Shakespeare writing project — Gloom

In the beginning, it was a quiet thing. Barely even noticeable. School was tolerable despite boring him to tears for the most part. Riflery, photography and theater classes were the bright spots in his existence those days. Summers, with few exceptions, seemed to last for years. Life was pleasant and reasonably care free. At least that’s the way it seems when looked back upon through the prism of middle age. There were some dark days, he called them the Gloom, but generally most were bright and life was pretty good. Then, as it inevitably happens, he grew up. Somewhere along that journey the Gloom went from being a distant neighbor to taking up residence in a corner of his bedroom closet.

At the age of 50, he was tired. The kind of tired you feel when you pulled a double shift at the restaurant, spent the next two hours cramming for a test and then fought to stay awake and remember enough of what you studied to complete the test and scrape by with a passing grade. Bone tired. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember the last time he had a restful night’s sleep. Weeks? Months? It was difficult to think about it. The focus just wasn’t there anymore.

The days seemed to blend together, a never ending blur since … Christmas? Maybe it was Thanksgiving. All he knew was one day he was sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at his parent’s house. His brother and sister were there. There was football, but no guns this year. Shooting guns had become part of the holiday tradition with the family over the past few years, but this year, no one seemed interested. The next day, today, it was February 12. Where did the intervening days go? Filled with the day-to-day minutia, they seemed to have just … disappeared into the ether.

Driving through the night he concentrated, trying to remember when it all started slipping, but then the radio would switch songs or go to commercial and break his train of thought. He was always driving it seemed. He loved driving. It was the being alone, he thought. No one to talk to, no one to fake interest in, nothing to disturb the quiet except the music wafting out of the speakers.

Some days, when his mood was just right, a song would come on the radio and he would get the urge to leave everything behind and just keep rolling down the highway. He imagined he might just do that one day. He was afraid, though, that when he was finally forced to stop, it would be with the Pacific Ocean swallowing the setting sun, turning the world a varied shade of blazing colors.

As beautiful as that sounded, he knew he was fooling himself. He would never do that. He had responsibilities: responsibilities to work; to family; to friends … or maybe that was just the Gloom whispering those things in his ear. It was hard to tell these days. The Gloom had become his constant companion. Ever present, its influence touching every corner of his life like tendrils of fog spreading across an empty field.

Tonight he tried not to focus on that, but it was hard. He needed to pick up his son and get home in time to eat dinner before 8 o’clock. He and his wife always ate late. Every since they had gotten married dinner never hit the table before 7 p.m. It’s just the way things were. And because you can’t go to bed immediately after eating, there would be a few hours of television afterwards. If lucky, he would be in bed by 1 a.m. but that would still not bring rest. Because when he closed his eyes, the Gloom rushed forward to take over.

He felt like there was a thrum of anticipation when he lay down. The Gloom knew it was only a matter of time until he succumbed to unconsciousness. There was not sleep as anyone else might describe it. He didn’t slip into unconsciousness as much as crash. One minute he was awake and the next he was in the Gloom. No peace but rather a state of oblivion where the Gloom ran wild taunting him, twisting dreams, sowing discord and planting thoughts that would influence his mood until the next time he tried to sleep. He would not remember these thoughts clearly, only in snips and snatches: “Let me …”, “… hate you?”, “… rest in me …” The mood a night wrestling with the Gloom left him with was a seething anger.

He had been angry for months, possibly years. Certainly as long as his impaired memory could recall. The anger seemed to grow and intensify with the passing of each night. It wasn’t fair to those around him, but he didn’t know how to stop it. It depressed him that his anger was hurting those he loved more than anything in the world, putting up a wall between them. Then depression turned back to anger and fed upon itself like an out of control fire in the forest, increasing the size of the wall and starting the cycle over again.

Last night’s experience had been the worst in a long line of ever worsening sleep cycles. He held off the Gloom for half the night but at 3 a.m. finally gave up and crashed into the darkness. There was no more rest today than on other mornings when he dragged himself out of the fog, but this day there were two feelings that persisted through his first cup of coffee. The first was a fear he was familiar with. It had been almost as constant a companion in his life as the Gloom had been; as comfortable as the ratty old t-shirt he wore to bed each night. The fear was a feeling that some event, some happenstance, was charging toward him. It was like a train just over the horizon but coming fast. He heard the whistle getting closer. When it arrived, it would crush him and his life would never be the same again. It was a feeling of impending doom and dread.

