many things were happening all at once, and too many people were expecting too much of me. I had to protect myself. Both physically, and emotionally.

          I didn’t stop writing. Not ever, at least in my head. I do have 5 or 6 posts partially completed, in draft form. But, as I neared the completion of each, I realized that the anxiety I was suffering, had leached into each post in it’s own way, so I backed off. The last thing I want to be remembered for, was the negativity I felt bleeding into my remembrances.

          I also never stopped communicating with the people I am closest to, and it is for some of them that I’m back here, wondering if this is the right time.

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           You can see that I’ve now  replaced the worn out keys (myself)on my laptop, but every battle has not been won, so my war is not finished. Nonetheless, I’m trying to move forward, like always, albeit a little uncertain of my path, at the moment. Hopeful that my voice makes a difference, even if it is just for the few.  Thanks to all who cared, right along.

love, tman <3

    Tony7_0095

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Great picture, Ray! Brings back fond memories that I once thought would endure… tman<3

Breaking Eggs

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                So today,  dearest reader, I decided to stay at home to try to catch up on things. Maybe even work on relaxing a bit and pulling out of this tailspin my life has become suddenly.

               It’s been a while since I felt impassioned enough to actually take the 45 minutes or so, to make what Bobby once called, “the best damned omelette on God’s green earth”.  It makes me smile to remember that. But then, I’ve been more contemplative lately, even if I haven’t shared much of it. For that, I am sorry.

                 Anyways, I was reading the recent comments from my last post, and even replying to one (I’m sorry I haven’t been prompt with a few others, but I WILL get to them, I promise ) from a young man I really admire, who has had his share of adversity, and then some. To me, he is a hero of sorts, and one of the most gifted musicians I have ever encountered. I kid you not!  I’m sure he’ll cringe to read this, but it’s true, so I’ll say that until he finally realizes how gifted he really is… But reading that comment and revisiting the post, brought back some very strong feelings. Some good, some dark.

                    I found myself remembering some of the best times in my life, when my ‘secret’ was still just that, and I walked this earth as a shadow, looking for safe places. I was joyful in those places and careful everywhere else. Very careful…

                     But, back to what brought me here.

                     Late this morning, I decided to treat myself to something that I rarely eat anymore. It’s too time consuming in my fast paced world, to put the lovely dish together that I so enjoyed in my youth, and when I was 30 pounds lighter.

                     I used to call it my ‘masterpiece’, and altho that occasionally raised eyebrows and elicited a few rather crude responses, I never remember a lover or  friend turning down my offer to produce one. To the contrary, I was often hounded, sometimes in the wee hours, to capture that ‘magic’ as a favor or as a prelude, if you will. :P It’s quite true, at least in my experience, that ‘good food is the way to a man’s heart.’ But, I digress.

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                           So, I’ve never done a ‘food’ post, I don’t think, even though I’ve been breaking eggs all of my life. Apparently. Might as well enjoy what can’t be undone, eh?!

                         First of all, it helps to have a source for fresh veggies, if possible… Growing up on the farm had a big impact on me that I’ve tapped in my adult life by maintaining vegetable and herb gardens, as well as perennial beds that serenely greet me every day as I return from work.

                          But, if you don’t have gardens or let’s say it’s winter in your neck of the woods, find some sweet peppers, some onions, and even some tomatoes if you can. I’ve even used zucchini squash and small bits of broccoli, but a little goes a long way, believe me!  Better off using simple ingredients that don’t overwhelm the senses…

                          So, start there, slicing and dicing. The peppers, onions and tomatoes, that is!  Oh… by the way — ceramic knives suck (pretty much), so don’t waste your money buying one like I did!  lol  They chip, no matter how careful you are! I know. I treated mine like a prized possession, but it still chipped! Buy a nice utility chef’s knife, even if it costs a bit more!  I have since. In fact, I bought a specific handful of pretty expensive knives from a young man who worked for me briefly and who sells ‘Cutco’ knives as a way to make a few extra bucks… OK. I know the company might be overpricing their knives and it MIGHT be a bit disingenuous in it’s employee interactions, but they do produce fine quality knives. So…

                            Well anyways, once you get the peppers, onions and tomatoes diced, you might want to dice up some meat. Maybe some ham, or even some veal loaf, like I used this morning. I decided on veal loaf, because that was Bobby’s favorite…

                           Oh!  Don’t forget the cheese! It’s not mandatory, or anything, but to me, an omelette without cheese is like a Corvair without a fan belt! And that, is a serious matter! Trust me. There’s a story that’s just too long to go into, around that. But, shredded cheese like cheddar, or monterey jack or a combination of any that you like, really add a special texture and OOMPH to the dish.

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                            OK, once you’ve done your slicing and dicing, it’s time to start a little cooking! :)  Here’s where the aromas start to overwhelm your senses, and it’s hard not to snack on SOMETHING before the danged thing is cooked.  But, stay calm and put the diced onions and peppers into a small sauce pan, add a little pinot grigio… uh… OK, if you don’t have any white wine, just add some butter. Unsalted butter. The REAL deal:P

                             The trick here is to saute the veggies until they soften and the onions become translucent. I love this part!  It takes a while, so this is when I take an English muffin out of the freezer, defrost it in the microwave for about 25 seconds and get ready to toast it in my toaster oven. Don’t toast it yet, tho!!  It’s all about timing!  —  The goal is to have everything piping hot when you sit down to eat, or place the masterpiece in front of your beloved. The ear to ear grin will make it all worthwhile…

                             So, while the harder veggies are cooking and the coffee is brewing, crack open a few (or more lol) eggs into some sort of bowl or mixing container. I like to use a Pyrex 2 cup measuring container, because it’s deep enough and it pours easily when it’s time.  Oh, and while you’re at it, add a few tablespoons of cold water to the eggs. Yup! I said water! — It’ll turn to steam as the omelette cooks and make the omelette more fluffy, if you will.

                            About this time, Bobby would have had his chin on my shoulder, doing his best impression of a hungry puppy, so if you step back, watch out for the bare toes! :)

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                                  With the veggies now getting close to perfect, it’s time to start heating the large fry pan. I use a ceramic lined pan, which is very good as a non-stick surface, but not as good as a teflon pan, so add some butter to the pan if need be. What the heck. In for a penny, in for a pound!  Might as well enjoy yourself!

