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Monday, April 22, 2019

Breakthrough

WARNING:

This is an emotional post and contains major plot points regarding two recent movies: "Breakthrough" and "Mia and the White Lion"

I recently saw the movie "Breakthrough" about a young teen who suffers a tragic accident, and how his mother prays for his safe recovery.

From the previews, I could tell it was going to be a tearjerker, but still I wanted to see it. I don’t shy away from movies that affect my emotions or trigger me. Actually, quite the opposite. I gravitate towards them. I see others like myself, who express their emotions and deal with the ugly, and not so pretty or positive in life. I get a chance to release some emotion over someone else’s situation, instead of my own. Even at risk of getting triggered, I generally still find such movies to be positive experiences for me.

Back to the subject at hand. So I saw "Breakthrough" and as I expected, I got triggered with my own grief, but good. I related to the Mom praying as her son lay there dying and laying lifeless. I related to how with every fiber of her being, she believed she could bring him back from the dead. I related to this on a level that hardly anyone knows.

The night my Dad died, when I finally made it to my parents apartment, I did the exact same thing as the Mother in this movie. I laid on the floor next to my Dad and I prayed harder than I ever have for anything in my 45 years, harder than all the medical and cancer scares, harder than my own struggles with different events in my life. I had such strong faith, I thought I could will my Dad back to life. I was sure of it. He had always pulled through before. He was going to open his eyes, I would hug and kiss him, and we would go on with life. I prayed and prayed, I cried, I hugged him, I told him I was sorry I hadn’t gotten there sooner. 

I was actually flabbergasted he didn’t wake up.

So you can see, or once you see this movie, you will see, why this movie and topic is such a struggle. In the movie, the prayer works. A miracle occurs. The miracle I wanted, but was not meant to be for me or my Dad. The miracle I feel was stolen out from under me, like a carpet ripped from the floor.

I was thankful the movie showed that miracles happen, but I was left wondering why not my miracle. My hope and faith were just as strong as the Mother in the movie. So was my Mom’s. Why not my Dad?

He would be the first one to tell me "why not me" should not even be a question because it implies "why not someone else"

There is no answer. I felt strongly enough about this we went to the cemetery to visit my Dad so I could ask him myself. And I did. 

In a strange coincidence, as we entered the cemetery, "Stand By Me" was playing on the radio. This is ironic because after we left the hospital when my Dad was initially diagnosed with cancer, the same song was playing on the radio as I walked from the car into our apartment - in 1988.

I told him it wasn’t fair. I asked him why couldn’t we get a miracle, too. My Mother was right next to me as we talked and I told her I just didn’t understand why.

After we left the cemetery, we saw another movie that had another lesson for me to learn. "Mia and the White Lion" - a girl becomes attached to a lion that she helps raise from birth, and then she helps to set it free in a preserve. Although she and this Lion were intimately attached to each other, she loved him enough to set him free.

I’m coming off a weekend where my Dad’s loss is noticed and felt more - celebrating Passover with family. We are heading into next weekend, the Chandler Relay for Life - another event with strong memories of life with my Dad and honoring his memory as a cancer survivor.

I was kind of aloof about this while he was alive, and you could even say denial to a point...but Relay has taken on a brand new meaning on a whole new level without him being there. It is tough, and I expect this year will be no different - only our second one since his death.

I’m not there yet. Well, more accurately, sometimes I can set him free, and sometimes I cannot.  Such is grief. I love my Dad.  The struggle of mourning is how do you let go of someone you love so much. How do you let go of something that has stolen your innocence and a part of your heart.

I feel like I’m in the middle of my own breakthrough. I haven’t figured it all out yet, and I think there is definitely more to uncover. Much of what I’ve written here I haven’t expressed before.