The second was a longing. A deep desire to be rid of the Gloom and all the discord it created in his life. He yearned to rid himself of the anger that plagued him daily and turned his waking hours into long stretches of misery. The anger poisoned him. He was decent at hiding it in public, but he wanted it gone. Oh, to sleep, to sleep, perchance to dream. Shakespeare had penned that line and, to a man haunted as he was, it was the most beautiful line ever written in the annals of literature. But that was not for tonight. Tonight he needed to get home.

On the road, as was usual, he had the radio on. Just white noise to try and drown out the thoughts running through his brain. He realized he had been carrying on a conversation with himself in his mind. Actually, it was less a conversation than a mumbling, really. Nonsensical phrases just under his stream of consciousness.

No.

That wasn’t it.

He hadn’t been talking; he had been listening, lulled by the soft singsong phrasing — the same phrases — over and over again telling him it would be alright; he would be safe and that he would sleep. Not the sleep he had experienced up until now, but the deep sleep that refreshes body and soul. He would have the sleep that cleanses the mind and makes one feel alive and ready to seize the day and squeeze every drop out of it.

All he had to do was close his eyes.

As he turned the final corner he blinked, and when his eyelids touched he … saw? No. That’s not right. He felt the sudden overpowering presence of the Gloom. So comforting, so unlike the malevolence he normally felt when the beast came forward. This time, the constant companion was welcoming. He felt warm and safe in its presence. He felt it beckoning, its thoughts softly echoing: “Come and be at peace, friend. Your journey is almost done. In here you will find comfort. Put away the anger and rest with me.”

He considered pulling back, but the thought of letting go was just too powerful. Resigned, he embraced the Gloom, his oldest friend, and watched as the sun sank slowly into the Pacific Ocean bathing him in an explosion of oranges, reds, purples and pinks. It was more beautiful than he had ever imagined. A tear slipped silently down his cheek and when the darkness came, the peace he had longed for his whole life gently embraced him … and he slept.

What knitting teaches me about life

As you may or may not know, I taught myself to knit a few years ago. I knitted myself a 20 foot long Doctor Who scarf. Tom Baker played the Doctor when I was growing up and I LOVED watching him on PBS. He still holds the record or playing the Doctor longer than any other actor … seven seasons! What I didn’t like was that PBS only showed Doctor Who during their fund drives.

tom1

Tom Baker was, and is still, an amiable old fellow. I liked him because he had curly hair like me. He wore a floppy old brown hat and that scarf and I thought that was the coolest thing ever! That scarf … I deeply coveted that scarf. Before I taught myself to knit, I had looked for them on the web. They were selling for more than $100 and they looked like crap. I wanted one, but not that much for THAT low quality scarf so I finally decided to knit one myself.

I found a website, The Witty Little Knitter, and, after reading every page, following every link, realized that I could actually do this! She had talked with the BBC, seen the original scarf and had everything I needed to accomplish this goal I had set or myself. She had authentic patterns for every scarf by season; YouTube links to teach me all the tricks and techniques I would need; and the specific colors/numbers of the yarn I would need.

It took me six months to make that first scarf and you can see me still wearing it today. I was very proud of the way it came out with a few small exceptions. You see in teaching yourself to do something like that with no help, you make mistakes that aren’t caught until it’s too late to fix them. Well, an EXPERIENCED knitter could have fixed it probably, but I was far from that so my mistakes stayed in the final product. Still, people tell me that unless I had showed them, they wouldn’t have noticed them. I believe them but even with the mistakes am proud of myself.

I decided to knit another one. The first one was the “First One,” both for me and the Doctor and it was the longest one they made. As the seasons went along, the scarf got worn and damaged and they removes those sections and gave it back. So it got shorter and shorter every year. I am knitting the shortest scarf they used in the series now and here is the life lesson stuff.

Knitting requires me to have patience. Not because I’m slow but for other reasons. First, I see the pattern and know I want it, but I can’t have it because it doesn’t exist yet. This denies me instant gratification which is a good thing. I see the pattern, I see the yarn and the needles, but I have to put those things together and sprinkle in a little (lot of) time in order to be able to put the thing around my neck.

