Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the month “April, 2013”

Counting Grains Of Sand


I remember as a child, and I see it in my own children, the excitement that builds with an upcoming holiday, birthday or vacation.  If I recall, that is what motivated me to look at a calendar, so that I could do the actual figuring myself as the grown ups around me did not share my enthusiasm.  I miss those days, alot.

As an adult, we can share that same excitment.  It could be a wedding date.  There were two exciting dates that Wendy and I had been waiting for, the days that our daughters would be placed in our arms.

But what happens when the event that you are looking towards is not going due to a happy event or occasion.  There are no party favors or souvinirs.  Instead, fear replaces joy.  Emotions and temperment run short.

One such occasion for me could have been when I had my open heart surgery.  I was lucky.  I had less than fifteen hours to think about the major change that was going to occur in my life.  The majority of that time was spent still coming out of anesthesia and going through pre-surgical testing.  When all was said and done, I really only had approximately five or six hours to worry about what life would be like.  The fact is, many people face open heart surgery, and unless it is due to a heart attack, that surgery may take weeks to be performed.

My Father now finds himself in that very situation.  A couple of months ago, he went to his family doctor for a chronic cough.  We are talking several months.  His doctor having already tried various modes of treatment, made the decision to order a very expensive test, a CT scan, much to my father’s objections.  As it turned out, jumping right to that test may just mean the difference between life and death.  And I do not say it that way for dramatic effect.

A little over a month ago, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.  More importantly, and in his favor, Stage 1, meaning that the tumor has not spread to other organs or other parts of his body.  His cancer was caught early.  His best option for treatment is surgery.  Unfortunately, it will not just be the tumor that is being removed, but his entire lung.

He has another couple of weeks before the procedure.  He has gone through a lot more than one person ought to experience in one life.  This no doubt will be the biggest event in his life as it will result in a major lifestyle change for him, no more smoking.  He had been smoking for 57 years and even with a major heart attack, and the beginning stages of emphasema, he was not able to quit.  My dad has now officially quit.  He is quite lucky.  I remember the “blackened” lung that was always put on display back in elementary health class as to convince us smoking was bad.  My dad’s lung does not look like that, which is surprising for as long as he has been smoking.  His cancer is currently a small tumor.  And if watching the calendar was not bad enough, getting rid of the cancer must be done soon.

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Predatory Companies


I have to give Wendy credit.  She knows a bargain when she sees one.  Unfortunately there are some scumsuckers out there, I would probably use a nicer timer, such as predatory sellers, who prey on people who are gullible to think that they are getting something for nothing.

I learned a lesson the very hard way with my ex-wife.  We had needed to replace our old and drafty windows, so while going through a mall one day, there had been a display in the middle of the mall called “Windowman”.  I am not sure if this exists anymore under this name, or as I would find out, once I filed a complaint with the BBB, they change the name frequently because they are such scumsuckers.  Here is how that event worked.  An appointment was set up with us, “no obligation to purchase, just listen to our presentation.”  This phrase can actually apply to any type of predatory company.

My ex-wife says certainly.  Here is where it turns wierd.  The company insists on setting up our demonstration late in the evening, after 7pm.  For us, the situation was even worse, as it ended up being a Friday night.  I felt uneasy about the whole thing having done the salesman thing myself in my past, but not wanting to irritate my ex, I reluctantly agreed.

By the end of the night, which ended up being close to 11:00pm, we had seen an awesome demonstration on how our windows were failing us, as if we did not notice the drafts in the winter and the heat bouncing of the furniture in the summer.  Their super-duper double-paned windows with vynil frames were gaurunteed for a lifetime.  The savings would be tremendous.  Only one thing stood in our way.  Purchase and installation would cost us $10,000.00 which clearly we did not have and could not afford as we had no equity in the recently purchased home.  No worries, as the salesman was able to reach his manager, the owner no less at 11:30pm on a Friday night, who did everything they could possibly do to get us those windows we so desperately needed.  Paperwork signed.  Windows were to be installed in less than two weeks.  A collaborative effort with everyone seemingly in approval, almost everyone.

On the following Monday, I received a call in my shop from the window company.  It seems that there was an error on the contract, and I that all I needed to do, was to sign the new contract.  When the finance manager showed up, not the salesman mind you, he handed me a new set of finance forms along with the contract.  When I questioned him why the new finance forms, he said it was because they misplaced my original forms.  I was livid.  Those forms had all my account numbers on them.  I told this putz I wanted out.  He did his best to calm me down and assure me that everything was alright, but as I persisted, he grew weary of the argument that I was giving him.  Then he “hit” me.

