2 a.m. Friends – If You Ever Run Out Of Gas

This morning on the way to school one of the boys asked me if I’d ever run out of gas while driving.

It brought to mind a story about the 2nd (and, thankfully, final) time I ever ran out of gas. I was on crutches, one of my ankles sprained, and had gone out for the evening (I was in my early 20’s, and prone to having evenings out on work nights) and was driving home through a rural stretch of road in Westbrook, Maine.  I had been eyeing my gas needle vigilantly as I had known I needed gas earlier in the evening, but had stayed out far later than expected and therefore all the gas stations were then closed and I was unable to fill my tank.

Lo and behold; I ran out of gas. As the car came to a stop I eased off to the side of the road in a familiar place. Fortunately my car had taken it’s last sip of fuel right at the base of the hill my office building sat upon. I was then in the habit of leaving my door key card in my car to avoid forgetting it in the morning, and blessed my good fortune that, whereas it was the middle of winter, I wouldn’t have to sit in the cold nor try to make my way home, which was several miles away.

I took my crutches and my car keys and made my way up the partly ice-covered drive to the building, let myself in, and made my way to my desk. That was the easy part. I now had to try to decide whom to call for assistance. It was 2 a.m. It was the middle of the week. Most people I knew were home asleep, safely tucked away in their beds (as I should have been). Beyond that, whose phone number did I know well enough to dial it from memory?

After a few moments, one name sprung to mind, and as luck would have it, so did her phone number. I dialed, and waited while the phone rang, already cringing at what I thought her voice would sound like, filled with annoyance at being awoken at this ridiculous hour.  She picked up and as if through a fog said, ‘Hello?’

‘Julie….it’s Brad…I’m sorry to wake you.’

‘That’s okay…what’s up?’

‘I’ve run out of gas…I’m on crutches…several miles from my house…I need help.’

She asked where I was. I told her the location, and gave her a landmark that I knew she’d be familiar with.

‘Give me half an hour, I’ll be there.’

I hung up the phone and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Within thirty minutes she arrived. I had made my way back to my car and waited for her. She pulled up alongside my vehicle with her own and I opened the passenger door and climbed in.

‘Thank you so much….’ I began.

‘Wait….’ she said, ‘Let’s just save that for another time.’

We rode in silence to my house where she dropped me off. I thanked her once again, and said I’d call her that night. She nodded, put the car in reverse, and backed out of the driveway.

That was twenty-five years ago (give or take a few months). Julie and I are still in touch, albeit very sporadically via social media. She’s not as frequent a poster on the internet as I am.

I have friends that I’ve known since kindergarten. They’ve seen me through all the iterations of my life….quiet child…reserved teen…blossoming young adult…more confident man….husband…and father. One of them read a traditional blessing at my wedding. Another recently bought my mother’s car for his daughter and even helped me load some of her furniture into a moving truck. Several of them ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on my social media posts. I interact with them as often as I can, and bless the modern world for being able to know, no matter how infrequently, what is going on in their lives. It’s one of the reasons I will always be grateful to the world wide web for existing. Those I’ve known for more than forty years of my life, along with others I’ve met along the way, I consider to be ‘forever friends’. They will, I hope, be in my life until my last breath, in one way or another.

I haven’t run out of gas in twenty five years. But I have needed a shoulder to cry on…a place to stay…someone I can trust to watch the boys for an hour or two…assistance with my mother’s needs when she still lived in Maine..someone to hold my hand while I phoned for test results that were worrying me, or just a friendly face when times have been difficult. No matter what the ‘need’ has been, I’ve always had someone to meet it. I am most fortunate indeed that I say that. I count that amongst the greatest blessings of my life.

Some of my friends are former ‘enemies’. We have put aside and even laughed about our former animosities, and have given and received forgiveness. I’ve had the chance to apologize to people for my part in whatever we didn’t necessarily like one another for back then. Some of my friends are former lovers who, after the romance wore off, we both realized that the friendship could (and should) remain intact. I know many, many people. Some of these friendships are deeper than others, some just casual encounters now and again. I am grateful for them all.

I have tried in my life to be the kind of friend who will help you pack and move. The kind who will listen to whatever is troubling you and offer whatever support I can. The kind who keeps confidences. The kind who you can trust with your kids and know they are just as safe as my own would be when in my care. I’ve shared of myself with others not to make things ‘about me’ but to perhaps instill a sense of ‘you’re not alone in this’ in others when they’ve had challenging times. I’ve never expected to receive anything in return for what I’ve offered. I’ve been most fortunate to get it back a thousand fold from those I’ve given to.

What I tried this morning to impart to my kids, in the few minutes drive to school and with the ‘running out of gas’ story is how important friends are in our lives. How we never know when we will need to trust or rely on someone and how wonderful it is to HAVE someone to trust or rely on in your life.

And, more than that, how important it is to BE that for someone else. Be the kind of friend who shows up when someone needs you. Be the kind of friend who can hold on to a ‘secret’ as long as it’s not hurting anyone. Be the kind of friend who gives of yourself without anticipation of reward or compensation. Be a good friend. Be a kind friend. Be a constant friend.

