Blue Paper Shorts

 A few nights ago I had this weird little dream, in it I was at some kind of writers conference or workshop when I hear that Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy are there to throw out the first words. Now for those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about, Don and Jerry are the broadcast team for the Red Sox and since being laid up I have been watching more games than usual. I have been thinking of that dream and wondering what my deeper subconscious is trying to tell me. Dreams, according to some, is that place we enter to work out some part of our life, I want to write but at times my own self doubt holds me back then there’s Don and Jerry who put themselves out there during each game they cover. They are not the best but I also get a sense that they know that, it’s their passion for the game that shines through and that’s what truly matters. If there is ever a plus side to my accident it has forced me to take the time to write, the negative side, I also spend way too much time thinking.  The thinking part gets me into trouble, I begin to parse every word and every thought as I seek to sanitize my thoughts. In other words, I try to be too perfect instead of just allowing myself to free write. It is a process and something that will come with time, at least I hope it will. In the meantime my focus is on the healing process and that has consumed most of my life up to this point. It’s sometimes hard to be creative when you are basically uncomfortable and tired, then again I also see this as a wonderful period of creativity. Like yesterday when I went to the hospital for x-rays and to have the surgical staples removed. Pretty much a comedy routine complete with dark blue paper shorts, required for the x-rays, and having a large mirror in the examining room with me on my side staring at my reflection with my special blue shorts pulled down to reveal my butt. All I could think about was being in one of those “B” movie brothel scenes, the only thing missing were the red lights.

 It is much better to look at the lighter side of things while I continue to rehab and get back to doing what I do best. In the meantime, I will get up, walk, do my exercises, read, write and above all pray because for me it’s that spiritual grounding that keeps me from losing it completely. Of course, if I do lose it, I’ll be sure to write it all down. Nothing like the diary of a mad priest to liven things up. 

Witley Camp, 1915

“I haven’t had time to drop you a line, And thought perhaps you might grieve:

So I send you this card just to say I’m alright,

 And longing to see you again when on “leave.”

When Old England’s Call for more men to fight,

 For her Honour — in me caused a thrill;

I felt fight I must or else I should “bust,”

 So I’m at Witley Camp, on the Surrey Hills.

The work is hard, for we’re “at it” all day,

 And sometimes half of the night:

But we’re hardening to it and getting quite fit,

 And thank goodness for “grub” we’re alright.

My duty calls me as the picture shows,

 To the front where the fightin’ is done;

And once Witley Camp Tommies get grip on the foe,

 There’s no letting go till they’ve won.

But cheer up, my dear, tho’ parted we are,

 And though I’m so far away;

My loved ones are ever first in my thoughts,

 I’m thinking of YOU everyday.”

 I found this little poem on a postcard while doing some research on my Great-Uncle James Travis’ time serving with the 11th Manchester’s. I have no idea if he ever sent something like this to his wife, Sophia or his own family. If he did it has been lost or destroyed, but it is an insight into British military thinking at the time. When they were at Witley Camp, the Manchester’s we’re getting ready to be sent to the Mediterranean where they would see action during the Gallipoli campaign. 
 As you read the poem, you get that sense of bravado, that once we get there this fight will soon be over. Not unlike what we continue to do today as we send our young men and women into harms way, defending our precious liberties. Unknown to them and also, unknown to us, we don’t know how long this will continue. The Manchester’s will go to Gallipoli, then they will be evacuated and sent to France where they will participate in the Battle of the Somme. Many will die, many will be wounded, much of the bravado will probably be toned down by the harsh realities of trench warfare. 

 We do well to remember these young men and the sacrifices they made, leaving their families, friends and jobs, not knowing when or if they would return. We also should reflect on our own time and what we are asking of our current military. Peace is ever elusive, whenever we think we have found a solution to war, we find it nothing more than a mirage that disappears in the heat of human emotions. Yet, we cannot lose hope, for once hope is lost then we are lost, life is lost.

HopeĀ 

“Hope…is a gift.Like life, it’s is a gift from God,

total,

unexpected,

incomprehensible,

undeserved.

It springs out of nothingness, completely free.
But to meet it, we have to descend into nothingness.

And there we meet hope most perfectly,

when we are stripped of our own confidence, 

our own strength, when we almost no longer exist.” 
Thomas Merton, The New Man
 This was posted today on face book by Weavings and I thought it appropriate as I am now into the second week since my accident. There have been several ups and downs, moments when I thought everything was going backwards and then suddenly gaining new strength. Hope, it is what many of us cling to as we negotiate the hills and valleys of life. They say, hope springs eternal, and in many ways that is true, while there is still life there is hope and even in the darkness that soon envelopes us all, hope continues to illumine that place. 