More to come, as I am definitely a work in progress.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Remember Who You Are

In high school, I took a BASIC (computer language) programming course. The only way I made it through that class and passed, was due to my Dad helping me understand the logic. I remember receiving the assignments and feeling completely clueless. Once he wrote the program and explained his logic, I understood, but to my recollection - I never successfully wrote my own programs in that class. The only reason I passed was him writing the programs for me and thank G-d for an open book exam at the end of the class.

I realized then, somewhere in my early teen years, I was not made to be programmer. I would try again after I started working in I.T. almost 12 years ago. I was able to learn basic scripts, but anything more complicated confused me. As in everything else in life, I don't learn it the first time, I re-learn time and time again.

Yet again, I realized I was just not made to be a computer programmer. My Dad would say "I'm the Programmer" and he's (I’m) the Super User, and he was right. I would test his code and find where the breaks were, or where something didn't work as I thought it should. I realized my passion was not in programming, nor would it ever be. My passion is in helping others - and in this case, by being the Super End User that I am.
  
My Dad chose the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life, and serving on its various committees, etc as his way of giving back. He wanted to show other cancer surivors that cancer was NOT a death sentence. He tried to prime me to take over his role on the Leadership team, but that was his passion, and unfortunately - not mine. He tried to show me what he did, but just as he is the computer programmer and I am not - it did not capture my passion.

Now, some 20 Months after my Dad has passed, I have, over time, come to the realization that to effectively carry on his legacy, I can't simply repeat his steps. I needed to find my own way to volunteer and give back.

Over this time, I've found my own ways to give back, and give others hope.

I've donated bone marrow twice, and I routinely choose to donate my platelets, generally once a month. I specifically chose platelets because his platelet counts were always low, and I am helping someone who is in a similar medical situation as he was. Helping them helps me. I was thrilled to find out one of the first times I donated that my blood type is a Universal Donor for Platelets, and any of the other blood types can accept my platelets.

I am not as involved in the Relay as we were when he was here, but still, we participate in his honor and memory each year, and I proudly take his place as the Team Captain now. I participate in my own way - not his. This year, I had the opportunity to submit a work of writing for a contest themed "Cancer Can, and Cancer Cannot" and I was one of 8 winners whose story was displayed at Relay.  I wrote, and I shared, my story. 


 
To my surprise and great honor, I was one of the eight winners leading the Survivor Lap. Wow! What a fantastic way to carry on my Dad's legacy and pay homage to him. Years ago, he lead the Survivor Lap as well.

My Dad let us know he was with us, by the young ladies singing Queen songs at Relay and that I kept hearing in the days after, to the yellow butterflies I seem to attract.

In the Lion King, In the Remember Who You Are scene, Mufasa (the Dad) relates:
"Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life."

I have found and continue to work on establishing my place in the circle of life.

I have spoken on being a caregiver and after everything  I have gone through and learned as a result of losing my Dad, I hope to share with others, and I do, as much as I can.  

This is what I do.
This is who I am.

Let’s do this, Simba.




Sunday, April 14, 2019

Ain't Nothing Gonna Break My Stride

My friend Julie and I are walking and 5K buddies.

Our agreement is she goes and picks up the packet (shirt, race bib, etc) for us and I drive to the race itself. It works for us. We each help each other, and benefit.

A few weeks ago, she suggested a new one for us: 
The Foundation for Blind Children's Stride for Sight.

It sounded fun and it was for a good cause, so we both registered.

We arrived plenty early, and walked around the setup area. They had an obstacle course setup so that you could experience what a blind person deals with on an every day basis.
Our eyes were covered with goggles that took away our sight.

I wrote:

Very eye opening (and challenging) to complete this obstacle course without sight and using the white cane to determine what was in my path and what way to turn. Major props to everyone for whom this is a daily challenge for.

  


There were garbage containers, traffic cones, items that you could easily trip over, even a simulated curb (step up and over). I was completely out of my element and when they told me I had finished, it had seemed like a really long time and that I hadn't moved that far, when in reality I had completed the entire course (with some guidance of course).

