Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dad's Seventy-Fifth Birthday

If my father were alive he would have turned seventy-five years old today. I remember fifteen years ago on Dad's sixtieth birthday we all had a surprise party for him. Everyone was there, all of his children, all of his grandchildren, his girlfriend and his only sister, Lynda.

My mother had passed away the year before, at the age of fifty-seven and I was determined  to have this celebration for my father's birthday, as my mother never realized her sixtieth birthday.

It was a wonderful event and Dad was quite surprised. I think of that party often and what a happy occasion it was. I think of my father frequently and the influence he had and has on my life. Dad was a troubled man in some respects and yet a wise and humorous man in a lot of other areas of his life.

I have thought many times about the fact that I  am glad neither one of my parents lived to see me go through the loss of my legs. I know how devastating it would have been for them to have seen one of their children  endure  such a traumatic ordeal.

I have one of the only photographs of my parents together, hanging in my bedroom,  I look at it and talk to my parents often. I ask them to help me, to give me strength and guidance. Sometimes I wonder would my parents be proud  of the way I have chosen to handle my leg loss situation. You know, I think they are proud, at least I hope they are.

In spite of all the drama that existed in my family, all the dysfunction, my parents did a good job raising all four of their children. My siblings are all good, loving and caring individuals. Mom and Dad despite all odds, instilled within all four of us the most important virtures of life. I am thankful for my parents.

I believe that my Mother and Father both endured a lot of hardships in their respective lives and yet they perservered. I think my strength and perservence comes in part from my parents and of course a great deal comes from God. My God and my parents what a perfect combination.

Despite my fathers's three failed marriages (two of them to my mother), losing a baby son many years ago, and losing three homes, he perservered. At the end of his life he had his own home and a seventeen year relationship with his live-in girlfriend On, the most successful relationship of his life.

I remember sitting with my Father during his final days, suffering from bone cancer, and he said to me, "this cancer thing wasn't part of the plan."

His starement really resonates with me now, this leg loss thing wasn't a part of my plan either. What would my Father have done if he were faced with the loss of both of his legs? I suspect he would have done exactly what I feel I am doing; remaining optimistic, diligently confronting the situation with determination and perservence.

I am not foolish enough to have canonized my Father, in the wake of his death, putting him on a pedestal, however, there are so many things about the way he lived his life that make me proud to be his son. I know in my heart, he sees and realizes what I go through in my day to day life.

Both my Mother and my Father have greatly influenced the type of person I am today and for that I am truly thankful.

Happy Birthday Pop, I miss talking to you but I know you are always watching over me now and forever.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Home For Six Monthes

Today it has been six monthes since I arrived home after losing my second leg. I thought this would be a good time to review and evaluate my progess during the last six monthes.

Anyone who knows me already knows how self critical I can be. I always try to  push myself and set high but I feel attainable goals. Sometimes, however, I have been told by others that I don't give myself enough credit for my accomplishments and for my fortitude in general. It is difficlut for me to be satisfied with my accomlishments, ultimately because I am not where I feel I could or should be.

During the course of my recovery it has been easy to forget the place I was at even just six monthes ago and where I find myself now. By looking back at what I was able to do six monthes ago and what I can do today will put things in their proper perspective.

When I arrived home January 23, in the dead of winter, I wasn't even able to take a shower. One reason I wasn't able to shower was because I still had over sixty stitches in my left residual limb, in addition to those stitches, I had not yet developed a workable and safe method by which to shower.

Today of course those stitches have long since been removed and I have figured out a fairly easy method to transfer from my wheelchair to the shower bench and back again. I have also increased the speed in which I am able to shower.

Six monthes ago I was still heavily medicated, particularily with pain meds. Now I take only the basic medicine I need and will have to take for the rest of my life. I realized some time ago the psychological impact pain medication has on my mind. Being an emotional person by nature, and then taking mind altering types of medication, put me on an emotional rollercoaster. Sometimes I had difficulty controlling my emotions. I would cry easily and would put too much emotional weight on situations that did not warrant such reactions. I am so pleased to have stepped off of that rollercoaster, not only do I have much less emotional reaction to situations but also the reactions are more appropriate.

Needless to say I was not able to drive six monthes ago. Those of you who continue to read my blog already know that I have taken driving lessons, have had controls installed in my car and am now able to drive. Not only am I able to drive, I drive with a lot more ease and confidence. I am so thankful for the freedom driving has given me. I am equally thankful for my sister, Rhonda, who encouraged me and helped financially to accomplish this very important goal.