Be a forever friend.

To my friends, my forever friends and my casual acquaintances alike, I hope you’ve read this and hope you know how important you are to me. I hope I have been the kind of friend that is deserving of your time and your caring. I hope I never do anything to betray your friendship. I hope that you understand that with me, no matter how much time passes in between our interactions, you are still my friend, and as far as I’m concerned we’ll just pick up where we left off.

And if you ever run out of gas, even at 2 a.m. – give me a call.


I Had A Dream

I could not, for a long time, recall any dreams I had at night, with rare exception. As I learned, over time, I have sleep apnea, and therefore was rarely in REM sleep long enough to have a dream and thereby recall it later on.

Since I started using a CPAP machine, my sleep quality has improved and I also have more dreams and recall the content of them.

There are many resources to tell you what your dreams could or likely do mean. Last night’s dream revolved around my going to prison, convicted to a 10-year sentence. There are a few primary ‘translations’ for dreams of being imprisoned; mostly centered on feeling trapped/censored/stymied in some aspect of your life.

I do not recall, from the dream, being conscious of being a parent and leaving my children for those ten years, so I am left to question if the dream was about the parent ‘me’ or some variation of ‘me’. By that I mean rather than being about ‘me the father’ it could have been about ‘me the friend’, ‘me the brother’, ‘me the husband’, or ‘me the son’.

Based upon a conversation I had with my brother about our dad yesterday, I’m inclined to think it was about ‘me the son’, and feeling powerless over the situation with my Dad and his health. Throw in feeling powerless over our mother’s increasing memory issues and dementia, and it’s safe to say I can pinpoint the foundation of my dream.

But that’s not really the point of this post. This is not a ‘Confession’ post.

I can, from the dream, describe in vivid detail what I saw….what my surroundings were, what people looked like, what I wore, what they were wearing, etc. I had a brown leather wallet (which is what I use in reality) and was in a large room with beige painted cinderblocks. The guard who ‘processed’ me was tall and brunette with no facial hair. The room itself, where I was turning over my belongings and getting into prison garb, was ‘industrial in nature, but light, not dark and drab like ‘prison’ is usually portrayed. There are more details I could list, but that’s the gist of it.

Most dreams that I recall play out in my head like watching a film unfold on a screen before me. I dream in colors. I do not dream in ‘scent’ nor in ‘sound’, as in I cannot tell you if someone in my dream wore perfume, nor if their voice was deep or high-pitched. But the visions remain, albeit sometimes not as vivid as at others, of everything I ‘see’.

Several years ago I was supplying a friend with the material of my dreams, as often as I had them (which wasn’t much) for research that she was doing. As we spent much time discussing interpretation of dreams and dreaming in general, it raised a question for me that I’ve never found a sufficient answer for

What are the dreams like of someone who has been blind from birth?

For anyone who reads my blog, if you know someone who has been blind from birth who would not be offended by the question, I’d love to have you ask them what their dreams are like and please let me know their response.


Acquiescence – Confessions Of A Rotten Little Bastard, Part 8

My mother is in Florida visiting with my brother. She’s been there for three weeks. I have to admit that the ‘breather’ has been nice to have, but in trying to get her house ready for sale and for other reasons it’s not necessarily a complete ‘vacation’.

All my prior ‘Confessions’ have been about Mom, and about transitioning her to a new home near me due to her increasing physical challenges and encroaching dementia related issues. I don’t seek sympathy in writing about it, I seek release. Writing does that for me. However, right at the moment I’m not having day-to-day interaction with Mom while she’s away.

This ‘Confession’ relates to my Dad.

Last night my dad had his second cardiac episode in under a month. It wasn’t ‘significant’ enough to hospitalize him overnight, but the fact that it has now happened twice in recent weeks is troubling.

I spoke with Dad last night as he was refusing to go to the hospital and get checked out and treated. The assisted living facility he resides at contacted me and I asked to speak with him directly. He told me he wasn’t doing well, and I’d better get up to see him because he probably wouldn’t last the night. I said, ‘Dad you need to go to the hospital and get this checked out’. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn’t going to do it.

At first I felt myself wanting to yell. The fear of losing him was instantly in control of my mind and almost of my tongue. I told him again that I really wanted him to go to the hospital and get treated, and although I did my best to maintain control, I know some of my fear and frustration was evident in my tone of voice. He said no, that he wasn’t going to do it no matter what I said to him, and to not get ‘huffy’ with him. I took a deep breath and changed gears. I asked him, when I was not easily able to cajole him into going for treatment, what he thought would happen if it were a serious condition and he did not take care of himself. His response was, ‘Well, that’ll be it then….I’ll be gone.’

It was very matter of fact in the way he said it, and not at all unlike him to say it in this way.