 I woke up early in that pre-dawn darkness today, a routine that has become normal since being laid up. I lay there looking at the face of my love, my wife, Jane. Hope, a slender thread that binds our two hearts and helps us to face the challenges each day brings. In the darkened bedroom, I reach out to touch her hand and as I do her fingers wrap themselves around mine and once more we are one flesh, one body. 

 Hope, love, these are not quantifiable commodities, they cannot be bought or sold on any market. They are mysteries which we enter into, not knowing where they will lead us in our journey. Maybe it would be nice if there were one of those ancient shops, run by some old, hook nosed crone who with a few choice mixes could give us what we desire, make someone fall in love with us, give us strength or good looks. Then again would that really bring true happiness? 

 At the end of the day, when I take inventory of the moments and reflect on what I have been given, all I can do is give thanks. 

BoredĀ 

 Okay, I will admit it, I’m bored. I mean, how long can one sit in their bed with an ice pack on their leg, watching worn out re-runs or inane game shows. Sure, I have been reading but lately my mind has not been too keen on focusing, I get a few pages read and then fade away. 

 What I’m beginning to discover is that this healing process is not only a physical journey, it is also a spiritual journey. It is walking by faith into an unknown future with the promise of wholeness and healing at the end, except the end is so far away. This journey also requires some sacrifice on my part. I just can’t skip the exercises, or sleep my whole day away. In the coming days and weeks I will face many mountains and valleys, I will pass into the shadow of doubt and despair, yet through this all the glimmer of love on that far horizon is my beacon of hope.

 It has been awhile since I last read Homer’s epic The Odyssey, a tale of one trying to get back to his home, family and the love he left behind to go away to war. The story is full of strange places, one eyed monsters, seductive sirens and dangers of the sea. I remember as a youngster reading about Ulysses and his gallant crew trying to envision what it must have been like as they struggled each day to return to their home. In a way, I am on my own kind of odyssey and along the way I have run into the seductive sirens, those one eyed monsters and have been tempted just to stay put on that one special island. Yes, the voices are out there, “Well, maybe now it’s time to put that bike away, do something less dangerous,” or “You aren’t as young as you used to be, you don’t heal as quick, you will never be the same.” These are the negatives, the voices that, for reasons unknown, seem to project their own insecurity and fears upon the patient. Sure, I could give up the cycling, but that’s the easy way, what if I run into another issue, physical, emotional or spiritual? Do I just ignore it, try to circumvent it or just go to ground, hoping that this too shall pass over? 

 Each day I dig deep into the core of my being seeking the strength and courage to keep taking the next step. Every morning is a new adventure that brings with it its own promise and failure. I’m not saying that this personal odyssey is going to turn me into a mystic or some kind of shaman, trust me, that’s not my nature and not my calling, but it will make me stronger. After all, I sit here with a titanium rod in my leg, pinning together bones so that they can handle the weight that is the rest of my life.

Dickens, Zeppelin and Me

 “It was the best of times, it was the worse of times,” this often quoted piece from Dickens classic work, A Tale of Two Cities, or in the immortal words of Led Zeppelin, “Good times, Bad times, you know I’ve had my share,” can also best describe the last couple of days of my recovery. It has been the best of times, I’m moving more and each day with less pain. Just the shear joy of being able to walk outside brought me to tears and that my therapist allowed me to walk using only one crutch, well, awesome can’t even begin to describe that feeling. Yes, I know I still have a long road, I am not entirely pain free although, as my doctors and nurses always ask, “on a scale of 1-10” a happy cartoon face or a grimace cartoon face, I am much closer to the happy face.  Unfortunately, with the best has to come some of the worse. For any of you who have experienced the joy of major surgery, and the subsequent usage of pain medication and anesthesia, then you also know what it does to your system. It’s remarkable how we tend to take our bodies for granted, especially when all is in working order. We don’t realize how each part, from our more “honored parts” to our more “lowly parts” are all interconnected and that one cannot function if another is broken. Our bodies, to heal and get well, focus on the hurt and broken so that in doing so the rest of the body can get stronger and survive. This interconnectedness is what Paul tries to get across when speaking about the church and community, when one part of that body is broken or neglected then the rest is diminished. 