Naturally I did not have my second prosthetic leg six monthes ago. Although everything has not been perfected to the point I know it will be eventually, I have at least begun the process of learning to walk again,  on now, two prosthetic legs. I would like to elaborate a  little on this process of walking on two above knee prosthetic legs. The magnitude of losing both of my legs, both above the knee, has begun to be realized by me. Many of the medical professionals I work with, my vascular surgeon, my rehab doctor, all of the prosthetists, and my beloved physical therapists, have told me time and again the depth of my accomplishments, given my loss, my age, and vascular issues. I was rather dismissive about their comments and encouragement, making statements like, "I don't think I am doing that well" or "What is the big deal so I can stand on two prosthtetic legs?"

It has taken me a while and even now sometimes I don't realize the actuality of what has happened to me. I have no legs. By putting things in their proper perspective, appreciating the ecouragement I have received and being gentle with myself has made me a happier person. I  now realize that I am a person who has lost both of their legs, both above the knee and yet I have been able to retain a great amount of automony. I am able to drive, to take care of myself with respect to personal grooming, I can cook for myself and eventually I WILL walk again.

I understand and appreciate what  I have accomplished  in my life so far. I also understand and appreciate all of the assistance and encouragement  I have received along the way in every avenue of my life; medically, from friends and from my family.

Another interesting and wonderful aspect of my life has emerged; this blog. Writing and sharing my thoughts with all of you through this blog has forced me to look at my life in many areas I may never have visited otherwise. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and feelings through these writings and I also understand how cathartic it has been for me.

Am I where I want to be ultimately in my life as a bilateral above knee amputee? Certainly not. I am however, pleased with my accomplishments thus far and know things will only get better from here.

The other day I took my walker and stood and walked to one of my barstools, sat at my kitchen breakfast bar and I thought  I like this view much better than the view I have from my wheelchair. Sitting at the bar, a seemingly small accomplishment, should not be minimized in my mind, these are the small steps that lead to overall feelings of self-satisfaction and pride in attaining goals.

Those of you who have shared my journey with me either through direct participation or by taking the time to read my blog have contributed to my well being and my sense of accomplishment. I thank you all and look forward to sharing more of my story and accomplishments as we WALK down the path of my life together.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blessed Friendships

I have been so blessed with an unusually large number of friends. These are friends whom I know would and have done anything for me, friends who have remained steadfast in my life for many years. I thought I would list their names and how long we have been friends. I cannot emphasize enough the value I place on my friendships. All of these people have played a pivotal role in my life and have helped shape my character.

                                                        Tricia          38 years
                                                        Mark          34 years
                                                        Kevin         28  years
                                                        Michael      26  years
                                                        Ruth           22  years
                                                        Shawn        22  years
                                                        Jena           10  years
                                                        Marguerite   8   years
                                                        Bill               8   years
                                                        Steve           6   years
                                                        Rick            6   years
                                                        Patrick        5   years

I met my friend Tricia when I was a sophomore in high school way back in 1973. She is the only person from high school with whom I have remained in contact. She currently lives in London and has recently embarked on a new romantic relationship. I last saw her in April 2009 at her mother's memorial service. We facebook and email several times a year. She like so many others has greatly enriched my life in so many ways.

My friend Mark and I have the longest friendship of all my gay friends. I met Mark when I was nineteen years old. We dated briefly in the 1970's but that quickly turned into a platonic friendship that has lasted many years. We have had lots of happy times and memories but also our share of sad times. Mark and I have one of the most special friendships in my life.

If you have been reading my blog, you already know the relationdship I had with my dearest departed friend, Kevin.

Michael, who lives in Montana, and I were lovers for five years in the late eighties. He is a wonderful person. Since our relationship ended many years ago, he has gone back to school for his master's degree and has adopted a son. It is only through the perservence of Michael that we are still in contact and are friends these many years later. I appreciate his friendship and I know I can always count on him for anything. Knowing Michael has made my life better in many ways.

Ruthie or Ruth Anne and I have been friends for twenty-two years. We met in the late eighties. We worked together for six years, she ended up getting married and moved first to Alaska and finally to Seattle where she lives today. I love my Ruthie, she has been a confidant of mine for many years. She is one of the first people I turn to for advice, she is a wise and compassionate friend. After a period of seperation, caused mostly by her bigotted, now exhusband, Al, we have a friendship that is stronger than ever. Ruth is someone whom I know in my heart will always be a part of of my life, for that I am so thankful, Shalom.