                               It’s about now that I add the extra ingredients to the sauteed veggies- the meat and the tomatoes.  If you add them too early, they can overcook and you’ll wish you hadn’t. lol Might as well add the shredded cheese to the beaten eggs now as well. I like to add the cheese before I pour the eggs into the fry pan so that it’s incorporated into the mixture and not sitting on top, but if you like to see it atop the final product, that works too, or you can do both and temp the heart attack Gods to teach you a lesson :P Just kidding…. You don’t eat like this every day, right?!

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                               OK!  Don’t overcook the add ins!  Transfer them to the sizzling fry pan now, spread them around, and then pour in the egg mixture. Looking at this picture, I can see where I didn’t mix the eggs enough, because there’s a small area of whites starting to solidify. Oh well… Very few things in life are perfect, except a baby’s smile and the love of a mother…

                           Alright. At this point, shoo all ‘unwanted’ guests out of the kitchen with a peck on the neck and a kick in the butt, and put a lid on it. The omelette, of course!  Just for a minute or two, if it’s as large as this one. It’ll help to cook the top part, because you’re gonna have a heck of a time trying to flip it, if you try, altho a large dish helps… Today, I was cooking for myself, so I got lazy, and just put a pan lid over the top instead of trying the flip technique… Now you’d better put that muffin in the toaster oven if it’s gonna be ready in time, and then get a nice plate out of the cupboard to put the masterpiece on. Something oblong works well.

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                   OK, you can see that I like my butter! Actually, it’s about the only thing I use butter on, except to saute things occasionally. For most people, a little dab’ll do you!

                     So now I’m feeling guilty all over again… Eating these kinds of meals should be fun! Shared with the ones you love, whether you’re gay or straight. Without guilt or fear. Bobby would have told you that…

                      I DID enjoy it, at the time. The omelette on the nice dish, the perfectly blended coffee (buckskin color, like all my Godchildren know and laugh hysterically about), and even the glass of grapefruit juice, that is a holdover from my years living in the Sunshine State. BTW, if you’re feeling guilty about eating this large a meal, the grapefruit juice does help, in ways I won’t go into right now:P

                           I’m sure a certain boy is smiling and laughing right now. Forever young, but always in my heart. Every day….

love to all, tman <3

Big feet

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             It’s true. I’ve had big feet for as long as I can remember. In fact, at age 13, I wore a size 13 basketball sneaker. Black converses. I had given up on the white ones because New England dirt and white canvas didn’t compliment each other the way Mom liked. Even bottles of  Kiwi sneaker white were no solution to that. God knows I tried.

               But, this post isn’t really about sneakers, or shoe polish or even big feet, although that’s what got me thinking. Looking at my feet, and remembering.

              The picture at the top of this post is of me and two of my sisters. It puzzles me a bit, because I think I’m 13 years old in the picture, but my youngest sister is apparently just receiving her First Holy Communion. Hmm…  You see, I’m 5 years older than her. I think. Or is it 6? Either way, she’s a bit long in the tooth to be just receiving that sacrament. Oh well. It hardly matters right now.

                The point is, I’m 13 years old in the picture. I searched for this picture, because it’s one of only a few that I know of, that was taken of me at that age. Actually, I may have solved the riddle! The date on the photo was when the film was processed, not necessarily when the shot was taken, so I may be only 11, going on 12 in this picture. Yeah, that makes more sense, because during my 13th year, I grew 7 inches and reached a height of 6 feet 3 inches, without shoes, or sneakers, on those sized 13 monster feet.

                   But I digress.

                     Earlier today, I was messaging a young man I’ve known for quite a while now. A young Irish lad, who has now reached majority age, seemingly in the blink of an eye. I once called him my Irish warrior poet, and have written a few posts about him as he struggled to understand his place in this world. He has inspired me in ways I can never repay, and he tells me that I have done the same for him.

                     Such is the bond of friendship between us. Forged in the caldron of truth and honed by the light  of love. He is the son I never had. I could not be prouder of him.

                     We spoke of things that fathers and sons should speak about, but not like you might think…

                     You see, dearest reader, we both share a deep sadness. One that may never be rectified, at least, in this life.

                      We talked about fathers and sons, and the responsibilities they have towards each other. Seemingly instinctive things, like the understanding a boy should have that his dad would do anything to protect him. Anything. That includes standing  between him and certain death. Anything.

                         Even if the son is not perfect in some way. Maybe he’s not as tall as his dad might have expected. Or as handsome. Or even as smart. Or maybe, it’s a bit harder to define.

                           Maybe he should feel the same, even if his son is… dare I say?  Gay.

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                            I have another picture, as you can see… I’m 13 years old in this one. I have to be. I’m graduating parochial junior high and heading off to high school. I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall. Full of trepidation about my ‘secret’ life already. I probably kissed Bobby for the first time only a month or two before this picture was taken. I know at this point, that something is really broken inside, because the books all say that it is, and my dad just used the derogatory word for the first time in my memory.

                              ‘HOMO’. He said it in a way that made me feel so ashamed. I felt like it fit me perfectly, even if Bobby told me I was beautiful. Beautiful.

                               He blushed and stuttered when he said that, and then corrected himself and used the word ‘handsome’, which, to be honest, I never considered myself.  But then, I never felt deserving of any compliment until I left home.

                                Anyways, back to my feet. I started to tell you about them for a reason….

                                 You see, at age 13, as I sat at my father’s feet on a cold winter night, in front of the fireplace in the first picture, I realized that my feet were as large as his!  I remember that, because it’s the last time I still believed it was possible for him to love me, even if I was hiding a secret.

                                At one point, as the fire flickered on that December night, my dad glanced over the magazine he was straining to read in that dim light, and he laughed. I looked up at him and he was smiling and looking at my bare feet. Puzzled, I asked why he was so amused with my feet, and he shook his head and laughed again. I distinctly remember the tone of his voice, as he said, “Look at those clod hoppers! When did they get so BIG???”

                              It was the way he said it, and the look of pride on his face. He was beaming in a way that made me feel loved. Like he was bragging about the man I was becoming. Do you know what I mean?