Second, it forces me to pay attention. The mistakes in the first scarf came when I didn’t know what to look for. I started out with 55 stitches across. Suddenly I noticed I was up to about 70 stitches. I had no idea how THAT happened and had no idea how to fix it. I finally realized I had split a number of stitches due to my inattention (and not really knowing what the heck I was doing) and had added 15 extra stitches that way. I had to figure out how to fix it without unraveling the whole section. I ended up doubling up on stiches randomly until I was back to 55. As a result, I know have a perfect example of a Bell Curve in one section of the scarf. Live and learn.

Third, it forces me to slow down. I’ve gained some speed in my technique since I began, but I have to watch it. Even after I realized about the stitch-splitting problem, I’d be speeding along and realize I had done it again. I also find that when I slow down and take my time and everything is going well, time flies and I am really enjoying myself! The mistakes I made with the first scarf will not happen with this one. I want it to be perfect. It’s not GOING to be, but that is my goal.

So, teaching myself a new skill, having patience, paying attention and slowing down to enjoy things … those are the things knitting teaches me about life. For me anyway, they are lessons I can always use a refresher course in. And in the end, there are worse ways of spending the next six months. Right?

Welcome 2014

cross-tattoos Mod So, 2013 is gone and we are at the genesis of a brand new year. I will not miss the past year, in fact I’ll wish that it is speedily forgotten. The past year was forgettable for a number of reasons. My house flooded for the second year in a row, my pay was cut short by the sequester and then eliminated by the furlough. Yes I got it back in full, but by that time I was well and truly in a hole I’m finally starting to climb out of.

I will turn 52 in a little more than a week. Having pissing most of those years away trying to find the bottom of the latest bottle or bag, I find myself with a “so much to do and so little time” list that is daunting in its length and growing every day. Some are simple: Kill and dress my first deer; ditto with a hog. Some are not quite so easy: Get my finances in order so as to be prepared for retirement; script film and edit my own short film.

I want to concentrate on some art stuff that I really enjoy. I want to write and have started keeping a journal. I want to concentrate more on my photography and have already cleaned up my Flickr account to help. I want to knit another scarf (I have had three started for way too long). I want to read more books that I’ve bought and put to the side thinking “I’ll read them later.” There are a lot of things that I physically want to do, too many to list here.

Other things in my life that need addressing this year are my lifestyle and attitude. First off, I want to develop a more positive attitude toward my life and my circumstances. I’m the guy you ask “How’s it going?” who replies “Meh, I can’t complain.” and then sets about the next twenty minutes complaining about everything. I need to change that.

I need to finally quit smoking. I hit bottom with my drinking and quit cold turkey more than two years ago. I want to quit smoking before I’m sitting in the doctors office hearing a diagnosis of cancer of whatever kind that would force my hand. I’ve smoked at least a pack per day, on-and-off, mostly on, for the past 43 years. It’s time to stop.

One thing I really want to do is get my life a little more organized. I stay up late at night, most nights until midnight at the earliest. If I had to guess at an average, I would say it would probably fall about 1-1:30 a.m.? That’s not good. It’s not good for my health and it’s not real good for the ability to get things I want to spend time on, done. I want to start getting to bed earlier, getting up earlier and organizing my days to be more efficient with regards to my goals.

I need to pay more attention to my spiritual life as well, but that’s between me and God and I’m sure you’ll be happy to know I plan to keep it that way.

I need to simplify my life. What does that mean? Cutting out some of the dead weight that drags me down. Whether that involves possessions, processes or habits, I need to do some pruning.

I don’t make resolutions but I do plan to change some things. I’m going to give up Twitter and Facebook for the most part. They are huge time sucks in my life and I can use that time for other things. I’ve been thinking about this since Thanksgiving and have the basic outlines of a few goals and a sketchy plan to get there.

All in all, I’m happy 2013 is dead and gone and look forward to the changes coming in 2014. I just hope I’m not writing this same post a year from now. Happy New Year and thank you for being a part of my life. Here’s to the future!

Wondering about this whole blogging thing …

I’ve been blogging for a lot of years now. I think I started in 2005. I was doing it so much, I got my own domain and diched Blogspot for the prestige of a personal domain. It was also a great way to get a steady, personally owned e-mail address.
I kinda got in trouble blogging at work several years ago, but kept at it for a while longer anyway (just not at work.) Then I had some personal problems and pretty much gave it up. I love the format and still think I can contribute to a community, but who would come back and follow? That’s the million dollar question.
Or maybe what I Inshould be asking myself is “If it’s so damned important to you, why does it matter who comes back?”
You know what? Yeah, me neither.