 This time has also reminded me that my healing is not just about me. This is not some self-centered, macho, go alone, John Wayne moment where I can just suck it up and do it all on my own. It is also not a time for a pity party, oh woe is me, kind of attitude designed to gain sympathy so I can drag you into my systemic suffering and pain for pampering and not the hard work of healing. This time of healing reminds me that I am at once both independent but also dependent. I need love and support, I also need the space to work towards getting better. My physical therapist, Heather encourages me as I take my tentative steps, which is great support, but she also challenges me by not letting me skimp on the exercises. I could easily spend the next few weeks in my bed, dosing myself with pain meds and railing against an unkind deity who “did this to me.” Or I can get up each day, give thanks to my Creator for giving me another morning full of possibilities. So I choose to look forward to the possibilities, to work hard to rise above this moment, to reclaim for myself and my family a sense of wholeness. Maybe and I say this with a huge qualifier, but just maybe, this time is helping me to see life in a new way, where possibility exists, where love does indeed drive away the anxiety and fear and just maybe I will become a better man. 

Simple Moments

 The odyssey continues as I slowly creep toward recovery. It has not been two weeks, yet I am anxious to get moving, to feel less soreness and pain but I have to be realistic. Each day has its own moments of grace, they are small but significant, like putting on shoes today, reaching out without feeling any soreness, touching my wife’s hand as we lay together in the evening. Touch, that most intimate of human contact, the touch of a hand, the contact made as another helps to dress you or just hold you as you’re challenged to walk with one crutch. The touch of lips in a kiss before the night overtakes and the world beyond our world takes shape and form in dreams. As I lay in bed, as I have been given time to think, pray, contemplate. It’s never through great, momentous Herculean efforts that have brought me peace, but in those small, human connections whether at the bedside of an elder passing into the night or a child eager to show their latest accomplishment. Small moments of grace, God in the simplicity of life, in a cooling breeze, in a baby’s smile, in the sip of a rich and hoppy IPA. 

  

False Dawn

 Awoke this morning, it was the false dawn, that time where the sky is lightening up but yet not at sunrise. At this most early time the birds are already out, I can hear their singing as they seek out food, their partner or are feeding hatchlings in the nest. What sounds at time like a general, chaotic cacophony of noise is really a symphony of life, these birds sing songs of joy, of discovery and of love. Natures exuberance even before the sun begins to shine down on our daily lives.  This early pre-dawn is one of my favorite times and now that I am laid up in my room recovering I am discovering a new world that is full of life. It was in this pre-dawn that women approached a tomb carrying the necessary items for a funeral, spices, linens as well as carrying their own fears. “Who will open the tomb, for us,” that’s the question for all of us, who will open our own self imposed tombs, will we hear the songs of the birds of the air, as they go from branch to nest building lives, feeding the young, living lives filled with the grace of God or do we move in the grayness filled with doubts and fear.

 How many of us waking this morning or any other morning are carrying the necessary items for a funeral, preparing for burial rather than preparing for the song of life. Listen to the birds, they sing, they gather, they live, “be not anxious,” it’s not easy, trust me in my position where I want healing quickly, where every twinge and ache a reminder that I still have miles to go, yet in this pre-dawn of my injury I don’t carry funeral spices, I carry the light baggage of hope and love. 

Day Four

 Here it is, June 9, four days since “the accident” that has left me with a fractured femur, which has been surgically put together, notice I didn’t say, repaired, only when I am fully functional will I say repaired. Getting home was fun, struggling into the seats of our Rav, having to deal with the wonderfully maintained Massachusetts highways and roads, then getting into the house using crutches. Last evening I came upstairs, it’s where the bathroom is, you know a pretty necessary part of life, and where I sleep. Now, and this shouldn’t be that surprising to those of you who know me, I think I was being a tad optimistic about being back at it this Sunday, according to my visiting nurse, “that ain’t gonna happen.” Great, now I am stuck, upstairs in my house, without a good pair of binoculars, so there goes my opportunity to do my own version of Rear Window.  That being said, looks like I will use some of my blog to document my thoughts, feelings and just general musings and throw them out there for your, or whoever reads this dribble, entertainment. As I said, VNA, Visiting Nurse, came by to check up on me and to lay out my course of treatment. I got all sorts of freebies, a thermometer, one of those huge pill boxes, a nifty plastic cup and a fridge door magnet with their phone numbers on it, just in case we need them. All of their brochures have pictures of nurses and patients with the patients looking a bit older that yours truly, but here I am, broken and needing this kind of help. It’s a humbling experience and one that makes you appreciate the folks who do their best to help us get well when things go really bad.