I thought that in itself was quite an eye opening and enriching experience - to see what others who are blind go through. I gained new respect for my cousin and others like him.
It was a "WOW!!" moment.

Shortly thereafter, they started to line us up for the race. To my surprise, Julie had another white cane and 2 sets of blindfolds to again take our sight. We were were going to walk at least part of the race without sight!  I must have missed that part when I signed up. Oops. LOL.

We went through the start line and then I placed the mask on and walked the first mile with my sighted guide (Julie). Unlike the obstacle course where I was moving the white cane in front of me as I have seen many others do, we found for the race it was easier (and quicker)  to walk with me in the back and Julie in front with both of us holding the white cane/stick. If we hadn't, I think it would have taken us much longer to complete.

Even so, I found it even more of a challenge than the obstacle course. As we left, I heard someone who also was blindfolded exclaim "I am sweating because I AM STRESSED!!" and I thought, "I'm right there with ya!!" 

Initially I felt my anxiety and probably my blood pressure, rise. It made me think of that that trust fall thing where you have to trust and faith that the group will catch you. You have complete faith and trust in the group, and in my case, in my walking partner/sighted guide. Although I already trust her as my close friend, it was an exercise in performing what I struggle with in other parts of my life - letting the control go and relying on someone else! We had to help other to succeed, and we did just that.

I started to panic and felt my anxiety rise at not being able to see, but my other senses also were heightened and razor focused - my hearing, for example. I heard the cars pass us by and could determine how close they were to us.  (We walked on one lane of a half closed off road). Hearing the voices around us - I could tell when were in groups of people and when we were not. When we were around large groups, hearing all the voices at once was almost a sensory overload kind of situation. I heard every single voice. I heard the sound of the wind. Both of those latter two, I discovered I don't really pay much attention to normally.  Perhaps my sight takes over and makes the people's voices in a crowd and the sound of wind lessen in comparison to what I can see with my eyes.

Unlike true sight loss, we could still see some sunlight peaking through the bottom of the blindfolds. I wanted a "true" experience, and so I closed my eyes for much of the walking to remove the sunlight. Without any other voices near me, except Julie, at times..I did not intend to, but I found without my sight and without the overwhelming voices of large groups - I found peace, I found calm, I was meditating without even trying to do so.

I didn't realize either how much related to my vision I just take for granted. When you have to walk a little to the left or to the right to avoid something, curbs, steps, potholes, 
cracks in the ground that make no difference to someone with sight, but you step the wrong way and panic sets in.

It made me very thankful and appreciative - of what I have, but also what I see others struggle with.

I walked the first mile blindfolded.
We switched, and Julie walked the second mile blindfolded so she could get a taste of her own medicine as my guide! LOL

Even after I took the blindfold off, It kind of felt like I had gotten used to not relying on my vision and I tripped over two of the traffic cones on the route. It was as if I wasn't paying attention visually because I was used to relying on my sense of touch and hearing - as I had been over the past mile or so.

Although I initially blew it of as just me being the klutz that I am, after Julie took her blindfold off, she did the exact same thing!

There is this quote by Elvis Presley that is on my list of favorite quotes:
 
"Don't criticize what you don't understand, Son. 
You never walked in that man's shoes"

Although criticize is not exactly the right word choice here, I do feel like after today, I have walked in some shoes I have never had the chance to experience before.

I got to experience firsthand and be exposed to, how is life for someone who is blind.



I can't wait to do this one again next year. See you next year, FBC Stride for Sight!
 



 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Chair


I wrote recently on Facebook:

This is what grief looks like. Even though it’s been my computer in the office, I was using Dad’s chair. It had been getting on in years for a while - even before he died.  After he died, the leather began peeling more, and it started falling apart. The right arm became unhinged one Saturday morning. Still, it was a connection to my Dad, and part of me thought, he is going to kill me for touching stuff in his office! 