                               I felt a little embarrassed, but deep inside, I felt proud. I WAS amounting to something, !  I HAD to be! After all, my dad said so…

                                That was before the word. Before I started hearing the hatred in his voice about people on TV or walking in the city, or waiting on us in restaurants. People he never knew, or cared to know, because they didn’t meet his standards. It was shocking to correlate why. But I eventually did, and my secret became fatal.

                                I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall now. I hate to admit how big my feet are. Size !5. Well, technically, size 14 and 1/2, but shoes don’t come in those sizes. At least not the ones I can afford!

                                  So, I still have big feet, and love in my heart. The same as when those pictures were taken, only now my family knows. All of them.

                                   A few weeks ago, I gave myself my annual birthday present.  This year, I told my dad that he had a gay son.

                                  I was just too exhausted to hide it anymore. Besides, I just don’t care anymore. I said it in a way that I never imagined possible most of my life. Without emotion. As calm as a dead ocean.

                                     My father barely looked at me, as he sat in the same place as that time 45 years ago.  Only this time, there was no grin. No look of pride. I guess I could best describe it as a look of pain. Shame. I have nothing left in me to alter what life has so cruelly now made apparent.

                                    I am, and have always been, the boy in those pictures, but now I understand that I was never his son. I was a ghost.

                                   It is why I’m having such difficulty in writing posts for this blog, at the moment. Like Davie, I bounce between feelings of despair and pride. I live in a strange dimension that feels more like a dream sometimes. I told Davie today that the best way to describe it may be a term used mostly to describe returning soldiers. Post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD. I think we both fit that diagnostic term right now.

                               It really isn’t surprising. A lifetime of abuse, topped by the realization that you’re not even worthy of a father’s love. Something freely given to most boys. Sons. A father’s pride, unless….

                            We’ll survive. And eventually, thrive.

                            It’s what gay boys have to do. That, or die.

tman <3

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          Matty winced and swatted at the buzzing insect as it hovered near his sweaty face. This high in the tree usually provided some relief from the swamp’s marauding skeeters, but it had been a wet summer and an unusually hot September. The result was predictable, despite two attempts by the town to fog the marsh areas with DDT… Odd acting birds and mosquitos the size of hummingbirds.

           From the upper perches of  the old ash tree, the 13 year old boy could see for miles. He often climbed this matriarch of the shadowy forest because it made him feel safe. Invisible. Something he yearned for at times, as he watched people. Trying to understand.

           He could see the rolling farmlands to the west where he spent most of his summers and the hills to the north, near the old Mill Pond, and even the winding stream lined with cattails that fed that landmark as it made its way from the vast marshes to the south. Marshes filled with wildlife and danger. Some that should have never been there.

           Today tho, he was no longer naive. Much had happened in three short years… He had honed his survival skills and learned the art of invisibility, and now lived like the forest creatures he admired. Always on alert. Tensing at the sound of a breaking twig, or the cry of a startled jay.

           In his mind, he was only half human now. Armor on the outside, to keep him safe, until he learned the way.

           Bobby laughed when he admitted that, one night in the treehouse. But then, he stopped, and moved closer to the solemn boy. He put his strong arm around Matty’s slender shoulders and then they had sat there for hours, watching the summer moon arc across the silent sky as the lights of the distant radio tower flickered red, warning … marking the sky, for little planes that droned past at all hours of the night.

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           On this late summer afternoon, only the skeeters and the occasional bluejay seemed to be moving about. Matty scanned the trail that wound through the quiet woods. A trail that might have been started by the nearly invisible deer that came here to drink from the slowly moving, spring- fed streams. Or, by the slew of neighborhood boys who trampled grass quite efficiently, sometimes creating trails, and other times laying waste to carefully coiffed backyard lawns. But, whatever the origin, the path was the blond boy’s best way to avoid the older boys who occasionally terrorized the younger kids. Spawn of a creature well known to Matty. Who still frequented the neighborhood when he wasn’t in jail, for one reason or t’other…

           The teenager shuddered to think about that day. It had been nearly three years, but it still terrified him. He had come to understand that he had two choices. To live each day afraid of the very real possibility that there was more evil to come, or to take up the sword and do his best when confronted with it, in its many forms.

           And so, only 6 months ago, he had taken the oath, before God, to bear that sword that had been forged long before his birth, and carried into battle when evil slithered from the darkness. The sword that carried a responsibility unlike anything else. This very afternoon, he would come to understand that even more clearly.

            It was a crescendo of muddled voices that fired the nerves in his back and neck and startled him to full alert. He pulled himself up to a better perch and strained to find the source as a nervous jay took flight and screamed the first warnings. The voices grew closer and now he could make out a few words. Rude words, and distinctly male. And underneath the words, he could barely hear the plaintive sobs of a younger person. Perhaps a boy, but whoever it was, something was very wrong…

           There was no time to climb the 25 or 30 feet to the ground, but Matty did manage to lower himself to a wide crook about 15 feet from the ground where the massive ash tree branched out in three directions… From here he felt most safe. It was an area that fit his Converse basketball sneakers well. The branches were large. Almost as large as the trunks of most trees. He could hide himself easily behind any of them, and from that roost, see in both directions, up and down the trail where the voices seemed to be originating.

            In less than a minute, his worst fears were realized. The deep voices did indeed belong to two of the worst delinquents in the area. Matty’s blood ran cold to hear the derision and taunting tone of the banter between the two. And now, he saw why. Between them was their latest ‘captive’. A young boy of perhaps 11 years of age, who had apparently been caught away from the safety of home, perhaps returning from his paper route.

            Matty recognized him immediately. Billy…Little Billy. One of the nicest little kids this side of Main Street.

             The oldest tormentor jerked him from side to side, like a pathetic little rag doll, using the boy’s balled up t-shirt as a leash. Matty winced. The youngster was crying and had been for a while, by the looks of it! His face was tear- streaked dirt, essentially. It seemed abnormal, as though he had suffered an encounter with swamp mud recently. Both boys towered over him and made him appear tiny, and powerless as his bare midsection heaved and his dirty jeans threatened to expose even more of his underwear. He had been shoved about, and was not weathering it well… From his hiding place, the blond boy shuddered. This could not end well. There was noone about.

          And now, he could make out the words, between the raucous and derisive laughter.

           “Frickin hell, Greg, what a little wimp! He looks like a little girl, ‘cept he ain’t got no tits! I KNOW he ain’t got no balls!”

