Tag Archives: Life

One Day.

There are many kinds of people who make up our world.

There are people who  fight. They grab each day by the throat and don’t let go until they get that day done.

There are people who pretend. Who make it look like they can do the things they cannot so that the world will applaud them. But the world never applauds anyone, not in any real way, and their hearts are destined to break.

There are people who burn. Who carry a furnace fuelled by bitterness because life has flowed around them like a river, and they cannot bend the currents to their will. Steam and noise ensue, and peace is a laughable dream.

There is another kind. There are quiet, shy people who hate storms. Who try, every day, to stand, walk, and even carry others with whatever power they have, which varies every day. Whose tools get lost or break or were never in the toolbox, or the storm has whipped them away, lost in the wind and sound and terror. But every day, they try.

They get up, in the face of panic and fear, and they try. Some days they are beaten before they even open their eyes, and the trying takes too long, and it’s hard.

But somehow, they do it. And life and the world do not record their battles, don’t call their names, don’t applaud. Sometimes, it only announces their failures, which feeds the opinion of the ignorant. The world expects perfection while it takes away their tools. The world demands more while it pressures you with less.

Less money for your work, less support for your children, less respect for your thoughts, less power for your person, less safety for your travels, less consequence for your violation.

It presses down while screaming to get up. And it is hard.

But these people, in the storm, they still try.

These people are called Mothers.

I’m lucky enough to have one for a partner. My wife’s tools are being plucked away by the storm piece by piece. In the cruellest irony, by an invisible disease that very few people will ever understand. They see the vibrant, shining soul that she is, and rejoice in her radiance, and never see her storm. She refuses to show it to anyone.

She’s such a Mother that she’ll be one to those who are not even hers. She’ll take on the job for those in pain out of sheer mercy and grace, and never asks for recognition, or control, or any reward at all.

She will simply because it is Right.

She’ll step into the deeper storm, knowing some of her tools are missing.

Because that is what Mothers do.

My own mother should have folded under the storm a thousand times. Sometimes, the storm was me.  Other times, it was the world, trying to crush her. She would have none of that.

I am privileged. Both women made me this man.

We get one day.

One.

To tell them that we get it. That we see them. That we appreciate them. That they are valued. Loved. That we know. That we can never properly thank them, but on this day, we will try.

To my Mom, all I can say is Thank You.

To my wife, I see you. I know. And I see the storm. I hate it, and I wish I could crush it; wither it, so that it did not trample you. But I can’t. I will always offer my hand, even when you refuse to take it. Because you fight ten times harder than I do.  Even now, as two young men who you gave birth to, who you taught how to temper my cold spite with your warmth and love, prepare to step away from you and make their mark, two standing examples of your success, you find yourself wanting in their forging. You did it. You mastered it. You won. I love you. I Thank You.

To every one of you reading this who are Mothers, I Thank You. The world will never applaud. Not the way it should. But maybe, having a day that tells you we know you’re important is a sign for you. That we see you, and that we care.

Thank You.

 

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Starting 2017:I hope it’s your best year.

It’s a strange time.

The internet is changing, and the world is changing with it. Uncertainty reigns.

So can you.

Make 2017 the year you armour up. The year you lace up your boots and give the world through your window a hard, steely stare.

Go make today yours. And do it for the next 364 days.

I know you can. You know you should.

Go be amazing.

I’ll watch from here and guard your six and cheer you on.

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21 Years

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You see those two kids there?

 

That was twenty one years ago.

Two decades. Two decades of change, worry, battles. Life in the storm.

She wasn’t as worried as she looks. And he was far more terrified than he appears.

But he couldn’t believe his luck, and knew how hard he could work to deserve her.

They both did not know so many things.

Their future, a chasm, its depths shrouded in fog.

They both did not know so many things.

But I know.

If I could go to them, twenty one years ago, I would tell them.

I would tell her that she’s good enough. That he adores her. That she needs to set her worries down, because life is too short to be afraid of what other people think. That he will die for her if she needs him to, and that, twenty one years later, he never changed or wavered. That she has just become his best friend, and his payment for that debt is absolute loyalty, no matter who or what comes to them.

That he will figure it out; his anger, his issues, his past, his pain; because of her grace and her gentleness, and he will forever be devoted to her for it. That there will never be enough money, so stop trying to reach the moon with her bare hands. That she will give birth to two strong, brilliant men who will shine with her best qualities, and will emerge into this world champions because of her limitless belief and love for them. That she needs to hug her father more. That her mother will always be there for her, no matter what. That, at 46, she is beautiful, living in a home in Lunenburg that they own, and that she will be taken care of.

