Advice From a Father

I lost my father when I was just 12 years old. At different times I have felt cheated because of this. For instance, my brothers and I missed out on having our dad there to witness most every milestone of our lives. He was not there to see any of us graduate from high school. Likewise, he missed seeing any of us get married. Most importantly, he never got to meet any of his grandchildren.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend about some personal problems I have been having and she asked me, “what advice would your dad give you?” This is something I have never thought about. I’d never really had the opportunity to ask my dad for much advice. Ever since I was asked this question I have thought about what advice my dad would have for me today.

I am a father now and I look forward to guiding my child through the obstacles of life. This fatherly guidance is something that I did not have as I was going through adolescence, which is a critical period in any young person’s life. So, what would my dad have to say to me today?

My dad was a man with much integrity. He was also a person that doubted at various periods in his life. However, before he died I believe he was able to lay down his burden of doubt and was at peace. I’m a lot like my dad in many ways. I am stubborn, selfish with my time, and I have my own doubts that I carry.

I believe if I was to sit down with my dad today, he’d tell me to let go of doubt. I think with age my dad also would have become more giving of his time. He’d probably tell me that I need to be more open to this as well. Likewise, I am sure he’d probably let me know he is proud of me. This is perhaps what I need to hear the most. I often doubt my own abilities. I’d like to hear my dad say I am good at what I do. Hearing it from his lips might actually allow me to believe it for once.

My dad was skilled at so many ways. I wish I could have learned to do all of the things he knew how to do. His work was something in which he took pride. I think having some of his knowledge would make me more confident as a man. However, I have my own skills, which I look forward to passing down to my son. This will be a way for me to honor my dad’s memory. I’ll never be able to do the things my dad did. However, I know he’d proud of me for succeeding in life.

I don’t believe my dad is watching over me. I think he is spending eternity in Heaven where there is no sorrow. I have hope I will see him again. There are a lot of questions I have for him.

Wild Turkey and a Bowling Ball!

I think God often brings people into my life as a way of teaching me things. For instance, I recently met an older gentleman who has lived a life fit for a screenplay. Jack, as I will call him, is nearly 80 years old. He served a few different tours in Vietnam. He also has lost most of his hearing. Communicating with him was difficult, however, it was time well spent.

Jack is a man whose life experiences could fill volumes. I enjoy meeting these types of people, as their stories are so often rich with historical insight and humor. Jack went to Vietnam in the early stages of the war. He stayed until the United States was firmly entrenched within the conflict. He was a Marine, and fiercely proud of that.

After returning from the war, Jack opened a barber shop and cut hair for nearly 50 years. He just recently retired. I would have enjoyed visiting his shop so that I could have heard more stories of his life. I’m not sure Jack was always an easy person with whom to get along. It sounds as if his relationship with his family was strained. This may be due to Jack’s years of substance abuse. He is a recovering alcoholic. Jack’s brother is also an alcoholic.

The way Jack described his brother was humorous to me at first, however the more I thought about it, the sadder it became. Jack said his brother could simply be described as having “a bottle of Wild Turkey in one hand and a bowling ball in the other.” This description makes me think Jack’s brother is not a very pleasant person with whom to spend time.

It also got me to thinking how others would describe me if they just had one sentence in which to do it. I am hoping I’d be known for something much more positive. Fortunately, I don’t drink Wild Turkey, and I am a horrible bowler.

Goodbye 2020!

The end of last year brought hope. Amanda and I welcomed a three-day old baby boy into our home. Since this time he has become a part of us. In two days this bright, smiling child turns 1 year old. We will have a party with family. There will be cake, smiles, laughter, and maybe a few presents.

It has been strange raising a baby during a time when the world is filled with such uncertainty. This year has had many ups and downs. However, despite all of this, life has gone on and everyone has remained relatively healthy. There is much for which to be thankful.

Amanda and I have great friends and a loving family. We have a baby who brings us so much happiness on a daily basis. It has been our great pleasure to become his parents. We feel fortunate to have been blessed with the responsibility of raising him and providing for his needs.

God has protected us through times of trial. This year has truly been a struggle at times. The isolation brought on by the pandemic has often been too much to handle. However, life is still good. I will be happy to see 2020 come to a close. I’ll carry the things I have learned this year into the next. One might think that the future looks bleak, and in a lot of ways it does. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am curious to see what the future holds. As we approach 2021, let us all treat each other with more love and understanding. Everyone has a burden they are carrying. Let’s make time to listen to others.