Has it really been 27 years …

Twenty-seven years ago, I was in the delivery room with a very worried wife, a group of dedicated, compassionate nurses and a douche bag doctor. My wife was 7 months pregnant and going into labor. Christopher Thomas Bradford came into my life that day. He was beautiful. Shock of dark hair, olive complected, bright blue eyes … and he was dead. Stillborn. Who knows what happened. The pregnancy had been going fine as far as I can recall. But somehow, for some reason, the umbilical cord had gotten wrapped around his neck and he died. When he was delivered, as a stunned father and his wife were trying to take in the fact that our world had just been shattered into a billion tiny, soul shredding shards, the douche bag commented that “this baby’s been dead for a while” an walked off.

I was so shocked I just stood there dumbfounded. How heartless can you be? I know you’re an Army doctor and your making pennies compared to what you could be making on the outside, but for F**KS Sake man, have you NO compassion?

I had to call my mom and dad and in-laws and break the news to them. I know they wanted to help, be there … do … something, but we were in Germany and, for all intents and purposes, alone … together. The next few days were a blur. Somehow, I don’t remember why or how, a stuffed bunny found it’s way into our lives. Danna latched onto it and wouldn’t let it go. We cried, not really comforting each other, but dealing with our pain as individuals. Hell, we had only been married a little over a year. We were still learning to be a couple.

We made arrangements, or they were made for us, to fly home and bury my baby … my first born. I honestly cant tell you what that was like. I remember thinking I had to be strong because that’s what men do. I had to be there to let Danna grieve. I didn’t want my dad to see me and think I was weak because I was losing it even though I couldn’t concentrate on a damned thing because someone was sticking a flaming torch full of glass shards into my gut and twirling it back and forth. How young and stupid I was.

We did what people do. We buried Chris in Cooper Cemetery and went back to Germany to pick up our lives. We sucked it up and carried on. But every day since then, EVERY DAMNED DAY since then, I think about him. It really gets bad when it gets closer to his birthday. I wonder. What would he be like? What music would he listen to? What would my life have been like with him in it these 27 years later? What kind of man would he have grown up to become? I wonder …

I also HATE that I wonder. Why? Because life, as is its wont, marched on. A little more than a year later Josh was born. He’s 25 now … 26 in November. A couple of years later Ryan joined our happy trio and made us a quad. He just turned 23 last week. I love my two boys … young men … dearly. I am proud of the men they have become and the lives they lead. I know that had Chris lived, we probably would have stopped there and Ryan would never have been born and hard as I try to imagine, I can’t conceive of a life without Ryan.

I coached their bowling team when they were younger. They were accepted into the French Immersion program in elementary school so I took four years of French to be able to help them out if they needed it. I took them out of school to go to the early matinee … The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Lord of the Rings, Spiderman and many, many more. They were and continue to be the biggest source of pride in my life. I love them so …

Chris, I know you would have been a fine man. I’m sorry I didn’t get to see that happen. You will always be my first son and I will always hold a special place in my heart for you. I think you would like your brothers. With a smile, I imagine the joyous chaos that our lives would have been with you in it. The madness and mayhem we would have caused, together, as the years passed. Mom would’ve been out-manned, outnumbered and out of her mind trying to deal with all of us. She would have loved it. Good times, man.

So. here we are. Life moves on. Seems to be picking up speed these past few years. Must be one of the side effects of passing the half-century mark. I’ll wake up tomorrow and go to work, do my chores, have dinner with the family, watch a hockey game and maybe some baseball and all will be well. But know that you will be on my mind. Happy Birthday and rest peacefully.

Love,

Dad

Indianapolis or Bust!

Well, obviously its a bust ’cause there’s no way i’m getting anywhere near Indiana. In case you’ve been living in a cave or just don’t care, it’s Superbowl Weekend and I have a HUGE party planned … that is if everyone shows up!

Of course that also hinges on whether or not we don’t end up in Oz or some comparable foreign land. It’s been raining this week. A lot.

And wind.

And tornados.

And lightning.