            That prompted the heavier boy to yank Billy’s once clean t-shirt nearly over his head, exposing his chest. “Nope! No tits!” , he said mockingly, twisting the boy’s right nipple cruelly, as Billy shrieked in pain.

            “Shut the fuck up, you little turd! Who do you think is gonna hear you way out here?”

             Billy sobbed and slumped, and then staggered as he tripped on an exposed tree root that he might have seen normally. He landed on all fours almost dragging Greg down with him, who still held  his t-shirt twisted in his left hand. There was a brief ripping sound…

               The skinnier 15 year old exploded with laughter. “Damn! Your mama’s gonna be pissed! Look what you did to your shirt!”

               The 11 year old boy tried to get up, but as he regained his footing, his backside presented too tempting a target, and the sadistic pimply -faced accomplice kicked him viciously, between the legs, lifting and propelling him foward. Even the brawny older boy couldn’t hold onto him then! There was an audible tearing sound, and suddenly the youngster was tumbling sideways, his shirt in tatters with Greg holding what was left, like a leash.

              Matty’s heart was pounding and he almost screamed out, but his throat felt choked, as though the beast had a hold on him once more. He froze, as the incident unfolded below…

               “Fuck me!”, the lesser Martinelli brother bellowed. “That’s gotta be a first! One kick, two crushed nuts and a rag for Mama! All at the same time!”

                The tiny boy laid at the base of the mother ash tree motionless, in a fetal position. He seemed almost to have stopped breathing momentarily. Then, he caught his breath and really started to cry.

                   Matty clutched the tree and buried his face into the rough bark. He felt every muscle tighten  in his back and neck, but his legs were now shaking… trembling, as the memories flooded back. What had been a peaceful September day had quickly morphed into a nightmare. The terror he felt came from a well known place. One that his armor had protected him from. Or so he thought.

                   But, the sobs of the little boy below him, clawed at him as he remembered the words. The admonitions… “Go forth. Whatever You command me, I will do…” Matty closed his eyes and tried to pray, but it was no use. The terror below saw to that…

                 The older boys were not leaving, as he had hoped. There was blood in the water.

                 “Hey Greg, if he doesn’t care about his shirt, maybe we should take his pants, too! I’ll bet he shit ‘em anyways!” With that, the younger Martinelli took a step foward and reaching down, inserted his hand in the exposed waistline of Billy’s jeans and tugged at them violently, but he succeeded only in pulling the boy backwards through the dirt and leaves. The denim held fast.

                   Matty clutched the tree and knew then. He had to do something. For the boy in the swamp, if nothing else. If he didn’t, a part of him would be lost. Maybe forever…

                  He didn’t think. he just spun around the tree, and stepped on the stub of a branch protruding from the rough trunk and yelled, “Leave him …”

                  The last word was never spoken. Instead, there was a loud ‘crack’ as his foothold snapped  and the teenager hurtled to the ground, crashing through a nearby pine tree bough that he used to reach the climbable branches of the old ash tree. He crashed to the ground near the young boy as the older boys watched, bewildered. The fall forced the air from his lungs as he landed atop a partially rotted branch that was half buried in the forest floor.

                     It felt like an explosion, and Matty heard nothing but snapping branches and then felt the impact on his right side, mostly in his rib and lower back area. He gasped for breath as he became aware again…

                    “What the fuck !” were the first words he heard. It sounded like Greg, but he didn’t care. He still couldn’t breathe and was wondering if he ever would again! Everything else became secondary…

                        It was almost as if the first breath came from someone else. He heard it that way. A huge gasp, like the time he had  been revived after drowning… His eyes focused as he tried to move. Billy was only a few feet away, wide- eyed and looking dazed. Matty saw the terror in his eyes and tried to smile, but only managed to cough. He groaned and closed his eyes again, unsure that something, most likely his back, wasn’t broken!

                      “Where the fuck did HE come from?” Greg asked, his voice breaking.

                      “He was up there… m-must have been up there, all along,” younger Martinelli offered. “Christ! He almost landed on me!”

                      ” Goddammit… you know who that is…”

                       “Yeah… so what? He’s alone…”

                         “Cowards…” Matty managed .

                       “Who you calling cowards?” Greg mumbled uncertainly.

                        “Go away… ” the blond boy said, more firmly now, as his breathing returned to normal.

                         “You ain’t telling me any…”

                         “We’ll find you and break your leg this time…” The 13 year old boy gasped. His back was screaming as he tried to roll onto his other side to get up. He slumped back to the other side, as Billy reached over and put his dirty hand on Matty’s head protectively.

                            “We?” Greg cackled. “Big words from a skinny kid! You gonna get your mama to help?”

                           “No… Just Bobby. “

                            It was pure inspiration. He didn’t even think about the effect it might have as the words tumbled deliriously from his mouth. But, the words fell heavily. Into silence. When he glanced up, the younger Martinelli was tugging at his brother’s arm and motioning to him. Greg hesitated and brushed the hand away angrily, but said nothing. At first. He seemed to be measuring his words.

                            Finally, he spoke. “Screw this! I ain’t got time for this shit… I hope you broke every fuckin’ bone in your body… I’m outta here! This is getting boring anyways…”

                           Matty closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as the older boys turned and straggled away, one behind the other, Greg in the lead. He listened to the sound of broken twigs and rustling leaves as the two delinquents wandered down the winding path, back towards the south, from where they had come.

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             The tall teenager rolled onto his stomach and then onto all fours. Everything hurt, and the pounding in his head was dizzying. He slowly pushed up into a sitting position and lifted his hands to his face.  Lord, what a fall! He felt stunned that he hadn’t broken his neck! Billy moved to his right and he felt the boy’s warm arm around him.

                “Matty, are you OK? It’s like you fell outta the sky!”

                 “I did! Only I wasn’t trying to. At least, not like that!  Cripes. My back feels like it’s in a million pieces… What was THAT all about, anyways? How’d you end up with those guys?”

                   “Geezz, Matty, I wasn’t tryin’ to get caught, y’know! All I was doin’ was goin’ to pick up my bike from Tweeter’s. Me and him were gonna do my route together and then head over to Gelliss'”

                     “Tweeter? Who’s Tweeter? Do I know him?”