I recently had a friend reach out to me to share some things that were going on in his life. He expressed to me that he needed others to “do life with.” This is something we all need. The English poet, John Donne, writing in the 17th century, wrote that “no man is an island.” Hopefully, 2021 is a year we can reconnect with each other. Good riddance 2020!

Six Weeks

Yesterday was my last dose of antibiotics. This was cause for celebration. It has been a long six weeks of medication, home nursing visits, doctor’s appointments, and sleepless nights. There were times it seemed like it would never end.

However, my body has healed. My PICC line has been removed, and life is slowly getting back to normal. Now it is time to once again build up my strength. My body has become very weak, as I have been quite inactive. Working from home has not helped this situation. Despite this, I am thankful to have a good job. Likewise, I am thankful that my body has healed.

I am curious to see what the next few months will bring as we head into autumn. There is a lot to look forward to, especially with Baby Boy here. For instance, Halloween should be fun with a little one. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be extra special as well. Hopefully, 2021 will be a better year for us all. I know I am ready to say goodbye to 2020!

My parasitic PICC line. It felt like a worm slithering through my vein as it was removed from my arm.

Drip, Drip, Drip…

I seem to be living life one drip at a time these days. Four weeks in to being on IV antibiotics and progress is being made, despite the drip, drip, of time. The wound on my foot has healed, for the most part. However, there are still two weeks of antibiotics to go.

I am dreaming of the day when the PICC line will be pulled from my arm. If all goes as planned this should happen the week of September 21. After that I hope things will get back to normal.

In the time I have been down, Baby Boy has begun to crawl. This has presented some challenges, as I cannot always catch him before he gets his hands in to things where they don’t belong. For instance, he has sampled some cat food, explored the bathroom floor, and played with television remotes. I am hoping he hasn’t purchaed anything from Amazon while I wasn’t looking.

The next two weeks will drip, drip, drip on by and my left foot and my left arm will once again be fully operational. I can then be on full-time baby patrol every evening. I’m sure the cats will appreciate that. I know Amanda will, as she has been working overtime keeping our household running. Without her I’d be lost. She has been wife, mother, nurse, housekeeper, chauffeur, and friend all while holding down a full-time job.

Doctoring in the Time of COVID

Going to the doctor in 2020 feels more like how going to the airport used to feel when we still went places. You check in and are “wanded” across the forehead so that your temperature can be checked. Fortunately, mine has been holding steady at 98.7 degrees or so. You are then “interrogated” about your health, with whom you’ve been in contact, if you experienced body aches or chills recently, and then you are allowed to pass through to your “gate.”

I think I might just get a t-shirt made that has my full name and date of birth printed on it so that I can just point to the front as they take me in for yet another test. Today, it was an ultrasound on my neck and arm to check for a blood clot. The area around the entrance to the PICC line that I had inserted into my arm a few weeks ago looked suspicious to my home nurse as she visited today. Therefore, I was sent to see my doctor, who at first thought I had an infection in the line. However, as noted above, it turned out to be a blood clot. Fortunately, it is was not a clot that tends to cause any problems.

So, tonight I find a pressure bandage around my right arm. Warm compresses will be used as I climb into bed. Then tomorrow another PICC line will be placed in the opposite arm so that I can continue to receive my daily dose of antibiotics. I sometimes wonder if all of this is real. Each week of 2020 just seems to get more odd.

Amanda got a flat tire this past Friday. I layed on my glasses last night in bed, which bent the frame and popped out a lens, then news of a blood clot in my arm today just seemed to be the icing on the cake.

I think tomorrow when I go in for my procedure, I’ll pretend like I truly am at the airport. I’ll check my bags, and ask for a glass of champagne as I take my seat in first class, then I’ll recline my seat and drift off to sleep. Perhaps, when I wake up it will be 2021. Then again, I’ll probably just be asked, “what is your full name and date of birth?”

The Eye of the Tiger

Do you ever feel as if you have no fight left within you? Living life in a disabled body, especially when that body breaks down is overwhelming. I have been luckier than most in my life. My independence has not been as limited as others who are disabled. However, the past few weeks has left me feeling like I am down for the count.

Battling a bone infection is tough work. I’ve actually done it a few times in my life. It saps your energy. Being treated with heavy doses of antibiotics is not pleasant, as these drugs often kill the normal bacteria that grows within your gastrointestinal system. This often leads to unpleasant side effects for your bowels. Fortunately, there are probiotics that can reverse these side effects.

