Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

Last Christmas, Or The Next Stage?

It was inevitable really.  This memory came up for me today.

2013 was a difficult year emotionally for many reasons.  My father had been recently diagnosed with cancer.  My health had been struggling for the last year and a half, more so than prior years.  I had also initiated my second divorce.

This would be the last “Santa” photo taken of my daughters, an annual tradition.  My older daughter, the trooper since discovering that I was Santa Claus, still went along with these photos anyway.  But this was also the year that my younger daughter began to have her doubts about the man in red.

And that is when it started, the need to “cling on” as hard as I could.  You could see how much it meant to her to have that one thing that while so impossible to believe was real, still wanting to give all she could, to believe in the impossible, that maybe things that had been going on around her, though seemingly impossible, might be possible.

Although a baptized Christian, I do enjoy the Santa Claus lore.  I like the meaning.  And as I had one daughter who no longer believed, and another wanting to, I felt it was time to change, to adapt what the story of Santa Claus was really about, giving.  And so, I instilled in both of them, that Santa Claus while in the presence sense may not be real, his spirit definitely is, and it is something we all possess.  My daughters learned the importance of the season of giving at that moment.  Santa Claus would live on.

Like many households dealing with divorce, another change would come with observing Christmas.  The goal still to be as enjoyable for the children.  Clearly different than what they had experienced previously when they were younger.  For some, it is part of the day with one parent, part of the day with the other.  Then there are those who actually split the Christmas holiday week between parents.

But hold on.  Then the children turn eighteen, graduate high school, and move away to college, perhaps find a significant other.  Another change.  And in the world of divorce, time already split to a minimum with either parent, the holidays morph into yet another stage, perhaps not even making it home for the holidays, while your child, the one you have spent every holiday with, informs you that they are going to meet the family of their heart’s interest.  This is the stage that I am preparing for next.  One daughter near that age, another not far behind.

And peering into my Norman Rockwell crystal ball, eventually, I will be the one making the annual holiday trips to not only see my daughters, but their own families as well.

And who knows, maybe I met get to dust of the red suit once again.

Really Not A Grinch, But…

I hate broccoli.  Allow me to expand on that.  I hate all vegetables, at least the green ones, also known as “the good ones for you.”

Reality TV… cannot stand it.  Well, except for the vocal competitions, as long as they do not waste my time with those just looking for fifteen minutes of fame.

Do not call lists.  We either have them and are on them until we take ourselves off due to some masochistic issue, or leave us the hell alone.

But there is one thing that really irritates me, like having sand in your swim trunks.  And yes, I know what that feels like.  I was really not smart at five years old.

To quote Jim Carrey’s “Grinch” character… “I looooooaaaathe” these things!  Reindeer antlers for cars.  The odd thing is, I have seen other decorations on cars that do not antagonize me the way these things do, even cars totally wrapped up in Christmas lights.  But these antlers!  AAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!

Now, I need to give a little bit of transparency.  I am not a big fan of the holiday season in general.  To me, November and December are the grim reaper of the calendar.  I have had to deal with so many crisis and tragedy during these months over my life.  That said, I do celebrate the holidays, and to levels that might surprise you.  And as the things that have caused me such grief in these months, two of the most important people in my life, keep me in the moment of recognizing how each year, this holiday is important to me.

Yes, because of my daughters, I embrace the Christmas holiday.  Just as they helped my father embrace the holidays also.

I fully embraced the holiday.  Look at the smiles on their faces.  I had to keep those smiles forever.  I was fully committed to the role.

Every year I dressed up in a Santa suit.  My fur friend Pollo, always knew it was me under the suit, but he needed to be influenced to stay silent.  Christmas Eve, photos and video were taken of me with Pollo, eating the cookies and drinking milk, even putting presents under the tree.  And then, to reinforce the belief in the big guy, I showed the proof beyond the half-eaten cookies and now warm leftover milk, photos.  And much clearer than the photos of Big Foot.  Unfortunately, this was the final year that I did this, because, I was lazy.  And lazy got me caught.  My older daughter, who can find an earring back in three inches of shag carpeting, something unusual about Santa.  “Why is ‘HoHo’ wearing your sneakers Daddy?”  The gig was up.  I got away with the initial explanation of him having dirty boots, he took them off, and my sneakers were by the fireplace so he put them on, not be rude walking barefoot in our house.