                       “Sure! He’s in my grade. His real name’s Mark, but we call him Tweeter, because he sounds like a bird when he sneezes… “

                         Matty grimaced and managed to get into a sitting position against the old tree with Billy helping. “Mark… I see. But how did you end up with Greg Martinelli and his brother… what’s his name?”

                          “Uh… I think it’s Henry, but noone calls him that, because he hates it. I forgot and that’s why he was so pissed… He likes to be called Rex, but I couldn’t remember.”

                            “Rex. Hmm… How appropriate! The only Rex I know is a dog. A German shepherd dog. And, he’s a lot nicer than that guy! By the way, he kicked you pretty hard! You OK, little man?”

                            “I’m OK now. ” Billy grinned. “They don’t call me numbnuts for nothin’!”

                            Matty giggled at the young boy’s attempt at humor. Billy had always had a good sense of humor. A really sweet kid… “Numbnuts, eh? Who calls you that?”

                            “Ahh, my brother. That or dickhead…”

                             “Nice brother. I never called my younger brothers names like that! Anyways, how did you end up getting caught by those two?”

                              “I didn’t see them until it was too late… They ambushed me near the bridge when i stopped to take a pee. Shoulda peed on them! Assholes!”

                                “Hey! Never mind the bad language! You’re just a kid… A good kid. You don’t need to talk like that!”

                               Billy reddened and looked down. “I’m sorry, Matty… Matty? Why did they get scared and leave?”

                               “Uh… well, Billy, let’s just say that they messed with me a few times and the last time, Greg ended up at the hospital, thanks to Bobby and his Louisville Slugger! You don’t forget those things too easily, not even a jerk like Greg!”

                               Billy looked startled and was quiet for a moment. He wiped at his dirt- streaked face with an equally dirty hand.

                                “Matty?”

                                “Yeah.”

                                “Thanks.”

                                “Don’t mention it, Billy…”

                                “No, you don’t know what they were gonna do! They’re really evil…”

                                “It’s OK, Billy. Just watch out for them next time. Sooner or later, guys like that end up in jail. Just steer clear. Tell your brother what happened. He’ll watch out for you…”

                               Matty struggled to his feet with the young boy by his side. He straightened his back and shook his legs, one at a time. Miraculously, he had survived, intact.

                             Billy looked up at the tall,blond boy and then threw his arms around his waist and held him tightly. Matty hugged him back and then patted his head and  walked him back home, through the winding trails he knew so well, as the boy in the swamp smiled. It would be some time before he would feel safe again, but he was on his way…

{Epilogue}

            A few weeks ago, as I walked down the quiet street I once roamed as a child, I noticed a car approach from the south. I walked to the side of the road to allow it to pass, but as it reached me it slowed, and the passenger window rolled down.

            I stopped and leaned over to peer inside, thinking someone was lost and needed directions.

            Inside the car was an elderly gentleman, who looked at me smiling, and addressed me by my first name. I was stunned, and told the man that ‘he had me at a disadvantage’, and that I was ‘very sorry but I didn’t know his name.’

                 He smiled serenely, and I noticed that he was wearing a very expensive watch and a gold ring with a large ruby embedded in the center.

                “I know you, tho. You’re Florence’s oldest boy, aren’t you?” He extended his hand. “I’m Pat. I knew your grandfather and all your uncles and aunts. Especially your Godfather. John.”

                 My mind was reeling as I tried to absorb the odd situation. Who was this man? I had never seen him before in my life!

                 I shook his hand and we talked, for about 20 minutes, as I leaned into that car window, my back hurting from all the years of carpentry work and the many falls it had endured, during my childhood and even into my adult life…

                   I will not divulge all that I learned in that 20 minutes, but some of it was mind boggling and some of it left me shivering. You see, I had never known very much about my Uncle John, the man I honored at my confirmation as a 12 year old boy, by taking his first name as my confirmation name. He was, after all, my Godfather.

                      But what shocked me to the core was to learn something I had never known about the man that everyone seemed to consider the ‘black sheep’ of the family. You see, dear reader, this man, who had a career as the town attorney and was a friend to my Godfather, told me that my uncle had been proud of me. That he had watched from afar, as I took on the mantle of big brother and defender of the weaker kids around me. How he knew that, I had no idea, but there it was…

                     I asked him what he remembered most about my Godfather, who had never seemed to be much of a presence in my life, and he replied, “He was ‘the catcher in the rye’. The real deal. He spent his childhood defending the little kids who were always being bullied. I hear that you took after him…”

                     I managed to keep my composure as we parted company on that April morning. And no, I never knew…. Isn’t life strange sometimes?

tman <3

Brothers

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                I’ve had a day to sort through my feelings now. To let the joy diffuse the sadness and give me a better perspective.

                 You see, as I sat by my father’s side at my uncle’s 90th birthday celebration yesterday, the echoes of the past stirred memories of places and happenstance both precious and searing to me.

                I found myself recalling the scorching summer days on Lake Terramuggus, where I learned to swim as a child and where I was reborn in the emerald depths at age 10… Reminded that I was never alone. An understanding that would soon  be tested on that fall morning in the marsh, as my tears fell into the turbid water and the creature tore into my flesh. It was the beginning of my education of all things evil and undeniable, that spanned the next 45 years.

                As my uncle’s voice washed over me yesterday, the memories triggered in rapid sequence and I found myself trying to recall his face during the happy times I spent on that lake with my family and cousins. It wasn’t hard. I had always been intrigued by him. He could be loving and cruel. A larger than life figure who commanded respect one moment, and in the next, a joking brawler who loved to drink and mix it up with the little ‘uns. He had always been a free spirit in that respect, and I suppose I inherited that part of his personality. Minus the drinking.

                 I remembered that he had blond curly hair. Muscular arms and legs. He wore a bathing suit like an athlete, and by late June, the summer sun had already left him tanned, not only because of the weekends at the lake, but because all the ‘guys’ worked the building sites shirtless in those days, once the weather warmed up. At least in my experience. Me included. When I wasn’t on the farm, that is…

                 Yesterday, I purposely sat my dad next to my uncle, where I knew they both belonged. Side by side, as brothers should be. I sat next to my dad, at the head table, while my brothers and the rest of the family occupied the other tables that had been pulled together for the occasion. There were probably 30 people at the celebration including a priest, who gave an invocation prayer just before we ate.