He warned me that the way my original finance forms were filled out, I stood a risk of not just having the windows to pay for, but an additional amount of this home improvement, because to get the deal done, they were supposed to consolidate the debt.  However, the way it was written, the amounts were never broken down.  So if I were not to sign the new paperwork, they would hold me to the new amount, just for the price of the windows which could have easily topped out at triple the amount.  Feeling defeated, I felt I had no choice but to sign and get this corrected.

Later that evening, I contacted an attorney who informed me of my recision rights.  I had three business days from signing the contract to cancel it.  When I called the window company to cancel it, I was informed that the three business days had passed.  When I questioned that it was only Monday evening, he explained the definition of my three business days:

Day 1 = original contract signed at 11:30pm on Friday night (1/2 hour left of the day)

Day 2 = a Saturday(?) – banks are open aren’t they?

Day 3 = Monday – it was after 5pm, so everything after is transacted on a Tuesday

Again, feeling defeated, I stopped my fight, only to realize that I had signed a new contract on Monday.  That would mean that the old contract was null and void right?  I had three new business days, right?  The bastard backdated the contract date.  I did not notice it until that moment.  I was screwed.  The project would eventually be done, in the middle of an ice storm, as to prevent any attempts by me, to file a lawsuit and have the contract overturned.  The best I could do is file a complaint with the BBB (Better Business Bureau).  There was no end, but conveniently, Lehigh Valley Windowman had changed its name to Windowman of The Lehigh Valley, as it had done before and again and again.  And it always retained the same ownership and management.

So can you blame me for being as skeptical as I am today?

Fastforward to a week ago, as Wendy tried to take advantage of an opportunity.  The “free” vacation.  It is not a time share.  We just need to sit through an hour bullshit session, and we will be handed a weekend voucher for our family to visit the Great Wolf Lodge.  That simple.  Wait, we are not allowed to bring our children to this meeting.  Okay, understandable.  They do not want us being distracted by our children as we are being brainwashed into purchasing what they will be subliminally be trying to sell us, though Wendy insists they are not.

It was scheduled for a Friday night, and it had to be done by the end of the week, as it would be quite some time, before this company would be back in the “area” again.  I put “area” in quotes, because, the place we had to sit through shit was a fifty minute drive.  But on a Friday night, right at the heart of rush hour, because we had to drop our kids off at a sitter, turned into a nearly two hour drive.  Now we did give a courtesy phone call to let them know we were running late due to traffic, but we were coming.

After the lecture about how the doors were expected to be locked right at 6:00pm and my response of “don’t even think of telling me that I drove two f-ing hours to be turned away after I met all of their other demands, we were told that we should just get there as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, due to traffic being worse, the ten minute late, became a half hour, when we arrived.  Okay, not polite, but we should still be able to hear the majority of their crap.

cue the crash sound

As we rushed into the unmarked and unnamed newly built hotel, with a Hooters restaurant as its hotel restaurant-to-be, a gruff, short, middle aged woman came out of the conference room.  Before we could even finish expressing our appreciation for understanding our tardiness, she barks out, “THE PROGRAM’S OVER.  YOU’RE TOO LATE!”

5-4-3-2-1… “ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ KIDDING ME?!?  I JUST SAT THROUGH TWO HOURS OF FRIGGIN’ TRAFFIC BECAUSE YOU WOULDN’T LET US BRING OUR GIRLS WITH AND WE HAD TO TAKE THEM TO A BABYSITTER!?!  F^*%^&$!!  YOU!!!  TAKE OUR NAMES OF YOUR DATABASE AND NEVER SEND US ANYTHING AGAIN.  THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!!”

No.  That was not drama.  That was pure temper.  I am not known for showing my emotions, ever.  But, I did not want to be here in the first place.  I sat through the traffic.  There was supposed to be another full hour of their brainwashing program yet.  And then I knew that I was going to have to head back into that same traffic I just arrived from.  All I remember in my rage was Wendy trying to rush me out of the building as she wanted to try and salvage any effort we came down for.  Remember, we were to be offered a free weekend trip for the family.

As I left the hotel lobby, Wendy caught up with me.  We got into the car.  She was speechless.  She had never seen me get mad like that, but she also knew I was justified with my feelings.  Still, not wanting to give up our “free” gift, she called the 800 number to explain what happened.