I have mentioned my friend of twenty-two years, Shawn in a blog titled, "A Tumultulous Friendship." He and I have been through a lot together but our friendship remains intact and stronger than ever.

My friend Jena, is actually my best friend Kevin's niece. I have known Jena since she was fourteen years old, however, we didn't become friends until a few years before Kevin's passing. After Kevin left this world, Jena and I became much closer. I know Kevin is responsible for our friendship. Jena has helped me in so many ways, I have such respect and admiration for her. One thing I like about Jen is her ability to "cut right to the chase." She has a way of seeing a situation and knows instinctually what action to take to resolve problems. I also see myself in her in some ways, her decorating style, her way of doing things in original ways and her taste is top notch. She is always there to lend a helping hand either intellectually or financially. I cherish my friendship with Jena and her entire family.

My dear sweet friend, Marguerite, you have already read about in the blog entry I titled "True Friendship." Marguerite and her husband, Paul, are such good friends to me. They have played the most participatory role, other than my family, throughout my leg losses. Visiting me at the hospital on several occasions, bringing me home from the hospital many times and staying with me during my recovery at my home. Marguerite is someone who has made my life so much more positive. Who would have known when we first spoke to each other from our respective screened-in porches, that many years later a cherished friendship would still be going strong? She and Paul hold a special place in my heart and always will.

And then there's Bill. Those that know me will realize to whom I am referring. I don't know what to call the relationship I have with Bill, maybe I don't have to label it at all. Bill has been a part of my life for over eight years, we have had a lot of ups and downs, on again, off again, but deep down I hope he knows I love him. Bill and I have travelled extensively together before all of my medical issues have made travel much more challenging. Even today Bill has shown his concern for my well being, offering to take me out to lunch and other ways he finds to "get me out of the house." I appreciate his efforts so much because I know it is not easy. Bill has brought a lot of excitement to my life and a fair amount of drama. I would certainly say my life has been greatly enriched knowing Bill and certainly not boring!

I would call my friend, Steve, my best friend. After the loss of Kevin I thought I would never have found the comradarie that I have found with Steve. We met at the gym and because we have shared similar circumstances in our respective lives, we became friends fairly quickly. I love Steve, I can talk to Steve, believe me when I say neither one of us is ever at a loss for words. Ours is a very easy, open and honest friendship, I feel I can tell him anything and I hope he feels the same way. Steve has a unique style in a lot of ways. I have great admiration for him, his discipline, his taste, and his personality. Steve makes  me laugh and is generous to a fault. We have know each other for six years and yet I feel as if I have known him much longer. Steve has been very encouraging to me throughout all of my medical issues. One thing I know I can always count on with Steve is his honesty. He always tells me the truth, if I ask, even if sometimes the truth isn't necessarily pleasant--I love that about Steve and so much more.

I have met so many great people at Cheetah Gym. Rick is my Saturday morning workout buddy. Although I haven't been back to the gym in seven monthes I know I will eventually WALK in Cheetah on a Saturday morning and Rick will be there. Rick is always the first one to offer his help to me at the gym, even without my having to ask. A couple of times when I wasn't able to go the gym because of guess what?  leg problems,  I always  go back on a Saturday morning specifically because I know Rick will be there. I guess I kind of consider Saturday morning, Glenn and Rick time. I miss that so much and am anxiously awaiting the day I walk in Cheetah Gym on Saturday morning and see Rick's smiling face.

My friend Patrick is such a great person, so kind, so considerate and so caring. My friendships with both Rick and Patrick, I believe began by my asking them individually and on seperate occasions, questions about working out.  My five year friendship with Patrick, (which I feel is just beginning), just escalated from there. I would see him working out nearly every morning and we just started talking more and more and our friendship blossomed. Patrick has visited me on several occasions during my various hospital stents and in fact brought me home from the hospital one time. We talk on the phone frequently and we have made a vow  not to let our  friendship drift apart even though he now goes to another gym and I haven't been able to go back quite yet.

One of the reasons I chose to write about friendship is because it is so important to me. My friendships, all unique unto themselves, are an anchor in my life. Surrounding myself with loving and caring people has made a tremendous positive difference in my ability to handle the challenges my life has brought to me.

If you combine all of the years of friendship I have been privy to and blessed to be the recipient of, it would total 213 years, just based on the friends have  mentioned here in this particular blog. Isn't that astounding?