And I am not against decorations.  Quite the contrary.

Every year, the day before Thanksgiving, I was outside, working on the thousands of lights that I would put up.  The picture shown is incomplete, because I had lights along the roof, and over 12,000 lights strung in my huge holly tree.  And there were hand crafted wood ornaments I had not put out yet.  My point is, I am not anti decoration.

But there is something about these things, that I cannot let go.  I am not a hunter.  So it is not a primal urge to shoot at something resembling a deer.  I just cannot explain the feeling.  Making it worse, don’t let me see that stupid red nose on the front grill of the car.

You don’t think these things don’t belong on a car.  Let me prove you otherwise.  Besides the fact that I think they are stupid (I know many will not share that sentiment), they are actually dangerous.


That’s right.  Sure, they may look cute driving through streets looking at houses decorated for Christmas, where you are driving five miles an hour.  But they are not meant for higher speeds.  Allow me to explain, because I actually get joy out of this.

These antlers are not meant for high speeds, unlike Santa’s actual reindeer.  And if these antlers have bells attached for authentic reindeer sleigh bells, even worse.  So, while one Christmas season, driving to the Poconos via the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there arose such a clatter, against my driver side window as I drove on cruise control at 70mph.    That clatter got louder and faster, and then all of a sudden, there was silence.  At least from the driver side of the car.  The passenger side was still noisy, but not as loud with my distance from it.

When we got to our destination, it appears our “reindeer wannabe car” had a mishap.  It broke an antler.  Funny.  Hysterical at least to me, because I never liked it in the first place, nor did I like feeling emasculated driving a car adorned with this crap.  But for the other passengers in my car, including my daughters, they wanted to laugh, because they saw that I saw it was funny, and “daddy is always funny.”  But the other parent was not amused, in fact, actually accusing me intentionally of driving a speed that somehow I knew would cause injury to the antlers.  Right.  Because I obtained secret information from the factory warning of antler stress fractures due to high rates of speed of 70 mph or more.  It was a conspiracy.

Just like in Scooby Doo, I had been caught like Mr. Chaumers.  I was glad that antler broke off.  But now I wondered whatever happened to the flying projectile from my car.  Did it fly into the windshield of the car behind me, either cracking the windshield, or worse, causing the driver to panic, perhaps getting into a car accident?

I may have not been thinking it originally, as to why I did not like these things.  But I do know now why I don’t like car antlers.  They are dangerous.  May not seem like it, but they have the potential for harm.

At the least, once Christmas was over, then the f*@cking Easter Bunny ears, nose, and fluffy tail were purchased next.  And those met a similar fate.  But that is a different story and a different season.


Vaccine Opinion From Someone Who Has A Reason To Get One, But Might Not

As a long term survivor of cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, who deals with a lot of issues related to late developing side effects from my treatments, as well as a key issue of immunocompromise status, there could be no more important news to me currently than the approval of a vaccine for Covid19.  Of all my co-morbidities (issues that complicate my health if I get Covid19), my heart, my lungs, being diabetic, the one thing that will stand out above all others because it is what leaves me more susceptible in the first place to contracting Covid19, not having a spleen, or being asplenic.

At one time, it was believed that people could do without their spleen, an organ that basically filters the blood, but now believed to be quite important when it comes to fighting infections.

Back in 1988, when my spleen was removed as part of a staging procedure (to see how bad my cancer was), I had to take certain vaccines to boost my immunity.  These were not lifetime like the ones we got in school, measles/mumps/rubella and others.  One vaccine was for the flu, another pneumonia, and the other meningitis.  I was told, the flu would need to be done every year, but the other two would be good for life.  Spoiler alert, not true.  I won’t get into that here, but I have gotten multiple boosters of both, since not having a spleen, I cannot build up immunity against those two issues.

I want to state very clearly, I am not an anti-vaxxer.  I also do not buy into any conspiracies about vaccines.  And I object to vaccines being made political.  Decisions I have made about getting vaccinated for anything have been personal, and made pending on status of mandatory or necessary, medically, or legally.

But in my lifetime, Covid19 is the most lethal contagion I have ever witnessed.  And I used to work in medical research, so that says a lot.  With all my co-morbidities, and access to the doctors that know my medical history, I am someone who should get a vaccine for Covid19… when it is not only available, but safe.