In fact, mom called me this morning at 9 a.m. To tell me about it.

The conversation went something like this:

Me (groggily as she woke me up): Hello?

Her (shocked): don’t tell me you slept through THAT!

Me: What?

Her: THE RAIN! It folded our antennas in half!

Me (feigning coherence): Really?

Her: Yes … Oh wait. Lemme call you back. That’s Merle Norman calling. K? Bye!!!!

So now I’m up. I grab my pith helmet and hit the jungle that is “the back 40” of my property and this is what to my wondering eyes did appear:

Click Photos to Embiggen

The creek running through my back yard is normally just a trickle. The creek bed is at least 12 feet below where it is running now. Probably closer to 16-18 feet.

Too late to worry much now. The party is planned and we will bravely soldier on making our preparations for the guests we’ve invited while at the same time, keeping an eye on the looming disaster in the back yard.

If we’re not here when you all arrive, we’ve probably been swept away to some strange and far-away land. Don’t worry about us though. I hear Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect are good traveling companions and they really like football. (I really wish they’d stop calling the stadium “the pitch” though. What’s THAT all about?).

Oh, and if we do happen to get to the restaurant at the end of the universe, I’ll have a slice of pie for ya and send you a postcard. Until then, goodbye and thanks for all the fishes!

Breaking News from the C-town Gazette …

Mom and dad made the trip to Omaha this week. There were some signs that dad’s mesothelioma was starting to come back and his doctors wanted to check it out.

Looks like it IS back.

He had an MRI and a consult. They saw it was back and the doctor wants him to have the same surgery he had last time.

The good news is the last time he had the surgery, he was riddled with it. I was really scared we were gonna lose him. He looked like death warmed over and didn’t feel much better. This time, yes, the cancer is back but not nearly as bad as it was. The doctor was extremely optimistic because the procedure worked for four years. FOUR YEARS! We really thought it was a miracle.

This time, he doesn’t feel bad, relatively speaking, and doesn’t seem concerned at this turn of events. The doctor is optimistic also. So much so that dad doesn’t have to take any meds or go through any chemo before the next procedure.

They are on the way home and should be back Friday. The doctor plans to schedule the surgery sometime in March, if I heard mom correctly. He’s a tough old bird. He’s beaten prostate cancer and mesothelioma once. I have no doubt he will whip this again.

Still, cancer sucks schwetty … well, you fill in the blanks here, but if you could pray, sacrifice a goat, play the collected works of Tiny Tim while juggling lawn tools or just send your particular type of good thoughts on his behalf, it would be appreciated. Thanks for listening.

Next post? T.C. talks tech! (How’s that for alliteration?) See ya soon!

Winter is coming …

Father forgive me. It has been since October of 2008 since my last post. The title of this post, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past several years, is a reference to the house axiom of the Starks in George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” series. The saying implies change is coming to House Stark. It could have been my “house axiom” for the past several years as well.

Boy did I make a mess of things a while ago. Suffice it to say that I could have lost everything that is dear to me. But that was then. The change started shortly thereafter and its been a pretty good ride since. The job is going well. We have a fully functional television studio that we will soon be broadcasting from; I have become the go-to narrator for post-level ceremonies; we bought a house; Danna is the admissions supervisor for the ER at the hospital; Ryan bought a car and moved to Lake Charles to get on with life and Joshua just applied for a better job on post.

Life is good.

But “Winter is Coming.” I quit drinking four months ago today. Not gonna go into deep details but it was the biggest obstacle in my life and it was time. Since then, my mind races, I have energy … it’s a mind-numbing RUSH! I’ve taken up hobbies, started playing the ukulele, have played fantasy football for the entire season for the first time in YEARS and am cooking and eating like a crazed man. I’m having a great time!

One thing I wasn’t doing that I find I miss a lot was … writing. I started this blog in 2005 and made a ton of friends and wrote some great (in my mind anyway) stuff. It also became the source of a lot of contention in my life and so in 2008, I dropped it.

I have jettisoned a lot of the crap that caused most of my problems and look to the future with great anticipation. It’s time to get back to writing and maybe, if I do it right, the confusion and jumble in my brain will sort itself out.

I’ve missed you. If you are still in contact with the old homeys, invite them in for me. I hope you stick around and we can have some laughs together, but either way … I’m baaaaaaack!

Let the next chapter begin.