Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Best Wishes For A New Year

I think the majority of us could not be more anxious to get the year 2020 over with, never to spoke of again.  Covid19 became the new worst word beginning with the letter “C”.

I was able to get some things out of 2020 that were positive.  An annual trek in January took my daughters on a detour through an actual “ghost” town, that is doing all it can at this point, at least developers anyway, to make it disappear.

A town in Pennsylvania called Centralia, famous in the area for having a coal fire burning underground for nearly 70 years, totally abandoned except for four remaining homes, had its main road closed off, deserted.  As the road no longer carried vehicles, soon vandals marred the highway, spray-painting the road until soon, it became a ritual for any visitor to the area, to leave a remnant of their visit in the form of graffiti.  This road would of course be called the “Graffiti Highway.”  Soon after our visit, the developer bulldozed dirt over the entire road, never to be seen again.  Our timing was perfect.

Another huge moment for me in 2020, was marking my 30th year, cancer free.  A party was held in my honor just before Covid started wreaking havoc.  Again, all about the timing.

Covid did take away from me as well, especially time, time with my daughters.  Until safety precautions were determined and implemented, travel back and forth was not a good idea given my vulnerabilities to the virus.

BUT, once the recommendations came out, I did manage to return to visits with my daughters again, safely, with minimal risks to each other.

2020 gave us a lot of time to think, and prepare.  We still do not know when the end point of this crisis will be, but we are now learning not only that we need to be able to move on, but how to do it safely, some would call it, “living with the virus.”  Honestly, it is not the first time we have faced a virus crisis, though clearly in my lifetime, this is the worst I have ever seen.

But here we are, finally getting to the year 2021.  And I already have so much on my calendar that I am looking forward to, Covid or not.  During this time period, I have made real progress writing my first book, based on survivorship, now two-thirds of the way finished.  I am looking forward to another great year writing this blog, and hopefully maybe making it a podcast.

Most importantly, I am looking forward to more time with my daughters.  I am so proud of how they have had to handle the diversity in regard to schooling, socialization, and more.  And they did it without complaining.  They knew the right things that had to be done.

Holy Cow!!!!  I just realized this year, I will be the father of an adult daughter.  Reality is setting in.  My emphasis on teaching and encouraging values, now turns to life survival lessons, about money and how to save it, spending wisely, negotiating, and to not be taken advantage of.  The decisions she soon faces are more serious, the rewards greater, but so are the consequences for any wrong decisions.

My younger daughter will also turn a milestone as well.  And as both of my daughters get older, they are learning more about what I have gone through in my life, through my cancer journey and beyond.  That images in the memory that make no sense, have a story behind them.  Those stories will become important to them because there will come a day, that they will need to know what I have gone through.  But that is a long way off.  I have graduations to attend and daughters to walk down the isle.

I wish everyone a Happy, Safe, and Prosperous New Year.  See you on the other side.

Make This Difference In 2021

I feel odd trying to write an inspirational message, using the television serial killer Dexter as an example.  But here goes.  First, to be fair, Dexter’s status as a serial killer is complicated in that he is really a good guy.  One of his major flaws (besides the ease of killing criminals released by the judicial system often on technicalities), is he is emotionally barren, for at least half of the series, before his “feelings” begin to mature.  I am trying to be respectful in not “spoiling” anything.

You get it though, Dexter does not show, or pretty much, have any emotions, or feelings.  His sister Deb, with a mouth more colorful than a truckdriver or sailor (or whatever metaphor you want to use), has emotions, but has not control of them, often leading her to make decisions that involve regret.  She often tells Dexter she loves him, but he is unable to respond in kind to his sister.  This is not the only time that Dexter has been in this position, through no fault of his own.  It is just who he is.

Anyway, as the series draws to a conclusion, Dexter is moving away, far, far, away.  Deb’s only request, a hug before he leaves, something I do not recall seeing in any of the episodes.  I will leave it there.

There are no second chances.  I wrote just a couple of days ago about my father’s situation with my stepmother, an argument, never being able to be resolved.

That had not been the first time, that I had experienced that guilt, of a lost opportunity.  Growing up, though different circumstances, I did not deal with emotions well either, in fact, not at all.  But early in my adulthood, when my grandmother had been diagnosed with cancer, and the mere thought of losing her, I found out, that I did have feelings, and they mattered.  And for the first time, I began to show my emotions.