                    I kept my focus on my uncle and dad most of the party, purposely avoiding any eye contact with my brothers, who were seated at the other tables with their wives. It is a great sadness for me, especially at an event like this. You see, it was my intervention that reunited my dad and my uncle after 15 years of estrangement. I was a bit devious in my methods, but in the end, it all worked the way I had hoped, and both brothers have been close ever since.

                     Of course, there was nothing remotely similar in their estrangement, compared to the nonsense I’ve endured with my own brothers since I came out.

                   And that is what put a bittersweet edge on all of this for me yesterday… There were pictures taken of the brothers. Some included me, because I have always maintained contact with my uncle. I have none to post, unfortunately, because I didn’t take them, and I didn’t have the foresight to ask anyone to use my camera for a few…

                   So, there we were. Two brothers with their arms over each others’ shoulders and me standing directly in back, with my right hand on my uncle’s shoulder, my left hand on my dad’s.

                   The uniter. The peacemaker. Me.

                   Alone, as I have always been.

tman <3

Friday’s Child

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         The morning sun had just topped the nearby treeline as the door to my truck swung open, groaning as though it was not yet ready for the new day.

          I groaned as well, as I rotated my legs and stepped out of the passenger compartment and onto the pavement near the Citgo gas pump. At 7 A.M. it was quiet but cold. I shivered as I reached to my collar and tipped it up to cover my exposed neck.

           $3.85 per gallon! Cripes! Just a month ago, the price had seemed to be reaching more sane levels, but something had happened, and suddenly, fuel prices were spiking, as tho we had become engaged in another Mideast fiasco! God bless the USA!, was what I was musing as I shook my head and wondered if things would ever be better. I glanced behind me as a small car pulled into the empty space, creaking to a halt. Another ‘victim’ I thought, chuckling under my breath. Better to be in this together….

            I reached for the cold filling nozzle and opened the fuel tank door. Everything was frosty cold. I thought about the gloves I never wore, that were sitting in plain sight on the front seat, and sighed. My own fault if I was cold… I was in my usual pensive mood as I strained to see the prompts on the credit card scanner and to press the unresponsive numbers on the pad to enter my zipcode… My zipcode. Why in the heck did they need that? Didn’t they know who was paying the bill? Geezz…

             The nozzle  almost slipped out of its perch as I reached over it to throw my wallet onto the front seat of the truck, so that I didn’t accidentally leave it on my rear mounted job box like I had one time! I grabbed at the cold steel handle and repositioned it deftly, silently chiding myself for the obvious  clumsiness. ‘Calm down Tony’, I thought. ‘The day is just starting!’

               It was going to take a while to put 22 gallons into the dark blue Ford, so I squeezed the lever and leaned back against the bed, glad that my jacket was insulated enough to keep most of the cold at bay… The sound of rushing gasoline slowly faded from my consciousness, as I started my mental gymnastics…. My checklist for the coming day. There were a lot of details to remember, because one job would be coming to a close and another starting. Nothing crazy hard about that, but somehow, I had been managing to forget one or two little things, here or there, so this exercise had now become something more than symbolic. It seemed, more and more, to remind me that my mind was no longer the fine tuned computer I once considered it. It still retained the most critical things,  but maddeningly and most haphazardly, seemed to discard or misplace items on the checklists that left me muttering to myself when I finally realized what I had forgotten.

              I don’t know what really startled me out of that stupor, to be honest, but suddenly I had the feeling that one gets at odd times. The one where you think that someone is watching you. lol I don’t know. Maybe it’s just peculiar to me… I grew up looking over my shoulder, most of my childhood, for obvious reasons.

               Nonetheless, I felt the shock on the back of my neck suddenly and the sound of rushing fuel returned to the forefront of my mind. As did the urge to quickly survey my surroundings, in a way that was inconspicuous. I’m usually very calm on the outside. No need for anyone to see what occasionally rises from the depths!

               So, I casually glanced behind me at the random traffic on the nearby, mostly quiet side street. Nothing there of any significance. Nobody walking on the sidewalk either…

                My eyes scanned the building entrance as the door swung open and a patron tucked her newly purchased cigarettes into her ample overcoat pocket. She walked briskly, and glanced at me briefly, but never made eye contact. I didn’t know her. Even in this little town, I sometimes feel anonymous…

                 A throat- clearing cough from behind my truck interrupted my thoughts. I turned casually to look. It was the young man who had driven up in the little Nissan. A dark colored, sporty looking car of early vintage, with a broken headlight on the passenger’s side. I winced. The car was not street legal like that! Newington cops can be real dicks sometimes. (pardon my french) I looked at the driver to assess his age, but he turned away quickly and with the hoodie that he was wearing, covering his entire head, I only caught a quick glimpse. A very quick glimpse.

                    It was enough. My heart skipped a beat, even tho I wasn’t sure. Could it be??

                    I pretended to be nonplussed but the reality was quite different as the memories flooded my brain and sent my mind into hyperdrive.

                     No! It couldn’t be! And yet…

                       I was suddenly back three years prior, in this same location, only it was nighttime. Probably nine or ten o’clock, as I walked around the back of the building, searching the shadows for the young shirtless and shoeless boy I had stumbled upon earlier. I actually recounted the experience in a post I wrote early on in this blog. October of 2009. ‘Transitions’.

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                Where does the time go?

                 I had spent the next few years trying to catch a glimpse of the boy, praying that he had weathered the abusive environment that had scared him enough to run from the house that cold October night, nearly naked, save the meager sweat pants/ pajama bottoms I found him trembling in…

                  I had seen him twice– once at a distance as he scurried along in a pack of teenaged boys, and once as I drove right by him on a neighboring street, as he walked along with some of his friends. We made eye contact that time, and he recognized me. He had smiled, as did I. I think. More likely I was grinning ear to ear, feeling relieved that he seemed to be all right!

                 But now… Could it be him?  My heart knew but my mind was racing, telling me to be calm. If it was him, he had a right to his privacy. My heart sank, to think that I might have to endure an eternal mystery… I glanced his way again, unable to help myself. I had to at least know that it was him! I looked at the car. A typical ‘hoopda’ that a kid from a poor family might be driving… I gave the boy a once over. He would be about 17 years old now…

               It was hard to tell, but the build was the same- slender, but taller than I remembered. Still, the last time I saw him was over a year and a half ago! I felt the handle of the gas nozzle suddenly release as the audible click echoed through the small filling station area.