This extended to the chair - After someone you love dies, you will grab onto, and keep your hands on, anything you can get of theirs. I have needed to replace the chair for a while, and we’ve been looking for a few weekends, but never found the perfect fit. It was time. I was ready. Today, we hit a couple more stores, found it, bought it and 30 minutes later it’s in its new home. Wheeling the old chair out, I felt a certain measure of peace. I think Dad would approve. What’s he gonna do, ground me??



Recently, I've had a set of dreams that have led me to believe that either Dad is trying to transcend to his next level of afterlife, or that he needs my help to move him and he wants me to move myself along too. Dreams where he is in his car needing help, where we are at a car dealership buying a new car for him, and the latest one where he is helping me to setup a new apartment I have moved into and he brought me a red alarm clock, as if to say WAKE UP! I AM STILL WITH YOU even if you are someplace new. Very interesting and comforting dreams, indeed.

There are some movies that just speak to your soul, and yesterday we saw one of them. The last time I felt this strongly about a movie, I had seen "The Shack" and "Collateral Beauty" in the year before Dad died while he was really struggling and I felt those movies were helping me to prepare for what I knew lie ahead.

This time, the movie was "Faith, Hope, and Love" and the description sounded good:
"a heartwarming romantic comedy about two vulnerable, lost souls who have each suffered deep losses and have their guards up as a result.  When they enter a dance contest, and become partners, they begin to discover new perspectives on life, love, and faith"

Yes, I cried, but happy and good tears, not uncontrollable sobbing. I related to the themes and emotions expressed in the movie. Wife, Husband, and 2 young daughters, The wife died about 2 years ago and Dad is having trouble moving forward. The wife had written a letter to her husband "in case of my death" which he struggles as to whether or not to read throughout the movie....It hit really close to home - My guard is definitely up as a result of my Dad's death. 

He meets the dance partner who has her own struggles with loss and learning to love again.

The movie just spoke to me..It was one of those, like The Shack and Collateral Beauty, that I felt destined to see, that I felt was delivering some messages I needed to hear. In this case, the movie was my teacher:

It's ok to move forward. 
It's ok to be happy again.  
It's ok not to let grief be the foremost thought.
It's ok to let some things go.

If I wasn't convinced enough that the movie was a sign for me..We went to Cost Plus World Market after dinner looking for something, where this book (a blank journal) on display captured my attention.


Buying the new chair and throwing the old chair out without looking back or feeling guilt was a large step for me.

It was a measure of Faith, of Hope, and of Love.

More large steps to come.

PS: Running errands the day after I posted this...another Faith Hope Love appeared in my path when I returned to the car after stopping for lunch.
 





 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Magical Vortexes of Sedona

Once again, fate, the universe, whatever you believe in or call it, showed me that sometimes you just have to let things happen and you can't plan it all - much as I try to.  I will probably always struggle with this  - but it makes me ME.

ANYHOW, Mom and I decided  we wanted to drive to Sedona for the day yesterday to get out of the heat. The forecast said 94 degrees which sounded heavenly. However, by the time we got up it there it was 103! So much for getting out of the heat..But compared to the 117 I saw on the way up, I guess technically it was "cooler" and it did not feel as oppressive.

We got a late start - Originally we planned to leave around 930a and just it was around 1145a when we left home. I had to smile because my Dad would probably have had a fit, but I a wise friend gave me some advice, to ask myself "In 100 Years, will it matter?" and the answer is a resounding NO. Sedona will still be there at 930a just as much as it will be at 12n. Had we left at the original, planned time - we most likely would not have been in Sedona at dinnertime and found the gem we stumbled on (more of that below).

Mom and I debated on whether or not to go and I figured it was still enough time for us to schmooze around and have a nice day. So off we went. The only way to get to Sedona is to go up I-17, and the only highway I hate more than I-10 is I-17, but it is what it is. We got stuck in I-17 traffic for about 30 miles for no reason - no accident, no broken down car. My suspicion is a slow moving truck that slowed everything down behind it.