On a daily basis, I made sure that I told my grandmother that I loved her.  When I visited her, I always gave her a hug.  Except for one time, and it was the last time that I saw her alive.

She was about to begin her second fight against cancer, beginning chemo the Monday after the weekend.  I stopped by to visit with her Saturday morning as I had a full day planned on Sunday with my church’s youth group that I ran.  I had discovered that she had cut her her short, to prepare for the hair loss that would accompany her chemotherapy.  But then I noticed something odd.  Her booklets on her chemo information had still not been touched.  I just attributed that to my grandmother’s nature of just accepting things, and doing what she had to.  That is how she rolled.

As I sat across from her in her living room, she had a distant look on her face.  There was a lot on her mind, clearly with the chemo beginning in just days.  I would soon find out, she had a lot more on her mind than she let on.  I asked her what was wrong.  She just responded that she “just want to get this over with.”  She definitely was not her normal “brave” self with me.

When I went to leave, she did not get up from the couch as I approached the door.  I told her, “ok grandma, I am going to get going.  I will give you a call tomorrow, then come see you on Monday.”  My hopes of thinking she would take that as her cue to come over and hug me goodbye, nope.

The next day, she had passed away.  The one time I did not hug my grandmother or tell her I loved her, because I was distracted by her “distance” and distraction, is how we parted.

You see the pattern here.  Three examples, all three, “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

My daughters never got to meet my grandmother.  They never knew what happened to my stepmother and the impact it had on my Dad.  What I do not know, is if among all the other stuff they have watched, if they ever watched Dexter.

But one thing is for sure, from the moment they were placed in my arms, they have always been told “I love you” by me.  They get as many hugs as I can give them.  There is no “given” that just because I am their father, they have to love me or that I love them.  No, for the first time in my life, my daughters made me feel that way, and I made, no, make sure that they know every day how much I love them.  There will be no regrets with not having said the most important words to my daughters.

We never know when the inevitable is going to happen.  And 2020 has been extremely cruel with Covid19 devastating so many families permanently.  And now, faced with recommendations, proven to be at least helpful in reducing risks, we are asked to make sacrifices, which could very well be the last time, we see a loved one or friend.  Nobody gets that more than me.

Whether you believe in the severity of Covid19 or not, and whether you have been personally affected by Covid19 or not, does not change the fact, that you only get one last chance with someone, and we do not know when that moment will be.  But Covid19 has made a huge impact on hundreds of thousands of lives, permanently.

2020 has been extremely cruel, and likely filled with a lot of regret, of things left unsaid.  Regardless of what you believe about Covid19, or any other situation that at one moment can change your life forever, you can make one huge difference in 2021, every day.

Good Riddance 2020

So the question across my news feed this morning, was “name something good that happened for you in 2020.”

For the majority of us, this is likely to limit responses to just January, February, maybe March.  There are two notable things that I consider good during this time. 

Being a non-custodial parent, there are many things that I am not included in.  But this moment was something for me to always cherish.  I got to take my daughters shopping for dresses for a school semi-formal.  Though not a big shopper myself, this was one trip I am so glad I got to make.

This was a huge thing that occurred in 2020, just before the Covid19 shit hit the fan.  Each milestone that I hit, I find myself amazed that I am still here.  Back then, we were only encouraged to think about some magical 5-year mark.

But even through the rest of the year, I did manage to have some good things happen.  My cooking improved for one.  I am an okay cook, but not having an option to go out an sit down, and for the most part opting not to do take out, the pressure was on if I wanted to eat.

Most importantly, in spite of Covid19 and the risks, I still managed to see my daughters.  Besides the law supporting the needs of children to see their non-custodial parents, as long as protections and recommendations were followed, visits were going to happen.

Likely, no one is going to say they would like to just reset and redo the 2020 calendar year.  2020 in fact, is probably going to go down as the worst number to avoid than a 13th floor in a hotel.

With hopefully the recovery from Covid19 going in that direction to start 2021, I have things that I am looking forward to, one major milestone, an effort thought I would never finish, and of course getting to spend more time with my daughters again.

My heart goes out to all who have lost someone this year, not just Covid19.  My wish is for all who are reading this, to find peace, good health, and comfort in 2021.

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