                  It startled me, but more importantly, it startled the boy as well! He turned to face me and we made immediate eye contact. I was frozen in my tracks. I’m not sure what I did with the filling nozzle, to be honest, as the realization swept over me and I felt a smile break out on my face…

                    I was not alone. Justin smiled shyly and pushed the hood back off his head. Justin. I know him by that name now, because he told me as we shook hands and then embraced. I think his heart was pounding as hard as mine, because I felt it right though his thin sweatshirt- type jacket.

                    It’s mostly a blur after that. I don’t know how long we stood there, catching up, but I did understand that he was off to school after the pit stop for gas, and that his father had found a new job. Not right away, but he had finally found one. His brother had not thrived quite as well. He had been caught burgling a house and was now on probation in a treatment center/ half way house, by the way Justin described it.

                     It was all too brief, but as I talked to the handsome young man, I felt a real warmth inside. I was getting a little emotional as we finally parted, this time with a longer hug. He really put his strength into that one, and then he said something to me with his head resting on my shoulder… “Thank you for helping me that night. I was SO scared and nobody else seemed to care.”

                   I didn’t know what to say. I’m not good with words at times like that, so I hugged him tighter and told him that ‘it was OK… and that if he wanted to make me proud, he would promise to do the same thing for someone else who might need HIS help someday…’

                  We released each other and he made that promise. I swear he had tears in his eyes, but I wasn’t seeing that well myself, at that moment… He turned to head into the building to pay for his fuel as I patted him on the back and got into my work truck.

                   There was nothing more I would have liked better than to just sit there to see him get into his car and drive away, but I started the Ford and slowly turned it onto the road, and drove away. I kept looking in the rear view mirror to catch a glimpse of the young man with the old size 13 leather tennis shoes. The ones that had always been too tight for me, but had served a very important use in the end.

                    After all, a young boy had grown into a man wearing them.

                    I drove to the Falls, parked my truck, and had a good cry to get it out of my system before I headed to work.

                    I haven’t shared that with anyone until now, but I thought I should note it here… Life has a way of completing the circle, no?

love to all, tman <3

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             And so, we leave behind another year and start anew…

             First of all, I hope the picture I posted offends noone. I decided to insert it in this post as a nod to the past and to the fond memories that have brought me to this point in my life.

              No, I have never stood on a train track, naked with only my beloved cowboy hat or the twin, Roy Roger’s guns in their holster, strapped on, ready for what was to come. But, I actually did, in my backyard, more than once ! Noone witnessed it, however, or I might have been disciplined.  But now I’m digressing. Again.

             Perhaps the train bearing down on me, at that point in my life, had the momentum and the power, but I had something on my side that it could never comprehend– pure will. The will to be human. To laugh. To love. To find my way through this life, despite the terrors that awaited.

               It has been a long journey. One that I described in an email I just wrote to a reader in Boise.  I hope he won’t mind if I share a  portion with you…