I would tell him that he’s going to make it. That he won’t die on her, or destroy the best thing that’s ever happened to him. That he will find peace in the death of his demons someday, and find grace in their passing. That there is a day coming when the angry, scared little boy can come out from under the table. That he will one day take a deep, deep breath and allow himself to smile. That his pain is a furnace, and he will forge incredible things with it, tempered and strong and not destructive. That he will be a nurse. That he would change things in unimaginable ways that help people. That the pain in his body he has every day will never go away, but if he keeps training, it will become noise and nothing more. That the lungs will not collapse again and he will climb mountains with them.

That she will be with him twenty one years from now. That she has something in her brain, and it will change things, and she will need him, and he will step up, and that it will give him the chance to pay her back for guiding him through how to live like a human being and not a hunted animal. That Steve was going to marry Brenda, and be fine. That mom will probably outlive all of us. That he will lose incredible people like Wayne and Earl, and he needs to visit them. That he is going to own a poodle, a toy poodle at that, and not a wolf, because she said so.

That you will actually buy her a tiara.

That he will pull towards him the most amazing people who will bring out the best in him. That a pack of men will gravitate towards him and always be on call, because of what he means to each of them. That he is not a mistake.

That he will have two sons who love him. That he needs to listen to her, and soften as much as he can and save himself years of struggle. That she’s right about the world and about people. That he will never shut down his vigilance, because he can’t, and that’s okay, and that it’s good to always be ready, but for twenty one years, nothing is going to happen. That he can save his energy for later. That he is going to write a book, but not the one he thinks, and that many more are coming. That he’s not his father, and never will be.

That she is with him through it all. That he’s going to make mistakes, and he has to stop being terrified of them, and has to learn how to fix them. That she’s real and true; exactly what he sees in her right now, and that he still won’t believe his luck, even after the grey lines his beard.

That every day with her is a gift, and to keep relishing it, because he was right about how lucky he is.

I would tell them.

“You kids just relax. You got this.”

They both did not know so many things.

But I know.

And I thank them.

Thank you, Lesley, for showing them how it’s done. I love you more than the moment this picture was taken.

 

Happy 21st Anniversary, love.

Here’s to the next two decades.

 

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My Father Died Just Over Three Months Ago. I Never Thought From Such Pain Would Come peace.

My father died three months ago.

That sentence alone has more weight and mass than most.

My father was not my hero. I had seen him three times in about thirty years, and we never spoke. The history between us is long, dark, and unkind. I’ll write about all that toxic pathology someday. It will make quite a book.

But not today.

When my brother asked me if I would go see Bill (as he was known to me then; I took substantial pride in denying him his rank, as he had never earned it), I was ready for it. Bill had a stroke on New Year’s Eve, and when they scanned him they discovered a “massive tumour” in his brain. I’m an RN. I know that when radiologists, who usually never use extreme words in their assessments, told the patient something was “massive”, then things are Very Bad.

I also know that Brain Cancer is often secondary to Lung Cancer, and they had found tumours on both of his lungs. That meant that if the cancer had gone bilateral and to the brain, he was what we call in the business “loaded”: if he were to undergo surgery, they would find tumours everywhere and simply sew him back up.

So, Bill’s doctor gave him the options he had at hand: undergo Chemo (to delay the growth of the tumour, but by no means save him or stop its progression), or do nothing, because it was going to kill him anyway.

And that, apparently, was when Bill asked for me.

Growing up, he had not been kind. I did not serve much purpose, and he always made that clear.

But here was purpose.

My brother needed me to go. Bill needed me to go. His new wife needed me to go. In death, there are a thousand things most people simply do not know.

But I do.

Driving there was hard. The flashbacks were really awful. He lives in a slice of isolated coastal country where the last gas was half an hour ago. Halfway there, I had to pull over and send my wife a simple text:

“This is really hard.”

The signal died after I pulled out and kept driving.

When I walked in, I saw the agreement, written in the wrinkles of his thinning face and in the dark mahogany of his eyes. To agree to lie to each other, to buy into his new life; where his grandchildren love him, his grieving wife works through his death, neighbours call and cry over the news, and not pull out the spikes and claws of the past. The invoice for his words and actions against me needed to fall to dust. And he asked me for that now with his eyes.

In a way, his last days were his best. He lived as the center of attention, as he should; his history of catastrophic choices was shelved, the door closed on it.

I’m not sure that he was ever so liked as he was in his last month.

