Watching “Field of Dreams”

At 57, I am not ready to say I am “old”, but I am certainly aware of the fact that I am growing old. There are just too many signs my mind and body give for me to ignore this truth.

Sure, I still get out there and play basketball and volleyball with a younger crowd, but I can no longer do so up to the levels I once enjoyed. I still dive on the floor after a volleyball, but I have a harder time picking myself up again. My back is sore; my knees ache; my shoulders are tight; my reflexes are slow. But, I am still out there.

I can still go on long hikes in the woods, mile after mile, but it takes me longer to complete the trail and longer to recover from the journey in the days that follow. I find it harder to move furniture around the house that my wife finds no harder in imagining looking better in another location. My teeth ache; my hair has long since departed; I eat Advil like they are M & M’s; more and more memories seem to be leaving me; and, … I cry.

No, not from the aches and pains – they don’t make me cry. Not due to forgotten memories or from the frustrations that accompany failed efforts that used to come easy for me. Passing Barber Shops without the need to go inside does not make me cry. Being too embarrassed to remove my shirt at the beach does not make me cry. No … now that I am getting older, movies make me cry.

As a kid, I was a cry-baby. I cried anytime I lost a game and every time my older brothers teased me – usually because I was crying from losing a game. But, somewhere before my teen years, I managed to turn off the water-works never to cry again … until recently.

I experienced many events that saddened me and made me quite solemn, but the tears had been packed away following many an admonishment from my father and brothers telling me I was too old to cry. Ironically, now that I am getting old, I cry once again … at the stupid movies!

And not just movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Terms of Endearment”, those are designed to make you cry. No, last night I watched “Field of Dreams” and I cried.

When a young Archibald “Moonlight” Graham crossed over the line after getting his one at bat with the major leaguers to become old Doc Graham once again so he could dislodge the hot dog from Ray’s daughter’s throat, the lump started swelling up in mine. When Terrance Mann walks into the corn field to join Shoeless Joe and his gang of baseball-playing angels, the tears started to form. And, when Ray Kinsella finally had that catch with his young father, … Niagara Falls.

It’s as if those tears I never cried as a young man have all pooled up inside and must now find their escape. Tears I couldn’t find from my brother’s passing at such a young age; tears that abandoned me after my own father’s death; tears that eluded me ever since I was told not to be such a cry-baby, now flow as soon as I see movie characters experience emotions that I so stoically have suppressed since the time I was thirteen years old.

No, I am not yet “old” but I am getting there. And, that is something I wish you to consider should you ever be with me when I am watching a movie.

A Fire of Change

The bright and beautiful day outside
Mocks the storm that rages from deep inside
His father’s guns in the backpack hide
As he stoically walks to school

Bullies will do him no more harm
Adults were ignorant of the alarms
Tragic revenge through the use of deadly arms
No longer will he play the fool

TV cameras will soon arrive
Filming parents hoping to find their child alive
“The 2nd Amendment Debate” on the news at five
Calloused citizens, just another story to view

Lessons learned will go unheeded
Soon this story will get repeated
Changes not made where they are needed
Because the lobbyists’ monies rule

Sadly, more graves must be dug
Fewer children are around for parents to hug
Politicians posture in a mood so smug
To the impacted families our inaction is cruel

How many times must this story be told
How many children never to grow old
How many souls to the devil sold
Before a fire of change is lit from the fuel

Live, Laugh, Love

L ive life to its fullest, each and every day
I s there any good reason to live another way
V isualize happiness and happiness here will stay 
E ven in times of trouble, is what the wise men say

L aughing every day is a goal we all should set
A nd laughing at ourselves is a better target yet
U nhappy people are those we should forget
G reeting each day with laughter you never will regret
H appiness is contagious; a disease I hope I get

L ove is a gift that we should give to one another
O pportunity abounds to love others like a brother 
V ictims of hate are slow to fully recover
E ncourage you, I do, to be a Liver, a Laugher and a Lover

Blue Skies (A Look Into How My Poems Sometimes Evolve)

I contemplate the deep blue sky
While lying in the sun baked grass
And wonder what it is about the summer
That makes me such a lazy ...

Um, let's start over ...

While lying here in the sun baked grass
I contemplate the deep blue sky
And wonder what it is about the summer
That makes me such a lazy guy

Okay, that works better.

Where once were clouds in skies of gray
With rain and snow falling out of it
Bringing on fits of depression
And really making me feel like ...