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           … You have been thru a lot and it may take a long time for your spirit to heal and for your new life to finally take control over your former life, and put that finally where it belongs– in the realm of  the ‘Others’, where darkness holds sway and the things that make us less, reign. It is where the things that children should never see, find refuge.
             I lived there once, and for too long, mostly because the shadows wouldn’t let me escape. I sought the ‘light’, but was surrounded by treacherous cliffs… jagged precipices that became the walls of my prison. I peered out from my hiding place and waited for the day of my rescue because I felt powerless to fight… alone.
             Over time, I started to understand that  which the voice inside of me told me, over and over again… I was NEVER alone, even as I cried for help. That the reason for my salvation would be made clear some day, and that the path to that understanding would be a journey shared by the people I chose. The people I loved who would stand beside me because of who I would be. The rest was illusion wrought in the fires of hell, designed to test me. To test my will and the reason for my existence. To mock me when I was sad, and to torment me when I felt weak.
            At first, I doubted. How could something so seemingly powerful be illusion? How had I accepted its role in my young life?
           In fact, the words became puzzles to me and I struggled for years to decipher them, until I took the chance to peer out from my place of refuge one day and feel the warm breeze of love wash over me.
           It would change everything.
           It was only then that the light was able to find me. I started to trust once more. To let certain people touch me in ways that I had once vowed to be too dangerous.
          The journey from there has been incredible. At times I find myself marveling that much of it has happened. I look back and much of it seems like a dream that has been lived in minutes, yet it has happened over decades! It is almost inconceivable to me that I opened that door, but I did. Slowly, and in stages, but I did.
         Your journey is just beginning, ******. You will find your way, just like I have. You are in control of who will be by your side. The rest must fall away into the darkness where it belongs. Always reach for the light and live with hope. Joy. Remember, but do not go back. The years will pass quickly. Savor every moment of love and use the darkness to guide you to the light. Always.
          Nothing can hurt you in the light.
          You will become stronger and stronger as you take those first steps…
          That is my wish for you. I believe that is why we found each other.
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         That is the gist of the email I wrote and it left me deep in contemplation… Looking back, over the past year or so, as my journey has taken me to places I never conceived, but have done my best to embrace.
          As recently as last week, I found myself celebrating the Christmas holiday with friends instead of the traditional way I have for so long. As I sat there at the lovely dinner my dear friend put together, but of which I could not physically consume, due to my looming surgery, I felt the warmth that only acceptance can bring… Full acknowledgement of who I am and unconditional love despite that. Maybe even because of that…
          So, I sat there, eating the soup I had brought with me, and enjoyed the affectionate jabs from my Godson who was to be my chariot driver in the A.M. as I made my way to the West Haven VA, where the surgery was scheduled… He seemed jubilant that I had asked. I had hoped he would feel that way.
           My surgery was something petty compared to what most people endure, but I had no illusions that it would be easy or fun. In fact, because my digestive tract was involved, I felt like the recovery was going to be a challenge. I love to eat, especially around the holidays, but to get a realistic time where I could rely on my friends to transport me back and forth, I chose a date when they would be on holiday and able to help w/o the financial burden of taking time off from work.
              That translated into a date with destiny on December 26th. The day after Christmas.
              And so it was. That morning came quickly after the get -together at my friends’ house. It was a bleak and raw kind of day as we exited the Prius in West Haven, and hustled towards the huge facility on the hill. I had noticed the sparsity of cars. Usually, the place was teeming, but this looked more like a ghost town than the usual chaotic city it had become recently…
                I said my goodbyes in the waiting room, after getting dressed in a dark blue johnny and the pants with the snaps that always seem ready to pop. Open, that is!
                James and Edie gave me big hugs and I padded away in the grip- type socks that accompanied the other garb, slightly self conscious, but eager to get things under way. I have suffered from these doggoned hemorrhoids for far too long now!
                 So, I followed the slightly built Asian lady down the hall until we reached the doorway to the operating room.  To be honest, I was a bit surprised that I wasn’t already on a gurney but shrugged it off and followed her through the swinging doors and into the triage area. I’m calling it that, because it wasn’t the actual area where the operation was to be performed. That was only 25 feet away (roughly) through another set of swinging doors where I assumed sterile conditions were maintained and prioritized.
                  I had walked into the triage area only 6 feet or so when I saw the first staff awaiting my arrival… OMG. Wayne. lol
                    You see, it had only been three or four weeks since my last screening procedure in that same facility, only that time, it was down the hall in another room, and that was where I first met Wayne as he prepped me for the colonoscopy. We had clicked right away, and the last thing I remembered that time, were twisted jokes about the anesthesia I was about to experience. I had him in stitches and he had me groaning at the double entendres and the witty comebacks… A funny guy. Genuinely fuuny. A ‘people’ person.
                    Never to miss an opportunity, I turned on my heels, like I had been taught in the military and headed for the exit doors, looking back at Wayne and rolling my eyes. “Why me?” was what I offered.
                     Wayne had his own take… “Oh my God! Not you again! You must like having things shoved up your ass! Merry Christmas, buddy!”  He stood there, grinning away, while I feigned mock horror and reluctantly reversed direction once more. The Asian orderly froze in her tracks, unsure what had happened :P
                      Oh dear… That begin a half hour of laughing and banter. Some of it absurd. Most of it just fun, as we enjoyed the final moments of levity before I took the ride through the other doors.
                      Just as that was about to happen, Wayne leaned over me once last time, to ask me once more about any possible sources of metal in my body… I reminded him about the crazy mechanism in my left arm that was designed on the fly by an orthopedic surgeon as he reconstructed my shattered arm. “Ahhh… that’s right… We DID talk about that. So, to put it in a nutshell then… Assholes and elbows…”
                      I almost fell off the gurney. I reached up and patted him on the shoulder. “I gotta remember that… it’ll make a good heading for my next post. Remind me, if this anesthesia erases it, OK?”
                      “You bet, buddy… ”  We were in the room now, and the intravenous was taking control as he and the other orderly rolled me off the gurney. My johnny unsnapped and I think I mooned everyone in the room. {sigh} Wayne giggled and draped the warm blanket  over me. That’s all I remember.
                        I came to in the recovery room and realized that darkness had settled in… I could see the street lights through some high windows and there almost seemed to be snow flying in front of them.
                        There was… The snow I was worried about had just pushed into the area. It would ultimately dump about 8 inches around here. My hope had  been that I could complete my recovery and get ‘out of Dodge’ in a timely fashion, BEFORE the worst of it hit. All of us wanted that, altho James seemed unfazed. He liked driving in snow, having lived in Vermont while attending Middlebury College…
                       Well, we did make it back, and without incident. I spent about an hour in recovery and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. James was all smiles and so was Edie. It was nice to have them by my side. And, when I sent them on a ‘mission’ to intercept my prescriptions at the pharmacy, it gave me time to get dressed and to get my bearings again. I thought back, trying to recall anything during the surgery, but to no avail… The place was almost empty as I slipped my socks on and started to tie the laces on my sneakers.
                       “Assholes and elbows, buddy.”  And then laughter, as the curtain parted and a familiar face came into view, followed by a snappy salute that I returned, grinning the whole while…
                       It has been an interesting journey, to say the least!  There is a long way to go from here, and I hope you will come with me, full of the hope and joy I feel right now!  2013!! It’s gonna be a GREAT  one!
                        Love to all,   tman <3

Feliz Navidad… Christmas musings

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 Dearest Readers,

                 The final rush is over, and I’m sitting here, letting the quiet of the old farmhouse wash over me… So many melancholic thoughts have ricocheted through my head this year, I’m surprised I can find this moment of peace. But, even in that chaos, there has always been a glimmer. A ray of light beckoning me foward. Reminding me that I am on a Path, and that it is not mine to know every reason or outcome. That my journey has never been easy, but that my Faith has always sustained me.

                 And so it will, as I stiffen my resolve and once more serve the Light to the best of my ability.

                I am reminded,  that in my darkest hours, I have been continually blessed by the love I still have, all around me. It humbles me to feel that joy and shames me to have doubted that He is beside me…

                 The past few weeks have tested my faith once again, as I scratched and clawed my way to the ‘finish line’, in a superhuman attempt to complete impossible tasks before the holidays and a medical procedure force me into hibernation for a while. Everything was going reasonably well, until December 14th,  when the shattering news from Newtown tore my heart from my chest, leaving me wondering what had become of us… I can no longer see a youngster without flinching. Wondering if they’ve been told about the incomprehensible… the evil that has reached even the most innocent amongst us. That has muted the joy that I have tried so desperately to find these past months.

                 Now, a light winter snow has fallen, and brought a smile to my face … If the memory of those tiny fallen angels is to be honored, we all have a duty to move foward, and  make the changes that have been neglected for far too long. 

                 So, on this Christmas day in the year 2012, I resolve that I will push aside the failures of the past and the sadness they have wreaked upon me, and focus my efforts in a positive way– to live in the Light and lead by example… We all must do our best now. History beckons us. Those little lives demand our devotion to a cause bigger than our own petty tribulations.

                 I ask that you all make this journey with me. There is no room for failure if our children are to live the lives they are entitled to. 

                 I wish you all the love and peace that this holy day represents. Hold your little angels close and make them feel safe. Cherish them and lead them to a better way of life…

                  Merry Christmas! I love you all!

tman <3

p.s. Wonderful to hear from you after all this time, David! I hope your Christmas is joyful and that you, your brother and the rest of your family, including your darling little ‘creatures‘, are all safe and healthy! Feliz Navidad, sweetie!

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