Dad was born in 1931, during the Great Depression. He married at age 20, divorced at age 47, and married again. He and his second wife were then together until her death in 2005. Dad grew up in Brownfield, Maine. His parents were never even remotely ‘comfortable’ financially, but he hasn’t ever, to my knowledge, looked upon his upbringing as one of poverty and misery. When my parents split up he moved into what was his mother’s and step-father’s ‘camp’ in Windham, Maine and he lived there, first alone and then with his second wife. The camp was essentially two rooms, one open living space that was kitchen, living room, and bedroom and then another room that was used as a ‘bathroom’ and for wood storage to feed the monstrous cast iron stove in the kitchen. He lived there until he retired in his late fifties.

Dad was not in a financially sound place for retirement, but he scraped by and managed, just as he had for as long as my memory stretches. He made minor improvements and upgrades to the ‘camp’ when he could, and never seemed to be disappointed that the house wasn’t larger and more elegant. He had an old television set (no cable t.v.), a vintage washing machine (the old barrel type with the roller bars to wring out your clothing) and other equally vintage appliances, though they were scarce in number. After retiring Dad moved two hours north of Windham and put a used trailer on an inexpensive piece of land and resided there until his stroke in 2006. He never had a ‘new’ vehicle, but they were sound ones due to his being a mechanic. He dressed modestly, mostly in blue Dickies work clothes with the occasional flannel shirt or sweatshirt thrown in for good measure. He never seemed concerned with appearances, which in my eyes made him fortunate in never having to live up to anyone’s image of what he should be. He lived simply then, as he always had.

The way he lived was always a stark contrast to my mother’s wants and fears about having ‘nothing’. One of her siblings once remarked that she was not just reluctant to spend money…she was fearful of it. Over the years I’ve come to see that as being a very astute observation. Mom has said that she saw Dad’s ‘contentment’ with whatever he had as a weakness. I used to believe that as well. In the intervening years I’ve come to see it as an attribute in him. He isn’t educated. He isn’t refined. He is, and has lived as, just exactly who he is.

Dad seems to have always been content with whatever he had and wherever he was. Though he was likely not happy in his marriage to Mom for a long time before it ended, he did nothing himself to change it until she told him she wanted him to move out. He never tried to ‘move up’ at work, and as long as he brought home a paycheck, and he wasn’t starving, he was okay with it. He has had no ladder to climb, nor heights to aspire to. He’s a quiet man of quiet means. He always, in my lifetime, has been this way.

That said, and after my conversation with Dad last night about his reluctance to go to the hospital, I think my Dad is preparing to die. I think he’s reached a place in life where he realizes, despite his mild dementia, that it’s not going to get any ‘better’ really, or not significantly so, and so why try to prolong it? I think he has convinced himself that his ‘time’ is nearing, and decided to not fight it.

I can’t say that this puts me at ease really. It’s been difficult to watch my parents age and face the challenges, both physical and mental, that they are facing with their bodies aging and with dementia, but the thought of Dad being gone, is difficult for me. I feel like, due to all the years I bought into the one-sided concept of why the marriage of my parents failed and all the years of silence between Dad and me, I have only really had ten years of ‘Dad’, despite my being 46 years of age. We’ve had some wonderfully healing talks over time, and I’ve gotten to know him better than I ever imagined possible. Despite his seeming acquiescence about the stage of life he’s at, and the inevitability of his passing, I can’t say I’m at all ready for it.

I guess I’m selfish there. I don’t want to see him ‘suffering’ of course, but I also don’t want to lose him. Not yet.

I know that I cannot control any of this. I can’t force him to take care of himself…I can’t force him to want to live longer than he is prepared to live. I can’t influence his contentment with his lot in life, no matter what that is, because if I try to…I’m trying to change him to suit myself, and that’s not something I wish to do. I have to just prepare myself to handle whatever I have to handle. I have no other option. In the end the only one we have any control over is ourselves. I can beg and plead and cry and scream and reason and debate…none of it will make a difference…Dad will be Dad…and do what Dad wants to do. It took me 36 years to accept that about him and accept that that’s just who he is and how he lives and that he’s fine with it. Why would I try to change it now?

Thankfully Dad did, after we hung up, willingly go to the hospital and got checked out. They released him last night after determining that it was a cardiac event, but not at the moment life threatening.

As happy as I was to know that, the news from the hospital is not necessarily ‘great’ but not the worst case. Dad may need a procedure of some sort to treat whatever is going on with his heart presently. If it’s minor, he may agree to it. If not, I doubt he will get on board. That’s the reality of where he’s at presently. I can’t do anything about that.

There is, however, something I can do, for myself, and hopefully it will be of benefit to him as well. I already do this, out of habit, and will of course continue to practice it. When we finished speaking last night, and before he changed his mind and willingly went to the hospital, I made sure the last few words I said to him, in case anything serious happened, were the most important words to say.

I told him, ‘I love you.’

I believe that if these are the last words I ever speak to someone I care about, then no matter what, our journey is complete. There may be conversations we didn’t have, resolutions we never made, but when their time came, the last thing I said to them was that I loved them. It took me many years to say it to my Dad, and I think it took him just as long to say it back. It’s not that we didn’t feel it, it’s that we let our own baggage get in the way of saying it. Thankfully that is no longer the case.