The person on the other end of the line gave off the appearance of being flabbergasted and apologized.  “They were not supposed to turn you away.  You are entitled to the free gift that you were promised.  We don’t work like that.”  And with that, the operator put a “supervisor” on the line who offered even more of a consolation as to make up for the inconvenience.  I tried to explain to Wendy that perhaps Karma did us a favor on this one.  After all, you do not get something for free in this country, it just does not happen.  Even with a free trip,  there is still sales tax to be paid, and probably other fees.

It has been over a week since that debacle.  And the company continues to call and email Wendy.  With each contact, they seem to be sweetening this pot.  The representative even went as far as to say, that they would cover the fees (we call them taxes) along with two international flights.  Of course, this would mean more taxes and fees to pay on our end.  With international would come passport needs, and it just keeps adding up.

You do not get something for nothing.  They need to get paid.  They have a right to earn a living.  I just do not want to be their payroll.

Pollo – A Lesson Learned From Man’s Best Friend


Pollo is the greatest dog in the world as far as dogs go.  As far as humans go, he is one of the greatest friends to have.

His life began in a puppy mill outside of Lancaster, but out of our ignorance about origins of most pet shop dogs, he ended up in our family.  We could have worked him like many other golden retrievers, but instead, let him do what he did best, be a dog.  We have a huge fenced in yard, so he can just patrol or run full tilt if he would like.  He also has gotten to enjoy our inground pool whether jumping in from the side or off from the diving board.  In recent years, he has enjoyed better than the kibble I have strictly served him courtesy of youg children.

Pollo is now 13, which in people years is 97 years old.  But guess what.  He still has that puppy-excitement in him.  That is all we have ever seen from him.  The groomer often refers to him as “the Happy Golden.”  We have taken him to the vet every year for his annual exams and shots.

Our works schedules were not the best for someone who has been so faithful and loyal a companion as Pollo.  Having only a couple of felines keeping him company, he seemed content just napping all day, and occasionally rooting through an occasional bath towel.  But the moment we came home, right by our side.

It is hard for Pollo these days.  Over the years, he has developed “fatty tumors” which our vet has told us, for a dog his age, not really an issue at this point, as long as they do not cause him any discomfort.  There are several now, and some quite large.  But Pollo shows no signs of discomfort.  I am trained in animal care, so I know what to look for, head tilt, eating and bathroom habits, lethargy, and so on.  He is still the puppy from thirteen years ago.

His decision to enjoy a mushroom buffet in our backyard was not one of his shining moments of intelligence last year, but following that incident, his age is beginning to show very quickly, and not just from the whitening of his muzzle.

Though is favorite spot to get comfortable is on our hardwood floors, it is nearly impossible for him to stand if on that surface.  And he now struggles to get up the stairs to our bedroom, “ours” meaning Wendy, myself, and Pollo – where he has been his whole life. 

Pollo has always shadowed Wendy and I.  While he spends a great deal of time sleeping, he wants the company.  No matter which room of the house we are in, he is there.  If I am sitting on a particular chair in one of the rooms that he is already in, even in his sleep, somehow he moves towards me, that within minutes, he is laying on top of my feet.  There is nothing like fur slippers during July.  Upstairs, downstairs, inside, outside, he is with us all the time.  He does not necessarily have separation anxiety, it is just that when he knows we are at home, he wants to be with us.

For some time now, he has been approaching our stairwell with great reservation.  He will climb with his front paws resting on the first step, and just stare at the mountainous climb before him.  I imagine he takes in a deep breath and then begins his laborous ascent, one step at a time.  When he arrives at the top, he proceeds right to his open cage in our bedroom, and plops right down inside it.  I have not closed the door in years as he has never been a dog to jump up on the bed, even if he wanted to, between gravity and his size, he would have as much success as Louie Anderson doing a double front summersault of a 10 meter platform.  But at some point, he ventures from his metal cave/den, and then lays down by my side of the bed which is where he is when I wake up.  He waits until I am completely ready for work, and have fed the guinea pig, and then he follows me downstairs and we complete the rest of our morning routine with each other.

But a few days ago, the task of going up steps is clearly becoming too much of a burden.  Still no whimper or obvious sign of pain or distress, he is intent on staying with us during the overnight.  For the last two nights, I have blocked off our den (leading into our kitchen), and both times he has bulled his way through the chairs (clearly not being able to hurdle them), and each of the last two mornings, there he has been, right by my side.  Even as I heard his paws on the hardwood floors last night as we turned in for the night, and went downstairs to interfere with his plans to get up the stairs, returned him back to the den, at some point, he made his way through the blockade again.

I could not ask for a better dog, or committed and loyal friend.

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