If the statement, "You are not measured by how much you love, but rather, by how much you are loved by others." is true, which I believe it is, than friendship is the greatest blessing I have been fortunate enough to be apart of, and for that, I am thankful beyond words.  


Friday, July 8, 2011

Part C: A Tumultuous Friendship

Have you ever known a person and although you would in the final analysis consider yourselves to be friends, on a day to day basis you frequently clash? Such was the case with Shawn and myself.

I say the word "was" because now we are closer than we have ever been in the twenty two years we have known each other. I'm  not sure what happened between us except that we have both been through very tough medical issues.

Sometimes when we are faced with debilitating medical challenges we can rise to the occasion, demonstrating strength, courage and perservence or not. As I have discussed in previous blog writings, we all have a tendency to judge each other. Although I try to monitor this when trying to reserve judgment, I sometimes fail, as I did originally with Shawn.

Shawn has been dealing with cancer for a couple of years now. He has demonstrated as much courage and strength as anyone I have ever known. I would never have thought he would have risen to this level of courageousness had I not been akin to his situation personally.

Shawn and I used to work together starting in the late eighties. We had an on again off again  friendship. A few years later I found myself doing work for Shawn. Shawn is a successful realtor. During the course of his career, Shawn experienced prosperous times, which did not surprise me, he has always been a good sales person.

As Shawn was developing his career as a realtor, I was developing my career as an interior decorative painter. Shawn was frequently "throwing business" my way,  this was a mutually benefical proposition for both of us. He was sending business and I was providing a product that enhanced his ability to sell property.

Our relationship was not without it's problems. Sometimes I felt Shawn expected me to do things with unreasonable notice or for an inappropriate price. I think Shawn felt underappreciated by me for sending so much business my way. Needless to say there were verbal exchanges between the two of us that I am sure we have both regretted.

It is not unusual for friendships  to feel strained-- sometimes to the breaking point. Shawn and I were at this point many times. In fact I know a couple of times we mutually felt our friendship and working relationship was over.

As my medical issues became more serious, Shawn was there for me and still is. He never hesitated to offer help and was a frequent visitor  to the hospital during all of my admissions. I really appreciate that.

A few years ago Shawn learned he had cancer. When he first spoke of the cancer to me, I was immediately struck by his candor and his resolute optimism. He was not going to let this "cancer thing" get the best of him.

He made me realize after all these years the real importance of our friendship. Sometimes I feel as if perhaps I have not been participatory enough in his journey through the mine field of cancer.

Fortunately Shawn has a devoted significant other who has conducted himself with an all encompassing love and devotion I find heartwarming. Not unlike myself, Shawn is very close to his sister, Lisa. She has been there for him just like my sister, Rhonda, has been here for me.

Even though Shawn and I have been going through our own personal "medical hell" at the same time, we have talked openly and freely about what we have felt about our respective health issues. I have told Shawn many times how proud I am of him and of the admiration I have for the courage he has shown during such a dismal period of his life. He has voiced the same feelings toward me.

Last August Shawn asked me to go on a Caribbean cruise with him, his sister Lisa, and his brother-in-law Dan. I was of course somewhat apprehensive,  at that time I had only lost one of my legs. Suffice it to say, I had a great time. At that time I had  come a long way in my adjusting to living with one prosthetic leg.

Shawn however, was not doing as well with respect to his cancer issues. In fact he was very close to cancelling the trip. He told me not to worry his sister and brother-in-law would take good care of me. I told Shawn there was no way I was going on this cruise without him. I'm not sure whether Shawn felt better, or why he decided to go forward with the trip, but nonetheless we went.

It wasn't too long before I realized just how bad Shawn was actually feeling physically. I had anticipated that there were going to be moments of sharing our deepest feelings and vunerabilities about our respective health issues, and there were moments. Without devulging too much let me just say there were tears from both of us.

At one point after realizing Shawn was really too ill to have taken this cruise, I asked him point blank, if he had decided to come on the cruise because he wanted me to experience such a trip? He said yes. What can I say about that  kind of sacrifice?

As the saying goes, "these are the times that try men's souls," these are the times that have tryed our friendship. We, Shawn and I, have weathered a lot of storms together and in the end it has solidified and strengthened our friendship.

Perhaps one of the most benefical things to come out of our respective illnesses has been our friendship, stronger than ever, all the way to the end, and I am so thankful.