Yeah, scratch that...

Where once rain and snow did fall
From clouds in skies of gray
Bringing on fits of depression
And completely ruining my day

Now, that should work.

Now resides the deepest blue
A gift to bring me luck ...

Maybe I better stop right there!

Now resides a sign of luck
A gift of the deepest blue
Made even better today
Cause I lay here next to you

Done!  Now, let's go post it.

When My Father Saved My Life

I was five years old when it happened.

I was acting lethargic and running a fever, so my mother decided to keep me home from kindergarten as she got my three older siblings off to school and busied her day with caring for me and my two younger siblings.  With no improvement in my situation after a couple of days, my parents decided it was time to go visit the doctor for some advice.  It didn’t take long for the doctor to tell my parents I needed to go to the hospital for further tests and treatment – the degree of his concern was unsettling.

Years later, my mother shared with me the guilt she felt believing that she waited too long before seeking a doctor’s advice.  She felt as if she left her son sleeping in bed at home when he should have been receiving treatment in the hospital.  But, really, how could she know?

I do have some memory of that time.  I remember crying the first time they stuck me with a needle to try to draw blood out of my right arm.  And, crying again when, after having no success, they tried my left arm.  I was done crying by the time they went back to my right arm, still having trouble finding a vein that would cooperate.  Over the next six months this was practically a daily routine that never resulted in tears again.  Needles have never been a problem for me since.

We were living in Chicago at the time, where my father was recently transferred from our home in Baltimore.  I was first sent to St. Joseph’s hospital on North Lake Shore Drive where I was diagnosed with Bright’s Disease, a failure of the kidneys.  I am not sure how long I stayed there, but, after the diagnosis, I was transferred to La Rabida Children’s Hospital which specializes in children with chronic diseases.

The tests indicated that my kidneys had completely shut down and were no longer functioning.  I was sent to La Rabida to be hooked up to a dialysis machine to, hopefully, extend my life, but, to sentence me to a life hooked up to a machine.

Just prior to starting dialysis, they took one more measurement of my blood and the results seemed to indicate a minute improvement of the toxins levels.  Although the doctors suggested it was probably just an error in the results and recommended moving ahead with dialysis, my father insisted that they redo the tests, just to make sure.  The doctors were hesitant to do so because the results took days to come back and they didn’t want to delay dialysis any further.  The doctors told my father that the kidneys had totally degenerated and there was no hope in them recovering, but my father begged them to humor him and do one more test – so, they did.  And, the results once again showed just a little bit of improvement.  Dialysis was delayed.

For the next few months, test after test, showed that the kidneys were indeed, starting to function on their own again.  No treatment.  No medication.  Just waiting and watching; test after test; needle after needle; day after day.

My total stay in the two hospitals was six months.  During that time, my father visited me every day.  The nurses even once mentioned to my father that they could always tell who was the only child because of how much time the parent spends with them – buzz, wrong answer but thanks for playing.  Eventually, with no medical explanation for it, my kidneys grew healthy again and I was a little boy again.  My mother told me that the doctors appeared embarrassed and were so apologetic for preparing them for the worst and telling them there was no hope for my recovery – a mistake my parents were thankful for.  Thank goodness for my father’s persistence and stubbornness to make them do one more test.  Once the dialysis machine is hooked up the kidneys are bypassed and my life would have been over – at least, my life lived as a normal, healthy child.

There was never any lingering effect.  I returned home, back to normal.  Lucky for me, in those days kindergarten was not mandatory and I was not held back from entering first grade even though I completed less than a quarter of my kindergarten year.  For a few years, my parents kept checking the color of my urine, but that guardedness eventually faded and my disease became a distant memory.  Supposedly, my case was written up in a Medical Journal as an unsolved, medical mystery but I have never seen any evidence of that fact.

Some people would say I am proof that miracles still happen.  Interestingly enough, my experiences have not resulted in turning me into a religious man.  Miracle?  I don’t think so.  I could never come to terms with why God would do this for me and not for all those other children who died during those six months I was there– some of whom shared my room with me during a period of the time.  No, I don’t believe that God works in mysterious ways; rather, I think mysterious ways work like a God.  Sometimes things happen with no reasonable explanation.  In fact, I think that is the true purpose of our Gods, to help man accept those things that cannot otherwise be explained.

For me, I don’t think I owe my good luck to God; I owe it to my earthly father, not to a heavenly one.

Thanks, Dad, for that stubborn head of yours.