Struggling with physical ailments typically increases the anxiety, which often bombards my mind. Usually, my first reaction is to get frustrated, which leads to anger. I often question God why He allows suffering of any kind. I think sometimes it is a way of getting our attention when we are stubborn. This is especially true in my case. I am a very stubborn person, who often refuses to listen to others.

My stubborness led me to avoid treatment for a wound on my foot, which then became infected. This infection then entered my blood and bone, which if it had not been caught in time, could have killed me. This realization has been frightening. According to my doctor, I am still not out of the woods. I will be on IV antibiotics for the next 4 to 6 weeks.

Some days are better than others. Frankly, I feel like a boxer who has been knocked down one too many times. How much more do I have left to give? This is a question I have pondered lately. My body is tired. My mind is exhausted. My nerves are frayed. However, I am not ready to quit.

I came across a story tonight about a little girl who is in the hospital fighting for her life. She has multiple IV tubes running into her neck, which are delivering heavy doses of antibiotics to her body. I pray that this little girl has a lot of fight left within her. What I am battling is minor compared to what she is facing.

One of my favorite movies is Rocky IV. It is essentially a David vs. Goliath story, where a much smaller, slower fighter is tasked with defeating a giant, genetically engineered monster. Just before the final fight sequence begins this behemoth leans down into Rocky’s face and says, “I must break you.” I feel as if that is what this infection has said to me.

However, much like Rocky, I have the will to win. I am bruised and bloodied, but no one is going to throw in the towel. I have plenty of people in my corner, many of whom I know are praying for me. This giant will be defeated. Can you hear the opening chords to “Eye of the Tiger” yet?

The Trash Bag Ladybug Monster

God usually teaches me humility in humorus ways. My latest lesson has involved showering. If you have been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that I am currently undergoing treatment at home for a bone infection that I got through a wound in my foot.

I currently have an intravenous line in my right arm, through which Amanda administers antibiotics every morning. I also have a bandage on my foot that Amanda changes every other day. I am lucky to have such a loving wife that is willing to do this for me. However, she does like to have fun with me as well.

For instance, in order to shower I need to duct tape garbage bags around my right arm and left foot. This is to keep my foot dressing dry, as well as my IV line. The duct tape that Amanda chose for me has ladybugs on it, which look great with the black garbage bags. Once I am all suited up I look like the “Ladybug Trash Bag Monster.” I then “climb” into our shower, which is the size of a small phone booth. It is fortunate that my shower chair even fits in there.

Getting out of the shower takes a leap of faith, as I am never quite sure how I am going to stick the landing. This morning I gave myself a 9.0, as I did not fall. I also maintained pretty good form through the dismount from the shower chair.

After I am out of the shower comes the fun part, the removal of the bags. This involves ripping strips of hair off of my legs, and some hair from my right armpit. I am beginning to think I should just wax myself down. That way the agony of the tape removal would be lessened. In addition, I’d probably become more aerodynamic as I race through the house in my wheelchair.

Yes, I choose to laugh at these times. If I didn’t life would be a daily struggle. However, I know that God is there. Likewise, I know He sees my struggles. He uses these to keep me humble. I am often frustrated, but I take comfort in knowing God has never taken His hand off of my life. My duck tape with the ladybugs and those black trash bags are reminders that God has a sense of humor. He continues to care for me even when I fail Him.

Our Wedding Day

Today, Amanda and I will have been married 8 years. I can seriously say she is still the one for me. She is the love of my life. We still enjoy being together and we love to laugh. Our wedding day was a little bit of a different story. If you have been following me here, especially over the last couple of weeks, you know I am prone to cuts, and scrapes, and skin break downs. These are all common for those with spina bifida, due to decreased sensation in various parts of the body.

In May 2012, I finished my master’s degree in school counseling. Then in late July of that year I accepted my first position as a guidance counselor. This was at a small, public high school about 40 minutes from my hometown of Sterling, Illinois. Briefly, after I took the job I began to move things in to my new office and then began to pick up the pieces the previous counselor had left behind.

For one, nearly none of the nearly 300 students had a set schedule of courses they’d be taking, despite the fact that school was a month from starting. This meant that I was given a crash course on how to use the computer program that the district used in scheduling its students into classes. This hasty “tutorial” was given by a counselor that had been there for nearly 20 years, but had retired a few years previously. She was a good teacher and she helped me and the guidance secretary to learn things quickly.

Previous to taking this job, I had divulged to the principal that I’d be getting married in a few weeks, and would be gone on my honeymoon up until all teachers and support staff were due back for in-service days. However, I told him I’d get as much scheduling done before leaving for my wedding.