We arrived in Sedona around 230pm, and stopped at each of the vistas/viewpoints to play tourist, admire the red rocks and scenery, and take some pictures. It was so relaxing and peaceful.

One of the stops we made was at the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church built into the side of the redrocks. For some reason, I just felt called to stop there and admire the view. This feeling rang through the entire day in Sedona.



So, we stopped, took pictures, etc - then did some shopping as we moved around town to find the various rock formations (Snoopy, etc). We stopped at Tlaquepaque (another spur of the moment stop) - and ended up parking near a candle store. We walked into a store and walked out with a blue Star of David Candle for Mom and a Tiger Print candle for me.

We decided to have dinner before we left for the 2.5 hour drive home.."Downtown" Sedona was way too busy so we drove to another part of town that we hoped would be less busy. On a whim, I pulled into a strip shopping mall and parked..There was a place called "Cafe Jose" and when I looked it up, served Mexican food. It was a little hole in the wall type place. OH EMM GEE! Some of the best Mexican food I have ever had. They had me at homemade tortillas!! The fajitas were very delicious. It was a stop at a random place. Or was it?

The cinnamon they sprinkled on our sopapillas was even in the shape of a heart!
How sweet love is.















One definition of a vortex I found online: 
"Swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex."

The day was a phenomenal success. I felt the power of the vortexes in Sedona, because as we drove up I felt quite emotional, but even carrying forward into today - I have felt at peace. I saw evidence of My Dad's presence multiple times as we walked around and shopped in Sedona.


I told Mom the last time I was in Sedona was maybe 10 years ago..So I decided to look at my checking account this morning to see when was I truly last there - September 24, 2000 - 14 years to the DAY before of his death. WOW!

Those vortexes are magic!!
 



Saturday, July 28, 2018

Some Things Never Change..Even if they Indicate a Pattern

Disclaimer: Written about a year ago, but found today (July 28, 2018).
I went back to my calendar, and interesting timing on my memory - the date I was writing about below - Aug 2, 2017 - Almost one year later to the day.
____________ 

This morning, Dad had an appointment scheduled with the Eye Surgeon to discuss his cataracts and the plan for dealing (or not dealing) with them.

I woke up "late" - later than I had planned, but still early for the rest of the world - 0430, so that I could get some work done before taking Dad. I felt the start of a headache, but blew it off.

In hindsight, I later realized it was a tension headache. Taking Dad to a new Dr, which is stressful for me in and of itself. The fact that surgery, no matter how minor, is involved probably skyrockets my stress level and tends to overwhelm my emotions - whether I realize it or not.

I picked Dad up, and off we went. I don't mind driving him to Doctors, but as I have posted in many posts before, many times I turn into the parent, and this was one of them. I flat out refuse to let (forbid) Dad drive there - alone, or not. Our Eye Doctor is in the West Valley on the other side of town, and to get there you take I-10 to I-17, or as they are called here - "the 10" to "the 17." Many out here are like me, and are loyal to certain freeways. I like the 101 and the 202, and will take them if possible. I hate "the 10" - the drivers just seem more aggressive than on other highways. And the only one I hate worse than the 10..you guessed it, the 17. Uggh - so let's just add to the headache and stress level. I was full of nerves, tension, and nausea. 

For most of the ride, I just prayed please just get us there safely, and He did.

Because like father, like son, and like son, like father - we were over 40 minutes early so we stopped to get some breakfast and a cup of coffee for me.

Got to the Dr's office, and we were both under the impression that we were just going to talk to the doctor and be out within a few minutes. Lo and behold, we were finished 2.5 hours later! They moved us around the office, conducting various different tests and whatnot...the last nurse to come in before we saw the surgeon made a comment to the effect of "well you will get some drops before your procedure is done, which caught both of us off guard. We both thought that meant one of his cataracts was getting removed today!