 The toughest part in all if this are the bouts of depression that come in unexpected waves. Suddenly I feel so lonely, I can’t put a finger to it, there really is no logic, but it’s there lurking in the shadowy parts ready to pour it’s blackness into my heart and soul. I can’t let it defeat me, I can’t let it overwhelm my resolve to fight this and get better, too many people succumb and find themselves living miserably or just dying, sometimes not physically but also emotionally. Now wasn’t that a cheerful message. Hope you’re not reading this so that you can get some kind of warm, Walton’s moment, there ain’t no John-Boy here, just me, an iPad and my copy of Wolf Hall. Now if I could write like that, well let’s just say I’d be a happy camper. 

The Accident

 A cool June morning, a perfect time for cycling, traffic had yet to build up, school busses were not buzzing around like busy bees scooping up their little charges for another school day. I’m feeling great, heading into the final stretch to home, thinking about the day ahead, a trip down to the Cape with Janie, a visit to a friend then maybe take in a new brewery or two. She was taking our Jack Russell, Auggie, to the kennel since we were staying overnight. All was perfect, then it happened, a car door quickly opening as I passed by, going down hard I could only remember hitting the pavement, thinking, “damn, something’s broke.” A blur of activity, a young woman’s voice, saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see him” you could hear the fear in her voice, then surrounded by people, “Can you roll over?” “Did you hit your head?” A flurry of activity, the sound of sirens, in my head I’m trying wonder why sirens, it’s nothing more than a bad bump, I’ve had worse. So, why can’t I straiten out my leg? I try, but it won’ cooperate, then a wave of pain washes over me, I have never felt pain like that, ever. It’s the pain that nauseates, and I feel my world swirling around, suddenly hands on me, strange, I think, why are they blue am I being whisked away by the Blue Man group? Questions come, “What’s your name?, Address? Do you remember what happened.” I begin the shake, I’m so cold, and tears begin, I’m totally helpless, dependent on these blue handed people as they take my vitals and plan the best way to transport me” A scoop, a gurney, I’m on an ambulance staring at the ceiling, again the questions, name, address, a neck collar is put on, I feel like I’m in some kind of Medieval torture device. I.V. Is started, morphine injected, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, “no shit” I say, “We’re in Massachusetts!”  Arriving at the hospital I’m quickly surrounded by doctors and nurses, where’s George Clooney, but soon I am again being questioned. “On a scale of one to ten, how would you describe your pain.” “About a ninety”, I yell as they turn me to inspect my back. I’m still so cold and shaking, suddenly I burst into tears thinking about Janie, in just a few moments our lives have been turned around. Doctor’s come in, surgery is talked about, good news, I’m told both orthopedic surgeons are in, and one specializes in traumatic orthopedics. I’m so floating on the painkillers they could have said Dr. Mengele was my surgeon and I could have cared less.

 Its another flurry of activity, off to be prepped, drugs given, forms signed then comes the anesthesiologist who takes me to the operating theater, then all goes dark. As I wake I wonder if this was all just a bad dream, I feel lost, I don’t recognize anyone, am I talking, everything is so surreal, a sixties drug trip gone bad. Slowly I gain some mental footing, I begin to remember and now I realize that this was serious. 

 It’s been three days, three days of marking milestones on the way to recovery, bodily functions working, eating regular food and finally walking with the aid of a walker. Slow, baby steps for one who is not patient, but maybe this will be a reminder that at times slowing down is a good thing.

The Dream

 He awoke suddenly, his heart pounding as if it were trying to blast out of his chest. Groping around in the dark, he reached out to touch his wife as she lay next to him breathing calmly as she slept. He could feel beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead and suddenly noticed that his own hands were shaking. The dream, no, the nightmare was all too real, he could remember every detail, the vivid colors and even the smells. It was if he had fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole and found himself in an alien land unable to escape, screaming at the top of his lungs, yet no sound would come out. His body felt paralyzed, he couldn’t walk, run or even move, all he could do was just watch, an observer of some macabre play where the victims were all being slaughtered and there was no help for them.

 The details were fresh in his mind, they were soldiers, blue coats, surrounded and being attacked. They were outnumbered, out gunned, and there was no escape. He could see the bullets ripping through their flesh, tearing out huge chunks of bone and blood, faces being smashed in and the grayish, bloody mix of brain and bone smeared on the ground. Around these men, stood a huge, motionless crowd, he tried his best to yell at them, to urge them to help, but they all stood there as stiff and still as department store mannequins. 

 He needed now to get calm, to slow down his beating heart. Laying back down he slowly turned and put his arm around his wife. He could feel her warm body as he glided up close, her breathing slow and regular, he began to feel himself relax. The images burned into his mind were now beginning to dissipate, like a mist slowly receding into the forest and finally his eyes grew heavy and he began to drift off. Then he heard the screams.