Trust remained a problem for him. I don’t blame him. Beneath his pretence, as though my walking into his house was the most normal, expected thing, doubt sat waiting. I told him we were moving him from the flat bed in his dark room to the crank-up hospital bed his wife’s son-in-law had assembled in the living room, where he could see the harbour and the sun. I told him I was going to lift him. And I saw fear. It flashed through his eyes; the doubt that this had been part of my grand revenge scheme, to gain his trust and then throw him in some final act of vengeance. He was in shock when I settled him into the wheelchair; his eyes were endless. He simply couldn’t understand.

For the most part, neither could I. But that didn’t matter. I had gone where I was needed. It was the only human thing to do. Seeing him marvel at that broke my heart. Imagine living life without grasping the concept of kindness.

I began to understand my father.

Later, on the couch, his wife Shelia pointed out that we were sitting like twins; exactly the same posture. I started watching, studying him. Every minute was like a graduate study of my own psyche. So many answers to why I do the things I do; mannerisms, tone of voice, the fast judgement of fools, all of my habits sat beside me in the form of this dying man.

His workshop was perfectly organized, with all things labelled, right down to the size of nails and screws. I’ve always been frustrated by why I waste time trying to do that, when it always becomes a grand mess anyway. Now, I knew.

I suddenly knew a lot of things.

In the photo album he gave me, I finally saw it. The happier kid he had been growing up, the awkward terror in his wedding photos, the confusion and accusation in my own young eyes, this child who wanted him to be something he just didn’t have the tools for.

I had come into his life needing him at a time when he just didn’t know how. And he saw it every time he had looked into my young face.

I can’t imagine how that must have felt for all those years that we warred against each other.

I asked him to ask me anything. Anything at all, and he would have his answers.

We talked for four hours.

The blocks were out from under the wheels. The brakes were off. Nothing mattered anymore. He knew what he had done in the past; there was no self-delusion there. But history served no purpose now. He only wanted to finally let himself be THIS Bill, the human Bill, now that he faced his humanity and the end of it. He only wanted to finally be my father.

He told me how to fix my water heater. He told me to take his tools to work on my house. He showed me how to snip and grind down the spikes in my attic roof so that I could insulate it. He spoke kindly and supportively and without malice, and the small boy, hidden inside the armour of the grown man I became, cherished every word.

He asked me if he had done it right, by refusing the chemo. He wanted my opinion. On something as massive as his death. And, when I told him he had chosen the right path, and that an unknown number of weeks spent nauseous and in pain would probably kill him anyway, that there would be no miracles here, that he could go soft or he could go hard, and he was choosing soft, I watched relief flood him. He wanted to hang on until my brother could get here. He hoped he hadn’t blown that by refusing the chemo. Both the doctor and I wanted him to avoid that misery that wouldn’t make any difference to when death would come.

Weeks later, Shelia told me the nurses were coming every day, and so were the drugs, and she didn’t know why. I knew what that meant.

I called my brother and told him that it was happening. There were much fewer flashbacks on the drive there this time.

Nurses know death. We can smell it. We can read it in the air. And it was thick when I arrived. He was heavily sedated, and fighting the drugs and death every second. He was holding on. His wife thought he was sleeping, but he was actually fighting through the sleep.

I have no idea how he had the strength to raise his hand and lay it on mine. It should have been impossible.

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I told him what was happening. I told him it would soon be over. I told him I was here, and everything would end well. I told him he would not feel pain, like he feared he would.

I called my brother and put the portable against my father’s ear. Shelia brought us a second phone, and my brother and my father and I were together for the end.

Steve spoke, and I told Steve how Bill was responding. How he was fighting through the blanket of drugs to talk, to form words that he couldn’t, to say all those things the dying have to say. I watched my father’s tears crawl from his dying eyes. I choked out to him that we were here together, here at the end, and that we always would be, and to Steve that he was trying to speak and nod and cry, and that he could hear everything Steve was saying, and not to stop, not to stop until he was finished and got everything out, and that Bill was using every ounce of life he had left to listen and talk. I told Steve he was smiling. Steve’s words were the careful, ready words of a soldier and a son. We all cried; a trio of torn souls over a hissing phone line.

When the call was done, I finished the agreed lie that wasn’t a lie anymore.

I held his thin, bony chest against mine, and listened to his thready, tired heartbeat, fluttering and whispy and fragile and failing.

I didn’t know if I could say it, in the end. But I‘m glad I did. I said what I knew he needed.

“It’s okay. All of it. It’s over, and it’s okay.  I love you, Dad.”

My tears ripped loose when he managed a grunt through the meds.

On the drive home, I felt something new.

Peace.

William Hector Laybolt died hours later on March 2, 2015.

His wife asked me to write his obituary.  After several visits, I felt I collected enough from the people around him to do it justice.

I think it may just be my finest work yet.

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