When I feel we have not had time to prepare, or warned, about something - I turn into the ferocious Papa Bear attacking back; the defender and protector. My normally quiet and shy demeanor takes the backseat to my assertive and take control of the situation side. This was no different; The nurse left the room. We both exchanged quizzical looks and then I said we were going to ask the doctor if he didn't tell us otherwise if he was having one of the procedures done today. I basically went into attack mode. 
"Why didn't they tell us"
"How you can plan for this"
"This is a total lack of communication"
"If they do this again, that's their third strike..I will look for a new doctor"
(I was a bit feisty)

The doctor came in and thoroughly explained everything - what to expect, what would happen, what the recovery would be like, etc. He really won both of us over. As much as you look for a doctor with experience and medical skills, for lack of a better word - I also want a doctor with a good bedside manner, and this guy had it. He managed to answer all the questions I had, before I had a chance to ask them. I got the feeling he had his "shpiel" down pat, and it calmed me down and put me at ease.

After we saw the surgeon/doctor, we then met with the scheduler. Thank G-d for Google Calendar, so with the 3 of us sitting there, I can access my calendar at work, and my personal calendar as well as my parents calendar, and we negotiated dates and times that would work best for my schedule as the hired help aka chauffeur and Dad and other appointments he had.

The headache increased and was nearly throbbing - because now I really had to face the fact that he was going to deal with the cataracts and surgery. I hate change, and I definitely hate new medical stuff, but, at least I recognized it, and I knew that doing this in Dad's best interest to help him see clearly again.

So with our dates set for now - we left for home. Originally I thought I would have Dad drop me at work and I would just take an Uber home, but they dilated his eyes so that idea was pretty much a non-idea. I drove him home and then left to go to work. 

Always trust your intuition!! As I was about to get back on the highway, I thought, Wouldn't it just really suck to get hit as I'm trying to rush back to work. And in that next moment, a car decided not to look, and cut me off, forcing to slam on the brakes so hard, I felt my entire body rise up off the seat. I was inches from slamming into them, for what was their own fault. UGGH! All was well, no accidents thank goodness. Just my nerves getting even more shot.

In hindsight, about a year past when I originally wrote this - Sometimes you just can't plan. You have no choice, but to react accordingly and do all you can to survive.

Perhaps that's why I never posted this. I thought it was missing something, and I could never figure out how to end this post and tie it all together. The student was waiting for the teacher to appear with the lesson.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Being OK

I originally wrote this and posted it on Facebook 4 years ago - July 26, 2014.

Apparently, I had an amazing glimpse into and foresight of, the future.
At the time of my original post, my Dad was still mobile and relatively healthy (even as he was undergoing chemo) and although I don’t remember exactly what, something must have prompted me to write; likely another medical scare of some kind.
I'm posting it here so I can easily refer to it in the future.

Even four years later, re-reading what I wrote made an impact on me, again.
Powerful writing, back then as the son of a cancer patient, and now on the other side of the equation:


Clearly, you can always say that someone has it worse than you do, and that no matter how bad or dire your situation seems, it's quite better than what others may be dealing with. Some days there is complete and utter acceptance, of saying "it is what it is, and life does in fact go on.

And there are THOSE days.

The ones when you may question "why me?" -- not to mean why not someone else but it's a sign of a struggle between you and yourself. The struggle of realizing you just can't fix it all. The struggle to relinquish the control, of something you have zero control over.
These same days when you find those feelings of envy or jealousy bubbling to the surface. Jealous of those who don't know what's going on. Envious of those who are ignorant. Not intentionally ignorant, but who just have not had to deal with the same stuff, cross those same bridges, to realize that nothing lasts forever, and we are only on this earth for a finite period.

Jealous that they can be so carefree and live in the moment, where I don't feel I have that luxury anymore. Jealous that in my mind, that tomorrow goes on forever, when in reality, it doesn't.

You have to make the most of each and every moment you are blessed to spend with your loved ones and friends.

There's no explanation, no magic fix to make it all better.

All you can do is have faith in that even if it's not ok right now, it really still is OK. And it will be.