Having worked in medical research, I know the process takes time, a long time.  Having been cured of one of the most fatal illnesses, cancer, I know all too well about treatments and therapies that are not studied at length enough to be aware of all the risks.

Here is what I do know.  I know that scientists were able to build on the knowledge that they already previously had on other Corona viruses and SARS viruses of the past.  That would be the starting block for the vaccine for Covid19.  Then it should be just a matter of the scientists doing their job, that they are good at, and finding something that will work, as safely as possible.  Then there is the testing, eventually testing on humans in three stages.  Besides the actual research, this is a step that takes time, and a lot of volunteers.  And then there is the bureaucratic process of approval.

If you think that is a long paragraph, then you have to know, vaccine development is a long process.  In the world, we are recognized as the leader in vaccine development, especially when it comes to safety.  That is how science works.

Have you ever heard of the expression, “putting your thumb on a scale”, or perhaps, even been a practical joker like me, sneaking up behind someone standing on a scale to weigh themselves, and then stealthily sneaking the tip of my foot onto the scale to make the weight a little heavier?

In 2020, that is unfortunately what has happened, intentional or not, to impact the develop a vaccine for Covid19.  Under extreme pressure from a horrifying strategic decision on how to handle the Coronavirus pandemic, the President instead was forced to get to the solution much quicker than time would allow.  The result is like trying to use water to put out a fire fueled by gasoline.

In all honestly, from all things considered, early knowledge of Corona and SARS viruses, the best scientists in the world, the top vaccines currently up for consideration might just be what we need to finally get a grip on this pandemic.  But for a majority of the country, who rely on facts and science to make their decisions, find it much harder to make the decision to get this vaccine, because a “thumb was placed on a scale” of time, to make the process go faster, likely for a combination of political gain as well as humanity.

As I write this, the FDA is holding a meeting to decide on emergency use authorization.  If approved, it is potentially a big deal to the possible end of the pandemic.  Prioritization of vaccines has already been recognized.  Once approved, the vaccines will get shipped out, and into the arms.

But not so fast.  Like I said, there is a three-step process of human trials taking many months to study for side effects.  These trials are tested on healthy, non-compromised subjects.  What does that mean?  That means that the person has no issues that might skew the results.  Someone, like me.  I have all the co-morbidities that make Covid19 lethal to me.  I would not have been approved for that study, even if I had paid to do it.

We are told, the vaccine from Pfizer will have a 95% success.  As many vaccines have, there could be side effects that make it somewhat unpleasant for up to a day.  But the tradeoff, immunity to Covid19, and the lingering effects the virus causes, makes that temporary feeling worth it.

Here is the problem.  There is not data yet released, meaning, it likely has not even been studied, on certain groups of patients.  For instance, there is no data on:

  • pregnant and nursing mothers
  • children under 16
  • people with compromised immune systems (like me)
  • those with a history of reactions or allergies to vaccines

Look at those four groups.  That is a serious segment of our population who will have a difficult decision to make, weighing the risk or benefit of getting the vaccine or not.

And that is not the only factor to consider.  As a thirty year survivor of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I deal with late side effects from the treatments used to treat me, side effects that medicine was unaware of at the time.  Cancer patients were not expected to live longer than five years, according to statistics, so we were not studied.

Rushing the process of the vaccine, while good for stopping the spread of the pandemic, does not allow for science to study the potential risks, short or long term.  Even now, science is talking about not knowing the late effects of contracting the virus, because they do not know.

Look, there is a reason we have not seen Polio in decades.  A process worked.  I am too young to recall what it was like to watch someone with Polio, but my mother is old enough to remember, and she said it was horrific.  I am hoping in my lifetime I never see another virus outbreak like this, and definitely not handled the way that this has been handled.

I am not letting the media or any politician tell me what to do.  I am in contact with my doctors (science) who will recommend if I should get the vaccine or not.  For now, a combination of the unknown data, my doctors have recommended a “wait and see” approach of one to two months before consideration.  This is a difficult spot, because, being vulnerable, I am one who needs the vaccine.

The main thing that can do the most damage, is misinformation.  Stop reading it.  Stop sharing it.  Get your information from your doctor for your specific situation if you should get the vaccine or not.  You will be the one to decide if you are one of the lucky ones to ride it out without the vaccine and having exposure, or one of the 300,000 Americans who have died from it.


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