This gave me about two weeks, including weekends to get student course schedules completed. Luckily, I did have the help of the retired counselor and the counseling office secretary. Despite this, the night before I was supposed to be in St. Louis, where the wedding was being held, we were only about 75% through the entire process. Therefore, I had to leave the rest of the scheduling in the hands of my colleagues.

I went home late that night feeling defeated, but not entirely worried. However, I did feel a bit feverish. This I just chalked up to being overworked, as I had put in some very long days that week. It never even dawned on me that it could be something else.

The next morning I rode down to St. Louis with one of my groomsmen. On the way I began to feel less and less like myself. Then it dawned on me, I had an infection in my knee. I had cut my knee earlier in the week. I don’t even remember how it happened now. I just knew that once we hit Peoria, Illinois that I needed to find an emergency room (ER). We stopped at a ready care facility at first, but once I explained what was going on the doctor there suggested I go to the hospital that was just down the street.

Arriving in the ER there, they assessed the situation, realized there was infection in my knee. They suggested cutting my knee open with a scalpel and draining all of the pus. Then they were going to admit me. I told them to go ahead and cut the knee open and clean it out, but that I would not be staying, as my wedding was the next day. So, they got my knee “fixed.” This means they sliced it open, drained it, left it open, bandaged it and sent me on my way with antibiotics and painkillers.

We did make it to St. Louis, but I missed my bachelor party. Which by that point was just as well, since my knee was throbbing. I got to my hotel, which was within walking distance of the church in which Amanda and I were to be married. I was finally able to crash, and that I did. As I recall, I spent much of that day in bed to try and conserve as much strength as necessary for the wedding rehearsal that night.

For the rehearsal, I remember walking the few blocks to the church, as I was curious to see how my knee was going to fair the next day. I was also on Vicodin, a painkiller that makes me both anxious and drowsy. It is a wonder I did just lay down under a tree and go to sleep. However, I did make it to the church. Throughout the rehearsal I felt a little confused, and my legs were a bit rubbery. However, I soldiered on and the rehearsal ended. From this point forward things are a bit hazy.

I know I somehow made it to the church next day a few hours before the wedding to get dressed and go over last minute plans. I remember feeling both excited and very anxious about the day. I was not having second thoughts at all. It was mostly just stage fright. Likewise, I was concerned about how well my knee was going to hold up. However, before I knew it the wedding had begun. In just a few short minutes I would be going out on stage and trying my hardest not to pass out in front of a few hundred people.

I do remember how beautiful Amanda looked as her dad walked her down the aisle to me. Without her smiling at me the entire time, I am not sure I would have been able to withstand the agony I was in for that period I was up on stage. It was a beautiful ceremony held in a perfect sanctuary. Sadly, I remember very little of it. To this day that bothers me. I wish my mind would have been more present. It is a day every couple should be able to remember together.

There are so many other memories Amanda and I have made since then. It is reassuring to know that there is someone who loves me unconditionally. We are really two peas in a pod. I love Amanda dearly and I am thankful she is my wife. She is a strong woman that is not afraid to get down in the trenches with me. She has cared for me when I have been ill, and continues to do so. I feel fortunate to be married to someone who is so giving and so patient. Here’s to 40 or 50 more years of making memories. There is no one else I’d rather being doing it with.

PICC Your Poison

Coming home from the hospital always does a body good. I slept last night better than I have in weeks. That is despite the Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter or PICC sticking out of my arm. This is the line through which I’ll receive a daily dose of antibiotics through September 21, that is if things go to plan.

This is not the first time I have had a PICC, however, I am hoping it is my last. It is fascinating to watch a PICC line being inserted. An ultrasound machine is used to find an appropriate vein. Then through the use of ultrasound imaging the catheter is guided up through the vein until it reaches a point just above the heart.

The next several weeks will be filled with follow-up appointments with doctors. I’m also going to attempt to return to work here at home. It is going to be an uphill battle, but I have a great partner with whom to fight. Without my wife Amanda I would not be able to get through my days.

I am hoping my body responds to treatment as it should. The sooner all of this is in the rearview mirror, the better. I’ll be praying for strength and endurance for both Amanda and I. Likewise, I’ll be praying for healing. My body is weak, and my mind is weary. However, I know this too shall pass.

I am thankful to have such a wonderful family and group of friends who are willing to help wherever it is needed. I’d appreciate your prayers through this trying time.